DILIGENT RIVER – He was here, and Diligent River is proud.
A special dedication of an inuksuk honouring Canada’s first ordained Inuit priest, Simon Gibbons, took place beside the very church he helped found in the community, bringing the community together with one of his own ancestors on Sunday.
Cindy Gibbons, great-niece of the historical figure and a superintendent for Parks Canada at Red Bay near his birthplace, was present for the dedication ceremony. The 19th Century Anglican priest whose popularity as a fundraiser, church builder and speaker presented him with the opportunity to meet with Queen Victoria, had humble beginnings as an orphan on the rugged Labrador Coast. After being taken in by an Anglican Orphanage, Gibbons’ dedication to the faith would create academic opportunities and eventually ordainment.
“He was an extraordinary man and I wish I could have met him” Gibbons said or her great-uncle. “His story has always fascinated and intrigued me.”
In his lifetime, Gibbons served three parishes in Nova Scotia, having built churches in all three. His reputation and work warranted the Anglican Church adding his name to the Canadian calendar of holy persons. His special day of observance is Dec. 14, the date of his death.
“Gibbons was an exceptional person,” Loraine Maskill, event organizer, said. “He touched so many people in his short years here.”
Sadly, the church Gibbons helped build is not in use as much as it used to be. In a fitting gesture, the church bell was rung to call the community to the dedication, honouring the very man who first rung the bell. But instead of saying goodbyes, it marks a new chapter for the community to welcome visitors and say hello for the first. Alongside the inuksuk is a now an interpretive panel giving visitors a glimpse of Canada’s first Inuit priest and the work he did here and abroad.