Using a time-honoured tradition of standing behind the nominee of their choice, delegates from 16 native communities in the diocese of Keewatin’s northern Ontario region elected Archdeacon Lydia Mamakwa as their first area bishop on March 6.
Bishop-elect Mamakwa is an aboriginal priest from Kingfisher Lake, an Oji-Cree First Nation located north of Sioux Lookout, Ont. She has been serving the Anglican Church of Canada at local, diocesan and national levels.
National Anglican Indigenous Bishop Mark MacDonald called her election “…one of the most wonderful things that has happened in a long, long time. I couldn’t have been happier with the selection. God is doing wonderful things and preparing us for even greater things.”
The election of a bishop who will serve the predominantly aboriginal parishes of northern Ontario came after years of consultation within the diocese. Archbishop David Ashdown, bishop of the diocese of Keewatin and metropolitan of the Ecclesiastical Province of Rupert’s Land, said the new structure responds to the changing needs of the diocese and shows the commitment to self-determination for native Anglicans. A similar proposal for an area bishop in the northern Manitoba region, comprised of parishes from both the dioceses of Keewatin and Brandon, is awaiting final decision.
Bishop-elect Mamakwa has been involved in setting up the program of the Dr. William Winter School for Ministry, a partnership with the diocese of Keewatin and the College of Emmanuel and St. Chad that trains lay and clergy for native ministry. She is currently its registrar.
A member of the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP), Bishop-elect Mamakwa has been a member of the Anglican Church of Canada’s eco-justice committee. A non-stipendiary priest, she has worked with the Kingfisher Lake First Nation band council and as a mental health counselor.
Bishop-elect Mamakwa was unavailable for comment. Her consecration as bishop is scheduled for early May in Kingfisher Lake, Ont.