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On this day we commemorate Simon Gibbons, who was the first of the Inuit nation to be ordained as an Anglican priest and whose ministry in the diocese of Nova Scotia gave the rest of our Church a wonderful example of vitality.

He was born in Labrador, the son of a white settler and an Innu mother. Both of his parents died before he was six years old, and he was placed in an Anglican orphanage in Newfound- land. The Church nurtured his intelligence, and he was encouraged to train for ordination. He eventually went to King’s College in Nova Scotia, where he was ordained to the priesthood in 1878.

Gibbons began his ministry as a travelling missionary in Cape Breton and laboured in conditions which taxed his physical endurance to the limit. He regularly walked a hundred-mile circuit to conduct services in isolated communities. He made his rounds even in the depths of winter, just to bring the comfort of Christ to the sick and dying; and in so doing he risked his life in blizzards or while crossing inlets whose frozen surfaces often gave way beneath his feet. Yet in all his exertions, despite fatigue, pain, and danger, Gibbons never failed in joy or in his ability to communicate the gladness of his service to the people he visited.

After seven years in this work he was appointed rector of Lockport; in 1888 he moved to the mainland parish of Parrsboro. In both parishes he supervised building campaigns and joined in the manual labour of raising the church frames, nailing the clapboards, putting in the windows, and moving the furniture into place. But it soon became clear that the strain of his earlier ministry had destroyed his physical resilience, and though his spiritual joy was unabated, his health steadily declined. He died at the age of forty-six on December 15 in 1896.