SASKATOON — Jacob Genaille-Dustyhorn of Saskatoon is one of two Canadian young adults who have been named as delegates to an upcoming meeting of youth at the Vatican.
The international gathering this spring is part of preparations for an October 2018 Synod of Bishops that will address “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment.”
Harry Lafond of the Office of the Treaty Commissioner, whose daughter Mika is one of Genaille-Dustyhorn’s instructors, recommended the young indigenous man to Bishop Albert Thévenot of the Diocese of Prince Albert, who then submitted his name to the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB).
“Jacob is a young man searching for the relevance of faith in his life, like many of our young people,” says Thévenot. “He is calm and reflective and is certainly a good listener. He is involved in social activities and he would like to help many of his people to find a purpose in their lives. He is searching for constructive and positive attitudes to bring change. He is proud in who he is.”
The 22-year-old education student at the University of Saskatchewan says he is honoured and excited to be a delegate to the international gathering March 19 — 24 in Rome.
“I’m really looking forward to this opportunity, and to meeting people from around the world,” says Genaille-Dustyhorn. “I hope to learn about their lives and their challenges, and to tell them about the church’s role with First Nations here.”
Genaille-Dustyhorn has lived in Saskatoon since he was eight years old. “I was raised in a Christian home by my mother, who is a super positive person,” he says. After struggling for a time with a negative lifestyle, Genaille-Dustyhorn describes how he eventually decided there was “more to life,” and began to work at turning things around.
He says that his search for a positive path was supported through the help of mentors, including those he met through a Youth for Christ floor hockey program in Saskatoon. Participation in that program helped him in his own journey, and in turn, he is now coaching other youth, striving to make a difference in their lives.
As a competitive five-pin bowler, he also shares a passion for coaching in that sport. He proudly recalls the words of an appreciative mother, who said his encouragement and help for one young athlete had an impact that won’t be forgotten.
“If I ever feel the fire inside me going out, I can think back on that and see where I am doing something right,” he says.
The desire to help others and to work with youth has led Genaille-Dustyhorn to continue his education at the University of Saskatchewan, where he is doing very well in the Indian Teacher Education (ITEP) program.
He says he sees a need to improve things for those whose lives and families are still being affected by the impact of colonialism and residential schools. “My dad went to residential school, and I have been learning how to deal with those effects in a positive way. As part of this trip to Rome, I hope to share my personal experience with those I meet.”
Faith is important to Genaille-Dustyhorn, pointing to truths that people of all backgrounds can share in common. “We all look up to God, to the Creator.”
The other Canadian delegate to the pre-synod youth gathering in March is Emilie Callan, 29, who grew up in a French-speaking family in Cornwall, Ont.
Callan is a bilingual television producer and writer with the Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation. She recently served as one of the co-hosts for a televised cross-country National Youth Forum organized by Salt and Light Television about the upcoming synod and its theme.