Feeding His Flock

By R. M. Davies

A parish is a community of Christ’s faithful whose pastoral care is entrusted to a parish priest. A priest is like a shepherd; his parishioners are his flock, the “people of God.” Two of the main responsibilities of a parish priest are to look after the congregation and to take care of the church.


Father Mark Schwab, parish priest of St. Stephen’s Catholic Church in North Vancouver, takes his responsibility of looking after his congregation to the next level. While many parishes organize community events like dinners and picnics, Father Schwab likes to prepare gargantuan feasts, to which he invites the congregation to enjoy the fruits of his labour.

Every fall, God willing, Father Mark joins his brother Tony Schwab, cousin John Schwab and several other friends on a hunting trip. They hunt south of Grande Prairie, Alta. He said 2023 was one of their best years ever – they were able to harvest one moose and nine deer, all of which their permits allowed.


Father Mark and his brother, Tony.

Some might say hunting is not in keeping with the spirit of a priestly vocation. Spilling blood is incompatible with the priesthood. Some people say it’s cruel. What if, God forbid, they should kill a person in an unfortunate hunting accident?

Father Mark says that hunting for the meat we eat is probably the most ethical way to acquire that meat. Meat from an animal neither comes from thin air, nor miraculously arrives fully packaged in cellophane to display in the meat department of a grocery store. The meat at the local grocer’s was once a living animal. Society has made meat available without consumers ever seeing the face of what they are eating.


Yes, hunting may not be for everyone. But the Bible does not forbid the eating of meat. And make no mistake, the animals this BC priest harvests are not for trophies, but for food and sharing.

In the Middle Ages, it wasn’t a question of clergy hunting or not hunting. There were only three classes in society – noble, clergy and peasant. It was forbidden for peasants to hunt because it was a “noble” privilege. It was also seen as unsuitable for clergy to identify with the privileged classes.

Later on, another class emerged in post-feudal towns and cities: tradesmen, guildsmen and, as we might say, businessmen. At that time, it was forbidden for clergy to engage in business dealing for profit. This new growing class replaced the old order.

Father Mark is adamant that his congregation should enjoy the meat he provides, free of charge. Before they sit down to enjoy dinner, Father Mark will say a prayer for the men who joined him on the hunt. After saying grace, Father Mark invites the various tables to take their turn to come up to the feast he has prepared. For the 60 men in attendance this year, there were moose burgers and small pieces of moose short ribs slowly cooked and finished in gravy. The men provided salads and other accoutrements.

Men’s BBQ 2024.

There would be hell to pay if the women of the church were ignored. They are invited to an annual lunch following Sunday Mass, with all the food prepared by Father Mark. The first time he hosted this luncheon, some women complained that they too wanted to enjoy the game meat their men had enjoyed. To that end, Father Mark concocted some mouth-watering recipes such as elk-filled crepes in Béchamel sauce and elk meatballs with his homemade biscuits. This year’s lunch was deer sausage, broccoli and egg casserole and hash brown potatoes. One of the parishioners said that even though her daughter is a vegetarian, she will eat meat that has been hunted.

Father Mark was born in Alberta, but he didn’t come from a hunting family. His father loved to garden. His cousin John, one of nine kids, has been hunting since he was a little boy. Mark and John have been hunting together for at least the past 15 years, without a single incident. There were no close calls, because they adhere to the immutable laws of good hunting: the name of the game is due diligence. Never shoot at a bush that’s moving. See what is behind the animal. If there is a house behind the animal or the animal is on top of a hill, don’t fire your gun, just shoot a picture.

“If you aren’t going to track, don’t go hunting,” John said. “If you suspect the animal has been wounded, you track it for as long as it takes. The longest we had to track a deer was half a day. Eat what you kill. Always.”

There is a patron saint for hunters, Saint Hubert. Legend holds that Hubert’s life was turned toward God when he encountered a stag with a crucifix between his antlers. There is a special prayer asking for St. Hubert’s blessing for all whose aim is to follow in his footsteps to be skilled, ethical hunters. Born circa 658 in Toulouse, France, St. Hubert intercedes to God for protection and success. Devotion to his feast day is kept on Nov. 3… during the hunting season!

Sometimes others of God’s creatures will enjoy the harvest of your hunt. In 2023, a young black bear wandered into Father Mark’s, Tony’s and John’s camp while the men were in the woods. The bear took off with one of the deer, leaving only a little of the hind quarters.

Tony, who always keeps his rosary beads in his pocket, says there always seems to be good energy around the camp when Father Mark is around.

“One year when we were out fishing, we could see a big storm moving in. I suggested that we should head for shore before it started raining. Mark looked at me and said with a smile, ‘Have faith.’ He put his hands together and was silently praying. The clouds parted and it did not rain.”

Divine intervention? It seems at times like this that Father Mark’s congregation extends beyond the boundaries of his parish.

John, Mark and Tony.