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New leaders advocate for new relationship with Indigenous communities based on respect and truth

Wed, 08/04/2021 - 06:59

By Bryan Dryden, Canadian Catholic News

[Ottawa – CCN] – Reconciliation between Canadian society as a whole and this country’s Indigenous communities is possible two new Indigenous leaders say.

RoseAnne Archibald, the new leader of the Assembly of First Nations, and Mary Simon, Canada’s new Governor General, both say that reconciliation will be at the forefront of their efforts going forward.

Assembly of First Nations National Chief RoseAnne Archibald says that true reconciliation can only happen if Canada’s provincial and federal governments and the Catholic Church, which helped to operate numerous residential schools on behalf of the federal government, take full responsibility for their roles in the destruction that the residential school system caused to Indigenous communities and culture in the past.

“For many Canadians and for people around the world, these recent recoveries of our children – buried nameless, unmarked, lost and without ceremony are shocking, and unbelievable,” said Archibald, who was elected AFN National Chief at the beginning of July.

“Not for us, we’ve always known,” she said.

“I ask every Canadian to stand with First Nations as we continue this painful but important work,” Archibald said of ongoing efforts across Canada to recover the remains of Indigenous children who died at residential schools.

“I ask that you listen, learn and reflect on the history we share as a country,” she said. “Please continue to call the Prime Minister, your Premier, your MPs and MPPs to demand reparation, justice and action.”

The new Grand Chief said that there must be a true reckoning for what happened in the past. “Crimes have to be investigated and those guilty must be held to account,” Archibald said. “People and media have been referring to them as discoveries. These are not discoveries, these are recoveries. There must be truth before reconciliation. It’s time to find our children and bring them home.”

She added: “As we continue the painful but essential work of locating and identifying our missing little ones, I urge all levels of government to provide the full breadth of resources and support for any First Nation pursuing investigative efforts.”

During a press conference and briefing after her election as AFN National Chief, Archibald, who was awarded a Canada 125 medal for her more than three decades of Indigenous leadership roles which included being the first woman to serve as Ontario Regional Chief for the Chiefs of Ontario, said that as she meets with First Nations leaders across the country she will focus on key issues such as unmarked burial sites at former residential schools, the national action plan on missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, climate change and fighting against systemic racism in Canada’s health and justice systems.

Long-time advocate for Inuit rights and culture, Mary Simon was officially sworn-in as Canada’s new Governor-General on July 26 during a ceremony at the Canadian Senate. The new Governor General’s father was English and her mother was Inuk.

“I have heard from Canadians who describe a renewed sense of possibility for our country and hope that I can bring people together,” Simon said on July 26.

“Every day, inside small community halls, school gyms, Royal Canadian Legions, places of worship, and in thousands of community service organizations, there are ordinary Canadians doing extraordinary things,” Simon said.

“My view is that reconciliation is a way of life and requires work every day,” she said. “Reconciliation is getting to know one another.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Simon’s appointment as Governor General comes at an historic time for Canada.

“In this moment of unprecedented change,” Trudeau said, citing recovering from the global COVID pandemic, issues surrounding climate change and what he called “walking forward on the path of reconciliation”, the prime minister said of Simon that “we need your vision of a stronger Canada for everyone.”

While there are still numerous concerns being raised about the role the Catholic Church played in operating residential schools in Canada, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) has repeatedly pledged its support towards further reconciliation with Canada’s First Peoples and has helped to set up a meeting in the Vatican in December where representatives of Canadian Indigenous communities are expected to formally call upon Pope Francis to officially apologize for the Church’s role in the residential school system.

“The Bishops of Canada are profoundly saddened by the Residential Schools legacy. We are committed to working with Indigenous Peoples and communities towards a greater understanding of the priorities of healing and reconciliation and how to address them together,” the CCCB said in a statement when the Bishops of Saskatchewan announced a new province-wide fundraising campaign to facilitate further healing and reconciliation.

“The work of healing and reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples is of fundamental importance to our local and national Catholic communities and to all of us as Canadians. By renewing our commitment to work together with them, the Church in Canada pledges solidarity with the Indigenous communities of this land,” the Permanent Council of the CCCB statement said.

“We lift up our prayers to the Lord for the support and healing of Residential School survivors, their communities, and intergenerational wounds still present.”


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In Exile – A column by Fr. Ron Rolheiser, OMI: “Who is Close to God’s Heart?”

Mon, 08/02/2021 - 08:59
Who is Close to God’s Heart?

By Fr. Ron Rolheiser, OMI 

Who has God’s sympathy? For whom especially should we be praying? For whom should we be asking God’s blessing?

We are in the middle of the Olympic Games. What we see there are the healthiest bodies in the world, beautifully adorned with colorful spandex and youthful smiles. The Olympic Games are a celebration of health. Whatever else might surround or lie underneath these games (commercialism, ambition, illegal drugs, whatever) our first reaction to them may only be one of blessing: “Wow! Beautiful!  This says something wonderful about life and about God.”

Moreover, what we see there are not just the athletes. They are surrounded by spectacular billion-dollar venues, a host country showcasing its finest, television networks sending out colourful coverage around the world, and everywhere the carefully calculated display of youth, health, beauty, and affluence, as if it were these alone that made the world go round.

Sadly, health, beauty, and affluence are not born equally, distributed equally, and shared equally.

Flip a channel or two on your television and you see the polar opposite: news channels replete with images of suffering, poverty, injustice, hunger, devastation, millions fleeing violence, millions living in squalor, and millions living with little hope on our borders everywhere. And, that’s just what we see openly on the news. What we don’t see are the millions of sick, the millions of unemployed, the millions who are victims of violence and abuse, the millions with physical and mental challenges of every kind, and the millions with terminal diseases facing imminent death. What do these lives and these bodies say matched against the lives and bodies of our Olympic athletes? A good question.

How does one assess this seemingly bitter contrast between what we see in the Olympic Games and what we see on world news? Where does this leave us in terms of our prayer and sympathy? Does the suffering of the poor so spiritually dwarf the health of the rich that our hearts and prayers are meant to embrace only the poor? If so, would this not cast negative light on the wonderful gifts of health and wholeness?

We can learn something here from the offertory prayers at a Eucharist. At a Eucharist, the priest offers two elements to God to represent bread, wine, and us asking God to bless each equally. They represent two very different aspects of our world and of our lives. To quote Pierre Teilhard de Chardin: “In a sense the true substance to be consecrated each day is the world’s development during that day – the bread symbolizing appropriately what creation succeeds in producing, the wine (blood) what creation causes to be lost in exhaustion and suffering in the course of that effort.”

In essence, the offertory prayer asks for a double blessing, God of all Creation, we hold up for you today all that is in this world, both of joy and of suffering. We offer you the bread of the world’s achievements, even as we offer you the wine of its failure, the blood of all that’s crushed as those achievements take place. We offer you the powerful of our world, our rich, our famous, our athletes, our artists, our movie stars, our entrepreneurs, our young, our healthy, and everything that’s creative and bursting with life, even as we offer you those who are weak, feeble, aged, crushed, sick, dying, and victimized. We offer to you all the pagan beauties, pleasures, and joys of this life, even as we stand with you under the cross, affirming that the one who is excluded from earthily pleasure is the cornerstone of the community. We offer you the strong, along with the weak, asking you to bless both and then stretch our hearts so that they, like you, can hold and bless everything that is. We offer you both the wonders and the pains of this world, your world.”

God has a preferential love for the poor, the suffering, the sick, and the weak, and so must we. Our faith assures us that the poor enter the Kingdom more easily than the rich and the strong. However, while that is true, this does not imply that somehow it is bad to be affluent, healthy and strong. These bring dangers, for sure. Being young, healthy, strong, physically attractive, and talented is often (though not always) a formula for a conceit that sees its own life as more special than the lives of others. Few people carry extraordinary gifts well.  

Despite that, however, we must still affirm that God smiles, positively, with pride and with satisfaction, on vibrancy, on those places where life is flourishing, healthy, young, talented, and physically attractive. God smiles on our Olympic athletes. God’s preferential love for the poor doesn’t negate God’s love for the strong. Like a good parent, God is proud of his over-talented children, even as there is a special affection for the child who is suffering.

At every Eucharist, we hold up both, our Olympic athletes and our refugees on our borders.




Oblate Father Ron Rolheiser, theologian, teacher, and award-winning author, is President of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, TX. He can be contacted through his website

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Find Fr. Rolheiser’s past columns online, along with an explanation for the column’s title “In Exile”:

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Catholic fund-raising plans gaining momentum as national attention on residential schools and the TRC continues

Wed, 07/28/2021 - 11:12

By Michael Swan, The Catholic Register

[Toronto – Canadian Catholic News] – Even as ordinary Canadian Catholics and dioceses roll out plans to raise money and recommit to reconciliation, Indigenous Catholic Deacon Michael Robinson continues to feel the community anger over residential schools.

“I’ve actually had death threats from people whom I thought were friends,” Robinson told The Catholic Register. “Threats that if they ever see me walking down the street they’re going to rip my (Roman) collar off, rip the shirt off my back. These are people who are a few generations disconnected from the residential schools era…. These are people that I’ve danced with. These are people that I have gone to powwows with.”

Robinson has known neglected cemeteries and unmarked graves would be found ever since his own involvement in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) hearings in Thunder Bay 10 years ago. He predicts many more will be found as First Nations in Ontario ramp up searches.

“I know we’re going to have at least a few thousands of these graves to be identified,” he said. “Along with that, hopefully there’s some kind of documentation that will help show the world that it wasn’t done in secret. It was just the times. People weren’t able to travel back then.”

Robinson says he feels the pain of the discoveries as much as anyone, but he believes reconciliation is vital.
“In the face of it all, I’m still pushing a positive message that reconciliation can happen,” he said. “At the local level, I’m trying to calm the waters…. Emotions are just so raw right now.”

Meanwhile provincial Catholic fundraising efforts, combined with recommitments to the 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, are coming together across the country.

Saskatchewan bishops launch “Catholic TRC Healing Response” fund-raising appeal: ARTICLE

Lay Catholic group launches appeal to aid reconciliation effort – ARTICLE

In British Columbia, the Archdiocese of Vancouver and the Dioceses of Kamloops, Nelson, Prince George and Victoria have announced a province-wide appeal to fund healing and reconciliation projects in partnership with Indigenous people.In a July 26 statement, the bishops said they wanted to “restore trust and further the ongoing journey to reconciliation.”

The Diocese of Calgary announced July 16 it will be part of “a forthcoming local/regional financial appeal.” Alberta was home to 25 residential schools. Four of them were operated within the boundaries of the Calgary diocese by the Oblate Missionaries of Mary Immaculate.

Saskatchewan’s bishops began taking donations for their province-wide appeal July 13.

The Archdiocese of Toronto has committed to a fundraising campaign that may yet embrace the rest of Ontario.

“There are ongoing discussions with other Ontario dioceses to explore any opportunities for collaboration,” Archdiocese of Toronto spokesperson Neil MacCarthy told The Catholic Register.

A lay-led, online appeal by the Catholics for Truth and Reconciliation group is also underway at

In New Brunswick, Canada’s first Indigenous Lieutenant Governor, Graydon Nicholas, is part of a group seeking reconciliation on a personal and spiritual level.“We’ve had a talking circle with our parish priest and our bishop here in St. John,” Nicholas said.

He expects the group will continue meeting in September.

“All the elements of the truth have to come out. There’s still a lot of information that the general public, especially those of us in our Catholic faith, don’t have,” Nicholas told The Catholic Register.

Fundraising and face-to-face encounters between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Catholics could set the table for a papal apology on Canadian soil, according to Nicholas.

“All that is a precursor for, I think, an apology that people want in our country by the Pope,” he said.

Deacon Robinson in Thunder Bay also looks forward to a papal apology on Canadian soil as required by TRC’s Call to Action 58.

“It doesn’t seem like these apologies (by Catholic entities that ran residential schools) are holding too much water until the Pope steps up and says sorry on behalf of the Church as a whole,” he said. “It’s going to be a hard road, for sure, to get there.”


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Questions over Church’s “in-kind” services under residential schools agreement

Wed, 07/28/2021 - 10:53

By Michael Swan, The Catholic Register

[Toronto – Canadian Catholic News] – As Catholics across Canada scramble to make up for the failed “best efforts” fundraising campaign of 2007 to 2013, they’re now answering questions about their “in-kind” contributions to the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement — a stream of compensation that Catholic residential school operators over-fulfilled by at least $5 million.

The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations in Saskatchewan is asking the Church and courts to provide an accounting of the $25 million of “in-kind” services.

The Saskatchewan Provincial Court has the ledger with a record of the services provided, but it could take months for the court to release it to the FSIN. The former president of the corporation that represented Catholic entities in court doesn’t know where the Church’s copy of the ledger is.

The one thing Gruard-McLelland Archbishop Gerard Pettipas knows for sure is that the Catholics did more than they were asked to by the courts.

“We reached $30 million in much less than 10 years,” Pettipas told The Catholic Register. “Because it was costing us money to count that, we stopped at $30 million.”

The $25 million in community projects, family counselling and reconciliation work, aimed primarily at survivors and their families, was one of three streams of compensation required of 48 Catholic dioceses and religious orders who operated between 60 and 70 per cent of Canada’s Indian residential schools over more than a century.

The 48 Catholic entities also had to pay $29 million from their own resources and run a $25-million “best efforts” capital fundraising campaign.

After the agreement was wound up in 2014, the corporation that represented the 48 Catholic entities was dissolved. Pierre Berribeau, the lawyer who led and represented the corporation — known as CEPIRSS, for Catholic Entities Party to the Indian Residential Schools Settlement — has since died.

Pettipas, who was president of CEPIRSS, is now searching for where the records may be.

All the in-kind services provided to fulfill this part of the agreement were vetted and approved by Indigenous people.

“These proposals, I guess you would call them, had to be signed off by some Indigenous leadership — either a chief in council or a friendship centre board or some other group like that,” recalled Pettipas. “Then it would go to this multi-party committee that would receive these and somehow agree on a dollar value.”

The complexity and the legal requirements of a decade ago aren’t easy to explain, said Pettipas.

“IRSSA was a legal agreement,” said the archbishop. “And even though I understand that lots of people were frustrated by how many lawyers had to be involved in this as it went on through history, it was a legal agreement. Whenever you have a legal agreement it’s both written by lawyers and it’s supervised by lawyers.”


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CNEWA Canada receives over $1 million in donations for Lebanon and renews its call for help

Tue, 07/27/2021 - 12:07

By CNEWA staff

The Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA), a papal agency based in Ottawa, has launched its second national campaign, appealing to Canadians for support of the people of Lebanon.

Working within its growing network of supporters, the international charitable organization invites Canadians to continue to show their solidarity for a suffering Lebanese population through prayer and, when and where possible, donations. CNEWA hopes to raise an additional $500,000. Since the explosion that destroyed part of Beirut on August 4, 2020, CNEWA has provided more than $6 million in assistance, $1 million from Canada alone.

“I cannot thank Canadians enough for their generosity to CNEWA but especially to our common cause of bringing emergency help, and hope, to Lebanon,” says Carl Hétu, national director for CNEWA Canada.

“As the crisis intensifies, with its deepening suffering, fear and instability, I invite all Canadians to continue their support in whatever way they can. It’s truly amazing to see the extent to which Canadians are caring and interested in extending their support. We are making an impact.”

Regional conflicts, political instability, the COVID-19 pandemic and the destruction from last year’s port explosion has worsened the country’s already high rate of inflation and caused rampant shortages in essentials including food, electricity and medications. The World Bank, in its June 1 Economic Monitor Report, stated that Lebanon is facing one of the world’s worst crises since the mid-19th century.

“We are hanging by a thread,” says Michel Constantin, director for CNEWA’s Lebanon office and a resident of Beirut. “We’re at our weakest in recent memory – but it’s in our hour of greatest need that we see the help of people around the world who are united with us through prayer and sharing of resources. I cannot thank Canadians enough for their unwavering support.”

In Lebanon since 1949, CNEWA works in partnership with 14 church and church-related institutions with the priority to ensure that Christians continue their mission of witness, service and prayer in Lebanon. Part of that mission is helping all persons in the country through humanitarian outreach. Over the past year, CNEWA’s partners have contributed to food box programs to families, medical services, reconstruction and helping elderly, children and persons with disabilities.

Launched this week, the CNEWA Canada campaign harnesses most of the organization’s resources including social media, website, advertisements and personal and general appeals to its generous donor base. Funds raised will be directed to the CNEWA office in Beirut which, in turn, will distribute funds to local churches that offer essential health and emergency services and pastoral outreach.

Donations can be made online at, selecting ‘Lebanon’ as the recipient region for the gift, or by phone at 1-866-322-4441. Cheques can be mailed to CNEWA Canada at 223 Main Street, Ottawa, ON K1S 1C4, marked “Lebanon”. Tax receipts will be issued for donations of $10 or more.

Learn more by reading CNEWA’s Lebanon activity report at

CNEWA has also partnered with Salt + Light Media to produce a 30-min TV special featuring interviews from people in Beirut and the work of CNEWA-supported organizations. The program will air Tuesday, August 4 at 8 pm on Salt + Light TV. See trailer here.


An agency of the Holy See, CNEWA works for, through and with the Eastern churches throughout the Middle East, Northeast Africa, India and Eastern Europe. Founded by Pope Pius XI in 1926, CNEWA provides pastoral and humanitarian support to the churches and people of the East. CNEWA Canada was incorporated as a registered charity by Canada Revenue Agency in 2003.


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Reflecting on two issues: residential schools and sexual abuse

Sat, 07/24/2021 - 08:30

(The transcript of this video message from Bishop Hagemoen is found below)


Message to the community

By Bishop Mark Hagemoen, Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon

(Published July 23, 2021 in the Saskatoon StarPhoenix)

Two issues have prompted me to write this message to the wider community as the Roman Catholic Bishop of Saskatoon – the issue of residential schools and the issue of sexual abuse.

Both involve the Catholic Church and both involve sinfulness – in particular the sinfulness of Catholics when we have not lived up to the gospel of Jesus Christ, as individuals or as an institution. Both involve deep and lasting wounds that will only be healed through listening, repentance, conversion of hearts and concrete action demonstrating true conversion of heart.

Since the discovery of gravesites at various cemeteries of former residential schools was announced, I have listened and heard how the shock and dismay of this news is impacting and hurting so many in our community, affecting us all – both Indigenous and non-Indigenous – across our own communities and our nation. In particular, I have heard and shared the sorrow and the anguish of knowing that Catholics were among those who ran the schools established by the federal government that operated in this country from the 1870s until the late 1990s.

I deeply regret and apologize that Catholics were part of this system which was designed to separate children from their families and communities and to assimilate them into a culture the featured a colonial attitude and approach. I deeply regret and apologize for the damage done to children at these schools, which for many included neglect and abuse, and I apologize for the deaths that happened at these schools, with children dying far away from mothers, fathers, grandparents and families, and I apologize to the families and the communities who have not been able to honour children’s burial sites.

As the discoveries of other planned searches at other cemeteries progresses, we know that this will again expose the wounds and scars from the Indian Residential School legacy and raises awareness that our church communities and larger Canadian communities are very much at the beginning of the work to address the Calls to Action featured in the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. I commit to do all I can to work with our Catholic community to engage in such work, including extending my own support for Pope Francis to come to Canada and further the journey of reconciliation in our Church and in our country and joining the other Catholic bishops in Saskatchewan in initiating the already announced new fund-raising appeal among our parishioners to support healing and reconciliation programs for residential school survivors, their families and communities.

The second issue I wish to address is our diocese’s ongoing work to implement our “Safeguarding Action Plan” which creates safe environments and responds to sexual abuse and serious misconduct by clergy or lay employees in the diocese. Developing and acting on this plan has revealed the range of needs and perspectives of victims and survivors as they recover from the trauma of sexual abuse or other forms of serious misconduct.

It also prompted us to undertake a Historical Case Review, which examined historical cases alleging serious misconduct, including sexual abuse. The review found nine cases involving serious misconduct by either clergy or lay employees working in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon. Case summaries have been posted to our diocesan website and shared with various Catholic communities throughout the diocese of Saskatoon. I am grateful to those who led this process – professionals who are Catholic and non-Catholic, and who did their work independent of myself and our diocesan offices.

To any person in our diocese or beyond who has experienced abuse by clergy or anyone else in the Church, I again express my profound sorrow and I apologize for what you have suffered, and for the betrayal, violation, and abandonment you have experienced. I also apologize to all members of our Church whose faith and trust has been damaged because of the sinful actions of those who have abused the innocent, and those who covered up such abuse. I recognize that both individual and institutional change must happen in our Church to move forward.

Words must be accompanied by substantial actions, and trust must be earned, not merely granted.

It is my earnest commitment that this stage of developing our Safeguarding Action Plan demonstrates that we are holding the bar high in assuring that all our churches are safe and respectful communities.

We are in the midst of a difficult and life-changing time. I hope and pray that these expressions of sorrow and support will provide some basis for the Catholic community’s contribution to building a safer and more respectful civic community.




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Diocese publishes report about Historic Case Review Process, including updates to safeguarding action plan to address misconduct and sexual abuse

Thu, 07/22/2021 - 07:48

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon July 21, 2021 released a report about an Historical Case Review Process that examined past cases of serious misconduct and sexual abuse in the diocese. In conjunction with those results, the diocese also announced updates to its Safeguarding Action Plan.

The report has been posted at  and shared with parishes across the diocese.

The historical report does not address residential schools, since the diocese of Saskatoon did not operate any residential schools and there were no Indian Residential Schools located within diocesan boundaries.


A Safeguarding Advisory Committee established three years ago by Bishop Mark Hagemoen recommended a review of diocesan records as part of the release of a Safer Church, Safer Communities Safeguarding Action Plan in March 2020.

“The key goal of our plan was that our diocese and our churches be places of profound respect and safety for all peoples – especially the young and vulnerable,” said Bishop Hagemoen in a letter to the diocese July 21.

With that goal in mind, the Historical Case Review Process was primarily launched to determine what could be learned from past handling of cases to improve diocesan policies here and now, the bishop said. “We wished to determine how our current policies and practices can be improved, particularly in our commitment to support those who come forward with allegations of abuse or serious misconduct,” he said.

“This work is extremely important and valued. Although we have come a long way in our efforts, there is much more to do,” Hagemoen acknowledged.

The Historical Case Review Process involved two committees:

  • an Historical Case Review Committee chaired by Bob Loran that included a number of lay (non-clergy) professionals with a range of backgrounds and expertise – including legal, professional and police investigative experience – reviewing diocesan records independently of the bishop’s office, and
  • a Policy and Operations Review Committee chaired by Brenda FitzGerald, which did a complete review of diocesan policies and the Safeguarding Action Plan in light of the findings of the Historical Case Review Committee. This Policy and Operations Review Committee also met with victims/survivors of clergy sexual abuse, listening to their experience and reflecting on the terrible and long-lasting effects and what is needed to best support victims/survivors.

“We have wrestled extensively with striking an appropriate balance between accountability and transparency, and sensitivity and responsibility, as every member of the Policy and Operations Committee deeply desires that the evil of sexual abuse be eradicated,” says Brenda Fitzgerald, chair of the Policy and Operations Committee, as well as of the diocesan Safeguarding Committee.

“In meeting with victims of sexual abuse, the Policy and Operations Review Committee repeatedly found that we must always remain victim/survivor-focused for the sake of respecting that person and their individual journey. This victim-centred approach must be reflected in every update to our safeguarding plan – and of any operation of the diocese,” she said.

At the recommendation of the committeees involved in the Historical Review Process, a commitment to publicly identifying the names of clergy and church employees who have been found guilty of sexual abuse or other serious misconduct has been clarified as being subject to privacy laws “and/or publication bans or privacy agreements.” The commitment was further broadened to include: “We commit to careful consultation with victims or representatives of victims prior to the public identification of names.”

The historical review report lists nine cases involving serious misconduct by either clergy or lay employees working in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon, however no new names of abusers were released.

In three previously-reported cases, the names of offenders are again reported. In three cases, a credible claim could not be clearly established by the review committee and therefore names are not released. In two cases, victims have requested that names of the offenders not be published, and the diocese has honoured their wishes. The ninth case involved a Code of Conduct violation by an employee allegedly accessing pornography on a computer at a local parish – the name of the employee, now deceased, is not being released.

Two non-historical cases still under review were also noted in the Historical Case Review report, with previously-released names again published.

“In recent months we have learned that there are situations where releasing names of an abuser would further re-traumatize and trigger victims – each of whom are on their own unique healing journey,” explained FitzGerald.

“For some, releasing names of perpetrators of sexual abuse has tremendous potential to empower victims to seek healing and reparation. For others, there is a great fear and risk of further trauma with the release of names.  As with our commitment that our entire Safeguarding Action Plan be more victim or survivor focused, we came to realize that with regard to this question of releasing names of abusers, we must also prioritize the needs and desires of the victim or survivor,” she said.

“Therefore, we have added this important clause to the commitment addressing the release of names of abusers: ‘We commit to careful consultation with victims or representatives of victims prior to the public identification of names.’ (Safer Church, Stronger Communities Safeguarding Action Plan, Commitment #12)”

Safeguarding plan updates

As a result of the work of the two committees, the diocesan Safeguarding Action Plan released in March 2020 has also been updated in several sections. The plan features 20 commitments that fall into four categories:

  • Outreach and Healing;
  • Process of Reporting and Addressing Allegations;
  • Policies and Training; and
  • Expanding Safeguarding Culture.

In addition to the changes to Commitment 12 about publicly identifying names, other changes to the Safeguarding Action Plan as a result of the Historical Case Review Process include:

  • committing to respond to allegations within 48 hours;
  • exploring the establishment of a 24-hour hotline for those who wish to remain anonymous when reporting serious misconduct or abuse;
  • undertaking a review of existing intake and investigation processes to be more complainant-focused, simplified and accessible;
  • including allegations against church volunteers in record-keeping; and
  • making trauma support and accompaniment resources available on the website as they become available.
Bishop messages

Bishop Hagemoen expressed his appreciation to the committees who undertook the review of historic files and the Safeguarding Action Plan. “I am grateful to those who led this process – professionals who are Catholic and non-Catholic, and who did their work independent of myself and our diocesan offices,” he said.

Bishop Hagemoen also apologized to victims / survivors of sexual abuse and to the wider Church community.

“To any person in our diocese or beyond who has experienced abuse by clergy or anyone else in the Church, I again express my profound sorrow and I apologize for what you have suffered, and for the betrayal, violation, and abandonment you have experienced,” Hagemoen said.

“I also apologize to all members of our Church whose faith and trust has been damaged because of the sinful actions of those who abused the innocent, and those who covered up such abuse. I recognize that both individual and institutional change must happen in our Church to move forward.”

VIDEO: Bishop Mark Hagemoen, Historical Review Committee Chair Bob Loran, Policy and Operations Review Committee Chair Brenda Fitzgerald:




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Archdiocese of Toronto is building a plan to aid residential school survivors

Wed, 07/21/2021 - 08:00

By Catholic Register staff

[Toronto – Canadian Catholic News] – The Archdiocese of Toronto has announced a three-pronged plan aimed at supporting its efforts to aid residential school survivors and Indigenous communities, including a fundraising campaign.

In a statement July 19, the archdiocese identified three priority areas in which it is establishing working groups that will include Indigenous representatives: financial support, education, and outreach and spiritual support.

“While the archdiocese did not operate residential schools, we have a responsibility to take genuine and meaningful steps to journey with Indigenous communities on the path to reconciliation, and to assist in healing the trauma experienced from the residential school system,” the archdiocese said in its statement.

The Archdiocese of Toronto said that a Healing & Reconciliation Fund has been established in response to those who wish to donate immediately. Donations can be made online through, by phoning 416-934-3411, or through any church in the archdiocese.

Further details on the archdiocese’s financial campaign are expected to be released in the coming weeks.

In the wake of recent discoveries of unmarked graves at government-funded residential schools operated by the Catholic Church, the bishops of Saskatchewan announced a province-wide fundraising appeal July 13 in aid of residential school survivors.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops noted in a release July 16 that “Bishops from many dioceses across the country have indicated to the CCCB their readiness to discern possible local and/or regional fundraising initiatives.”

Related: Saskatchewan bishops launch “Catholic TRC Healing Response” fund-raising appeal – LINK

The Archdiocese of Toronto initiatives in education are to include educating clergy, staff and the faithful “regarding the tragic legacy of residential schools and its continuing impact on Indigenous people, and to develop a greater understanding and appreciation of Indigenous spirituality.”

The archdiocese said it recognizes “the journey to reconciliation is one that will continue for years to come,” and echoed the apology issued in 1991 by the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate which operated many of the 63 schools run by Catholic religious orders across Canada.

In the apology, the Oblates said: “We apologize for the existence of the schools themselves, recognizing that the biggest abuse was not what happened in the schools, but that the schools themselves happened. …We wish to apologize in a very particular way for the instances of physical and sexual abuse that occurred in those schools…Far from attempting to defend or rationalize these cases of abuse in any way, we wish to state publicly that we acknowledge they were inexcusable, intolerable and a betrayal of trust in one of its most serious forms.We deeply and very specifically, apologize to every victim of such abuse and we seek help in searching for means to bring about healing.”

About 150,000 Indigenous children attended residential schools from the 1870s until 1997. Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission identified 130 residential schools, established under the federal government’s policy of integrating Indigenous people into the mainstream population.


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Mount Carmel pilgrimage resumes in its 99th year after a pandemic hiatus

Tue, 07/20/2021 - 22:20

Pilgrims filled the hillside for the return of the Mount Carmel pilgrimage July 18, 2021. (Photos by Kiply Lukan Yaworski)

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

After an interruption last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the pilgrimage to Mount Carmel Shrine returned July 18, 2021 – 99 years after it was first established in St. Peter’s Colony.

The shrine is located west of Humboldt, just north of the community of Carmel, SK.

Pilgrims from throughout the region joined Bishop Mark Hagemoen, Abbot Peter Novecosky, OSB, Fr. Joseph Salihu, Fr. Daniel Muyres, OSB, Fr. Cosmas Epifano, OSB, and monks from St. Peter’s Abbey to again pray for good weather and a bountiful harvest, and to celebrate the Eucharist at the outdoor altar on the hill topped with a statue of Our Lady of Mount Carmel holding the infant Jesus.

Music ministry was provided by the Mount Carmel Choir.

Video of Mass:


The Sunday morning pilgrimage started with hymns and praying of the Rosary, along with opportunities to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation, followed by celebration of Sunday Eucharist.

This year, with the province just coming out of COVID-19 restrictions, there was no concession for lunch, and no afternoon program, but those in attendance were encouraged to pray the outdoor stations of the cross around the base of the hill in small family groups.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel was the title given to the Blessed Virgin Mary in her role as patroness of the Carmelite order, and of the first Carmelites, who were Christian ascetics or hermits who lived at Mount Carmel in the Holy Land.

The name Mount Carmel also recalls the Old Testament event in 1 Kings 18: 19-40, in which the prophet Elijah battled the pagan priests of Baal in a public spiritual contest which led to the defeat of their deities to the one Lord of the Hebrew peoples. “In the account Elijah announced the end of a long drought, the clouds gathered and the skies turned black and it rained heavily,” recounted Bishop Hagemoen, noting that hot dry weather this year has the faithful of Saskatchewan again praying for rain.

Just as in the time of the prophet Elijah, today we also face a time of conflict, surrounded by a “lot of noise,” noted the bishop. “We continue to be in a state and a place where we are surrounded by temptations to what is not truly of God.”

He added: “We have to depend on the Lord Jesus Christ and the Gospel, his Good News even more, so that what is true, what is live-giving, what is sustaining, will be steadfast.”

In particular Hagemoen reflected on recent weeks focused on relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous brothers and sisters in light of the rediscovery of graves near residential schools. “Where do we need to admit the failing in our history? And where do we need to say sorry, where do we need to be people of contrition, of contrite heart?” the bishop queried. “The way of penance, ongoing conversion of life and heart must be the way of the disciple.”

Hagemoen reflected on leadership as modelled by Jesus Christ, with the word shepherd coming up over and over in the Sunday scripture readings. “If there is any way in which we have a heart of stone, we pray that the Lord will give us a heart of flesh, and it is the Good Shepherd that does this… the Good Shepherd is with us always.”

In the Church there can be no such thing as authority linked to power, stressed the bishop. “Authority must be linked to responsible service of your brothers and sisters,” he said, again pointing to Jesus Christ as the model.

“Today on this wonderful mountaintop we celebrate the true way of leadership of blessing and of service to the world,” he said, stressing that holiness leads to joy, as expressed by Pope Francis: “To depend on God sets us free from every form of enslavement and leads us to recognize our great dignity.”

Bishop Hagemoen also recalled the words of Saint Pope John Paul II at World Youth Day in Toronto, when he assured his listeners: “We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures, we are the sum of the Father’s love for us and our real capacity to become the image of His Son Jesus.”

In conclusion, Bishop Hagemoen prayed that in spite of the noise and challenge around us, that God’s blessing will take us to “an absolute future… an absolute hope” and that Christians will take up their call to be true missionaries.

“Do not underestimate the grace and blessing that comes when a people come to a holy place like this seeking a new heart and a new spirit. And with God’s grace and help – and our trust – He will do that.”

At the end of Mass, the bishop carried the Blessed Sacrament to the top of the hill, blessing the fields and the people gathered for the pilgrimage. Individual blessings were also given to pilgrims after the celebration of the Eucharist.

Photo gallery:

(Click on image to scroll through gallery)

History of the pilgrimage site:

The pilgrimage was established in St. Peter’s Colony under the leadership of the Benedictines at St. Peter’s Abbey (Muenster, SK), who continue to oversee care for the site.

Plans are underway for celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Mount Carmel pilgrimage on Sunday, July 17, 2022.

Dedication of Mount Carmel on Sept. 10, 1922. (Archival photo courtesy of St. Peter’s Abbey)


Abbot Peter Novecosky, OSB, recently shared the history of the first pilgrimage to Mount Carmel, held in 1922. This account was prepared for the shrine’s 75th anniversary:

The following is an account of the first pilgrimage made at Mount Carmel on Sept. 10, 1922.

The article, entitled “Mount Carmel now a holy hill,” appeared in the St. Peter’s Bote (the German-language newspaper published by St. Peter’s Abbey) and was translated by the late Sr. Celine Graf, OSU.

The first pilgrimage to the Mount Carmel site was attended by about 3,500 people, on a bare hill, and with a makeshift chapel.

Mount Carmel now a holy hill

“Last Sunday, Sept. 10, 1922, nearly all the priests of St. Peter’s Colony and thousands of people from all areas of the diocese took part in a most imposing celebrating on Mount Carmel, the heart of St. Peter’s Colony.

“The weather was favourable. The hill was blessed and dedicated to Mary, the Mother of God, under the title ‘Our Lady of Mount Carmel.’ At the same time, Mary, Queen of heaven, was openly acknowledged by all present as patron and protectress of St. Peter’s Colony.

“From now on, on the Sunday after the feast of Our Lady of the Scapular which the church celebrates on July 16, a festive Mass will be celebrated annually on Mount Carmel to express publicly our appreciation and thanks to our dear Mother of God for her great intercession for us before the throne of God. Next year this feast will be held on July 22, 1923.

“The day before, the men and women of the Carmel parish prepared the Mount for this beautiful celebration. Under the leadership of their zealous pastor, Fr. Matthew Michel, they erected a temporary chapel and altar and decorated the hill with trees.

“On Sunday morning in the various churches of the colony an early Mass was celebrated to make it possible for the people to attend the 11:00 celebration of Mass on the hill. Thus, the good people came in throngs to show their love and attachment to our Mother of Mount Carmel and to receive from her hands blessings for themselves and their loved ones.

“From all directions came hundreds of cars: from Muenster and St. Gregor, from Annaheim and Lake Lenore, from Dead Moose Lake and Pilger, from Fulda and Willmont, from Humboldt and parishes from the south, from Bruno and Dana, from Leofeld, Bremen, Cudworth, St. Benedict and St. Leo. From everywhere they came feeling themselves fortunate to be able to take part in this memorable celebration.

“Already long before the opening of the festive celebration the hill began filling with people who were enthralled at the view from the summit. Everyone wanted to spot their church, their elevator or this or that village. At the foot of the hill, in all directions, were parked the cars and other means of transport. It was a glorious sight.

“High Mass began at 11:00. Abbot Michael Ott was vested in his pontifical robes, as were all his assistant prelates…. The first action was to bless Mount Carmel. Through this blessing the hill was dedicated to the most blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God. Abbot Michael prayed in Latin as he walked around the hill, accompanied by all the priests, and sprinkled it with holy water. The men’s choir of St. Peter’s Church, under the direction of Mr. Pitzel and Mr. Schaeffer of Humboldt, vigorously sang the Magnificat, Mary’s song of praise. This was followed by two Marian hymns in German.

“After the blessing of the hill, Abbot Michael preached the festive sermon in which he reminded the pilgrims of the significance of the feast and admonished them to remain firm in their love for the Mother of God and to follow her example. Mary, among all the creatures who came from the hand of God, is the richest in love and a mighty helper in all our needs and petitions. Here on this hill, he said, we want to greet our Mother annually; we want to thank her for all the blessings she obtains for us; and we want to beg her for continued favors and help. That she will continue always to look graciously upon the people of St. Peter’s Colony, we now want to consecrate ourselves to our heavenly Queen forever and take her as our patron and protectress.

“The abbot then knelt down with the whole assembly ó about 3,500 people and prayed the blessing in German. This was followed by the litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary. After this, Abbot Michael gave a short talk in German to complement what he has said previously in English.

“At the end of Mass the Annaheim choir, accompanied by horns and drums, sung the Te Deum with great enthusiasm.”

Dedication of Mount Carmel on Sept. 10, 1922. (Archival photo courtesy of St. Peter’s Abbey)


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Tribal Council hosts afternoon walk in Saskatoon to honour residential school survivors and support TRC Calls to Action

Tue, 07/20/2021 - 18:24

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

Saskatoon Tribal Council Chief Mark Arcand led a crowd of supporters through the streets of Saskatoon July 20, walking “for reconciliation, for residential school survivors, and for all our children who never made it home.”

A sea of orange shirts spanned several city blocks as hundreds participated in the “TRC Calls to Action Awareness and Education Walk.”

Many carryied signs with messages such as “Every Child Matters,” “There Are No Short Cuts to Truth and Reconciliation,” “Education is what got us here, and education is what will get us out.” And “Truth and Reconcili-Action!”

Chief Arcand spoke to the crowd at the end of the walk, describing a ceremony held earlier in the day at Whitecap Dakota First Nation “for the children that never came home, trying to give them a good path home,” which he said involved five different groups of Elders (Cree, Saulteaux, Dakota, Dene and Métis).

“Their message was unity – work together; don’t blame the churches, don’t blame… Anger is not going to solve this issue,” Chief Arcand said. “Working together collectively is going to make a difference in people’s lives.”

The Elders spoke in favour of events like the July 20 walk, he added. “The direction was: keep going, bring people together, advocate, educate, create awareness.”

Chief Mark Arcand of the Saskatoon Tribal Council spoke at the end of the walk. (Photo by Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)

“How do we make it better so that everyone can have a quality of life? With understanding, respecting what residential schools did to people,” stressed Chief Arcand. “This friend of mine, Chief Cadmus Delorme from Cowessess, said it right: ‘Indigenous People are not asking for pity. They are asking for understanding.’ Understanding leads to partnerships, relationships, and a quality of life for everyone.”

Arcand added: If you see an elder or a residential school survivor, acknowledge them. Tell them we are all in this together. Because when you listen to the stories, it is hard to listen to. They are 80 years old – 60, 70, 90 years old – and they are still living with trauma from when they went to these schools. That has affected their children, their grandchildren, etc. But we can all do better.”

Needed actions include businesses being committed to hiring Indigenous employees, as well as the dismantling of both the child welfare system and the incarceration system, and finding ways to help those who are homeless, Arcand listed.

Bishop Mark Hagemoen and members of the Catholic community were among those participating in the Saskatoon walk July 20. (Photo by Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)

“When you wear this shirt that says ‘Every Child Matters,’ it is not just Indigenous children. It is every race, every culture, every identity – every child matters. They all need a quality of life, “ Chief Arcand said.

“So I want to thank everybody for coming out today, for bringing your kids – bringing yourselves, bringing your companies, and most importantly, for understanding. I want you all to go home, have a good day, hug your children, hug your families, tell them that you love them, because those are the stories that our people didn’t get when they went to residential school.”

He concluded: “Stay tuned, we are going to do great things together.”




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Former chief demands Cowessess records

Mon, 07/19/2021 - 20:03

By Michael Swan, The Catholic Register

[Toronto – Canadian Catholic News] – Indigenous scholar and former Cowessess First Nation Chief Terry Pelletier is challenging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Oblates of Mary Immaculate to ensure any Cree person can look up the full records of their family members who attended the Marieval Indian Residential School, where approximately 751 unmarked graves were found in June.

After Trudeau visited the abandoned Cowessess cemetery in Saskatchewan on July 6, Pelletier demanded the prime minister guarantee that all school records are made available.

“I told him in no uncertain terms to get this done now,” Pelletier told The Catholic Register. “So now I want to know when this will be done.”

Pelletier has also been in correspondence with OMI Lacombe Canada provincial superior Fr. Ken Thorson about accessing documents that relate to his own time at Marieval in the 1950s and ’60s.

The Oblates, who operated 48 residential schools across Canada, have struck a deal with the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation to digitize and transfer thousands more documents to the University of Manitoba-based foundation. Following the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2015, the Oblates transferred more than 40,000 documents to the NCTR, but have until now held back the Codex Historicus — thousands of records, photographs, letters and other materials that relate to the daily operation of the schools.

Oblate concerns about legal privacy obligations should not prevent the transfer of the records, NCTR executive director Stephanie Scott said in a release.

“The National Research Centre for Truth and Reconciliation Act of Manitoba facilitates the collection of information and records to fulfill the mandate of the NCTR and ensures appropriate protection of privacy. Provincial and federal privacy laws are not a barrier for the transfer of records,” Scott said.

The Oblates are committed to making the documents accessible “as soon as possible,” said Thorson.

“That work includes an organized approach to digitizing documents, reflective of the transparent partnership the Oblates have entered into with the NCTR,” he said. “It is our hope this will permit a full review of the existing historical documentation from our order’s involvement, so that the truth of residential schools will be fully known.”

Pelletier is waiting for results. “I said (to Trudeau) in no uncertain terms, ‘I have a big mouth and I don’t shut up till I get what I want,’ ” he said.



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Details surface about assumed residential school grave sites in Kamloops, BC

Mon, 07/19/2021 - 16:12

By Agnieszka Ruck, The B.C. Catholic

The ground-penetrating radar specialist who studied the area near the former Kamloops Indian Residential School has released more details about her findings.

Sarah Beaulieu, who has also used GPR to identify graves of First World War prisoners, searched two acres of land near the school, but “the total number of missing children is currently unknown.”

The orchard area was chosen due to “oral histories” that recall burials in that area and the discoveries of a juvenile rib bone and juvenile tooth in two separate instances in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The tooth was found during a dig on the site, and the rib uncovered by a tourist.

She said graves have certain traits, such as an east-west pattern or a dip above ground that forms after loose soil compacts or a casket breaks down. Shallow graves could be indicative of a child burial or of a grave dug while the ground was frozen.

In her survey, Beaulieu found 200 “anomalies” or “targets of interest” that she believes are possible grave sites. She stressed that hers was a preliminary investigation. “Only forensic investigation with excavation will provide definitive results.”

Ground-penetrating radar (GPR) specialist Sarah Beaulieu July 15 provided more information about the GPR process. (Video image – The B.C. Catholic – CCN)

She added “remote sensing such as GPR is not necessary to know that children went missing in Indian residential school contexts. This fact has been known.”

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has suggested that thousands of children who attended residential schools are “missing,” which they have defined as students who did not return home due to death from illness, running away, or other factors.

The two acres searched are a small fraction of the 160 acres of property in the area.

Beaulieu presented her research during a July 15 press conference with Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation Chief Rosanne Casimir and others as a follow up to the May 27 announcement of the discovery of grave sites.

That earlier announcement had said the remains of 215 children who had been students at the Kamloops Indian Residential School had been found with ground-penetrating radar. Today the presenters clarified that 200 soil anomalies have been identified for further testing to see which ones were grave sites.

“The Tk’emlups te Secwepemc has the responsibility and the obligation to identify the unmarked graves found within our jurisdiction,” said Casimir. She called on the Canadian government and the Oblates of Mary Immaculate to “immediately and fully” release all enrolment and other records of every student who ever attended the Kamloops Indian Residential School.

She also called for funding from the federal and provincial governments to cover costs already incurred in research and security and well as future efforts to “identify, document, maintain, and protect” the remains of children found buried there.

“We understand that students came from across B.C., some from Alberta, and from as far as the Yukon and into the States. To work in the immediate and long term both the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc and the home communities of the missing children need to be fully included and fully and duly resourced.”

She also invited Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to visit Kamloops Sept. 30, the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, to hear stories from local survivors.

While Beaulieu was careful to describe her findings as preliminary, others on the panel used harsher words.

Newly elected Assembly of First Nations chief RoseAnne Archibald called the site of unmarked graves a “crime scene.”

“In these sacred lands, Canadians and the world first learned about how 215 innocent children died and were buried in unmarked graves. This is a crime against humanity. This is a crime against little children. The United Nations has called this genocide. We call this genocide. This ground-penetrating radar technology is revealing evidence, undisputable proof that crimes were committed.”

Archibald believes an independent investigation of the site is needed, saying the RCMP’s involvement in an investigation could be seen as a conflict of interest.

President of the Canadian Archeological Association Lisa Hodgetts praised Beaulieu’s report and said her organization is lending its support through providing resources including the creation of a working group on unmarked graves.

“Communities can and should chart their own path at their own pace when it comes to their missing children,” she said.

“This is clearly not something that communities should have to pay for themselves.”

Three residential school survivors also approached the microphone to share their memories. Evelyn Camille attended the school for 10 years and said some children died while trying to flee. “The black robes start lying about the children. ‘Oh yeah they are doing fine here.’ In the meantime they were missing and no one had searched for them,” she said.

Though experts have said the only way to determine the actual number of those buried is to dig, Camille said she would like the site to be left undisturbed. “Yes, they may have to be some studies to be done, but what good are those studies going to do for us, for an individual, for me? It’s going to tell me that yes, they were murdered, but is that going to make me feel better? I don’t think so.”

She added she has sought permission to enter the site and pray for the deceased.

After the press conference, the Archdiocese of Vancouver released a statement repeating Archbishop Miller’s offer to support those suffering due to the residential school system. “We are ready to provide scientific expertise from non-Catholic and world-renowned groups that are offering help. This effort must be desired and directed by Indigenous people, and we will wait to take instruction from them,” the statement said.

“As many Indigenous leaders have stated, there can be no reconciliation without truth. We remain committed to helping the Tk’emlups people continue on their healing journey in any way we can.”


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Successful appeal for sponsorship of family disrupted by conflict in Tigray: plans now underway to sponsor a second family

Thu, 07/15/2021 - 16:22

By Dr. Jan Bigland-Pritchard, Coordinator, Office of Migration, Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon

We are overwhelmed and delighted by the response of so many people to a recent appeal for Alem and her family, who are Tigrayan refugees from the on-going conflict there, living in tent camps in the Sudan. Given the positive response, the Office of Migration is now working to sponsor a second family affected by the conflict in Tigray.

In less than a month, the appeal for help raised the full amount needed to resettle Alem and her family through sponsorship as refugees to Saskatoon.

Roko and Negasi – recent newcomers to our community – got the ball rolling. They had been helped by Alem years ago when they were refugees in Tigray.

Then Christ Church Anglican parish stepped up to be the settlement team for the family, and generous Catholic hearts in the diocese did the rest, by raising the funds needed to undertake sponsorship of the family.

“I just want to say thank you to everyone for their help,” says a grateful Roko. “It is nice to know other people care about human beings they don’t even know. It gives me hope. I wish to help even more people. Please pray for these families, share the message and give what you can, big or small.”

Roko and Negasi now live in Saskatoon – they are working to help bring their friend Alem and her family to Canada. (Submitted photo, used with permission)

The response has been so great that we are now looking at sponsoring a second family. Alem’s brother Gaitom, his wife and four children are refugees from the same conflict, and are living in a tent in Um Rakuba refugee camp in Sudan.

An anonymous donor has come forward and is willing to contribute significant funds for this family, on the condition that a Catholic parish can be found to become their settlement team (constituent group).

How you can help?

Please continue to pray for Alem’s family and Gaitom’s family as the rainy season continues.

If you live in Saskatoon, ask your priest and parish council about whether your parish refugee committee could become the settlement team for the second family. We cannot move ahead with the second family’s sponsorship without a sponsoring parish. If your parish does not have an active refugee committee at this time, perhaps now is the time to form one. Full training can be provided by the diocesan Migration Office:

You are welcome to donate towards the cost of the second family.  However, if a Catholic parish cannot be found to act as sponsoring parish for the second family, your contribution will go into a ‘seed money’ fund to help finance further refugee sponsorships in the future.

How to donate

Contact Dr. Jan Bigland-Pritchard in the Migration Office for further details, by emailing


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A Canada Day Like None Other… A Liturgy Like None Other

Wed, 07/14/2021 - 16:44

By Sister Maggie Beaudette, CSJ, Sisters of St. Joseph in Canada

Canada Day, July 1, 2021, was like none other I had experienced. Canada Day, July 1, 2021, I experienced liturgy like none other, but one for which I have dreamed, hoped, and prayed.

Sister Linda and Sister Diane had come to Hay River from Yellowknife to visit for a few days.

On July 1, Canada Day, we joined the community of Katlodeeche First Nation Reserve to honour and remember the children who did not return home from residential school.

Approximately 220 people, many wearing orange, had gathered for the memorial. Although the last days of June had been extremely hot, mixed with rain and thunderstorms, that morning the weather cleared, the sun came out, (as well as the bugs!)

The memorial was to begin at 13:23 hours, signifying the number of graves (at the point of planning) that had been discovered, 1,323. Those planning to attend were invited to gather at 13:00 hours in order that the memorial could begin on time.

As we arrived, the table had been set – a small fire with a few logs. The drummers were present, warming their drums over the fire, ready to sing a prayer song.

Chief April Martel welcomed everyone; community members, many people from the town of Hay River including the mayor and counsellors, RCMP, Rangers, men, women and children, Dene, Metis and Inuit, as well as non-indigenous. All had come to stand in solidarity.

Roy Fabian, former chief and elder, began to speak. Roy began explaining the word “Dene.” He explained that it consisted of two words, De and Ne. De means the water, the rivers and Ne of the land, the plants, animals, and people. All is gift from the Creator.

We had gathered on the site of the former residential school. Roy shared with us some history of the residential days and he spoke the truth, in the fact that not all was good.

A Canada Day like none other …but one for which I have dreamed, hoped and prayed.

Following Roy’s words, the feeding of the fire began. Roy explained that traditionally the hunter would take the fat/muscle from behind the eye of the animal and offer it in thanksgiving for its life and thanksgiving to the Creator. Today, tobacco is used. Everyone present, who wished, was invited to make an offering.

Taking some tobacco in his hands, Pat Martel, a former chief and elder, began the fire feeding ceremony with a prayer in his Dene language. He then sprinkled the tobacco in the fire.

This was followed by Chief April Martel, elder Roy Fabian and the drummers. The drummers then began to sing the prayer song while those present came forward to make their offering.

It was a vey sacred moment. As individuals and families came to the fire, taking some tobacco in their fingers, each one took a few moments to reflect and remember. Among the crowd gathered, there was an atmosphere of profound quietness as we stood in solidarity. The drummers continued to drum and sing throughout the fire-feeding ceremony.

Up to this point, the memorial was in honour of the children who did not come home, within an atmosphere of quietness and grief. And then the mood changed. The drumming took on an air of celebration as everyone joined in a tea dance. Roy explained that the dance was in honour of the children now, in the present.

As the drummers led the dance with a celebratory drum beat and joyful song, a large circle formed around the monument on the Residential School site as we danced to the beat of the drum.

Since Sister Linda had just moved to Yellowknife in September, we ended our day going to Alexandra Falls. As we walked through the trees to get to the lookout, I was aware that we had come full circle from Roy’s words explaining the word Dene.

I was profoundly moved at the memorial for the children who did not come home from residential school. Being in solidarity, praying, listening, offering, and dancing, experiencing community… I did not receive the Eucharist, the Real Presence, as we believe, however, I was nourished by the real presence of each person. It occurred to me that perhaps this is what Jesus envisioned for “church.”

These past few days I feel much like the disciples on the road to Emmaus… “were not our hearts burning…”

Was not my heart deeply moved!

I dream and pray and hope for a new way of “church” everywhere, but especially in the north; one in which spiritualities of many cultures can be woven together in a deep spiritual experience of community.


Sr. Maggie Beaudette, CSJ, has lived and served in the north for some 32 years, including the past 22 years in Hay River, NT, on the south shore of the Great Slave Lake in the Catholic Diocese of Mackenzie-Fort Smith. She is a member of the Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Joseph in Canada.

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Saskatchewan bishops launch “Catholic TRC Healing Response” fundraising appeal

Tue, 07/13/2021 - 16:13

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

The Catholic bishops of Saskatchewan July 13 released more details about a province-wide fund-raising appeal among Catholics for support of residential school survivors and their communities.

Online donations can be accepted immediately at

“As a diverse church with many languages, cultures and experiences, let us find a common voice to say to survivors and their communities, we want to listen to you, to hear you; we want to do our part in the long journey of overcoming this legacy of suffering; we want to work with the Calls to Action as a blueprint for restoring right relationship between peoples; we want this Appeal to help us take steps on the long walk from truth to reconciliation.” – Archbishop Donald Bolen

Priorities for the “Catholic TRC Healing Response” fund-raising effort are being discussed with Indigenous leaders, and include healing and reconciliation, cemeteries on the sites of former residential schools, and education and cultural support.

“The overall goal of this campaign is to support Residential School survivors and their communities, and to engage more deeply in our own ongoing commitment and response to the Truth and Reconciliation process,” wrote the five bishops in a July 13 update about creating the fund-raising appeal, signed by Archbishop Donald Bolen of the Archdiocese of Regina, Bishop Bryan Bayda of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Saskatoon, Archbishop Murray Chatlain of the Archdiocese of Keewatin-Le Pas, Bishop Mark Hagemoen of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon, and Bishop Stephen Hero of the Diocese of Prince Albert.

“Catholic TRC Healing Response Appeal” – Letter from the Saskatchewan bishops (PDF – English) / (PDF French)

“We have heard the strong request, from Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in various quarters, to initiate a new fundraising campaign to support survivors and engage more deeply in our own ongoing commitment and response to the Truth and Reconciliation process,” the bishops reported when first announcing plans to launch a fund-raising appeal on July 3.

In the July 13 update, the bishops stated that they are “collaborating with various potential participants, and consulting with Indigenous dialogue partners, including Survivors, Elders, Knowledge Keepers, Chiefs, and other community members.”

“Out of these conversations, each diocese and eparchy will discern and communicate separately how they will proceed with the Appeal in their respective dioceses and communities,” the bishops said, noting that a province-wide goal and timeline will be announced by September 2021.

“As we noted in our July 3 letter, we are deeply grateful for the signs and indications of encouragement and commitment that we have been hearing from the people of Saskatchewan and beyond. It is for all of us to rise to the occasion to be instruments of healing and reconciliation, moving forward in humility, truth, and justice.”

In a video message released July 13, Regina Archbishop Donald Bolen spoke about the fund-raising appeal, and reflected on the continuing call for Catholics to respond to the long-lasting damage of residential schools in Saskatchewan

Video message from Archbishop Donald Bolen: “Launching Appeal for Survivors and their Communities”

Link to video with transcript – Archdiocese of Regina website

“The funding priorities are guided by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action involving a financial commitment, and here I would highlight #61, which calls for support of community-controlled initiatives for healing and reconciliation, language and culture, education and relationship building, and dialogue between Indigenous spiritual leaders and youth; and the Calls to Action which address cemeteries of former residential schools (#73-76),” said Archbishop Bolen.

“We would look to be guided by Indigenous communities here in Saskatchewan in terms of the allocation of funds, with a goal of building and strengthening relationships along the way.”

Bolen said that conversations with residential school survivors and Indigenous communities about the appeal and its priorities are themselves important steps forward. “Nothing is as helpful in charting a way forward as listening to the experience of survivors, and hearing directly from survivors and Elders where we can be of assistance in addressing the needs of their communities,” he said.

“This province has many wounds in its history, but this is the deepest, beginning with the First Peoples of this land, their experience of colonization, and most acutely, their experience of the Indian Act and the residential school system,” Bolen stressed.

“Taking children out of their family context, depriving them on their language, culture and spirituality, caused waves of suffering which continue to be felt today. Other forms of abuse experienced by many, as witnessed through the TRC process, deepened that pain. The investigation of grave sites brings that before our eyes in a way that beckons a response, and in recent weeks, we have heard a strong request for the Catholic Church to take ownership for its involvement in the schools, for wounds that have their origin there but continue on in intergenerational trauma and in systemic injustice. It is our profound desire to do so, continuing past efforts and undertaking new initiatives of commitment and solidarity.”

In his video message about the Catholic TRC Healing Response Appeal, the archbishop of Regina also addressed controversies that have emerged in the past weeks, since the discovery of unmarked graves near former residential schools.

“First, there are questions about the role of the Catholic Church in residential schools. We do not believe that the public narrative has consistently been accurate and there is work to be done speaking constructively about this deep wound in our history, while honouring the experience of Indigenous People, especially survivors. The way that we tell our history matters tremendously. That work needs to continue, accompanied by education called for by the TRC,” he said.

“There are many important questions about who was fundamentally responsible for residential schools and why were they allowed to function for so long. Stories have surfaced about efforts from 100 years ago to name and put a stop to the disastrous consequences of the residential school policy, drawing attention to voices that should have been heeded. In the society at large and in the church there were voices that said this was wrong, this should stop, or at the very least, we should stop being complicit in what is happening here. Those voices haunt us now.”

He added: “It doesn’t help when either the church or the government deflects their proper responsibilities. With this in mind, we are working earnestly to support healing and reconciliation through this province-wide appeal.”

Bolen expressed gratitude to the many Indigenous leaders and residential school survivors who have spoken out against recent burning of churches and acts of vandalism. “We need to pay heed to the anger and frustration that are being felt by many in Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities, but also to say, in the words of Martin Luther King Jr., that ‘violence begets violence; toughness begets a greater toughness’ and in the words of Mohandas Gandhi, ‘an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.’ Enflamed rhetoric leads to enflamed buildings.”

He then pointed to another, personal experience of fire. “On two evenings in the past week, I have been privileged to gather with survivors and Elders around a bonfire. That has been a very different and life-giving experience for all of us, as we lay down wood together, sit around a fire, listen deeply, especially to the experiences of pain, and build relationships on the path to healing and reconciliation. May those, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, who are experiencing a great deal of anger and frustration at the present time, find places of respectful dialogue, attentive to the hurt, but open to life-giving ways forward.”

Bolen emphasized the importance of listening. “As we launch this campaign, I think we need to be reminded that all efforts to address the broken relationship between Indigenous Peoples and the Catholic Church need to begin by listening to Indigenous people – Elders and Knowledge Keepers, Survivors, Chiefs, youth, and whole communities.”

He noted: “Chief Cadmus Delorme has commented how Indigenous and church people of today have inherited the present situation. I quote, ‘Nobody today created residential schools. Nobody today created the Indian Act. Nobody today created the 60’s scoop. We all inherited this.’ It’s helpful for us to hear that. But it is for us to rise to the occasion to be instruments of healing and reconciliation.”

The archbishop also pointed to the “opportunity of the present moment,” saying: “As a diverse church with many languages, cultures and experiences, let us find a common voice to say to survivors and their communities, we want to listen to you, to hear you; we want to do our part in the long journey of overcoming this legacy of suffering; we want to work with the Calls to Action as a blueprint for restoring right relationship between peoples; we want this Appeal to help us take steps on the long walk from truth to reconciliation.”

The archbishop’s comments echo other previous statements and apologies by the Catholic bishops of Saskatchewan.

Following recent announcements about the discovery of unmarked graves on former residential schools, including at Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan, the Saskatchewan Catholic bishops had previously sent a message to Indigenous leaders, committing to “walk in solidarity with you, and to stand by you.” (Letter of June 24). “We are here to listen to you as you communicate those ways we can walk with you in addressing the Calls to Action, rebuilding relations, addressing issues of justice, and working towards a more just society.”

In that June 24 message to Indigenous leaders, the Saskatchewan bishops stated: “We offer our condolences but we know that this is not enough and our words must move to concrete action.”


Related: “Face to face with the brutal truth”

Related: “Bishop Mark Hagemoen addresses diocesan efforts under Indian Residential Schools Agreement”

Reflection: “Why Stay in the Church?” – Fr. Ron Rolheiser, OMI, column

Resource: Residential schools background (Archdiocese of Toronto)



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Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish makes trip to sacred shrine as prayers continue for children lost at residential schools

Tue, 07/13/2021 - 15:58

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

Saskatoon’s Indigenous Catholic parish has turned to prayer in dealing with the pain and grief of recent announcements about unmarked graves found near former residential schools in B.C. and Saskatchewan.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish has been listening to survivors, their family members and members of the wider community as they grapple with the hurt, anger, and trauma that has been awakened in recent weeks — and the parish Elders, Pastor, Parish Life Director and leadership team have naturally turned to prayer.

“It is very painful, there’s a lot of anger out there. We need to help each other,” says Parish Life Director Debbie Ledoux.

A four-day memorial wake held at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Saskatoon in June included the lighting of candles to represent the young lives lost at residential schools, and the placement of those candles around the altar at a closing Mass June 6. In a recent follow-up prayer pilgrimage, a number of the spent candles were taken to the sacred shrine site at St. Laurent, where parishioners celebrated Mass together before placing the candles at the oudoor grotto dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes.

Photos of the St. Laurent prayer pilgrimage by Our Lady of Guadalupe parish:























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New Governor General and reconciliation

Tue, 07/13/2021 - 10:04
Reconciliation driving force behind major changes in Ottawa and planned meeting with Pope Francis at Vatican

By Bryan Dryden, Canadian Catholic News

[Ottawa – CCN] – The appointment of the first Indigenous person to be Canada’s Govenor-General is being called a “meaningful” step towards reconciliation for the crimes of the past that have been committed against Canada’s First Peoples.

The appointment comes at a time when the country is reeling from the discovery of numerous grave sites across Canada at former residential schools that has reinvigorated the push for a new relationship between Canadian society as a whole and its Indigenous communities.

In announcing that Mary Simon would be Canada’s next Governor-General, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that she is the person needed in the role at this time.

“Canada is a place defined by people – by people who serve those around them, who tackle big challenges with hope and determination and, above all, who never stop working to build a brighter tomorrow,” Trudeau said.

“Frankly, we need more leaders like Ms. Simon in high office, people who understand what it means to take on real issues and create positive change,” he said.

“Ms. Simon has dedicated her life to advancing social, economic, and human rights issues for Canadian Inuit and Indigenous peoples, and I am confident that she will serve Canadians and promote our shared values with dedication and integrity,” Trudeau said. “Through this appointment, we are ensuring that Canada is represented by someone who exemplifies the very best of our country.”

Simon, who was twice the president of the national Inuit organization Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK) and has also served as the Canadian ambassador to Denmark, also recognizes the importance of the moment that her appointment marks.

“I can confidently say that my appointment is a historic and inspirational moment for Canada and an important step forward on the long path towards reconciliation,” Simon said, adding “my appointment comes at an especially reflective and dynamic time in our shared history.”

A number of Indigenous organizations have praised her appointment at this time.

Janet Kanayok of the Manitoba Inuit Association told the Indigenous news network APTN that Simon’s appointment is a concrete step towards reconciliation.

“I know a lot are happy that Mary is in that position, because the government talks about reconciliation and now that she’s in that position I think that’s a step forward in all that’s been going on,” said Kanayok.

“I think it’s long overdue,” she said.

Current ITK president Natan Obed said Simon’s appointment is a positive step forward.

“I think an Indigenous person as governor general, in this point in time, can be a part of that positive forward thinking, reconciliation-based conversation,” he said.

Simon is from the Ungava Bay area in northeastern Quebec and was involved in negotiating the James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement in the 1970s and was an Inuit representative to the patriation of the Canadian Constitution in 1982.

Trudeau said it is “only by reaching out to those around us, it is only by building bridges between people in the North and South, just like in the East and West, that we can truly move forward.”

“Mary Simon has done that throughout her life. I know she will help continue paving that path ahead. And we will all be stronger for it,” Trudeau said of what he called an “historic step” in in appointing the first Indigenous Gov.-Gen. in Canada’s 154-year history.

Simon’s appointment comes amid the fallout from the discovery of unmarked graves at residential schools across the country and there is mounting pressure on the Catholic Church, which ran many of the residential schools on behalf of the federal government, to issue a papal apology for its role in Canada’s residential school system.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) has helped pave the way for a meeting with the Pope later this year in December when a delegation of representatives of First Nations, Metis and Inuit Canadians will call upon the Pope to visit Canada and formally apologize for the Church’s role in the residential school system in the past.

Former Assembly of First Nations (AFN) Grand Chief Perry Bellegarde said a visit to the Vatican to meet with Pope Francis in December will be an opportunity for Canada’s First Peoples to convince the Pope that reconciliation between the Church and Indigenous Canadians can only move forward if the Pope visits Canada and apologizes to survivors and families on the “soil and the land” where the abuses of the residential school system occurred.

“The meeting has been confirmed at the Vatican so we are going to take that meeting and then at that time take the opportunity to invite his Holiness back to Canada at some point in the future,” Chief Bellegarde said during a press conference on June 30.

“There are no guarantees of any apology or that he will even come back to Canada but we have to make the attempt and we have to seize the opportunity,” said Chief Bellegarde. “I believe the spirit will move and things will happen in a good way. That is my hope and that is my prayer.”

Just a few days after Chief Bellegarde’s press conference, a new leader of the AFN was chosen when RoseAnne Archibald was elected National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations. Archibald is the first woman to lead the AFN. Bellegarde did not seek reelection.

Chief Bellegarde’s press conference came a day after the Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) confirmed that a meeting between representatives of Canada’s First Peoples and the Pope in the Vatican will be held Dec. 17-20.

“Pope Francis is deeply committed to hearing directly from Indigenous Peoples, expressing his heartfelt closeness, addressing the impact of colonization and the role of the Church in the residential school system, in the hopes of responding to the suffering of Indigenous Peoples and the ongoing effects of intergenerational trauma,” said a statement released by the CCCB on June 29.

The announced meeting in the Vatican between Pope Francis and Canadian Indigenous representatives also comes on the heels of the appointment of a new apostolic nuncio to Canada that Pope Francis announced back on June 5 when Archbishop Ivan Jurkovič was named to the post.

Jurkovič’s appointment comes at a time when the relationship between the Canadian government and the Catholic Church has been strained and there have been renewed calls in Canada among politicians and Indigenous Canadians for the Vatican to officially apologize for the Church’s role in operating residential schools.
While Jurkovič is not expected to take up his post in Canada until towards the end of August, he has served as the Vatican’s Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations and has been a key figure in the Vatican when it comes to Indigenous rights and the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

That has some Canadian Catholics hopeful that he will play a positive role in bettering relations between the Church and Canada’s Indigenous communities.

“That is something that could be helpful in the future,” said Joe Gunn of the Ottawa-based Centre Oblat – A Voice for Justice.


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Saskatchewan bishops plan fundraising appeal for residential school survivors

Mon, 07/12/2021 - 06:31
JULY 13 UPDATE: Saskatchewan Catholic bishops announce more details of fund-raising appeal (LINK)

[Canadian Catholic News] – The Catholic bishops of Saskatchewan have begun the process for a new fundraising appeal to support survivors of residential schools.

In a joint letter to the faithful July 3, the five Saskatchewan bishops — Regina’s Archbishop Donald Bolen, Saskatoon’s Bishop Mark Hagemoen, Archbishop Murray Chatlain of Keewatin Le Pas, Prince Albert Bishop Stephen Hero and Bishop Bryan Bayda of the Eparchy of Saskatoon — said they “have been awakened anew to the waves of suffering” of survivors with the finding’s at cemeteries of former residential schools. A number of unmarked graves have been discovered at sites in Saskatchewan and British Columbia, with many more such discoveries expected.

“We have heard the strong request, from Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in various quarters, to initiate a new fundraising campaign to support survivors and engage more deeply in our own ongoing commitment and response to the Truth and Reconciliation process,” the bishops wrote.

“Many members of our Catholic community have expressed their solidarity and support for the ongoing work of healing for survivors and their families, which could take the shape of supporting local projects of the National Indian Brotherhood and responding locally to TRC Calls to Action involving a financial commitment, as guided by Indigenous communities here in Saskatchewan,” the bishops wrote.

Consultations on a province-wide fundraising effort started in the days prior to the letter’s release, including dialogue with Indigenous partners: survivors, elders, knowledge keepers and chiefs.

“We hope to be able to announce a plan soon,” the bishops wrote July 3.

Related: “Bishop Mark Hagemoen addresses diocesan efforts under Indian Residential Schools Agreement”

Resource: Residential schools background (Archdiocese of Toronto)


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In Exile – A column by Fr. Ron Rolheiser, OMI: “Why Stay in the Church?”

Mon, 07/12/2021 - 06:30
Why Stay in the Church?

By Fr. Ron Rolheiser, OMI 

Several weeks ago after giving a lecture at a religious conference, the first question from the audience was this one: How can you continue to stay in a church that played such a pivotal part in setting up and maintaining residential schools for the Indigenous people of Canada? How can you stay in a church that did that?

The question is legitimate and important. Both in its history and in its present, the church has enough sin to legitimize the question. The list of sins done in the name of the church is long: the Inquisition, its support for slavery, its role in colonialism, its link to racism, its role in thwarting women’s rights, and its endless historical and present compromises with white supremacy, big money, and political power. Its critics are sometimes excessive and unbalanced, but, for the most part, the church is guilty as charged.

However, this guilt isn’t unique to the church. The same charges might be leveled against any of the countries in which we live. How can we stay in a country that has a history of racism, slavery, colonialism, genocide of some of its Indigenous peoples, radical inequality between its rich and its poor, one that is callous to desperate refugees on its borders, and one within which millions of people hate each other? Isn’t it being rather selective morally to say that I am ashamed to be a Catholic (or a Christian) when the nations we live in share the same history and the same sins?

Still, since the church is supposed to be leaven for a society and not just a mirror of it, the question is valid. Why stay in the church? There are good apologetic answers on this, but, at the end of the day, for each of us, the answer has to be a personal one. Why do I stay in the church?

First, because the church is my mother tongue. It gave me the faith, taught me about God, gave me God’s word, taught me to pray, gave me the sacraments, showed me what virtue looks like, and put me in contact with some living saints. Moreover, despite all its shortcomings, it was for me authentic enough, altruistic enough, and pure enough to have the moral authority to ask me to entrust my soul to it, a trust I’ve not given any other communal entity. I’m very comfortable worshipping with other religions and sharing soul with non-believers, but in the church in which I was raised, I recognize home, my mother tongue.

Second, the church’s history is not univocal. I recognize its sins and openly acknowledge them, but that’s far from its full reality. The church is also the church of martyrs, of saints, of infinite generosity, and of millions of women and men with big, noble hearts who are my moral exemplars.  I stand in the darkness of its sins; but I also stand in the light of its grace, of all the good things it has done in history.

Finally, and most important, I stay in the church because the church is all we’ve got! There’s no other place to go. I identify with the ambivalent feeling that rushed through Peter when, just after hearing Jesus say something which had everyone else walk away from him, Peter was asked, “do you want to walk away too?” and he (speaking for all the disciples) replied: “We’d like to, but we have no place else to go. Besides we recognize that, despite everything, you still have the words of everlasting life.”

In essence, Peter is saying, “Jesus, we don’t get you, and what we get we often don’t like. But we know we’re better off not getting it with you than going any place else. Dark moments notwithstanding, you’re all we’ve got!”

The church is all we’ve got! Where else can we go?

Behind the expression, I am spiritual, but not religious (however sincerely uttered) lies either an invincible failure or a culpable reluctance to deal with the necessity of religious community, to deal with what Dorothy Day called “the asceticism of church life”. To say, I cannot or will not deal with an impure religious community is an escape, a self-serving exit, which at the end of the day is not very helpful, not least for the person saying it. Why? Because for compassion to be effective it needs to be collective, given the truth that what we dream alone remains a dream but what we dream with others can become a reality. I cannot see anything outside the church that can save this world.

There is no pure church anywhere for us to join, just as there is no pure country anywhere for us in which to live. This church, for all its checkered history and compromised present, is all we have. We need to own its faults since they are our faults. Its history is our history; its sin, our sin; and its family, our family – the only lasting family we’ve got.




Oblate Father Ron Rolheiser, theologian, teacher, and award-winning author, is President of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, TX. He can be contacted through his website

Now on Facebook

Find Fr. Rolheiser’s past columns online, along with an explanation for the column’s title “In Exile”:

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Closed church at Orlow, SK. burns to the ground – follows string of incidents across western Canada

Mon, 07/12/2021 - 06:15
New bishop of Prince Albert writes diocese about church fire, which is under investigation

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

A closed church in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Prince Albert was destroyed by fire July 8 — one of a number of church fires in western Canada that have occurred after recent announcements about unmarked graves found at former residential school sites.

The cause of the fire at Holy Trinity Church at Orlow, SK, is under investigation.

“We grieve with those who have lost this loving landmark in Orlow,” wrote recently-installed Bishop Stephen Hero in a letter to the diocese of Prince Albert about the fire.

“In this terrible season of ‘burning churches,’ please pray for healing and peace in the communities that are losing their beloved sanctuaries whether by the violent act of an individual or by natural causes,” wrote Bishop Hero.

“May the gentle rain of God’s grace put out the fires of anger and blame in our hearts as we seek ways to live in peace as children of the same loving Creator who is good enough to send ‘rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous’ (Matt 5:45),” he said.

Holy Trinity Church, although no longer a functioning parish, was a landmark in the Rural Municipality of Redberry, where it stood for over 100 years and was often known simply as “the Polish Church,” Hero reported. The diocese of Prince Albert sold the church building to a local family in 2020 who “devoted themselves to the preservation of this beloved place of prayer with its steeple directing eyes and hearts to heaven,” he said.

Holy Trinity Church before the blaze. (Photo by Lynn Swystun, Facebook, used with permission)


Church fires, vandalism condemned

By Quinton Amundson, The Catholic Register 

[Toronto – Canadian Catholic News – July 6, 2021] – The Catholic Civil Rights League (CCRL) has condemned the rash of church fires and vandalism that has taken place across Canada, particularly in the west, since the discovery of graves at former residential schools.

A number of churches in British Columbia and Alberta have burned to the ground, others have been damaged by fire and still more have been vandalized in the weeks following the discovery of 215 unmarked graves at the Kamloops Indian Residential School in Kamloops in late May and subsequent discoveries at Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan and another school in Cranbrook, B.C. Ten churches were vandalized on Canada Day alone in Alberta. Orange paint was smattered on doors and other exterior features.

“We stand with the victims of the residential school program and seek healing and reconciliation,” stated the CCRL in a Canada Day statement that came on the heels of a June 22 statement that condemned the first church burnings. “Violence and property destruction does not answer these needs.”

On June 26, Chopaka Catholic Church and St. Ann’s Catholic Church were destroyed by suspected arson in B.C.  Alberta’s Siksika Nation’s Holy Trinity Church was set on fire on June 28 — the flames were extinguished and no structural damage apparent. On June 30, St. Jean Baptiste Parish in Morinville, Alta., was burned to the ground and St. Kateri Tekakwitha Church north of Halifax was set ablaze.

Incidents were also reported at Holy Rosary Church in Edmonton and St. Paul’s Co-Cathedral in Saskatoon as parts of the exterior at both institutions were smeared with red handprints to symbolize the Indigenous children who suffered at Catholic-operated residential schools for many decades.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney — one of the most outspoken commentators against cancelling or tearing down historical/religious statues — tweeted on July 1 that “the vandalism of churches across Alberta is appalling.” Kenney particularly spotlighted African Evangelical Church in Calgary.

“The congregation is made up entirely of new Canadians, many of whom came here as refugees fleeing countries where churches are often vandalized and burned down,” wrote Kenney. “These folks came to Canada with the hope that they could practise their faith peacefully. Some of them are traumatized by such attacks. This is where hatred based on collective guilt for historic injustices leads us. Let’s seek unity, respect and reconciliation instead.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the anger Canadians feel towards the federal government and Catholic Church is “real and it is fully understandable given the shameful history we have all become more aware of.”

However, he condemned the church vandalism saying he “can’t help but think that burning down churches is actually depriving people who are in need of grieving and healing and mourning from places where they can grieve and reflect and look for support.”

In light of the rash of incidents in Calgary, police have stepped up patrols around several churches and are working with the Diocese of Calgary to assess security and prevention arrangements. One potential safeguard being discussed at multiple Alberta churches is having individual parishioners take turns keeping watch.

The CCRL is working on a database to collect incidents of vandalism against Catholic churches.

“The CCRL has been working on a searchable database of acts of vandalism against Catholic churches in Canada, with a launch date forthcoming.  We pray that more entries can be avoided.”

Anger was also directed at the monarchy as statues of Queen Elizabeth II and Queen Victoria were toppled on Canada Day in Winnipeg. Residential schools operated during the tenures of the United Kingdom’s two longest-reigning monarchs.


Burning, vandalism of churches “deeply distressing” states Vancouver archdiocese

By B.C. Catholic Staff

[Canadian Catholic News – July 6, 2021] – The Archdiocese of Vancouver issued a statement July 6 calling for “reconciliation, dialogue, and atonement with Indigenous people” rather than “hatred and violence” in the wake of attacks on churches as well as a controversial statement by the head of the BC Civil Liberties Association.

“It is deeply distressing to hear the recent news of the burning down and vandalism of some churches,” said the archdiocesan statement.

“The right path forward is one of reconciliation, dialogue, and atonement with Indigenous people and in following the way they would lead us in that process. It is painful and disturbing to find people in positions of local authority urge mobs toward increasing hatred and violence. Churches are made up of people, and many of them here are made up of Indigenous people, refugees, and migrants – the very people we should all seek to protect rather than terrorize.”

The statement followed several cases of vandalism of churches in the Archdiocese of Vancouver, the burning of churches across Canada, and remarks from the executive director of the BC Civil Liberties Association that appeared to support the burning of churches.

In a June 30 tweet about a news article on fires destroying Catholic churches, Harsha Walia wrote “burn it all down.”

The tweet, which received both support and criticism on social media, was condemned by B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth, who said it was “just disgusting and reprehensible that somebody who heads up an organization like that would make such comments,” he said.

Nico Slobinsky of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs in Vancouver tweeted, “I don’t understand why the ED of the BC Civil Liberties Assoc is calling for violence. Violence and hate don’t appear to be solutions being proposed by Indigenous communities, and it is their voices we should be listening to and respecting on this matter.”

CIJA’s national office tweeted, “We condemn in the strongest possible terms the burning and vandalism of churches across the #Canada. We too are deeply pained by the recent discoveries of unmarked graves in former residential schools…”

In a follow-up tweet it added, “As a society, we have much work to do towards truth & reconciliation, but violence cannot be the answer. It will not help us build a better future. To the contrary, it leads to deeper division & resentment.”

The most recent vandalism on a Lower Mainland church was St. Jude’s Parish in Vancouver which is calling on the public to help police identify two individuals who were videotaped splashing orange paint on the side of the church after dark on Canada Day.

Places of worship in other parts of B.C. and Canada have faced worse than a few splashes of paint. Catholic churches in Kamloops, Morinville, and Calgary area have been reduced to rubble or damaged by fire, while an Anglican church and Alliance church were also recently targeted by fires police believe were intentionally set.


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