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These six priorities for our Church’s life and mission are: Evangelization,Ongoing Faith Formation, Liturgy and Worship, Building and Sustaining Community, Justice and Peace and Strengthening the Unity of our Diocese.

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Updated: 2 years 1 week ago

Five years in, reconciliation moves slowly

Wed, 12/30/2020 - 08:25
Still “a long way to go” to implement TRC Calls to Action

By Wendy-Ann Clarke, The Catholic Register

[Canadian Catholic News] – Five years after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) issued its final report, there is agreement that strides have been made in the journey towards healing with Canada’s Indigenous peoples. Church officials and Indigenous leaders recognize there is still some way to go.

Released in 2015, the TRC report included 94 Calls to Action to achieve true reconciliation, including two — Calls to Action 48 and 49 — aimed directly at church parties to the 2006 Indian Residential Schools Agreement. These call for churches to adopt and comply with the principles of UNDRIP (the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples) as a framework for reconciliation, and calls on religious denominations and faith groups to repudiate concepts used to justify sovereignty over Indigenous peoples and their lands.

In 2016, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) released a document outlining the Catholic commitment to UNDRIP, and earlier this month the federal government of Canada followed through with legislation to implement the declaration. But the work has just begun.

“We still have a long way to go because we’re a society still marked by injustice in so many ways,” said Regina Archbishop Donald Bolen. “In societal indicators of wellbeing, such as employment rates, suicide rates, access to health, access to good drinking water, access to education, incarceration rates and poverty rates, in almost every area Indigenous people in Canada are on the losing end.

“That just points to a systematic injustice and embedded racism and the need to be very proactive (as the Church) in accompanying Indigenous people in their struggle for justice.”

While Bolen says the TRC has been effective in moving the conversation around reconciliation to the forefront in the Church, he adds that the document serves as a reference point as the Church works to support and uphold the dignity of Indigenous people in any way needed, whether directly outlined in the TRC or not.

A large part of that, Bolen says, comes from listening to Indigenous voices and honouring their valuable contributions to Canadian society now and going into the future.

“I think recent teachings of Pope Francis, especially on the environment, highlight the wisdom that we need to learn in order to go forward,” said Bolen. “Often that wisdom is very well articulated in Indigenous traditions, understanding of the land, understanding of creation and our relationship with other creatures.

“I always find it beautiful to hear an Indigenous prayer, which acknowledges the two legs and the four legs, the swimmers and the winged ones. It speaks so beautifully of other creatures and our relationship with the rest of creation.”

Bolen has made reconciliation a priority in Regina, establishing the Archdiocesan Commission for Truth and Reconciliation. In the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon, a Diocesan Commission for Truth and Reconciliation (DCTR) was established as a follow-up commitment made during the TRC national event held in that city in June 2012.

“The group’s mandate is to provide a forum for listening and sharing, through stories and prayer; to collaborate with the diocese toward building and strengthening relationships; and to support healing from the Indian Residential School experience,” says the mission statement of the DCTR established in the diocese of Saskatoon. “Our goal is to raise awareness throughout the diocese about injustice issues, and barriers to reconciliation, and to discern a way to walk together on a path of understanding, education and action, fostering relationships in light of the gospel.”

National TRC Commissioners Senator Murray Sinclair, Dr. Marie Wilson, and Chief Wilton Littlechild (l-r) during the national Truth and Reconciliation Commission event held in Saskatoon in June 2012. (File photo by Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)

Overall, the pace of moving forward has been glacial. Truth and Reconciliation commissioners Senator Murray Sinclair, Chief Wilton Littlechild and Dr. Marie Wilson expressed concerns in a Dec. 15 statement, saying there has been a “slow and uneven pace of implementation of the Calls to Action.”

Graydon Nicholas, newly appointed Chancellor of St. Thomas University in Fredericton, N.B., agrees.

“There have been some accomplishments that have been made when it comes to child welfare, the issue of languages and the fact that there was an actual inquiry launched on murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls,” said Nicholas, who was born into a Maliseet family on New Brunswick’s Tobique First Nation and is also Chair of Native Studies at St. Thomas. “But there are also other things that need to be considered very soon if the (TRC report) is going to have any momentum into the future.”

One of the major areas of concern has been lack of progress by the federal government on Call to Action 53, to establish a National Council for Reconciliation to assess and promote reconciliation efforts. When Nicholas first read the TRC document in 2015 he recognized this point as an important pillar in ensuring the Canadian government is held accountable to fulfill all TRC commitments. It took two years for an interim board to be appointed to create a report to examine what could be done in regards to this. The report was filed in 2018.

“Unfortunately, it’s been sitting I guess in the ministry office or whoever’s responsible since that time and nothing has been done about it,” said Nicholas. “I think to me, that’s one of the major disappointments, because (the National Council for Reconciliation) is what we need structurally to make sure that things happen.”

Archbishop Bolen has served in both the Saskatoon and Regina dioceses in his home province of Saskatchewan where there are large Indigenous populations within each diocese — both First Nations and Métis peoples. He describes the relationships he has built with the Indigenous communities as “life giving.”

Looking at the bigger picture of reconciliation beyond the TRC, Bolen says he is committed to working side by side with Indigenous communities to achieve the healing and progress necessary as a diverse Church community.

“I have really learned so much and benefited so much setting up structures to grow those relationships and deepen that spirit of walking together, that reflects the TRC,” said Bolen, who also serves as part of the Episcopal Commission for Justice and Peace for the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB).

“As a Church, we’re not taking our starting point from the TRC but from the challenges faced by Indigenous people today and a desire to want to work together.”


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100 Words – Epiphany: “Willingness”

Wed, 12/30/2020 - 07:31

By Peter Oliver, Olive Branch Marriage and Family Ministry

… in the days of King Herod,  behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” (Matt 2:1-2)

God puts stars in our lives – acts of kindness, insights, moment of faith, examples of courage.  God also put a star in the lives of the Magi and it awakened something called willingness.

Willingness (releasing the grip on my plans in favor of God’s) is difficult but star-following, epiphany-seeking, get-my-life-together people must become willing.

What makes willingness hard? What makes it possible?

Consider the kings the wise men encounter.  The first is Herod, a conniving man, filled with fear and a desire to control.  The second is Jesus, a child utterly vulnerable and dependent – the very incarnation of willingness.


[This is a weekly blog re-published from with permission from author Peter Oliver. Each post is exactly 100 words.]

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Bishop Hagemoen blesses new Catholic health facility: the Hospice at Glengarda

Thu, 12/24/2020 - 12:46

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

In a small and quiet celebration, the new stand-alone residential Hospice at Glengarda in Saskatoon was blessed by Bishop Mark Hagemoen.

The new hospice – located at Hilliard Street and Melrose Avenue in a former Ursuline Sisters’ residence in southeast Saskatoon – is scheduled to begin accepting patients in the New Year.

Because of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, only seven people gathered Dec. 23, 2020 for the blessing celebration.

Bette Boechler, MC for the Dec. 23 event and Executive Director of Samaritan Place and of the new Hospice at Glengarda, noted that the limited celebration is not what would have been envisioned months ago.

However, in some ways, the pandemic makes the launch of the new building even more meaningful, she said. “It really makes me think about the privilege we have in looking after people at the end of life – it is totally a gift,” Boechler said.

Bishop Mark Hagemoen blessed the new Hospice at Glengarda in a quiet celebration Dec. 23, 2020, as Francis Maza of Emmanuel Care (left) and hospice Executive Director Bette Boechler look on. (Photo by Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)

Bishop Mark Hagemoen also noted that blessing the hospice in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic is particularly poignant. “This is a wonderful day,” he affirmed. “In a time of pandemic, we need healing and hope. We pray in a very special way for the caregivers, here and beyond, who make it possible for us to move forward.”

Bishop Hagemoen also reflected on the history of Catholic health care. “Education and health care has long been a part of the Catholic identity and mission … for decades and indeed for centuries.”

In particular, the bishop noted the contributions of women religious orders, including the Ursulines of Prelate, whose Glengarda residence in Saskatoon has been renovated and transformed into the new 15-bed stand-alone residential hospice, with funds raised through a “Close to Home” campaign by the St. Paul’s Hospital Foundation.

“I not only congratulate Emmanuel Health in partnership with the Sisters for this launching, but I am also very thankful to almighty God that the identity and mission of this Catholic health care institution –which is open and outreaching to all of God’s people, in the city of Saskatoon and beyond – will continue,” Hagemoen said.

Related article: “Close To Home fund-raising campaign completed for new Saskatoon hospice”

Related article: “Former Ursuline residence converted to hospice”

During his prayer of blessing, the bishop said: “From the beginning of the Church, the service and care of the poor, the hungry, the sick and the dying has been a mark of the Christian in the world. And today, with the building of this hospice, we continue to fulfill that spiritual and social responsibility, which the Gospel calls us all to live.”

Bishop Mark Hagemoen blesses a crucifix during the blessing ceremony held Dec. 23 for the new Hospice at Glengarda Catholic health facility. Bishop Mark Hagemoen prays during a blessing celebration Dec. 23 for the new Hospice at Glengarda Catholic health facility. (Photo by Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)

The bishop added: “Catholic tradition faces the reality of suffering and death with the confidence of faith and the assurance of hope and blessing … Suffering and death are not a final end, but rather a journey, a passage transformed by the promise of life everlasting in the Resurrection.”

All those involved in the new Hospice at Glengarda are called “to journey with the dying person and their families, with care and compassion, comfort and hope,” he said. “We care for people in such a way that they find strength and comfort in knowing God’s abiding love for them.”

The new hospice “stands as a testament to our commitment to continue the healing ministry of Jesus in our city,” Bishop Hagemoen said.

Speaking on behalf of all the Catholic bishops of Saskatchewan, Hagemoen thanked all those involved in the project, including the many partner organizations and the many who donated to the “Close to Home” campaign.

Blessing a small container of holy water, Bishop Hagemoen prayed that the hospice will be a place “filled with the goodness and blessing of God,” where all are welcome and accepted. He then blessed different spots in the building, including a common area and a patient’s room, as well as a crucifix that he then placed it on the wall.

Bishop Mark Hagemoen places a newly-blessed crucifix in one of the patient rooms during the blessing ceremony for the Hospice at Glengarda in Saskatoon Dec. 23, 2020. (Photo by Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)

Bishop Mark Hagemoen prays before a newly-blessed crucifix in a patient room. (Photo by Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)

After the blessing, Sr. Anne Lewans, General Superior of the Ursulines of Prelate, spoke about the history of the Glengarda residence, including the origin of the building’s name: Garda is a lake in Italy near where St. Angela Merici, founder of the Ursuline order, was born.

Lewans described the arrival of the Ursulines of Prelate in Saskatchewan more than a century ago, and their decades of service in education, pastoral ministry and health over the decades.

Sr. Anne Lewans, OSU, of the Ursulines of Prelate, speaking during the blessing celebration for the Hospice at Glengarda held Dec. 23, 2020. Bishop Mark Hagemoen prays during a blessing celebration Dec. 23 for the new Hospice at Glengarda Catholic health facility. (Photo by Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)

Invited to Saskatoon in 1953 to teach at St. Frances Cabrini school, the Ursulines of Prelate eventually moved into the Glengarda residence, which was constructed in 1959. Sr. Lewans described the many ministries and ways in which the sisters lived out their motto of “Educating for Life,” serving as “witnesses to the joy of a prayerful, simple Christian life” and striving to live the baptismal call “with fidelity and with openness to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.”

“We are thrilled that our home is now becoming the home of another ministry that is responding to another need in our community,” said Sr. Lewans. “We see the Hospice at Glengarda as a continuation of our mission, and so those who make their home here, and those who care for them, will always be in our prayers.”

Sr. Anne Lewans, OSU, General Superior of the Ursulines of Prelate, stands in front of the newly-completed hospice, located in the Sisters’ former Glengarda residence in southeast Saskatoon. (Photo by Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)

Darryl Bazylak, Chair of the Board of Directors of Emmanuel Health, acknowledged that the new building stands on Treaty 6 territory and the traditional homeland of the Métis. He also acknowledged the history of Catholic health care in Saskatoon, which included the establishment of St. Paul’s Hospital after Grey Nuns of Montreal happened to stop in Saskatoon during an epidemic, and responded by providing their nursing ministry.

Bazylak pointed out ways in which St. Paul’s Hospital has been a leader in areas such as dialysis, kidney transplants, and palliative care, including lobbying and working to establish the residential Hospice at Glengarda to answer another unmet need.

“The ongoing success of Catholic health care is achieved through ongoing collaboration with our health care partners,” Bazylak stressed, thanking all the partners involved in the project, including the Saskatchewan Health Authority and a range of Catholic organizations, including the Ursulines of Prelate, the St. Paul’s Hospital Foundation (which raised 100 per cent of the capital costs of the new building), and Samaritan Place, which will be responsible for the ongoing operation of the hospice with operational funding from the Saskatchewan Health Authority.

A donor wall at the entrance of the new Hospice at Glengarda. Capital costs for the building were covered by donations to the Close to Home campaign conducted by the St. Paul’s Hospital Foundation. (Photo by Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)

Francis Maza, Executive Lead of Mission, Ethics and Spirituality for Emmanuel Care also spoke, bringing a message from Mary Donlevy-Konkin, board member of Emmanuel Care and vice-chair of Emmanuel Health.

“Emmanuel Care is accountable to the Church and to ensure that our Cahtolic institutions are not just a visible expression of compassion and healing in a community, but also that the services offered in each facility bear witness to the Good News of the Gospel and are congruent with our mission,” he said, reading Donlevy-Konkin’s message.

“That mission is measured both by the quality of care and the compassionate attitude and approach with which it is provided.”

Bishop Mark Hagemoen blesses a crucifix during the blessing celebration for the Hospice at Glengarda. (Photo by Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)

Executive Director Bette Boechler (left) describes some of the patient amenities of the Hospice at Glengarda to those who attended the blessing ceremony Dec. 23. (Photo by Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)

Touring the newly-completed facility. (Photo by Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)


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