Indigenous Peoples Meet with Pope Francis (March, 2022)

This week (4th week of Lent) we invite you to pray for all involved in the historic meetings between representatives of the Métis, Inuit, and First Nations and Pope Francis.

Following ongoing dialogue with the Assembly of First Nations, the Métis Nation Council, the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, and other Indigenous leaders, a group of residential school survivors, Elders, knowledge keepers, and young people will share their experiences directly with the Holy Father. The delegation, organized by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), represents a significant moment in the ongoing shared journey of healing and reconciliation.

These gatherings will also serve as an important foundation for the future visit of the Holy Father to Canada that was announced in late October 2021. Throughout the week, each group will have a private audience with the Holy Father as he listens to their stories, their hurts, and their hopes. Pope Francis will respond to all he has heard at the end of the week. Métis representatives and  Inuit representatives had their individual group audiences with Pope Francis on Monday morning (March 28th) in Rome. You can hear highlights from the meetings and follow this journey on Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation: www.slmedia.org  For more information on the delegations and related activities visit www.cccb.ca

Residential Schools: We Are Sorry. We Apologize.

We are mindful of the work we must do to help all learn more about the dark history of our country and our Church when it comes to the relationship with Indigenous communities.

The Catholic Church’s relations with the indigenous people of this land pre-dates the Indian Residential School System.  Though fraught with its own difficulties, this relationship was seen as mutually beneficial and engendered a sense of respect and understanding.  Missionaries took the time to learn the various spoken languages and helped in developing a series of Indigenous Alphabets to facilitate translation.

Locally, in 1610 after observing and interacting with French missionaries, Grand Chief Membertou decided to become a Christian Catholic. He was baptized by Fr. Jesse Fleche, SJ in February of that year.  This essentially meant that the whole Mi’kmaq nation became Catholic.  Chief Membertou’s Grand Council advised him to seek a binding accord between the Mi’kmaq nation and the Holy See – a treaty of friendship and peace. This 1610 concordat, an agreement between the Vatican and the Mi’kmaq nation, established three things: an equal partnership between the indigenous and the Vatican, acknowledgement of the hospitality extended by the Mi’kmaq to the French missionaries, and an ability for the Mi’kmaq to practice the Catholic faith, including celebrate Mass, in their own language. This last point is of particular note.  It was not until the 20th century that other Catholics around the world could celebrate Mass in the local language of the people.

Considering the fair amount of trust between the early missionaries and the Indigenous Peoples of this land, the Catholic Church’s involvement in the Government of Canada’s Residential School Program was a betrayal of that trust.  Far from the original treaties that the Church helped to broker between the Indigenous Peoples and the Crown, the Catholic Church were made complicit in what the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Final Report describes as “the central goals of Canada’s Aboriginal Policy”:

“To eliminate Aboriginal governments, ignore Aboriginal rights; terminate the Treaties; and through a process of assimilation, cause Aboriginal peoples to cease to exist as distinct legal, social, cultural, religious, and racial entities in Canada.  The establishment and operation of residential schools were a central element of this policy.  The federal government’s residential schools were part of a horrendous assumption that it was in an Indigenous child’s interest to be taken from his or her parents and to be culturally and linguistically reconstructed.”

For a more detailed understanding of what happened, please read the Truth and Reconciliation Report: nctr.ca/records/reports, and scroll down to “Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future”.

For more information the relationship between the Archdiocese of Halifax-Yarmouth and the local Mi’kmaq community go to: www.halifaxyarmouth.org/mi-kmaq-community

March 3, 2022 Clergy Day of Listening

On March 3rd the clergy of the Archdiocese of Halifax-Yarmouth gathered for a day of listening. The intent of the day was to provide an opportunity for the clergy to learn from the experience of the Mi’kmaq, especially their experience of colonialism in general and residential schools in particular.

December 12th, Letter to the Mi’Kmaw Chiefs from Archbishop Dunn

Over the past few months, Archbishop Dunn has made it a priority to build relationships with the various Mi’kmaw communities within the Archdiocese of Halifax-Yarmouth. In particular, he met with a group at Millbrook First Nation in October to pray, listen, and share a meal together. In December, he wrote to the Mi’kmaw Chiefs on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe (December 12), recognized as the National Day of Prayer in Solidarity with Indigenous People, expressing his prayers and commitment to working towards healing and reconciliation.

September 30th, National Day
for Truth & Reconciliation

Today we mark the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. As such we honour and remember the victims and survivors of the residential school system. We pray that with our indigenous brothers and sisters we may truly listen better, learn better, and act better and together walk a path towards healing the reconciliation

Canadian Catholic Indigenous Council released the prayer entitled Prayer for Tolerance, Forgiveness, Reconciliation.

Prayer for Tolerance, Forgiveness, Reconciliation

O God, Creator and Father of all,
with humility we your children acknowledge the relationship of all living things.
For this we thank you, we praise you and we worship you.

We call on you, Great Mystery, the Word made Flesh
– our teacher, prophet and brother –
to open our hearts to all our brothers and sisters,
and with them to grow in the wisdom, honesty, courage and
respectfulness shown in The Sacred Teachings.

Give us the vision and honesty to recognize
that the we are all brothers and sisters of one human family,
created and sustained by the One Creator.
As we deal with many challenges, may we never give way to fear and anger,
which can be the source of division and threat amongst peoples.

We look to how God always gives to us,
as a remedy for sins of prejudice and intolerance.
We see in God the Creator of all things,
One who always provides and is generous
– even given the abuses we have heaped on one another and on the earth.

We see in the Son, Jesus Christ
– the innocent Victim who pours His life blood out from the Cross for all peoples.

We see how the Holy Spirit is God’s gift, alive in our world today
– inspiring vision and hope that we can have
the same mind and heart of God!

May Your Spirit bless the souls
who died at the Kamloops residential school
and all souls who died at residential schools.

May this same Spirit also bring blessing and healing
to all families and communities affected in any way by the schools.

O Creator, show us the way to healing,
forgiveness and reconciliation
and a renewed fellowship.

Amen


National Apology by the Canadian Bishops – Friday, September 24th

Please click here to read the apology issued to the Indigenous Peoples of this Land by the Canadian Bishops on September 24th. In the weeks and months ahead, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops will continue to provide updates on this work, as part of a long path towards healing and reconciliation.


September 30th has been named a National Day for Truth and Reconciliation in Canada- a day set aside to honour the lost children and survivors of residential schools, their families and communities. Please click here to read a letter written by Archbishop Brian Dunn to the faithful regarding this special day.

There’s an open invitation to join the Archbishop for Mass at St. Mary’s Basilica at 12:15pm on the 30th. Immediately following Mass all are invited to join in praying the rosary with reflections on the sorrowful mysteries. Participation can be in-person (as numbers allow) or online.

Here at Holy Trinity, we are inviting anyone who’s able to attend to join the parish staff in-person, in praying the rosary at 11:15am on the 30th.


We continue to hear news of the discovery of unmarked graves at residential schools. As Fr. Bryan shared in his June 4th address (scroll below) on the topic of residential schools, “the impact is horrifying, and our Indigenous brothers and sisters are made to relive personal, familial, and communal trauma every time new information is revealed or new discoveries are made. This trauma must be met with a frank acknowledgement of the past, a sincere apology in the present, and concrete action for the future.

The archdiocese has a newly dedicated section of their website with information on residential schools here. It includes a Frequently Asked Questions section.

On Sunday, June 6, Archbishop Dunn offered the Mass for the repose of the souls of the 215 children found in Kamloops. During his homily Archbishop Dunn shared his reflections on residential schools and renewed his commitment to walk with our Mi’kmaq communities to seek a path towards healing and reconciliation.


June 4th – Statement from Father Bryan on the Discovery of the Remains of 215 Children at the Former Indian Residential School in Kamloops, British Columbia

There is a palpable and justifiable outrage across the country following the discovery of the remains of 215 children at the former Indian Residential School in Kamloops, BC. Hearing about that discovery left me feeling incredulous. How could this happen on our watch? Reading the stories of survivors, stories that fit a common pattern of abuse, grave neglect, and inhumane conditions in the schools, left me feeling disgusted and disturbed. 

The impact is horrifying, and our Indigenous brothers and sisters are made to relive personal, familial, and communal trauma every time new information is revealed or new discoveries are made. This trauma must be met with a frank acknowledgement of the past, a sincere apology in the present, and concrete action for the future.

I therefore want to acknowledge the role that the Catholic Church had, through various priests and religious, in committing abuse in residential schools in this country. I also want to acknowledge the failure on the part of diocesan officials and religious superiors regarding their exercise of governance over personnel and institutions within their remit. This was grave negligence and abuse.

As a priest, a pastor, and a faith leader in my community, I want to apologize on behalf of my Church for the abuse, neglect and deplorable conditions that Indigenous children suffered under for decades, and for the Church’s role in committing and perpetuating that abuse and neglect and sustaining those deplorable conditions.

As for action, the first thing I offer is my prayers. Time does not heal all wounds. It helps. But God alone can heal hurt this deep. And so I entrust our Indigenous brothers and sisters to the Lord, and will be praying for continued healing, reconciliation and peace. The second thing I offer is my time. If there is anyone who has experienced the residential school system themselves, or who has family, friends, or members of the community who have, and want to share their story, pray together, and seek reconciliation, please reach out, and I will meet with you. Third, the Holy Trinity Leadership Team is committing to better understanding the impact of residential schools for victims, survivors and their loved ones. As a team we desire a truthful and clear understanding of this depraved chapter within our Church’s history, so that we can communicate that history accurately, and do our part in seeing that such atrocities will never be repeated again.

I realize that words, and even actions, cannot erase the past. But I hope they can help in the present, and for the future. A future in which the dignity of each and every person, beloved by God, is acknowledged and upheld.

Fr. Bryan Sabourin, CC
Pastor, Holy Trinity Parish