Pastor’s Letter – Residential Schools and Reconciliation

Dear Parishioners and Students,

Like all of you, I was greatly saddened by the disturbing news about the discovery of an unmarked cemetery for Indigenous children on the grounds of the former residential school in Kamloops run by Catholic priests. It’s heart-wrenching to ponder how these children tragically died separated from their families and their communities. Our hearts go out to all those who mourn the loss of these children and suffer from the pain of intergenerational trauma. We pray for the repose of the souls of the children who died and for mercy upon the souls of those who were responsible for their deaths. We also pray that this discovery won’t set back the decades of work for healing and reconciliation, but will rather move all of us to do more for Indigenous communities. Click here to go to the CCCB Web site that provides some of the apologies given by members of the Catholic Church going back to 1991.

Although Pope Francis hasn’t yet come to Canada to apologize for the residential schools as requested in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report in 2015, Pope Benedict did express his sorrow when a delegation visited him at the Vatican in 2009 as described in this article.

And here is an article by Fr. Raymond J. de Souza that clears up some of the confusion and anger.

You may be wondering, if we have been working for healing and reconciliation among Indigenous peoples for decades, why are you not aware of it? The answer is simple: this work is not happening within social media; it is happening on the ground within communities where people are encountering each other’s hearts in person. Moreover, much of the work of reconciliation is not happening between Indigenous peoples and the Catholic Church; it is happening among Indigenous people who are themselves Catholic. They are are being accompanied by their bishops and priests. For example, there is the Our Lady of Guadalupe Circle, a coalition of Indigenous people, bishops, clergy, lay movements and institutes of consecrated life, engaged in renewing and fostering relationships between the Catholic Church and Indigenous Peoples in Canada. It was established to assist Catholics as we engage the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and its Calls to Action. Click here to go to their Web site.

And here is a video on YouTube about an Indigenous woman and the support she has received from her bishop regarding the preservation of her language:

For better or for worse, they don’t really have a social media presence. This video was the only one I was able to find on the Web. Yet there is information available about the work that is being done on the ground, if you are willing to look for it. I invite you to read a statement by Cardinal Collins found here at the Archdiocese of Toronto Web site, where you will also find a very informative FAQs.

Today, as we celebrate Corpus Christi, let us be the Body of Christ, the Church, with hearts that listen with compassion to the suffering of our Indigenous brothers and sisters. Let us continue to pray this week the Novena to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, asking God for an end to the pandemic, for the building of the new church, and for reconciliation. With profound humility, let us move forward together as we build up the Kingdom of God here on Earth.
Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us!

Fr. Mark Morley