Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of December 4, 2000
National council supports native healing projects
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Native communities seeking healing and reconciliation can now count on the moral and financial support of the Catholic Church.
Nearly three years ago, the Canadian bishops set up a 12-member council to reach out to aboriginal people as they try to overcome the pain inflicted by the residential school system.
The Reconciliation, Solidarity and Communion Council, a mostly native council, supports all types of native projects that foster healing, reconciliation and communion.
The group, which held its semi-annual meeting at Grey Nuns Regional Centre Nov. 25-26, introduced itself to the Edmonton and area native community at a Mass and banquet at Sacred Heart Church of First Nations Nov. 25.
The events were sponsored by the Lac Ste. Anne Steering Committee, the native group currently taking over the operation of the Lac Ste. Anne Pilgrimage from the Oblates of Mary Immaculate.
As described by council member Harry Lafond, former chief of the Muskeg Lake Band in central Saskatchewan, the council is the result of "the bishops' belief that we all belong in a circle, the circle of the Catholic Church, the circle that believes in the spirit world, in the power of the ancestors, in the power of our Creator."
Lafond also described the council as "a very small expression of the bishops' teaching to us as First Nations people, non-aboriginal people and Metis people that we have to always live out the process of life by reconciling through the difficult times, the residential school issues, the rejections that we face day to day on the streets of Edmonton."
"Reconciliation," the former chief explained, "is not only about residential schools. That's just the topic of the day. Reconciliation is about human experience, human rejection, human love, human connection, humans joining together hand in hand to celebrate creation."
Lafond was part of the Canadian delegation to the 1997 World Synod of Bishops for America in Rome.
The council, comprised of eight aboriginal Catholics from across Canada and two bishops, was set up by the bishops following the release four years ago of the report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples.
It's an advisory council to the Canadian bishops on aboriginal issues and its mandate is to study current issues regarding aboriginal peoples, especially those affecting reconciliation, solidarity and communion.
The council uses a $225,000 annual fund made up of contributions from all Catholic dioceses, to fund community-based projects in the areas of healing, reconciliation and communion.
It has funded several healing circles and workshops and other healing initiatives.
The council also funds events where aboriginal people come together to share a sense of themselves and a sense of their faith.
At its Edmonton meeting, the council allocated about $100,000 for projects across the country.
One beneficiary was the Lac Ste. Anne Steering Committee, which got an undisclosed amount to set up a conference to seek native input on how to operate the Lac Ste. Anne Pilgrimage. The conference will be held at the Grey Nuns Regional Centre April 19-22.
The committee was not set up out of a sense of guilt over residential school abuses but to support the "reconciliation movement" emerging in native communities across the country, commented council coordinator Gerry Kelly.
"There is a lot of healing and reconciliation taking place."