Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 10, 2003
Croteau's healing program gains popularity in the South
By ART BABYCH
Canadian Catholic News
A healing program developed by the northern Diocese of Mackenzie-Fort Smith is gaining in popularity in other dioceses and has won the support of a council set up by the Catholic bishops of Canada six years ago.
The program, called Returning to Spirit, involves native people who "in some way have been affected by the residential school situation," some of them from abuse, Bishop Albert Legatt told bishops at their annual plenary assembly Oct. 29.
Legatt, bishop of Saskatoon, is a CCCB representative on the Council for Reconciliation, Solidarity and Communion, which is now promoting the program nationally.
He said the council sees the series of three five-day workshops as "a concrete way of bringing about reconciliation in particular communities."
The first five-day workshop involves only aboriginal people, the second workshop is for "Church people who were involved in the residential schools or who are continuing in ministry with people affected by residential schools," and the third brings both groups of people together, Legatt said.
In presenting the annual report of the council, Legatt said the healing program has been praised for "creating the possibility for individuals and groups consciously to create a future based on forgiveness, trust, collaboration and appreciation."
The workshops have been presented in nine western locations to date and 15 more are scheduled across Canada for next year.
Bishop Denis Croteau, who initiated the program, noted that his Mackenzie-Fort Smith Diocese had "quite a few victims" of abuse because it had six Indian residential schools.
"I felt that giving money to people to try to heal them is not really the solution and often it brings them even deeper into a dysfunctional life," he said. Instead, "the diocese has invested a lot of money" in developing the Returning to Spirit program.
"The principle of it is that you stop blaming," he said. "We have a tendency to blame the schools, the sisters, the supervisors, to blame everybody," he said. "That way the past becomes a stumbling block instead of being a building block."
Participants are encouraged to let go of past hurts. "As long as you're tied down to the past in a negative way you'll never build yourself for the future," said Croteau.
Vancouver Archbishop Adam Exner said about 20 native people were involved in the workshops in his diocese but that of the total, "only two were suffering from hurts they sustained while they were in residential schools."
The other 18 were also "hurt people" but for different reasons, he said. "It was very revealing to me that the hurts that native people carry do not only come from residential schools. There are other sources."
The Council for Reconciliation, Solidarity and Communion exists to promote reconciliation between aboriginal communities and the Catholic Church.