Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of July 4, 2005
NWT project builds healing with natives and religious
By DEBORAH GYAPONG
Canadian Catholic News
The Catholic Aboriginal Council for Reconciliation has approved subsidies of more than $30,000 towards projects designed to heal and reconcile aboriginal and non-aboriginal Catholic communities.
Most of the money will be directed towards the highly successful Returning to Spirit program, initiated by Mackenzie-Fort Smith Bishop Denis Croteau and women religious in the diocese.
Joe Gunn, director of the Justice, Peace and Missions Office of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, and a member of the council's secretariat, said the Returning to Spirit program allows people to reflect on the pain of their experiences in ways that lead to reconciliation instead of creating continuing difficulties.
Two sets of sorrow
Gunn said that while aboriginal people deal with the effects of colonialism, loss of language and culture, separation from their families, and individual cases of physical and sexual abuse, the religious who served at the schools also often feel hurt that their years of dedication and sacrifice are not appreciated.
The program allows three days for each group to work through their anger, frustration and pain, he said, and then brings the two groups together for reconciliation.
"It's the most powerful when you do the third step and bring the two groups together," Gunn said, noting that many of the participants already know each other.
"The religious are very high on the program," he said.
The CCCB established the council and a voluntary fund in 1998, suggesting that each diocese contribute $3,000.
"Most of the income (for the fund) comes from dioceses and religious orders, many of whom had a long ministry with aboriginal people," Gunn said.
The Catholic Women's League recently donated $5,000.
The council includes aboriginal leaders from across Canada, two bishops, and Gunn, who acts as coordinator, and a secretary.
"It's a wonderful group of aboriginal leaders. I'm personally impressed by the depth of leadership that has come together on the council," he said.
"They are really faithful Catholics who are encouraging the Church to move beyond lawyers, negotiations with government, and litigation and move towards this reconciliation and healing agenda between aboriginal and non-aboriginal people, especially those who are Church members," he said.
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