December 1, 2014
KIPLY LUKAN YAWORSKI
PRAIRIE MESSENGER

Saskatoon Bishop Donald Bolen has called on Catholics and the broader community to become better informed and to pray for missing and murdered aboriginal women.

"Nearly 1,200 aboriginal women have been murdered or are missing over the past 30 years, according to police records. This issue does not affect only aboriginal women but all Canadians, all people," Bolen said in an Oct. 31 pastoral letter.

"Something has gone dreadfully wrong, and the pain and suffering of the aboriginal families and communities who have lost loved ones calls out for a response."

Citing Paul's letter to the Corinthians (12.26), Bolen said if one part of the body suffers, every part suffers with it. "This same idea is found in traditional aboriginal ethics when it is said, 'The hurt of one is the hurt of all.'"

LARGER PROBLEMS

The issue of missing and murdered women can be connected to larger societal problems, the bishop said.

"Like the residential schools, missing and murdered aboriginal women point to a systemic problem, and we have a desire to walk and work together towards a systemic response which will make our communities healthier and safer, for aboriginal women and for all of us."

Bolen urged his readers to listen more closely to the voices of survivors and of the family members of the women who are missing or murdered.

"We need to walk with their communities as they seek to name underlying problems and to take steps towards healing the brokenness that has allowed this tragedy to systematically continue.

"We all need to be more aware of what we have done and what we have failed to do."

The diocese is working with other faith communities to organize a day in early 2015 to listen to the stories of communities who have experienced missing or murdered sisters and daughters, he said.

It will be a chance "to hear from those who walk with the most vulnerable in our midst today; to listen to various voices and proposals suggesting a way forward; and to begin to discern what steps we might take as we learn to walk together in solidarity and friendship," he says.

PARTNERS FOR JUSTICE

"Education, awareness and empathy are crucial," Bolen said, calling for "partnering with all those who seek justice and yearn for dignity for our lost daughters, sisters, mothers and kokums."

As well as participating in the planned gathering and reading the federal government's Invisible Women document, individuals and parishes are asked to pray for those grieving murdered family members and for "the deep suffering of those whose sisters and daughters remain missing," he said.

Bolen wrote the letter after consultation with the Diocesan Commission for Truth and Reconciliation (DCTR). The Saskatoon Diocese established the DCTR in 2012 to fulfill a promise it made earlier that year at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission national event in Saskatoon.

The DCTR brings together Catholic First Nations and Métis elders and leaders, and those in diocesan leadership positions, including the bishop.