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St. Brigid's response to the discovery of graves at Canadian residential schools

Updated: Aug 12, 2021

In June, our country was called to account with the discovery of the graves of children's bodies shockingly found at the former Indian Residential School in Kamloops, B.C. -- shocking for many of us, but not for Indigenous peoples, who have been speaking to this reality for decades. Since then, the revelations of other such graves across the country have continued. As one of our Canadian womanpriests has said: the whole of Canada is haunted.

Bringing to mind these children who lost their lives at the residential schools also reminds us of all of those who still suffer from the scars of their own experiences at such schools. We must work to ensure that this situation does not get buried again due in denial or dismissiveness. Having St. Brigid's community members as well as personal friends with these wounds ought to renew our desire to extend compassion, be curious and ask questions, and do all we can to help Canada become a place of true contrition, reconciliation, awareness, healing and new life.

Bishop Jane Kryzanowski, Bishop of RCWP Canada, summarized our collective call for action as RCWP Canada communities, of which St. Brigid is one. Here is part of Bishop Jane's statement:

In response to the Kamloops and Cowessess discoveries, there have been statements by Indigenous groups and responses by federal agencies and churches. At a recent joint meeting of the Board of Directors and the National Leadership Circle we considered what response we could make as RCWP Canada. Rather than another statement, the following action items are presented to you as ways to engage more deeply in the trauma of this genocide and the TRC’s calls for action to address it.

  1. Each community we pastor is asked to reflect on what they are doing to continue (or commence) initiatives at the grass roots level that work towards healing injustices in the interest of advancing truth and reconciliation.

  2. Each member of RCWP Canada is asked to take some personal action such as a book study, participate in a sharing circle, or engage in building a personal relationship with an Indigenous person or community.

Click here to read the full statement.

At St. Brigid's, we are working to raise our awareness of Indigenous issues and justice, so we can be part of the recognition and healing that needs to happen in our country and the church.

Our June 27th Mass specifically focussed on the pain and suffering caused by the residential schools. Our community members wore orange in honour of the children who died, and community member Violet March, a Dene elder, began the liturgy with a smudging ceremony. We are honoured to have had Violet as part of our St. Brigid's community since our beginning in 2008. We are grateful for the gifts and teachings we have received from her over the years, including the prayers she has spoken in Dene at our Masses.

While acknowledging that we have a long way to go, and much to learn, we are pleased that our community has at least begun the process of addressing these issues over the past few years. For instance, a land acknowledgement is offered at the beginning of our Mass and all our liturgical gatherings, and is included on our website and newsletter, along with articles and news stories about significant Indigenous issues and events. Two years ago, we invited Violet March and other local Indigenous elders to lead us in a special Palm Sunday Mass featuring smudging and drumming, as well as a Blanket exercise. A community member led us in an educational evening of watching a powerful Alberta-made film called "Elder in the Making". We hope these can be seen as small steps upon a long and important path forward.

At St. Brigid's, we are committed to addressing Indigenous issues in our liturgies and community events even more in the future, and encourage community members to offer ideas for and facilitation of liturgical and learning opportunities that we can participate in as a community. So let us lend our energies to hope and healing and to a future that, through honest dialogue, mutual openness, growing trust and greater education, can give rise to new life for everyone. May God be our guide. Amen.


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