Indigenous parish in Canada embraces ‘new form of reconciliation’

The scene looks surreal. In the large gym, an altar is placed on a wooden table under the basketball ring. Behind him, an image of the crucified Jesus sits in the center of a sacred circle in the colors of the indigenous peoples. Nearby, the “elder” blesses the arriving priests and faithful with a large eagle feather, in front of a container in which sage sticks are burning. On this Sunday morning in early July, the Sacred Heart First Nations community in Edmonton, Alberta gathers for a traditional Aboriginal Mass, integrating First Nations, Métis and Inuit into their liturgical rituals.

“It is a privilege to be able to come here to be cleansed, to pray and to worship in a different way, while remaining anchored in the Catholic faith. There is a combination of our culture with the culture of the Church, and it gives something very powerful.” in Ferny Marty’s delight, 73 ans, “man with a pen” placed in front of the entrance, a member of the Papaschase Cree group. There is special admiration for that day, two weeks before the visit, on Monday, July 25, of Pope Francis to the members of this community.

The latter will then not be met, as there, in the sports hall – temporarily borrowed by the neighboring school – but in the historic church, a stone’s throw away. After two years of renovations, following a devastating fire in 2020, it is due to reopen its doors for the occasion.

“Culture of reconciliation”

“I hope he really recognizes that in our religion you can embrace different cultures, honor their traditions, their symbols, their spirituality without fear.that it in no way distorts our Catholic identity.” explains Father Mark Blom (omi), parish priest. While Canadian society remains torn by the effects of colonialism, “We are trying to promote a new culture of reconciliation in our Church and in our country. That in itself is a sign that people of all nations are praying, serving and working together as here. We also have non-natives who are very dedicated.”he continues.

“I believe in the Creator, and I have been coming to this parish for several years. It’s a community where people are really caring, open and kind.” abounds Elmer, 73, of Fort McMurray. With a shaved head, a brimmed hat and a long orange t-shirt – a color that symbolizes the memory of the victims of the old boarding school system (1) – crossed out with the acronym All Children Count, Johan, 67, is a white parishioner. “It’s good for me to find myself in this crowd, and we really are a big family, regardless of our background. I really identify better with the message of Christ with how they live in this community.” is suing a man who adopted two First Nations children with his wife, whose mother “survived” fell into alcohol addiction in one of these schools.

Find the correct words

Faced with this population, which is still weakened by the demons of the past – and for many, who are still angry at the responsibility of religious congregations for the mistreatment and violence committed – finding the right words to speak about God is not always easy. In his sermon that day, Father Mark Blom once again apologized to the natives for the boarding schools, holding up two cut-out cardboard graves that, when half-stacked and turned upside down, formed a large red heart.

Indigenous parish in Canada embraces 'new form of reconciliation'

Many in the assembly say they are already ready to accept Pope Francis’ request for forgiveness and believe it will be another big step. “It’s been in my heart since the Pope apologized(the delegation of indigenous peoples, which was received at the end of March and the beginning of April in the Vatican, ed. note), says Fernie Marty, an elementary school student from Beaver Crossing in northeastern Alberta.. MBut it makes things that much more sacred that he’s also coming to present them on Canadian soil. This will be an extraordinary time for the healing of the natives on their lands. »

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