“I deeply regret and apologize that Catholics were part of this system which was designed to separate children from their families and communities and to assimilate them into a culture that featured a colonial attitude and approach. I deeply regret and apologize for the damage done to children at these schools, which for many included neglect and abuse, and I apologize for the deaths that happened at these schools, with children dying far away from mothers, fathers, grandparents and families, and I apologize to the families and the communities who have not been able to honour children’s burial sites.” – Bishop Mark Hagemoen, Message for Indigenous Peoples Day
By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News
Celebrated annually on June 21, National Indigenous Peoples Day is resonating in a new, powerful, and sometimes painful way for many Canadians this year.
The recent discovery of the unmarked graves of 215 children at the former Kamloops residential school is providing renewed awareness about the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the damages caused by the residential school system designed to separate children from their families, language and culture. In particular, the discovery has brought an increased awareness of TRC findings that Indigenous children died at these schools, which operated in Canada for some 120 years.
In a message for Indigenous Peoples Day shared with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon, Bishop Mark Hagemoen acknowledged the “grief, dismay and anger” at the recent discovery by Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation.
“Since that discovery was announced, I have listened and heard how the shock and dismay of this news is impacting and hurting so many in our community, affecting us all – both Indigenous and non-Indigenous – across our diocese and our nation,” he said.
“In particular, I have heard and shared the sorrow and the anguish of knowing that Catholics were among those who ran the schools established by the federal government that operated in this country from the 1870s until the late 1990s.”
The bishop then repeated his own apology for what happened at residential schools.
“I deeply regret and apologize that Catholics were part of this system which was designed to separate children from their families and communities and to assimilate them into a culture that featured a colonial attitude and approach,” said Bishop Hagemoen. “I deeply regret and apologize for the damage done to children at these schools, which for many included neglect and abuse, and I apologize for the deaths that happened at these schools, with children dying far away from mothers, fathers, grandparents and families, and I apologize to the families and the communities who have not been able to honour children’s burial sites.”
He noted that the recent discovery is bringing an increased national awareness about the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and what it revealed through its multi-year process of listening to residential school survivors. In particular, the bishop noted the TRC final report of 2015 and Calls to Action that included #71 to #76 dealing with “Missing Children and Burial Information,” and Calls to Action # 58 to #61, dealing with “Church Apologies and Reconciliation.”
Call to Action #58 specifically calls for Pope Francis to visit Canada to apologize to residential school survivors, their families and communities for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in the spiritual, cultural, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children in Catholic-run residential schools. In his message, Hagemoen expressed his support for a papal visit to address the legacy of residential schools in this country.
“Former Saskatoon Bishop Donald Bolen (now the Archbishop of Regina) and myself are among those who were encouraging the Holy Father to come to Canada in the months and years after the TRC Report,” Hagemoen noted. “We were also among those who were disappointed by a March 2018 announcement that Pope Francis would not be coming to Canada to apologize.”
The bishop of Saskatoon added: “As calls are renewed for a papal apology – with plans for a delegation of residential school survivors and Indigenous leaders to travel to Rome only recently announced – I want to again state my support for a visit by the Holy Father to Canada, and I believe that an apology from Pope Francis would bring healing to many, and would help to further the journey of reconciliation in our Church and in our country.”
Reflecting on ongoing work for reconciliation in the diocese of Saskatoon, Hagemoen expressed his thanks for all involved in that ongoing journey.
“I am extremely grateful for all those among you and across our diocese and our communities who have been walking that path of reconciliation over the past many years,” he said. “This includes the Elders and leaders at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, and members of the Diocesan Council for Truth and Reconciliation (formed as a direct result of our diocese’s participation in the TRC national event in Saskatoon in June 2012), as well as partners in Catholic education, Catholic colleges, and Catholic health – and many individual Catholics – Indigenous and non-Indigenous.”
Bishop Hagemoen noted that Indigenous, Métis and Inuit peoples “have taught me to be a better bishop and pastor” and he renewed his commitment to continue on a path of reconciliation.
“I pledge that I and our diocese will continue to walk a path of reconciliation and healing. As I wrote in 2018, this is part of our gospel call to reconciliation and solidarity,” Hagemoen said. “We must walk in love and friendship as sisters and brothers. I again ask us all to renew our ongoing commitment to building relationships of honour and respect, and to continue to take concrete steps on this journey of healing that must involve all of us.”
In his message to the diocese, the bishop also shared a prayer in honour of Indigenous Peoples Day:
O God, Creator and Father of all, with humility we your children acknowledge the relationship of all living things.
For this we thank You, we praise You and we worship You.
We call on you, Great Mystery, the Word made Flesh – our Teacher, Prophet and Brother – to open our hearts to all our brothers and sisters, and with them to grow in the wisdom, honesty, courage and respectfulness shown in the Sacred Teachings.
Give us the vision and honesty to recognize that the we are all brothers and sisters of one human family, created and sustained by the One Creator.
As we deal with many challenges, may we never give way to fear and anger, which can be the source of division and threat amongst peoples.
We look to how God always gives to us a remedy for sins of prejudice and intolerance.
We see in God the Creator of all things, One who always provides and is generous – even given the abuses we have heaped on one another and on the earth.
We see in the Son, Jesus Christ – the innocent Victim who pours His life blood out from the Cross for all peoples.
We see how the Holy Spirit is God’s gift, alive in our world today – inspiring vision and hope that we can have the same mind and heart of God!
O Creator, show us the way to healing, forgiveness and reconciliation, and a renewed fellowship.
Indigenous Peoples Day events June 21, 2021:
“Rock Your Roots Walk for Reconciliation” will be held in-person this year in Saskatoon on June 21. In order to keep everyone safe, organizers ask that participants plan to walk individually or in small groups. Participants may choose to wear cultural clothing or the reconciliation colours of yellow, blue, and red. Find more information at: LINK
Reconciliation Saskatoon will also hold a Live Virtual Event on June 21 featuring stories, entertainment and messages from residential school survivors. The video will be available anytime on June 21at LINK
National Indigenous Peoples Day events from Ottawa – LINK