Local Church continues to seek a path of purification and healing

(File Photo by Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)

By Myron Rogal, Office of Justice and Peace, Diocese of Saskatoon

Many have seen recent media coverage that compares the successful fundraising efforts held for the Cathedral of the Holy Family with the fundraising efforts for the Moving Forward Together (MFT) national campaign that fell short of its fundraising goal.

While such reporting may draw many reactions, expose wounds, or stir feelings of disillusionment, we are each given the challenge to take the information we receive and somehow, someway use it to build the kingdom of God.

While it is sometimes necessary to address what is being reported, it is often more relevant is to take a step back and draw attention to the responsibility that each member of our diocese has in building a culture of truth and reconciliation, alongside the co-responsibility that we all share part of our Catholic citizenship.

The national Moving Forward Together fundraising effort under the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement (IRSSA) did certainly yield disappointing results.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon volunteered to join the 50 other Catholic entities in the IRSSA effort, even though the diocese of Saskatoon did not operate or have any legal association with residential schools.  Even with the shifting of diocesan boundaries over the years, no residential school sites existed.  Nonetheless, our diocese, like the rest of Canada, still lives in the devastating aftermath of the residential school system, as well as with a history of other harmful colonial practices, some of which continue today in our country. Recognizing that, our diocesan bishops and leaders stepped forward to participate in the agreement – in particular, agreeing to engage in fund-raising and providing “services in kind” for healing and reconciliation. In doing so, the diocese was striving to fulfill a moral duty outside of what the law was asking.

On Dec. 182011, the Cathedral of the Holy Family opened its doors, after a significant fundraising effort both in the local church and in the history of the province. It is important to note, however, that much of the funding was collected through pledges, meaning the total amount of liquid assets needed was not physically fundraised when the doors opened. A second feature of the fund-raising campaign was that significant amounts were raised through large donations offered by local business leaders. This approach resembles the Moving Forward Together (MFT) national campaign under the IRSSA, which was guided by professional fundraisers striving to acquire donations nationally from the business community for several years.

The difference is that this phase of the MFT fundraising was unsuccessful – in part because businesses have their own Calls to Action that they are obliged to fulfill. In fundraising, this is commonly known as a quiet phase of a campaign: many members of the public did not hear about such efforts. Most would not have heard about efforts underway until they were asked to contribute to the MFT campaign in 2013, long after the new Cathedral opened.  ( These were not two existing fundraising campaigns happening at the same time.)

After the first diocesan collection for reconciliation and healing programs in 2013 yielded low results, then Bishop Donald Bolen called for a second collection, which also fell short, in spite of a diocesan-wide effort of promotion.

In recent media reporting, another argument was offered that if the local people cannot raise funds, the Vatican should. Such a proposition would face significant challenges in how the financial operations of the Roman Catholic Church globally are delineated, and even if this was possible, it would do nothing to challenge the hearts of the people in our pews or “move the needle” on social change that the TRC called us to. Furthermore, it would be in defiance of Call to Action #61, which insists on community-controlled initiatives. If the funds are not raised locally, many would be left out as stakeholders, and frankly, it would be a way for local Catholics to “get off easy.”

Although the fundraising efforts were a significant disappointment, the greater and ongoing challenge is the answer as to why the fundraising was a flop, with the answer to that being education. Like the rest of society, the faithful of the diocese remain in the early stages of understanding the colonial legacy that we reside in.

In the TRC Calls to Action, there are specific numbers addressed to the stakeholder churches. “Stakeholder” means those Christian denominations that operated residential schools. The diocese has actively worked to fulfill Calls to Action numbers 49, 59, 60, and 61. Unlike a checklist that we’ve become accustomed to through colonial habits, many of the Calls to Action cannot ever be wholly fulfilled or measured. Rather they are our roadmap. Work on truth and reconciliation did not begin in the diocese at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission: many good men and women were working faithfully towards it for decades. The TRC, however, did propel these efforts and continues to do so.

The real work of healing, seeking truth, and working towards reconciliation is a slow process, and the attempt of this article is not to showcase what the Church has done. Healing itself is not a public process.  It is not something that the media can probe into as people seek right relationship with one another.  Many of the individual responses to specific Calls to Action will not show up in news stories because it is only appropriate for the stakeholders involved to know.

Similarly, the media itself does not regularly publish and flash reports on how it is attempting its own specific Calls to Action.

In Saskatoon, we are blessed to have Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish. To my knowledge, this is the largest Indigenous Christian parish in the province. At this parish in inner-city Saskatoon, reconciliation has been an ongoing journey that has been happening every day since this faith community was established. Yet again, this is another news story that will not be making the news, lest the bonds of trust that build the sacred relationships of reconciliation be broken.

If one would really like to know what the Church is doing, get involved, your voice is always welcomed, and we need to hear the unique truth that you can bring to the table; we even need to be challenged by you.  We need you to become involved in your parish, to become advocates of reconciliation and assist in building the culture you want to see within your church.  Yet, that is only step one as we each are trusted with a unique apostolic mission.  In this instance, we must go beyond the church to fulfill the Calls to Action in our own lives and equally as important in businesses, institutions, and organizations that we each occupy.

To learn how to become involved in your parish contact Myron Rogal at m.rogal@rcdos.ca (306) 659-5841.