B.C. Bishops launch fund-raising campaign in support of healing and reconciliation

St. Kateri Tekakwitha iIcon displayed at the Archdiocese of Vancouver. (Photo by Agnieszka Ruck, The B.C. Catholic - CCN)

By Agnieszka Ruck, The B.C, Catholic

Hopes are high for a generous response to the B.C. Bishops’ Campaign in Support of Healing and Reconciliation this month.

Advance giving started in July but the fundraising campaign’s official launch was Sept. 1, with a second collection toward the cause taking place Sept. 11 and 12 in all churches within the Archdiocese of Vancouver. All contributions are destined for local reconciliation efforts.

“We have an obligation to do something, to extend a hand,” said Archbishop J. Michael Miller in an interview Aug. 10. The collection “will help to fund initiatives that will go exclusively to healing and reconciliation with First Nations. We are going to take our cues from what their leadership wants.”

Chris Ufford, director of the archdiocese’s Development Office, said proceeds from the campaign will be focused on a variety of needs including assistance in determining who died at residential schools and what caused their deaths; mental health supports for those affected by the findings; expanded community outreach programs including emergency shelter, food, art therapy, counselling, and social work; and preserving Indigenous language, art, and culture.

The Archdiocese of Vancouver is joining with the dioceses of Kamloops, Nelson, Prince George, and Victoria in the campaign. In a joint statement released July 26, the five bishops of B.C. said they “recognize the need for a province-wide initiative to raise funds to support healing and reconciliation among Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.”

The bishops, who will consult with local Indigenous leaders, elders, and residential school survivors to decide where the funds will go, said they hope the campaign will “help restore trust and further the ongoing journey to truth and reconciliation.”

The bishops of Saskatchewan have launched a fundraising appeal of their own – Catholic TRC Healing Response (LINK) . The Diocese of Calgary and the Archdiocese of Toronto have made similar pledges to provide or raise funds.

Meanwhile, a lay-led national group called Catholics for Truth and Reconciliation hopes to raise $50,000 for three organizations: Returning to Spirit, the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, and Reconciliation Canada. So far they have raised half of this goal. They are also encouraging Catholics to consider donating to the bishop-led campaigns.

The Vancouver-based group Catholic Street Missionaries is encouraging young adults aged 19-39 to participate in reconciliation efforts through 24 hours of fasting and prayer Sept. 10-11. Held at St. Mary’s Church in Vancouver and Westminster Abbey in Mission, the event gives young adults an option to donate or raise funds through pledges if they choose.

The Catholic Church in Canada has received heavy criticism for not doing enough to support reconciliation efforts financially. In a 2006 Settlement Agreement, the federal government was to cover the “compensation” portion, while Catholic entities were tasked with providing “programs of healing and reconciliation.”

The Church made a three-part commitment: $29 million to support healing and reconciliation programs; $25 million of “services in kind”; and $25 million in a national “best efforts” fundraising campaign.

The Church met the first and exceeded the second, but fell dramatically short for the third. Only $3.7 million was raised in the “best efforts” campaign, with the Archdiocese of Vancouver contributing just under $1 million of that.

Church leaders are hoping the new national collections will help close the gap.