By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News
A sacred moment of connection was recently celebrated, as ribbon skirts made by Catholic Women’s League (CWL) members of St. John Bosco Parish in Saskatoon were received and blessed by Our Lady of Guadalupe Indigenous Parish.
Some of those involved in the St. John Bosco CWL project joined Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish for their 1 p.m. Sunday Mass, held at St. Mary Church Sept. 12. One of the parish Elders smudged the ribbon skirts, and the CWL members offered a ribbon skirt to each of the parish Elders, and a number of parishioners were also presented with ribbon skirts.
“When I wear my ribbon skirt, I’m humbled, and it gives me great strength, love, and also, hope for a much brighter tomorrow.” – Debbie Ledoux, Parish Life Director, Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish
The project began when the women of St. John Bosco Catholic Church were actively seeking a way to reach out and support their sister parish after news reports about the unmarked graves at former residential schools.
“The ladies were so wonderful and thoughtful, and wanted to do something for our Indigenous community when the horrific news came out about the findings of the 215 unmarked graves in Kamloops, B.C.,” says Debbie Ledoux, the Parish Life Director of Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Parish, which serves Indigenous, Métis, and non-Indigenous people in the heart of Saskatoon.
“They took it upon themselves and wanted to make ribbon skirts for the ladies of our community, and asked if these would be appropriate. I said absolutely,” she says about the CWL initiative.
“Our hope is that this gesture of caring will help build relationships with our Indigenous sisters. We hope this will be a stepping stone for us to explore other ways we can lessen the divide that exists between us. We need to do better. We must do better.” – Mary Jacobi, CWL member, St. John Bosco Parish
Debbie Ledoux explains that ribbon skirts represent “our connection to Mother Earth and who we are as Indigenous women; therefore it is an honour to wear one.”
Representing faith, belief, culture and traditions, a ribbon skirt should be respected when worn, she adds. Influenced by the Indigenous cultures of the plains, the ribbon skirt is not bound to one specific nation. “Ribbon skirts are symbols of sacredness, resilience and are spiritual,” she explains. “When I wear my ribbon skirt, I’m humbled, and it gives me great strength, love, and also, hope for a much brighter tomorrow.”
Mary Jacobi of St. John Bosco parish says that before launching the project to sew the ribbon skirts, the CWL first checked with Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish about their idea. “We wanted to be sure that this would be an acceptable thing for us to do – that we were in no way appropriating one of their cultural practices. Debbie was very receptive.”
The project grew out of a heartfelt desire to reach out and help make a difference in the wake of news about the unmarked graves at residential school sites. “We struggled with the hurt and pain that our Indigenous sisters and brothers were experiencing – all over again,” says Jacobi. “Their history is our history – these are actions that have been perpetuated by the Church we both belong to.”
She cites three common reasons why CWL council members felt called to respond. “First, inaction is just not an option. We can’t sit by and ignore the pain that surrounds us. Their pain is our pain. We are not only sisters under one nation but we are sisters in Christ. We belong to the same Church.”
Jacobi adds: “Second, we want to acknowledge the pain and the hurt that years of colonialism have wrought. Even six years after the Truth and Reconciliation’s 94 Calls to Action have been issued many of the Calls have fallen by the wayside. We don’t want this to happen this time. This tragic part of our history is a shared history. We have a role to play in moving us forward – together. Third, we want to do something tangible that will lessen the divide between ‘them’ and ‘us’. We want to reach out as women, as women, as sisters, as mothers and grandmothers.”
Ultimately, the project has been about forging relationships and understanding, says Jacobi. “Our hope is that this gesture of caring will help build relationships with our Indigenous sisters. We hope this will be a stepping stone for us to explore other ways we can lessen the divide that exists between us. We need to do better. We must do better.”
Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish Life Director Debbie Ledoux notes that others in the Catholic community are also experiencing a renewed call to reach out, to build awareness about the impact of residential schools and colonization, and to take action.
“I have had many parishes call and ask ‘what do you need, or what can we do?’ I tell them ‘Go with your heart. What is your heart telling you?’” Ledoux says she feels it is up to parishes to decide what they need to do: “Do something because it feels great, not because you have to.”
Find more information about the Catholic TRC Healing Response: https://dscf.ca/catholic-trc-healing-response/
Our Lady of Guadalupe parish is supported by gifts to the Annual Appeal: https://dscf.ca/baa/