By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News
A new four-session program offering encounter, conversation and learning about Indigenous-Church reconciliation, relationships and healing has concluded its first round of courses. The Indigenous Pastoral and Lay Leader Education Program (IPL) in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon is a joint initiative of the diocese, Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools and St. Thomas More College.
The first group of participants included a number who completed various individual courses throughout 2020-21, as well as 13 who completed all four courses to earn a certificate in November 2021 after two years of learning.
IPL graduates presented with certificates for completing all four courses are Chandra Behren, Wynona Cenaiko, Connie Crichton, Wendy Dale, Cynthia Foster, Fr. Graham Hill, CSsR, Darcie Lich, Thomas McKay, Sr. Marta Piano, Fr. Joseph Salihu, and Lisa Skorski – all of Saskatoon – as well as Marcelle Marion of Winnipeg, MB and Cheryl Unruh of Fort Langley, BC.
Facilitators and teachers presenting the first IPL program included Coordinator Adrienne Castellon, MaryAnne Morrison, Cristen Dorgan-Lee, Ryan Leblanc, and Bishop Mark Hagemoen, as well as a number of guest speakers and leaders throughout the course of the online program — both Indigenous and non-Indigenous – who shared knowledge, insights and experiences and modelling respectful and reconciling relationships.
The curriculum and the format of the online program encouraged discussion, reflection and personal exploration – and the impact was obvious in participant reflections throughout the course, as well as in comments by those gathered for a wind-up celebration Nov. 27, 2021 at the Cathedral of the Holy Family in Saskatoon.
“One thing that I appreciated was being part of such a diverse collective, so what a beautiful opportunity to meet and to work with people from the diocese, from outside the diocese, from across the country, and to hear from various organizations and not only to learn from them but to build relationship. If there is one thing that I heard over and over and over in this course – that I took to heart – is that relationship is key,” said participant Darcie Lich of Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools.
Celebrating the conclusion of the program was a moment “to look back and to look ahead with the eyes and heart of God,” said participant Sr. Marta Piano of the Verbum Dei Missionaries. “For each one of us it is a long journey and we don’t walk alone, we walk together”
Participant Connie Crichton of St. Mary Parish in Saskatoon noted: “If we are interested in truly taking part in reconciliation we first need to know where we have come from before we can go forward.”
The wind-up event in November included a smudging ceremony; an honour song by Delvin Kanewiyakiho, First Nations and Métis cultural consultant with Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools; Mass with Bishop Mark Hagemoen; a reception; a Métis fiddle performance; and presentation of certificates.
In his homily, Bishop Hagemoen noted that the IPL certificate program brings together many elements in a unique way. “It’s an interdisciplinary academic program in many ways, kind of merging together theological reflection and religious studies work, (and) Indigenous studies in terms of spirituality and ways of knowing, and trying to – in the cross-fertilization of different ways of teaching and learning from a faith tradition and spiritual traditions – find the pathway forward.”
During the reception that followed, Hagemoen noted that the IPL program is an important benchmark for the diocese, for St. Thomas More College and for Greater Saskatoon Schools. “The inspiration came from a real desire of different Catholic organizations to put wheels on the TRC Calls to Action. The education piece and the formation piece is so important.”
He also expressed his thanks to the partner organizations, to the leaders, teachers and facilitators for their “generosity, expertise and time,” and to participants for making a commitment to reconciliation.
“I am looking forward to where the Spirit leads us,” he said.
[Kiply Lukan Yaworski is the communications coordinator for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon – rcdos.ca]