A mosaic depicts Our Lady of Guadalupe at a shrine to her at St. Juan Diego Catholic Church in Pasadena, Texas. CNS photo/James Ramos

For Indigenous, Our Lady of Guadalupe ‘a big thing’

  • December 7, 2022

Graydon Nicholas, the former Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick, will share his devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe in Hamilton, Ont., Dec. 12.

The Diocese of Hamilton is set to welcome Nicholas to the Cathedral Basilica of Christ the King where he will deliver a presentation on the National Day of Prayer and Solidarity titled “Our Lady of Guadalupe: In the Experience of Indigenous Peoples.”

Nicholas, a member of the Tobique First Nation, recipient of the Order of Canada and the Order of New Brunswick, has stated in the past that he felt like he was in the care of Our Lady of Guadalupe, one of the four Marian apparitions believed to have appeared in December 1531 to Mexican peasant Juan Diego (his uncle Juan Bernardino said he was visited by an apparition too), since his earliest days. 

In a profile about Nicholas penned for the Knights of Columbus’ Columbia magazine in 2019, it was revealed that two months before he was due, Nicholas’ mother fell into a river near her home on the Tobique Reserve. The shock of the cold river in the thick of a New Brunswick winter stimulated early labour.

“In 1946, there was not much medical support for children who were born premature,” Nicholas, a former K of C supreme grand warden, told Columbia. “A lot of people in the community thought I was going to die, but my mother didn’t. She prayed to the Blessed Mother: ‘Let him survive.’ ”

Nicholas, who was unavailable to speak to The Catholic Register in the lead up to his presentation, was profiled by this paper in 2020 as he chauffeured a famous painting of Our Lady of Guadalupe to communities, churches and homes throughout the country since 2006. 

The first Indigenous person to earn a law degree in Atlantic Canada — he accomplished that feat in 1991 — explained why devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, as she appeared back in 1531, has grown over the passage of time.

“It’s a big thing for us,” said Nicholas, appointed a chancellor of St. Thomas University in Fredericton, N.B. “First of all, because she appeared as an Indigenous woman. For us as Indigenous people of the Americas, Native Americans or First Nations, we say, ‘Wow, isn’t that something? That Jesus would send His mother to lay down the path for the evangelization of the Americas?’ That’s what’s beautiful for us.”

Hamilton Bishop Douglas Crosby has met and collaborated with Nicholas over the years. He is eager to experience Nicholas’ message. 

“I know the Honourable Graydon Nicholas has a great devotion to Our Lady,” said Crosby. “As an Indigenous person, I think he certainly will help give us insight into the experience of Our Lady of Guadalupe who revealed herself to the Indigenous community. I’m just interested to hear his insight and the presentation of his faith.”

There is hope that Nicholas’ message will help encourage ongoing reconciliation efforts with the Canadian Catholic community. He has delivered multiple speeches about these strides in the aftermath of a delegation visiting Pope Francis at the Vatican back in the spring, and the historical papal visit to Canada from July 24-29. 

In a presentation at St. Thomas More College last month, Nicholas spoke about the ongoing road ahead.

“Pope Francis did apologize many times in his speeches and homilies,” said Nicholas. “Pope Francis invited the Indigenous peoples on a journey with our Catholic Church: ‘It will be based on trust, truth and sharing of our Catholic faith and Indigenous spiritualties.’

“This sacred journey will have no shortcuts, and be arduous, with major stops along the way. There is hope with many prayers and rituals which will be shared on this path. We all need to be on this journey.”

The Institute for Catholic Education is co-organizing this appearance by Nicholas.

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