Phil Fontaine, former Grand Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, front row left, takes part in a Star of the North reconciliation event. Photo courtesy Star of the North

Healing is key at Star of the North

By  Glen Argan, Catholic Register Special
  • September 14, 2019

ST. ALBERT, Alta. -- Star of the North Retreat Centre is making healing and reconciliation between Indigenous people and Canadian settlers a major element of its retreat ministry.

“I felt we had to break new ground here. This is like tilling new soil and planting new seed,” says Lucie Leduc, director of the centre which is owned by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, an order which has been in the Canadian West for more than 150 years.

When the Truth and Reconciliation Commission issued its final report in 2015, Star of the North held a celebration which drew a crowd of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people. Leduc saw the possibility of launching an ongoing series of events “to understand where we went astray” so that healing and reconciliation could move forward. 

The TRC has created an opening through which more Canadians are willing to examine their relations with Indigenous people, she says. As program co-ordinator at Queen`s House of Retreats in Saskatoon for 18 years prior to moving to St. Albert, Leduc organized several events oriented to reconciliation and healing. Those programs were transformative in people’s lives, she recalls, “but you would have to work hard to get people to come.”

Since the end of the TRC, Star of the North has held a couple of events a year, bringing in speakers such as former TRC commissioners Willie Littlechild and Dr. Marie Wilson as well as Phil Fontaine, former Grand Chief of the Assembly of First Nations. One whole-day event included a grandmother, a young woman and a former Oblate discussing the need to decolonize our hearts and minds.

The retreat centre also holds and subsidizes annual men’s and women’s wellness retreats for residents of Edmonton’s inner city.

A key element to the efforts at reconciliation is the presence of Archbishop Emeritus Sylvain Lavoie as the centre`s chaplain. Lavoie was a missionary among Indigenous people for 35 years, mainly in northern Saskatchewan, before becoming archbishop of Keewatin-Le Pas. 

His popular book, Drumming From Within: Tales of Hope and Faith from Canada’s North, tells of the beauty of Indigenous people and what they can contribute to Canada and the world. When Lavoie retired as archbishop in 2012, he came to Star of the North.

“He lived the relationship with Indigenous people in ways that were healing and transformative,” Leduc says of Lavoie.

Lavoie will help lead a one-day retreat Nov. 23 on treaty rights and the Indian Act.  “We’ve got to be learning about the treaties and holding up our end of the bargain,” Lavoie says.

The archbishop is pleased Star of the North is helping create greater understanding and building bridges between Indigenous people, the Church and Canadian society. “We need to be doing this,” he says. “I’m hoping it will become more widespread.”

(Argan is program co-ordinator at Star of the North Retreat Centre.)

Comments (0)

There are no comments posted here yet

Leave your comments

  1. Posting comment as a guest. Sign up or login to your account.
Attachments (0 / 3)
Share Your Location
Type the text presented in the image below

Support The Catholic Register

Unlike many other news websites, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our site. We want to keep our award-winning journalism as widely available as possible. But we need your help.

For more than 125 years, The Register has been a trusted source of faith based journalism. By making even a small donation you help ensure our future as an important voice in the Catholic Church. If you support the mission of Catholic journalism, please donate today. Thank you.