Shoes are seen on a path leading to the former Brandon Indian Residential School June 12, 2021. Researchers -- partnered with the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation -- located 104 potential graves at the site in Brandon, Manitoba. CNS photo/Shannon VanRaes, Reuters

Saskatchewan bishops launch ‘Catholic TRC Healing Response’ fundraising appeal

By  Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Canadian Catholic News
  • July 14, 2021

The Catholic bishops of Saskatchewan have begun accepting donations to its province-wide fund-raising appeal among Catholics for support of residential school survivors and their communities.

Online donations can be accepted immediately at dscf.ca/catholic-trc-healing-response.

Priorities for the fund-raising effort are being discussed with Indigenous leaders and include healing and reconciliation, cemeteries on the sites of former residential schools and education and cultural support.

“The overall goal of this campaign is to support residential school survivors and their communities, and to engage more deeply in our own ongoing commitment and response to the Truth and Reconciliation process,” wrote the five Saskatchewan bishops in a July 13 update about creating the fund-raising appeal.

The message to the province’s Catholics was signed by Archbishop Donald Bolen of Regina, Bishop Bryan Bayda of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Saskatoon, Archbishop Murray Chatlain of Keewatin-Le Pas, Bishop Mark Hagemoen of Saskatoon and Bishop Stephen Hero of Prince Albert.

“We have heard the strong request, from Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in various quarters, to initiate a new fundraising campaign to support survivors and engage more deeply in our own ongoing commitment and response to the Truth and Reconciliation process,” the bishops reported when first announcing plans to launch a fund-raising appeal on July 3.

In the July 13 update, the bishops stated that they are “collaborating with various potential participants, and consulting with Indigenous dialogue partners, including survivors, elders, knowledge keepers, chiefs and other community members.”

“Out of these conversations, each diocese and eparchy will discern and communicate separately how they will proceed with the appeal in their respective dioceses and communities,” the bishops said, noting that a province-wide goal and timeline will be announced by September.

“As we noted in our July 3 letter, we are deeply grateful for the signs and indications of encouragement and commitment that we have been hearing from the people of Saskatchewan and beyond. It is for all of us to rise to the occasion to be instruments of healing and reconciliation, moving forward in humility, truth and justice.”

In a video message released July 13, Bolen spoke about the appeal and reflected on the continuing call for Catholics to respond to the long-lasting damage of residential schools in Saskatchewan.

"The funding priorities are guided by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action involving a financial commitment, and here I would highlight #61, which calls for support of community-controlled initiatives for healing and reconciliation, language and culture, education and relationship building, and dialogue between Indigenous spiritual leaders and youth; and the Calls to Action which address cemeteries of former residential schools (#73-76)," said Bolen.

"We would look to be guided by Indigenous communities here in Saskatchewan in terms of the allocation of funds, with a goal of building and strengthening relationships along the way."

Bolen said that conversations with residential school survivors and Indigenous communities about the appeal and its priorities are themselves important steps forward. "Nothing is as helpful in charting a way forward as listening to the experience of survivors, and hearing directly from survivors and elders where we can be of assistance in addressing the needs of their communities," he said.

"This province has many wounds in its history, but this is the deepest, beginning with the First Peoples of this land, their experience of colonization, and most acutely, their experience of the Indian Act and the residential school system," Bolen stressed.

Bolen also addressed controversies that have emerged in the past weeks since the discovery of unmarked graves near former residential schools.

"First, there are questions about the role of the Catholic Church in residential schools. We do not believe that the public narrative has consistently been accurate and there is work to be done speaking constructively about this deep wound in our history, while honouring the experience of Indigenous people, especially survivors. The way that we tell our history matters tremendously. That work needs to continue, accompanied by education called for by the TRC," he said.

"There are many important questions about who was fundamentally responsible for residential schools and why were they allowed to function for so long. Stories have surfaced about efforts from 100 years ago to name and put a stop to the disastrous consequences of the residential school policy, drawing attention to voices that should have been heeded. In the society at large and in the Church there were voices that said this was wrong, this should stop or at the very least, we should stop being complicit in what is happening here. Those voices haunt us now."

He added: "It doesn’t help when either the Church or the government deflects their proper responsibilities. With this in mind, we are working earnestly to support healing and reconciliation through this province-wide appeal."

Bolen emphasized the importance of listening. "As we launch this campaign, I think we need to be reminded that all efforts to address the broken relationship between Indigenous peoples and the Catholic Church need to begin by listening to Indigenous people."

He noted: "Chief Cadmus Delorme has commented how Indigenous and Church people of today have inherited the present situation. I quote, 'Nobody today created residential schools. Nobody today created the Indian Act. Nobody today created the ’60's scoop. We all inherited this.' It’s helpful for us to hear that. But it is for us to rise to the occasion to be instruments of healing and reconciliation."

The archbishop also pointed to the "opportunity of the present moment," saying: "As a diverse Church with many languages, cultures and experiences, let us find a common voice to say to survivors and their communities, we want to listen to you, to hear you; we want to do our part in the long journey of overcoming this legacy of suffering; we want to work with the Calls to Action as a blueprint for restoring right relationship between peoples; we want this Appeal to help us take steps on the long walk from truth to reconciliation."

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

Please support The Catholic Register

Unlike many media companies, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our website. 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.