Julia Kozak, an Indigenous dancer, will be one of the guests at the annual Cardinal’s Dinner Nov. 23, presented virtually again this year. Photo by John Ecker, Pantheon Photography

Healing, reconciliation focus of Cardinal’s Dinner

By 
  • November 21, 2021

Reconciliation will be the major theme for the annual Cardinal’s Dinner in the Archdiocese of Toronto on Nov. 23.

It will be held virtually again in these continuing pandemic days of 2021, with a distinct focus on the Church and its relationship with Indigenous peoples.

The theme of the event will be “Our Journey Toward Healing and Reconciliation,” apropos for an age where the Church is vowing to make amends with Canada’s original people for past wrongs by its entities which operated almost many federally-funded residential schools.

“There’s lots to learn in there,” said John Ecker, who is producing the Cardinal’s Dinner alongside Salt + Light Media. Ecker is also co-chair of the archdiocese’s Pastoral Response Committee with respect to healing and reconciliation efforts.

The timing is fortuitous with the Dec. 17-20 meeting in Rome between Pope Francis and an Indigenous delegation, and the the pontiff’s anticipated visit to Canada in the future.

“It’s a little bit of an introduction to the issues and matters that we need to reflect on as Catholics in advance of both those events,” said Ecker.

In past years donors were welcomed to a formal dinner, but the pandemic for the second year in a row has forced it online. Cardinal Thomas Collins will open the evening with a brief welcome and prayer, followed by remarks surrounding healing and reconciliation and the archdiocese’s efforts in those regards, including the reconciliation fund the archdiocese has set up in the wake of the discovery of unmarked graves over the spring and summer near former residential schools. The dinner will also feature five guests from the Indigenous community.

“It’s a good discussion, particularly about the need for healing and reconciliation, their own efforts and work in that regard and a lot of discussion about the similarity between our faith in Jesus Christ and this intersection with much of (Indigenous) spirituality,” said Ecker.

“I think talking to those people as well as our audience hearing from them is going to help our audience on their own path with healing and reconciliation.”

The dinner is in its 43rd year, having begun under the late Cardinal Gerald Emmett Carter. More than $6 million has been raised for a number of charities.

This year donors will be able to target their donations. They can choose either the archdiocese’s reconciliation fund — which is still a work in progress as Indigenous voices are heard to make sure it has the appropriate impact  — or donate to one of the charities.

Ecker is hoping this is the last year of hosting the dinner virtually.

“Everybody involved will look forward to next year when we will probably, touch wood, be able to gather in person,” he said.

The one-hour broadcast of the dinner begins at 7 p.m. and will also be live-streamed on the archdiocese’s Facebook page. For more information, or to donate, go to archtoronto.org/cardinalsdinner.

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