Regina Archbishop Don Bolen

Canadians urged to make spiritual journey with Indigenous

  • November 26, 2021

As Indigenous elders, youth, knowledge keepers and residential school survivors prepare for their historic meetings with Pope Francis Dec. 17-20, Regina Archbishop Don Bolen is inviting Canadians to journey with them spiritually.

At the urging of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, Bolen is presenting a series of five Sunday homilies that will take people through Advent. The archbishop’s reflections will be uploaded to the CCCB YouTube channel.

“Now is the time for us to commit ourselves to walking with Indigenous peoples with the same commitment as St. Jean de Brébeuf, seeking ways to hear their voices speaking their truths,” Bolen said. “(Jesus) invites us as His disciples to face the past honestly, to acknowledge our failings, and to learn a new and non-colonial way of walking in solidarity with Indigenous peoples.”

Bolen wants non-Indigenous Catholics to acknowledge that for most of the last four centuries, the Church’s attempt to evangelize the original people of North America was deeply tied up in European powers claiming land and exploiting resources in the “new world.”

“While there could have been a rich encounter between cultures, languages, spiritualities and ways of living on the land, what largely resulted instead was domination of Indigenous peoples,” he said. “The Church gave moral authority to the colonizing enterprise, including power over Indigenous people here and in other parts of the world. … Good and healthy evangelization is not colonization.”

By contrast, Bolen offers up the example of St. Jean de Brébeuf and the other Jesuits who settled among the Wendat people in the village of Sainte Marie near modern-day Midland, Ont.

“At first, he viewed some of their spiritual and cultural practices negatively, but his views shifted as his respect for the people grew. God loved Brébeuf’s Indigenous friends and God was with them whether they were baptized or not,” Bolen said.

The kind of open, honest, cultural dialogue that Brébeuf came to embrace will be given new life when Indigenous delegates meet with the Pope in December, said Bolen.

“The delegation to Rome is preparing the way for this kind of experience, as delegates will be sharing their truth and encounter Pope Francis in preparation for an historic pilgrimage of healing and reconciliation. Let us accompany the delegation with our prayers and our commitment to be a part of that walking together,” he said.

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