A police forensics team investigates at the site of stabbing spree in Weldon, Sask., Sept. 4. There are at least 11 dead and 18 injured at multiple scenes at James Smith Cree Nation and Weldon. CNS photo/David Stobbe, Reuters

Together in prayer for Saskatchewan’s grief

  • September 7, 2022

Saskatchewan’s Catholic bishops have expressed their condolences to the victims of this past weekend’s horrific stabbing spree on the James Smith First Nation and nearby Weldon, Sask., that left 11 dead, including one of the accused, and at least 18 injured.

In a letter released Sept. 7 titled “Joining in Prayer in this Time of Grief,” the Prairie province’s five bishops — Regina’s Archbishop Donald Bolen, Saskatoon Bishop Mark Hagemoen, Archbishop Murray Chatlain of Keewatin Le Pas, Prince Albert Bishop Stehpen Hero and Archbishop Lawrence Huculak, Apostolic Administrator of the Eparchy of Saskatoon — extended “our deepest condolences to all those affected by the acts of violence that took place at James Smith Cree Nation and the village of Weldon on Sept. 5.”

The bishops said they mourn “those whose lives have been lost, those who have been injured and those whose peace and security has been shattered by these horrific events,” and said “we invite all to join in prayer, turning to God for comfort and healing.” 

The bishops also prayed for everyone across Saskatchewan who has been providing assistance, include “first responders, health-care workers and everyone offering help and support to those affected by this tragedy.”

The previous day, Hero — whose diocese includes James Smith Cree Nation and Weldon — released his own letter expressing shock and sadness at the events. He said he had written to officials from those communities “to express the solidarity, prayers and support of the people of our diocese in the face of this tragedy.”

“Please keep in your prayers the victims and families who have been touched by this senseless violence and who are now grieving and struggling to cope with the loss of their loved ones,” Hero wrote.

The Saskatchewan bishops’ letter came on the same day RCMP located the remaining suspect, Myles Sanderson, who subsequently died of apparent self-inflicted wounds as police arrested him near Rosthern, Sask. His co-accused, brother Damien, was among the dead at James Smith Cree Nation.

The Catholic bishops joined with Bishop Michael Hawkins of the Anglican Diocese of Saskatchewan in praying for the victims and survivors. The Diocese of St. Albert asked its followers on Facebook Sept. 4 to “pray with Bishop Hawkins and the community of James Smith First Nation and Weldon” in a post on its page.  Hawkins led a prayer vigil that was recorded and posted on social media. The Anglican Church presence is strong in the Cree community as James Smith Cree Nation is home to St. Stephen’s Cathedral.

“Like all of you I am reeling from the news from this morning and today about the unspeakable tragedy at James Smith reserve and in Weldon,” said Hawkins. “It is hard to imagine the terror, the grief, the concern, the sorrow and trauma of the families and the people.”

Hawkins alluded to the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby’s late April visit to the Cree community in his remarks. Welby met with residential school survivors and First Nations elders at James Smith Cree Nation’s Bernard Constant Community School.

“At the time, Archbishop Justin spoke in reference to the experience and legacy of the residential school as a ‘living hell,’ ” said Hawkins. “Surely what the people of James Smith have gone through today, and are experiencing now, is a living hell.”

Welby directly responded to the horrific attacks in a Twitter post on Sept. 5.

“Having visited James Smith Cree Nation earlier this year, I’m appalled and deeply saddened by the fatal stabbings there and across Saskatchewan this weekend. I mourn with the community and pray that God would comfort all those experiencing such unimaginable anguish,” said Welby.

Queen Elizabeth II also sent her condolences after the attack which has drawn worldwide attention to the Prairies.

Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools released a statement of prayer and support on Labour Day and offered support for affected students.

“We at Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools are deeply troubled and saddened by news of the tragic events at James Smith Cree Nation and Weldon over the weekend. We pray for the souls of those who were killed, for a speedy recovery of those injured, and comfort of God the Creator for those who mourn.”

Schools did open but the board said it understands if “parents do not feel comfortable sending children to school.”

The stabbing spree has shocked the nation and led to alerts across Saskatchewan and the neighbouring provinces of Manitoba and Alberta as police carried out their search for the two brothers.

Last modified on September 8, 2022

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