On the second day of the Apostolic Visit to Canada, Catholic believers thanked Pope Francis for his visit and renewed their commitment to walk together toward healing and reconciliation of indigenous peoples.
On Monday, July 25, following his visit to the residential school in Erminskine, the Father visited the historic Church of the First People’s Sacred Heart in Edmonton, Alberta, bringing together about 250 people, mostly faithful locals.
The temple, built in 1913, was designated in 1991 as a national parish for Canada’s three largest indigenous populations: First Nations, Métis and Inuit. The church suffered a fire in 2020, and was reopened in July this year.
In addition to being one of the oldest Catholic churches, the parish is considered the first in the country where Catholicism can live within the framework of the local indigenous culture. The building stands out because its interior is decorated as an indigenous “store”, and it also features many elements of sacred art created by indigenous craftsmen.
Father Susai Jesu, parish priest of the Church of the Sacred Heart and a member of the congregation of the Missionary Oblates of Mary the Immaculate, expressed his happiness and thanked Pope Francis “with all his heart” for his visit.
“Thank you so much for taking your time” to “reach out to the indigenous people of this land”, he said. “We are extremely honored to welcome you here and to receive your blessings on the many ministries you have given here for God’s people,” he said.
The priest recalled that his parish was “a sacred place of union, dialogue, reconciliation and service” for indigenous, poor, immigrant and marginalized people; And in this “healing” process he assured to accompany the Holy Father in his service and prayer.
“His Holiness, we want to be one with you on a journey of healing, reconciliation and hope. We want to walk with you to visit places of pain to offer the healing brought by Jesus,” he said.
“May today’s meeting give us all new strength to walk with Christ towards the kingdom where we are all one,” he said.
Then, members of the Parish Council, Candida Schaefer and Bill Perdue, thanked Pope Francis for their visit and reassured their commitment to continue working so that their parish remains a “place of healing and reconciliation” in the country.
Candida, a member of the Métis community and parish since the 1990s, has thanked her parish community for relating to the spirituality of her indigenous ancestors.
Bill Perdue, baptized Catholic from the Matisse community in 1963 and chairman of the Parish Finance Committee, said he was “proud” to live his Catholic faith “in a parish that recognizes and honors my Indian and Irish ancestors”. .
Perdue recalled that the parish began its service with “welcoming people from many countries as immigrants to Canada”, including “Italians, Portuguese, Spanish, Croats and most recently, Eritreans”.
In addition, he said that the church began to “express indigenous traditions in Catholic worship”, led by an indigenous oblate priest, Father Gary Labouchen.
Today, the parish is “an ethnically diverse community” that includes Canadian First Nations, Metis, Inuit, Eritrean Catholics and residents of the McCauley ward of Edmonton; and focuses on serving those most in need, Candida said.
He said they serve hundreds of people suffering from “poverty, addiction and homelessness” by giving them “lunch, clothing, an emergency food basket or just encouragement and prayer”.
During Christmas, he insisted, “feasts are given to the most needy, baskets for families and presents for children.”
“We are financially poor and rich in the practice of the Catholic faith and mercy. Especially in living, waking up, bereavement counseling and praying for redemption,” Bill said, “we are disciples of Jesus Christ when we are in need. serve.”
Referring to the abuses committed in residential schools, the bill thanked Pope Francis for “hearing our voices”. “Your presence today gives us the opportunity to face, understand, set free and transcend our trauma,” he emphasized.
Confronting the findings of the Canadian Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Candida stated that Pope Francis’ visit and her defense of the rights of children and family recognize that “every child matters” and that “every woman and girl is sacred”.
The Pope’s presence, he continued, “is a recognition of our faith that every child has the right to have a parent and a grandparent in their life, the right to celebrate their culture, whether indigenous or otherwise, and that That every child has the right to his own voice”.
In that sense, he affirmed that his parish is a place “where trauma survivors of residential schools can reconnect with their families.”
We will continue to “preserve and revive native languages, art and music and instill pride in our future generations”, he concluded.
Canadian residential schools were state-sponsored and supervised between 1883 and 1996, and were administered by various Christian denominations, including some dioceses and religious communities of the Catholic Church.
According to an investigation conducted by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission between 2008 and 2015, between 4,000 and 6,000 students died as a result of negligence or misbehavior in various residential schools in the country.