By Most Rev. Richard W. Smith, Archbishop of Edmonton

Monday, February 24, 2014

An Invitation

I had a very moving experience this morning. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission will hold its final national event in Edmonton at the end of March. The Bishops of Alberta and the Northwest Territories released today their letter to the Catholic faithful of our Dioceses, inviting them to participate. You can read the letter here.

What was particularly moving arose from the venue in which I read and addressed the letter on behalf of the Bishops. This took place at Ben Calf Robe – St. Clare school, which is dedicated primarily to First Nations and Metis students, K-9, and honours Aboriginal traditions and customs in the context of the Catholic school curriculum. After I read the letter, the students (grades 6-9) had the opportunity to ask me such questions as: “why were kids taken away from their parents; what will the Church do to foster ongoing healing for those who were hurt by the Indian residential schools; will we ever forget this legacy?” To hear those questions posed by children was arresting. We ask them as adults often enough, but we can forget what it is like to view reality and receive information from a child’s perspective. It brought home in a poignant way how mistakes of the past would have left the affected children confused, bewildered and hurting. This experience has reinforced for me the importance of our participation in the TRC Edmonton event. We need to hear truth from one another: what was beneficial to the students; what was harmful; why were the policies that governed the school formulated; above all, how do we heal, reconcile and learn from this particular history? Listening openly to one another will help answer these questions.

Today is certainly radically different from this particular educational past. Much is already happening to honour and learn from our Aboriginal brothers and sisters and to foster healing and reconciliation. However, the good that is now happening cannot excuse us from listening deeply to the past. In fact, this can only help us do even better what we are now learning to do well.

Please hold these developments in prayer, and consider ways in which you can take part in the Edmonton TRC event.