Collaboration Between the Catholic Church and Aboriginal Communities: Nine Reconciliation Projects Receive Financial AidWednesday, June 22 2005
(CCCB – Ottawa)… The successful Returning to Spirit program, along with eight other projects aimed at reconciling and bringing together Catholic and Aboriginal communities, will receive financial aid from the Catholic Aboriginal Council for Reconciliation.
Meeting in June in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, the ten members of the Council approved subsidies of more than $30,000. Other grants could be given in 2005 since a second meeting is planned for later this fall to evaluate additional projects. Since its creation, the Council has administered the Fund for Reconciliation, Solidarity and Communion, financed by voluntary contributions from Canadian dioceses and Catholic organizations. The funds are distributed to community projects, to the revitalization and the development of Aboriginal languages, as well as to projects that foster better relations between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people, both in the Church and in society. Last year, grants totaling more than $117,000 were awarded to a dozen projects.
One of these projects, Returning to Spirit, has proven very successful. This initiative grew out of a need to heal the hurts brought about by negative residential school experiences. The program reunites First Nations persons and members of religious communities or other church-related participants who have in some way experienced this conflict related to Indian residential schools. The program is made up of three parts. In Part 1, a five-day intensive process, First Nations participants are led through an examination of the ways they bear their own suffering and recreate it in the present. In Part 2, “Church” participants follow the same process. Those who wish to do so move on to the third part, in which both groups are guided toward reconciliation by engaging together in the same searching conversation.
In addition to Returning to Spirit, the other projects that have received financial aid are:
The National Day of Healing and Reconciliation
Human rights training for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal networks (KAIROS)
A summer university program that allows First Nations adults to pursue their post-secondary studies while their children attend summer camp (Williams Lake, British Columbia)
A Mohawk translation of three books of the Bible (Kahnawake, Quebec)
A commemorative ceremony in recognition of former residential school students (Sagamok Anishnawbek, Massey, Ontario)
Wellness workshops to help Aboriginal women and men (Canoe Creek Band, British Columbia)
A teleconference series on reconciliation
A workshop series on building “right relationships” between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people (Vancouver Island, British Columbia)
Established in 1998 by the Bishops of Canada, the Council encourages Aboriginal leadership in the Christian community, supports healing and reconciliation, and advises the bishops on Aboriginal questions. Most Reverend Albert LeGatt, Bishop of Saskatoon and a member of the Council, welcomed the nine other Council members: Most Reverend Bertrand Blanchet, Archbishop of Rimouski, and eight Aboriginal Catholics from all parts of Canada.
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