National Aboriginal Day of Prayer for Healing and Reconciliation

Friday, December 06 2002

(CCCB – Ottawa)… The Catholic Aboriginal Council for Reconciliation, has proclaimed December 12 as the National Aboriginal Day of Prayer. The Council was created by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) in 1998.

The date chosen by the Council is the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, whom Pope John Paul II has designated as the patroness of the Americas.

The Council for Reconciliation is composed of 10 Aboriginal Catholics and two bishops. At the moment there is only one bishop on the Council, Bishop Albert LeGatt of Saskatoon, with a second to be appointed in 2003. Founded as the Council for Reconciliation, Solidarity and Communion with Aboriginal Peoples, it was established to provide resources to increase awareness of Aboriginal issues, to support processes of healing and to foster Aboriginal faith leadership in the Christian community.

The current chair of the Council is Rev. Mr. Ronald Boyer, a permanent deacon of the Diocese of Saint-Jean-Longueuil, who belongs to the Anishnabeg First Nation, and is living and serving in Kahnawake, Quebec.

Inviting Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal Catholics to join in the day of prayer, Mr. Boyer has proposed the different regions across the country pray at specific times, in effect making a continuous prayer vigil. The times suggested are:

Area and time

1. Newfoundland and Labrador
4:30 a.m. – 6:00 a.m.
6:00 a.m. – 9:00 a.m.
3. Quebec
9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m
4. Ontario
11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m
5. Manitoba
1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
6. Saskatchewan
3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
7. Eastern NWT
5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
8. Alberta/NWT
7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
9. BC
9:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m.
10. Yukon
11:00 p.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Participants are encouraged to pray in whatever way they are comfortable, whether by reading Scripture, participating in the Eucharist, reciting the Rosary, meditation, a Prayer Circle or singing. The Aboriginal Council also proposes three prayers:

A prayer was composed by Mr. Graydon Nicholas, a former member of the Council, during an eight-day retreat that he had made in August 2000.

The prayer of Joseph Chiwatenhwa, a 17th century Huron warrior who dictated it to Jesuit Father Jerome Lalemant and which is found in the Jesuit Relations.

A prayer in six direction, taken from the CCCB publication Prayers for World Youth Day 2002, which is recommended for those choosing to gather together.

Our Lady of the Americas

Our Lady of Guadalupe is a popular Marian devotion in Latin America, particularly in Mexico. Appearing in 1531 to an impoverished Aztec, Juan Diego, and speaking in Nahuatl, his native tongue, the “Lady from Heaven” asked him to build a shrine in her honour on the site, which is on the outskirts of Mexico City. Her image is imprinted on a cactus cloth which is preserved in the shrine. The message of love and compassion associated with Our Lady of Guadalupe and her promise to protect all humanity had a major impact on Latin America, with nearly 9 million native inhabitants converting to Christianity within less than 10 years after the apparitions. They also inspired a renewed sense of dignity and hope among Aboriginal Peoples in Latin America following the Spanish conquest. The basilica now on the site is considered the most popular Marian shrine in the world, with some 10 million visitors a year, and is second only to St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome as the most visited Catholic church in the world.