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Program helps train Aboriginal pastoral leaders

By Deborah Gyapong
Canadian Catholic News


OTTAWA (CCN) — The Indigenous Pastoral Ministry Leadership Program offered certificates to 24 graduates August 20, after preparing them for Catholic pastoral ministry among Aboriginal peoples.

The program, in its fourth year, is a collaboration between Kateri Native Ministries, an Ottawa-based outreach to Aboriginal people, and Saint Paul University (SPU).

Most of the graduates were Aboriginal people desiring to learn how the Catholic faith and Native traditional ceremonies can be integrated as well as how to properly celebrate a Liturgy of the Word when a priest or deacon is not present. Several graduates were priests or sisters who minister among First Nations peoples.

Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) Lacombe Province provincial Rev. Ken Forester congratulated those who completed the August 17 - 21 program, which was designed to answer the question: “How can we celebrate our culture and our customs in the context of the Catholic faith?” He said faith whether from First Nations or from the Christian tradition leads to “an understanding of the Creator who gives us life and calls us into oneness.”

Rev. Daryold Winkler, pastor of St. Elizabeth Parish in Ottawa, spoke on behalf of John Corston, who with his wife, Virginia, founded Kateri Native Ministries 30 years ago. Corston has been seriously ill.

Winkler had been approached by Corston to do pastoral work with Kateri Ministries because of his Aboriginal background. He said working with Corston made clear the “need for some kind of program helpful to Native communities” for sharing the Gospel and “helping people heal.”

“The purpose of Kateri Native Ministries has been healing and reconciliation,” Winkler said. It has also been concerned with forming Native people to help them “continue to spread the Gospel,” and “the living of the Gospel in their lives.”

Representing SPU, associate professor Lorraine Ste-Marie of the School of Transformational Leadership and Spirituality, said transformational leadership is not only about change in one’s communities. “First it has to happen in us,” she said. “The more we know about ourselves and our communities, traditions, culture and faith, the more whole we are going to feel. That is the real priority for Saint Paul University and for me to be part of this program.”

SPU Dean of Human Sciences Manal Guirguis-Younger described the University’s alliance with Kateri Ministries “to create leaders, transformational leaders” as “one of our most important ministries.” Because it creates leaders who will “bring the gospel to a world that really needs it.”

Tom Dearhouse, one of the graduates, said in an interview he took the program because St. Kateri’s Shrine is located at the Kahnawake Mohawk Reserve where he lives. Since St. Kateri was canonized, the shrine has been getting increased visitors, he said. A lifelong Catholic, Dearhouse said he has been helping out in pastoral ministry at St. Francis Xavier Mission. His priest suggested he take the program. He said he hopes to contribute to the program in future years on “cultural training” and the integration of Catholic and Mohawk and Ojibway traditions, to “help bring people together.”

Jesuit scholastic Paul Robson, originally from Winnipeg, said he enrolled because he is interested in serving First Nations’ communities when he becomes a priest. He also said there is a “Jesuit connection” because Jesuits have been working with Aboriginal communities “for centuries.”
Robson said his interest was kindled by his experience as a novice at the Wikwemikong First Nation on Manitoulin Island, Ontario. “The Jesuits as a whole are interested in continuing that kind of ministry,” he said.

Rosella Kinoshameg, a lifelong Catholic from the Wikwemikong First Nation, said she had first heard about the course more than four years ago, and every time she saw a notice about it in her missalette, she wished she could go.

A residential school survivor, Kinoshameg had educational credits she could apply, so she decided to use them. Soon to retire from 47 years of nursing in the area of maternal and child health, she thought, “At my age, what else is there for me to take? I have everything that I always wanted.”

Already a member of the Diocese of Sault-Ste-Marie’s Diocesan Order of Service (DOS), Kinoshameg said she is grateful for the training she received in how to celebrate a Liturgy of the Word, with or without the distribution of holy communion.

“It was good to connect with people and hear the different things they shared and find some tips,” she said. She was also able to share the many good things that are happening in her community.

“I’m glad I came, it really strengthened my spirituality,” she said.

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