SASKATOON — The Western Conference on Liturgy held their annual meeting and workshop in Saskatoon Oct. 23 - 34, exploring the theme Beyond Smudging and Sweetgrass: Understanding Indigenous Spirituality and Faith Traditions.
Delegates held a business meeting during Friday and the workshop began that evening at Sts-Martyrs-Canadiens church hall. The workshop was attended by diocesan representatives from across Western Canada seeking to discover more about integration of Aboriginal spiritual practices and Catholic liturgy.
The workshop opened with a greeting and prayer by Jake Sanderson, an elder affiliated with Wanuskewin Heritage Park. He welcomed delegates to Treaty 6 territory and offered a prayer for open minds and hearts to receive the gifts the Creator intended for the session, saying, “We all have the same language when we talk about the Creator.”
Marian Grady, chair of the Western Conference on Liturgy executive, welcomed participants from the dioceses of Victoria, Nelson, Grouard-McLennan, Keewatin-Le Pas, St. Boniface, Prince Albert, Regina and Saskatoon.
Archbishop Gérard Pettipas of the Grouard-McLennan archdiocese, introduced the workshop topic and the guest speaker, reminding the gathering that Pope Francis is a frequent promoter of the need for dialogue. Pettipas urged everyone to enter into the weekend and learn from each other.
Guest speaker for the workshop was Sister Eva Solomon, CSJ, a longtime presenter on First Nations spiritual practices and liturgy.
Solomon offered an analogy between faith traditions and sunlight shining through a crystal. It is the same light, but it is refracted into different colours; it is the same with God: we worship the same God, but in different ways.
She also pointed out that interculturation of religious belief goes all the way back to the beginning of Christianity, to the dream Peter had in which “God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean” (Acts 10:28). Solomon made many connections for the participants and explained ways in which First Nations spirituality can be integrated into liturgy.
A second session was led by Rev. Gary Kuntz of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Regina. He chronicled his experiences of learning about the Anishnabe culture by being immersed in it to learn the language and participate in ceremonies. That changed his way of understanding God, faith and Scripture.
“Until we are able to recognize and tell history as it actually happened and develop authentic relationships with each other, how can we worship together?” Kuntz emphasized the need to honour knowledge-keepers in every culture in order to create relationship and facilitate truth and reconciliation between communities.
The Western Conference for Liturgy (WCL) is the association of diocesan liturgical commissions, diocesan directors of liturgy, and others interested in liturgy in Western Canada. Its members are drawn from both the English and French sectors of the church in Western Canada, under the wing of the Assembly of Western Catholic Bishops (AWCB). Archbishop Gérard Pettipas, CSsR, currently serves as the liaison between the AWCB and the WCL.