REGINA — Archbishop Donald Bolen was the speaker following the Regina Catholic School Division’s opening mass for the 2017-2018 school year held at Resurrection Parish Aug. 31.
Bolen told the teachers and school division staff that the archdiocese has made healing and reconciliation with indigenous peoples a major pastoral and educational priority, and rejoiced that Regina Catholic Schools shared that priority. He called the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) a gift that allows us to see our history in a new light: “We need to hear that history and attend to it.”
The TRC doesn’t say everything about the residential schools was bad, said Bolen, but there were waves of pain in the abuse, loss of language and culture, “and we need to see and acknowledge that.” He called the TRC’s recommendations an invitation to engagement with the church and Catholic schools. He emphasized four points contained in Calls to Action — numbers 62 - 65 — that made recommendations that spoke to the church and education.
1) Make mandatory K-12 curriculum include residential schools, treaties, and Aboriginal people’s contributions to Canada; 2) learn how to integrate indigenous knowledge and teaching methods into the classroom; 3) address Aboriginal people in Canadian history, including the legacy of the residential schools; and 4) build student capacity for intercultural understanding, empathy and mutual respect.
The archbishop emphasized, “faith-based schools such as ours do well to provide an education on comparative religious studies with a segment on Aboriginal spiritual beliefs and practices developed in collaboration with Aboriginal elders.” Some work has been done on this, he said, but much more needs to be done. And it’s not just book learning, he told the educators, but engagement; students need to see that to carry out this healing is to be Catholic, is to be Christian, but at the same time do not let a gap form that undermines faith.
He noted that some people see faith as incompatible with rigorous thinking, “but to be a critical thinker does not run contrary to the faith; it is part of a mature faith to ask difficult questions; it is not being unfaithful it’s having an intelligent faith,” said the archbishop.
Acknowledging our failings and limitations is not throwing our ancestors under the bus, he said; it’s taking responsibility to be a faithful community of disciples in our day. “Help our students to see that, to see it in action that to be church is to be in dialogue.”
The church also carries a light — a light the world needs to see, said Bolen.