Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ
On the Island of Montreal alone there are 68,000 First Nations people who are Christians and not affiliated with any parish. Their own traditions include a profound reverence for the oral transmission of age-old stories, and a deeply reverential hospitality that extends beyond the human family to all Creation.
In recent years, as our Aboriginal brothers and sisters have sought healing from suffering they did not bring on themselves, they have experienced a revival of spirituality, a heart for reconciliation, and a will for renewal in faith that all Christians can recognize as cause for celebration.
On Thursday, June 21, 2012, National Aboriginal Day, the Diocese of Montreal will host a day of awareness — “Caring for Aboriginal People: A Question of Respect.” This is a wonderful occasion for learning and sharing. It has been planned to be stimulating surprising, and enjoyable.
I invite you to participate in this unprecedented occasion, together with staff members in your parishes who interact directly with the public. Please post notices on bulletin boards and in parish announcements informing your whole community about this event well in advance. In small parishes it might be necessary to close the office so all can attend. This will be an excellent decision. I encourage you and your leaders, particularly those involved in hospitality, in welcoming visitors (as stewards, greeters, sidespersons), in healing, in social justice and social outreach, as well as your wardens and vestry officers and individuals who have ties with the people of the First Nations — to attend this special day.
A number of speakers are making plans to come; so are representatives of the Abenaki, Aikamekw, Algonquin, Cree, Huron, Innu, Mig’Maq, Mohawk, and Naskapi nations, and of the Inuit people. Broken Walls, an internationally renowned fusion Rock/Christian/Aboriginal musical group, is sending three of their members to provide music and animation. They will also offer a concert. All in all, a very lively day is planned, with workshops and exercises as well as informative talks.
Please note that, to bring home the present lack of drinking water and other necessities on reserves in Canada, the animators of this workshop and guest speakers will observe a fast and invite you to join. People who cannot join the fast for health reasons or do not wish to participate may bring their own refreshments or go out for lunch. Water will be provided during the day for everyone.
The objective is for us to learn. How many of us pray daily for suffering in far places of the world, and turn our faces away from those who seek healing on our doorstep? I hope to see you and your people on June 21 in the Cathedral. Please reserve your places now. Registration form available here.
I am personally gratified that this year, on National Aboriginal Day, we as a diocese can show real leadership in moving beyond our past—beyond the shameful era of the residential schools, when “education” about the Christian God and faith was a terrifying experience for the children of the people who welcomed our ancestors to this land.
On June 21, we have a first-in-400 years opportunity to meet not only as children of one Creator, but as fellow bearers of the Good News to our wider community. Let the world watch us and say, “See how they love one another!”
I bring you greetings.
I am delighted that the Diocese of Montreal has agreed to this learning and healing activity and that you will be an active participant in it. I am very pleased to see that both our peoples will continue the process of breaking down the barriers of the past as the Creator guides us together on a new journey of brotherhood and sisterhood. My heart and spirit dances with the cry of the eagle, the messenger of the Great Spirit. Finally, both nations will make this journey in friendship and togetherness. We must, however, remember that, on this journey, we need to overcome the old distrust, misinformation and ignorance of the ways of each other. I believe you and I as brothers, along with National Indigenous Bishop Mark MacDonald, can reach the goals we all wish to achieve through this teaching and learning experience.
The last words of Crowfoot, who was noble and fearless even as he faced death, were, “What is life? It is as the flash of the firefly in the night. It is as the breath of the buffalo in the winter. It is as the little shadow that runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.”
It is now time for us to devote our lives to renewal and furthering the development of understanding between our nations. We are all children of the Creator. We are all caretakers of this land called Turtle Island, this earth. This teaching and healing activity will give us all the chance to learn and therefore better understand each other.
We look forward to a day of building and sharing with all the clergy, lay leaders and interested individuals in the Diocese of Montreal as we celebrate National Aboriginal Day 2012 together.