In recognition of the hundreds of unmarked graves discovered near residential schools in the last month and a half, Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Parish in Windsor held a mass where a formal apology was issued.
"Together, both clergy and laity alike, we apologize for what was done by certain Roman Catholic organizations to the First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples of Canada at these residential schools," said John Cappucci, the principal of Assumption University.
"Assumption University and Assumption Parish collectively and sincerely express our condolences and sympathies to the indigenous communities on the discovery of a total of 1,148 unmarked graves outside of various former residential schools," said Cappucci.
"We realize that our indigenous friends are in mourning and we wish to join with our friends in their mourning at this time."
Cappucci was dressed in black for mourning and three priests taking part in the mass were wearing purple, the colour of penance in the church. Cappucci explained the mass was 'penitential' in nature and there would be no singing.
"We recognize that healing will indeed be a challenge."
"I want to echo Dr. Cappucci's words from beginning of mass an express our sorrow and our sympathies and our apologies to the members of the indigenous communities in Canada for the treatment they received at the hands of certain Catholic organizations," said Father Steven Huber, Administrator of the church, adding that he expressed a commitment to work for 'greater justice, to work for greater peace', cautioning he didn't know what the commitment would look like at this time.
Following the apology Huber called for a moment of silence and prayers.
"We pray for all those who suffer as a result of the discoveries of the former residential schools.We pray that in this moment of pain in this moment of grief the Lord will touch their hearts and make his healing presence known to them," Huber prayed.
"We pray for the souls of those who died. Those who lie in the unmarked graves. We pray that even as they lie in death we may learn and we may able to treat them and give them the dignity that they deserve," he prayed.
He said Indigenous people were invited to attend.
"They're grateful that we're doing something to try to respond. But there seems to be a hesitancy to want to set foot in a Catholic church, which is understandable because I know that there is a lot of hurt and there is a lot of pain at this moment," Father Huber explained to CBC before the mass.
"So we just feel that we need to still try to do what we can again to express solidarity and to show that even though we know it's a long road ahead, we are committed to the work that needs to be done to bring about greater justice and reconciliation."
Land of the church donated by the Huron First Nations
Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Parish was built on land donated by Huron First Nations in the 18th century.
Father Huber said the church wants to take steps toward reconciliation with Indigenous people at a local level and plans to restore the church by acknowledging the history through additions in the building.
He said the church is considering artwork or a museum display to be included.
At the national level, Indigenous leaders have called for Pope Francis to make a formal apology on behalf of the Catholic Church for the residential school system. The Pope has not yet agreed to issue a formal or public apology.
Regardless, a delegation of Indigenous people will be travelling to the Vatican between December 17 to December 20 to seek an official apology.
Reverend fears apology will fall on deaf ears
An Indigenous Anglican priest on Walpole Island says the gesture is a good one -- but the church could have responded more quickly.
"It's kind of late in progress I think. Indigenous people responded right away with shoes on their doorsteps of residential schools, orange shirts and marches. It just seems like it's a slow response, but that's just an opinion," said Reverend Mark Loyal of Walpole Island First Nation.
Reverend Loyal said an apology would be more meaningful if it came from the Pope. He fears the apology to be given on behalf of Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Parish, may fall on deaf ears.