It's a complicated time for many Catholics in Canada.
This week on The Loop host Clare Bonnyman talks with three young Catholics in the Edmonton area, ahead of the Pope's visit to Alberta. Chad Alexis-Bruno, Andrew Bennett and Oscar Baron shared what it means to be faithful, amidst truth and reconciliation.
Alexis-Bruno, Baron and Bennett discussed their own experiences with faith on the panel. In part, how they came to it, and the difference between personal beliefs and the institution of the church. Host Clare Bonnyman asked them all how they're reckoning with Canada's history of residential schools, as Catholics.
The following text has been edited for clarity and length.
Andrew Bennett: Well, I was following when news of the graves came out. And I was watching the delegations going to Rome and then the part that the Archdiocese of Edmonton was taking. So for me, I said when I became a Canadian citizen, I take on everything that this society has or had done in the past. So for me, this one thing that I did. When the Pope is coming to apologize for the Catholic Church's role, I think it's still really a Canada-wide society and every Canadian should be taking part in this reconciliation process.
I want to be part of it. I want to move with them. There's one thing that Pope Francis really did say as I was seeing his apology in Rome, he did say that "the church is with you." He told the Indigenous people the church is with you. And I think that shouldn't just be isolated to the clergy. It's up to all Catholics. And so, being a Canadian and a Catholic, I want to be there.
Clare Bonnyman: Chad I'm seeing nodding, as an Indigenous person how do you react to that?
Chad Alexis-Bruno: I know he's coming to Lac St. Anne and that's one thing I'm just excited for was that.I know that they're trying to take the right steps to say sorry and, they want to help the indigenous people and move on after this. They want to grow. I see the you know, the Pope and people with Catholic faith and everything like that, they know what they did. And I know they're sorry. I think they want to be forgiven. And honestly, it's a whole tribe or whole nation thing that this happened to them. Some of the few stories that I heard from my grandma was that they weren't allowed to speak their language, their native tongue. So some of our culture was lost through that because most of our culture was through oral speaking and learning.
CB: Chad, has the history of residential schools… has that ever affected the way you express or feel your faith?
CA: Yes, I'm a little shaken about it. And I want to be mad with them but at the same time, what is me being mad going to do?
Both of my parents and my grandparents went to [residential schools]. But they never talked about it. And I think that's one thing that they weren't allowed to talk about it. And because of that, they didn't get the help they need. But through the Indigenous way, people go to sweats, to be closer to Wakâ and Wakâ chihîkchu. Wakâ means God, and Wakâ chihîkchu means son of God, Jesus.
Everybody prays in their own way.
CB:Oscar, when you learned the history of residential schools. Has that affected your own faith and your own connection to the church?
Oscar Baron: That is a part of Canadian history that I didn't know when I came here. I know when I was in Colombia, Canada is always presented as the perfect country, like the dream, a dream come true. So when I came here, I first came to study English. This study was presented in one of our English classes. So it was kind of shocking. I mean, in Colombia, we also have severe trauma, some difficulties with Indigenous people. But this one was really, really recent. I was kind of shocked, but it didn't affect my faith.
I always have recognized that the church is full of sinners, and the church is here to change people's life. But the church can make mistakes as well. Part of reconciliation is that recognition that, that is not what Jesus came to say.
The church evolving, is recognizing not only the crimes with the Indigenous people here in Canada, but with other minorities that have been marginalized for decades. It's something that needs to happen. That doesn't affect my faith, it gives me more hope that things can change.
Support is available for anyone affected by their experience at residential schools or by the latest reports.
A national Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been set up to provide support for former students and those affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour national crisis line: 1-866-925-4419.