Calgary Catholic bishop hopes apology over residential schools will lead to healing

Global News [Toronto, Canada]

June 27, 2021

By Carolyn Kury de Castillo

Calgary’s Catholic bishop says the faith of some parishioners is being tested following the recent discoveries of unmarked graves at former residential schools.

For some Catholics attending mass in Calgary on Sunday, the church’s role in residential schools has weighed heavily on their hearts.

“It’s totally devastating, all the news, especially because we have kids too. I was so shocked,” said Rose Dela Cruz, who was attending mass at St. Mark Catholic Church in northeast Calgary.

Diocese of Calgary Bishop William McGrattan said he’s heard from some parishioners who have been feeling disenchanted.

“People feel disillusioned sometimes. They question why this took place and sometimes even the responses we offer are not necessarily adequate,” McGrattan said.

“But sometimes people aren’t necessarily understanding that as these come to light, our faith is tested.”

Earlier this month, in response to the unmarked graves found at a former residential school in Kamloops, McGrattan expressed an apology that was first issued in 2014.

“We, the Catholic Bishops of Alberta and Northwest Territories, apologize to those who experienced sexual and physical abuse in residential schools under Catholic administration,” read the statement from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Calgary website.

“We also express our apology and regret for Catholic participation in government policies that resulted in children being separated from their families and often suppressed Aboriginal culture and language at the residential schools.

“We commit ourselves to work in the Catholic community and the wider society to challenge attitudes of racism and prejudice that continue to exist in Alberta and Canada today. Aboriginal communities still face many serious issues that go beyond what will be addressed at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, including land, treaty rights, education, health care, housing, jobs and environmental threats.

“We will continue to find ways for Catholics, together with other concerned Canadians, to support more effectively Aboriginal Peoples in their ongoing struggles to achieve justice and equity in Canadian society.”

“For some, it might be too little, and for some, they might say it’s not enough,” McGrattan told Global News. “But I do think in faith, we have to offer our desire to be forgiven and to offer an apology and hopefully, that would be received and we can begin to heal.”

McGrattan is advising Catholics not to lose a sense of hope, suggesting that these tragic discoveries of unmarked graves will lead to deeper healing and understanding.

“We have to be honest and ask for forgiveness to try and understand how people are suffering, and at the same time, realize that there is a reality of reconciliation that can bring a path to a future of hope,” McGrattan said.

Parishioners like Rose Dela Cruz say Catholics need to stick to their faith and stand behind Indigenous people during this time of trauma.

“We need to continue to empower them and advocate for them, especially for what happened to the children,” Dela Cruz said.

There were 25 residential schools in Alberta, according to the TRC.