Rome Trip to Help Healing Process

By Mary Ellen
The Chronicle Herald

October 2, 2008

INDIAN BROOK — The irony is not lost on Mi’kmaq people going on a healing journey to Rome later this month.

Survivors of the Shubenacadie Indian Residential School, youth and support workers will tour the very centre of Roman Catholicism, in an effort to promote healing after years of physical, mental and/or sexual brutality at the hands of Roman Catholic leaders.

And they’ll get front-row VIP seating at a papal mass.

"These people were all raised in strong, religious families and they never lost their faith," said Violet Paul, a senior policy analyst with the Atlantic Policy Congress of First Nation Chiefs Secretariat. "It is still very important to us."

The Mi’kmaq people always knew there was a Creator, she said.

"And now in the Catholic Church, we are bringing a lot of our own traditions into the church," she explained.

"Saying the Our Father in Mi’kmaq in the church, for instance, is a way of bringing our traditions into the service."

Ms. Paul is part of a group called the Outreach Residential School Atlantic Committee, an intergovernmental organization that includes a variety of agencies committed to helping implement healing strategies for survivors of residential schools.

"The beginning of the healing happened on the day of the apology," said Ms. Paul.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper publicly apologized to former students of Indian residential schools in June. The apology from the floor of the House of Commons came on the heels of an out-of-court settlement that provided lump-sum payments to survivors of residential schools and funding for healing programs.

"This initiative to do a healing journey to Rome came from the survivors and is a partnership of the Catholic Church and Health Canada," Ms. Paul said.

"It is a long journey in terms of getting to reconciliation and this is part of Indian Brook’s program to help our elders get on the path to healing."

The group will leave on Oct. 12.



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