June 29, 2021 – Bishop Mark Hagemoen of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon today wrote a letter to the Catholic community about the diocese’s participation in fundraising under the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement (IRSSA) to clarify a recent news report comparing that disappointing effort to the successful fundraising to build a diocesan cathedral.
Although not required to join the 2006 IRSS agreement (since there was no residential school located in the diocese or operated by the diocese), the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon voluntarily signed on to the agreement to “be a part of this settlement process and to support its purposes,” noted Bishop Hagemoen. “I believe this was both because of the history and ongoing commitment throughout the diocese to build relationships with Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples,” he said.
Those who signed the IRSSA, including the diocese of Saskatoon, committed to a number of items, including contributing finances to services and programs to Indigenous survivors, families, and communities, as follows:
Payment of $29 million in cash, which was directed to programs and services und the supervision of First Nations organizations, and to the “Returning to Spirit’ program. The diocese of Saskatoon’s share of this amount was $25,000.
A “services-in-kind” commitment, whereby various community services and programs worth more than $25 million were organized by the various Catholic entities to be provided for Indigenous communities. The diocese of Saskatoon’s services-in-kind contribution to Restorative Ministry was valued at $43,000.
A final fundraising appeal that was titled the “Moving Forward Together” campaign. This campaign was to also involve not only the 50 entities, but all dioceses in Canada, with a goal to raise $25 million. After two diocesan-wide collections were held, the diocese of Saskatoon contributed about $34,000 to this national effort, which ultimately fell short of the $25 million national goal.
“I understand that the leaders of various Catholic dioceses and groups put their efforts behind each component of the campaign. However, they were disappointed by the results,” said Hagemoen.
“If I was to summarize why the efforts yielded this kind of result, I would say that many of our parishioners, like many non-Indigenous Canadians, have been slow to understand the impact and the legacy of the residential school system, and this seems to be reflected in the response at the time,” Hagemoen said.
The bishop added that he would very much support revisiting this fund-raising appeal today. “The discoveries of grave sites at cemeteries near former residential schools has drawn an even greater awareness of the need for an appeal to support the healing of survivors and their families from the legacy of residential schools. I think Catholic members in our diocese and across Canada would respond with a heightened sense of solidarity and support,” he said.
In the meantime, the diocese continues to support reconciliation and healing called for in the TRC final report, he said, listing several of the TRC Calls to Action that the Catholic Church and the diocese have been working on.
“However, there is much left to address in the Calls to Action,” the bishop admitted, citing in particular the call for Pope Francis to come to Canada to apologize to residential school survivors, their families and communities for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in the spiritual, cultural, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse that occured in residential schools.
Bishop Hagemoen said: “I again state my support for such a visit by the Holy Father to Canada, and I believe that an apology from Pope Francis would bring healing to many and would help to further the journey of reconciliation in our Church and our country.”
Bishop Hagemoen also reiterated his own apology: “I deeply regret and apologize that Catholics were part of this system which was designed to separate children from their families and communities and to assimilate them into a culture the featured a colonial attitude and approach. I deeply regret and apologize for the damage done to children at these schools, which for many included neglect and abuse, and I apologize for the deaths that happened at these schools, with children dying far away from mothers, fathers, grandparents and families, and I apologize to the families and the communities who have not been able to honour children’s burial sites.”
In conclusion, the Bishop of Saskatoon expressed his hopes going forward, saying: “While it is true that the discovery of graves is exposing the wounds and scars from the Indian Residential School legacy which the Truth and Reconciliation Commission revealed – but it is also raising greater awareness of the work, findings and the recommendations of the TRC, and of the great work still ahead for us and our diocese.”
Bishop Mark Hagemoen June 25 announced further pastoral appointments and clergy updates, with most changes effective July 31, 2021.
“Please join us in welcoming the new priests to our diocese, continue to pray for those in transition, and for the international clergy as we await their arrival,” Bishop Hagemoen said in his announcement to the diocese.
The June 25 updates follows an earlier announcement about clergy appointments released May 21.
Fr. Prosper Abotsi is appointed Pastor at St. Anthony Parish, Lake Lenore; St. Ann Parish, Annaheim; and St Gregory Parish, St. Gregor. Fr. Abotsi has been serving as the Parochial Administrator of this cluster of parishes since January 2021, and has been serving as the Associate Pastor at St. Augustine, Humboldt since 2019.
Fr. Benjamin Ezekwudo
Fr. Benjamin Ezekwudo, is appointed Pastor at St. Michael Parish, Cudworth; Canadian Martyrs Parish, Middle Lake; and St. Benedict Parish, St. Benedict. SK. Fr. Ezekwudo is from the Archdiocese of Onitsha, Nigeria, where he has worked in high-school administration and has been serving as a priest for 11 years. He is expected to arrive in the diocese and begin his appointment in August.
Fr. Daniel Louh, SMA
Fr. Daniel Louh, SMA, is appointed Pastor at Sts-Martyrs-Canadiens (La paroisse des Sts-Martyrs-Canadiens) in Saskatoon effective July 31; and Associate Pastor at St. Mary’s Parish, Saskatoon, effective Dec. 4, 2021, Fr. Louh will be assisting at St. Paul Co-Cathedral until December. He arrived in the diocese on May 9, 2021, and is from the Society of African Missions after serving as Pastor in several parishes and African countries of Niger, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Liberia.
Fr. Jean Baptist Murhumwa
Fr. Jean Baptiste Murhumwa, is appointed Pastor at Sts. Donatien et Rogatien, Prud’homme; St. Denis, St. Denis; and St. Philippe Neri, Vonda. Fr. Murhumwa will also provide sacramental ministry to St. Thomas More College. Fr. Murhumwa has served as Pastor of Sts. Martyrs- Canadiens, Saskatoon, since his arrival in the diocese in 2015.
Fr. Andrew Wychucki
Fr. Andrew Wychucki, who is returning from a one-year sabbatical, is appointed Pastor at St. Aloysius, Allan; St. Alphonse, Viscount; and St. Mary, Colonsay. Fr. Wychucki will also provide ministry to the prisons.
Fr. John Ezeoruonye
Fr. John Ezeoruonye is appointed Associate Pastor at St. Augustine Parish, Humboldt. Fr. Ezeoruonye is from the Archdiocese of Onitsha, Nigeria, and has served as a priest for 19 years. He is expected to arrive in August.
Fr. Michael Magaji
Fr. Michael Magaji is appointed Associate Pastor at the Cathedral of the Holy Family, Saskatoon, effective Dec. 4, 2021, or later date of arrival. Fr. Magaji is from the Diocese of Kafanchan, Nigeria where he has served as a priest for 19 years in various assignments including Episcopal Vicar.
Fr. Alfredo Medina Ramos, CSsR
Fr. Alfredo Medina Ramos, CSsR, is appointed Associate Pastor at St. Mary Parish, Saskatoon upon arrival (anticipated in July) until December, 2021. Fr. Alfredo was ordained to the priesthood May 27, 2021, in Mexico, and exercised diaconal ministry at St. Mary Parish this past year.
Fr. Ken Beck
Fr. Ken Beck – Delegate for Retired Clergy
Fr. Gerard Cooper
Fr. Gerard Cooper – Delegate for Finance
Fr. Peter Ebidero
Fr. Peter Ebidero – Delegate for Fidei Donum Priests
Fr. Joseph Salihu
Fr. Joseph Salihu – Delegate for Ecumenism and Interfaith
Fr. Binu Rathappillil, VC
Fr. Binu Rathappillil, VC – Delegate for Clergy Formation
GREATER SASKATOON CATHOLIC SCHOOLS (GSCS)
Fr. Stefano Penna
Fr. Stefano Penna –
Delegate for GSCS Board, Teacher and Staff Support
Fr. Matthew Ramsay
Fr. Matthew Ramsay –
Delegate for GSCS Religious Curriculum and Spiritual Direction Support
Fr Martin Augustin (Manickanamparambil) SDB
Fr. Martin Augustin, SDB (Manickanamparambil) was appointed by his bishop to the Christ the King Syro-Malabar Catholic Community as of May 1, 2021, in place of Fr. Antony Plogen who was given a new assignment in London, Ontario. The Syro- Malabar Community worships out of St. Michael Parish, Saskatoon.
In a letter addressed to “First Nations, Métis, Inuit communities; families and citizens” the five bishops of the Catholic dioceses in Saskatchewan June 24 responded to news of the discovery of 751 unmarked graves at the site of the former Marieval Indian Residential School at Cowesses First Nation.
Dear First Nations, Metis, and Inuit communities; Families and Citizens:
With the news this morning of the location of 751 unmarked graves at the former Marieval Indian Residential School at Cowesses First Nation, the Catholic Bishops of Saskatchewan acknowledge that this experience is heartbreaking and devastating for all – and especially residential school survivors, their families and communities. We offer our condolences but we know that this is not enough and our words must move to concrete action.
We are here to listen to you as you communicate those ways we can walk with you in addressing the Calls to Action, rebuilding relations, addressing issues of justice, and working towards a more just society.
The discoveries of gravesites near former residential schools opens deep wounds and brings back terrible memories which re-traumatize. While we cannot imagine how difficult the process must be for survivors, intergenerational survivors and their communities, we honour and support the ongoing investigation of such grave-sites.
In the press conference this morning, Chief Cadmus Delorme stated, “the truth is there,” at the cemetery. We need to hear that truth. We have heard you telling us that healing and reconciliation can only come after the hard work of listening to the truth, a spirit of repentance, concrete acts of justice, and working with you to bring transformation and healing. Chief Delorme went on to say: “Everybody has to reset… Investment in healing from the core outwards has to happen. Once the truth has been given and told and accepted, then reconciliation will prevail.”
We are moved by and strongly support this vision, and commit ourselves to walk in solidarity with you, and to stand by you.
May the Creator guide us as we listen to and receive the truth, that we might together take the necessary steps.
Sincerely Yours in Christ,
Most Rev. Donald Bolen, Archbishop of Regina
Most Rev. Bryan Bayda, Ukrainian Eparchial Bishop of Saskatoon
Most Rev. Murray Chatlain, Archbishop of Keewatin-Le Pas
O God, Creator and Father of all, with humility we your children acknowledge the relationship of all living things. For this we thank you, we praise you and we worship you.
We call on you, Great Mystery, the Word made Flesh. – our teacher, prophet and brother – to open our hearts to all our brothers and sisters, and with them to grow in the wisdom, honesty, courage and respectfulness shown in the Sacred Teachings.
Give us the vision and honesty to recognize that the we are all brothers and sisters of one human family, created and sustained by the One Creator.
As we deal with many challenges, may we never give way to fear and anger, which can be the source of division and threat amongst peoples.
We look to how God always gives to us a remedy for sins of prejudice and intolerance.
We see in God the Creator of all things, One who always provides and is generous – even given the abuses we have heaped on one another and on the earth.
We see in the Son, Jesus Christ – the innocent Victim who pours His life blood out from the Cross for all peoples.
We see how the Holy Spirit is God’s gift, alive in our world today – inspiring vision and hope that we can have the same mind and heart of God!
O Creator, show us the way to healing, forgiveness and reconciliation, and a renewed fellowship.
A teepee stood on the grounds of St. Mary Church in Saskatoon, next to the statue of St. Kateri Tekakwitha, part of a four-day memorial wake organized by Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish. St. Mary Catholic Church is where Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish celebrates Sunday Mass every week at 1 p.m. (Photo by Fr. D. Millette)
The Fiddler family drum group presented honour songs in memory of the 215 children at both the opening and closing Masses of the four-day wake. (Photo by Kiply Lukan Yaworski)
By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News
Saskatoon’s Indigenous Catholic parish held a four-day memorial wake Thursday, June 3 to Sunday, June 6 for the 215 children recently found in unmarked graves at the former Kamloops residential school in British Columbia.
Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, which serves First Nations, Métis, Indigenous and non-Indigenous parishioners in the heart of Saskatoon, organized the event in response to the heart-breaking discovery of the children’s bodies, which has caused trauma throughout their community and reopened wounds for survivors and their families.
Held on the grounds of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Saskatoon – where a teepee was set up near the church building at the corner of Avenue O South and 20th Street West – Our Lady of Guadalupe’s memorial “Wake Honouring the Lost” opened each day with a 6 a.m. sacred pipe ceremony and a sacred drum song.
Beginning and ending with Mass celebrated by Bishop Mark Hagemoen June 3 (Vicar General Fr. Kevin McGee was also present for the opening Mass) and Sunday, June 6, the wake also included morning and evening prayers for the dead from the Liturgy of the Hours, lighting of vigil candles (one for each of the children found at Kamloops), intermittent prayer throughout each day, smudging, sacred drum and honour songs.
But most of all, the four-day event provided a prayerful presence to those struggling with the profound grief, anger and hurt of the recent discovery at a residential school run by Catholics from 1890 to 1969, when the federal government took over until the school closed in 1978.
Parish elders Irene Sharp, Sharon Genaille, Dianne Anderson, and Gayle Weenie joined Parish Life Director Debbie Ledoux, Our Lady of Guadalupe pastor Fr. Graham Hill, CSsR, Deacon Paul Labelle and St. Mary pastor Fr. Mick Fleming in praying with and listening to those who came forward to share their grief and their anger.
Sr. Carol Borreson, SGM, Elder Dianne Anderson, Elder Sharon Genaille, Elder Irene Sharp and Elder Gayle Weenie (l-r) at the opening Mass June 3 of the Wake Honouring the Lost. (Photo by Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)
Elder Rod Stone, who led the pipe ceremony on three of the four days of the wake, spoke at the end of the closing Mass June 6, speaking in his own language before addressing the crowd in English.
“Stories have been told. Now we are on a healing journey, and that involves everybody,” said the Elder, recalling the devout Catholic faith of his own parents, who were residential school survivors. He also expressed disappointment that he did not hear an apology in the recent statement from Pope Francis about the discovery of the 215 children at Kamloops.
“So, I think it is up to the individual churches, if they have the will, to bring people back in a good way. What I see (in the celebration) today, in terms of what has happened – the smudge, the tobacco, the cloth, the sweet grass, the pipe – I never thought I would see that,” Elder Stone added, thinking of how proud his father would have been to experience these traditional elements in a Catholic celebration.
Elder Rod Stone led a pipe ceremony on three of the four days of the memorial wake. (Photo by Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)
“I think we are starting a journey here, and I think that journey is looking to the next generation… my children, my grandchildren, my great grandchildren,” said Stone, who attended the closing Mass with three of his six great-grandchildren whom he has raised from birth.
“It is a beautiful feeling… loving a child, to watch them grow up to be happy, to play like a child, to show them the love and care because they are the next generation,” he said, recalling those who did not have that experience because of the residential school system.
“There is always the opportunity to change,” he added, pointing to traditional teachings as a way to heal such great loss and overwhelming grief. “Healing is right here — look at the pipe. When the elder is praying, he lifts it up, he brings his heart and his mind together,” he said. “It is a way to release the poisons.”
Parish Life Director Debbie Ledoux, who herself attended residential school in Saskatchewan for nine years, also spoke about the impact of the recent news about the 215 children – most especially for residential school survivors and their families.
“We all share the pain and the sorrow, the hurt, you name it,” she said at the conclusion of the closing Mass June 6. “It has been a very, very difficult week since the news of these babies, these children, being found.”
Parish Life Director Debbie Ledoux spoke at the conclusion of the four-day celebration, recalling the profound grief, anger and hurt of the residential schools. (Photo by Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)
In the face of all of the grief and anger, the parish elders led the way to envisioning and holding the wake, along with pastors Graham and Fleming, and Deacon Labelle, she said.
The pain of the recent discovery of the children’s bodies is particularly deep because it was “caused by our Catholic Church, caused by supposed reverential leaders…. This is what they did to us, and they are supposed to be servants of our Creator God,” she said. “And we wonder: what happened? What happened? How can you hate someone so badly that you could do that to our babies – our kids? That is so evil. That is sin.”
She continued: “I cried and I cried and I cried when I heard the news. I thought of my own babies, of my grown sons now that have babies. It is painful. It’s painful. It’s so painful.”
For those who don’t “get” the hurt, she described the encounters with just two of those who stopped by at the teepee during the days of prayer – a 60-year-old man and a 19-year-old woman, who were both devastated by the recent news, and filled with anger and pain.
“I just had a 60-year-old man standing at the fence, I was talking to him, a residential school survivor. He told me that he could not stop crying when he heard the news. He said: ‘All those things that happened to me at the residential school came back. ‘They came back and it hurts,’ he said. ‘I don’t know what to do….I am sorry,’ he said, ‘if I hurt you, but it was the Church. Weren’t they supposed to love us?'” she said, describing her own deep hurt and conflict as an Indigenous person who works for the Church and tries to bring her people back to the Church. “What do I say? What do I say?”
She also tearfully recounted the encounter with a hurting, angry young woman of 19, whom she listened to and encouraged to pray in her own language.
“Then I had to explain to her why I was still here. And why am I here? Because I am here to serve Creator God, and without Him in my life, I would not be able to try and help my people. That’s the reason I am here.”
Ledoux asked for prayer and solidarity from non-Indigenous people. “It is very painful, there’s a lot of anger out there. We need to help each other. Don’t say ‘I’ll pray for you’, say ‘I will pray with you’. Walk with us. Be with us.”
Candles represented the 215 children discovered in unmarked graves at the former Kamloops residential school. (Photo by Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)
During the closing Mass, expired candles that burned throughout the four-day vigil were placed near the altar around the statue of St. Kateri Tekakwitha (an Indigenous woman canonized as a saint of the Catholic Church in 2012).
“They represent the 215 young lives whose graves we are holding this wake for,” explained Fr. Graham Hill after the prayers of the faithful during the closing Mass held on the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ.
“On the beginning of this journey together we asked the bishop to bless a fire from which we kept the light burning,” said Hill, before inviting the bishop to share the same light, by lighting a single candle in front of a rock placed in front of the altar, with the word “hope” written in both forms of the Cree alphabet.
During the closing Mass June 6, Bishop Mark Hagemoen lights a candle to place in front of a rock with the word “hope” inscribed in both Cree alphabets, as Deacon Paul Labelle and Elder Irene Sharp look on. (Photo by Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)
At the conclusion of Mass, Hill invited those present to take a candle with them: “take it home and pray for one child – not as a statistic but as a person, a life, and to keep that memory alive.”
Later Fr. Hill also shared words from the residential school survivor who created the star blanket that decorated the altar.
“As I put this star blanket together, I felt all the areas of the medicine wheel: emotional, physical, mental spiritual,” she wrote. “When I was eight I went to the residential school By making this blanket, I was able to heal and release my past, the hurt. With every stitch I said prayers for our people, that everyone who looks at it or walks past it will feel God’s peace and God’s love and joy.”
Bishop Mark Hagemoen presided at the closing celebration for the four-day prayer vigil. The event concluded with Our Lady of Guadalupe’s Sunday Mass at St. Mary Church on the Feast of Corpus Christi – the Body and Blood of Christ. (Photo by Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)
Bishop Mark Hagemoen presided at Mass for both the opening (outdoors on June 3) and the closing (inside the church building on June 6) of the memorial days of prayer.
“I am very grateful for the teepee – the tent – that is beside the church,” he said in his June 6 homily, before pointing to the scriptural story of the tent that carried the Covenant, the Word of God, on the journey of the people of Israel, until the temple was built to contain it.
“Let the tent teach the temple, and may the temple be able to hold the journey to an uncertain future,” he said, admitting he does not know what the future holds. Even so, he affirmed trust in the abounding love, mercy and presence of God as tent and temple, teepee and church, move forward together.
“On this day that we celebrate Corpus Christi, we pray that God’s real presence will continue to bring blessing, bring strength to those who mourn, and to be able to take us on a new journey together,” Hagemoen said.
After some two years of discernment, prayer and planning, a new Youth and Young Adult Ministry Office has been launched in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon, with a renewed focus on discipleship and accompaniment.
The June 8 launch included the introduction of “Project Timothy” a leadership development program led by diocesan Evangelization and Mission Leader John Hickey and Sr. Marta Piano of the Verbum Dei Missionary Fraternity. The two leaders will recruit, mentor and accompany young adults who have a desire to share their faith and reach out to other youth and young adults.
Other priorities for diocesan Youth and Young Adult Ministry have also been established: providing support and trainingfor youth ministry in parishes across the diocese, and offering diocesan events “as a place of encounter” for youth and young adults.
“The focus is less on programming and more on discipleship and accompaniment,” describes Bishop Mark Hagemoen.
“The focus of Project Timothy is calling and supporting youth as ‘disciples’ through what Pope Francis calls ‘the art of accompaniment,’” the bishop writes in aJune 8 letter to the dioceseabout the new direction for Youth and Young Adult Ministry in the diocese. “
“It has been a slow process, but we are excited to announce this shift in the way will be delivering Youth and Young Adult Ministry in the diocese of Saskatoon,” says Marilyn Jackson, diocesan Director of Pastoral Services. “We sure did not anticipate it would take two years.”
COVID-19 caused delays, she says, but adds that these delays “did not stop the Holy Spirit from moving gently through our time of discernment.… God revealed his plan, one piece at a time.”
The two-year discernment process started with the establishment of a task force to identify features and gaps in youth ministry. “It was a group of adults, young adults, single, married, teachers, ministry leaders and clergy. The data we collected was then shared with a consultant, who presented us with a model of making missionary disciples,” says Jackson.
“Our diocese has been ready to launch our youth ministry strategy for awhile,” notes Bishop Mark Hagemoen in a video released June 8 (above).