For the third year, Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish — the Indigenous-Métis Catholic parish in Saskatoon — organized a four-day event at the beginning of June to pray for all the children who died at residential schools, for their families and communities.
Once again a tipi was set up on the grounds of St. Mary Parish, where Our Lady of Guadalupe worships each Sunday afternoon, and once again prayers, hymns, and ceremonies were offered throughout the four days — along with a welcome and a listening presence for any who passed by or stopped in.
This is the third year of a four-year commitment by the Indigenous parish to hold a four-day memorial wake to pray for those lost at residential schools in Canada.
Parish Elders, parishioners, neighbours and friends gathered at the tipi on the church grounds from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday, June 1, Friday, June 2 and Saturday, June 3, before concluding the event on Trinity Sunday, June 4, 2023, with celebration of afternoon Mass at St. Mary Church.
The four-day memorial opened June 1 with a pipe ceremony, as well as singing and drumming by the Fiddler family (the Cree Canaries) along with an opening Mass celebrated on the parish grounds by Bishop Mark Hagemoen, joined by Our Lady of Guadalupe pastor Fr. Graham Hill, CSsR, St. Mary pastor Fr. Kevin McGee, and Our Lady of Guadalupe Deacon Paul Labelle.
The event started in June 2021 in the wake of news reports about the unmarked graves found at the former site of a residential school in B.C., and will conclude next year, in June 2024.
The parish made a commitment to hold a four-day memorial event each year for four years to pray and to honour all those children who were lost or hurt at residential schools. “We committed – our community of Our Lady of Guadalupe has committed – to four years, to be out here together on that sacred ground, to pray together; to pray, pray, pray,” said Debbie Ledoux, parishioner and recently-retired Parish Life Director.
At the second annual event in 2022, Our Lady of Guadalupe pastor Fr. Graham Hill, CSsR, described his answer to a friend about why four days of prayer were being held again. “I explained to him the traditional way of doing things in cycles of four,” Hill said of the plan to hold the event over four days for four years. “But we also do it again because we don’t want to rush. We don’t want to rush this. We sit in the pain. We want to listen to people’s stories, we want to journey with them. That is important work.”
Related: Second year of Memorial Wake – LINK