Tag Archives: Church

‘The Residential School Is A Clear Example Of The Social Sin Of The Church’: Mulligan

How did we get here? Homily for National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, September 30, 2021, 10 a.m. Mass, Parish Community of St. Kevin

Sunday evening, October 3: About 60 people participated in the Every Child Matters walk along East Main Street, to Cross Street and then to Merritt Island where a short program of speeches was scheduled to be held./Photos by Joe Barkovich.

By James T. Mulligan, CSC

A couple of months ago we all cheered and felt wonderful when the Canadian women soccer team won the gold medal at the Olympics. Eleven women on the pitch won it …. but we all won it because we are all Canadians. We were all very, very proud.

Today is the First National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. Today we remember and honour the children who died while attending residential schools and the survivors, families and communities still affected by the legacy of the residential schools system. These residential schools were Canadian as we are all Canadian; these Canadian residential schools were painful and death-dealing to children; these Canadian residential schools were sinful and as Canadians we are all ashamed and we are sorry. As Canadians this is a day for us to recognize the sin of these schools; this is a day for us to learn the truth and to be sorry and to seek pardon and reconciliation. 

What were the residential schools?

More than 150,00 First Nations, Metis and Inuit children were forced to attend church-run, government-funded schools between 1870 and 1997. The Canadian government was concerned that these children were not well cared for in their homes. Poor education and health. The government wanted to assimilate the children into white Canadian culture and language and the ways we did things. Children were removed from their families and culture and forced to learn English, embrace Christianity and adopt the customs and ways of the white majority. Many of the children at residential schools were physically, sexually or psychologically abused. The schools became the instrument for cultural genocide part of the effort to eradicate indigenous language and culture. More than 4,000 (likely twice that number) died while attending these schools, most due to malnourishment or disease.

The residential school was EVIL.

How did the Catholic Church become involved in these residential schools?

How could the church participate in such evil? The government asked the churches to administer the schools. Sixty percent of the schools were Catholic. Leadership in the church thought that this would be the way to have these children become Catholic and learn our language and become part of our culture.

Bishop Vital Grandin was the Bishop most responsible for shaping Catholic residential schools. He was in Edmonton / St Albert. He had come from France. He was impressed by the reforms of the French prison system. In 1875 this is what he said about the Indigenous children in the schools: We instill in them a pronounced hatred for native life so that they will be humiliated when reminded of their indigenous origin. When they graduate from our institutions the children have lost everything native except their blood.

The church participated in the residential schools because those who made the decisions were deaf to the gospel. They failed to say no to the racist policy of the government. They proceeded with much arrogance and pride. Many of the religious sisters and priests were good people but they failed to realize that what they were about was evil and sinful. Ignorance was their sin. The residential school is a clear example of the social sin of the church. 

Sure we are a church of saints. We are a holy people. But we are also a church of sinners. Personally we sin. But socially we sinned when no one even questioned the existence of these schools and the church’s participation in them. My church did this! Your church did this. This National Day for Truth and Reconciliation is the moment for us to recognize the hurt and the pain our church has inflicted. This is a moment for us to ask for forgiveness. Today is also “orange shirt day”. The orange shirt day honours the residential school survivor Phyllis Webstad who had her orange shirt taken away from her on the first day of school.

THE WORD OF GOD helps us:

From the Old Testament – the book of Wisdom: the sacred writer is speaking to government leaders reminding them that their authority comes from God. And the writer is very direct: You did not rule rightly or keep God’s law or walk according to God’s purpose. Severe judgement falls on those in high places. This is a very strong critique of government leaders and the church leaders who fail to discern God’s purpose.

And from the New Testament – the Book of Revelation: there is a vision of joy and harmony. There is hope and the possibility of living together: Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth / the home of God is among women and men and girls and boys / God will dwell with us and we will be his people / God will wipe away every tear from their eyes / death will be no more. 

From the Gospel we must make Jesus’ words into a prayer of healing for the First Nations, the Metis and the Inuit … for all who continue to bear the pain of the residential schools: Come to me all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon me and learn from me for I am gentle and humble of heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.

This National Day for Truth and Reconciliation touches all of us. We are Canadians. We are immensely proud and happy for a gold medal won by our women on the soccer pitch. We cheer. We laugh. We are joyful. 

And as Canadians on this National Day for Truth and Reconciliation we are subdued. We go deeper into “the truth” of racism of the past and of the present; we learn that “history” is still very much alive – that the horrendous actions of many years ago continue to speak to us in our time; and that remembering the sinful tragedy of residential schools we might work toward healing and justice for our First Nations and Metis and Inuit brothers and sisters.  Amen.

(James T. Mulligan is a member of  the English Canadian Holy Cross Fathers and Pastor Emeritus of the Parish Community of St. Kevin, Welland. His homily is presented here in its entirety.)

HERITAGE LIVES: Holy Trinity Church, A Long-Time Part Of The City’s Faith Community

Main entrance as seen from Division Street, 1905. (Supplied photo)

By Terry Hughes

Our postcard dated 1905 shows the “Church of England ” known today as Holy Trinity Anglican Church in its original form on Division Street, for which it abandoned its original location in the Irish Ward on Smith Street. This postcard image bears little resemblance to its present appearance.

/File photo

In 1912 a bell tower and new entrance were constructed. A beautiful window of the Holy Mother replaced the main entrance to the interior and provided a location for the baptismal font.

The interior of Holy Trinity gives off a warm and comfortable feeling. Colourful stained glass windows telling the Biblical story enhance the walls along with rich panelling throughout. The archway at the end of the nave as you approach the altar has some handsome carvings. Here, the choir benches and organ are located along with the pulpit and the place where the gospel is read.

The altar is enhanced by a beautifully carved image of the Last Supper and cross where the Eucharist is celebrated. A railing still exists at the place where people receive the host and wine.

And looking down on his place of worship, a magnificent image of Jesus Christ is seen.

While attending Holy Trinity, the clergy who ministered to the parish during that time reflected a variety of what the Anglican community refers to as high, middle and low church. Canon Davis was a fired-up and emotional speaker and you never fell asleep during his sermons. In contrast, Father Harold Bagnall was more ‘high’ church and offered a less radical approach to his ministry. Archdeacon Hill was somewhere in between. 

The service begins with a procession led by a person referred to as the crucifer carrying the cross followed by the choir and priest. Don Reilly often headed that procession as crucifer. Playing the organ was long-time choirmaster Harry Cawthorn who worked with the senior members and boys at eleven o’clock service while the girls  were involved at the ten o’clock service.  

The addition of the gymnasium in 1968 (parish hall building) expanded the services that the church offers to the community. In the present day, the monthly fish and chips dinner, served in that space, has become very popular with a huge following in the community.

Editor’s note: This should not be read as a complete history of Holy Trinity, whose storied presence here goes back to 1857. The original Holy Trinity on Smith Street was opened in 1859, and the move to the current site was made in 1878.

Next: Bonus column, Heading back to school after summer holidays in the ’40s.

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(Terry Hughes is a Wellander who is passionate about heritage, history and model railroading. His opinion column, Heritage Lives, appears on the blog once or twice monthly.)