Heartbreak in Kamloops

 Indigenous Catholic Icon of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, BC artist André Prévost

Heart of Jesus, broken for our sins, have mercy on us.

By now you may have heard the shattering news of the mass grave of 215 children at Kamloops Residential School, a government school operated by Catholic religious in British Columbia, Canada. For many of our American readers, this may be the first time you have heard of the residential school system. But for our Canadian readers, this is the latest in a decades-long string of tragic revelations of the legacy of an educational system designed to rid Indigenous children of their culture. It was a government program founded on racist ideology, enabled by various churches that ran the schools in accordance with the government mandate.

Heart of Jesus, victim of our sins, have mercy on us.

Unfortunately, to identify the sin of racism as present solely in members of the government or churches of that era would not be accurate. The sin of racism was harbored in the hearts of many across Canadian society. It was systemic, as evidenced by the residential school system. With the last residential school closing in 1996, the wounds of this racism are still very fresh, and the sin of racism is far from eradicated.

Heart of Jesus, source of all consolation, have mercy on us.

In a recent video released by the Archdiocese of Edmonton with Chief Littlechild and Archbishop Smith, Chief Littlechild encouraged viewers not to let this news break us, not to let it rob us of our hope. As Catholics, Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike, this is a difficult history to face, accept, and take responsibility for. Where is our hope? Where is our comfort? Where is our transformation?

We find all these things in the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Heart of Jesus, our peace and reconciliation, have mercy on us.

Christ’s heart suffered, bled, and died for us while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8). Christ’s heart broke for each and every child taken from their families to be put in a residential school, and for every family and community that lost them. Christ’s heart broke for the sins of those perpetrating wounds in Indigenous children, families, and communities. Christ’s heart broke for every time the dignity of his beloved Indigenous people is attacked in the streets and workplaces of today.

I was born in Winnipeg, the city with the highest Indigenous population in Canada. As of the last census, nearly 93 000 people identified as First Nations, Métis, or Inuit. In the climate of a richly Indigenous city, I witnessed many attacks on the dignity of my Indigenous brothers and sisters from people I knew and loved. It was heart-breaking. Yet I have also witnessed the conversion of racist attitudes in some of these same people. I have seen their conversion happen in Christ and know firsthand it is possible.

It is possible to face these dark realities together, honestly, as a Church, in the light of Jesus Truth. It is possible to open ourselves up to vulnerably examine our own hearts to find where we need conversion, in the light of Jesus Way. And it is possible to enact healing and reconciliation in the light of Jesus Life.

It is possible to face these dark realities together, honestly, as a Church, in the light of Jesus Truth. It is possible to open ourselves up to vulnerably examine our own hearts to find where we need conversion, in the light of Jesus Way.

Heart of Jesus, our life and resurrection, have mercy on us.

As we turn to the Sacred Heart of Jesus this week, let us pause to search our own hearts. Are there attitudes of resentment, self-righteousness, labeling, judgement, blanket annoyance, or impatience we hold toward another group of people? Do we look at people who are different from us and wish they were the same as us? Do we get defensive when mistakes or sins are pointed out to us instead of openly allowing the Lord to use people’s comments to convert us?

Let us make the final request of the Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus our own: “Jesus, touch my heart and make it like your own.” In him we find the humility and the gentleness we need to allow ourselves to be changed, converted, and enflamed with a zealous love for him and his people. May he form his heart in us, so that we may love with his love–a love that can transform the world. And may we learn from the Indigenous wisdom of listening to others for as long it takes, so that we may truly understand, honour and love others with this gift of Christ.

Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.

Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.

Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world, have mercy on us.

Jesus, gentle and humble of heart, touch our hearts and make them like your own. Amen.

by Sr. Orianne Dyck

We are grateful to André Prévost for the use of the icon above.

To pray with this Indigenous Catholic Icon of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, you can visit BC artist André Prévost’s webpage here: https://www.andreprevost.com/siksika-nation.html

Helpful Resources:

To learn more about Catholic efforts to seek truth and healing, you can read about “Our Lady of Guadalupe Circles” here: https://ourladyofguadalupecircle.ca/

To pray with an Indigenous Catholic Icon of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, you can visit BC artist André Prévost’s webpage here: https://www.andreprevost.com/siksika-nation.html

To pray the full Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (excerpts of the Litany appear in this article in bold), visit: https://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/prayers-and-devotions/litanies/litany-of-the-sacred-heart-of-jesus

To watch the joint statement and interview with Chief Littlechild and Archbishop Smith referenced in this article, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9OXW395L2dU and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fPtpgvlsPAw

To read Pope Francis’ statements regarding the Kamloops discovery after Sunday’s Angelus, visit: https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2021-06/pope-appeal-canada-residential-school-discovery-healing-reconcil.html

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