Adult faith development Puts out into the Deep!
with an exploration of the gift of Aboriginal Spirituality

Participants in Putting Out Into The Deep! began a rich and challenging day looking at the gift Aboriginal Spirituality is to Catholicism with an experience of a beautiful Aboriginal Purification Ceremony. The smell of sweet grass filled the air as John Corston, ministry director at the Kateri Native Ministry Centre of Ottawa, led the community in a profound prayer, turning to each of the four directions to pray for all people in all locations, and allowing the rising smoke to symbolize the cleansing and return to balance of all the senses as the community acknowledged its need for God. Virginia Corston and Agnes Toth assisted John by providing the drumming for the ceremony. Participants were deeply affected by this experience of prayer.

Daryold Winkler, whose mother was Ojibway and father German, shared deeply of his experience as a member of his native community on Manitoulin Island as a way of touching many of the essential aspects of Native experience and some of the pains, oppression and need for healing that has touched the life of native persons in Canada.

(l - r) Ms. Virginia Corston, Fr. Dayrold Winkler, Ms. Agnes Toth and Mr. John Corston prepare to open the day with an Aboriginal Purification Prayer.

He called upon all people not to abdicate responsibility for the healing that needs to take place but to find ways to shoulder the pain that has characterized the relationship between first nations persons and other Canadians. He invited all to find ways to bring reconciliation.

Dayrold is also a Basilian priest just finishing a doctoral thesis wherein he has studied the way aboriginal peoples integrate their native spirituality and their Christian faith.

Fr. Daryold Winkler highlights some features of aboriginal spirituality.

He spoke of bimaldiziwin, the native notion for living a good life. Dayrold highlighted the deep sense of respect for the land, attention to cycles of the seasons, a focus on balance and harmony, and the great value of insight and vision all of which characterize native spirituality. He emphasized the great respect for elders, gracious hospitality and care not to correct others that characterize native ways.

Dayrold emphasized an attention to the restoration of balance and harmony as opposed to a focus on sin that characterize the native view. In this way, it has been helpful for native people to replace the opening penitential rite of the mass with the aboriginal cleansing right to be faithful to their practice and focus.

He emphasized how in the grass roots of contextual theology native spirituality and Christianity come together. Dayrold highlighted the painful history of Native people in Canada, the oppression of aboriginals and the intense need for ongoing healing and reconciliation. Calling upon all to take responsibility, Daryold emphasized how, in particular, the residential school issues have become a symbol of this painful story, and restorative justice in this regard is essential.

An afternoon panel with John and Virginia Corston helped to deepen the themes. Virginia shared her awakenings as she, an Irish woman, entered the native community as Johns wife and had to unlearn so many of the biassed notions about aboriginal people she had carried. John spoke about his experience of prejudices against him and the long and difficult journey it was for him to embrace and honour his own identity. He spoke of the importance of the symbol of the drum in his life and graciously explained the significance of the eagle staff he carries. He continues to learn how to integrate these symbols into the centre of his Christian life.

In a privileged moment during the discussion, Susana Sandoz, a participant in Putting Out Into The Deep!, asked for Johns forgiveness, on behalf of all gathered, for the pain and oppression he has experienced. The entire community applauded enthusiastically as they sealed the reconciliation with a warm embrace. John deepened the celebration by playing a song of celebration on his drum. Daryold expressed his hope that this sort of reconciliation will become more and more common and include needed forgiveness in the political sphere and within the churches. It was a rich and challenging session that left many grappling with important and sometimes difficult questions.

The next session of Putting Out Into The Deep! will take place on Saturday, April 9th when the question, What does it mean to be a catholic in the world today? will be answered from the perspective of decision-making and discernment. Fr. Raymond Lafontaine director of pastoral care at the Grand Seminare in Montreal will help participants explore good discernment and decision-making. In particular he will help participants examine how it is that so many positions, some that even seem to conflict, are all catholic. With many different movements and positions in the church, this is an issue of concern to many. Carol Kuzmochka, [email protected], 738-5025 (x251) for further information or Annmarie Brown, 738-5025 (x217) [email protected] to register. All are welcome!

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