Visite Winneway ENGLISH 12 juin 2022 - Diocèse de Rouyn-Noranda

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Pastoral visit of  Mgr Guy Boulanger
to the Saint Ann Catholic Mission
of the Long Point First Nation (Winneway)
(text by Father Reegan Soosaï, CMF)

           On Sunday, June 12, 2022, in the solemnity of the Holy Trinity, Bishop Guy Boulanger visited the Saint Ann Catholic Mission, as a pilgrim for reconciliation, to meet and to speak with our brothers and sisters of the Anishinaabe First Nation.
         Before the 10:15 a.m. mass, one of the Elders of the community, Mr. Jerry Polson (who had served as Chief on three occasions) presided a purification ritual.
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          He explained the significance of purification and positive vibrations. He also shared with us his knowledge about fire, symbol of renewal, rebirth and new life, about the eagle feather, symbol of everyone's journey, about sacred and medicinal plants such as cedar and sage and about the importance of the sacred number: 4 colors (yellow, red, black and white), 4 directions, 4 elements of the universe. He was kind enough to incense each of us with the ritual smoke: it is done clockwise, from east (birth) to west (old age). It is done first towards the heart, then towards the ears, the eyes, from top to bottom and then to the back. It was a very meaningful and spiritual ceremony. Then Father Reegan presented the Mass which aims to celebrate our interconnection, our interculturality and to walk together as one spiritual family.
         Mass began at around 10:45 a.m., with the participation of several Elders, children and some adults as well. In his homily, our Bishop spoke of unity, interconnectivity and service to others, all this in imitation of the Holy Trinity.

        Bishop Guy Boulanger also blessed a beautiful statue of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, patron saint of indigenous peoples and the ecology. The community is blessed to have it in its possession as we move forward on the path of interculturality, mutual respect and trust.

           During Mass, there was a symbolic offering to honour and pray for different needs, especially for truth, healing and reconciliation. We offered the following symbols to the Creator: a canoe, tobacco, a feather, an orange T-shirt with the bearing the words Every Child Matters, a water cup, a medicine wheel along with the bread and wine.
         As we offered the orange T-shirt, we accompanied the offering with this prayer: "Oh Creator, with pain, sorrow, shame and indignation we say that we are sorry and we remember all the little children who died in residential schools. May these little angels guide us toward reconciliation. We pay tribute to our residential school survivors; they are now the builders of our Nations. Bless them, protect them, and help them heal from their deep-rooted wounds.  We pray for the younger generation who are experiencing the effects of intergenerational trauma, keep them safe from any harm. Accept our offering."
         After Mass, we were treated by the community to a delicious dinner. Meegwetch to all the cooks who prepared and served the meal, including the chief organizer, Mr. Jerry Polson. The meal was rendered all the more pleasant by the enjoyable conversations we had with the Elders and the children.

         We viewed a collection of photographs, some of them very old, which gave the history of the Long Point First Nation community. Thanks to these pictures, we were able to appreciate the encounter that occurred between Indigenous peoples and non-Indigenous people in the different places where the community was located: first at Long Point (near Angliers), then at Sand Point (near Moffet) and finally at Winneway.

        Our Bishop shared with his hosts that the funds from the 30 million dollars raised by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops will be distributed among Indigenous communities for their social, educational and community projects. He invited them to present to the diocese, through Father Reegan, projects that the community wished to undertake. The Elders and others appreciated Bishop Guy Boulanger for his fraternal dialogue and for his listening.

        At the end of the dinner, a traditional basket was given to Bishop Guy and Father Reegan as a gesture of appreciation and hospitality.
         We were also provided with a guided tour of the community.

        First, we visited the daycare centre. Mrs. Diane Polson was kind enough to explain how this magnificent daycare for children (from five months to three years old) works. Babies and children learn traditional values, the 7 grandparents who accompany them, and the Algonquin language as well.

         We also had the chance to visit the health centre, which is very well equipped for the daily needs of the community. We then stopped at the Seniors' Centre, a new youth centre, the Adult Education Centre which has a gymnasium in the basement and the Amo Ososwan School. But unfortunately, we could not visit inside as our tour guide didn't have the keys. The school has an attendance of about 130 students, in classes from Grades 1 to 11 (pre-collegiate).
         Mr. Polson mentions that there are very many good things happening in the community, but at the same time, drug and alcohol abuse by some youth as well as affordable housing are problems in the community. He says that to be able to properly house all the families on the reserve, there is currently a lack of 50 additional dwellings.
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        We express our thanks, from the bottom of our hearts, to all the members of Saint Ann's Catholic Mission, all the elders, Mr. Jerry Polson in a special way, and all those who contributed in one way or another to making this day a memorable event. Our Bishop was hosted by the Elders for a sacred fire event, held for the continuation of the sharing of stories and for the advancement of the healing and reconciliation process.

Kitchi Meegwetch Kakina (Great Thank You to all) and we hope to see you again soon!
Father Reegan Soosai, CMF
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