November 1, 2018 — On October 19-20, Father Peter Bisson, SJ attended a meeting with the Guadalupe Circle and I experienced some of the mysteries of the Kingdom of God.
Inspired by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, the Our Lady of Guadalupe Circle began in December 2016 as a coalition of Indigenous and Settler leaders in the Catholic Church. Members come from lay Catholic organizations, religious orders, and the bishops. We have gathered in order to promote better relations and understanding between Catholic and Indigenous peoples and spiritualities, including among ourselves.
At our most recent meeting, we had an important experience that I believe shows what partnership between Indigenous and Settler members of the Body of Christ feels like. We were doing a spiritual discernment process together in order to deepen our experience of our mission so that in turn we could plan better actions. Along the way, we realized that when we focused on Jesus instead of on concerns about the Church, and when we spoke and listened to each other in welcoming and non-judgmental ways, then we experienced communion, energy and hope. In the past, when we focused more on our concerns about Church-Indigenous relations, then our voices became fractured and divergent, and our energies became depressed. This new approach does not remove the problems, but now the problems are challenges to be faced rather than sources of disempowerment.
What kinds of actions or commitments will this experience lead us to? Among other things, we have decided to experience more Indigenous rituals to see how they dispose our minds and hearts to greater communion with Jesus the Christ among us, and to reflect on how they might fit with the Catholic liturgy. We are experimenting with ourselves. We have also decided that when any of us are invited to speak about Church-Indigenous relations, we will try to do so in pairs, especially pairs of an Indigenous person and a non-Indigenous one.
In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, he discusses how the crucified and risen Christ brings together Jews and Gentiles into one new communion. In the Guadalupe Circle, I believe that we have started to experience a similar unifying grace. Part of our learning however, has been what it takes to receive this grace. To do so, we have to be prepared to speak and hear the truth as people have experienced it. It has been said that the truth will set you free, but first it will make you miserable. It is true. Once one has passed through that frightening misery however, then the new freedom on the other side is well worth the risky passage, for the result is not simply a freedom-from abuse of power, fear and self-deception, but a new kind of freedom, a freedom-with new brothers and sisters. This is a grace of reconciliation and decolonization, but it will not be fulfilled overnight. It will need to be relived and deepened again and again --going around the circle again and again-- but I do believe that the Guadalupe Circle, like many other groups, is beginning to experience a transforming grace that is for the whole Church in Canada.
- Fr. Peter Bisson, SJ
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