From left, Fr. Ciro Alfonso Perez, pastor of St. Mary’s Parish and director of the Redemptorists in Saskatoon, Gayle Weenie, First Nations elder and member of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, and Fr. Graham Hill, pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish
Many First Nations communities are facing an identity crisis,
says Fr. Graham Hill, pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe
Catholic Parish which is a citywide congregation of First Nations and Métis.
(Saskatoon, Canada) – “The youth feel no sense of connection with either their culture or the faith of their parents,” he says. And it is because of this crisis that the Redemptorist Order, of which Hill is a part, has invited Megan McKenna, theologian, storyteller, and spiritual writer and lecturer, to do a series of workshops at St. Mary’s Catholic Parish on sharing the faith and handing on tradition.
Says Fr. Ciro Alfonso Perez, pastor of St. Mary’s and director of the Redemptorists in Saskatoon, “The mission of Redemptorists is to preach the Gospel in obedience to Jesus’ directive to go and make disciples and teach them. We find new ways to connect with people, and Megan McKenna does that. She uses the First Nations tradition of storytelling to present the message of the Gospel.”
McKenna will conduct several workshops and preach at a number of masses in Saskatoon. All events are taking place at St. Mary’s Parish Hall located at 211 Avenue O South. Everyone is welcome to attend.
On Friday, McKenna spoke to the young people of St. Mary’s.
She will preach at the 7 p.m. mass at St. Mary’s tonight, and all the masses there on Sunday. She will also speak before morning masses from Monday to Wednesday at 8:30 a.m.
McKenna’s first workshop, Elders Story Telling Circle, on March 31 at 7 p.m., is directed at elders and those interested in that role.
On April 1, at 10 a.m., she will address Handing on the Tradition, sharing traditions and faith from elders to youth. At 2 p.m. she will present a workshop on Creating Your Own Story, explicitly identifying who you are.
On April 2, McKenna will preach at Our Lady of Guadalupe’s 1 p.m. Mass, followed by a short presentation on Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patron of the Americas.
Gayle Weenie, a First Nations elder and member of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, believes McKenna’s workshops will be helpful in reminding First Nations people of who they uniquely are. She says retaining language, spirituality, traditions and culture are a start.
According to Weenie, First Nations languages have been introduced in the school systems, but are competing for attention with television and electronics.
“Often the language isn’t spoken at home any more. Maybe the grandparents speak it, but they’re back home on the reserve,” she says.
“And as for spirituality, when I was growing up, the government didn’t allow us to practise our spirituality. It mostly went underground, and survived because of a few people who kept the traditions alive. Now we’re getting our young people educated and our pow wows are coming back.
“Some of our people have maintained a hold on the traditions and are trying to pass them on, but nothing is written down. Our culture is an oral tradition, learned by listening to the elders, and many of our elders have passed on.”
Under the guidance of elders and the bishop, Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish is intentionally incorporating elements of Native spirituality in its masses.
The mass begins with a smudge. The smoke from burning sage is fanned toward the person to bless mind, body and spirit in preparation for hearing the Word of Creator God.
“We incorporate the star blanket in the collection of offerings. The star blanket is given as a gift to others to honour them,” Weenie says. “We go to the front and place our gifts on the blanket to honour the Creator and the church. It is much more personal than passing a basket.”
The Great Amen is accompanied by the drum, a sacred way of praying in First Nations culture. The prayer begins facing east, turns to the south which represents the Father, west to the Son, and ends facing north symbolizing the Holy Spirit.
“The exchange of peace at the end of the mass is more than a nod or a wave,” Weenie says. “First Nations generally greet you with a handshake. It’s more personal, and the exchange of peace conveys a notion of visiting.”
Hill grieves the loss of identity of First Nations people. “The government has been complicit in the past stealing First Nations identity, language and culture — both as Aboriginals and as Christians,” he says. “When we lose the sense of who we are, external influences like consumerism, and consumption of drugs and alcohol fill in the gaps and lead to loss of hope and dignity. By handing over traditional wisdom, we’re hoping Megan McKenna can help us make a reconnection.”
Parish Mission: Making Disciples, with Megan McKenna (Theologian, Story Teller, Spiritual Writer and Lecturer)
Internationally recognized story teller Megan McKenna will lead St. Mary’s Parish in a series of workshops on making disciples.
Megan will be preaching at all of the weekend Masses on March 25/26. She will be preaching on the Gospel reading for the weekend.
The mission will start on March 24 and run through March 29. The mission schedule is as follows:
Friday, March 24 – 7:00pm Megan will meet with the youth group in the upper meeting room of St. Mary’s Parish Hall
Saturday, March 25 – Megan will preach at the 7:00pm Mass
Sunday, March 26 – Megan will preach at the 9:00am, 11:00am, and 4:00pm Masses at St. Mary’s Parish
Monday, March 27 – Wednesday, March 29 – Megan will present a short message each morning at 8:30am before Mass
Monday, March 27 – 7:00pm The Mission begins, in the church, with Megan’s presentation on the Woman at the Well
Tuesday, March 28 – 7:00pm The Mission continues in the church, with a presentation on “The Man Born Blind”
Wednesday, March 29 – 7:00pm The Mission concludes in the church, with Megan discussing “The Raising of Lazarus as Levels of Faith and Practice in the Community of Beloved Disciples”
Wednesday, March 29 – 8:30pm Mother of Perpetual Help Devotions