Ministry of Presence and Compassion with First Nations’ People

Picture12Our sisters minister in 3 different areas:  North Battleford  (Sisters Raymonde Arcand and Rita Bisson), Whitefish (Sisters Anita Verley and Diane Lajeunesse) and Regina (Sister RéAnne Létourneau).

Marie Rivier’s just like Jesus Christ had a heart full of love and compassion, and throughout her life she shared this fullness with the people of her time.

Following in Marie Rivier’s footsteps , in the North Battleford area, we have ministered with the First nations’ people for over 20 years.  Our approach has been one of building relationship.  Many hours are spent in visiting homes and hospitals, establishing friendships, listening and being with them in their joys as well as their pain. There is a great demand for ministry of compassion.  Workshops were also a very important part of our ministry such as: adult faith training, catechesis, Christopher Leadership Courses and Bible sharing. Since a priest was not available, we were Parish administrators for all the reserves and we therefore were mandated for leadership as ministers for Marriage, Baptism, and Sunday liturgies.  However it is also urgent to recognize the the good news” the First Nations’ people already possess in their rich traditions and ways of living.  We need to appreciate the manner in which the creator has made himself known to other cultures.

Christmas_reserves_2009_019_sm640Experiencing their culture has also been foremost in our mind.  Trying to learn the language, participating in their cultural activities and spiritual events (sweats, sun dances, round dances, powwows, fasts and feasts) have been a priority in getting to know the people.  “To attempt to share the mysteries of Christianity, without taking into account the traditional values of First Nations’ cultures, is to perpetuate a paternalism that is demeaning for all par-ties concerned.”  (Fr. Gilbert Hemauer)

All in all, it is a ministry of building relationships, of being with the people and being enriched by their spirituality and culture and sharing the Christian culture and spirituality.  We will never think we understand it totally because we are not Cree. 

Whitefish First Nations:  The sisters live on the reserve.  Their ministry is one of “Evangelization” rather than “sacramentalization”. They prepare the people for the sacraments but primarily their ministry is one of presence.  The door is always open for people who want to talk and visit.  When people come to use the phone or require a certificate, or want holy water, they invite them in.  These occasions become great opportunities for evangelizing.  They visit the sick and shut-ins.  The sisters bless homes and when asked attend wakes and funerals for many families.  The Sunday liturgy is the focal point of their ministry where people are encouraged to participate as much as possible.

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"Being a presence among the people on the Whitefish reserve is our 'a priori' ministry.”     
S. Diane Lajeunesse

"Introducing children & parent’s to Mother Rivier - a heart warming experience!"
S. Anita Verley

Regina:  The main goal in Urban Aboriginal ministry is to establish relationships rooted in justice, love and humility that will help build community through a cross-cultural interface.  S. ReAnne with a team connects with aboriginal people at various centers in the inner city, meets with elders, and participates in community events and cultural ceremonies.

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"Urban Aboriginal ministry for me is about being in relationship with the people and building community that nourishes growth and healing --- especially, through their culture
and spirituality."

S. ReAnne Letourneau