Bishop David offers a reflection on the Akathist service 

Submitted by Inessa McIntyre

Photo credit Bernadette Mandrusiak

The Social Mission Working Group of the Eparchy of Edmonton held its second Social Mission Workshop and Retreat at Camp Oselia in March 2019. The theme of this year’s retreat was “We are All Children of the Creator.”

The retreat began on Friday evening with a brief overview of the retreat held in 2017. Development and Peace shared a presentation focusing on Care for Our Common Home and the refugee crisis as well as resources available to support our social justice work. A social followed and we had an opportunity to view First Contact Canada, a three episode reality TV show that follows six Canadians with stereotypical opinions about Indigenous People on a four week exploration of Indigenous Canada.1 The evening ended with the Prayer of St. Ephrem followed by a brief Examen Prayer.

Saturday began with the Season of Creation Akathist service. This was a beautiful service, which the Eparchy of Saskatoon Human and Environmental Development Program shared with us.

Christina Csernyanski greets Elder Karen MacKenzie with bread and salt

The remainder of the day was spent with Elder Karen MacKenzie, a Cree-Métis woman who is a member of the Edmonton Police Commission and the Circle of Elders for Edmonton Catholic Schools. Along with her many other appointments and projects, Karen is one of two members from Alberta on the Independent Advisory Board for Senate Appointments. Karen guided us through reflections and activities, allowing us to grow in understanding of Indigenous People. Karen performed a smudging ceremony, invited us to share about our cultural backgrounds as well as experiences we have had with the Indigenous community. Karen walked us through an Indigenous timeline to raise our awareness of the difficulties experienced by Indigenous communities. We were then encouraged to reflect on how we as individuals can build relationships to help support our local Indigenous communities.

Animals of the Medicine Wheel

We completed a questionnaire that incorporated a series of style indicators. Karen then utilized a Medicine Wheel with corresponding animals to describe personal style attributes associated with each of the four quadrants. Each of us aligned with one of the four animals, according to how we answered the questionnaire. Karen reflected on how a mix of people with different skill attributes is required for effective group work. The retreat concluded with a shared meal.

Our sessions with Karen were very thought provoking. She provided us with several pearls with which to continue our journey of Indigenous discovery. We can further our own education by taking Indigenous Canada, a free online course offered by the University of Alberta.2 We can immerse ourselves in Indigenous culture by attending an event in our community such as a Pow Wow. Karen enlightened us to the significance of the Treaty Territory Acknowledgement that we hear at the beginning of many events and gatherings. This acknowledgement reminds us that two parties signed the Treaty – Indigenous People living on the land and European settlers. We are all a Treaty People and are held accountable to uphold the principles that were committed to in the Treaty. It also acknowledges that we as descendants of settlers are living on Indigenous People’s land.

Finally, Karen emphasized the importance of forming personal connection with our Indigenous community. Perhaps we as a parish community could hold a coffee social after Sunday Mass at Sacred Heart of the First Peoples parish in Edmonton. It is through one on one connection that we can grow in understanding and acceptance and share the love of Jesus with one another.

The Social Mission Working Group of the Eparchy of Edmonton has committed to participating in Indigenous events to grow in our understanding of Indigenous history and culture and build relationships with Indigenous People in our community. We encourage all Eparchies to explore what they might do to begin the healing journey and build relationships between their own Ukrainian community and their local Indigenous community.

Medicine Wheel taking shape