Edmonton’s Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples Prepares for Papal Visit

Pope Francis will be visiting the church, designated as Edmonton’s First Nations, Métis and Inuit parish, as part of his Canadian tour on July 25, which comes after he delivered an apology to Indigenous delegates at the Vatican earlier this year.

Newsroom (16//7/2022 11:15 AM Gaudium Press) Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples was built in 1913. The church has undergone renovations since 2020 after a fire tore through the building on 10821 96th Street. On Sunday, parishioners gathered for the last time at the Sacred Heart School gym, which has served as the temporary location for the congregation since the fire.

Father Mark Blom said while Sacred Heart Church is an Indigenous parish, people of all backgrounds worship there. “We’re trying to promote a new culture of reconciliation in our country and in our church,” Blom said. “That in itself is a sign of reconciliation, where you have people from all nations praying, serving and working together.” That’s something he hopes Francis takes away from his visit.

“I hope that he really recognizes that it’s possible for Catholicism to embrace different cultures, and to really honour their traditions, symbols, and spirituality, without fearing that somehow our Catholic identity won’t be preserved,” Blom said.

“He has been a blue-collar, bishop, cardinal, and Pope. (He) insists on riding the bus and visiting people down in their poor neighbourhoods. So he is already very, very strong on the fact that the church needs to shape itself to people’s needs, rather than people posturing themselves to fit a certain image of church.”

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Fernie Marty, an elder for Sacred Heart Church, is a survivor of the Beaver Crossing day school. He said he will accept the Pope’s apology.

“It’s already in my heart that he made it in Rome. And I think it’s much more sacred now he’s coming on Canadian soil to do that here as well, too,” Marty said.

“It’s just a tremendous, tremendous opportunity for the healing for the Indigenous peoples of this land.”

Theresa Yetsallie of Meander River Settlement and a parishioner at Sacred Heart Church has two uncles who are residential school survivors. While they never talked about what they went through, she can imagine what happened to them through hearing others’ stories.

“This is so beautiful that (the Pope) is coming. It’s a great blessing, and a great reconciliation and forgiveness,” she said.

“I’m so happy that I’m here for my uncles … and I’m gonna be thinking of them the whole time the Pope is here.”

Francis will arrive in Edmonton on July 24. The following day, he is scheduled to visit the site of the former Ermineskin Residential School in Maskwacis, joining residential school survivors from across the country. He will visit Sacred Heart Church later that day.

For the feast of St. Anne on July 26, Francis will celebrate with an open-air mass at Commonwealth Stadium that will incorporate Indigenous traditions. Pope Francis will then travel to a pilgrimage site at Lac Ste. Anne in the evening.

Meanwhile, construction for Sacred Heart Church is expected to be completed by mid-September. The initial damage estimate from the fire was pegged at about $350,000. Still, after asbestos was found, plus the decision to make changes to enhance the Indigenous worship, renovations are over $6 million.

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Changes include four teepee poles over the altar, while the altar will resemble a tree trunk with branches coming up to support it.

(Via Edmonton Sun)

Compiled By Raju Hasmukh

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