St. Mary’s University is honoured to be sending a delegation of local Indigenous Elders and StMU staff, alumni, and students to meet with Pope Francis during his pastoral visit to Edmonton later this month. This papal visit will be like no other, and serves as an opportunity for Pope Francis to listen and connect with Indigenous Peoples on Canadian soil – in order to address the ongoing impact of colonization and apologize for the participation of the Catholic Church in the operation of residential schools across Canada.

After issuing a public apology on April 1, 2022 to 30 Indigenous delegates in Rome, this papal visit represents the next step for the Catholic Church toward meaningful healing and reconciliation. In the coming weeks, we will share more stories from StMU on this historic journey of Pope Francis to Canada, and share details on the events that our delegation will participate in during their shared journey on the road to truth, understanding and healing.

As we prepare for this amazing opportunity, we would like to give a special thank you to the Diocese of Calgary for reaching out and inviting St. Mary’s University to send our very own delegation. This was an important opportunity to humbly invite Indigenous Elders in our community to join our delegation, as they have been working alongside us for years by sharing their collective wisdom and guidance. A group of Indigenous students, alumni and staff members will also form our delegation and be joined by President-elect and Vice-Chancellor, Dr. Sinda Vanderpool.

“St. Mary’s has already been doing great work in Indigenous Inclusion, thanks to the work of our Director of Indigenous Initiatives, Michelle Scott, and the guidance of local Elders. This papal visit will hopefully help us move forward together to continue the work of healing in our own community,” explains Jolene Smith, Director of Campus Ministry. “As an Independent Catholic University, this is an opportunity for the St. Mary’s campus community to work together to create safe spaces for healing to take place. StMU is in a unique position to do just that.”

This upcoming visit, drawing on the theme of Walking Together, will include a combination of public and private events, with an emphasis on Indigenous participation throughout. Our StMU delegation will proudly attend three separate events: a meeting with Indigenous Peoples at the Former Ermineskin Residential School, an open-air Mass with Pope Francis, and a pilgrimage to the site of Lac Ste. Anne with the Liturgy of the Word. These events fit the theme of walking together on a pilgrimage of healing, reconciliation and hope.

“This theme of Walking Together is all about relationships and being there for each other, even when, and especially when, things are difficult,” says Michelle Scott, Director of Indigenous Initiatives. “The words themselves mean we are not alone. When someone in our community is hurting, we all hurt and we all have responsibility to make things right. This theme and visit is about taking action together and living out this responsibility.”

We invite you to join us as we reflect, pray and prepare to welcome the Holy Father for this incredibly important and once-in-a-lifetime papal visit. Stay tuned for more stories about our participation.