Native Ministry in Canada’s Capital
Fr. Ed Mac Neil, OMI
OMI Lacombe Province
The focal point for the Ministry of the Native Peoples in Ottawa is at the Bronson Centre, a building made available for this and many other ministries, by the Sisters of Charity (Grey Nuns). The Centre is one of education and leadership training.
A monthly Eucharist is celebrated, followed by a potluck feast and socializing. The facilities of the nearby Chinese parish are offered to the Native Community. This gathering assists in building a strong faith community. Special feast days are marked by increased numbers and a spirit of solidarity with people who travel from the surrounding areas to celebrate. One such gathering is the Homelands Mass held at Notre Dame Cathedral with Archbishop Gervais presiding and welcoming representatives of various nations that make up the people of Canada.
On occasion it is the Eagle Staff carriers of the Native Community who lead the procession.
Over the past seven years the Annual Kateri Native Healing and Prayer Conference is held. This is a time of instruction, prayer, music and sharing under the patronage of Blessed Kateri.
The celebration of our Christmas Eucharist is a time of special joy. Drumming, dancing, and songs of praise add up for an event that attracts all ages, races and creeds. This celebration is help at the Odawa Native Friendship Centre, a modern facility for the city of Ottawa and area.
A very special part of the work is the Men’s Ministry. Volunteers and/or professionals assist in guiding men in need of inner strength, confidence and healing, to move out on their own and live productive lives. Men were received into this ministry who lived on the streets and/or were addicted to drugs and alcohol. In a supportive environment, these men discover the love of God as well as their God-given talents. Several have discovered their call to minister and have begun studies to be better prepared to share what they have received with others. Here is a quote from the Annual Report of the Kateri Ministry:
In some cases a man needs to attend literacy classes to learn to read and write, others must receive treatment at alcohol and drug treatment centres, some need professional and/or nutritional counselling, they have medical needs, etc., that need to be addressed. After all of this is completed, then comes the time for a process of discerning if ministry is their call. However even if ministry isn’t the path they choose, the majority do become Christians”. At present our residence is filled to the maximum.
Darren is one of our men who was homeless, hopeless, struggling but going nowhere in his life because of his drug addiction. However god in his mercy heard his mother’s prayer as well as the prayer of the faithful and blessed Darren with a profound spiritual awakening. He was so incredibly moved that he has now devoted his whole life to Christ, to the Kateri Ministry and to the evangelization of his native people. Darren plays guitar, sings, and has taken leadership of the Kateri Music Ministry.
He has travelled extensively with the Ministry to give his powerful testimony of how God’s great love and healing power changed his life and made him whole. His burning desire is to spread the hope of the Gospel to everyone, most especially young people. He wants them to know that our God is a God of the impossible and nothing is too great for him to heal.
Other elements of the Ministry are: leading Prayer Days, preparing people in other areas of Ontario to celebrate their first Native Eucharist, assisting in hosting youth gatherings, Journey to Wholeness Program, hosting healing sessions and training sessions for Christian leadership.