Canadian Perspective on the Impact of the Pope Francis' Visit to Canada and Meeting with Indigenous "...he came, now what?" by Alexander Vernon, JD:
I attended the Plains of Abraham viewing of the papal mass at Ste. Anne de Beaupre, standing in the smaller overflow event space in the fields at the Western end of the park. There were a few hundreds attending there, mixed in with the everyday park users walking, jogging and playing close by. The atmosphere was reverent and reflective as people followed the beautiful liturgy on the big screens. For me there was a feeling of relief that this was happening; he came, now what? As so many have said, it is a first step, and one that took too long in coming.
Harm was done by the perceived reluctance to come and do what Pope Francis did, and few were satisfied with the varied explanations offered as to why the Pope couldn't apologize on behalf of the church, or the Canadian church, or the dioceses or religious communities implicated in abuse cases.
At the Wednesday reconciliation event I met a family who had driven their mother, a residential school survivor, 12 hours in to experience this event. According to her daughter she had been gravely wounded by her time in a residential school, and her children said this trip, the Pope's visit, his apology and the smudging ceremony were all very important to her. I spoke to her briefly, offered my sincere regrets for the things done to her ancestors, (and my ancestors, as a person descended from enslaved peoples) and told her how much I wanted to learn and listen and understand.
I tentatively offered some rosaries and necklaces and beads I had hastily grabbed off of our family "altar" on the way out the door, and mom and daughters picked out some that they liked. I acknowledged that rosaries might be the last thing some survivors would want to see but was relieved that my gesture was taken as intended. I mentioned that I had gotten the rope rosaries in Mexicantown, Detroit and thought they were made in Mexico or Guatemala, likely by indigenous people. This brief encounter was what we had come for.
To see the Pope drive by in his little Fiat, was nice, but this is what we had come for. I feel it is my obligation as a believing Catholic to demand that my church act swiftly and justly on the issues surrounding reparations and accountability. Immense damage has been done, but in Christ nothing is beyond repair. I will be encouraged if we see donation buttons on diocesan and parish website for these urgent reparation arrears. I deeply wish to erase the shame of the "best efforts" campaign nobody I know can recall in any detail. I am hopeful, but hopefully not gullible. We must do better than we have done.
Bio: He practices exclusively in immigration law. He practiced Piston & Carpenter, P.C. and Siegel, Gross & Tou, P.C. specializing in family immigration, removal proceedings, and asylum/humanitarian relief Professor Vernon joined Detroit Mercy Law faculty in 2016. He directs the Immigration Law Clinic where students assist people fleeing for their lives, struggling for family unity, and striving to regularize their status in the United States. Professor Vernon is a volunteer attorney with the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center and Freedom House Detroit. He is a Board Member of Detroit's Southwest Immigrant and Refugee Center and the Organización Internacional de Latinos en el Exterior as well as participating in the Canadian Council of Refugees.He is fluent in French. In his free time, Professor Vernon coaches hockey at the Clark Park Detroit outdoor rink, and soccer with the Windsor Soccer Club.