Martyrs’ Shrine moves forward with ‘the story of relationships’ message as it prepares to reopen

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The question of truth and reconciliation during the Midland council update elicits a thoughtful response from the Jesuit director; Reopening of the sanctuary on May 7

“What can we see from the Martyrs’ Shrine in terms of truth and reconciliation for this year?” was a question posed by Midland Coun. Jonathan Main during a recent Committee of the Whole.

It was a question that the director of the sanctuary, Father Michael Knox, thoughtfully answered before answering.

The exchange was part of a deputation provided by Knox on behalf of the Martyrs’ Shrine, to take stock of its status over the past two-and-a-half years while announcing that the site will open to the public next May.

“You asked a formal question, so I’m going to give you a formal answer on a very hot topic that’s not in my letter,” Knox replied.

“The Society of Jesus in Canada is one of the leading Roman Catholic religious orders in the ongoing process of truth and reconciliation, and we have been for over 20 years,” Knox said, adding that archived data and documents were available to First Nations. researchers in the past.

“We have three full-time Jesuits working on the national stage on this issue and working closely with the preparation of the Truth and Reconciliation recommendations, and now with the follow-up.”

Knox noted that as part of the sanctuary’s strategic plan for the future, three key focus areas were considered.

“An inherent part of our history is the relationship between St. Jean de Brébeuf and his companions, and the Indigenous peoples they came to love and serve,” Knox said. “We want to tell more about this Christian-Indigenous story that is so much a part of the larger story of the martyrs and what we share here, and what we preserve by honoring these people.

“I am also very interested in making First Nations people feel welcome – on their terms – in our spaces.”

Additionally, Knox wanted to build on the Indigenous Day of Prayer held this year on June 19, which occurs annually on the Sunday before June 21 on National Indigenous Peoples Day.

Most important to Knox was how the story of the martyrdoms with Jean de Brébeuf and his companions in the 1600s involved “one of the native groups of which they were prisoners”.

“And in this story that we have, there were mistakes, there were mistakes. There was pain, there was death. There were wars, there were trade disputes. There were people who became Christians and embraced Christ, and others who didn’t.

“But in the middle of it all, there is a relationship story. And that theme is one that we’re going to bring out a lot more over the next two years as part of this plan, because it seems to me that the space in which true reconciliation happens in honest sharing,” Knox said.

“In fact, one of our windows is called Le Partage, and it’s Brébeuf and Chiwatenwha together, overlooking the lands of the Wendat peoples; it is important.”

Main’s question came at the end of the main deputation, during which Knox announced that the Martyrs’ Shrine would open on May 7 in accordance with COVID-19 policies and guidelines established by the province and the health unit.

St. Joseph’s Church and its grounds were closed to the general public for the first time in its history in March 2020. Revenue fell 90%, the operating budget was cut by a quarter and staff layoffs permanent and contractual have been implemented. .

“We have been able through the benevolence to support the apostolate, maintain the buildings and grounds and a small staff,” Knox said, “but we don’t have government funding per se and we don’t really have any. . other support other than the benefit of people’s generosity.

Typically, the shrine on Highway 12 attracts over 100,000 visitors a year.

“We weren’t just sitting on our hands like we have been for the past two years,” Knox said, “and praying primarily for all the people of Midland, Tay, Tiny and Penetanguishene. , around the world.”

The letter of deputation for the Martyrs’ Shrine is available in full in the Council Agenda on the City of Midland website.

Council meetings are held every third Wednesday and can be viewed on Rogers TV cable channel 53 or via live streaming on the Rogers TV website. Archives of council meetings are available on Rogers TV and the City of Midland YouTube channel.

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