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A Journey to find Faith, Hope, and Reconciliation

David Le Ross

Thursday, September 29, 2022

The Salt + Light Media crew on the ground for the Papal visit.
As a freelance filmmaker, I recently worked for Salt + Light Media covering the Pope's trip to Canada. As part of this trip, we were working on the second documentary in a series about reconciliation, what it means for the Church here in Canada, and how it can be brought about. 
In advance of the apostolic visit, we went to visit the locations where the Pope would be attending. First, my producer, Jen Copestake, and myself flew up to Rankin Inlet in Nunavut, which is the largest Catholic community in Nunavut. It was imperative for us to get their take on the Pope's efforts at reconciliation. What we saw was, well, the landscape is very desolate, as you can imagine. The Arctic is very difficult to live in. But the faith of the people is incredibly strong. We met with elders who had survived residential and day school; they shared with us that they were looking forward to the Pope's apology because it would help make them feel whole. 
We went to Edmonton ahead of the Pope, and we visited Sacred Heart Church of the First Peoples, which was a parish church for the Indigenous community in the heart of Edmonton. Their parish church had burned down four years ago in a fire and it was rebuilt just in time for the papal visit. When we visited and filmed the stories of the people who had helped rebuild it and the community that had come together, we found an incredible story of faith and love. 
In their rebuilding process, the Church prioritized the inculturation of Indigenous art, imagery, and rituals into the liturgy. Above the altar, they have built four teepee poles, the tabernacle is built of pieces of wood from the burned down church in the shape of a teepee, and there are pillars for smudging pots. The smudging ceremony happens during the Mass; smudging is a form of purification for Indigenous peoples, it has been compared to blessing oneself with holy water. 
The Pope arrived and we went to Maskwacis to hear him deliver the formal apology. When we saw the faces of the people that he was speaking directly to, we saw them truly internalizing the Pope's apology. We could see them change physically. We saw people accepting the Pope's words, accepting the responsibility that was being taken. Some people have waited their entire lives for this apology.
In response to the apology, Pope Francis was given a feather headdress, which is what was given to chiefs when they were elected chief. He was also called the White Eagle, which is a sign of honour and progress in the cause of reconciliation. 
The next day, the Holy Father traveled as a pilgrim to Lac Sainte-Anne. Every year on the Feast of Saint Anne, which is at the end of July, tens of thousands of Indigenous families come and camp at the lake and pray as they go into the lake, this is also where new Catholics are baptized The Pope went to bless the waters, to bless the people who had come on pilgrimage. Here, we met four sisters from Saskatchewan, all of them residential school survivors, all of whom have accepted the Pope’s apology as their latest step towards reconciliation.
So in conclusion, in Rankin Inlet, we saw a great, resilient faith. At Sacred Heart Church in Edmonton, we saw hope and love for God and for neighbors. At Maskwacis we saw forgiveness and at Lac Ste Anne, we saw the work of reconciliation.
The film I was working on is the follow up to a Salt + Light Media original film called Walking Together which can be viewed at That film is about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's call to actions and the lead up to the apostolic visit to Canada this past July.  The follow up will be available at some point in the next several months.
 Please pray for the ongoing effort at Reconciliation in Canada.
This text was adapted from a speech given to the parishioners at Holy Cross Church in Creston, British Columbia on August 6, 2022.
Jen Copestake contributed to this report.

David Le Ross is a freelance filmmaker who splits his time between Vancouver and Toronto. He prioritizes offering his time & talents to many Canadian non-profit organizations and can be reached at

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