Seven Canadian Catholic organizations have formed a coalition to strengthen and foster relations with Indigenous people. Meeting at the offices of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) in Ottawa on 5 December 2016 for its first official meeting, the members of the coalition approved the following mission statement:
“Our Lady of Guadalupe Circle is a Catholic coalition of Indigenous people, bishops, clergy, lay movements and institutes of consecrated life, engaged in renewing and fostering relationships between the Catholic Church and Indigenous people in Canada.
“Our Lady of Guadalupe Circle has a fourfold purpose:
- To provide a forum for its members to dialogue and encourage deeper understanding of the relationships between the Church and Indigenous people and Indigenous spirituality in Canada.
- To serve as a united Catholic public voice on relations and dialogue between the Church and Indigenous people and Indigenous spirituality in Canada.
- To assist Catholics in engagement with the Truth and Reconciliation process and its Calls to Action.
- To carry out agreed upon initiatives and concrete actions.
“Our Lady of Guadalupe Circle is motivated by the love of Christ, filled with great hope for the future and attentive to the Holy Spirit’s action in our world, to the glory of our compassionate Creator and Father.”
The institutional members of the Circle are the Canadian Catholic Aboriginal Council (CCAC), CCCB, Canadian Religious Conference (CRC), Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace / Caritas Canada (CCODP), Saint Vincent de Paul Society, Knights of Columbus, and The Catholic Women’s League of Canada. Along with two CCAC representatives — its Chair Deacon Rennie Nahanee and Vice-Chair Mr. Irving Papineau — the Indigenous members are Mrs. Rosella Kinoshameg, the Honourable Graydon Nicholas and Sister Priscilla Solomon, C.S.J.
- Deacon Rennie Nahanee is a Squamish First Nation Elder and the First Nations Ministry Coordinator for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Vancouver;
- A retired educator, Mr. Irving Papineau is a member of the Mohawk First Nation and President of the Board of Directors of the Akwesasne Library and Cultural Centre.
- An Odawa / Ojibway from the Wikwemikong Unceded First Nation, Mrs. Rosella Kinoshameg is former President of the Aboriginal Nurses Association of Canada;
- Mr. Graydon Nicholas, a Maliseet born and raised in Tobique First Nation, is a lawyer and former provincial court judge who served as Lieutenant-Governor of New Brunswick, 2009-2014;
- Sister Priscilla Solomon is an Ojibway Sister of St. Joseph of Sault Ste. Marie, serving her religious congregation as its Coordinator for Faith and Justice Ministry;
Mrs. Kinoshameg and Mr. Nicholas were among the CCAC founding members.
Others currently participating in the Circle include:
- Father Peter Bisson, S.J., Provincial Superior, Jesuits in English Canada;
- Sister Donna Geernaert, S.C., past Congregational Leader, Sisters of Charity of Halifax;
- Sister Gloria Keylor, S.P., Provincial Superior, Sisters of Providence of Western Canada;
- Father Kenneth Forster, O.M.I., Provincial Superior, Lacombe Province, Oblate Missionaries of Mary Immaculate;
- Father Timothy Scott, C.S.B., Executive Director, CRC.
Members representing their respective organizations of the laity are:
- Mrs. Colleen Martin, a member of the Executive of the Ontario provincial council of The Catholic Women’s League of Canada who also serves on the Board of the Mikinakoos Children’s Fund;
- Ms. Josianne Gauthier, Director of In-Canada programs with the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace;
- Mr. Graydon Nicholas, who was appointed by Knights of Columbus Supreme Knight Mr. Carl Anderson;
- Mr. Jim Paddon, Chair of the Social Justice Committee, National Council of Canada, Society of Saint Vincent de Paul.
Archbishop Murray Chatlain, of the Archdiocese of Keewatin – Le Pas, serves as a representative of the country’s Northern dioceses, and Archbishop Donald Bolen, of the Archdiocese of Regina, as Chairman of the CCCB Episcopal Commission for Justice and Peace. Mr. Gerry Kelly (who previously had served as CCAC secretary) is an advisor to the Circle, which is also assisted by CCCB General Secretary Msgr. Frank Leo, Jr., together with support staff from the Conference of Bishops. The Circle is currently chaired by the Most Reverend Douglas Crosby, O.M.I., President of the CCCB and Bishop of Hamilton, assisted by the Most Reverend Anthony Mancini, Co-Treasurer of the CCCB and Archbishop of Halifax.
Our Lady of Guadalupe was proclaimed patroness of the Americas by Pope Pius XII in 1946. The devotion dates to 1531 when the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared as a young Aztec woman to Juan Diego, a convert to Christianity whose Indigenous name was Cuauhtlatoatzin (“Eagle Who Speaks”). The site of the apparition was called the Hill of Tepeyac, which eventually became part of Villa de Guadalupe, a suburb of Mexico City, and today is an international Marian shrine. Some 20 million pilgrims and other visitors come to the shrine each year, which brings together Indigenous and non-Indigenous Catholics from all the Americas. Authentic devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe shows how the Catholic faith finds expression in Indigenous cultures. In 2002 Juan Diego was declared a Saint by the Catholic Church.
During March 2016, at the same time that the proposal was developing to establish the Circle, four of its parties — the CCCB, the CRC, the Aboriginal Council and CCODP — jointly issued two major documents: A Catholic Response to Call to Action 48 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (On Adopting and Implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples), and The “Doctrine of Discovery” and Terra Nullius: A Catholic Response regarding TRC Call to Action #49.