May 23, 2019 — “The Jesuits first had to learn to say: “We are responsible,” then “We are sorry,” and finally, “We need your help.” This is how Fr. Peter Bisson, SJ, summarizes the evolving relations between the Jesuits and indigenous peoples regarding residential schools in the latest edition of the Canadian Jesuits.
Indeed, the Jesuits ran a boarding school for boys, St. Peter Claver School (that later became Garnier College) in Ontario, which closed its doors in 1959. However, the Jesuits did not leave the region since they still serve there in indigenous parishes, working closely with former students.
In his article, Fr. Bisson recounts his rather uncomfortable but necessary personal experience in a hearing before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2012. He also explains the way in which the Jesuits have progressed on the path to reconciliation.
Since the end of the 1980s, when the Jesuits first received complaints about sexual and other types of abuse perpetrated in their boarding school and in indigenous parishes, until 2015, when the English Canadian Jesuits discerned indigenous relations as a priority for the organization, much has been accomplished. After a difficult start, the Jesuits of Canada now wish to work in partnership with indigenous peoples for the common good. “If we learn to listen, we will be transformed,” states Fr. Bisson.
To read the entire article in the Canadian Jesuits, see pages 5 to 7.