“Where there is great suffering there can be great healing.” (Benoît Lacroix, O.P., Une spiritualité pour le temps présent)
Returning to Spirit - Residential School Reconciliation
This initiative designs and delivers workshops and training programs for reconciliation within the context of residential school issues that have negatively impacted Aboriginal peoples, religious communities and Canadian society in general. Our focus is on moving people forward through the principles of personal empowerment. This defines all our work, including coaching sessions and consulting, which are designed to support individuals, families, organizations and whole communities to move forward in life. We are always seeking to expand our community partnerships to continue the process of transformation.
Our work goes beyond healing. It provides conditions for transformation in personal, family, community, and organizational life. In Canada, generations of Aboriginal people, directly or indirectly, suffered the impact of the residential school system. So far it has proven difficult to create real change despite the sincere efforts of leaders and front-line workers in the country. It is clear that too often people get stuck in patterns of thought, behavior and interpersonal relationships that do not produce the expected results. More often than not, these patterns lead to more victimization, a general sense of helplessness and discouragement that undermine progress efforts at both personal and community levels.
In 2001, noting that the approaches used to date for responding to the issue of residential schools were ineffective, a group of people gathered with the intent to create an innovative approach. The task force was guided by three beliefs: (1) conventional therapy, where clients and customers are encouraged to repeat their "story" (which often traumatized again), was not the solution to the legacy of Residential Schools; (2) financial compensation would have little or no effect on healing and empowerment of people; and (3) healing the experiences of Residential Schools could not be done in isolation and must involve both the clergy and Aboriginals together.
The main objective of the team was to develop and implement an innovative and transformative model. The resulting model, Returning to Spirit (Return to Mind), proved to be an innovative, unique approach to healing and reconciliation. So far, the program has been successfully implemented in several provinces and communities in Canada and has attracted national attention.
This program includes three workshops. The first part of the program consists of two concurrent five day programs, one given to Aboriginal people and the other to members of the clergy, though with a representative of the other group within each workshop. The third workshop brings together two groups for a process of five days of reconciliation.
You may get a better sense of these workshops by watching this 7-min. video: