Return of Manitoba Métis Federation’s pilgrimage has special meaning following papal visit

It’s a yearly tradition taking place for the first time in two years.

The Manitoba Métis Federation’s annual pilgrimage to the Grotto of Notre Dame de Lourdes, located about an hour south of Winnipeg, took place on Sunday.

The trip comes only a few weeks after Pope Francis issued a public apology for the role that the Catholic Church played in Canada’s residential school system.

It’s a fact not lost on Andrew Carrier, a residential school survivor and the MMF’s Winnipeg region vice-president.

“The anger and the frustration have really bogged me down, and this is an opportunity to let go and to grow spiritually as well as a person,” said Carrier.

During Sunday’s mass, the MMF unveiled a new cross and statue of Jesus made in the holy land of Jordan — a special item MMF President David Chartrand said required help from a close friend overseas.

“So he went about, and he said, for example, even the wood the trees they cut were in the river Jordan. They’re exclusive. You can’t go cut those. They are very protected,” Chartrand explained.

In April, Chartrand met with the Pope in Rome and later accepted his apology when he came to Canada.

The MMF’s leader said the community is now trying to move forward.

“I sent a message to all Indigenous people in Canada as a whole; let’s all remember the Pope is leaving. He’s only here for six days. After he leaves, it’s up to us now. We need to take leadership. We need to be responsible,” said Chartrand.

A major theme of Sunday’s mass was reconciliation; a task Chartrand said gets closer with each event, like the pilgrimage.

“We’re doing it ourselves. We’re starting reconciliation,” he said.

“You could see, as I said, a multicultural society altogether here, and so we’re starting the process of healing, the process of moving forward, but the process of saying we don’t have to give up our religion to believe.”

It’s a sentiment even echoed by those who have experienced abuse by the church in the past.

“Coming here to the pilgrimage among a variety of cultural groups who are believers in the catholic faith has brought us better together as a community,” said Carrier.

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