Social Justice Conferences in the Archdiocese

Before we begin the official part of today’s proceedings with a prayer, I want to welcome each one of you and thank you for coming. We expect to do great things together—great things are needed from us.

I will also take 5 minutes to give a short history of Conferencing in the Archdiocese.

Today’s conference does not just stand by itself, it stands in line with 11 other conferences that have been hosted throughout the Archdiocese of Regina over the past 15 years. Collectively they are known as ‘the Archdiocesan Social Justice in Motion Conferences’. The first one was held in Moose Jaw 2002. Since then other cities and towns within the Archdiocese have taken their turns to host a conference on an annual basis.

In 2003 it was in Swift Current, then it moved to Esterhazy (2004), Estevan (2005), Fort Qu’Appelle (2006), Weyburn (2007), Melville (2008), Windthorst (2009),

2010 was a misstep(Shaunavon), Assiniboia (2011),then for different reasons there were lulls in 2011 and 12, Moose Jaw #2 (2014), Yorkton (2015), 2016 was another misstep (Estevan #2 ) and now Holy Child (2017) in Regina.

Next year the conference will be held in Melville. Stay tuned. The planning committee begins its work in earnest after today.  

The idea moving the conferences around throughout the Archdiocese has been to decentralize the work, of taking advantage of diversity of gifts and experiences, and putting the responsibility of shaping a conference in the hands of the Parish’s social justice committee. That committee (with the support and approval of their pastor and parish council),works with the Archdiocesan Social Justice Office (the place I work under the guidance of our Bishop). Together we shape the conference--finding speakers, picking topics and selecting  processes that we think will be most effective. The committee seeks wide involvement with the parishioners of the parish, especially through different parish groups. It also looks for ways to connect with appropriate ecumenical, interfaith and secular partners in the community. It sends out invitations far and wide. Typically the parish has one year to complete their plans needed for hosting their conference.

The following are some of the titles and topics we have covered.

  • Living right side up in an upside down world (Estevan 2005). We considered the reality of the dictatorship of the investor-monopolistic-corporate-money-must-make-more money-casino-debt creating-global economy that impacts all nations and all peoples of the world.
  • What turn the other cheek? Bullying, Justice and the Gospel (Swift Current 2003)
  • Turning the Tables (Windthorst 2009--KAIROS involvement)
  • The blessing and curses of oil (Weyburn 2007)
  • Mining, Agriculture and Industry (Esterhazy 2004)
  • Restorative Justice and Circles (Fort Qu’Appelle 2006)
  • It only take as spark. Pope Francis’s influence on the local Bishop and the entire Church (Moose Jaw #2, 2014)
  • Church of and for the Poor (Yorkton, 2015)
  • How do we recognize poverty and do something about it (Melville #1, 2008)

Some of the more notable speakers we’ve had in the past included Bishop Dan Bohan, Fr. Lawrence DeMong, Premier Lorne Calvert, Senator Reynell Andreychuk, Judge Moxley, Restorative Justice guru Otto Driedger, Nancy Topping, director of the Marian Center for some 12 years, Refugee Field Worker Abdul Ali, Director of KAIROS Prairie and North Regions, Dick Peters

This year we put the vehicle of the Social justice in Motion Conference in the capable hands of Bishop Don Bolen, Sr. ReAnne Letourneau and friends

The challenge today, as it has been for all other conferences will be “how do we put words into action”. Every conference proceeded with the understanding that deeper understanding, more involved discussions, and a search for creative ideas for change would be a necessary beginning. 

A final word…All parishes of the Archdiocese have been informed about today’s event at Holy Child. The conferencing technique has always been about reminding parishioners in a concrete way of the priority the Church places on seeking justice. Each of the other conferences had its own topic, but today, we highlight the necessity and urgency the Church has for implementing the calls to action, those spelled out by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission; this we will do under the grand title of ‘learning to listen and walk together’.

National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN), Perry Bellegarde was asked what he thought of the Celebrate Canada 150. Chief Bellegarde replied, “Well we might add a couple of zeros behind the 150. Never-the-less what needs to be celebrated this year is the resiliency of the Indigenous Peoples.”

Among us today are numerous Indigenous participants, some of whom will speak to us today. Therefore we all will have ample opportunity today to experience first-hand what true resiliency looks like.

With those few words, let us continue…