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Thursday Sept. 30th is Orange Shirt Day and the first official National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. It is a day for all of us to recognize, reflect and generate awareness about the trauma and legacy of the residential school system in Canada.

Orange Shirt Day began in 2013, when Phyllis Webstad, from the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation, first told her story of attending residential school, where the new orange shirt her grandmother had given her for school was stripped from her. Since that day, September 30th has been recognized across Canada as Orange Shirt Day, an opportunity to discuss in a meaningful way the effects of residential schools.

This year, the Government of Canada legislated September 30th as National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. It follows one of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC) recommendations, which calls for the government to work with Indigenous people to develop a day to “honour Survivors, their families, and communities, and ensure that public commemoration of the history and legacy of residential schools remains a vital component of the reconciliation process”.

Of the TRC’s 94 recommendations, six are connected to the identification of missing children and their burial sites. The TRC report notes that thousands of children died while in residential schools. This was made very clear to us this spring with the discovery of the bodies of 215 children in an unmarked grave on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. More than 1,000 graves have been found near residential schools in Canada since May of this year.

Why is it important to state this? Because we need to speak this truth, learn more about it, and listen to the survivors. It is a part of our history as Canadians. And as a Catholic healthcare institution, it is essential for us to recognize this past, and to find a way forward based on respect, openness, a strong commitment to listen, and a willingness to change.

The Federation of Sisters of St. Joseph of Canada stated in May: “It is not enough to see this tragedy simply as an event from the past. Catholics, in particular, are challenged to acknowledge how we, today, are connected to these deaths. How have we internalized the colonial assumptions and attitudes that have shaped our social, cultural, economic and political systems? Where have racist assumptions become rooted in our subconscious? What are we doing to decolonize our minds and hearts?”

Last week, the Catholic Bishops of Canada expressed “profound remorse” and apologized “unequivocally,” stating “We are fully committed to the process of healing and reconciliation.”

What you can do: I invite and encourage our St. Joseph’s Health System family to join in this journey toward healing and reconciliation. Many of our organizations have created opportunities for healthcare workers to learn more. Please seek these out. Many organizations will be holding a moment of silence to reflect on the loss and legacy of residential schools. Please join in this moment that recognizes Every Child Matters. Show your support – wear an orange shirt and/or buy an Orange Shirt button to demonstrate your interest and support.

Listen. Learn. These are small but tangible steps to begin building bridges toward reconciliation.

Ms. Winnie Doyle
Interim President and CEO
St. Joseph’s Health System

A Pastoral Letter from Bishop Douglas Crosby, OMI

June 18, 2021

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ:

The sad legacy of Residential Schools and the reality that Catholic entities participated in the Government policy which removed Indigenous children from their families and from their culture has once again been brought to the attention of Canadians. The discovery of 215 bodies of children in graves beside a former Residential School in Kamloops has brought us face-to-face with the stark and tragic history that many Indigenous children in Residential Schools died. When they died, often their bodies were not returned to their families and communities for burial.

This tragic and painful part of our history as a nation and as a Church causes us to grieve with the families of these children and feel sorrow and deep shame for our participation in the policies which created the Residential Schools. The recent discovery in Kamloops moves us to renew our efforts, which began many years ago, to bring about healing and reconciliation with the Indigenous peoples of our land.

Thirty years ago, on July 24, 1991, as President of the Oblate Conference of Canada, in the presence of about 10-15,000 Indigenous peoples at Lac Ste. Anne, Alberta, I delivered an apology for the involvement of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate in government sponsored Residential Schools across the country. It was among the first of such apologies offered to the Indigenous people. In 2015, Father Ken Forster, then Provincial Superior of OMI Lacombe Canada Province, repeated the apology and outlined commitments that the Oblate community had made to the Indigenous peoples they served, including making available to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) all of their archives relative to the Residential Schools, and to offer to university archives those materials that the TRC did not require.

The Catholic Indigenous Council was established to assure that Catholic Indigenous voices might be heard at the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, and the Our Lady of Guadalupe Circle was formed so that Catholic Indigenous peoples, and other Catholic groups and organizations might come together to respond to the Calls to Action of the TRC. One of their first recommendations encouraged the Catholic Bishops to support the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which the Bishops did on April 27, 2018. The Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario, including the Diocese of Hamilton, have provided financial support for the creation of a “Spirit Garden” at Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto to honour Residential School survivors.

While the Diocese of Hamilton ran no residential schools, we remain keen participants in the process of healing and reconciliation. We made a significant contribution to the Moving Forward Together campaign of the CCCB; funds were directed to support Indigenous education opportunities at institutions of higher education within our Diocese. We also have an on-going partnership with the Diocese of Churchill-Hudson Bay to provide financial and administrative support as well as on-site ministry formation and mental health assistance for Indigenous youth.

The work of healing and reconciliation is, and must be, ongoing. Plans for a delegation to visit the Vatican and meet with Pope Francis were derailed by travel restrictions related to the pandemic. With the easing of those restrictions, it is expected that this visit will take place later this year.

I invite Catholics in the Diocese of Hamilton, to pray this weekend and especially on Monday, June 21st, National Indigenous Peoples Day in Canada, for our Indigenous brothers and sisters – for the healing of past wounds, for wisdom to accompany one another on the path to reconciliation, and for a future full of hope.

All are invited to visit the Hamilton Diocesan website for information and resources to inform, to encourage and to heal.

Sincerely in Christ and Mary Immaculate,
(Most Rev.) Douglas Crosby, OMI
Bishop of Hamilton

Dear Sisters, Associates and Companions,

The Federation of Sisters of St. Joseph of Canada have released the following public statement in response to the tragedy at the Kamloops residential school.  We join our hearts with all who grieve this terrible news and re-commit to the work of decolonizing our hearts, minds and social structures.

Click here to read the full statement on the Sisters of St. Joseph of Canada website.

Pictured above: Steps of St. Peter’s Basilica in London.

May 21st, 2021

If you found yourself walking or driving down Queen’s Boulevard past St. Mary’s on Thursday afternoon, you may have heard some commotion. Two climbers from the Canadian Peregrine Foundation (CPF) were on site, scaling the side of the building to retrieve four chicks who are nesting on a ledge on the side of a building.

The chicks — named Care, Faith, Compassion and Discovery after the hospital’s mission and vision — were brought up to a higher floor to be banded, weighed and assessed. The banding process helps organizations like the CPF track where the birds are by showing large identifiers that can be seen with binoculars or a camera. The process involves an identifying band placed on each leg: one for Canada, the other for the U.S.

Unsurprisingly, the parents aren’t quiet about how they felt during the process.

Peregrine falcons were once on the endangered species list after their populations plummeted due to pesticide use. Decades of efforts toward recovery have finally begun paying off for a species who juvenile mortality rate is about 80 per cent.

They are no longer endangered, having made their homes on tall buildings in cities across North America. Still, they’re a protected species, and without the work of organizations like the Canadian Peregrine Foundation, things like failed flight attempts, disease, predators and poachers would take their toll on the population.

During a year of hardship, St. Mary’s is proud that these birds have chosen our hospital as a place to nest. We hope they’ll continue to choose our roofs to call their home.

HAMILTON, ON – MAY, 2021 – Sister Anne Anderson, CSJ, is the 2021 recipient of the 2021 Catholic Health Alliance of Canada Lifetime Achievement Award.

Sister Anne has worked in the health care ministry for 50 years as a nurse, manager and as a hospital CEO. She has led the ministry at its highest level for 18 years as President and Board Chair of the St. Joseph’s Health System (SJHS), guiding it through its transition from being operated by the Sisters to a corporation governed by a lay board of Directors.

Working with Philanthropic donors, she also helped build the reputation of Saint Joseph’s Health System as an academic health sciences network affiliated with McMaster University with internationally recognized research.

Her accomplishments span both the health care and academic spheres. She has also held numerous leadership roles in the Faculty of Theology and Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies at the University of St. Michael’s College in Toronto.

She encouraged SJHS to play a role in supporting the health services of indigenous communities, including a Dialysis Centre on the Six Nations Reserve and a partnership with the Government of Nunavut to improve safety and services for Inuit peoples. She supported the growth and development of an International Outreach Program, which today partners with McMaster University to train physicians in Guyana, Haiti and Uganda.

One nominator wrote, “Sister Anne always talks about the ‘the more.’ She often recounts to us that the Sisters were taught to stand on their tiptoes to see who needs us next. When Sister Anne handed out the legacy awards recently, she called us, all of us, ‘the new Sisters’ and encouraged us to build a new legacy.”

About St. Joseph’s Health System

St. Joseph’s Health System (SJHS) is one of the largest healthcare organizations in Canada, and is the only system in Ontario delivering a full continuum of health care services. SJHS is a globally recognized leader for innovation in models of patient-centred integrated care. SJHS has a unique partnership with Niagara Health to leverage each organization’s strengths to bring better care to the people in the communities we serve.

For More Information

Patrick Moore
Senior Public Affairs Specialist, St. Joseph’s Health System
P: (905) 870-1293 | E: pmoore@stjoes.ca

Members of the St. Joseph’s Health System have an exciting opportunity to participate in a McMaster University study to understand the spread of COVID-19 in long-term care (LTC) homes.

The study will attempt to understand how infections spread in LTC homes, discover how the immune response in LTC residents protects or permits COVID-19 infections and determine how well vaccinations work in LTC residents.

Long-term care residents have different immune responses than older adults, partially because they have complex health conditions, may be frail and often take multiple medications. The purpose of this study is to understand what features of the immune response protect from infection, or conversely increase risk, to determine if living in a facility that has had infections (as measured by the presence of antibodies in the blood) will increase or decrease the risk of subsequent infections, and to understand how well older adults respond to vaccination.

All three organizations in the Elder Care portfolio of the St. Joseph’s Health System, which includes St. Joseph’s Lifecare in Brantford, St. Joseph’s Villa in Dundas and St. Joseph’s Healthcare Centre in Guelph are participating in this study. Other participants in the study include Schlegel Villages and a number of smaller LTC homes. Residents of all participating homes will have the opportunity to participate in the research.

Soon, residents, essential caregivers and staff of these homes will see posters and other information asking for volunteers to ‘spit on COVID-19 together,’ in reference to the saliva sample that staff and caregivers participating in the study will be asked to provide at regular intervals over the course of the study.

St. Joseph’s staff have been at the frontline of fighting COVID-19 throughout the pandemic and will also have an opportunity to inform how to continue to keep COVID-19 at bay going forward. The study is launching mid-March and more details will be shared in the coming weeks.

About St. Joseph’s Health System

St. Joseph’s Health System (SJHS) is one of the largest healthcare organizations in Canada, and is the only system in Ontario delivering a full continuum of health care services. SJHS is a globally recognized leader for innovation in models of patient-centred integrated care. SJHS has a unique partnership with Niagara Health to leverage each organization’s strengths to bring better care to the people in the communities we serve.

For More Information

Patrick Moore
Senior Public Affairs Specialist, St. Joseph’s Health System
P: (905) 870-1293 | E: pmoore@stjoes.ca