King’s University College students react to Pope apology


The apology by Pope Francis for the role of the Catholic Church in the residential school system is felt deeply here in southwestern Ontario.


But, the apology is also being observed by Catholics and by students of a new course at London’s King’s University College (KUC)


Friday’s historic apology turned out to be the culmination of their class in Truth and Reconciliation and the Catholic Church.


They have spent four months learning and hearing from Indigenous speakers at KUC, a Catholic institution.


Professor Mark Yanson watched the papal apology with his students.


“I think there was a particular responsibility of a Catholic institution to do this kind of course, to really search and be self-critical. And, to listen to the Indigenous voice and put them first,” he said.


Some in the class, including Brad Sheeler, admitted they knew little of the abuses of residential schools when the course began.


“I never really done my own due diligence on the whole thing,” he said. “So, it’s been an eye-opening experience to learn about the residential schools and what’s been happening.”


Not all studying follow the Catholic faith. But those who do, including John Kosir, say this course has reinforced their belief that the Holy Father needed to be accountable for the intergenerational trauma caused by the church.


“There are a lot of us that needed to hear this from Pope Francis to kind of get validation that this happened. And, we have a responsibility to move forward with the Indigenous populations,” Kosir said.


Many of the students in the class are moving on to become teachers. Most, including Sheeler, plan to share the messages they have learned with future students.


“For sure, I’m going to take what I’ve learned in this class, and try to teach whoever I can,” he said.


Kosir goes further in his pledge. “We need to put an emphasis on the importance of indigenous religions, their stories, and how we as Catholics can build off them and use these stories to build our faith.”


Sharon Pepper-May, studying for her masters of divinity, intends to spread the Pope’s message that today is the first step on a long road to healing between Indigenous people and the Catholic Church.


“We’re brothers and sisters. We’re all part of the creators’ glory, and we need to walk together with one another,” she stated.

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