Monday, April 27th, was the first full day of work. For the first part of the day we visit an Aboriginal school, and then in the afternoon, we spent some time with a Cree artist, Wayne Ashley.
My highlight of the day is being with the kids, of course. Bright and early at 8:15 in the morning, Wally and I arrived at Ben Calf Robe / St. Clare School, a school that goes from even before Kindergarten to Grade 9, and is geared towards Aboriginal students. Edmonton’s fastest-growing population is the Aboriginal population, so this school serves that community really well. Susan Makale, principal of the school, was a wonderful host who is very excited that Salt + Light is doing a story involving their school. She organized a whole assembly in the gym for the blessing of special icons to be put in every classroom. They were so beautiful – one was of a First Nations Madonna and child, and the other of the Compassionate Christ. Throughout the school, you could see the Christian and the First Nations spirituality very present. You see the Crucifix of Christ and the Medicine Wheel together in every classroom, for example, as well as the Holy Bible beside the Metis sash in the ceremony room, which is their sacred space.
It was fun being in the Grade 1 classroom. The teacher, Miss Thompson, herself from a Metis background, started off the class with a prayer. They do a “smudging” session, in which they burn a combination of sweetgrass, sage, and other herbs, and the students bless themselves with the smoke by rubbing it into their body. It is a very spiritual moment for the students, they are praying and asking the Creator to purify and bless them. It was so spiritual, in fact, that we weren’t allowed to film the actual smudging session for each individual.
Tuesday is our last full day of shooting for my future Catholic Focus episodes. You’ll find out on tomorrow’s blog about two beautiful Eastern Catholic churches in Edmonton and Fr. Catfish!