This past March 9th to 11th, 2012, Spanish, Ontario was host to the St. Charles Garnier & St. Joseph’s Residential School Gathering. St. Charles Garnier was the boys’ school in Spanish, which was owned and operated by the Jesuits between 1913 and 1958. One of the organizers of the reunion was Pauline Toulouse, a member of the Diocesan Order of Service (DOS) and participant in the Anishinabe Spiritual Centre’s Ministries Programme. Fr. David Shulist SJ and Paul Robson SJ attended and participated in the event, as did Justin Dittrick, a Jesuit Volunteer. Fr. David celebrated the Mass on Sunday, and Paul helped design the program for the event.
The theme for the weekend was “Remembering the Good Times”, and there was a spirit of positivity and moving forward about the reunion. There was also a spirit of humour, with a performance and workshop by comedian Leonard Dick (“Moccasin Joe”). Speeches by honourary guests mentioned both the bad but also the many good experiences that alumni had had at the schools. Chief Isadore Day of Serpent River First Nation spoke about the necessity of not remaining stuck in the past.
Many expressed their appreciation that Jesuits were present, and their gratitude for Fr. David’s homily. An excerpt from the homily: “We are here in this specific place where these two one-time residential schools, St Charles Garnier and St Joseph, existed, because you believe that this place can still channel God’s love to you as a community of alumni and beyond. And we, who are your family and friends and who are here, also believe this . . . In faith, you are the living example of the message of the Cross, which Saint Paul refers to us in the Scripture. Your faith allows you to see that this place can be transformed and restored in your memories as a location of life.”