Mixed emotions over demand for volunteers for papal visit to Alberta

In just over two weeks, Pope Francis will begin his visit to Alberta. So far 2,100 volunteers have signed up to help out at Commonwealth Stadium for an outdoor mass, Maskwacis and Lac Ste. Anna. 4,000 more volunteers are still missing.

The community of Maskwacis could see up to 15,000 people. Volunteer Coordinator Megwan Yellowbird Cardinal was a day school survivor. She is anxious for the occasion.

“It was hectic and a bit stressful. Things are falling into place very quickly,” said Yellowbird Cardinal.

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The pope is expected to reiterate his apologies for the Catholic Church’s role in running Canada’s residential schools. Yellowbird Cardinal said she wanted to help make that apology come true.

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She said that people who volunteer want to do so because they are survivors themselves or their parents are survivors.

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Yellowbird Cardinal said she wanted to leave feeling she had done all she could for the survivors.

“That they feel a little comfortable, that we play an important role in shutting down our people.”

Holly Johnson Rattlesnake also volunteers at Maskwacis. She said members of her community had a lot of emotions and some were not ready to welcome Pope Francis.

“It gets daunting to know that this is a great opportunity for Maskwacis, and sometimes I get too swept up in the negative comments, but I look past it. It could be part of the healing.

“I just have mixed emotions.”

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Luci Johnson is on the fence. She went to day school, her parents went to boarding school. She is frustrated to see the province rushing the paving of a road in Maskwacis in anticipation of the Pope’s visit. Roads are usually federal jurisdiction and she wonders why it takes a papal visit to do so.

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“A lot of people say that it was the pope who let things happen… Why? Pav this road because we are from Maskwacis. Paving the way because we are human,” Johnson said.

“It shouldn’t be all about cosmetics in our community. It should be about getting the vision and goals of what his message is for us, not just a road.

She said he was only coming for an hour and that was a lot of money.

Johnson said she was on the fence about her visit. She doesn’t know if an apology will help her.

“What happens the next day… Will that help us?” Are people going to be retraumatized? Will they be able to sleep that night when the Pope comes here? Johnson wondered.

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