GREW UP on a reserve in northern Saskatchewan and spent part of my life in foster homes. My childhood was shattered by a broken home. My parents drank a lot and eventually separated. Mom gave up on herself and on us. She drank and many times left us to fend for ourselves. As for Dad, he left when I was ten.
These were the days I felt so lonely and alone, and full of worry for the future. Inside I was crying for my mother because I needed her so much. I felt sorry for her at times but couldn't bring myself to love her.
Finding out about Jesus and the Church
About this time I met some Baptist missionaries. They would come to the house and sing songs with us kids and tell us about Jesus. I had been baptised Catholic when I was a baby but no one had ever explained to me what that meant. Now as they talked to us, I began to believe in the Christian way that they told us about. It all sounded good to me.
As a teenager, I lived in a couple of white foster homes where the people were Christians. They taught me about the Bible and encouraged me to go to services. At thirteen I was born again. When I returned home, I began to attend a small Full Gospel Church that was on the edge of the reserve. Mostly Indians went to that church.
It was about this time that I met my future husband. We started going out together and he came with me to these services. I liked him a lot, but he was Catholic, and we used to discuss religion and even argue about it.
When I turned nineteen, I still had to deal with considerable pain due to my broken childhood. My boyfriend took me to some Catholic prayer meetings and services. I liked much of what I saw there. People prayed with me for healing and I experienced the presence of Christ in a powerful way during the Mass.
I desperately needed God in my life but I was really confused about religion. Although I wasn't sure about the Catholic faith, I had in the past prayed that God would help me to find the right Church. Some of the things I had heard from the fundamentalist preachers made me suspicious of certain Catholic beliefs and practices. I had trouble accepting things like Confession but, what bothered me the most, was praying to Mary. I had been taught to pray only to Jesus. I couldn't understand why anyone would pray to Mary when they could go to Jesus. Besides, I did not see anywhere in scripture that we should pray to her. I struggled with this for a couple of years.
A marvellous encounter
Then one night I had a dream. I dreamt that my room was so very dark, and I was afraid. Going into the hallway where there was light, I found myself in a strange place that looked like a hotel. As I looked about, I saw a room at the end of the hallway and, being curious, entered this dimly lit room. It seemed to be a banquet hall; the tables were all made up with fine china, silverware, napkins, and beautiful things, as if in preparation for some great feast. At the end of this room, there were double doors.
Suddenly, one of the doors opened up and out came an angel dressed in white. He told me in Cree that the Father wanted to see me, and then took my arm and led me to a brightly-lit room. It was brighter than the sun. In this great room I saw an Indian woman who wore long braids. She smiled at me. Around her were many small children playing. Not far away was a Indian man; he too smiled and nodded at me. I felt welcome. On one side of this room were angels; they seemed to be standing around and talking to each other. There was a feeling of great joy and peace.
Then I saw Jesus and his mother hurrying towards me. They were smiling at me and I smiled back. Jesus embraced me and kissed each of my cheeks. Then Mary did the same and said, "I've been praying for you for a long time and will continue to do so." She seemed to be such a young woman, full of life and bubbly joy.
Jesus said, "I want you to meet my mother. This is my mother and I love her very much and I honour her. She can be your mother too if you want." Mary hugged me close again. I felt so excited and told them that it was an honour to be in their presence. Jesus said they, too, were glad to see me. He told me that the power of God surrounded me to keep and protect me from harm. I need not try to understand it, just trust it. "You don't have to be afraid of the dark or of anything any more," he said, "nothing can harm you. God's protection is surrounding you. The power is so great you cannot comprehend it. Trust in that power. God loves you."
Mary took my hand and spoke to me some more things. They hugged me and kissed each cheek and said that I could stay for a little while if I wanted. Then they turned and went back the way they had come. Soon the angel came again; he told me it was time to go, and led me through the door. I went back to my room happy.
I awoke from this dream with a deep sense of God's nearness and love. It began to make sense to me that Mary had a place in our lives, after all. She knows us and cares for us. Because she is so close to her Son, her prayers for us are very powerful. I also realized that Jesus is a good Son and honours his mother, just as God commands that we honour our own parents. When we are adopted into his family, it is only right that we join him in honouring his mother as our own. If we choose to leave her out of our lives, we are really missing something precious.
In time, I learned to pray the Rosary. It was hard at first, but gradually I caught on and began to find it very comforting. It calmed me and even helped me sleep. Mary has become the mother I always longed for, when mine was not there. She has filled a gap in my life. To make a long story short, God led me back to the Catholic Church. My prayer that I find the true Church which has stood solid, throughout all the ages, had been answered.
Over the years, God has blessed me with my own family of three boys, two girls and a good man. We had the opportunity to study at Kisemanito Centre, a Native Catholic Ministries School. There we learned more about the Bible and the teaching of our Catholic faith and made many new friends.
Life still has its hard times, but faith in Jesus gives us hope, and being part of his family the Church gives us strength. And there is the great comfort in knowing that we have a Mother who cares about us and loves us and is always there when we need her.