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Dominican Midwest Spring Assembly Focuses on 15th Century Doctrine of Discovery

By Sister Kathy Klingen

May 18, 2016, Chicago – Seventy Sisters in the Dominican Midwest Chapter came together April 30 at the Mercy Meeting Place in Chicago for the optional Spring Gathering to share personal stories from ministry with the American indigenous peoples; study the history of papal bulls that relegated Indians to the margins in the United States; and ask themselves, “What can we do?”

Sisters Sue Gardner, JoAnn Fleischaker, and Ellen Kennedy shared tangible artifacts, prayer, and stories of their experiences with the Indian tribes. Other Sisters in the Chapter have also ministered among tribes in the United States and Canada, notably Sister Joyce Rybarczyk, who served in Watersmeet, Michigan, for more than 40 years, and Sister Kathleen Walli, who lived and ministered with the Menomonee Indians in upper Michigan for 14 years. 

Artifacts from Sisters’ experiences of ministering with Native Americans. Photo by Sister Jane Zimmerman

The injustices to children in boarding schools, parents and their sacred prayers cannot be forgotten. With incredible knowledge and wisdom, Sister Anele Heiges spoke of the “Papal Bulls from 1452, 1453, and 1493, which authorized only Christian monarchies as sovereign, and encouraged them to vanquish and place in perpetual slavery/servitude any heathens, pagans and other non-Christians and bring them under Church dominion.  The papacy authorized military conquest to assist conversion to Christianity.”  

As of 2007, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples acknowledges many rights, yet is not explicit on sovereignty issues, Sister Anele said. Therefore, indigenous leaders want Pope Francis to rescind the Bulls that justify imperialism.  

Sister Kathy Nolan, Director of the Adrian Dominican Congregation’s Office of Global Mission, Justice, and Peace, shared a petition being circulated by the Romero Institute, asking Pope Francis to rescind the Doctrine of Discovery.  

Sister Kathy Klingen, OP, Chapter Prioress, leads the assembly in a ritual. Photo by Sister Jane Zimmerman

“The Doctrine of Discovery, issued as three 15th-century papal bulls, continues to adversely dictate policy decisions directed towards indigenous peoples and their land,” Sister Kathy said. “This doctrine, created centuries ago, still acts as both the spiritual and legal endorsement of the exploitation and slaughters of Indigenous peoples, and the justification for imperialist economic ventures.”

A petition by the Romero Institute calls for the revocation of the Doctrine of Discovery. The petition reads, “We respectfully ask you, Pope Francis, to revoke the Doctrine of Discovery, which vested moral and spiritual authority in Colonial powers to brutally and violently conquer Indigenous lands.”   

Article Submitted by Sister Kathy Klingen, OP

Feature photo: Sister JoAnn Fleischaker, OP, shares her experiences of ministering with American Indians. Photo by Sister Jane Zimmerman


 

 

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