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In his Mother’s Day message this year, Archbishop J. Michael Miller recognized unwed mothers who decades ago were coerced into giving their children up for adoption.
“Let us acknowledge the mothers who for far too long have not been recognized, honoured, and celebrated as mothers and for whom I have been praying a lot lately,” he said.
“These are the mothers who, especially in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, were coerced or forced to give up their children for adoption. All too often we denied them the compassion and support they deserved. Tragically, this happened across Canada and even in our own archdiocese.”
An estimated 300,000 unwed mothers were urged to give up their children for adoption in the post-war era in Canada.
Last year The B.C. Catholic published an in-depth study of the historical context in which these women were separated from their children and the profound effects it had on them. Our study found the Catholic Children’s Aid Society, operating in B.C., estimated 60 per cent of mothers using their “unmarried parent services” were giving up their children for adoption in the 1960s. Archival documents revealed some mothers were told to use false names, were limited to seeing their newborns once a day, and faced societal and familial pressures to keep their pregnancies secret and give up their children to adoption.
Bernadette Dumas-Rymer shared her personal story of being forced by family and community to give up her daughter in the Vancouver area when she was 19 years old. She called the Archdiocese of Vancouver the only “Catholic ‘authority’ in Canada” that has responded to the pleas of women like her by sharing their stories.
The United Church of Canada, which also ran homes for unwed mothers in Canada, will host a Worship Service of Apology and Lament for these mothers and their children May 9. During that service, it is expected Rev. Dr. Richard Bott will offer a formal apology to all those affected.
Archbishop Miller also offered his prayers this Mother’s Day to all women who find the day painful: those who have lost little ones through miscarriage or stillbirth or are facing infertility.
“We remember on this day the consecrated women among us, who offer themselves to the Lord as spiritual mothers who care for and nurture our souls,” he added.
“Lastly, we pray for all women who, as St. John Paul II reminds us, by their very nature, exercise ‘an affective, cultural, and spiritual motherhood, which has inestimable value for the development of individuals and the future of society.’ With profound gratitude and joy, we treasure and esteem all mothers on this day when we recall the beauty and wonder of their calling.”
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