Donna did not want to stop in the narrow hallway on her way to the Kateri Native Ministry
offices on the 3rd floor of the Bronson Centre. She had a meeting with Elders, outreach to plan
and more people to enlist in her journey to promote life, love and respect for all Creation.
She had to get to her office.
But Pat and Isaac from the Bronson RISE team were cheerfully standing in her way –
trying to introduce themselves and some project they were doing with seniors. Donna politely
got by the blockade with a reluctant agreement to meet later in her offices.
After more than 10 years working in the Kateri Native Ministry offices at the Bronson Centre,
Donna was skeptical about the possibility of working with the neighbouring organizations and
staff. Her work with Kateri focused on reconciliation among people and communities and with
Creator, guided by healing through outreach, ministry, ceremonies and conferences, and
training through retreats and workshops.
While Donna’s work embraced community as a place of healing and growth, working at the
Bronson Centre had not yet given her a sense of belonging to that place.
With a Master’s degree in Social Work and more than 20 years of helping Indigenous
communities, Donna knew the barriers to belonging that indigenous people face – denial of the
hard truths about cultural genocide, apathy and indifference to the intergenerational harm
caused by residential schools, misconceptions about advantages that Indigenous People might
have or the sense of being overwhelmed by the complexity of reconciliation. Inside her office
at the Bronson Centre, she could focus on making progress.
Behind the other office doors, she wasn’t sure what awaited her.
Until Pat and Isaac sat down with her to listen and learn more about Kateri and Donna.
Together, they discovered some common goals – to increase recognition and participation of
older persons in all aspects of community life at the Bronson Centre; to recognize the value of
Indigenous perceptions of health and ageing – that focus on a holistic approach to ageing – for
the benefit of seniors from other cultures; to recognize that reconciliation – which is about
establishing and maintaining a mutually respectful relationship between Indigenous and non-
Indigenous peoples in Canada – is an opportunity to reduce isolation and strengthen
understanding and relationships across the Bronson Centre organizations and beyond.
What came next was a joint venture to open doors and build connections with the neighbours
at the Bronson Centre.
On March 8th 2020 – International Women’s Day – Kateri Native Ministry and KAIROS, hosted
the KAIROS Blanket Exercise (KBE) for organizations at the Bronson Centre – the first time the
KBE had been offered to the neighbours since its creation in 1997.
Led by Donna and with support from Ed Bianchi, Program Director with KAIROS – more than 40
participants joined the journey through history at Mac Hall in the Bronson Centre.
Participants in the KBE and the sharing circle that followed remarked on the powerful impact of
First came the listening.
“… hearing the Elders stories are precious and need to be shared to help those who need
convincing to see the real faces behind the history”
Next came the insights.
“… I never expected to understand how I could make a difference in reconciliation. Now I know
that understanding and empathy are what I needed to learn.”
The experience of working together with the Bronson RISE team made clear why Donna has
been so successful in her role as a leader with Kateri Native Ministry – characteristics that
enable her to bring knowledge and insights to her role as a member of the Bronson RISE
Her leadership style blends relentless and direct honesty, with energy and masterful
communications. She is unapologetic about her forceful, charismatic and empathic nature. She
is utterly grounded in her faith and her Indigenous ancestry and territory.
Bronson RISE is powered by Donna and others in our community – an army of passionate,
talented people who are driving change for the better.
“For me, the greatest peace comes from my faith that Creator is present everywhere and in all things.”
-Donna Naughton, BSW, MSW