Mennonite Heritage Village

The Good News About Your Parents

May 4, 2023

By Gary Dyck

Mennonites through history have experienced a lot of upheaval and trauma. In five centuries, many can say that their family lines have called five distinct places their homeland. Leaving was never their first choice, but persecution and loss kept them moving.

In many cases, this trauma is experienced intergenerationally. As Dr. Gabor Maté writes in his new book The Myth of Normal: “The chain of transmission goes from parent to child, stretching from the past into the future. We pass on to our offspring what we haven’t resolved in ourselves. The home becomes a place where we unwittingly re-create, as I did, scenarios reminiscent of those that wounded us when we were small.”

Ok, now for the good news. If or when your parents were not present to your needs, if or when they mistreated you, it was because of the pain and trauma that they carried from their parents. It was not you – it was not them. Mothers and Fathers want the best for their children but can’t always live it out because they aren’t whole themselves. Past pain and trauma distort and limit our true selves. “Blame becomes a meaningless concept the moment one understands how suffering in a family system or even in a community extends back through the generations,” says Maté. There is no pure villain in life. The more we can realize this the more we can find healing and reconnection to the world again. Our parents need grace. We need that same grace.

Mother’s Day and Father’s Day will soon be here. On those Sundays, there will be many families enjoying Mennonite Heritage Village’s (MHV) Livery Barn Restaurant buffets and touring our village grounds to hear their parents’ stories. This year may we go deeper into healing the hard stories of our families. Remembering our stories so we don’t keep stuffing them down, increasing our suffering. Shutting pain down in the past has often been a needed coping tool and helped Mennonites to work hard and endure but may have also hurt relationships and families. Intergenerational pain can stop with us if we deal with it head-on and heart-on.

Take the time to learn your family history, where might there be entry points of trauma response? If your Mennonite family came in the 1920s, consider visiting our upcoming Russländer exhibit and Spring Gala on May 12th. Our guest speaker has an amazing story of overcoming adversity in her move to Canada as a young immigrant. Other resources include trained counsellors, and books such as It Didn’t Start with You: How Inherited Family Trauma Shapes Who We Are and How to End the Cycle. Healing Haunted Histories by Mennonites Elaine Enns and Ched Myers speaks to having trouble dealing with the pain of others. Enns and Myers propose that Mennonite dismissal of Indigenous trauma is partly due to their own unresolved trauma. MHV is planning to host Enns and Myers for a workshop later in the year. Sign up for our newsletter to find out when.

Russländer exhibit in 2019

I leave you with these words from Elaine Enns and Ched Myers: “We carry the trauma and contradictions of our ancestors, but also their traces of courage and ingenuity.”

Upcoming Events:

MHV’s grounds and Livery Barn Restaurant are open seven days a week! The restaurant is open 11am to 4pm, and the grounds are open 9am to 5pm, except Thursdays 9am to 8pm, and Sundays 11:30am to 5pm, including our famous Sunday buffet till 2pm.

An Evening with the Authors, Tuesday, May 9 – 7pm. Authors Charity Schellenberg, Faith Eidse, and Mitchell Toews will share from their new books with refreshments to follow.

Spring Gala, May 12 A fundraising banquet with VIP access to our new Russländer exhibit, a Mennonite quartet, and speaker Dorota Blumczyńska (CEO of Manitoba Museum) that is sure to inspire you. Tickets are $75 and will help MHV restore the foundation of our sinking Printery.

Manitoba Day Celebration, Saturday, May 13 Join us in celebrating Manitoba’s birthday! This free-admission event will include a flag ceremony, birthday cake, a new exhibit, and more! The schedule includes: Horse-drawn wagon rides (12:00-4:00pm), planting Pansies for Mom – Children’s Activities in the Auditorium (10am), Ox Cart stories near the Semlin – Terry and Patty Doerksen (10:30am), flag raising ceremony – music and greetings in the Peter Barkman Pavilion (11:00am), free birthday cake for everyone (11:30am)

Mother’s Day Lunch Buffet, May 14 Celebrate the mothers in your life by treating them to a delicious Mennonite feast at the Livery Barn Restaurant.