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These six priorities for our Church’s life and mission are: Evangelization,Ongoing Faith Formation, Liturgy and Worship, Building and Sustaining Community, Justice and Peace and Strengthening the Unity of our Diocese.

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In Exile – A column by Fr. Ron Rolheiser, OMI: “Taking Tension Out of the Community”

Mon, 04/12/2021 - 07:45
Taking Tension Out of the Community

By Fr. Ron Rolheiser, OMI 

Whatever energy we don’t transform, we will transmit. That’s a phrase I first heard from Richard Rohr and it names a central challenge for all mature adults. Here’s its Christian expression.

Central to our understanding of how we are saved by Jesus is a truth expressed by the phrase: Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. How are we saved through Jesus’ suffering? Obviously, that’s a metaphor. Jesus is not a sheep, so we need to tease out the reality beneath the metaphor.

What prompted the first generation of Christians to use the image of a suffering sheep to explain what Jesus did for us, and how does Jesus’ suffering take away our sins? Was there a debt for sin which only God’s own suffering could cancel? Was the forgiveness of our sins some kind of private, divine transaction between God and Jesus?

These questions have no easy answer, but this much must be said: while some of this is mystery, none of it is magic. Admittedly, there’s mystery here, something that lies beyond what we can adequately explain by rational thought, but there’s no magic here. The deep truths that lie somewhat beyond our rational capacities do not negate our rationality; they only supersede it, analogous to the way that Einstein’s theory of relativity dwarfs grade school mathematics.

Thus, allowing for some mystery, what can we tease out of the metaphor that presents Christ as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world?  Moreover, what’s the challenge for us?

Here’s the historical background to this image. At the time of Jesus, within Judaism, there were a number of atonement (reconciliation) ritual practices around lambs. Some lambs were slaughtered in the temple as offering to God for our sins, and some others were employed as “scapegoat” lambs.

The scapegoat lamb ritual worked this way. A community would gather with the intention of participating in a ritual to ease the tensions that existed among them because of their weaknesses and sin. They would symbolically invest their tensions, their sins, on to the lamb (which was to become their scapegoat) with two symbols: a crown of thorns pushed into the lamb’s head (making it feel their pain) and a purple drape over the lamb’s back (symbolizing its corporate responsibility to carry this for them all). They would then chase the lamb out of the temple and out of town, banishing it to die in the wilderness. The idea was that by investing the lamb with their pain and sin and banishing it forever from their community, their pain and sin were also taken away, banished to die with this lamb.

It is easy to see how they could easily transfer this image to Jesus after his death. Looking at the love that Jesus showed in his suffering and death, the first generation of Christians made this identification. Jesus is our scapegoat, our lamb. We laid our pain and sin on him and drove him out of our community to die. Our sin left with him.

Except, except, they did not understand this as some magical act where God forgave us because Jesus died. No. Their sins were not taken away because Jesus somehow appeased his Father. They were taken away because Jesus absorbed and transformed them, akin to the way a water purifier takes the dirt, toxins, and poisons out of the water by absorbing them.

A water purifier works this way. It takes in water contaminated with dirt, impurities, and poisons, but it holds those toxins inside itself and gives out only the purified water. So too with Jesus. He took in hatred, held it inside, transformed it, and gave back only love. He took in bitterness and gave back graciousness; curses and gave back blessing; jealousy and gave back affirmation; murder and gave back forgiveness. Indeed, he took in all the things that are the source of tension within a community (our sins), held them within and gave back only peace. Thus, he took away our sins, not through divine magic, but by absorbing them, by eating them, by being our scapegoat.

Moreover, what Jesus did, as Kierkegaard so wonderfully says, is not something we should admire; it’s something we need to imitate.

N.T. Wright, in his recent book Broken Signposts, sums up the challenge this way: “Whether we understand it or not – whether we like it or not, which most of us don’t and won’t – what love has to do is not only to face misunderstanding, hostility, suspicion, plotting, and finally violence and murder, but somehow, through that whole horrid business, to draw the fire of ultimate evil onto itself and to exhaust its power.  … Because it is love that takes the worst that evil can do and, absorbing it, defeats it.”

Whatever we don’t transform, we will transmit. There’s a profound truth here regarding how we need to help take tension out of our families, communities, churches, and societies.




Oblate Father Ron Rolheiser, theologian, teacher, and award-winning author, is President of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, TX. He can be contacted through his website

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Find Fr. Rolheiser’s past columns online, along with an explanation for the column’s title “In Exile”:

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Canadian bishops decry ‘perilous’ assisted suicide legislation

Thu, 04/08/2021 - 16:25

By Agnieszka Ruck, The B.C. Catholic

[Ottawa – Canadian Catholic News] – Canada’s Catholic bishops have issued a forceful condemnation of the country’s new assisted suicide law, saying the possible pressures it will place on Canadians with mental illness or disabilities are “all too real, perilous, and potentially destructive.”

In a statement Thursday, the Canadian Conference Catholic Bishops denounced the expansion of “medical assistance in dying” (MAiD) to those who aren’t near death. They called on people of faith to pray and to lobby elected officials about the issue.

The statement, signed by CCCB president Archbishop Richard Gagnon, said, “Our position remains unequivocal. Euthanasia and assisted suicide constitute the deliberate killing of human life in violation of God’s Commandments; they erode our shared dignity by failing to see, to accept, and to accompany those suffering and dying. Furthermore, they undermine the fundamental duty we have to take care of the weakest and most vulnerable members of society.”

Canada’s Senate approved Bill C-7 on March 17, days after it was passed by the House of Commons. The new law expands access to assisted suicide to those whose death is not “reasonably foreseeable,” including the mentally ill, although that provision won’t be enshrined in law for two years to allow a review to establish protocols and safeguards. The new law also allows people to make advance requests for euthanasia if they fear losing the ability to make that decision later in life.

In the statement, released “during this Easter season as we celebrate the resurrection of Christ and the new life we have in him,” the bishops affirmed their support for organizations that resist euthanasia, as well as for family, friends, health care workers, and volunteers who care for the sick and dying.

The bishops said they are “categorically opposed” to allowing assisted suicide in Catholic institutions and called for conscience rights for health care workers who do not want to participate in euthanasia.

In response to the new law, the bishops called for rapid access to mental health care, social support, and suicide prevention programs for people who have chronic or degenerative diseases, live alone, or live in long-term care facilities.

“Palliative care, and not euthanasia or assisted suicide, is the compassionate and supportive response to suffering and dying,” they said.

Vancouver Archbishop J. Michael Miller said “I fully endorse the statement from the CCCB. Moreover, I am convinced that the only way now to minimize the damage to human dignity caused by such an immoral law is to work to ensure that palliative care is affordable and accessible to every Canadian.”

Disability rights groups and Indigenous leaders in Canada have also spoken up against expanding assisted suicide.

In a letter in February, 15 Indigenous leaders and health-care workers stated, “Bill C-7 goes against many of our cultural values, belief systems, and sacred teachings.”

They said Indigenous people are “vulnerable to discrimination and coercion in the health-care system” and deserve protection from “unsolicited counsel” regarding assisted suicide. “The view that MAiD is a dignified end for the terminally ill or those living with disabilities should not be forced on our peoples.”

Canada amended the criminal prohibition against aiding or abetting a person to commit suicide with Bill C-14 in 2016, creating an exemption to the “offense of culpable homicide” so medical practitioners could administer a lethal injection to a dying person without facing criminal charges.

In 2019, 5,631 assisted deaths were reported in Canada, up from 4467 in 2018, although euthanasia opponents believe the actual number is higher.


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Canadians affirm support for nuclear weapon ban

Thu, 04/08/2021 - 16:20

Vast majority want their country to sign UN weapons treaty

By Michael Swan, The Catholic Register

Three-quarters of Canadians say their country should sign the United Nations nuclear weapons ban treaty even if the United States and NATO oppose it.

The national Nanos Research Group survey on behalf of Hiroshima Nagasaki Day Coalition found 55 per cent of Canadians strongly in favour of signing and ratifying the treaty and another 19 per cent who “somewhat support” it.

The survey also found less than 10 per cent of the country believes it is acceptable for any country to possess nuclear arms.

The Nanos poll was released the same day the semi-official Vatican newspaper, La Civilta Cattolica, published an April 1 article praising the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons as an effective instrument of international law since it came into force Jan. 22 after ratification by 50 countries.

Jesuit ethicist and international affairs expert Fr. Drew Christiansen argues that widespread, international support for the new treaty may force nuclear weapons’ states to make substantial progress at the next Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty talks scheduled for August.

“The conference next August in New York represents a fundamental moment. States will also have to show their willingness to build together the future of nuclear disarmament and novel structures of global governance, going beyond the NPT,” Christiansen argues.

Canada has stood by its NATO allies in rejecting the popular treaty. In 2017 Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in line with other NATO leaders, refused to send a Canadian representatives to the UN conference that negotiated the terms of the nuclear weapons ban treaty.

Two-thirds of the world’s nations were represented.

“Substantive progress on non-proliferation and disarmament can only come via initiatives that engage all states, including those which possess nuclear weapons,” Global Affairs spokesperson Grantly Franklin said in an e-mail to The Catholic Register in January.

Four out of five Canadians surveyed by Nanos say Canada should work to eliminate nuclear weapons globally. The strong support for disarmament corresponds to a widespread conviction that any nuclear weapons use would be catastrophic.

“Over eight in 10 Canadians agree (58 per cent) or somewhat agree (28 per cent) that no government, health system or aid organization could respond to the devastation caused by nuclear weapons and they need to be eliminated,” said the Nanos report.

“Canada has long been an important player in global nuclear disarmament and remains committed to achieving a world free of nuclear weapons,” said Franklin.

Pope Francis has announced his intention to amend the Catechism of the Catholic Church to explicitly define possession of nuclear weapons as a moral evil.

“The use of nuclear weapons is immoral, which is why it must be added to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Not only their use, but also possessing them: because an accident or the madness of some government leader, one person’s madness can destroy humanity,” Pope Francis told reporters as he flew home from Hiroshima in 2019.

Canadians also don’t want their money invested in companies that help produce nuclear weapons. Almost half (49 per cent) agree and another 22 per cent somewhat agree they would pull their money out of any financial institution if they found out it was investing in the nuclear arms industry.

The survey of 1,007 adults was conducted both by phone and online between March 27 and March 30. Nanos gives the margin of error at plus or minus 3.1 per cent, 19 times out of 20.




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Groups urge federal government to ban polluting nuclear technologies from fund

Thu, 04/08/2021 - 16:14

Media release by Coalition for Responsible Energy Development (CRED), New Brunswick

Citizen and environmental groups are urging the federal government not to fund polluting nuclear technologies in the upcoming budget, and to instead invest in truly clean and renewable energy solutions across the country.

The federal government recently handed $70.5 million to private-sector companies in Ontario and New Brunswick to develop their designs for more nuclear reactors. Critics have denounced these handouts and are demanding that the federal government ban polluting small modular reactor (SMR) technology from the Clean Energy Fund announced in the Throne Speech.

The federal government is working closely with the nuclear industry and the provinces of Ontario, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan to rebrand nuclear power as “clean energy.” Meanwhile, the uranium fuel chain has left a devastating legacy of radioactive poisons in First Nations and small communities across Canada.

Nuclear reactors create irradiated fuel that contains numerous radioactive materials that remain hazardous for hundreds of thousands of years. The process that the nuclear industry terms “recycling” only involves transferring these radioactive materials to other waste streams. No place exists on the planet that is licensed to safely store these “forever” pollutants.

More than 100 public interest, Indigenous and civil society organizations from coast to coast have endorsed a public statement against federal funding for new nuclear energy, including the United Church of Canada, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, Canadian Federation of University Women, Climate Action Network and Équiterre.

The groups are in solidarity with the Assembly of First Nations, the Chiefs of Ontario, and the Wolastoq Grand Council in New Brunswick that have all demanded that the federal government stop funding new nuclear reactors and cease generating more radioactive waste.

Critics say that the $70.5 million spent by the federal government so far would be a ‘drop in the bucket’ compared to the huge needs of private sector nuclear start-up companies. Their reactor designs could cost up to $2 billion to develop to a point when these could be licensed for construction.

The designs proposed are based on unproven technologies and will take a decade or more to develop, with no guarantee that they will be commercialized successfully. They will not be ready in time to help meet Canada’s climate targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

recent report by Canada’s Green Budget Coalition, made up of 25 leading environmental organizations, states that: “The federal government should provide no support for the development of SMRs.” The Coalition says that indirect subsidies for the nuclear industry – such as protection from accident liability, and sharing waste responsibilities with the private sector – also do not belong in the federal budget.

Leading international bodies have also remarked on the dismal outlook for SMRs and nuclear power in general in climate action. For instance, the 2020 World Nuclear Industry Status Report analysis found that investing in new nuclear energy is too slow to address the climate crisis, compared to investing in proven renewable energy and energy efficiency.

“Funding new nuclear technologies is a bad investment – a waste of both time and money, and it delays real climate action. Canadians want affordable energy that does not pollute the environment. Why would we invest in unproven technologies that, if they ever work, will cost two to five times more than building proven renewables? Indigenous leaders across the country oppose building nuclear reactors or storing nuclear waste in their territories because it contains ‘forever’ radioactive poisons, ” says Professor Susan O’Donnell, Coalition for Responsible Energy Development (CRED) in New Brunswick

“Investing in unproven, next-generation nuclear technology is a dirty, dangerous distraction from tackling the climate crisis. Why are we locking Canadians into high cost electricity and accepting the liability for the nuclear industry when we have safe, renewable technology that is scalable now? We need to rapidly transition to a carbon-free electricity system, not invest in an energy system that we already know is plagued with delays and cost overruns. New nuclear simply can’t get us there on time,” says Kerrie Blaise, Northern Services Legal Counsel, Canadian Environmental Law Association.

“Several studies have shown that electricity from small modular reactors will be more expensive than electricity from large nuclear power plants, which are themselves not competitive in today’s electricity markets. There is no viable market for small modular reactors, and even building factories to manufacture these reactors would not be a sound financial investment,” says M. V. Ramana, School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, University of British Columbia

– 30 –

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Pro-life MP’s private members bill to ban sex selection abortions up for debate in House April 14

Thu, 04/08/2021 - 16:06

By Brian Dryden, Canadian Catholic News

[Ottawa – CCN]  – Saskatchewan Conservative MP Cathay Wagantall’s private members bill that would make abortions done of the basis of a baby’s sex illegal in Canada will be up for debate and second reading in the House of Commons on April 14.

It is expected that the proposed private members bill, which was first introduced in the House of Commons back in February 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown Parliament for a while, will be debated in the House for a second time starting at about 5:30 p.m. EST Wednesday, April 14.

Wagantall’s legislative assistant Tristan McLaughlin told the Canadian Catholic News that although MPs can take part in debates from home via the Internet, Wagantall plans to be in the House on April 14 because presenting the bill in person is important to her.

“She definitely plans to be there in person to address the House,” he said.

Wagantall’s proposed Bill C-233, called the Sex Selective Abortion Act, has the backing of most pro-life organizations in Canada who have been asking Canadians who want to see restrictions on abortion services to sign an online House of Commons petition in support of the bill.

The online House of Commons petition ( … ion=e-3161) will remain open for signatures until April 10, just days before the bill is back in the House for debate. As of April 6, 7796 Canadians have signed the petition.

The petition states: “Whereas: Sex-selective abortion is legal, as Canada has no legal restrictions on abortion; Sex-selective abortion is antithetical to our commitment to equality between men and women; A 2019 DART & Maru/Blue poll, conducted for the National Post, showed that 84% of Canadians believe it should be illegal to have an abortion if the family does not want the child to be a certain sex; International organizations including the World Health Organization, United Nations Women, and United Nations Children’s Fund have identified unequal sex ratios at birth as a growing problem internationally; and Canada’s health care profession recognizes sex selection as a problem. We, the undersigned, Citizens of Canada, call upon the House of Commons in Parliament assembled to pass a Criminal Code prohibition of sex-selective abortion.”

In an interview after Wagantall first introduced her proposed bill, she told the Canadian Catholic Newsthat she believes most Canadians would support the restrictions on abortion that she proposes.

“If just one girl is aborted simply because of her sex, parliamentarians must act,” Wagantall told the Canadian Catholic News at the time.

“Thankfully, Canadians of nearly all beliefs are united on this issue, with eighty-four per cent stating that sex-selective abortion should be illegal. This is reasonable common ground that every member of parliament must thoughtfully consider,” she said, after citing a poll that ran in the National Post newspaper as indicative of Canadians being in favour of some form of legal regulations surrounding abortion in the country as opposed to the situation as it is now in which Canada has, in essence, no laws at all when it comes to abortion.

In a posting on the Campaign Life Coalition (CLC) website, CLC Campaigns Manager David Cooke called on CLC supporters to back Wagantall’s effort in the House.

“We are finally getting close to a vote on this life-saving Bill, which means we need your help once again,” he wrote on the CLC website.

“This E-Petition will be officially presented in Parliament and could help exert considerable pressure on MPs,” Cooke said. “Banning sex-selective abortion should be a no-brainer for our government.”


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Canada must stop vaccine obstruction, say religious orders

Thu, 04/08/2021 - 15:55

By Michael Swan, The Catholic Register 

[Toronto – Canadian Catholic News] – The Sisters of St. Joseph, the Oblates and the Jesuits have joined with a long list of churches, unions and humanitarian organizations to ask Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to get behind an exception to international patent laws that would allow companies and countries to quickly produce cheaper, generic versions of COVID-19 vaccines.

At World Trade Organization meetings in Geneva in December and again early in March, Canada stood in the way of a joint Indian-South African proposal for a TRIPS waiver (TRIPS stands for Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights), which would allow countries and generic drug makers to produce generic versions of vaccines without fear of sanctions or lawsuits.

“Everyone everywhere needs out of this pandemic as quickly as possible. Canada must be part of the global effort to save lives — not an obstacle. We call on the Canadian government to support the waiver now,” said the March 10 letter from 38 organizations including the United Church of Canada and the ecumenical social justice organization Kairos.

Global Affairs Canada told The Catholic Register “Canada has not rejected the COVID-19-related TRIPS waiver proposal.” Canada has instead joined with Mexico and Chile in withholding its support until advocates for the proposal answer questions about “specific intellectual property-related barriers.”

The stance is just camouflage for obstruction, according to signatories to the letter.

“Vaccine technology and knowledge are being treated as private property by pharmaceutical corporations, despite much of this research being paid for by over $100 billion of taxpayers’ money,” the letter to Trudeau reads.

South of the Canada-US border, the Jesuits have mounted a full court press to get Washington to reverse its opposition to a TRIPS waiver.

“There is no reason to guarantee further monopoly rights to the companies,” Jesuit Fr. Ted Penton wrote in a letter to congressional representatives March 18.

“Intellectual property rights are an important way to encourage private companies to fund innovation, ensuring that they can reap the fruits of their own investments,” Penton wrote to all 435 members of Congress. “The development of COVID vaccines, however, has been largely funded by taxpayers, with governments pre-purchasing the vaccines from pharmaceutical companies with no guarantee that effective vaccines would be developed. Taxpayers took the risk and the companies have been paid.”

Penton’s letter to Congress comes on the heels of a Feb. 22 letter from the Jesuit Major Superiors of Africa and Madagascar to President Joe Biden.

“We are concerned that rich countries — including the United States — are hoarding most of the global vaccine supply while poor countries are left behind,” Fr. Agbonkhianmneghe Orobator wrote on behalf of Africa’s Jesuits. “Many global south nations may not start mass vaccinations until as late as 2024. We call on your office to stop the WTO’s role in enforcing this vast inequality.”
The African Jesuits point out that COVAX is not getting needles into arms, and that’s a danger for everyone.

In the United Kingdom, the Catholic organization CAFOD (Catholic Agency For Overseas Development) predicts the coronavirus will push 150 million people into extreme poverty, resulting in an additional 130 million left starving. CAFOD is pushing Prime Minister Boris Johnson to drop UK opposition to a TRIPS waiver.

Canada has put $940 million into the $9.4 billion COVAX fund that is supposed to ensure equal access to vaccines for poor and middle income countries.


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Youth join bishop to pray and enact Stations of the Cross outdoors on Good Friday 2021

Sat, 04/03/2021 - 08:06

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

Underneath the large crucifix raised this week on the grounds of Holy Family Cathedral in Saskatoon, youth from two families joined Bishop Mark Hagemoen to pray the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday evening.

Nathan Bzdel joined the bishop as narrator, while his brother Eli and father Shaun sang refrains between the 14 stations.

Beneath the large crucifix, Antony Salisbury as Jesus, and his siblings Paulina and Jack as other characters in the story of the Passion, created living tableaus depicting each station.

Technical problems prevented the live-streaming of the event, but a small number attended the Good Friday prayer in-person. (View a slide show of images and/or the full video, below).

Slide show:


Music: “Were you there” (public domain) was recorded earlier at the Holy Family Cathedral 3 pm Good Friday solemn liturgy.

Video of outdoor Stations of the Cross:

Gallery of photos:

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Bishop Mark Hagemoen sends video greetings for Easter 2021

Fri, 04/02/2021 - 14:50

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

Bishop Mark Hagemoen of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon sent a video message to the diocese on Good Friday, April 2 — during the second Easter Triduum to fall within the global pandemic.

“The circumstance of the COVID 19 pandemic has brought a whole new reality and set of circumstances for us all. Our Lenten journey in the wilderness with Jesus features a renewed sense of vulnerability and brokenness in our world.  However, it has also been a time and tremendous generosity and blessing,” said Bishop Hagemoen.

“Thank you all so very much for showing what it means to strive to have the same mind and heart as that of Christ Jesus during difficult and extraordinary times.”

Bishop Hagemoen’s video message for Easter: LINK
Bishop Hagemoen’s Easter Letter: PDF

The video message included words of encouragement and hope. “The Holy Week and Easter season renews our awareness that nothing can come between us and the great love of God in Jesus Christ. May these extraordinary times – which call from us extraordinary faith, hope and love – continue to be a time of strengthening, healing and renewal for us all.”


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Postponed by spring snow storm and impacted by COVID-19 restrictions, Chrism Mass held in diocese of Saskatoon

Thu, 04/01/2021 - 16:15

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

Traditionally held at the beginning of Holy Week in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon, the Chrism Mass was postponed this year because of a severe spring snowstorm March 29 that made travel perilous and caused power interruptions at the diocesan cathedral.

Easter Message from Bishop Mark Hagemoen (PDF)

Easter Triduum celebrations with Bishop Mark Hagemoen will be live-streamed at and on the diocesan YouTube channel

Live-stream celebrations, outdoor cross, parish creativity mark another Holy Week during COVID-19 – Article

Three short days later, with dramatically better spring weather, the postponed diocesan celebration was held on Holy Thursday morning, April 1, with priests from across the diocese gathering for the celebration, along with a number of parish representatives.

“We gather again to celebrate another Chrism Mass together as we begin Holy Week –  a day when the clergy join with their bishop to celebrate the priesthood – the priesthood of Jesus Christ – and to be renewed in our priestly life,” said Bishop Mark Hagemoen in the opening of his homily.

During the celebration, priests stood to renew their priestly commitment and were blessed by the bishop.

The Chrism Mass is a celebration of priestly service. (Photos by Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News.)


The Chrism Mass also includes the blessing of oils used in sacraments — the Oil of the Sick, the Oil of Catechumens, and the Sacred Chrism.

During the Chrism Mass the oils were brought forward by Debbie Ledoux, Parish Life Director of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Saskatoon, by Sr. Malou Tibayan of the Verbum Dei Missionary Fraternity, and by Fr. Emmanuel Mbah, hospital chaplain.

Bringing up the oils for blessing during the Chrism Mass held April 1 in Saskatoon. (Photos by Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)

Reflecting on the readings and on the situation in the world during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Bishop Hagemoen said in his homily: “I find myself these days asking, ‘What does joy, prosperity, and blessing  really mean?’ It certainly cannot mean just going back to the way things were before the pandemic. Nor can it mean going back to a time and circumstance when we were not confronted by the kind of difficult issues that we currently face.”

He went on to ask: “Might this be a time when we are renewed – by the real need and call to be prophets and priests in a difficult time? We need to be people of Jesus Christ, who are able to live and show the narrow way to life and love…. and not just externally but internally.”

In these times , the “call to Christ-like renewal” includes key themes and places “where we are called to a prophetic priestly witness of word and service,” Hagemoen said.

He listed some of the challenges in our world that have been made all the more obvious and urgent in a time of pandemic, including:

  • the care of vulnerable persons in society and supports offered to medical personnel in hospitals, nursing homes and other care facilities;
  • the education of young people and supports offered to families and to educators;
  • isolation and depression in homes and communities, and the prevalence and stigma of mental illness, substance abuse, suicide and other social ills;
  • increased rates of domestic violence, elder abuse and other forms of interpersonal violence;
  • societal discord over various responses to COVID-19 that have fractured human relationships and challenged our call to love one another and bear with one another;
  • incidents of racism, bigotry and political and religious intolerance
  • anxieties caused by great losses of employment and the general situation of economic instability;
  • and finally the fragility of our human condition and the basic need that all have for safety, solidarity, and love “within real authentic human community.”

In responding to these challenges, the bishop explored the vital call to respond with both “heart / love” and “truth /law” — and not one without the other.

“The ministry of Jesus Christ calls us to daily conversion about being authentically Christ-like, and about avoiding only Heart, or only Truth …without the fullness of the other. To be in either extreme is too risk not being Christ-like,” Hagemoen said.

“Brothers and Sisters how are we doing at having a profound experience of God – of Jesus Christ?”

He pointed to Pope Francis’ recent Palm Sunday homily, in which the Holy Father said: “Today, there are many people who admire Jesus: He said beautiful things; He was filled with love and forgiveness; His example changed history … and so on. They admire Him, but their lives are not changed. To admire Jesus is not enough. We have to follow in His footsteps, to let ourselves be challenged by Him; to pass from admiration to amazement.”

The bishop concluded: “We have the remarkable privilege  – and duty of course – to make real and present to the world the powerful, healing, and life-giving presence of the Saviour who has walked with us, has suffered and died, and now is risen. He calls us beyond our incompleteness and pain, to a new promise and reality – indeed, new hope for the world.”

Live-stream video of the entire Chrism Mass: LINK

At the conclusion of the celebration, the bishop also recognized priests celebrating milestone anniversaries this year — an annual tradition at the diocesan Chrism Mass celebration.

Priests celebrating milestone anniversaries in 2021 include:

  • 60 Years: Fr. Wendeliin Rolheiser, OMI, and Fr. Daniel Muyres, OSB
  • 55 Years: Fr. Bill Stang, OMI
  • 50 Years: Fr. Ron Griffin, CSB
  • 40 Years: Fr. Nestor Silva, OMI
  • 35 Years: Fr. Les Paquin and Fr. Stefano Penna
  • 25 Years: Fr. Demetrius Wasylyniuk, OSB
  • 20 Years: Fr. Emmanuel Olusola and Fr. Bruce McAllister
  • 15 Years: Fr. Peter Olisa and Fr. Charles Nweze
  • 10 Years: Fr. Matthew Ramsay and Fr. Geoffrey Young
  •  5 Years: Fr. Graham Hill, CSsR


Gallery of photos from the Chrism Mass Video of Bishop Hagemoen’s Homily:

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Even in pandemic, there is room for Christ – book advocates a Catholic understanding of crisis

Thu, 04/01/2021 - 16:02

By Michael Swan, The Catholic Register

[Toronto – Canadian Catholic News] – Fr. Harrison Ayre of British Columbia knows COVID lockdowns can wear you down. He’s felt it more in the last few months.

“It was hard to function every day. It was hard to get going with stuff outside of basic duties,” Ayre told The Catholic Register.

He and many of the priests he knows say pastoring a parish has been more taxing through the COVID lockdowns. Livestreaming weekday Masses turns the lonely pastor into a sacristan, cameraman, sound technician, social media editor and priest all at once. Keeping parishioners informed of the ever shifting rules for Mass attendance is a challenge. Baptisms come one at a time, given the limit of 10 people in the church.

During the lockdown, Ayre was moved to a new parish, from Holy Family, Notre Dame in Port Alberni, B.C., to St. Peter Parish in Nanaimo, B.C. He’s had the additional problem of trying to get to know his new parishioners when they’re simply not there every Sunday.

The experience has made Ayre a little more sympathetic to what COVID-deniers and angry, anti-mask partisans have been reacting to, but it hasn’t changed his mind about how Christians should think and behave in these extraordinary times.
“I would never fall into that reactionism,” he said.

Ayre is the co-author with Michael Heinlein of Finding Christ in the Crisis, What the Pandemic Can Teach Us.

It’s a quick read, less than 100 pages, that argues for a Catholic, biblical and sacramental understanding of the COVID crisis. It is an antidote to the bitter, political arguments that try to skirt around scientific facts and misunderstand the theological reality of faith in hard times.

“We are not being persecuted. Maybe sometimes we are being treated unfairly, but that’s not persecution,” said Ayre. “Maybe things aren’t exactly fair. But who ever said the Church was going to be treated fairly?”

Ayre doesn’t deny that people suffer when their normal sacramental life has been interrupted. But he cannot understand people treating the Eucharist as though it were their personal possession, demanding that governments guarantee their access to it. Christians from St. Paul on down through the centuries have welcomed suffering — especially suffering for the sake of the good of others.

In the book, Ayre and Heinlein warn against “spiritual narcissism.”

“Spiritual narcissism is looking after our own spiritual needs but forgetting that the goal of our own needs is to feed our service to our neighbour,” they write. “Spiritual narcissism means caring only for your own spiritual health and forgetting what is good for our brother and sister.”

Ayre also points out that many saints — including St. Therese of Lisieux — lived lives of great holiness without daily or weekly access to the Eucharist. At times, St. Therese would have communion as infrequently as twice a year, Ayre said.

The book’s argument for a calm and charitable attitude to COVID lockdowns isn’t preaching passivity.

“It would be nice if the government could really do a better job at communicating,” he said. “The Church does have to speak up, perhaps just a little bit more. If we’re going to be closed, that’s fine. But I think we’re owed explanations.”

If Easter was a little quieter, a little strange, a little more isolated than Catholics are used to, that hardly cancels the essential truth of Easter, Ayre said.

“There’s always hope, because Christ is risen. That is the essential message of Christianity,” he said. “Hope is recognizing a presence. Christ really is here, in that we are configured to Him through baptism — really and truly. He’s always there. Just because you can’t get to Mass right now — as normal and as important as that is — your baptism is a real connection. We are configured to the life of the Trinity through baptism. That’s no small potatoes, right?”

The book has had overwhelmingly positive reactions, with many parishes buying hundreds of copies from publisher Our Sunday Visitor. Conspiracy theorists and anti-maskers have been lightly sprinkled among dozens of grateful and appreciative notes Ayre has received.

“You get some real wackos, but that’s always the case,” he said. “I’ve heard them all. I kind of joke now that I can’t wait to get vaccinated so I can get better cell reception.”



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Live-stream celebrations, outdoor cross, parish creativity mark another Holy Week during COVID-19

Thu, 04/01/2021 - 15:32

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

As the Christian Church celebrates the most holy days of the year — Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter — parishes in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon are among the local churches dealing with celebrating in a time of pandemic.

Catholic parishes are complying with public health orders to keep worship gatherings at 30 per cent of building capacity or 150 persons, whichever is less, along with implementing all other policies related to contact tracing, cleaning procedures, distancing, masks, etc.

Chrism Mass celebrated in the diocese of Saskatoon – ARTICLE

Easter Message from Bishop Mark Hagemoen (PDF)

The faithful are asked to check with individual Catholic parishes about registering to attend any celebration in person — at this point, most of the in-person opportunities for worship are filling up quickly (find contact information for parishes at ).

Even with additional services added, many thousands of Catholics will NOT be able to attend in person, therefore celebrations are also being live-streamed and shared via social media and websites, including the diocesan live-streaming website

The live-stream schedule includes celebrations with Bishop Hagemoen presiding will include:

  • Holy Thursday Mass of Our Lord’s Supper – April 1 at 7:00 p.m.
  • Good Friday Solemn Liturgy – April 2 at 3:00 p.m.
  • Easter Vigil Mass – April 3 at 9:00 p.m.
  • Easter Morning Mass – April 4 at 10:00 a.m.
Outdoor cross raised: To prepare to enter into the Passion of Christ, a cross made and donated by Laverne Ducherer was erected in the church parking lot of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parrish in Martensville, SK, on Holy Thursday.  There will be drive-through veneration of the cross on Good Friday after the 2:00 pm service, which will also be live-streamed. The cross built and raised last year by Bishop Mark Hagemoen and a group of volunteers on the grounds of the Cathedral of the Holy Family in Saskatoon for outdoor and drive-by prayer and veneration was also raised again during Holy Week 2021, as COVID-19 precautions continue to limit how many can gather for worship. The cross will stand in place until Easter Monday. Working on the Saskatoon cathedral cross project on Holy Wednesday, March 31 were Curtis, Graeme and Matt Mann, Ben Lukash, Jon Neufeld and Daniel Joosten. Gallery of photos: -30-


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St. Augustine Catholic School in Saskatoon celebrates Treaty Medal installation

Mon, 03/29/2021 - 14:14

By Derrick Kunz, Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools

St. Augustine School in Saskatoon celebrated a Treaty 6 medal installation March 26, marking a formal commitment to continued learning about our past history, deepening understanding of treaties and journeying toward reconciliation.

Artwork created in conjunction with the Treaty 6 medal installation. (GSCS photo)

Working with artist Kevin Pee-ace, students created a beautiful piece of art in conjunction with the Treaty 6 medal project. The endeavour generated much excitement, dialogue and learning for the school community.

Bishop Mark Hagemoen sent a message to the Saskatoon school on the occasion of the installation, saying “Blessings and congratulations to the community of St. Augustine’s for this commitment and celebration today. May this event continue to inspire all our efforts and building our relationships as brothers and sisters of our One Great Creator and God.”

Replicas of the Treaty 6 medal have been installed at a number of Catholic schools and Catholic parishes in recent years, highlighting the spirit and the intent of treaty relationships.


(GSCS photo)


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Catholic school winners among those recognized with Living in Harmony Award

Mon, 03/29/2021 - 13:58

By Derrick Kunz, Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools

Two Initiatives of Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools (GSCS) students and staff were recently recognized in the City of Saskatoon’s 2021 Living in Harmony Awards.

These awards recognize outstanding achievements in contributing to the elimination of racial discrimination in our community.

The Newcomer Youth Engagement Program is recognized as the Best Overall Poster Winner, while the Best Video Submission went to the EcoJustice class at St. Frances Nēhiyaw (Cree) Bilingual School in Saskatoon.

Winners were announced in a virtual ceremony online on March 19, 2021. The City of Saskatoon’s website states, “This year, in order to recognize the award winners while keeping everyone safe, the City released a video in lieu of hosting an in-person presentation.”

Because the 2020 awards were abruptly cancelled early in the pandemic, two 2020 award winners from GSCS were also acknowledged during the virtual ceremony: Best Elementary Submission by École  St. Matthew School, Grades 4-6, and Best High School Submission by St. Frances Nēhiyaw Bilingual School, Grade 9 Class.


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Saskatoon Catholic high school raises funds for water pumps distributed by Development and Peace partner in Haiti

Mon, 03/29/2021 - 13:45

By Holy Cross High School staff, Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools

In the land of 100,000 lakes, it can be a challenge to relate to water scarcity. Raising awareness—and money — for the global issue was the intent of a Lenten project at Holy Cross High School in Saskatoon.

The project involved raising money for manual water pumps that will be used by farmers in northern Haiti who have been affected by drought and climate change.

The pumps will be distributed by IRATAM, a Development and Peace partner. This organization supports farmers by teaching agricultural techniques that are adapted to the challenges these farmers face.

“During Lent, we created an initiative that would take our students beyond our local situation,” said Michelle Dinter-Lipinski, a teacher at Holy Cross. “We wanted students to place themselves in the shoes of others in a region of the world where need is great.”

To kick things off, students and staff were educated about the issues Haitians face through morning devotions and daily announcements. Colourful pails were then delivered to each class and, over the next two weeks, students were encouraged to donate.

“We didn’t know what to expect, so we started with a goal of $1 per student,” said Tom Saretsky, teacher-chaplain at Holy Cross. (There are about 1,300 students at the school).

“The collection total was announced each day with lots of encouragement to ‘go higher’!” A visual display at the front entrance of the school kept a tally of money raised and how many pumps that would fund.

In total, $6,076 —enough for 30 pumps—was raised. This was done in a time when only half of the students are in the building on any given day.

Dinter-Lipinski said, “The project was about empathy and solidarity. We are so proud of our students and staff who so generously contributed to the success of the initiative.”





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Opponents of euthanasia and assisted suicide vow to continue fight after passing of Bill C-7

Fri, 03/26/2021 - 09:52

By Canadian Catholic News

[Ottawa -CCN] – Opponents may have lost another battle in the fight against legalized euthanasia and assisted suicide in Canada — known as “medical assistance in dying” or MAiD — but they are promising to fight on.

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) has vowed to keep the debate alive despite the Senate passing Bill C-7 on March 17, 2021, just days after the law passed in the House of Commons. The bill has expanded access to a medically-assisted death, including to the mentally ill, though that won’t be enshrined in the law for two years to allow a review to establish protocols and safeguards.

“As terrible as Bill C-7 was, there is a two-year moratorium on the euthanasia for mental illness clause, giving the government time to establish protocols,” said Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the EPC, adding he hopes this time will allow “an opportunity for us and our coalition partners to change the direction of the debate and enable a full examination of the law.”

“While the battle was lost, the war is not over,” said Nicole Scheidl of Canadian Physicians for Life.

She said the passing of C-7 has been hard to take, but pro-life physicians have “done an absolutely amazing job” in creating a conversation around medically-assisted euthanasia/ assisted suicide. Scheidl said her organization will now turn its attention to protecting the conscience rights of physicians who wish to remain true to the Hippocratic tradition of not doing harm.

Schadenberg said the whole process — from legalizing medically-assisted death in 2016 to opening the door for the mentally ill to legally commit suicide — is proof that once euthanasia takes root, it can’t be stopped.

“Canada is the prime example of the slippery slope,” said Schadenberg. “The EPC is warning the world not to follow Canada’s lead. In less than five years Canada, has legalized killing by euthanasia and expanded it to include people with mental illness.”

The Senate passed C-7 despite a plea from Conservative Senate leader Don Plett to his colleagues.

“If there was ever a time to exercise sober second thought, it is now,” Plett said. “It is not often that we can truly say that with this vote we have the opportunity to save lives, to prevent the unnecessary premature death of the vulnerable, to offer hope to those who have lost it. But today we do.”

But even as Canada’s euthanasia/assisted suicide system now makes it easier to access a medical death, opponents do see a silver lining.

“The good news is that Bill C-7 activated thousands of Canadians from different perspectives” during the debate and has forced Canadians to consider the ramifications of how euthanasia has expanded, Schadenberg said.

“People with disabilities, Indigenous people, medical and mental health professionals and many others are committed to reversing the euthanasia trend.”

The government acknowledged there are still many issues to be debated, such as the eligibility of mature minors, advance requests, protection for those living with disabilities. It said a parliamentary review of the legislation would begin within 30 days.


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Canadians divided on “conversion therapy” ban

Thu, 03/25/2021 - 17:55

By Agnieszka Ruck, The B.C. Catholic

[Vancouver – Canadian Catholic News] – A recent survey of 1,016 Canadians has found there is no widespread support for the so-called “conversion therapy ban” Bill C-6.

The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF) commissioned a Nanos poll Feb. 28 to March 4 to ask people across the country for their thoughts on access to counselling about sexuality.

The poll found 78 per cent of respondents agreed that “consenting adults should be able to receive the sexuality counselling of their choice regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

It also found most respondents believed children with gender dysphoria who are thinking about altering their bodies with puberty blockers or hormones should have access to counselling services with a “wait and see” approach.

JCCF staff lawyer Marty Moore said his organization does not take a political stance, but advocates for rights of Canadians. He believes Bill C-6 and similar conversion therapy bans introduced in some major cities threaten Canadian rights and liberties.

“The concept of conversion therapy often brings to mind appalling and abusive practices,” such as electric shock, he said during a video press conference March 16. “The prohibition of such abusive coercive practices is of course justified, but the recent conversion therapy bans make no reference to abuse or coercion.”

The proposed bill defines conversion therapy this way: “a practice that seeks to change a person’s sexual orientation to heterosexual, to change a person’s gender identity or gender expression to cisgender or to repress or reduce non-heterosexual attraction or sexual behaviour or non-cisgender expression.” (Cisgender refers to a person whose gender identity matches their biological sex).

The bill would amend the Criminal Code to make offering conversion therapy, advertising it, or receiving financial benefit for providing it a criminal offence with a maximum five-year prison sentence.

Moore said if conversion therapy remains so defined, it could ban a person’s voluntary and personal choice to seek counselling for a sexual issue and discriminates against some LGBTQ persons.

Concerns about Bill C-6 – Resources

In fact, at least one same-sex attracted person has already been denied such treatment. Calgary-area resident Jose Ruba joined the press conference to share that as a university student, he began to experience unwanted sexual attractions to men and began viewing same-sex pornography. He sought help from a spiritual director, who led him to a counsellor.

“Some of what he said was not so helpful, but some of it was life-giving,” said Ruba.

After moving to a different city, he has looked for other counsellors who could give him the same help. But while freely seeking this service, Ruba has been told by several counselling agencies they can’t help him, or only help him in a limited way.

“They would only help me if we talked about a pornography addiction, but not gay pornography,” he said. “If Canadians understood the kinds of discrimination … they would not support this ban.”

Ruba said his former counsellor could, if Bill C-6 was in force, be criminally charged, as could the spiritual director who recommended him, for advertising and offering their help.

“No one wants anyone to be coerced into counselling … I had been forced into counselling, it would not have benefitted me,” he said.

Legislators and politicians have said the bill would not block access to conversion therapy for a person who freely consented to it, as long as the counsellor did not receive compensation for the treatment. They have also said it would not criminalize private conversations between family members.

But Moore warns that language is not actually laid out in the bill itself.

“Bill C-6 is imposing a one-way street, a one-size-fits-all solution, regardless of the best interests of” the person seeking conversion therapy, he said.

It “drastically impairs the ability of parents to make decisions in the best interests of their children,” and “could criminalize conversations that a parent has with their children, even about counselling the child wants to get.”

That’s what Rachel Smith is concerned about. Rachel, a minor who used a pseudonym to protect her identity, told the press conference she is autistic and identified as transgender for two years due to an inability to form meaningful friendships with girls and a lack of female athletic role models.

“Working out was the best way for me to handle my gender dysphoria,” said Rachel. She built up a muscular physique and felt more comfortable around boys.

Then, around age 14, she met a young woman who was strong, competitive, and comfortable in her skin as an athletic female. She took time to train Rachel to improve her flexibility and helped her build an appreciation for her body. Rachel came to embrace the gender she was born with.

“When I came out as a girl in school after I was known as trans for two years, I was bullied by many students and even some teachers,” said Rachel.

She said all people with gender dysphoria have different needs and it is important for them to access a variety of resources, including ones that help them affirm their biological sex.

“What works for me may not work for someone else,” she said. “All I needed was a strong female role model and friend … Imagine if … my parents were forced to allow me to transition.”

The JCCF poll found Canadians are divided on whether counselling a child to accept their birth gender rather than explore other genders should be legal: 41 per cent agreed it should be legal, 27 per cent said it should be illegal, and 32 per cent said they were unsure.

Emmanuel Sanchez also spoke at the press conference. After coming out as gay at age 16 and having relationships with older men, “I was still very unsettled.”

He found out a counsellor who helped him tackle the bullying and depression in his past and challenged him to take a hard look at all of his relationships.

“I started to see life differently and I deeply loved it,” he said. Sanchez has joined a movement called “Fix the Definition” calling for Bill C-6 to be amended to ban coercive practices designed to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity while ensuring Canadians can freely access the counselling they choose. The movement also seeks to protect the rights of parents to speak to their children about sexuality and gender.

Bill C-6 is currently pending third reading in the House of Commons.


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Concerns about “slippery slope” of assisted death continue with Bill C-7 approval

Thu, 03/25/2021 - 08:57

By Brian Dryden,  Canadian Catholic News

[Ottawa – CCN]  – Making it easier for people to kill themselves with the help of a doctor and opening the door for the mentally ill to legally commit suicide is demonstrating that once you allow euthanasia to take root, it can’t be stopped from taking the lives of more and more Canadians.

Critics of Canada’s system of medically-provided euthanasia / assisted suicide continue to warn that this is the “slippery slope” that will see the number of people put to death in Canada through “Medical Aid in Dying” (MAiD) continue to go up in the future.

Despite a plea from a Conservative senator just before the final vote on Bill C-7 in the Senate on March 17, senators agreed to expand the euthanasia/ assisted suicide system by a vote of 60-25. The final Senate vote followed a House of Commons vote in which most of the governing Liberals and Bloc Quebecois MPs voted in favour of Bill C-7.

Conservative Party Senate leader Don Plett called on all senators on March 17 to reject Bill C-7 but he failed to sway most of his colleagues.

“If there was ever a time to exercise sober second thought, it is now,” Plett said during debate in the Senate.

“It is not often that we can truly say that with this vote we have the opportunity to save lives, to prevent the unnecessary premature death of the vulnerable, to offer hope to those who have lost it. But today we do,” said Plett.

With Bill C-7, the previous requirement for a person’s natural death to be reasonably foreseeable in order to be eligible for medically-provided euthanasia / assisted suicide will no longer be in effect, which is a direct response to the 2019 Superior Court of Quebec Truchon ruling.

But the changes to the euthanasia system in Bill C-7 go far beyond just responding to the Quebec court ruling.

Along with there now being a two-tier approach to safeguards based on whether a person’s natural death is reasonably foreseeable or not, Bill C-7 will allow the mentally ill to access medically-assisted suicide.

At first the federal government wanted to block the mentally ill from being eligible, but some senators, including some Conservative senators, demanded the mentally ill be eligible – that will take effect in 24 months after a review establishes protocols and safeguards surrounding how medically-assisted suicide will be made available to people who have a mental illness.

“Canada is the prime example of the slippery slope,” said Euthanasia Prevention Coalition president Alex Schadenberg.

“The EPC is warning the world not to follow Canada’s lead. In less than five years Canada, has legalized killing by euthanasia and expanded it to include people with mental illness,” he said.

“The good news is that Bill C-7 activated thousands of Canadians from different perspectives” during the debate and has forced many Canadians to consider the ramifications of how euthanasia has been expanded in Canada, Schadenberg said.

“People with disabilities, Indigenous people, medical and mental health professionals and many others are committed to reversing the euthanasia trend,” he said. “These are diverse, effective and committed allies.”

But despite the vocal opposition to changing the medically-assisted death system from the Catholic Church and civil organizations such as the EPC, the federal Liberal government is “glad” that the changes are now in effect.

“It has been a long process, and I am glad that the wait is over. The revised law respects the autonomy and freedom of choice of all Canadians to decide for themselves when their suffering has become intolerable, while protecting the vulnerable,” said Justice Minister David Lametti, who is Catholic.

According to the federal government, there are still a number of issues surrounding the MAiD system that are still to be determined and critics of the euthanasia/assisted-suicide system will have further opportunity to address those issues in the future.

“The Government of Canada recognizes that other important outstanding issues related to MAiD must still be explored. Areas such as the eligibility of mature minors, advance requests, mental illness, palliative care and the protection of Canadians living with disabilities will be considered during a parliamentary review of the MAID legislation that would begin within the next 30 days,” a statement from the Ministry of Justice said.

“The committee responsible for the parliamentary review process will be required to submit its report to Parliament no later than one year after the start of the review.”


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Edmonton seminary rector appointed as new bishop of Prince Albert

Thu, 03/25/2021 - 08:35
Prince Albert Bishop. Albert Thévenot, M. Afr.​, has retired

By Andrew Ehrkamp, Grandin Media

[Edmonton – Canadian Catholic News] – Fr. Stephen Hero, a former associate pastor and vocations director who grew up in Edmonton and spent nine years as rector of St. Joseph Seminary, has been appointed as the new bishop of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.

The announcement was made in Rome on the Feast of the Annunciation, March 25, 2021.

“I feel very much at peace actually,” Fr. Hero said in an interview. “There have been some sleepless nights, I admit. Everything happens very quickly. But I really believe that God works through the Holy Father and the bishops in making decisions like this … there is a lot of grace required to say ‘yes,’ but I guess it kind of opens a floodgate to grace, and God will help.

“I’m being sent now to these people to evangelize,” Hero said. “I’m seeing myself as a missionary, working with a whole bunch of other good people there, trying to preach the Gospel. I see my role then to help build up the Catholic Church there, to help people come to faith in Jesus Christ through the Word, through the salvation of the sacraments, and to be one with each other and with Christ.”

The current Bishop of Prince Albert, Albert Thevenot, has announced that he will be retiring. More information will be available on the Facebook page of the Diocese of Prince Albert.

“It’s a great announcement for the Church for sure. I have no doubt about that,” said Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith, adding he had mixed feelings about the announcement.

“I guess the mixed reaction comes from a little bit of selfishness because I, like many people here in the Archdiocese of Edmonton, will be sad to see now-Bishop-Elect Hero leave the Archdiocese. He has been a great presence here, a great servant of the Lord and servant of the Church. He has had a huge impact. Who wants to see that coming to an end? I don’t.

“We have long known that he has wonderful leadership capacity,” Archbishop Smith said. “He will be a wise, gentle, caring, and clear shepherd of the people entrusted to his care.”

Stephen Andrew Hero was born in Lachine, Que. on Dec. 19, 1969, the youngest and only brother of four siblings. Kathleen Anne Hero and Louis Stephen Hero lived with their children in Dollard-des-Ormeaux on the island of Montréal until Stephen was 10.

Hero moved with his family to Edmonton in December 1980. Discerning a call to priesthood while still in high school, he entered the Seminary of Christ the King in Mission, B.C. and completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy in 1994.

Hero began theological studies at St. Joseph Seminary in Edmonton and was sent to Rome by Archbishop Joseph MacNeil to complete his theological studies at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas.

Fr. Hero was ordained in Rome as a deacon for the Archdiocese of Edmonton by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (the future Pope Benedict XVI) on Oct. 7, 1999 and he completed his Licentiate in Theology degree in June of 2000. Returning to Edmonton, Hero was ordained a priest on June 29, 2000 by now-Cardinal Thomas Collins, who was the Archbishop of Edmonton at that time.

Hero served as an assistant at St. Theresa Parish in Mill Woods, Holy Family Parish in St. Albert, and as vocation director for the Archdiocese of Edmonton. He was asked to return to Rome for further studies in 2003 and obtained a Licentiate in Liturgical Theology from the Pontifical Liturgical Institute at Sant’ Anselmo in 2005.

Since the fall of 2005, he has been a member of the formation team at St. Joseph Seminary and a lecturer at Newman Theological College in the areas of spirituality, liturgy, and sacraments. He has also taught regularly in the formation program of the Permanent Diaconate in Edmonton, and assisted on their formation team as well.

In the fall of 2010, he was appointed as vice-rector of St. Joseph Seminary. Two years later, he was appointed rector. Hero was appointed the Archbishop’s deputy delegate for Safe Environments and Abuse Prevention in 2018.

“Happiness and sadness. It’s a combination” is how Fr. Sylvain Casavant, vice-rector of St. Joseph Seminary, described hearing the news of Father Hero’s appointment.

“I’m happy for the people of the Diocese of Prince Albert. They need someone who is faithful, who is able to lead them, and Father Stephen has done a good job of leading us for the last nine years in the seminary. He has a gentleness. He has a strong faith and is willing, really, to offer the fullness of himself in whatever he endeavours always in an atmosphere of continual prayer.”

An announcement is expected this week on Hero’s successor as rector of the seminary.

Under normal circumstances, the nuncio (papal representative) in Canada would invite a candidate to Ottawa. However, with COVID-19 restrictions, Hero said he was informed of the decision over the phone by the nunciature.

“I was working on a homily for Mass that day, preaching in a few hours and got an unsettling phone call,” Hero joked. Within 24 hours, Hero had sent a letter to the Holy Father, through the nunciature, accepting the appointment.

Hero said he had travelled throughout Saskatchewan, but had not been to the city of Prince Albert until he was there this week. Hero said he will be researching his new diocese, which historically has a connection to Edmonton as part of the larger Diocese of St. Albert in the 1800s and its first bishop, Vital Grandin. And he is looking forward to meeting his community, which has large indigenous and rural population.

“In any rural diocese in western Canada, a lot of young people move away from home for education and for work … and sometimes they stay away,” Hero said. “That’s challenging for the Church and for families.”

As bishop, Hero said his years at the seminary, and as a pastor and vocations director, has helped him work with young people to discern their vocation to priesthood, religious life, or marriage.

“I’ve really come to see the faith of people,” Hero said, “and I have been very edified by people in the parish. I know how much we need each other. People need the priests, and the priests need the people, so we build each other up in faith.

“Hopefully I’ve learned to have a listening heart,” Hero said.

“I love Edmonton. It has been my home,” Hero said. “I will certainly miss my family and friends, the priests that I have been ministering with here; the Church here in Edmonton which has really nourished my faith in so many ways as a teenager and young adult.”

To the friends, family, and the Edmonton community he’s leaving behind, Hero said: “I kindly ask people to keep praying for me. They’ll all be in my heart in the future, not far away.”


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Confronting death: Jesus’ last words

Wed, 03/24/2021 - 11:43

By Michael Swan, The Catholic Register

[Toronto – Canadian Catholic News] – Thinking about a horrible death doesn’t come naturally to 21st-century humans, even on Good Friday.

“We don’t want to think about death,” observes King’s University College philosophy professor John Heng in London, ON. “We don’t want to talk about it. We don’t want to prepare for it. If we do think about it, we want to control it, manage it, have it on our own terms.”

Heng has meditated on the seven last words of Christ — a Good Friday spiritual practice that stretches back centuries and has inspired string quartets by Joseph Hayden, a choral masterpiece by Cesar Franck, books by Fulton Sheen, Jesuit writer Fr. James Martin and Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner. It’s a practice that requires us to confront, not only Christ’s death on the cross, but our own, he said.

“In (our) cultural context, there is a cultural shift that makes it perhaps more difficult to enter into the spiritual practice of the seven last words of Christ,” said Heng. “It tends to remind us of our mortality. It’s not something that’s easy to enter into.”

In a death-denying society, dying becomes hard to imagine. In the 16th century, however, it wasn’t so hard to picture a grisly, painful death. Back then, it happened all the time and in full view, before hospitals became hubs of science that keep the dying hidden from us.

In Alsace-Lorraine, sandwiched between Germany and France, people frequently died of ergotism, a disease caused by long-term consumption of rye bread that had gone bad with a purple fungus.

“People’s extremities felt like they were on fire and would ultimately fall off, or be cut off in order to spare them the pain,” explained Regis College art historian and Art Gallery of Ontario emeritus curator Katharine Lochnan.

People in the later stages of ergotism would be brought to a hospital run by Augustinian monks in Isenheim, near Colmar, Germany. Unlike modern hospitals, the monastery in Isenheim was essentially a good place to die. The monks made no pretence of being able to cure anyone.

Patients arrived at the Isenheim monastery and made a full confession in preparation for a good death.

They were given red clothes, put in beds in the chapel, surrounded by red bed hangings. From their beds they had a clear view of a massive painting of the crucifixion by Matthias Grünewald.

“It was, of course, a form of prayer or devotion to participate in and engage with,” said Lochnan.

In modern art history, the Grünewald crucifixion has generally been treated as a masterwork, “a fine example of Grünewald’s style of late medieval altar pieces and all of that,” said Lochnan.

“It is considered in the history of art to be the single grisliest crucifixion and also a very great work of art — a canonical work; the artist’s greatest masterpiece,” she said.

Lochnan hopes to publish later this year a paper on the theological significance of the work, which art historians have tended to shy away from. Her research into the Grünewald crucifixion is a kind of pilot for a new program at Regis and the Toronto School of Theology in spirituality and art history.

Painted in 1515, oil on wood, the Grunewald crucifixion is just part of an elaborate altarpiece that opened and closed to display more than a dozen paintings of scenes from the life of Christ. But the ultimate and most important painting of the series was the crucifixion, on display throughout the year in the chapel where people lay dying in excruciating pain. Uniquely, Christ is depicted covered in the kinds of sores caused by ergotism.

Thinking about how Christ died and about his seven last words came naturally in the cultural, religious and medical context of pre-Reformation Europe.

“It was believed that by meditating on the crucifixion, entering into it fully, that you could, in effect, be redeemed,” Lochnan said. “By feeling Christ’s agony and by true repentance, your sins could be forgiven and your chance at salvation would increase. That was, really, their job — to make a good death, meditating on the crucifixion.”

Patients in the Isenheim chapel weren’t just looking at the painting. They entered into it, bringing with them their pain and mortality, their lives of sin, grace and hope.

“There is this wonderful kind of exchange taking place between the sufferers, who see Christ suffering for them with their sores, taking on their burden — and in turn, they take on His,” Lochnan said. “There’s a quite marvellous exchange there of identity.”

For Heng, the seven last words are an occasion for the modern Christian to escape an overly intellectualized faith. By spiritually experiencing Christ’s death on the cross we become aware of our own vulnerability and frailty.

“The thing that strikes me is that we reflect upon these last words of Jesus not in the way that let’s say a philosopher might read the last words of Socrates in the Crito. They’re not meant to impart lessons. It’s not the content, necessarily, that we reflect upon,” he said. “It’s the words as they are embodied in the Jesus who is dying — which is the act of love. God so loved the world He sent His only Son.”

That Jesus’ experience of death is so human, common to all of us, matters tremendously to Heng.

“Really I think, from reflecting on my experiences, that people are at their most, they’re at their most fragile and at their most vulnerable,” he said. “And at their most spiritual too, I think. There’s something sacred about that final hour.”

Meditating on the last words of Christ is not a fearful experience, but a means of overcoming our fears, said Heng.

“That’s what Christ came to save us from,” he said. “To save us from a fear of being loved by God. Which is a strange thing, but I really do believe that’s at the heart of sin — that incapacity to be embraced by the Father’s love and hence being unable to love ourselves.”


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100 Words – Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion: “God Does”

Wed, 03/24/2021 - 10:52

Emotional Tombs

By Peter Oliver, Olive Branch Marriage and Family Ministry

When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon.  At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Mark 15:33-34

Who understands the agonizing conflict between the power of darkness and the gift of light experienced by those who go through separation and divorce?

God does.

Who fully understands the implications of separation and divorce and embraces our confusion and grief?

God does.

And if you are shamed and shunned for choosing to remarry, who hangs on this cross with you?

God does.

When failure defines every aspect of your life, who knows every contour of your experience?

God does.

People begin with the question, “Is it right or wrong?” God begins with “I’m with you in your darkest hour.”


[This is a weekly blog re-published from with permission from author Peter Oliver. Each post is exactly 100 words.]

Discernment Mediationhelping you talk



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