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Updated: 1 year 24 weeks ago

Closing churches ‘the most horrible thing’ says Cardinal Collins of his toughest decision

Fri, 09/18/2020 - 15:29

By Quinton Amundson, The Catholic Register

Cardinal Thomas Collins said there is no mistaking what the last six months of dealing with COVID-19 has been: a plague on our world.

But it’s also been a learning experience for himself, the Catholic Church in Toronto, indeed, for everyone.

“At the heart of it all (COVID-19) is a plague,” said Cardinal Collins of the Archdiocese of Toronto. Collins was the featured speaker at a virtual RiseUp conference recently hosted by Dorothy Pilarski, founder of the Catholic Moms’ Group in the archdiocese.

It’s an observation that inspired Collins to read The Betrothed, an historical novel authored by Italian philosopher Alessandro Manzoni documenting the outbreaks of bubonic plague that struck north and central Italy — particularly Milan — from 1629-1631. He was struck by the similarities of the two eras.

“It sounded awfully familiar,” said Collins. “People were distancing from one another and the churches shut down. Everyone knew that the plague went from person to person even though they couldn’t use modern science. This whole thing has been awful, especially for those who have got the disease.”

It has made for some very difficult times for Cardinal Collins in his role as Archbishop of Toronto.

His most significant trial of the pandemic was making the decision on March 16 to suspend all public Masses, baptisms, funerals and parish events to ensure the archdiocese complied with Ontario’s public health emergency protocols.

“What we are trying to do at all times is respond. The shutting of the churches was the most horrible thing,” he said. “People were saying stay home, so we didn’t want anyone getting (infected). The Lord says, love your neighbour.”

Backlash was directed at Collins over this pronouncement.

“There is anger that comes when people are cooped up and feeling frustrated because of uncertainty.

People would say, ‘why are you keeping the churches closed and letting the government say that church is not essential? Why don’t you fight them?’ ”

Rancour did not shake Collins’ resolve to keep churches closed, nor his decision to only re-open when all the necessary health and safety protocols were settled.

Collins used an analogy of someone driving during a snowstorm to underscore how individual liberties must sometimes be sacrificed to ensure public good is protected.

“People say that ‘it’s our right.’ We have a right to go 100 kilometres an hour down (Highway) 401. We all have that right — but not in a snowstorm!”

Collins and his team will endeavour to maintain their steady-on-the-rudder leadership over the coming months to ensure parishioners and parish staff are not succumbing to COVID complacency.

The cardinal does not want to be in a position where he has to entertain the notion of closing down public Masses for a second time.

The closing minutes of Collins’ talk illuminated some of the positive developments of the last six months.

Collins said the loss of activity and distraction provides greater opportunity for prayer and reflection. Particularly reflecting on what is truly essential in life could even lead individuals to practise greater frugality.

The virtual Masses the cardinal celebrated once in-person celebrations were shut down have proven to be a boon as well, despite the apparent limitations.

“I’m getting e-mails and letters from people all over the world — I’m amazed,” said Collins. “People are writing from the United States, Pakistan, India, South America, all over the place. Often, by the end of the day, over 6,000 computers have tuned into the daily Mass.”

Collins says he hopes that values that have been paramount during the pandemic — the discipline of self and generosity — will endure when the time comes for society to turn the page on COVID-19.

The virtual gathering also featured a communal rosary, a seminar about virtuous leadership from St. Augustine Seminary associate professor Dr. Josephine Lombardi and a speech about turning to Mary by Pilarski.

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Effort to ban sex-selective abortion finds support at events in British Columbia

Fri, 09/18/2020 - 15:21

By Agnieszka Ruck, The B.C. Catholic

[Vancouver – Canadian Catholic News] – Three politicians, dozens of volunteers, and thousands of small pink flags recently made a public stand in British Columbia against sex-selective abortion.

Cathay Wagantall, MP for Yorkton-Melville in Saskatchewan, introduced a private members’ bill in February that would prohibit abortions being performed on the basis of the sex of the unborn child, saying they disproportionately target females and perpetuate discrimination based on sex.

Wagantall visited Langley and Chilliwack Sept. 12 to join locals passionate about the issue at three outdoor displays.

“The pink flags are a visual and stark reminder that our country has a long way to go in defending the rights of women and girls, as well as equality between the sexes,” she said.

Joining Wagantall were MPs Tamara Jensen of Cloverdale-Langley City and Tako Van Popta of Langley-Aldergrove.

“It was a privilege to join her in shining a light on this misogynistic practice,” said Jensen in a post on social media. “I believe politicians of all political stripes should be willing to stand up for women and girls and oppose this practice!”

(Photo courtesy of “We Need A Law” – The B.C. Catholic / CCN)

The three events were hosted outside three Reformed churches and were organized by We Need a Law, an organization that supports legislation to restrict abortion.

We Need a Law notes that sex-selection is already illegal in the process of in-vitro fertilization, and hopes abortion laws in this country can come in line with existing reproduction laws.

The organization also advocates for legislation that would bring Canada’s abortion restrictions in line with other democratic countries.

This isn’t the first time legislation to ban abortion on the basis of sex has entered the political arena.

In 2012, former Langley MP Mark Warawa put forward a motion against “sex-selective pregnancy termination.”

In 2016, Wagantall introduced a private member’s bill called the “Protection of Pregnant Women and Their Preborn Children Act” that was defeated in the House of Commons.

Now Wagantall’s second attempt at protecting unborn children from discrimination on the basis of sex is on the table — or it would be if Parliament was in session.

Wagantall said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s decision to suspend parliamentary duties typically means government bills die before they are passed, but private members’ bills do not suffer the same fate. In a press release, her office said the delay “merely extends a five-month hiatus on private members’ business.” Only in the event of an election would all bills, including Wagantall’s, be lost.

“Canadians of nearly all beliefs are united on this issue, with 84 per cent stating that sex-selective abortion should be illegal,” Wagantall said.

“This is reasonable common ground that every Member of Parliament must thoughtfully consider.”

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Canadians want a real debate about abortion but extremists and political parties are standing in the way, says MP

By Brian Dryden, Canadian Catholic News

[Ottawa – CCN]  – A Member of Parliament who wants a law to make it illegal to abort an unborn child based solely on a baby’s sex thinks her biggest challenge is not to convince Canadians of this, but instead is to convince those in the halls of power.

Cathay Wagantall said members of Parliament have a long history of staying clear of any meaningful debate in the House of Commons about abortion.

“My biggest challenge is breaking through the politics. I think most Canadians support reasonable laws that would not ban abortion outright but instead put some rules in place,” said Conservative MP Cathay Wagantall. “It’s the political parties that don’t want to have this discussion and debate.”

While the federal Liberals, NDP and Green parties all have actively discouraged and blocked pro-life candidates from gaining any traction in those parties, Wagantall concedes that her own Conservative Party has not been keen to re-open the abortion debate in Canada either – although pro-life MPs in the party can at least debate the issue internally.

Back in February, before the COVID-19 pandemic severely curtailed the operations of Canada’s Parliament, Wagantall introduced a private member’s bill in the House of Commons called the Sex Selective Abortion Act Bill C-233 that would make abortions done of the basis of a baby’s sex illegal.

“If just one girl is aborted simply because of her sex, parliamentarians must act,” Wagantall said.

“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, 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 law when it comes to abortion.

Although the federal Liberal minority government prorogued Parliament until Sept. 23 and there will be a new Speech from the Throne – a move which effectively killed any government bills before the House of Commons – private members’ bills are in a different category.

As long as the Liberal minority government survives a confidence vote after the throne speech, Wagantall’s bill will continue to proceed without having to be reintroduced.

Wagantall, who represents the Saskatchewan riding of Yorkton-Melville, is continuing to speak out in favour of her proposed bill in the hope Canadians will push their MPs to support it.

“This is something that Canadians are open to and want,” she said in a phone interview Sept. 12 from B.C. where she participated in “Pink Flag Display” organized by the pro-life group We Need A Law.

“I think Canadians have shown that they want some laws surrounding abortion in this country and it is the political parties and the extremists on both sides, pro-abortion and pro-life, that are not willing to compromise and come to a consensus that can be supported,” Wagantall said.

The Conservative Party’s new federal leader, Erin O’Toole, has said publicly he has no intention of reopening the abortion debate in the House of Commons if he ever forms a government. Nevertheless, Wagantall notes that the recently-concludedConservative leadership race showed how important social conservative party members were in supporting a candidate such as Leslyn Lewis.

“There is a growing movement of social conservatives getting involved,” Wagantall said.

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Faith leaders join forces over suicide strategy

Fri, 09/18/2020 - 15:06

By Michael Swan, The Catholic Register

[Regina – Canadian Catholic News] – A Saskatchewan judge has ruled against the provincial government and in favour of the religious freedom of a Métis man fasting and praying on the front lawn of the Saskatchewan legislature for a more robust suicide prevention strategy.

The day before the Sept. 11 court ruling, Tristen Durocher’s vigil and 40-day fast in a teepee in Regina’s Wascana Park had garnered the formal, public support in a statement from 18 religious leaders from the Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, Baha’i, Unitarian and Jewish communities of the province.

Catholic Saskatoon News: “Saskatchewan faith leaders issue statement on suicide prevention”

Speaking to The Catholic Register before the court halted the province’s plan to send the police in to dismantle the teepee and evict Durocher, Regina Archbishop Don Bolen was in no doubt that Durocher’s protest was a religious act.

“I am personally quite inspired by what Tristan Durocher has done, the ceremony he has carried out — 40 days of fasting ending in four days,” Bolen said. “And I wanted to work with other faith communities in expressing support for that.”

Durocher walked 600 kilometres from northern Saskatchewan to set up camp near the legislature in June. He is demanding that lawmakers vote for better funding for suicide prevention. On June 19 the governing Saskatchewan Party voted down Bill 618, which would have mandated spending on the issue. In May the government instead issued “Pillars for Life: The Saskatchewan Suicide Prevention Plan.” The plan does not mandate any additional spending.

Every province outside of Saskatchewan has legislation similar to Bill 618.

Suicide is the leading cause of death for people age 10 to 49 in northern Saskatchewan, which has a high concentration of Indigenous communities. Between 2005 and 2019, more than 2,200 people in Saskatchewan died by suicide, according to the Saskatchewan Coroner’s Service.

“First Nations, Métis and Inuit have considerably higher rates of suicide, especially among youth,” said the Sept. 10 Interfaith Statement on Suicide Prevention signed by Bolen, Ukrainian Catholic Bishop of Saskatoon Bryan Bayda, Keewatin-Le Pas Archbishop Murray Chatlain, Saskatoon Bishop Mark Hagemoen, Prince Albert Bishop Albert Thévenot and other faith leaders.

The interfaith statement is “definitely a very meaningful gesture of reconciliation,” said Prescott Demes, who has supported Durocher’s vigil and led other Indigenous protests in recent years.

The faith leaders said they wanted to “express our support for people and communities struggling with suicide, to invite our faith communities to pray and work for a solution to the epidemic of suicide among Indigenous and youth in Saskatchewan, and to call upon all sectors to work together to enact a comprehensive and long-term suicide prevention strategy.”

The faith leaders’ statement is not political, said Bolen.

“The major push of our document is to not only ask the government but faith communities and society as a whole, in all its institutions, to work together to support a suicide prevention plan that works, that has substance to it,” he said. “We are working on various fronts to learn how to walk with Indigenous people in a way that brings healing and addresses the wounds we were involved in inflicting in the past.”

The history of residential schools and the damage they caused to Indigenous families has been linked to higher suicide rates for Indigenous Canadians.

Ministry of Justice spokeswoman Marieka Andrew told The Canadian Press the provincial government is reviewing the ruling.

 

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Alberta – NWT bishops help map COVID-19 future

Fri, 09/18/2020 - 14:46

By Andrew Ehrkamp, Grandin Media

[Edmonton – Canadian Catholic News] – Six months into the COVID-19 pandemic we’ve seen the good, the bad and everything in between.

Amid anxiety and fear, there have acts of selflessness and greater connection that have left a big impact.

Andrea Harrison, a Sherwood Park, AB, mom and school bus driver, leaves messages of hope for students on her route. On chalk boards, she wrote messages for each student. One said “Choose joy”, You’re important” or “You are loved” and still another said “Have faith.”

Families are creating their own time for prayer when they can’t attend public Mass. High River parish volunteers help families impacted by an outbreak at a meat-packing plant. And still others reach out to the elderly and lonely, and to the health workers on the front lines of the pandemic.

It’s into the COVID-19 maelstrom that the bishops of Alberta and the Northwest Territories have released a Sept. 14 pastoral letter outlining key principles of Catholic social teaching.

While pastoral letters are teaching documents, this one has an added, unprecedented, dimension.

Over the next seven weeks, Grandin Media will weekly virtual discussions on themes referenced in the letter – the inherent dignity of human life, the importance of the family, individual rights and social responsibilities, vulnerability and solidarity, responsibility for the common good, healthy use of information technologies and the value of dignity of human work.

The panelists, assembled from the dioceses of Edmonton, Calgary, Grouard-McLennan, St. Paul and Mackenzie-Fort Smith, include top experts in their fields and in the Catholic community. Among them are Patrick Dumelie and Troy Davies, the CEOS of Covenant Health and Catholic Social Services respectively, national Catholic Women’s League president-elect Fran Lucas and Sr. Lucinda Patterson, the chair of the Lurana women’s shelter in Edmonton.

“What’s beautiful about this approach, I find, is that it mixes teaching with story,” said Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith. “And there are loads of stories coming out of the pandemic … My hope is that it’s going to be the impulse for people to ponder their own lived experience and say ‘How is the teaching of the Church helping me here and how can I can work with the teaching of the Church to help others?’.”

“It is new. It is sort of breaking ground,” added Calgary Bishop William McGrattan. “Maybe this is a risk presenting a pastoral statement in this way, but I think it’s one that’s well worth taking especially when we’re faced with COVID and how it’s affecting our world and our Church.”

The big question: How has COVID-19 changed society and can the positive changes be sustained?

“The initial response to the pandemic had the world living by the principles of Catholic social teaching without knowing it,” said Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith. “It has turned the world upside down, inside out. It has left a lot of people hanging by a thread, a lot of people anxious and worried.

“We just always seem to be needing wake-up calls. The beauty of Catholic social teaching is that, yes it’s grounded in the Gospel, at the same time it also arises out of the truth of what it means to be a human being.”

Calgary Bishop William McGrattan said he hopes pastoral letter, and the panel discussions, will be used in high schools and internationally among those tasked with the same post-COVID response at the Vatican.

Already, local social justice committees in the Calgary Diocese have said they want to form study groups

“We’re not saying we have all the answers, but we want to we want to raise up for them areas of further reflection and dialogue,” Bishop McGrattan said. “It’s not to focus on what’s wrong, but what do we need to change and what do we see as essential and important in a just society.”

Andrea Harrison says the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all of her family, both on and off the bus.

“My oldest said ‘You’re a better bus driver than a teacher, Mom!’,” Harrison said, reflecting on the months of online learning from home. “There were times where we fought. I would fight with the kids. They would fight back. When you’re living in a house and you can’t really leave, the confined spaces get to you.”

Harrison said she went through a “dark period” when she couldn’t be as involved. She started volunteering to buy groceries and talk to seniors who were shut in and worried. Now she’s helping to assuage fears of kids with messages of hope – “You are loved,” “Have faith,” for example – on her bus.

“The kids, I really feel, got the short end of the stick with COVID because as adults we had the freedom to go out and leave the house,” Harrison said. “The kids were taken out of school. They were taken away from their friends. They were told to home school. Your mom went from the person who scares the bogeyman away to telling you to sit down and do your math. The whole world changed.”

Upon learning they were returning to school, the kids on her route were so happy, they cried.

Andrea Harrison, a Sherwood Park mom and school bus driver, leaves messages of hope for students on her route. (Photo by Lincoln Ho, Grandin Media – CCN)

“I hope they realize that even one word can make you feel better. These kids, really, their whole world is turned upside down so I’m hoping they can see that we still care enough about them to make them to try to make them happy.”

“There are some days that I feel grateful, and there are other days when I’m mad at everything,”

Harrison said. “It was a big struggle to learn to deal with the emotions. But I want the world to say ‘We came together. Let’s stay together. Let’s stop pushing each other away’.

“We’re going through hell and back right now,” Harrison said. “I hope that people will remember that during the pandemic we did stop and help each other, that we did become a community again. I hope we can still stay in that mind frame where we are all in this together. We can get through it together.”

The bishops themselves each have their own stories about the impact of COVID-19.

For Archbishop Smith, it’s the training he and a team of priests received to provide the sacraments to COVID patients even at personal risk, the “unforgettable” image of an empty St. Peter’s Square when Pope Francis called the Church to a Eucharistic holy hour.

For Bishop McGrattan it was the opportunity to baptize a newborn boy – the only one in the family who wasn’t wearing mask.

The COVID-19 pandemic has not only changed the lives of the laity, but it’s affecting the Church itself.

“There are parts of the Church, there are parts of our experience of our own lives, where we have to allow God to prune,” Bishop McGrattan said. “I do see that we are going to be asked to prune but it’s done so that in some ways there’s the opportunity for the vine to bring forth greater fruit. And that I think is what the Church is going to be going through after COVID.”

The bishops say the COVID-19 pandemic marks a watershed moment, and the pastoral letter and panel discussions can help initiate those conversations on what society will look like.

“I don’t think we’re going to go back, but I do know the influence of secularization and the desire to go back to what was, will be strong,” Bishop McGrattan said. “However, I do believe that people of faith and those that are beginning to see a new way through COVID are going to say ‘No. There is a new path. There is a new beginning. And we need to take that into consideration.”

“When you’re alert to danger, everything comes instantly into focus, what is most important, what I need the most,” Archbishop Smith said. “Here what we’ve seen is we need others. We need the collective. We need the community. We need God.”

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Indigenous ministry education certificate program launched in diocese of Saskatoon

Tue, 09/15/2020 - 15:50

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

A new four-course certificate program for those involved in ministry begins Sept. 22, 2020, jointly sponsored by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon, Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools and St. Thomas More College.

“Indigenous Pastoral & Lay Leader Ministry Education” will be offered through weekly online classes, with some additional reading and course work completed between sessions.

This continuing education program is aimed at Catholic Indigenous and non-Indigenous clergy and lay ministers, led by teams of Indigenous and non-indigenous instructors, modelling respectful and reconciling relationships, explained Bishop Mark Hagemoen in a recent interview.

“This is an initiative meant to bring together Indigenous and non-Indigenous people involved in Church, education and health care in a faith context, and – in the spirit of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission ‘Calls to Action’ – to have a joint education and understanding of Indigenous history, the history of contact with non-Indigenous peoples in Canada, with reference to the Roman Catholic missionary experience, and to explore some of the Indigenous cultures in our country, with reference to Saskatchewan,” the bishop described.

The program will also “look at some principles of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and maybe some other themes related to that, as we look at true reconciliation moving forward, which impacts community life, church life, and other environments,” Hagemoen added.

Courses will be taught by teams of Indigenous and non-Indigenous instructors, “modelling respectful and reconciling relationships.”

“I am grateful for the work done by the curriculum committee to develop this program, and I thank St. Thomas More College and Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools for co-sponsoring this initiative in our diocese,” said Bishop Hagemoen in a recent letter inviting participation from clergy, religious, and lay ecclesial leaders in the diocese.

The new four-course certificate program is specifically geared toward those involved in ministry in a Catholic context, namely: clergy, lay ecclesial ministers, catechists, Catholic school teachers, and youth/family ministry leaders.

Download the Brochure – PDF

Under development for the past year and a half, the new certificate program begins with Course #1 – An Introduction to First Nations Studies, featuring nine sessions offered online 4:15 to 5:30 p.m. every Tuesday from Sept. 22 to Nov. 17. (Deadline to register for Course #1 is Sept. 18.) Instructors for the first course are MaryAnne Morrison of the Diocesan Council for Reconciliation and Adrienne Castellon of Trinity Western University.

This first course will be followed over the next year by three other courses, also offered online:

  • Course #2 – Indigenous-Settler Relationship offered Jan. 11 to March 12, 2021 instructed by Cristen Dorgan Lee and Denise Hahn;
  • Course #3 – Introduction to Contemporary Effects of Colonization offered March 29 – May 28, 2021 instructed by Falynn Baptiste, Ryan Leblanc and Adrienne Castellon; and
  • Course #4 – Introduction to Reconciliation: The Church and Indigenous Peoples offered Sept. 20 to Nov. 19, 2021, instructed by Gordon Martell and Bishop Mark Hagemoen. Cost of each course is $200.

The four courses reflect a number of key principles, which the development team has described as providing:

  • An overview of the features of Indigenous peoples in western Canada, with specific reference to the Saskatchewan context;
  • An overview of the history and features of contact and relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples with specific reference to the Roman Catholic Church experience;
  • Creation of a dialogue between Indigenous and Christian world views;
  • Insight into the history that has shaped the complex nature of the relationships in the present day;
  • An opportunity for mutual sharing and hope for a respectful and harmonious future as children of God, who together seek beauty and good of all.

Online registration is found at rcdos.ca/indigenous-ministry-education — or for more information contact programs@rcdos.ca or telephone 306-659-5831.

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Petition by coalition of faith groups calls for more action on climate change

Tue, 09/15/2020 - 12:05

By Brian Dryden, Canadian Catholic News

[Ottawa -CCN] – Catholic climate change activists and other social justice and faith groups are striving to get as many Canadians as possible to sign a petition that calls on the federal government to follow through on making policy changes to combat climate change and put the needs of Indigenous Canadians at the forefront of federal policies in the future.

The online petition, which has a deadline of Oct. 6, 2020 for signatures before it is officially filed with the federal government, is part of the “For The Love of Creation” coalition of Canadian churches and faith-based organizations that have come together since April to advocate for what they call a “just  recovery” from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and to demand government action on climate change and reconciliation between Canadians and Canada’s Indigenous Peoples.

The online petition states: “We, the undersigned, residents of Canada and members of Canadian faith communities, call upon the Government of Canada to:

1. Commit to reducing Canadian GHG emissions by 60 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, while investing in a just transition to a fair, inclusive, green economy that creates good secure jobs, and promotes the well-being of everyone in Canada;

2. Honour the rights of Indigenous peoples by animating the principle of free, prior and informed consent, particularly in the context of climate policy, energy policy, and infrastructure development, key to a robust and functioning right of free prior and informed consent is legislative implementation of the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples;

3. Commit equal support for climate change adaptation and mitigation measures in the Global South through international climate financing mechanisms, with additional funding for loss and damage, scaling up to a fair share contribution of at least $4 billion USD per year;

4. Respond to the pandemic in the Global South through multilateral debt cancellation and increased grant-based support for Canadian international NGOs.”

The petition started collecting signatures July 8, 2020, and it closes to signatures at 2 p.m. Oct. 6.

The For the Love of Creation coalition, which was launched on Earth Day in April 2020, is working on a multi-pronged approach to climate change and First Nations activism that falls in line with Pope Francis’ calls for the state of the earth’s environment to be the focal point of Catholic and social justice campaigns across the globe.

“Because of our selfishness, we have failed in our responsibility to be guardians and stewards of the Earth,” Pope Francis said in a statement he made on Earth Day 2020. “We have polluted and despoiled it, endangering our very lives.”

Joe Gunn, executive director of the Centre Oblat – A Voice for Justice at Ottawa’s Catholic Saint Paul University, said the online petition has collected enough signatures to reach the threshold to be officially recognized through the House of Commons, but the more signatures the better as the deadline of Oct. 6 approaches.

“We’ve got enough signatures now, that the federal government will have to prepare an official response to the petition. The more people who sign and get involved in this issue the more it will have an impact,” he said.

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COVID-19 restrictions mean a virtual format for the 2020 Plenary Assembly of Catholic bishops

Mon, 09/14/2020 - 15:45

[Article updated Sept. 15, 2020]

By Brian Dryden, Canadian Catholic News

[Ottawa – CCN] – The impact of the COVID-19 global pandemic on the Catholic Church in Canada will be a key theme of the first-ever online Plenary Assembly of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops when the annual meeting of the CCCB gets underway on Sept. 21.

While the global pandemic has driven the Plenary Assembly online this year, the move by the church’s leadership to meet and do its business over the Internet is only one of the ways that the international COVID-19 health crisis will change the church forever going forward, CCCB president Winnipeg Archbishop Richard Gagnon told the Canadian Catholic News in an interview in advance of the assembly.

“The situation with COVID has obviously had a large impact on the church and we will be definitely be talking about that and about how the church moves forward in these unprecedented times,” Gagnon said in a telephone interview from Winnipeg.

“All the regions in the country are going to give a report on how they have had to deal with the pandemic on their operations and what their experiences have been and how these experiences may be able to help the church move forward as this situation continues and hopefully eventually we get back to a form of a more normal way of doing things,” he said.

One thing Gagnon thinks will now become the “new normal” for the Church across Canada is the move towards offering more and more services online. This was born of necessity when places of worship were closed to parishioners during the height of the pandemic, which has killed just over 9,000 Canadians so far in 2020.  As part of efforts to limit the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, public health officials severely curtailed the number of people who could gather together in public.

The public health measures effectively shutdown all places of worship of all faiths in Canada for a few months until some of the restrictions were eased and Catholic churches could open again to limited attendance. Restrictions on how many people can attend a place of worship presently differ across the country, depending on the rate of COVID-19 infection in each province.

“There has always been some level of online presence of the Church,” Gagnon said, but now those in the Church who may have been hesitant to use modern technology to its fullest can see the possible benefits of offering some services online.”

Archbishop Richard Gagnon, President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. (CCN file photo by Deb Gyapong)

“This technology was used before, but never to the extent that it has been now,” Gagnon said. “I think any of that past opposition to having online services is not there any more because of the situation and the experience of having to do it,.”

While the use of modern technology by the Church has been needed to get through the pandemic, and may have long-range implications for how the Church operates in the future, there is still a deep commitment to in-person worship and face-to-face interaction between clergy and parishioners.

“While we have heard of the positive experiences that going online has offered our churches and parishioners, we have also heard how important in-person gatherings and the personal connection that has for people and how important that is in people’s lives,” Gagnon said.

The decision by the CCCB to hold its annual Plenary Assembly as an online event this year does mean some of the features of past assemblies that have been held in Cornwall, ON, in recent years will not be part of this year’s event that runs from Sept. 21 to Sept. 25.

Unlike in past years, there will be no keynote speaker in 2020. Representatives of Catholic lay organizations and ecumenical partners who usually attend the assembly as observers will not be participating this year.

Gagnon said that Canada’s bishops will meet during the week of the assembly for two hours a day via the Internet for discussions, which he said is a reasonable amount of time to be staring at a computer screen before  participants start to suffer screen-time burnout. Keeping the online discussions to short intervals each day is “an act of mercy,” Gagnon joked.

New format affects agenda of bishops’ annual gathering

By Lisa Gall, CCCB Communications

This summer the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) announced that the 2020 annual Plenary Assembly, to be held from Sept. 21 to 25, would move from an in-person meeting of bishops to a video conference in light of the existing health and safety restrictions regarding COVID-19.

In order to allow for fruitful dialogue and meaningful deliberation by the bishops during the Plenary, this year’s timetable and agenda have been streamlined to focus on the most essential ecclesial and administrative matters for the conference.  For the same reason, this year’s Plenary will not include ecumenical observers from other churches nor any of the traditional observers representing a number of national Catholic organizations.

Within the virtual setting, Archbishop Richard Gagnon of Winnipeg, CCCB President, will preside over daily meetings welcoming more than 80 bishops signing in from dioceses and eparchies across Canada.

Topics to be discussed during the week include: national priorities for the upcoming year (2020-2021); responsible ministry; pastoral care of Indigenous peoples; an update on the organizational changes involving the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace as well as recommendations from a joint CCCB-CCODP review of the latter’s international partners; and various concerns regarding initiatives and proposals by the federal government.

In keeping with the practice of previous Plenary assemblies, one day will be set aside for the meetings of English sector and French sector bishops allowing for discussion on liturgical, catechetical and other pastoral matters which are closely tied to language and culture.

Another topic of particular importance for bishops centres on COVID-19, its impacts and the present-day realities of the Church in Canada. This session will be both a sharing of lived experiences and an opportunity to exchange hopes, concerns, wisdom and challenges as bishops, together with clergy, consecrated persons, lay people and Catholic faithful continue to live through these most extraordinary times.

Following the Plenary throughout the week

For many years, and with the collaboration of Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation, the CCCB has offered coverage of the annual Plenary Assembly through television and, most recently, social media channels. Regrettably, the alteration to the format for this year’s meeting does not include the topics of general interest that are customarily broadcast for a wider audience.

To assist the public in keeping informed about the discussions taking place throughout the week, the CCCB offers a number of options to choose from:

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Cardinal Sarah: “We must return to the Eucharist”

Mon, 09/14/2020 - 15:18

By Catholic News Agency staff

[Vatican – CNA] – In a letter to the leaders of the world’s episcopal conferences, the head of the Vatican’s office for worship and sacraments said that Catholic communities should return to Mass as soon as it can be done safely, and that the Christian life cannot be sustained without the sacrifice of the Mass and the Christian community of the Church.

The letter, sent to bishops from Cardinal Robert Sarah, said that, while the Church should cooperate with civic authorities and be attentive to safety protocols amid the coronavirus pandemic, “liturgical norms are not matters on which civil authorities can legislate, but only the competent ecclesiastical authorities.”

Cardinal Sarah also emphasized that bishops can make provisional changes to liturgical rubrics in order to accommodate public health concerns, and urged obedience to those temporary changes.

“In listening to and collaborating with civil authorities and experts,” bishops and episcopal conferences “were prompt to make difficult and painful decisions, even to the point of suspending the participation of the faithful in the celebration of the Eucharist for a long period. This Congregation is deeply grateful to the Bishops for their commitment and effort in trying to respond in the best possible way to an unforeseen and complex situation,” Cardinal Robert Sarah wrote in Let us return to the Eucharist with joy, dated Aug. 15 and approved by Pope Francis Sept. 3.

“As soon as circumstances permit, however, it is necessary and urgent to return to the normality of Christian life, which has the church building as its home and the celebration of the liturgy, especially the Eucharist, as ‘the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; and at the same time it is the font from which all her power flows’ (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 10).”

Sarah noted that “as soon as is possible… we must return to the Eucharist with a purified heart, with a renewed amazement, with an increased desire to meet the Lord, to be with Him, to receive Him and to bring Him to our brothers and sisters with the witness of a life full of faith, love and hope.”

“We cannot be without the banquet of the Eucharist, the table of the Lord to which we are invited as sons and daughters, brothers and sisters to receive the Risen Christ himself, present in body, blood, soul and divinity in that Bread of Heaven which sustains us in the joys and labours of this earthly pilgrimage.”

We “cannot be without the Christian community,” Sarah added, “cannot be without the house of the Lord,” “cannot be without the Lord’s Day.”

“We cannot live as Christians without participating in the Sacrifice of the Cross in the which the Lord Jesus gave himself unreservedly to save, by his death, humanity which had died because of sin…in the embrace of the Crucified One all human suffering finds light and comfort.”

The cardinal explained that while streamed or televised Masses “have performed a great service…at a time when there was no possibility of community celebration, no broadcast is comparable to personal communication or can replace it. On the contrary, these broadcasts alone risk distancing us from a personal and intimate encounter with the incarnate God who gave himself to us not in a virtual way,” but in the Eucharist.

“One the concrete measures that can be taken to reduce the spread of the virus to a minimum have been identified and adopted, it is necessary that all resume their place in the assembly of brothers and sisters…and encourage again those brothers and sisters who have been discouraged, frightened, absent, or uninvolved for too long.”

Sarah’s letter made some concrete suggestions for the resumption of Mass amid the coronavirus pandemic, which is expected to continue to spread through North America in the fall and winter months, with some models predicting a doubling of the death count by the end of 2020.

The cardinal said that bishops should give “due attention” to “hygiene and safety regulations” while avoiding the “sterilisation of gestures and rites” or “instilling, even unconsciously, fear and insecurity in the faithful.”

He added that bishops should be certain that civil authorities not subordinate the Mass to a place of priority below “recreational activities” or regard the Mass as only a “gathering” comparable to other public activities, and reminded bishops that civic authorities cannot regulate liturgical norms.

Sarah said that pastors should “insist on the necessity of adoration,” work to ensure the dignity of the liturgy and its setting, and ensure that “the faithful should be recognized as having the right to receive the Body of Christ and to worship the Lord present in the Eucharist,” without “limitations that go even beyond what is provided for by the norms of hygiene issued by public authorities.”

The cardinal also seemed to address, indirectly, an issue that has been a matter of some controversy in the United States — prohibitions on reception of Holy Communion on the tongue amid the pandemic, which seem to contravene a right established by universal liturgical law to receive the Eucharist in that manner.

Sarah did not specifically mention the issue, but he affirmed that bishops can give temporary norms during the pandemic, in order to assure safe sacramental ministry. Bishops in the U.S. and other parts of the world have temporarily suspended distribution of Holy Communion on the tongue.

“In times of difficulty (e.g. wars, pandemics), Bishops and Episcopal Conferences can give provisional norms which must be obeyed. Obedience safeguards the treasure entrusted to the Church. These measures given by the Bishops and Episcopal Conferences expire when the situation returns to normal.”

“A sure principle in order not to err is obedience. Obedience to the norms of the Church, obedience to the Bishops,” Sarah wrote.

The cardinal urged Catholics to “cherish the human person as a whole.”

The Church, he wrote, “bears witness to hope, invites us to trust in God, recalls that earthly existence is important, but much more important is eternal life: sharing the same life with God for eternity is our goal, our vocation. This is the faith of the Church, witnessed over the centuries by hosts of martyrs and saints.”

Urging Catholics to entrust themselves and those afflicted by the pandemic to God’s mercy and the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Sarah urged bishops to “renew our intention to to be witnesses of the Risen One and heralds of a sure hope, which transcends the limits of this world.”

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Day of Prayer for Peace Sept. 21

Mon, 09/14/2020 - 15:01

By CNEWA Staff

OTTAWA Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) and the Catholic Women’s League of Canada (CWL) are urging Canadians to spend time in prayer, Sept. 21, for peace in the Holy Land and the Middle East.

To help encourage the important spiritual exercise and acts of solidarity and charity, CNEWA is offering Canadians an opportunity to support peace initiatives through the sale of a hand-crafted ceramic peace lamp, as well as providing some carefully-curated prayers for peace.

“Peace does not come about by chance,” says Carl Hétu, national director of CNEWA Canada.

“The peace process is a long one that requires a foundation of prayer and many people of goodwill who are oftentimes spread around the world. We want people in the Middle East and Holy Land, as well as those who face similar challenges in other parts of the world to remember that peace, today, is the only route to a better tomorrow for all.”

Hand made in Taybeh, a small village in the West Bank, the peace lamps are shaped in the form of a dove and painted with the cross of Jerusalem. Available in two sizes, the larger lamp also features an olive branch, long associated with peace and reconciliation among peoples. The lamps are available at cnewa.ca for $40 and $50 plus shipping and handling.

In addition to supporting the artists in Taybeh, CNEWA invites Canadians to consider donations to its Lebanese campaign that is directing funds to local Churches in the area to help them to continue their work of outreach and charity to those most in need. Launched Aug. 6, the campaign has so far gathered in more than $340,000 in Canada alone.

“We’ve seen the work of CNEWA throughout the Middle East and beyond,” says Marie Rackley, National CWL Community Life Chairperson. “We are pleased to support them once again with this special prayer initiative for Christians in the Holy Land and Middle East.”

Peace Lamps will be available at cnewa.ca throughout the year.

Prayers from the campaign include:

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:9) + Lord, help us to be peacemakers in the Holy Land. +

“But Esau ran to meet him (Jacob), took him in his arms, threw himself on his neck and wept as he kissed him.” (Genesis 33:4) +Lord, help the people of the Holy Land follow the example of Jacob and Esau and reconcile themselves to each other. +

Each year, on Sept. 21, the World Council of Churches calls churches and parishes to observe the International Day of Prayer for Peace. This day is also the UN-sponsored International Day of Peace.

Additional donations for peace in the Middle East can be made online at cnewa.ca or by phone at 1-866-322-4441. Cheques can be mailed to CNEWA Canada at 1247 Kilborn Place, Ottawa, ON K1H 6K9. In all instances, donors are invited to identify their region or cause of choice (Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Holy Land etc.). Tax receipts will be issued for donations of $10 or more.

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In Exile – A column by Fr. Ron Rolheiser, OMI: Moving Beyond Mistakes and Weaknesses

Mon, 09/14/2020 - 06:00
Moving Beyond Mistakes and Weaknesses

By Fr. Ron Rolheiser, OMI

The excusable doesn’t need to be excused and the inexcusable cannot be excused.

Michael Buckley wrote those words and they contain an important challenge. We’re forever trying to make excuses for things we need not make excuses for and are forever trying to excuse the inexcusable. Neither is necessary. Or helpful.

We can learn a lesson from how Jesus dealt with those who betrayed him.

A prime example is the apostle Peter, specially chosen and named the very rock of the apostolic community. Peter was an honest man with a childlike sincerity, a deep faith, and he, more than most others, grasped the deeper meaning of who Jesus was and what his teaching meant. Indeed, it was he who in response to Jesus’ question (Who do you say I am?) replied, “You are the Christ, the son of the Living God.” Yet minutes after that confession Jesus had to correct Peter’s false conception of what that meant and then rebuke him for trying to deflect him from his very mission. More seriously, it was Peter who, within hours of an arrogant boast that though all others would betray Jesus, he alone would remain faithful, betrayed Jesus three times, and this in Jesus’ most needy hour.

Later we are privy to the conversation Jesus has with Peter vis-à-vis those betrayals. What’s significant is that he doesn’t ask Peter to explain himself, doesn’t excuse Peter, and doesn’t say things like: “You weren’t really yourself! I can understand how anyone might be very frightened in that situation! I can empathize, I know what fear can do to you!” None of that. The excusable doesn’t need to be excused and the inexcusable cannot be excused. In Peter’s betrayal, as in our own betrayals, there’s invariably some of both, the excusable and the inexcusable.

So what does Jesus do with Peter? He doesn’t ask for an explanation, doesn’t ask for an apology, doesn’t tell Peter that it is okay, doesn’t offer excuses for Peter, and doesn’t even tell Peter that he loves him. Instead he asks Peter: “Do you love me?” Peter answers yes – and everything moves forward from there.

Everything moves forward from there.

Everything can move forward following a confession of love, not least an honest confession of love in the wake of a betrayal. Apologies are necessary (because that’s taking ownership of the fault and the weakness so as to lift it completely off the soul of the one who was betrayed) but excuses are not helpful. If the action was not a betrayal, no excuse is necessary; if it was, no excuse absolves it.

An excuse or an attempt at one serves two purposes, neither of them good. First, it serves to rationalize and justify, none of which is helpful to the betrayed or the betrayer. Second, it weakens the apology and makes it less than clean and full, thus not lifting the betrayal completely off the soul of the one who has been betrayed; and, because of that, is not as helpful an expression of love as is a clear, honest acknowledgement of our betrayal and an apology which attempts no excuse for its weakness and betrayal.

What love asks of us when we are weak is an honest, non-rationalized, admission of our weakness along with a statement from the heart: “I love you!” Things can move forward from there. The past and our betrayal are not expunged, nor excused; but, in love, we can live beyond them. To expunge, excuse, or rationalize is to not live in the truth; it is unfair to the one betrayed since he or she bears the consequences and scars.

Only love can move us beyond weakness and betrayal and this is an important principle not just for those instances in life when we betray and hurt a loved one, but for our understanding of life in general. We’re human, not divine, and as such are beset, congenitally, body and mind, with weaknesses and inadequacies of every sort.

None of us, as St. Paul graphically says in his Epistle to the Romans, ever quite measure up. The good we want to do, we end up not doing, and the evil we want to avoid, we habitually end up doing. Some of this, of course, is understandable, excusable, just as some of it is inexcusable, save for the fact that we’re humans and partially a mystery to ourselves. Either way, at the end of the day, no justification or excuses are asked for (or helpful).

We don’t move forward in relationship by telling either God or someone we have hurt: “You have to understand! In that situation, what else was I to do too? I didn’t mean to hurt you, I was just too weak to resist!” That’s neither helpful, nor called for.

Things move forward when we, without excuses, admit weakness, and apologize for betrayal. Like Peter when asked three times by Jesus: “Do you love me?” from our hearts we need to say: “You know everything, you know that I love you.”

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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  www.ronrolheiser.com.

Now on Facebook www.facebook.com/ronrolheiser

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

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“Lord, How often should I forgive?”

Thu, 09/10/2020 - 13:52

By Jocelyne Hamoline, Diocese of Saskatoon Catholic Foundation

I am still a novice at forgiveness, learning the how, when, why. But, I also have had practice in forgiving people that seriously hurt me. The who and the offence against me is not as important as how I learned to forgive and the freedom of forgiving.

As a young woman, I was living in a world of deep hurt, victimization, self-destructing behaviour, and self-loathing. How is one to overcome all that? I was angry (and did not even realize it), resented other people’s success and repeated in my mind and heart a self-absorbed refrain of “why me, Lord.”

My life changed when I attended the ‘Alpha’ program through my parish. It was the third or fourth session when I experienced the total and complete love from Jesus. From that day on, Jesus changed my life for the better. Jesus was very patient, but he eventually began to impress upon my heart that I needed to forgive people. But how, how can one forgive grave abuse that has practically put my life in ruins?

God placed the right opportunities, people, books, and retreats in my life. I learned what forgiveness is and how to forgive.

Why does God ask us to forgive? 

Unforgiveness in our hearts (and bodies) is like taking poison, then hoping the other person dies.

Poison of unforgiveness in our hearts (and bodies) destroys our own lives, our relationships with the Trinity and with other people. Unforgiveness will skew how we behave, how we see the world and others, and how we make decisions.

Unforgiveness might start small, but it grows into anger, resentment and bitterness. These negative feelings begin to resonate with who we are and what we say and do. We become the destroyer of our own lives and scar those around us. Unforgiveness rarely hurts the person(s) that are responsible for the suffering they caused. They may be aware of it, but they generally go about their lives unscathed.

God asks us to forgive to protect our own lives, heart, spirit and soul so that we can be filled with joy and peace versus bitterness and resentment.

Forgiving another person does not mean the other person is not responsible; it does mean it is in God’s hands. It is up to God to deal with that person. The person who hurt you can never give back what you have lost. God will give recompense to you: “a double portion, everlasting joy” (read Isaiah 61: The Good News of Deliverance).

(As a note: forgiveness does not always lead to restored relationships, even if that is the ideal. Some relationships may be too damaging and injurious to you. If restoring a relationship puts you at risk, please seek professional help.)

How do I forgive?

Forgiving can be difficult, but it can be accomplished.

Forgiveness begins with a decision; it’s not about your feelings.

When should you decide to forgive? NOW – immediately when the offence occurs. The longer you hold and nurse unforgiveness, the harder your own life will be. You may need to decide to forgive “seventy-seven times” in a day (Matthew 18: 22).  Yes, 77 times in a day.  When my marriage fell apart and ended in separation then divorce, I needed to make the ‘decision’ to forgive 77 times (or more) in a day. Every time I would think about my ex-husband, I would say to myself, “I forgive him, I hold no animosity towards him, I pray he has joy and peace in his life.”

I asked the Holy Spirit to remind me to forgive when I had negative thoughts towards my ex-husband. Now, here is God’s brilliant grace at work; the Holy Spirit helped my feelings catch up to my decision to forgive. Around six months after the separation, I noticed I held no negative thoughts, feelings or unforgiveness towards my ex; I didn’t even think of him.  I had moved on.  I could see him as a child of God, loved and worthy of love. I could see him and be around him without thinking about the past and the hurts. I knew I had forgiven. I had joy and peace in my heart and life. On my part, with the Holy Spirit, I persisted in my “choice” to forgive. I worked on the choice to forgive every day – 77 times a day until I was released.

As life is for us all, there are plenty of opportunities to forgive. From the petty little things at work or what a spouse might say or do, poor-drivers, rude salespersons – to the big things like the end of a marriage, the many forms of abuse, humiliation, bullying, having your reputation tarnished, and so many more. We are presented with opportunities to hold on to the hurt and pain or to let it go with forgiveness. We have a choice to make: forgive or be bitter.

Trust God, choose to forgive each day, over and over again, until God fills your heart with the peace he wants for you.

 

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Adult Faith Enrichment program resumes in a season of change

Thu, 09/10/2020 - 10:19

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

A number of changes will greet participants in the Adult Faith Enrichment program in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon this fall – including a new one-day format, new COVID-19 arrangements, new online offerings, and a new program co-ordinator.

Interrupted in the spring and moved online by a global pandemic, the Adult Faith Enrichment program in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon resumes Sept. 12 as an in-person one-day program offered monthly at the Cathedral of the Holy Family. The program will also now include several webinars, as well as an opportunity to take additional online courses from the Augustine Institute

Adult Faith Enrichment Coordinator Jenny Petersen has been busy preparing for the new season since beginning her new role in August.

“It has been a big learning curve – but in a good way,” Petersen says with a smile. “I am looking forward to the topics and the themes, and to meeting everyone and journeying together – because ultimately we are going to all be journeying in this experience together and hopefully all coming closer to the Lord.”

Born and raised in Saskatoon, Petersen says that spending nine months in an Emmanuel Community missionary school in Rome in 2013-2014 was a key moment in her own faith journey. Eighteen adults from 13 countries lived at the school in community, celebrated daily Mass together, experienced Eucharistic Adoration, and attending classes with a focus on mission.

“We were really learning to evangelize,” she recalls. “For me that was really a pivotal moment for my faith. I was accepting my faith as an adult… really understating that this is what I want, and really falling in love with Jesus.”

Upon her return to Saskatoon, serving with the Teen Aid chastity education program was another “amazing experience of mission” for Petersen, who has a Bachelor of Education degree, and has also worked as a teacher. She and her husband (who is German) then lived for a few years in Germany, before returning to Saskatoon.

“I had the same desire when I returned: to be working for the Church, but also for evangelization, and then I came across this role of coordinating Adult Faith Enrichment in the diocese,” she said. “I am very excited for this new opportunity to work with adults and adult faith formation.”

Previously known as Lay Formation, Adult Faith Enrichment has undergone a number of changes in recent years, including in the long-running program’s content and presentation.

Bishop Mark Hagemoen addressed the changes in an interview earlier this year. “The changes we are seeing relate not only to external circumstances – such as those related to the COVID 19 pandemic – but to ways in which the People of God of our diocese are accessing a variety of activities, supports, and other resources,” the bishop said. “Pastors and parishes are indicating the need for new and diverse ways to access religious education and ongoing formation.”

Changes this fall for the Adult Faith Enrichment program include a shorter time frame. The monthly program will no longer run for an entire live-in weekend at Queen’s House, but will be offered as a day-long Saturday-only session once a month from September to June at the Cathedral of the Holy Family.

COVID-19 regulations will also affect such things as meal preparation – with meals individually packaged, and extra attention paid to spacing, seating arrangements,  etc. “On the COVID side, it is important for us to adhere to what the government is asking (in terms of numbers and distancing),” says Petersen. “But the silver lining in having a smaller group is that we have the flexibility to still meet in person.”

Petersen plans to continue with many of the familiar elements and themes of the Adult Faith Enrichment program, with a continuing focus on community, the sacramental life, theology and scripture. Although the result will be a “jam-packed” Saturday, that includes breakfast, lunch and supper together, as well as information sessions and prayer, Petersen expresses her hope that the faith enrichment experience will be “truly beautiful and rich for the participants.”

This year, participants will also have access to a number of webinars, as well as the ability to take online courses from the Augustine Institute to supplement intellectual pursuits in theology and the new evangelization, “with an opportunity to have more content, aside from the times we are actually meeting.”

“The Adult Faith Enrichment program helps adults enter into their faith more deeply,” describes Petersen. “For me, part of the vision for Adult Faith Enrichment is to have a missionary and evangelistic perspective as well. We come and we receive, but we also go out, because that is what our world needs, that is what our Church needs.”

Petersen expresses her hope for the program: “Ideally the people that are coming to the program are falling in love with Jesus, and falling in love with his Church, and they are bringing that out to their families, to their communities. For me that would be the real vision of Adult Faith Enrichment.”

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Editor’s Note: It was recently announced that several spaces have opened up in the Adult Faith Enrichment program offered monthly at the Cathedral of the Holy Family. Those interested can join Year 2 participants in the program of faith enrichment, prayer and learning – it is not necessary to have completed Year 1. In addition, new material has been added for those who may have previously participated in Lay Formation. For more information about joining the Adult Faith Enrichment program in 2020-21 contact Jenny Petersen at (306) 659-5846 or jpetersen@rcdos.ca

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Saskatchewan faith leaders issue statement on suicide prevention

Thu, 09/10/2020 - 09:52

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

The five Catholic bishops of Saskatchewan are among the province’s faith leaders who have issued an Interfaith Statement on Suicide Prevention.

So far, 18 faith leaders have attached their names to the statement released on World Suicide Prevention Day Sept. 10, calling upon the Government of Saskatchewan to establish a comprehensive and effective suicide prevention strategy.

“Across all religious and theological distinctions, a shared understanding that the Creator has given us the precious gift of life establishes a global ethic that connects all people of faith,” says the interfaith statement.

“Our response to the divine gift of life compels us to work for the preservation of life in all its wonder, beauty, and diversity. We share a collective responsibility to care for those who are struggling, to offer hope and support, and to work for a society in which all can flourish. “

The statement indicates that the attention of the leaders has been drawn to the urgency of suicide prevention in Saskatchewan by the recent Walking with Our Angels vigil by Tristen Durocher underway at Wascana Park, Regina.

Research in suicide prevention points to the need for all sectors of society to be engaged in suicide prevention, including government, faith communities, social services, health care, education, justice, and corrections, note the faith leaders.

“As leaders of faith communities in Saskatchewan, we call upon our faith communities, the Government of Saskatchewan, and all sectors of our society to work together to establish a comprehensive and effective suicide prevention strategy. This could include but is not limited to legislation, policy, and programs that address common risk factors for suicide, that educate and create awareness of suicide risk, and that build local capacity to address the needs of youth, young adults, and Indigenous people within our communities.”

The statement shares statistics revealing that some 144 people die by suicide every year in Saskatchewan, with suicide being the second leading cause of death for youth between 15 and 24 years and the leading cause of death in northern Saskatchewan for people between the ages of 10 and 49 years.

“First Nations, Métis, and Inuit have considerably higher rates of suicide, especially among youth. Youth that identify as LGBTQ experience thoughts of suicide or suicide-related behaviour more frequently than their peers.”

The faith leaders’ statement notes that the damage inflicted by suicide is extensive. “For every death by suicide, there are an additional five people hospitalized for self-inflicted injury, 25 to 30 people who attempt suicide, and seven to 10 friends, family or acquaintances who are severely affected by the loss. Survivors of suicide and those close to them are at significantly elevated risk of suicide.”

“The goals of this Interfaith Statement are to express our support for people and communities struggling with suicide, to invite our faith communities to pray and work for a solution to the epidemic of suicide among Indigenous and youth in Saskatchewan, and to call upon all sectors to work together to enact a comprehensive and long-term suicide prevention strategy.”

The 18 faith leaders that endorsed the statement are:

  • Most Rev. Bryan Bayda, Ukrainian Catholic Bishop of Saskatoon
  • Most Rev. Donald Bolen, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Regina
  • Most Rev. Murray Chatlain, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Keewatin-Le Pas
  • Rev. Karen Fraser Gitlitz, Saskatoon Unitarians
  • Rev. Tricia Gerhard, Executive Chairperson, Living Skies Regional Council, United Church of Canada
  • Most Rev. Mark Hagemoen, Roman Catholic Bishop of Saskatoon
  • The Rt. Revd. Adam Halkett, Bishop of Missinippi, Anglican Church of Canada
  • Mr. Spencer Hanson, Moderator, Synod of Saskatchewan, Presbyterian Church in Canada
  • The Rt. Revd. Rob Hardwick, Bishop of Qu’Appelle, Anglican Church of Canada
  • Rt. Rev. Christopher Harper, Bishop of Saskatoon, Anglican Church of Canada
  • Bishop Sid Haugen, Saskatchewan Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada
  • The Rt. Revd. Michael Hawkins, Bishop of Saskatchewan,Anglican Church of Canada
  • Rabbi Claudio Jodorkovsky, Congregation Agudas Israel, Saskatoon
  • Imam Mohamed Masloh, Islamic Association of Saskatchewan (Regina)
  • Fr. Jakob Palm, Holy Covenant Evangelical Orthodox Church, Saskatoon
  • Rabbi Jeremy Parnes, Beth Jacob Synagogue, Regina
  • Edward Robertson, Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Regina
  • Most Rev. Albert Thévenot, Roman Catholic Bishop of Prince Albert

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“Up North” ministry brings challenges and rewards for Fr. Paul Oshin, who is serving in the Athabasca region of northern Saskatchewan

Wed, 09/09/2020 - 13:05

(Editor’s note: Fr. Paul Oshin, who previously served as the Associate Pastor at St. Paul Co- Cathedral in Saskatoon, is presently serving in the Athabasca region of northern Saskatchewan as Pastor of three parishes: Our Lady of the Cape, Black Lake, SK; Our Lady of Sorrows, Fond du Lac, SK; and Our Lady of Good Council, Stony Rapids, SK.  Fr. Oshin’s appointment as pastor in these communities is part of a commitment by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon to support ministry in the Archdiocese of Keewatin-Le Pas. This is an excerpt of an update that Fr. Oshin recently sent to Bishop Mark Hagemoen. )

By Fr. Paul Oshin

Greetings from the Athabasca region.

All honour, praise and adoration to Almighty God for His mercies and love and protection upon us all before, during and after the pandemic that has rendered everyone almost locked up with fear and anxiety.

During the pandemic that forced everyone into lock-down, I experienced a lot of loneliness, I entertained a little bit of anxiety as I was new to the place. The lockdown was declared on the second week that I began ministry here. I had no knowledge of anyone, I only celebrated Sunday Mass and throughout the period, I was alone, coupled with the fact that there was no one to turn to for any direction.

The second challenge was the weather… I didn’t know where the heater gauge was located, let alone how to put it on. I could describe myself at that period as a half-dead living person! This went on for a good week or thereabouts. Inspiration turned my attention to the archdiocesan directory, and I found the contact numbers of some of the parishioners here in Black Lake and I told them “a man is dying of cold here” —  and someone came to my rescue by showing me where the buttons were located to heat the house up!

Fr. Paul Oshin recently reported on a few of his experiences as Pastor to three parishes in the Athabasca region of the province — which has included some challenging weather and the unusual circumstances of a global pandemic. (Submitted photo)

When the Athabasca region health authority mandated “stay home, stay safe” because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it created a vacuum when it came to reaching out to people.

I celebrated daily and Sunday Mass alone in the parish church. With the help of the Chief in Council, I found a man who is very good in computer operation, and I encouraged him to open a Facebook account for the parish so that information and live-stream celebrations of Mass could be accessed by the parishioners in their homes. That idea became a reality, and more than 200 people quickly subscribed to the live-stream:  they were joining the celebration of Mass in their homes and some did provide feedback. This pastoral initiative strengthened communication.

During this pandemic, the health authority in Black Lake provided masks and hand sanitizers for the church. Later, people began to attend the Sunday Mass celebrations at the updated restricted numbers set by the Saskatchewan authorities.

I did take communion to some elders by authorization of the health authority and the Chief in Council, who certified that the people to receive communion were in good health. Also I made phone calls to some parishioners during the lock down. As some parishioners wanted to obtain holy water, I asked them to bring water from home and I blessed the water for them.

The most terrible experience during the COVID-19 pandemic was the issue of funerals. People here are very sympathetically connected or related. Therefore they found it absurd to keep away from the family of any deceased person. Despite the pandemic, they wanted to show solidarity to the family of the deceased person in great numbers. Restrictions created hardships.

The COVID-19 lockdown began as I arrived in Black Lake. In the month of July, I was in Fond du Lac. I am following Archbishop Murray Chatlain’s directive that I should be alternating months in the different communities of the region.

Celebration of the sacraments:

In Black Lake, there have been four infant baptisms and 25 children have received first Holy Communion, while the sacrament of Confession is regularly celebrated both weekdays and Sunday before Mass. Communion is taken to the sick once a week (after Sunday Mass). Sunday Masses are celebrated at 11 a.m. at Black Lake and at 5 p.m. in Stony Rapids. Weekday Mass is celebrated in Black Lake at 5:30 p.m. – at times with only the priest present. Visitation is regularly done here. The parishioners also do visit the priest once in a while.

A plan to renovate the basement of the rectory in Black Lake is underway, courtesy of the new chief (Chief Archie Robillard).

We observed a devotion to our mother Mary on the Feast of her Assumption in August. There was a spiritual walk with the statue from Stony Rapids to Black Lake between Aug. 12 and 15, 2020.

In Stony Rapids, one child has received baptism while 19 children have received their First Holy Communion. Sunday Mass is regularly  celebrated here as well.

At Fond du Lac, the parishioners know the value of a priest living and staying with them. Both daily Mass and Sunday Mass are attended in this community. The sacrament of confession is celebrated almost daily. On Sunday, attendance ranges from between 50 and 90 parishioners.

Renovation is going on in the rectory and in the big church at Fond du Lac, including installation of a new washroom upstairs, fixing of floor plank-tiles in the hall, kitchen and the office. This work is courtesy of Willie John and Chief Louis Mercredi (the Fond du Lac community Chief in Council). Clearing of the bush around the rectory and the big church is also underway. The rectory garden is being managed by the Band office.

Renovations are underway at Our Lady of Sorrows, Fond du Lac, SK. (Submitted photos)

Pastoral challenges

Pastoral challenges include assisting the people in developing an understanding of Christian marriage, and providing funerals for those who have died because of suicide (the age of those who have died within this period range from between 18 and 40 years).

I humbly suggest that a new plan for the youth to come back to the church should be introduced.

Parents should be encouraged to let their children attend church. Some parents find it difficult to talk about church to their kids at home. As is also the case in the city of Saskatoon, excessive freedom without cautions is given to young people, who can prefer to sleep or stay at home on Sunday watching films or playing games. Some young men are involved in consuming too much alcohol or heavy smoking, which is affecting them badly. Some find no meaning in life and consider suicide.

The Church as an agent of evangelisation should not fold her arms in the face of such difficulties – serious investment is needed to save more young people, and to reduce negative and destructive behaviours.

One young man recently committed suicide. In his room, we found a book entitled ‘How to die’ on his bed. Parents of the deceased did not check on what he was doing. I humbly submit that if family, the band office and the Church community can collaborate, we can work to reduce temptations to contemplate suicide, and direct young people toward hope.

Above all, the people in the region are very accommodating and generous. The Fond du Lac community surprised me by celebrating my priestly ordination anniversary in grand style. They prepared a meal and an anniversary cake with many snacks and cookies shared on that day and they attended Mass to thank God with me for the gift of the priesthood.

My personal challenge: it is very hard for me presently to understand the local Dene language. Hopefully, as time goes by, I will try to learn the Dene language.

I am grateful for the fatherly support of Bishop Mark Hagemoen and Archbishop Murray Chatlain. Archbishop Murray contacts me regularly by phone, and I do update him on the developments so far, and I participate in the archdiocesan programs.

The mission is going to be fruitful: nothing is difficult for God.

I thank God for giving me this opportunity. God’s words are so powerful: ‘for those who believe, everything is possible’ (Mark 9:23) I ask for your prayers and moral support to continue to be a friend to His people.

 

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Queensland, Australia passes law requiring priests to break confessional seal

Wed, 09/09/2020 - 08:16

By Catholic News Agency staff

[Australia – CNA) – The legislature of the Australian state of Queensland on Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020 passed a law requiring priests to violate the seal of confession to report known or suspected child sex abuse.

Failure to do so will be punished with three years in prison.

The law passed the Legislative Assembly of Queensland Sept. 8, with the support of the opposition Liberal National Party of Queensland.

Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane has said such a reporting requirement would “not make a difference to the safety of young people,” and that the bill was based on a “poor knowledge of how the sacrament actually works in practice”.

Last week the Australian bishops provided the federal government with the Holy See’s observations on 12 recommendations of a 2017 report on child sex abuse in the country’s institutions.

In response to a recommendation regarding the seal of confession and absolution, the Holy See reiterated the inviolability of the seal and that absolution cannot be conditioned on future actions in the external forum.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse had recommended that it be clarified whether “information received from a child during the sacrament of reconciliation that they have been sexually abused is covered by the seal of confession,” and “if a person confesses during the sacrament of reconciliation to perpetrating child sexual abuse, absolution can and should be withheld until they report themselves to civil authorities.”

The royal commission, a five-year Australian government inquiry, concluded in 2017 with more than 100 recommendations.

Mark Ryan, the Queensland police minister and a member of the Australian Labor Party, said that “the requirement and quite frankly the moral obligation to report concerning behaviours towards children applies to everyone everyone in this community” and that “no one group or occupation is being singled out.”

Stephen Andrew, the sole Queensland MP of Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, said that “the bill poses a real danger for public trust and cohesion in our community,” and asked: “How confident can the people of Queensland be that they live in a free and open democracy governed by the rule of law, where the state jails its bishops?”

Archbishop Coleridge has also said the law would make priests “less a servant of God than an agent of the state” and raise “major questions about religious freedom.”

Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia, and the Australian Capital Territory have also adopted laws forcing priests to violate the confessional seal, while New South Wales and Western Australia have upheld it.

Attorneys-general in Australia’s federal and state governments agreed in November 2019 on reporting standards that would require priests to break the sacramental seal or violate Australia’s mandatory abuse reporting rules. Further, priests would not be able to use the defense of privileged communications in the confessional seal to avoid giving evidence against a third party in criminal or civil proceedings.

Archbishop Coleridge of Brisbane commented Sept. 4 that Australia’s bishops “are keen to support the ongoing public conversation about policies, practices and protocols which will ensure that children and other people at risk are safe in our communities.”

The Holy See told Australia’s bishops earlier this year that the seal of confession is inviolable, and that it includes all the sins known from the confession, both of the penitent and others.

The Holy See added that this is the “long-standing and constant teaching of the Church on the inviolability of the sacramental seal, as something demanded by the nature of the sacrament itself and thus as deriving from Divine Law.”

It added that the confessor “certainly may, and indeed in certain cases should, encourage a victim to seek help outside the confessional or, when appropriate, to report an instance of abuse to the authorities.”

The Holy See also said that “the confessional provides an opportunity- perhaps the only one – for those who have committed sexual abuse to admit to the fact. In that moment the possibility is created for the confessor to counsel and indeed to admonish the penitent, urging him to contrition, amendment of life and the restoration of justice. Were it to become the practice, however, for confessors to denounce those who confessed to child sexual abuse, no such penitent would ever approach the sacrament and a precious opportunity for repentance and reform would be lost.”

It added that “it is of paramount importance that formation programmes for confessors include a detailed analysis of Church law, including the ‘Note’ of the Apostolic Penitentiary, together with practical examples to instruct priests concerning difficult questions and situations that may arise. These may include, for example, principles for the kind of dialogue a confessor should have with a young person who has been abused or appears vulnerable to abuse, as well as with anyone who confesses to having abused a minor.”

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Season of Creation prompts calls for action as faith communities rally to protect “common home”

Wed, 09/09/2020 - 07:44

By Brian Dryden, Canadian Catholic News

[Ottawa – CCN] – A plea from Pope Francis to better protect the environment, respect indigenous communities around the globe and listen to the concerns of young people is resonating with Catholics and non-Catholics alike in Canada, where religious and social justice groups are promising to make environmental justice initiatives the focus of a month-long celebration of creation.

“This year should lead to long-term action plans to practise integral ecology in our families, parishes and dioceses, religious orders, our schools and universities, our healthcare, business and agricultural institutions, and many others as well,” Pope Francis said in a message delivered on Sept. 1 as part of World Day of Prayer for Creation and the start of the Season of Creation that continues through to the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi on Oct. 4.

“We rejoice too that faith communities are coming together to create a more just, peaceful and sustainable world. We are particularly happy that the Season of Creation is becoming a truly ecumenical initiative. Let us continue to grow in the awareness that we all live in a common home as members of a single family,” Pope Francis’ message said.

The call for action on the environment and the threat to the planet of global climate change, which has been a key aspect of Pope Francis’ papacy, also comes at a time of a global pandemic that has killed some 900,000 people across the globe as of Sept. 4, 2020.

Pope Francis pictured in St. Peter’s Square March 16, 2016. (Photo by Daniel Ibáñez – Catholic News Agency)

“In some ways, the current pandemic has led us to rediscover simpler and sustainable lifestyles. The crisis, in a sense, has given us a chance to develop new ways of living,” Pope Francis said.

“The pandemic has brought us to a crossroads. We must use this decisive moment to end our superfluous and destructive goals and activities, and to cultivate values, connections and activities that are life-giving. We must examine our habits of energy usage, consumption, transportation, and diet. We must eliminate the superfluous and destructive aspects of our economies, and nurture life-giving ways to trade, produce, and transport goods.”

That message by Pope Francis is being taken to heart by groups such as Citizens For Public Justice (CPJ), an Ottawa-based religious social justice organization, which in an August 2020 brief to the House of Commons standing committee on finance pre-budget consultations said “the COVID-19 pandemic has sharpened our collective focus.”

“Priorities have become clearer and there is a call for change. The climate emergency – the focus of the 2019 pre-budget consultation – has not gone away. Poverty and inequality have been aggravated. At the same time, long-standing systemic racism and social exclusion have also been brought to light,” according to the CPJ. “These are not new issues, but curiously, the crisis spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic may have created a fresh opportunity to take a deeper look at how we respond.”

KAIROS, a Canadian faith-based organization that includes the Canadian Catholic Church’s Development and Peace organization, launched its second annual “Climate Action Month” at the beginning of September that calls for “radically new ways of living with creation.”

According to a statement released by KAIROS, climate action month is held “to galvanize awareness and action after a series of alarming and urgent UN special reports on the climate crisis and impacts on vulnerable communities, including women and Indigenous peoples. The pandemic has redefined our world with calls for a just recovery that prioritizes the welfare of essential workers and at-risk people in the transition to a carbon net zero economy by 2050.”

“Recovery from the pandemic offers an immense opportunity to build a more resilient and equitable society that upholds human rights and the integrity of our planet,” said Beth Lorimer, ecological justice coordinator for KAIROS Canada.

“Ambitious action is needed from our leaders to get us there and we all have a voice in making that message heard,” she said.
Joe Gunn of the Oblat Centre, which is based in Ottawa’s Saint Paul Catholic university, said the campaign for climate justice has been a key focal point of the Jesuit Oblat Centre this year and will continue to be going forward.

“This is very much a priority,” he said.

Season of Creation resources – LINK

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Catholic bikers challenging public perceptions

Wed, 09/09/2020 - 07:30

By Agnieszka Ruck, B.C. Catholic

[Vancouver – Canadian Catholic News] – Wayne Reville first got his motorcycle licence at age 19, and he hasn’t lost any love for riding since then.

Fifty years, and a few degrees into the Knights of Columbus later, the Okanagan Valley resident’s hobby has taken up a whole new meaning.

Reville has just become British Columbia’s first provincial president for Knights on Bikes, an organization of Knights of Columbus members who own motorcycles.

“We follow the Knights’ goals. We follow the councils. We don’t do anything different than what the councils do, other than participate in charities and things like that on our motorcycles,” said Reville.

It may be a simple idea, but it has opened up a whole new world of evangelism and personal faith formation for bikers like Reville.

“In Ontario, when [the Knights on Bikes] go on their rides, they will ride from church to church and say a part of the Rosary at each church, then go to the next one. It gives them an opportunity to go out and socialize and keep the faith at the same time.”

Canadian national vice president Dennis Mailloux, who can be seen cruising on his Yamaha V-Star 1100 around Ontario, told

The B.C. Catholic the thunderous roar of a group of motorcycles attracts unique attention to the Knights and the events they support.

“It brings out what the Knights of Columbus do in a more visual way,” he said, adding sometimes people approach them more interested in the motorcycles than the Knights, at first.

“You call on the Knights on Bikes to show up to do a bike show or a car show and it helps to bring the people in.”

But the influence goes deeper than the surface. In a Salt and Light TV special about Knights on Bikes, Mailloux said there is a unique bond between people who ride, Catholic or not.

“It doesn’t matter where you go, as soon as you meet someone else on a motorcycle, it’s an instantaneous friendship.”
That can lead to conversations about faith with people they may never have had the chance to connect with otherwise.

Raymond Medina, a member of the Knights of Columbus in Fort Worth, Tex., founded Knights on Bikes in 2003 after purchasing a motorcycle and in a moment of pride placing a Knights of Columbus decal on it. When fellow Knights with motorcycles saw it, all wanted to do the same, marking the unofficial founding of the group.

It would become official two years later.

“When Knights on Bikes started, they thought of us as thugs, mugs, and, you know, bad people. But … we wanted to change everybody’s mindset,” Medina told Shalom World in a documentary.

Now Knights on Bikes participate in charity rides, bike shows, and other creative ways of bringing attention to parish fundraisers and other events under their motto, “In God we trust and ride.”

Canadian Patrick Malloy was on a road trip through Texas when he met the newly founded Knights on Bikes and brought the idea home to Ontario with him in 2006.

The idea caught on quickly in that province and then spread to Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and, just recently, B.C. and Quebec.

There are now about 200 Canadian members of Knights on Bikes.

Members are finding creative ways to connect their faith with their love of the ride. They have made pilgrimages between churches, praying the Rosary along the way. They have prayed outside abortion clinics. They have escorted the silver rose, a Knights of Columbus tradition that honours Our Lady of Guadalupe, across the country, and have collected teddy bears and funds for children’s charities including in support of cancer research.

They also help other travellers, for example lending assistance to motorists who might be stranded on the side of the road.
There are only eight members in B.C. right now, said Reville. He hopes to grow that number but admits it has been difficult to attract new members during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially as rallies and charity events are cancelled across the country. He is hopeful by the time the international Knights on Bikes conference in Louisiana rolls around in 2021, he and many others will be able to make the trip.

Meanwhile, Reville is limited to inviting new members to Knights on Bikes by emailing councils across B.C. and by sporting his black leather vest, with the Knights of Columbus logo stitched on, while cruising the Okanagan countryside.

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Former MP joins religious freedom advisory board at Cardus think tank

Wed, 09/09/2020 - 07:22

By Brian Dryden, Canadian Catholic News

[Ottawa – CCN] – A former Conservative MP from Saskatchewan who has long been a champion of religious freedom, and a theologian from B.C., who has worked to build bridges between Christian and Muslim communities, were recently appointed to the advisory council of the Religious Freedom Institute at the Ontario-based religious think tank Cardus.

In an interview with the Catholic Register in 2019 David Anderson, who represented the Saskatchewan riding of Cypress Hills-Grasslands since 2000 but who announced he was retiring from politics before last year’s federal election, said he wanted to spend more time with his grandchildren and did not know exactly what the future would hold for him after politics. “We don’t have anything specific. Nobody’s come to us with any great offers and opportunities, but we’re trusting God will give us some direction when the time comes,” the he told the Catholic Register at the time.

The appointment to Cardus’ Religious Freedom Institute (CRFI) board gives Anderson another forum to continue to address issues that have been dear to his heart for years.

“Religious freedom matters to every Canadian, whether they are religious or not,” said Anderson in a Sept. 2 Cardus press release announcing his appointment.

“I know that in working with the CRFI, I’ll be able to help more Canadians understand just how fundamental religious freedom is to the other constitutionally protected freedoms we enjoy,” said Anderson, who was a founding member of the International Panel of Parliamentarians for Freedom of Religion or Belief and Canadian Parliamentarians for Freedom of Religion or Belief.

Also appointed to the volunteer advisory board is Chris Stackaruk, who Cardus describes as “a social entrepreneur and theologian based in Victoria, B.C.”

“While in seminary, he co-founded Neighborly Faith, a charity that introduces Muslims and Evangelical Christians to one another on college campuses across North America,” according to Cardus, adding he “is completing his PhD in theological studies at the University of St. Michael’s College in the University of Toronto where he writes on the history of Vatican II.”

“An important part of my work has been to build bridges with the Muslim community in Canada and to speak out against anti-Muslim attitudes,” said Stackaruk.

“We can’t have religious freedom in Canada unless we genuinely respect our differences,” he added.

CRFI director Rev. Dr. Andrew P.W. Bennett, an ordained deacon in the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church in the Eparchy of Toronto and Eastern Canada and who served as the head of the since disbanded Canadian government Office of Religious Freedom from 2013 to 2016, said both men will bring “unique gifts” to the CRFI’s advisory board.

“I have worked with my friend David Anderson for many years in the field of religious freedom and look forward to the wise counsel and powerful voice he will bring to our work,” Bennett said.

“And (Stackaruk) represents for me a new generation of champions of religious freedom,” he said. “His passion in publicly engaging different communities of faith in dialogue is a model to be followed.”

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Pope Francis: Promote the common good to heal wounds of coronavirus crisis

Wed, 09/09/2020 - 07:04

By Catholic News Agency staff

[Vatican City – CNA) – The wounds inflicted by the coronavirus crisis will only be healed if we put the common good first, Pope Francis said at his general audience Sept. 9.

“A virus that does not recognize barriers, borders, or cultural or political distinctions must be faced with a love without barriers, borders or distinctions,” the pope said during the audience held in the San Damaso Courtyard within the Vatican’s apostolic palace.

His general audience address, on “Love and the common good,” was part of a catechetical cycle entitled “Healing the world,” which the pope launched Aug. 5. The cycle focuses on how the Church’s social doctrine can help the world to recover from the ravages of COVID-19, which has killed some 898,000 people worldwide as of Sept. 9, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Centre.

Before the audience, the pope spent time mingling with pilgrims, who stood at the barriers wearing face masks. When he reached the podium, he asked them to return to their carefully spaced-out seats in order to prevent the potential spread of the virus. It was only his second Wednesday audience with pilgrims since February due to the pandemic.

The audience began with a reading in several languages from Matthew 15:32-37, a passage known as the Feeding of the Four Thousand, in which Jesus feeds the multitude with seven loaves and a few fish.

“The crisis we are living due to the pandemic is affecting everyone; we will emerge from it for the better if we all seek the common good together,” the pope said, according to an unofficial translation provided by the Holy See press office.

Sadly, however, “partisan interests” were emerging.

“For example, some would like to appropriate possible solutions for themselves, as in the case of vaccines, to then sell them to others. Some are taking advantage of the situation to instigate divisions: by seeking economic or political advantages, generating or exacerbating conflicts. Others simply are not interesting themselves in the suffering of others, they pass by and go their own way. They are the devotees of Pontius Pilate, washing their hands of others’ suffering,” he said.

In contrast, the Christian response to the pandemic and resulting socio-economic crisis should be rooted in the love of God, which enables people even to seek the good of their enemies.

“Certainly, to love everyone, including enemies, is difficult — I would say it is even an art! But an art that can be learned and improved. True love that makes us fruitful and free is always expansive, and love is not only expansive, it is inclusive. This love cares, heals and does good,” the pope said.

Christian love also extends to civil and political relationships, he explained, as well as our relationship with nature.

“Since we are social and political beings, one of the highest expressions of love is specifically social and political which is decisive to human development and in order to face any type of crisis,” he said.

“We know that love makes families and friendships flourish; but it is good to remember that it also makes social, cultural, economic and political relationships flourish, allowing us to construct a ‘civilization of love,’ as St. Paul VI used to love to say and, in turn, St. John Paul II. Without this inspiration, the egotistical, indifferent, throw-away culture prevails.”

Pope Francis told pilgrims that when he arrived for the audience he spoke to a married couple who asked for his prayers because they had a disabled child. He said that they had dedicated their whole lives to their son and suggested that they were an example of the love that we must show to all, including our political adversaries.

“The coronavirus is showing us that each person’s true good is a common good, not only individual, and, vice versa, the common good is a true good for the person. If a person only seeks his or her own good, that person is egotistical. Instead, the person is kinder, nobler, when his or her own good is open to everyone, when it is shared,” he said.

“Health, in addition to being an individual good, is also a public good. A healthy society is one that takes care of everyone’s health, of all.”

The pope said that love can help to build new social structures marked by creativity, trust and solidarity.

“Conversely, if the solutions for the pandemic bear the imprint of egoism, whether it be by persons, businesses or nations, we may perhaps emerge from the coronavirus crisis, but certainly not from the human and social crisis that the virus has brought to light and accentuated,” observed the Holy Father.

He added that a just and peaceful society could only be built upon the rock of the common good.

“And this is everyone’s task, not only that of a few specialists,” Pope Francis said. “St. Thomas Aquinas used to say that the promotion of the common good is a duty of justice that falls on each citizen. Every citizen is responsible for the common good. And for Christians, it is also a mission. As St. Ignatius of Loyola taught, to direct our daily efforts toward the common good is a way of receiving and spreading God’s glory.”

He suggested that, while politics has a bad reputation, a good politics that puts the human person and the common good at its center is still possible. Christians can demonstrate this by exercising the virtue of charity, which has an “intrinsic social dimension.”

He concluded: “It is therefore time to improve our social love — I want to highlight this: our social love — with everyone’s contribution, starting from our littleness. The common good requires everyone’s participation. If everyone contributes his or her part, and if no one is left out, we can regenerate good relationships on the communitarian, national, and international level, and even in harmony with the environment.”

“Thus, through our gestures, even the most humble ones, something of the image of God we bear within us will be made visible, because God is the Trinity, God is love … With His help, we can heal the world working, yes, all together for the common good, for everyone’s common good.”

After greeting members of different language groups, Pope Francis noted that Sept. 9 was the first International Day to Protect Education from Attack. The day, established in May by the United Nations General Assembly, highlights the plight of the more than 75 million children worldwide whose schooling is disrupted by violence.

He said: “I invite you to pray for students who are seriously deprived of the right to education due to war and terrorism. I urge the international community to do its utmost so that the structures that must protect young students be respected. May efforts that guarantee safe environments for their education not wain, above all in situations of humanitarian crises.”

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Video series echoes Bishop Olmsted’s call ‘into the breach’

Wed, 09/09/2020 - 05:18

By Catholic News Agency staff

A video series encouraging men to spiritual and moral leadership of their families will be broadcast this week, based upon a call to men from Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix, Arizona, USA.

The series, “Into the Breach,” is based on a 2015 pastoral letter from Olmsted. The videos feature commentary from Olmsted, theologian Scott Hahn, evangelist Curtis Martin, and other Catholic speakers.

The series is produced by the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization of men.

Regarding the series, Knights of Columbus Supreme Knight Carl Anderson said last week that, “Catholic men and fathers shoulder a great responsibility. Our role in evangelization is indispensable, especially within our homes as we build our domestic churches.”

“Our families and our parishes need our faithful witness more than ever. As Catholic men and as Knights of Columbus, it is our duty to ‘step into the breach’ and play our part in the renewal of our families and the Church,” Anderson added.

Olmsted’s exhortation aims to be “an encouragement, a challenge, and a calling forth to mission” for men, pointing to the saints and the life of Christ to suggest a model of Christian identity.

“Our identity is caught up in the identity of the eternal Son of God,” Olmsted wrote.

“Looking to what the secular world holds up as ‘manly’ is in fact to look at shadows – or even at outright counterfeits – of masculinity. No athlete, no matter how many awards; no political leader, no matter the power he wields; no performer, business man, or celebrity, no matter how much adored; no physical attribute or muscle mass; no intelligence or talent; no prizes or achievements can bestow masculinity on a man. The idolatry of celebrities at this time is a particular temptation, but to build one’s masculine identity on such fleeting models is to build an identity on sand.”

In addition to being available online from the Knights of Columbus website, the videos will be broadcast Sept. 8-11 on the EWTN television network (Catholic News Agency is a service of EWTN News).

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