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

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Updated: 1 year 8 weeks ago

Delivering compassionate care: St. Paul’s Hospital Executive Director Tracy Muggli has built a career helping the most vulnerable

Fri, 05/29/2020 - 13:58

By Ashleigh Mattern

When Tracy Muggli stepped into the role of Executive Director of St. Paul’s Hospital in Saskatoon on April 1 this year, she had to hit the ground running. She started her new role in the midst of a pandemic and she’s one of the site leads responsible for COVID-19 planning at St. Paul’s Hospital.

“I learned very quickly about negative air pressure and how to install temporary walls and doors in a building,” Tracy said. “It’s been quite an enormous responsibility to take on in my early days to make sure that we are doing everything we possibly can to not only provide safe care but also in a safe space,”

Owned by Emmanuel Health, St. Paul’s Hospital is a Catholic Hospital founded in 1907 by the Grey Nuns in response to a typhoid outbreak. A decade later, the hospital found itself fighting an influenza pandemic (1918-1919).

“As the Grey Nuns envisioned more than 100 years ago, the core value of compassionate care was key to their service delivery, and here we are, more than a century later, stepping up and  delivering compassionate care during a pandemic.”

Tracy draws inspiration from the founding values of the Grey Nuns and their legacy of service and compassionate care in Saskatoon. She has worked in Saskatchewan health care for decades, drawing on her professional training as a social worker and leading efforts to improve outcomes for those facing mental health and addictions challenges.

“I’ve spent the last 32 years of my career trying to help people who are the most vulnerable in our community and I believe St. Paul’s Hospital is a place where I can continue that work and build on it,” she said.

One of her goals as Executive Director is to help create a more welcoming experience for people who access the hospital.

St. Paul’s Hospital is already in the process of hiring someone on a three-year term who will help to re-design the hospital experience.

She’s also excited about the new Hospice at Glengarda, the first-freestanding residential hospice in Saskatchewan, under construction in the former Ursuline residence on Hilliard Avenue in Saskatoon, thanks to a $20-million Close to Home campaign by St. Paul’s Hospital Foundation.

“We shine in the palliative care realm and now, with the hospice coming on board, Emmanuel Health can enhance holistic and compassionate care, and the respect and dignity that we give to the clients and patients who need our services.”

Related: Close to Home campaign reaches goal for building hospice and strengthening end-of-life care

Tracy grew up in Muenster, SK., home to St. Peter’s College and St. Peter’s Abbey. She’s an alumna of the College and has served on its board of governors for the last few years. She said growing up in a small Catholic community taught her the importance of community service and giving back.

“You’re involved, you’re engaged and you give of your time. You have to keep your community alive. Everyone has a role to play whether it is in the church, the community hall, the school or sports and recreation activities; it’s part of how you thrive as a community.”

Even in her spare time, she’s engaged in the community and has served on several boards supporting newcomers who are making Saskatoon their new home, as well as philanthropic initiatives, such as the Saskatoon Community Foundation in its efforts to raise money for the Community Fund for Reconciliation. Volunteering is in her DNA. She also loves attending festivals, live theatre and music shows — which sometimes feature performances by her 22-year-old son Ayden.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, many of her favourite activities are on hold, and she still hasn’t had the opportunity to have a formal walk-through of the hospital yet, but she’s optimistic about the future and her role in making St. Paul’s Hospital a centre for high quality, holistic care.

“I’ve spent my entire career finding creative ways to support people whose needs aren’t always met by the formal systems we have in place,” she said. “My personal philosophy is there’s always a better way. It may take creativity and time and a great deal of effort but I learned that positivity and strong teams will always bring improvement.”



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Saskatchewan faith leaders ask for public worship to be part of Re-Open Saskatchewan plans as COVID-19 restrictions are eased

Fri, 05/29/2020 - 11:29

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

A coalition of faith leaders from across the province recently lobbied the provincial government to include a return to public worship as part of “Re-Open Saskatchewan” plans in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Soon after the release of the Re-Open Saskatchewan plan, faith leaders from across Saskatchewan gathered online to discuss the re-opening of places of worship,” states a May 29 media release from the faith leaders. “We drafted a letter asking the Saskatchewan government to work together with faith communities to develop responsible guidelines bringing places of worship within the Re-Open Saskatchewan plan.”

Click here for full text of Saskatchewan faith leaders’ May 14, 2020 letter to Premier Scott Moe

“We represent diverse traditions, including the Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Mormon, Muslim, and Unitarian communities, and the following Christian churches: Alliance, Anglican, Baptist, Evangelical, Lutheran (ELCIC and LCC), Mennonite, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, Ukrainian Catholic, and the United Church of Canada. We represent communities that are large and small, urban and rural. All told, we represent at least 700,000 Saskatchewan residents.” – Letter from faith leaders of Saskatchewan to Premier Scott Moe.

“The government has responded to our request with the designation of two members of the COVID-19 Response Team to liaise with faith leaders. We are extremely thankful for the professionalism and commitment of these public servants. A robust and fruitful dialogue has produced guidelines that have been submitted for approval of the relevant health authorities,” according to the statement from the provincial faith leaders. “We confidently expect their imminent release.”

The May 29 media release from the faith leaders continues: “We have been assured that the provisions included in Phase 3 of the Re-Open plan will be adjusted as further experience commends. Guidelines addressing other aspects of worship and community life within our faith communities will be added in the coming weeks.”

Later the same day, the government of Saskatchewan released new guidelines for gradual re-opening of public worship to take effect Monday, June 8, 2020.

The earlier May 14 letter from faith leaders to Premier Scott Moe noted how faith groups and places of worship in the province suspended activities and closed their doors even before required to do so, while pointing out that until now, faith gatherings had not been addressed in Re-Open Saskatchewan plans.

“The current Re-Open Saskatchewan plan addresses commerce and recreation but does not address spiritual gatherings. There are increasing tensions within our communities, and pressure on leaders to make decisions about what we can and cannot do at the present. These questions and decisions go beyond permission to gather up to ten people in a worship space. We are concerned that without clear communication and directives there will be well-intentioned but misguided decisions at the local level as well as outright rogue behaviour,” states the letter.

In the letter to the premier, the faith leaders also stress the importance of spirituality and faith. “While religious services may not be deemed ‘essential’ services in an official sense, the ministries that we provide are vitally important for the health and well-being of the people of Saskatchewan. Day-by-day and week-by-week the religious communities of our province provide support, encouragement, and hope to people whose circumstances are sometimes very difficult. Through prayer, worship, fellowship, mission, and service we both support our adherents and make valuable contributions to the wider community,” states the May 14 letter.

“While we quickly closed our doors to physical gatherings, ensuring that we did not contribute to the spread of the virus, we swiftly moved our activities online and continued to provide spiritual support and encouragement to the people of Saskatchewan in all kinds of safe and creative ways. Still, the health and vitality of our religious communities will be hampered by an extended period of being unable to gather together physically.” Letter from faith leaders of Saskatchewan to Premier Scott Moe.

Members of the faith leaders’ working group (representing a group of 28 leaders) are:

  • Most Rev. Donald Bolen, Archbishop, Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Regina
  • Rev. Amanda Currie, Synod of Saskatchewan, Presbyterian Church in Canada
  • Rev. Tricia Gerhard, Chair, Living Skies Regional Council Executive, United Church of Canada
  • Rt. Rev. Michael Hawkins, Bishop, Anglican Diocese of Saskatchewan
  • Rev. Paul Israelson, District Superintendent, Saskatchewan District, Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada
  • Rabbi Jeremy Parnes, Beth Jacob Synagogue, Regina
  • Imam Ilyas Sidyot, Islamic Association of Saskatchewan (Saskatoon)
  •  Rev. Dr. Bernie Van De Walle, District Superintendent, Canadian Midwest District of the Christian Missionary Alliance Church

Related: “Public celebration of Mass slowly resumes in diocese of Saskatoon as COVID-19 restrictions are eased”





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Knights of Columbus summer camp will offer a virtual experience this year because of COVID-19

Fri, 05/29/2020 - 10:12

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

The Knights of Columbus summer camp usually held at the Blackstrap site and facilities south of Saskatoon will this year be offered as a Virtual Camp from home, as COVID-19 restrictions on large gatherings and events continue in Saskatchewan.

Register for virtual camp: Blackstrap Youth Camp website

Rather than simply cancelling the Catholic summer camp experience, organizers are transforming the program into an online, virtual offering.

This year, the Blackstrap Youth Camp website provides details about the unusual 2020 camping season.

“Campers who register for our Virtual Camp Webinars will have the opportunity to participate in some traditional camp activities from home, while seeing some familiar faces from camp,” the site describes.

Virtual activities will be offered several times each week from July 6 to Aug. 7, 2020.

Webinars will be hosted by Blackstrap Youth Camp staff, who will lead campers through traditional camp activities such as bracelet making, tie-dye, variety night, praise and worship, faith testimonials, praying of the rosary, and counsellor question-and-answer sessions.

The Blackstrap Youth Camp website also notes:

  • Campers will need access to a functional smartphone/computer that can support a virtual conference platform in order to be able to view the Virtual Camp Webinars.
  • Registration will grant the camper access to all Virtual Camp Webinars for the entire camp season July 6 to Aug. 7.
  • Those who register before June 15 receive a “Camp Care Package” to use during the webinars and a camp t-shirt at the end of the summer. (Each camper must be registered separately in order to receive camp materials and a t-shirt).

There is a minimum registration fee of $50 per camper for the virtual summer camp, with an opportunity to top-up that amount as an additional donation.

The Saskatoon Knights of Columbus opened Blackstrap Youth Camp in 1972. For the past 48 years, the summer camp has provided a welcoming faith-centred camp that offers youth an opportunity to experience God through nature and the various activities of the summer camp experience.

From the Archives: “Bishop Mark visits Blackstrap Camp in 2019”



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Pope Francis will name Charles de Foucauld a saint. Who was he?

Wed, 05/27/2020 - 12:27

By Hannah Brockhaus, Catholic News Agency

[Vatican City – CNA] – The Vatican announced May 27, 2020 that Pope Francis has advanced the sainthood causes of 14 men and women, including Blessed Charles de Foucauld, a French missionary killed in Algeria in 1916.

De Foucauld, also known as Brother Charles of Jesus, was a soldier, explorer, Catholic revert, priest, hermit, and religious brother, who served among the Tuareg people in the Sahara desert in Algeria. He was assassinated by a band of men at his hermitage in the Sahara on Dec. 1, 1916.

De Foucauld was born in Strasbourg in 1858. He was raised by his wealthy and aristocratic grandfather after being orphaned at the age of six.

He joined the French military, following in the footsteps of his grandfather. Having already lost his faith, as a young man he lived a life of indulgence and was known to have an immature sense of humor.

De Foucauld resigned from the military at age 23, and set off on a dangerous exploration of Morocco. Contact with strong Muslim believers there challenged him, and he began to repeat to himself: “My God, if you exist, let me come to know you.”

He returned to France and, with the guidance of a priest, came back to his Catholic faith in 1886, at the age of 28.

The following saying is attributed to him: “As soon as I believed in God, I understood that I could not do otherwise than to live for him alone.”

De Foucauld realized a vocation to “follow Jesus in his life at Nazareth” during a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. He was a Trappist monk in France and Syria for seven years. He also lived as a hermit for a period near a convent of Poor Clares in Nazareth.

He was ordained a priest in 1901 at age 43 and left for northern Africa to serve among the Tuareg people, a nomadic ethnic group, saying he wanted to live among “the furthest removed, the most abandoned.”

In the Sahara he welcomed anyone who passed by, whether Christian, Muslim, Jewish, or pagan.

He was deeply respectful of the faiths and cultures he lived among. During his 13 years in the Saraha he learned about Tuareg culture and language, compiling a Tuareg-French dictionary, and being a “brother” to the people.

The priest said he wanted to “shout the Gospel with his life” and to conduct his life so that people would ask, “if such is the servant, what must the Master be like?”

De Foucauld was the inspiration for the founding of several lay associations, religious communities, and secular institutes of laity and priests, known collectively as “the spiritual family of Charles de Foucauld.”

At his beatification in 2005, Pope Benedict XVI said as a priest, de Foucauld “put the Eucharist and the Gospel at the center of his life.”

“He discovered that Jesus — who came to unite Himself to us in our humanity — invites us to that universal brotherhood which he later experienced in the Sahara, and to that love of which Christ set us the example,” he said.

After meeting with Cardinal Angelo Becciu, prefect of the congregation for saints’ causes May 26, the pope approved a second miracle attributed to de Foucauld’s intercession, paving the way for his canonization.

On May 27, Pope Francis also advanced the cause of Bl. César de Bus, a French priest who lived from 1544 to 1607, and founded two religious congregations.

He also advanced the cause of Italian Bl. Maria Domenica Mantovani, co-founder and first general superior of the Institute of the Little Sisters of the Holy Family, who died in 1934.

The pope also approved the first miracle attributed to the intercession of Venerable Michael McGivney, a 19th-century American priest who founded the Knights of Columbus. He may now be beatified.

French laywoman Venerable Pauline-Marie Jaricot, who lived from 1799 to 1862 in Lyon, may also now be beatified.

She founded the Living Rosary Association and the Society of the Propagation of the Faith — which later became the first of the four pontifical mission societies.

Jaricot, a member of the lay Dominicans, was devoted to promoting support of the Church’s missionary efforts around the world.

She was the youngest of seven children. After losing her mother when she was 17, Jaricot took a vow of perpetual virginity and devoted herself to prayer. For many years, St. John Vianney was her spiritual director.

She was declared Venerable in 1963 by St. Pope John XXIII.

In 2013, Cardinal Fernando Filoni, then head of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, said “Jaricot’s heroic virtues do not consist in a series of miraculous events, but in that fruitful fidelity to Christ, to whom she devoted herself both in good times and in those difficult and tormented moments, as well as in the long-term vision of a commitment to evangelization, so that all people get to know Christ and of the merciful love of God.”

Pope Francis also confirmed May 27 the martyrdom of six Cistercians, the Servant of God Simeon Cardon and his five companions, who were killed in 1799 in Casamari, Italy.

He also confirmed the martyrdom of Cosma Spessotto, a priest and Franciscan from northern Italy who was killed in El Salvador in 1980.

Servant of God Bishop Melchior de Marion Bresillac, who was apostolic vicar to Sierra Leone and the founder of the Society of Africa Missions, was also advanced on the path to sainthood. A Frenchman, he died in 1859 in the West African country.


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Founder of Knights of Columbus now heading for beatification died amid a global pandemic

Wed, 05/27/2020 - 11:49

By Courtney Mares, Catholic News Agency

[Vatican City – CNA] – Fr. Michael McGivney, an American priest soon to be beatified, died amid a 19th-century pandemic which may have been caused by a coronavirus.

Fr. McGivney founded the largest world’s largest Catholic fraternal service organization, the Knights of Columbus, in 1882. Today the order formed in his parish basement in New Haven, Connecticut, has grown to more than two million members donating millions of dollars to charity each year.

Pope Francis approved a miracle attributed to McGivney’s intercession on May 26, paving the way for the American priest’s beatification.

McGivney was serving as a parish priest amid the pandemic of 1889-1890, according to a press release from the Knights of Columbus May 27.

Biologists using gene-sequencing methods have attributed the pandemic to a type of coronavirus, according to a Bloomberg report. This virus, which first appeared in Russia, killed a total of 1 million people worldwide, including 13,000 in the United States.

McGivney became seriously ill with pneumonia and died on Aug. 14, 1890, at age 38.

Born in Waterbury, Connecticut, in 1852, McGivney was the first of 13 children born to Irish immigrants Patrick and Mary McGivney. Six of his siblings died in infancy or early childhood. His father was a molder in a Waterbury brass mill, where the young McGivney himself worked for a brief time as a child to help support his family.

From an early age, however, he sensed a calling to the priesthood (two of his brothers also became priests). He was ordained in Baltimore’s Cathedral of the Assumption by Cardinal James Gibbons on Dec. 22, 1877, and took up his first assignment, as curate at St. Mary’s Church in New Haven, the city’s first parish.

In New Haven, McGivney faced anti-Catholic prejudice. A New York Times headline in 1879 — “How an Aristocratic Avenue was Blemished by a Roman Church Edifice” — deplored the construction of a new stone church after the original building was destroyed by fire.

In addition to his parish duties, he ministered to a 21-year-old man who was on death row for killing a police officer while drunk, visiting him daily up until his execution. On the day he was due to be hanged, James Smith comforted the priest, saying: “Father, your saintly ministrations have enabled me to meet death without a tremor. Do not fear for me. I must not break down now.”

McGivney founded the Knights of Columbus at St. Mary’s in 1882 as a way to provide financial protection to families who suffered the death of a breadwinner — a challenge McGivney himself faced in his youth when his father died in 1873. The priest also hoped the organization would dissuade Catholics from turning to secret societies in times of need.

The Knights were named after the explorer Christopher Columbus. The order’s original principles were “unity” and “charity,” with “fraternity” and “patriotism” added later.

Fr. O’Donnell, a contemporary in Waterbury, remembered McGivney as “genial, approachable, of kindly disposition, cheerful under reverses, profoundly sympathetic with those upon whom had fallen the heavy hand of affliction, a man of strict probity and sterling integrity in his business transactions.”

“He was charitable to a fault, if I may so speak. The poor found in him a Good Samaritan,” O’Donnell said in 1900.

Another contemporary, Fr. Slocum, said: “Fr. McGivney, though a man of unassuming character, was possessed of an indomitable will, by which, aided by the grace of God, he was able to face unkind and unjust criticism from all directions in his great effort to found a society for the benefit of young men and the glory of the Church.”


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Pope Francis, major Catholic shrines to offer rosary for Mary’s help during pandemic 

Wed, 05/27/2020 - 11:41

By Hannah Brockhaus, Catholic News Agency

[Vatican City – CNA] – Pope Francis will pray the rosary in the Vatican Gardens’ Lourdes grotto on Saturday, May 30 as Catholic shrines from around the world join via video streaming.

The intention of the worldwide rosary is for the Blessed Virgin Mary’s help and solace during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

According to a letter sent to shrine rectors by Archbishop Rino Fisichella, president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, the livestreamed prayer will take place at 5:30 p.m. Rome time (9:30 a.m. Saskatchewan time) on Saturday, May 30.

Catholic shrines have been asked to participate by holding their own recitation of the rosary, in accordance with local health measures, at the same time as the Rome event and to promote the initiative.

They have also been asked, if possible, to provide satellite or streaming connections with the Vatican’s television center so that video footage of the rosary at the different shrines can be shared during Pope Francis’ livestream.

During the coronavirus emergency, many Catholic shrines have had to close to the public, including the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in France, which only partially reopened to pilgrims May 16.

The Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal has also been closed and the May 13 anniversary of the 1917 Marian apparitions were celebrated without the presence of the public for the first time in its history due to the pandemic.

The rosary with Pope Francis is being organized by the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization, which in its letter to rectors paraphrased the Acts of the Apostles 1:14: “All joined together constantly in prayer, along [with] Mary.”

“In light of the emergency situation caused by the Coronavirus pandemic that has caused the stoppage of the normal activity of all Shrines and the interruption of all pilgrimages, Pope Francis wishes to express a gesture of closeness to each of you with the recitation of the Holy Rosary,” Archbishop Fisichella wrote.

Shrines which will participate in the rosary May 30 include the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., and the shrines of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Our Lady of the Rosary of Chiquinquira, Our Lady of Lujan, and the Virgin of Milagro.

From Europe, there will be the Shrines of Our Lady of Częstochowa, Our Lady of Fatima, Our Lady of Lourdes, San Giovanni Rotondo, and Our Lady of Pompei.

The National Pilgrimage Centre of Elele in Nigeria and the Shrine of Our Lady of Peace in Ivory Coast will join from Africa.

The Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization has been responsible for Catholic shrines since 2017.

Globally, there have been more than 5.4 million confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, with more than 340,000 recorded deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

This story was updated with participating shrines at 2:24 am MT May 26, 2020.


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Churches take first steps in re-opening – a look at the national picture

Wed, 05/27/2020 - 11:20

By Mickey Conlon, The Catholic Register

[Toronto – Canadian Catholic News] – It was like a new beginning for Fr. Geoffrey Young and clergy in the Roman Catholic. Diocese of Saskatoon.

For the first time in more than two months, Young looked out at the pews of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Saskatoon on May 22 and had his gaze reciprocated, as the diocese was among the first in Canada to celebrate live public Masses since the COVID-19 lockdowns began. As Saskatchewan entered Phase 2 of its re-opening, priests took advantage of an easing of restrictions that allowed them to celebrate the liturgy with parishioners.

“It’s nice to have our families, our parishioners, the people we’ve been praying for, thinking about through these times and it’s nice that we can slowly start gathering with them and having people to look at when we’re praying,” said Young.

There’s still a long way to go to reach pre-pandemic Saskatchewan, as guidelines allow for only 10 people, including the celebrating priest, to gather for public Mass. For Young, his first Mass was celebrated on a Friday afternoon with one family.

“Ten people, you’re pretty limited. I have a family with seven kids, the parents and myself,” said Young. “When we talk about public Masses, honestly it’s by appointment and there’s some logistics to that obviously to try and give a chance for each of the parishioners to come.”

Related: “Public celebrator of Mass slowly resumes in diocese of Saskatoon as COVID-19 restrictions are eased.”

These baby steps in Saskatoon mark a start and fuel hope that churches nationwide will soon be welcoming back parishioners. Strict regulations are in place, including the need to physical distance and practise stringent sanitary measures. Even communion is affected. Young will distribute the Eucharist outside of the Mass, allowing the priest to wash his hands and don a mask, which he won’t wear during the liturgy.

“It will look a little different than it was before this happened, but generally people will be able to come for communion,” said Young.

So far, it’s areas in Canada less severely impacted by COVID-19 that are easing back towards normal. The Archdiocese of Winnipeg allowed churches to re-open May 23-24. In a May 21 memo, Archbishop Richard Gagnon issued liturgical protocols to move from “the current private nature of our celebrations toward public ones.” Following Manitoba’s provincial guidelines, parishes could celebrate Mass with up to 25 participants “when pastors and administrators are ready.”

British Columbia has begun to celebrate Masses with a maximum of 50 people, higher than other parts of the country. In Vancouver, Archbishop J. Michael Miller has left the decision to re-open a parish “to the pastor’s prudential judgment, due to different circumstances of each parish.”

Regina and Prince Albert in Saskatchewan are also re-opening parishes. In Regina, public Masses can begin on Pentecost weekend (May 30-31), while Prince Albert, like Winnipeg, will open based on priests and parishes initiating protocols to follow guidelines.

Meantime, the Regina archdiocese has been trying to clarify some unanswered issues with provincial authorities. One topic sure to come up is an allowance so that larger parishes can welcome a greater number of worshippers.

“A lot of restaurants and bars, they’ll say 50-per-cent occupancy,” said Young. “We’re asking for some consideration for churches. We have some very large churches that can sit 2,000 people. Ten people, you can obviously safely have more than that with distancing and all that.”

In Alberta, the bishops developed a task force on re-opening and the province issued guidelines for places of worship, including limiting attendance to 50 people or one-third of normal capacity, whichever is less. The Archdiocese of Edmonton and Calgary diocese have said public Masses will resume on June 1.

Northern dioceses will begin to open up for Pentecost. In a Facebook message May 24, Whitehorse Bishop Hector Vila announced Mass will be celebrated at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Whitehorse, Yukon, on May 30.

Things have been a little different in the Diocese of Mackenzie-Forth Smith, which encompasses the Northwest Territories, the extreme west of Nunavut and north Saskatchewan. Friendship circles of up to 10 people in private homes, 25 in outdoor settings, have been possible since May 15. Some churches have experimented with outdoor Masses, though others are awaiting church reopening, set for mid-to-late June.

In Ontario, which next to Quebec has been the province hit hardest by COVID-19, churches remain closed, though beginning on the May 24 weekend the government said drive-in services were permitted.

Other faiths have taken advantage, but Catholic churches have not. Neil MacCarthy, director of public relations and communications with the Archdiocese of Toronto, said drive-in services have not been part of the conversation though drive-thru confession has been discussed.

These alternative celebrations are also not being considered in London in southwest Ontario.

“The Diocese of London does not endorse these as necessary at this time or good liturgical practice,” said Bishop Ronald Fabbro. “Instead, I encourage (parishioners) to continue to take advantage of alternatives such as online Masses and prayers.”

In Quebec, society is reopening faster than Ontario, but churches have not benefitted from the easing of restrictions. The Assembly of Quebec Catholic Bishops has sent out a health-protection protocol that will evolve along with provincial health guidelines.

In eastern Canada, the four dioceses in New Brunswick will re-open parishes with strict distancing protocols and other measures for Pentecost weekend.

Other Maritime dioceses have not indicated any change from the services provided online.


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Online ecumenical service for Pentecost planned Saturday, May 30 by Canadian Council of Churches

Tue, 05/26/2020 - 12:52
“Together in One Place” (Acts 2:1) 

By The Canadian Council of Churches (CCC) 

Amid the unique challenges and opportunities of this year’s COVID-19 pandemic, the CCC is hosting an online ecumenical Pentecost prayer service to “come together in one place” (Acts 2:1) in ecumenical friendship and prayer on Saturday, May 30, 2020 at 1:00 p.m. Saskatchewan time (3:00 p.m. EDT).

The season of Pentecost has always held a special significance for the ecumenical movement. With it comes the promise of new life through the arrival of the Holy Spirit, and a reminder of the unity we share, which has been forged with God’s help across differences.

Prayers, Scripture readings, and reflections will be offered in English and French.

National leaders of CCC member churches from across Canada will lead the service. Rev. Amanda Currie, Moderator of the 2019 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in Canada, and Most Rev. Pierre Goudreault, Roman Catholic Bishop of Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pocatière, will offer brief reflections.

Other service leaders include:

  • Rt. Rev. Richard Bott, Moderator of the United Church of Canada
  • Rev. Susan C. Johnson, National Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada
  • Rev. Stephen Kendall, President of The Canadian Council of Churches
  • Most Rev. Linda Nicholls, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada
  • Pastor Peter Noteboom, General Secretary of The Canadian Council of Churches
  • Commissioner Floyd J. Tidd, Territorial Commander of The Salvation Army in Canada and Bermuda
  • Rev. Archpriest Fr. Zareh Zargarian, Vicar, Armenian Holy Apostolic Church, Canadian Diocese

For info and registration:

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Grow Hope Saskatchewan launches another growing year: partnership with donors and farmers helps to feed the hungry of the world

Tue, 05/26/2020 - 12:17

Catholic Saskatoon News

Grow Hope Saskatchewan, a joint project of MCC Saskatchewan and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon. recently announced the official launch of the Grow Hope Saskatchewan growing season.

For two years, farmers, donors and advocates have walked alongside Grow Hope Saskatchewan to help feed people around the world, with proceeds going to Canadian Foodgrains Bank.

Grow Hope offers an opportunity to be a “virtual” farmer by sponsoring an acre of Saskatchewan farm land. This year, those who sponsor an acre before June 30, 2020 will receive a packet of flax seed (courtesy of SaskFlax) to grow from home.

“This year the need is especially pronounced as the UN World Food Program has brought to our attention that many more people will face food shortages during the current COVID-19 pandemic,” said Myron Rogal of the diocesan Justice and Peace Office.

“Donating to Grow Hope is far from a passive action, it turns donors into stakeholders as they invest in their own food security and that of those in greatest need,” said Rogal.

Visit for more information or to sponsor an acre, a partial acre, or more. You can also find information about this year’s farmers, including Michelle and Brian Hergott of Bruno, SK.

Brian and Michelle Hergott have been farming in the Bruno area since 1983. They have committed acres to Grow Hope Saskatchewan for a second consecutive year. When asked why they wanted to become involved they responded: “Grow Hope is really an answered prayer. For years we have expressed a desire to help others and we are farmers.  So our biggest opportunity and gift to give is by farming. In our eyes it is a ‘win-win’ opportunity!”

Related: Grow Hope partnerships are helping to feed hungry people around the world

How it works: Generous farmers in Saskatchewan have donated land and agreed to grow a crop for Grow Hope Saskatchewan. It costs $300 per acre to provide seed, fertilizer, fuel and other inputs. You are invited to sponsor a partial acre, full acre or multiple acres to help cover these costs. After harvest, the farmers will sell the crop and donate the proceeds to Canadian Foodgrains Bank.

The proceeds from the sale of the crop can be as much as $500 per acre. The government of Canada matches funds up to 4:1, creating a total contribution of up to $762,500 on 305 acres. In other words, a donation of $300 can grow in value up to $500, and then be matched up to $2,500 per acre.

During the growing season, sponsors will receive field updates along with resources to help you learn more about farming and hunger in the developing world or follow Grow Hope Saskatchewan on Facebook.

For more information, please contact Myron Rogal, coordinator of Justice and Peace in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon at


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Pope Francis remembers 25 years of ‘Ut unum sint,’ John Paul II’s letter on ecumenism

Tue, 05/26/2020 - 10:44

By Hannah Brockhaus, Catholic News Agency

[Vatican City – CNA) – Pope Francis recalled Ut unum sint, St. Pope John Paul II’s encyclical on ecumenism, on the 25th anniversary of its publication May 25.

St. Pope John Paul II’s encyclical on commitment to ecumenism, entitled Ut unum sint “confirmed ‘irrevocably’ the ecumenical commitment of the Catholic Church,” Pope Francis said.

In a letter to Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, the Holy Father said that St. John Paul II “desired that the Church, on her journey towards the third millennium, should be ever mindful of the heartfelt prayer of her Teacher and Lord ‘that all may be one.’”

The encyclical Ut unum sint was published on the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, May 25, 1995, “placing it under the sign of the Holy Spirit, the creator of unity in diversity,” Pope Francis noted.

“In that same liturgical and spiritual context, we now commemorate it, and propose it once more to the People of God,” he added.

In his letter, Pope Francis quoted Ut unum sint, saying it reaffirmed that “legitimate diversity is in no way opposed to the Church’s unity, but rather enhances her splendour and contributes greatly to the fulfilment of her mission.”

“Indeed, ‘only the Holy Spirit is able to kindle diversity, multiplicity and, at the same time, bring about unity… It is he who brings harmony to the Church,’” he continued quoting.

Pope Francis said, “one thing is certain: unity is not chiefly the result of our activity, but a gift of the Holy Spirit.”

“On this anniversary, I give thanks to the Lord for the journey he has allowed us to travel as Christians in quest of full communion.”

“I too share the healthy impatience of those who sometimes think that we can and should do more,” he stated. “Yet we should not be lacking in faith and gratitude: many steps have been taken in these decades to heal the wounds of centuries and millennia.”

Pope Francis explained that in this time mutual knowledge and esteem have grown, helping to overcome prejudice, and that theological dialogue has developed.

Speaking about the leaders of the different Christian churches and communities, he prayed that “like the disciples of Emmaus, may we experience the presence of the risen Christ who walks at our side and explains the Scriptures to us. May we recognize him in the breaking of the bread, as we await the day when we shall share the Eucharistic table together.”

In his letter, the Holy Father also expressed his gratitude for those working in the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity who keep the “awareness of this irrevocable goal alive in the Church.”

Pope Francis also highlighted two new initiatives of the office: the Acta Œcumenica journal and an ecumenical vademecum for bishops, to be published in the fall “as an encouragement and guide for the exercise of their ecumenical responsibilities.”

“With confidence, then, let us ask the Holy Spirit to guide our steps and to enable everyone to hear the call to work for the cause of ecumenism with renewed vigor,” he urged.

“May the Spirit inspire new prophetic gestures and strengthen fraternal charity among all Christ’s disciples, ‘that the world may believe’ (Jn 17:21), to the ever greater praise of our Father in heaven.”


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Pope Francis to return to window overlooking St. Peter’s Square for Sunday prayer

Tue, 05/26/2020 - 10:34

By Catholic News Agency staff

[Vatican City – CNA) – Pope Francis will deliver his Regina Caeli address from the window overlooking St. Peter’s Square on Pentecost Sunday, May 31, 2020, for the first time since coronavirus restrictions were imposed in March.

In a statement May 26, the Holy See press office said that on May 31 the pope would recite the Regina Caeli (the Queen of Heaven antiphons addressed to the Blessed Virgin Mary) with pilgrims gathered in the square below.

“Regina caeli laetare, alleluia / quia quem meruisti portare, alleluia resurrexit, sicut dixit, alleluia / ora pro nobis Deum, alleluia”

“The police will guarantee safe access to the square and will ensure that the faithful present can respect the necessary interpersonal distance,” said the Holy See press statement.

Traditionally, the pope leads the Sunday Angelus– and the Regina Caeli, between Easter Sunday and Pentecost – from the window of the Apostolic Palace overlooking St. Peter’s Square.

But from March 8 onwards, Pope Francis delivered his address via videolink from the library of the Apostolic Palace, and offered a blessing from the window above an empty St. Peter’s Square.

People were allowed in St. Peter’s Square for the pope’s Sunday blessing for the first time in more than 10 weeks on Sunday, May 24 after Italy significantly loosened its coronavirus restrictions.

Each person who entered the square was required to wear a face mask and security enforced social distancing for the people gathered outside of St. Peter’s Basilica, which reopened to the public May 18.

The Holy See press office said that before the May 31 Regina Caeli, the pope would celebrate a Pentecost Mass, without the presence of the people, in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel at St. Peter’s Basilica.


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Religious and social justice groups call for a just society in wake of COVID-19 pandemic

Tue, 05/26/2020 - 10:17

By Brian Dryden, Canadian Catholic News

[Ottawa – CCN] – Some 150 Catholic and other religious organizations, environmental, social justice and labour groups across the country have joined together to pledge support for six “Principles for a Just Recovery” that they hope will influence what a post-COVID-19 Canada looks like.

“Recovery efforts must support the transition to a more equitable, sustainable and diversified economy, and not entrench outdated economic and social systems that jeopardize the health and wellbeing of people, worsen the climate crisis, or perpetuate the exploitation or oppression of people,” said a media release announcing the “Just Recovery for All” campaign launched by the Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ).

“The COVID crisis has revealed the primary importance of the health and safety of all people, as a human rights and collective wellbeing issue. Relief efforts so far have shown that things we’ve been told aren’t possible, actually are once we prioritize them,” states the release.

The six principles put forward by the coalition emphasize a more environmentally sustainable economy and increased emphasis on reconciliation with First Nations. The principles are:

  1. Put people’s health and wellbeing first, no exceptions.
  2. Strengthen the social safety net and provide relief directly to people.
  3. Prioritize the needs of workers and communities.
  4. Build resilience to prevent future crises.
  5. Build solidarity and equity across communities, generations, and borders.
  6. Uphold Indigenous Rights and Work in Partnership with Indigenous Peoples.

“COVID-19 has laid bare what we already knew about the precarity and inequity of our existing systems: millions were already living in poverty; climate change was already affecting northern communities’ access to food; a lack of affordable housing stock was already barring newcomers to Canada from successful economic integration; and inadequate funding and disputes between levels of government left many Indigenous communities without the healthcare they need,” said a May 25 statement released by the Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ), which has endorsed the “Just Recovery” campaign.

CPJ, a faith-based social justice advocacy group based in Ottawa, said “we appreciate the federal government’s ambition and responsiveness in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. This moment is showing what is possible when governments act with resolve to prioritize people’s health and well-being.”

“As we move from crisis to recovery, CPJ’s long-standing call for the development of a resilient, diversified green economy built on the principles of equity and justice is more relevant than ever,” said CPJ’s senior policy analyst Karri Munn-Venn.

“The impact of the (COVID-19) virus, though devastating, has created a space for all members of society to contemplate how to build back better, recognizing the interconnectedness of all of creation, honouring Indigenous wisdom, and respecting the limits of the atmosphere.”

The timing of the release of the six “Just Recovery” principles comes on the fifth anniversary of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato si: On the Care for our Common Home.

Louise Royer, director of the Social Action Ministry Office of the Catholic Archdiocese of Montreal, said endorsing the “Just Recovery” principles is a continuation of what the Catholic Church has been preaching for years.

“These are all things that we have been working for,” Royer told the Canadian Catholic News. “These are all things that are similar to Catholic principles.”

The Social Action Ministry Office of the Catholic Archdiocese of Montreal’s mission statement is to “invite the People of God to participate in initiatives which embody the principles of the Church’s social teaching: respect for human dignity, promoting the common good, a preferential option for the poor, solidarity, and care for creation.”

Related article: Religious orders in Canada among those calling for cleaner economy

The “Just Recovery” campaign also comes as a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was released on May 25 from Catholics for Climate Action that calls on Canadian governments to address global climate change more aggressively.

Joe Gunn, executive director of Centre Oblat – A Voice for Justice, which is based at the Catholic Saint Paul University in Ottawa, said it is important for people of faith to work with other civil groups to foster change in Canadian society.

“To be effective promotors of social change, to have impact as we move from words to actions, it’s really important for faith-based organizations to collaborate with larger movements in civil society,” Gunn said. “The work that went into developing these six principles is a fine start.

“And today’s release of a letter to Prime Minister Trudeau from Catholics for Climate Action, with over 650 signatures, is a further and more concrete indication of how we might shape a more-inclusive, greener and more equitable post-pandemic Canada,” he said.


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Refugee advocates say blocking asylum seekers from crossing border puts lives at risk

Tue, 05/26/2020 - 09:35

By Brian Dryden, Canadian Catholic News

[Ottawa – CCN]  – The federal government’s decision to extend strict guidelines that block all but “essential” travel between the United States and Canada until at least June 21 has disappointed refugee and migrant advocates who have been calling on the federal government to ease those restrictions.

A recent open letter from Amnesty International Canada to Prime Minister Justine Trudeau and the federal government stated: “If your government were to lift the current restrictions, allow refugee claimants to cross into Canada to seek protection and implement the same measures which are applicable to other essential cross-border travel (namely, quarantine and testing as appropriate) you would set the example that is so urgently needed on the world stage.”

“You would make it clear that there should be no choice between protecting refugees and protecting public health; the two can and must go hand in hand,” continued the May 13 letter asking the government to make it easier for refugees to get into Canada at this time.

Making it easier for refugees and migrants to get into Canada from the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic has been a been an ongoing issue for some religious and social justice groups since the strict restrictions on entry into Canada from the United States were first enacted in March. The restrictions have since been extended twice.

When the border crossing restrictions were first extended in April, the federal government did ease some restrictions for refugees by allowing unaccompanied minors and people who already have family in Canada to apply for refuge at regular border crossings.

But along with blocking most refugee claims at the border, the federal government has consistently maintained a policy that all people trying to cross into Canada at irregular crossing points will automatically be turned back over to U.S. officials, a situation that refugee advocates say puts their lives at risk.

Jesuit Refugee Services-Canada director Norbert Piché said it is not surprising that the border closure between Canada and the United States was extended considering the number of cases in the United States and the situation in Quebec and Ontario, which are the two hardest hit provinces when it comes COVID-19 cases and deaths. But he said that doesn’t mean Canada should turn its back on asylum seekers at this time.

“Refugees have a right to safety and all indications are that this is not the case south of the Canadian border,” he said. “It is time to do something while they are still healthy, for example, quarantine measures exist at the Lacolle border crossing.”

The call for the federal government to do more to open up the border to refugee claims from the United States is echoed by the religion-based advocacy organization Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ).

“We are dismayed that the government has not eased the restrictions for asylum seekers in relation to how they apply at the border for possible refugee claims,” said Stephen Kaduuli, a refugee policy analyst with CPJ.

“With what asylum seekers endure in the U.S., Canada should continue showing compassion and global leadership in the protection of refugees,” Kaduuli said.

“It is important that Canada continues abiding by its commitments to international humanitarian and human rights law. Sending irregular border-crossers back into the U.S. risks putting them into the custody of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency and endangers their lives,” he said, adding that “fleeing to protect their lives” should be considered “essential” travel.

“Canada should continue allowing them to cross while at the same time implementing public health measures like enforcing the 14-day quarantine that applies to other essential cross-border travel,” Kaduuli said.

Closing the Canadian and U.S. border to all but essential travel is supported by the vast majority of Canadians according to opinion polls. An Angus Reid Institute survey released May 22 indicates that most Canadians want strict border crossing measures to remain in place well beyond the recent extension that lasts until June 21.

“Given the choice of three alternative timelines, two-in-five Canadians (42%) would keep the border closed until September, one-quarter would close it until the end of the year, and 13 per cent would extend the closure into 2021,” the Angus Reid report said, adding only 19 per cent of Canadians supported opening the border after June 21.


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Public celebration of Mass slowly resumes in diocese of Saskatoon as COVID-19 restrictions are eased

Tue, 05/26/2020 - 08:37

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

Some parishes across the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon welcomed small groups of worshippers for Mass on Ascension Sunday May 24, following new directives from Bishop Mark Hagemoen issued in accord with public health requirements related to slowing transmission of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Other parishes have yet to start the process of permitting small groups of up to 10 people to celebrate Mass or other events, as they discern the best way to protect health and safety through cleaning, distancing, and an attendance process for their particular community. Some parishes may not be able to begin celebrations, given the age and health of their pastor or other local factors.

Meanwhile, with a general dispensation from attending Sunday Mass still in place, a number of priests in the diocese continue to live-stream celebrations of the Eucharist and provide other online faith resources, with videos posted at

Fr. Matthew Ramsay of Saint Anne parish, Saskatoon, presides at daily Mass on Friday, May 22, the day that parishes in the diocese were again able to welcome small numbers (under 10) to public celebrations. (Photo: screen capture from live-stream feed, Catholic Saskatoon News)

At the Cathedral of the Holy Family May 24, Mass with Bishop Mark Hagemoen was live-streamed as usual, followed by three more celebrations that morning, with 10 people present at each gathering. In comments at the conclusion of Mass, the bishop provided a summary about the decision announced earlier in a letter to the faithful.

Bishop Hagemoen highlights the phase-in process for the diocese:

“We will begin effective this Sunday slowly phasing in in accord with the directives of the health authorities and government authorities regarding activity in our parishes,” the bishop announced, highlighting the diocese’s “full support” for the government and health care directives.

“The government of Saskatchewan also recently updated those directives, and effective the third week of June we will see another phase in which we can increase slightly the numbers who are able to come to different activities in our churches, and I will certainly announce those in due course,” said Bishop Hagemoen.

Just as the government is phasing-in public activity across the province, the diocese is also phasing-in different levels of activity in the life of parishes, including gathering for Holy Eucharist, he said.

“Effective for the next couple of weeks we will gather up to the limit of 10 people for the celebration of the Holy Eucharist on Sundays and weekdays. These directives have already been given to the parishes,” explained the bishop during his announcement at the end of Mass. “Our pastors and other people in the life of the parish are working on ways in which to facilitate a process of inviting and allowing people to come to different liturgies at their parishes.”

The bishop also highlighted a number of important factors in this phasing-in process:

A general dispensation from Sunday obligations will remain in place throughout the entire pandemic. So while we are ramping up activities, all of our faithful need to know that if you are elderly, or you have a health conditions or are otherwise very concerned about all of this, you do have a general dispensation from coming to Sunday Mass and that will be in place indefinitely.”

Attendance will be limited, and even as the phasing-in ramps up, there will be some limitation on the numbers gathered, ” he stressed, urging people to stay in touch with their parishes for more details as the process unfolds. “We would love to go back to the way things were, but we are not there yet,” he said.

Personal distancing must always be practiced, so when we gather, the two-metre minimum between different people must be in place,” added the bishop, noting that family groups will need to be conscious of their distancing from other individuals or other families, following the health authority directive of being at least two metres apart.

Liturgical changes will be in place, he pointed out. “For example, one (change) will feature the distribution of communion after Mass. That enables us to be very very fastidious around making sure we are following due diligence about mitigating any virus transfer.”

Finally, the bishop noted: “There will still always be a little bit of a risk for anyone who attends public Mass.” Parishes will follow health directives from the authorities, and will implement improved cleaning and other measures, but the risk of transferring the COVID-19 virus still exists. “Again, we continue to always hold those most vulnerable as our greatest area of concern,” stressed Bishop Hagemoen.

“We continue to pray for God’s blessing on our communities – and indeed on all the world – for healing from the COVID 19 pandemic and for the care of those most vulnerable, and also for the protection of those who provide health care services and for other service providers in our community,” he concluded, before praying the prayer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus (below) introduced earlier in the diocese with a request for fasting and prayer every Friday.

Public celebration of Mass in the diocese was suspended March 17, 2020 by Bishop Hagemoen in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to live-streaming of Mass, parishes have stayed in touch with parishioners via social media, websites, telephone, and mail. Some churches have been open for prayer or for the sacrament of reconciliation, always in accordance with public health directives concerning numbers and distancing.

Find more information at:




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St. Peter’s College announces new scholarship in memory of Humboldt Broncos’ player

Tue, 05/26/2020 - 07:56

By Krystal Shutko, Student Services Officer, St. Peter’s College

St. Peter’s College at Muenster, SK, recently announced a new scholarship opportunity, the Jacob Leicht Memorial Game Changer Award. This award has been established by Kurt and Celeste Leicht in memory of Jacob Leicht, a son, brother, hockey player and St. Peter’s alumnus, who lost his life April 6, 2018 in the tragic Humboldt Broncos bus accident.

Jacob possessed a strong passion for all things athletic. With hockey and fitness as pillars of his character, his intentions to study kinesiology amplified his interests in helping those around him. The discipline to succeed at hockey and university studies at the same time exemplify perseverance and discipline.

This memorial award is designed for those students wanting to succeed in the demanding program of kinesiology, because they are, like Jacob was, passionate about the benefits of a healthy and active lifestyle that will inspire and help others. It is hoped that this financial assistance serves as a game changer in assisting students on their path to success.

The purpose of this award is to provide financial support to students intending to pursue kinesiology and/or health and fitness focused post secondary studies. The value of the award will be $1,100 to be used for tuition and related educational expenses. Please visit the SPC website for more details about this scholarship and how to apply for all the scholarships available for St. Peter’s College students.

The June 21, 2020 deadline for scholarship applications is fast approaching, and we hope all SPC students will apply and take advantage of the over $80,000 in scholarships and bursaries available at St. Peter’s College (SPC). Students can still apply and take advantage of their University of Saskatchewan and external scholarships in addition to SPC scholarships.

SPC advisors are hosting an online WebEx information session on Wednesday May 27 at 1:00 p.m., anyone is welcomed to sign up and attend. We will be discussing USask, SPC, classes, registration, student loans, scholarships, and much more to do with beginning the first year of university. Please join us by signing up on our website at


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In Exile – A column by Fr. Ron Rolheiser, OMI: Faithful Friendship

Mon, 05/25/2020 - 09:00
Faithful Friendship

By Fr. Ron Rolheiser, OMI

I grew up in a close family and one of hardest things I ever did was to leave home and family at the age of 17 to enter the novitiate of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. That novitiate year wasn’t easy. I missed my family intensely and stayed in touch with them insofar as the rules and communication of the day allowed. I wrote a letter home every week and my mother wrote back to me faithfully each week. I still have and cherish those letters. I had left home but stayed in touch, a faithful family member.

But my life became a lot more complex and socially demanding after that. I moved to a seminary and began to live in a community with 60 others, with people entering and leaving constantly throughout my seven years there, so that by the time I’d finished my seminary training I had lived in close community with over 100 different men. That brought its own challenges. People you’d grown close to would leave the community to be replaced by others so that each year there was a new community and new friendships.

In the years following seminary, that pattern began to grow exponentially. Graduate studies took me to other countries and brought a whole series of new persons into my life, many of whom became close friends. In more than 40 years of teaching I have met with several thousand students and made many friends among them. Writing and public lectures have brought thousands of people into my life. Though most of them passed through my life without meaningful connection, some became lifelong friends.

I share this not because I think it’s unique, but rather because it’s typical. Today that’s really everyone’s story. More and more friends pass through our lives so that at a point the question necessarily arises: how does one remain faithful to one’s family, to old friends, former neighbors, former classmates, former students, former colleagues, and to old acquaintances? What does fidelity to them ask for? Occasional visits? Occasional emails, texts, calls? Remembering birthdays and anniversaries? Class reunions? Attending weddings and funerals?

Obviously doing these would be good, though that would also constitute a full-time occupation. Something else must be being asked of us here, namely, a fidelity that’s not contingent on emails, texts, calls, and occasional visits. But what can lie deeper than tangible human contact? What can be more real than that? The answer is fidelity, fidelity as the gift of a shared moral soul, fidelity as the gift of trust, and fidelity as remaining true to who you were when you were in tangible human community and contact with those people who are no longer part of your daily life. That’s what it means to be faithful.

It is interesting how the Christian scriptures define community and fidelity. In the Acts of the Apostles we read that before Pentecost those in the first Christian community were all “huddled in one room.” And here, though physically together, ironically they were not in real community with each other, not really a family, and not really faithful to each other. Then after receiving the Holy Spirit, they literally break out of that one room and scatter all over the earth so that many of them never see each other again and now, geographically at a distance from each other, ironically they become real family, become a genuine community, and live in fidelity to each other.

At the end of the day, fidelity is not about now often you physically connect with someone but about living within a shared spirit. Betrayal is not a question of separation by distance, of forgetting an anniversary or a birthday, or of not being able to stay in touch with someone you cherish. Betrayal is moving away from the truth and virtue you once shared with that person you cherish. Betrayal is a change of soul. We are unfaithful to family and friends when we become a different person morally so as to no longer share a common spirit with them.

You can be living in the same house with someone, share daily bread and conversation with him or her, and not be a faithful family member or friend; just as you can be a faithful friend or family member and not see that friend or family member for forty years. Being faithful in remembering birthdays is wonderful, but fidelity is more about remembering who you were when that birth was so special to you. Fidelity is about maintaining moral affinity.

To the best of my abilities, I try to stay in contact with the family, old friends, former neighbors, former classmates, former students, former colleagues, and old acquaintances. Mostly it’s a bit beyond me. So I put my trust in moral fidelity. I try as best I can to commit myself to keeping the same soul I had when I left home as a young boy and which characterized and defined me when I met all those wonderful people along the way.


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

Now on Facebook

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

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Religious orders in Canada among those calling for cleaner economy

Thu, 05/21/2020 - 11:53

By Michael Swan, The Catholic Register

More than 200 Catholic sisters from across Canada want Ottawa to deny a bailout to the oil and gas industry and invest in building a cleaner, low-carbon economy after COVID-19.

A letter from the religious women is scheduled to land on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s desk on May 25, the day after the fifth anniversary of Pope Francis’ groundbreaking encyclical, Laudato Si’. It also marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.

Related: “Vatican to mark 5th anniversary of Laudato Si’ with year-long celebration”

In addition to urging the federal government to resist propping up the oil and gas industry, the letter asks Ottawa to spend money to retrain the industry’s workers and help them find jobs elsewhere, plus invest in energy efficiency, renewable energy and public transit.

“In light of this anniversary, as a community of faithful Catholics, we are taking a pledge to shape our individual and community choices with care for all creation,” reads the letter. “We are urging the Canadian government to join this commitment and take immediate, concrete actions to flatten the curve of global warming and move towards a just and sustainable future.”

The Joint Environmental Ministries (JEM) network of Catholic religious orders — most of them religious women — is hoping for 400 signatures on their letter by May 22.

Their demand that the government “not commit public resources to the oil and gas industry, which is already heavily subsidized,” is not an attack on Alberta, said organizer Sr. Margot Ritchie of the Sisters of St. Joseph in London, ON. “First of all, I don’t hate Alberta. Certainly the letter and the action we’re proposing does not come from that place,” Ritchie told The Catholic Register.

The letter arose after COVID-19 caused JEM to cancel its annual meeting in Toronto, which was to include oilsands workers and other Alberta voices which support a transition away from oil and gas.

“The time to act is now,” said the JEM network letter. “The COVID-19 recession, combined with the climate emergency, demands us to be creative in imagining new ways of running our economy. Let’s make the most of this opportunity.”

If there’s one thing the sisters have learned from Laudato Si’, it’s that decisions have to be made, said Ritchie.

“This is humanity’s kairos moment,” she said. “We should take a deep breath and imagine the world we want and take measures to create it.”


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Vatican to mark 5th anniversary of Laudato si’ with year-long celebration

Thu, 05/21/2020 - 11:29

By Hannah Brockhaus, Catholic News Agency

[Vatican City – CNA] –  On May 24, 2020, the Vatican will launch a year-long celebration of Pope Francis’ environmental encyclical Laudato si’ to mark its fifth anniversary.

The “special Laudato si’ anniversary year” is an initiative of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development and will include a wide range of events, starting with a global day of prayer and ending in the launch of multi-year sustainability action plans.

Five years from Pope Francis’ signing of the document, the “encyclical appears ever more relevant,” according to a statement from the dicastery.

It noted that the environmental encyclical’s anniversary also falls in the midst of the global coronavirus outbreak, saying “Laudato si’s message is just as prophetic today as it was in 2015.”

“The encyclical can indeed provide the moral and spiritual compass for the journey to create a more caring, fraternal, peaceful and sustainable world,” the Vatican department said.

The year will begin May 24, the day Laudato si’ was signed by Pope Francis, with a day of prayer for the earth and for humanity. A prayer was written for the occasion which people are being encouraged to say at noon anywhere in the world.

The integral development dicastery has also organized events in the week leading up to the anniversary, including several talks with the Global Catholic Climate Movement over the videoconferencing software Zoom, for “Laudato si’ Week.”

“We hope that the anniversary year and the ensuing decade will indeed be a time of grace, a true Kairos experience and ‘Jubilee’ time for the Earth, and for humanity, and for all God’s creatures,” the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development said.

The initiatives, undertaken in partnership with other groups, have “a clear emphasis on ‘ecological conversion’ in ‘action,’” it continued.

In June, according to a schedule released by the dicastery, a document on “operation guidelines” for Laudato si’ will be released.

Just a few of the other special projects to be launched throughout the year are the new annual Laudato si’ Awards, a documentary film on Laudato si’, a tree initiative, and a social media “Read the Bible Contest.”

In 2021 the dicastery will start institutions such as families, dioceses, schools, and universities on a seven-year program to work toward integral ecology through the lens of Laudato si’.

The goal of this program, as set out by the dicastery, is to respond in concrete ways to the cry of the earth and the poor, to promote ecological economics and awareness, and to adopt simpler lifestyles.

Other planned events are a June 18 webinar, marking the encyclical’s release anniversary, as well as participation in the ecumenical “Season of Creation” month Sept. 4-Oct. 1.

The Vatican events, “Reinventing the Global Educational Alliance” and the “Economy of Francesco,” which were due to have taken place this spring and have been postponed to the fall, are now also classified under the anniversary year celebrations, according to the schedule.

In January 2021, the Vatican will host a roundtable on the World Economic Forum in Davos. There is also a proposal for a gathering of religious leaders in early spring 2021.

The year will conclude with a conference, the performance of a musical work, and the conferring of the first Laudato si’awards.


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Questions raised about whether a COVID-19 vaccine will be linked to aborted fetus

Thu, 05/21/2020 - 11:18

By Michael Swan, The Catholic Register

A coalition of Catholic bioethical groups is urging the Canadian government to invest in COVID-19 vaccine research that doesn’t use cells derived from electively aborted fetuses.

“Manufacture of vaccines using such ethically-tainted human cell lines demonstrates profound disrespect for the dignity of the human person,” said a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Health Minister Patty Hajdu.

Representatives of the Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute, the Catholic Civil Rights League and the National Association of Catholic Nurses are among the signatories to the letter.

Vaccines produced using the WI-38 cell line derived from an elective abortion in the 1960s have been prominent for decades in virology research. This cell line has been used to develop vaccines for adenoviruses, rubella, measles, mumps, varicella zoster, polio, hepatitis A and rabies.

Modern equivalents of WI-38, also derived from aborted fetus tissue, include PER.C6, MRC-5 and HEK 293.

In 2005 the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy for Life, with backing from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, ruled Catholics, in the absence of other options, may use vaccines with a distant historical association with abortion for the grave reason of preserving life, but they should encourage the development of alternatives.

Canadian research into COVID-19 vaccines has thrown up a possible alternative in the work of Vancouver immunologist Dr. Wilfred Jeffries of the University of British Columbia. Vancouver Archbishop Michael Miller has invested a small sum in Jeffries’ research to develop a COVID-19 vaccine that does not use aborted fetal cells.

Jeffries’ team is in the animal testing phase, necessary before their vaccine goes to human clinical trials, which may happen before the end of this year. More information is available at

The letter to Trudeau doesn’t say the government should reject a vaccine developed using cell lines from an aborted fetus if it is the first effective vaccine available.

“We endorse the earliest possible development of safe, effective anti-viral vaccines and the broadest uptake of vaccination,” said the letter.

But it would be better to develop a vaccine that will not force Canadians who object to abortion to make a moral choice.

“On the one hand the wide uptake of vaccines is essential to protect citizens from the transmission of disease. On the other, a vaccine produced using abortion-derived cell lines raises conscience concerns for anyone who might be offered that vaccine and is aware of its lineage,” said the letter.

“The letter is saying that for people who don’t want to have them (abortion-derived vaccines) there should be an alternative,” said Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute executive director Moira McQueen. “I think the letter is really asking them to make sure that people who are objecting conscientiously are also taken care of… We know everybody will be taking up the first effective vaccine. At the same time, I don’t see why the other side can’t be accommodated.”

In a survey of 16 leading COVID-19 vaccine research projects, Dr. James Sherley found that 10 of them were using ethical alternatives, five were relying on abortion-derived cell lines and one could not be easily classified into either category. Sherley worries that academic researchers and pharmaceutical companies too easily accept cell lines without asking where they came from.

“The industry has gotten comfortable with using these cells,” Sherley told The Catholic Register. “Many people were not aware of their origin.”

The associate scholar of the Charlotte Lozier Institute in Arlington, Va., and founder and chief executive of Asymmetrex, a Boston bio-tech start-up, said that despite being vehemently anti-abortion, he discovered he had been using WI-38 cell lines in his graduate research in the 1970s and ’80s.

“These cells are pervasive in research,” he said.

“We hear scientists say, ‘Well gee, yeah it’s a bad thing that that fetus got electively aborted, but let’s make good from it. Let me do some research with this and give everybody some benefit.’ That ideology is so destructive to us as humanity,” Shirley said.

“It’s an aborted fetus. It’s a deliberate termination of life,” said McQueen.

Research that takes advantage of a killing can’t be considered ethical, she said.

“It’s going back to the whole thing of the indignity of using parts of somebody’s body who didn’t ask to be killed in the first place and definitively cannot give consent.” McQueen said.


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Catholic Education Week 2020 focuses on “Igniting Hope” during challenging times of COVID-19

Tue, 05/19/2020 - 11:55

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

Catholic school divisions within the province of Saskatchewan are celebrating Catholic Education Week like never before.

Marking the week May 17-24, 2020 – including World Catholic Education Day on Ascension Thursday, May 21 – in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic means that schools are operating very differently this year.

After weeks of school closures because of COVID-19 restrictions, the government of Saskatchewan announced May 7 that in-person classes will not resume at all this school year. Catholic school divisions have therefore continued alternate methods of teaching, using online resources and other long-distance means of staying connected to students. In addition, public celebrations of graduations are cancelled, with school districts finding other “virtual” ways to mark the achievements of the Class of 2020.

In the midst of this challenging time, Catholic schools continue to live out their mission to proclaim the hope of the Gospel and witness to the love of Jesus Christ. “The remote learning environment we are living in during Covid-19 times will be filled with our theme, Igniting Hope, during the week of May 17-24,” states a Catholic Education Week announcement from Saskatchewan Catholic schools. Platforms this year will include video conferencing, social media, e-mail and websites, with daily prayer and reflection on various sub-themes:

  • Our Hope in Christ
  • The Hope Within Us
  • The Hope Among Us
  • Hope For the World
  • A Future Full of Hope.

Catholic Education Week 2020 Daily Prayers- link to PDF

In addition, a province-wide liturgy on World Catholic Education Day will be live-streamed – as well as being recorded for future viewing online – led by Archbishop Donald Bolen of Regina, held at 11 a.m. Thursday, May 21 from Resurrection Parish in Regina. To pray live or later go to: LINK to live-stream video.

In their message for Catholic Education Week 2020, the Catholic Bishops of Saskatchewan reflected on the 2020 theme Igniting Hope.

“In every time and season, the hope perennially ignited by Catholic education is grounded in the “reason for the hope in us” (1 Peter 3:15) – the Good News of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. It is a hope needed more than ever in our lives and in our world during these times of COVID-19 challenge, suffering and difficulty,” wrote the bishops

In their message, the Saskatchewan bishops also noted: “Catholic education has always focused on the needs of students as they face our world of today. We are to be for them a beacon of this Light of Christ that they need as they journey through their life, accompanying and transcending lectures and bookwork.”

The bishops ended in words of prayer and thanksgiving: “Please join us in giving thanks to God for the gift of Catholic education and its unique contribution in our province and our communities. We pray as well for the continuing existence and protection of publicly-funded Catholic education in Saskatchewan, and for hope and perseverance for educators, students and families who are navigating the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic. “

Find more information about Catholic Schools in the province at:

For information about Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools, including COVID-19 updates and information about registering children in Catholic schools in Saskatoon, Humboldt, Martensville Warman and Biggar in the fall, see:

World Catholic Education Day is marked on Ascension Thursday, May 21, 2020.


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