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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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Catholic groups fear Wet’suwet’en dispute puts First Nations reconciliation at risk

Wed, 02/26/2020 - 05:46

By Bryan Dryden, Canadian Catholic News

[Ottawa – CCN] – Some Catholic organizations fear efforts of reconciliation with Canada’s First Nations are at risk in the wake of protests and blockades over a B.C. pipeline project.

The Jesuits, the Oblates in Canada and the Canadian Religious Conference are among faith-based organizations that have expressed concerns over the ongoing dispute in the traditional territory of the Wet’suwet’en. It has led to protests across the country and blockades at rail crossings that paralyzed train traffic.

“The conflict on Wet’suwet’en territory highlights the need for a fundamental change in relations between the Government of Canada and Indigenous peoples, as well as for an ethical and legal framework to integrate the short-term good of economic development into the long-term good of ecological sustainability and integrity, which should include Indigenous wisdom and free participation,” states a Feb. 20 letter from Rev. Erik Oland to Canada’s Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Carolyn Bennett.

“An end to violent removal of unarmed Indigenous people who seek to defend their land and rights would be a good step toward a decolonized shared future,” Oland, who is the provincial of the Jesuits of Canada said, adding “the opposition of the Hereditary Chiefs must not be ignored.”

“Reconciliation, and even the sustainability of our land, requires a transition from colonial structures and relations to new models of Indigenous self-determination and participation in Confederation,” he said.

The statement from the Canadian Jesuits joins a chorus of other faith-based organizations that are speaking out in support of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs who have demanded nation-to-nation talks with the federal government surrounding the Coastal GasLink pipeline that would run through their territory.

The ongoing protests have wreaked havoc with passenger and freight rail service in some parts of the country and had effectively blocked passenger train service in the Toronto-Ottawa-Montreal corridor because of a protest near Belleville, Ont. The Ontario Provincial Police cleared the blockade on Feb. 24, but blockades sprang up at other crossings.

Fr. Ken Thorson, OMI, is the provincial superior of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. (Grandin Media file photo – Canadian Catholic News)

Rev. Ken Thorson, the provincial superior of OMI Lacombe Canada, said how this crisis is handled will have a major impact on reconciliation efforts with First Nations going forward.

“We are aware that government authorities are under intense pressure to end the accompanying blockades and protests,” Thorson said. “These events, and the various responses of Canadians to them, are manifestations of how hard it is for Canadians to come to grips with centuries-old structural injustices in our treatment of Indigenous peoples. This is especially evident now with conflicting views being held not only within the wider Canadian community but also within Indigenous communities.

“How Canadians respond to the Wet’suwet’en concerns will illustrate our commitment to justice and peace in the creation of necessary new relationships of reconciliation,” Thorson said.

The Canadian Religious Conference, an organization of leaders of 240 Catholic congregations, issued a similar statement echoing the concerns.

“This conflict shines a light on the need for a fundamental change in relations between the government of Canada and Indigenous communities,” the conference’s Alain Ambeault said. “The current negotiation and consultation structures in which governments and industries work only through the Indian Act Band Councils are highly problematic. This pattern results in confusion and conflict, particularly in unceded territories such as Wet’suwet’en.”

A number of First Nation band councils that run along the pipeline route actually support the project, including Wet’suwet’en band councils. As well, some Wet’suwet’en hereditary subchiefs and matriarchs have also spoken out against the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs’ opposition to the project. However, many supporters of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs’ position dismiss band councils as a holdover of an unjust colonial system.

Other faith-based organizations have also expressed concerns.

The Citizens for Public Justice organization said that it “stands in solidarity” with the Wet’suwet’en First Nation hereditary chiefs and “we urge the Canadian government, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, government ministers and police forces to stop the expansion of the Coastal GasLink pipeline, an extractive industrial project that would span over 400 miles and destroy Indigenous land, water, air and culture.”

Statements of solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en First Nation hereditary chiefs includes Kairos Canada, which is administered by the United Church of Canada but includes representatives from numerous different denominations and religious organizations in Canada who “work together in faithful action for ecological justice and human rights.”

The Kairos Canada statement notes: “Like others committed to justice and reconciliation within Canadian society, Kairos celebrated in November 2019 when British Columbia passed the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. According to the B.C. government, the act aims ‘to create a path forward that respects the human rights of Indigenous peoples while introducing better transparency and predictability in the work we do together.’”

However, the Kairos statement continues, armed representatives of the state put all efforts of reconciliation with Canada’s First Nations at risk: “A path that respects the human rights of Indigenous peoples does not include armed police officers, violent acts, arrests and check points that prevent Indigenous peoples from accessing their lands. A path that respects the human rights of Indigenous peoples is peaceful, recognizes the sovereignty and jurisdiction of the Wet’suwet’en Peoples, includes the meaningful engagement of the hereditary leaders, protects the rights of land defenders to care for their families, upholds their right to protect the lands and waters for future generations, and respects the Indigenous right of free, prior and informed consent.

“Kairos stands with the Wet’suwet’en Peoples in asserting these rights and calls on government and industry to uphold the rights of Indigenous peoples as expressed in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”

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Trinity Manor Chapel blessing in Regina invites encounter with God in all life’s moments

Mon, 02/24/2020 - 18:37

By Deacon Eric Gurash, Archdiocese of Regina Communications

[Archdiocese of Regina News] – While it may have been a chilly February day outside, the chapel of Trinity Manor at Westera in Regina was filled with the warmth of home and family as more than 80 residents, priests, staff and family members joined Archbishop Donald Bolen in blessing the chapel in Regina’s newest personal care and independent living residence in the heart of the Westerra neighbourhood.

Located at the corner of Alfalfa Street and Canola Avenue in Regina, Trinity Manor at Westera is modeled after a sister facility in Saskatoon (Trinity Manor at Stonebridge, which recently celebrated its fifth anniversary). Both Trinity Manor facilities are operated by Emmanuel Care, a healthcare ministry of the Catholic Church under the leadership and sponsorship of the Catholic Bishops of Saskatchewan.

The chapel blessing Feb. 6 provided an opportunity for a gathering of various families who will continue to share life and faith in the years to come:  the residents and staff of Trinity Manor, the family members, the leaders and staff of Emmanuel Care, and the faithful of the Archdiocese of Regina.

Scott Irwin, president and CEO of Emmanuel Care, addressing those who gathered before the start of the Mass, shared how the community of Trinity Manor underscores the organization’s ongoing desire to “strive to meet unmet needs, create communities of caring and healing for all while following Jesus Christ.”

Currently counted among the growing number of residents from all faiths and backgrounds at Trinity Manor in Regina are five retired archdiocesan priests and three religious sisters. Two additional religious sisters are also on staff providing care for residents.

In his homily, Archbishop Donald Bolen focused on the image of the incarnation, the heart of our Christian faith where St. John tells us, “The Word takes flesh and literally pitched his tent among us.”  It is an image evoked in Israel’s own experience at the base of Mount Sinai where God first established a “tent of meeting…a place where God speaks to Moses face to face as a friend.”

“In the same way,” said Bolen, “this chapel is meant to be a place where all of you – residents and staff – can come to this ‘tent of meeting’ and encounter the living God.”

Bolen went on to remind everyone gathered that it is not just the chapel which is a holy place, but that the living God desires to “encounter us in the very depths of our lives” and that it is in the entire, broad scope of eating, and celebrating and living together as family that this new community of God’s People will encounter a God who walks with us in every moment.

After the blessing, which entailed an anointing of the altar and walls of the chapel with sacred oil of Chrism. Francis Maza of Emmanuel Care stepped forward to introduce and officially commission Trinity Manor Executive Director, Tricia Engel. Maza serves Emanuel Care as Executive Lead of  Mission, Ethics, and Spirituality, introduced Engel as the much-loved leader of the Trinity Manor family.

Engel served the Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region for 20 years, including seven s Chair of the Provincial Palliative Care Steering Committee.  She remains an active member of Holy Child Parish in Regina and sings regularly with their choir. For the residents and staff, Engel is more than a leader, “she embodies a true concern for the person, a care for their health and well-being. We’re led by someone who is such a vital asset to us!”

Trinity Manor at Westera offers community-centered living, which includes modern one- and two-bedroom suites, a warm and inviting central dining room with chef-prepared meals, health and wellness facilities, including a salt-water pool, a licensed bistro and coffee lounge, and personal care services for the activities of daily living.

More information on Trinity Manor at Westera or on arranging tours of their facilities in Regina can be found at — information about Trinity Manor at Stonebridge in Saskatoon can be found at



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Chance visit to Edmonton antique shop turns up Catholic treasures that have now been recovered

Mon, 02/24/2020 - 17:09

By Kyle Greenham, Grandin Media

[Edmonton – Canadian Catholic News] – Angie Frizzell’s chance trip to an Edmonton antique mall has uncovered a treasure trove of priceless Catholic artifacts that were mistakenly sold to a dealer and put up for sale.

When Frizzell stepped into the Rocky Mountain Antique Mall on Feb. 13, she expected to find no more than antique furniture or vintage clothing.

Instead, she discovered altar crucifixes, chalices, communion rails, sanctuary lamps, and even a communion box and portable altar which may have been used by the first missionary priests in Alberta.

When the eagle-eyed shopper saw a bust of St. Eugene de Mazenod, the founder of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, she knew something was not right.

A bust of St. Eugene de Mazenod was on sale for $380. (Photo by Lincoln Ho, Grandin Media – Canadian Catholic News)

“As I was looking around at all of these things, it just bothered me,” said Frizzell, a member of Corpus Christi Parish in Edmonton. “To see my Church’s heritage out on display with price tags on it, I thought to myself, ‘I hope none of this gets in the wrong hands.’

“Some of those items were stunning and beautiful. When I saw the altar crosses and the Sacred Heart sanctuary lamp, I thought, ‘No – this stuff should not be here.’ I felt in my heart this stuff belongs somewhere special. It should be put on display somewhere it can be honoured.”

Many of the more than 50 unique and historic items belonged to the Oblates, the missionary order of priests who helped build the Church in Western Canada. And they were not intended for sale.

“There were many items included that really had no place being there,” said Rev. Ken Thorson, provincial superior of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate Lacombe Canada. “There was a serious mistake made on our part.”

The items were purchased in January by Arnie Loehr, owner of the Rocky Mountain Antique Mall, for $17,000. He and two other bidders had been contacted by the Vital Grandin Centre, the Oblate residence in St. Albert, where furniture was being cleared out in preparation for future renovations.

Fr. Ken Thorson, OMI, is the provincial superior of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. (Grandin Media file photo – Canadian Catholic News)

Over the years many artifacts from Oblate parishes have been brought to the centre to be stored or catalogued. Due to a miscommunication, some of those artifacts were included in Loehr’s purchase.

Thorson said the Oblates had planned to sell some of the centre’s furniture and non-religious material, but it was not their intention that historically significant or liturgical items be included with the deal.

“As provincial superior for the Oblates, I take full responsibility for that and whatever lack of communication and direction was there,” said Thorson. “We are now just grateful to the person that contacted the archdiocese and for the archdiocese’s support in retrieving all of these artifacts.”

Frizzell alerted the Archdiocese of Edmonton the following morning. The mall owners agreed to stop further sales, and the items have since been preserved thanks to the cooperation of the Archdiocese of Edmonton and the Oblates. The items are now stored at the archdiocesan archives and the Vital Grandin Centre.

“Many of these items are not only of great value to the Oblates and the archdiocese, but to the entire church of Western Canada,” said Thorson.

“We are very grateful that these items were recovered and we can ensure they are preserved or displayed in their rightful place. They help tell the story of the 170-year mission the Oblates have had in the West. Many of these items are a part of our history that must be cherished.”

Archbishop Richard Smith was also relieved that most of the items were recovered.

“The Oblate missionaries are an intrinsic thread in the historical fabric of the Church in Alberta and of the province itself,” Smith said in a statement. “This was possible thanks to the sharp eyes of a Catholic shopper and the co-operation of the store owner with our chancery staff and Oblate representatives.”

When he initially purchased the set, Loehr wasn’t concerned. He had seen similar artifacts in antique stores across Quebec and didn’t intend to take away sacred items from the Church.

“I didn’t think there would be anything to selling this stuff,” Loehr said. “It’s a crazy, crazy mix-up. We’ve got some backlash, some hassle from people, but we’re not the bad guys.

“When we bought it, we were assured that this stuff was for sale. We didn’t do anything wrong,” Loehr added. “You can go to any antique store in Quebec, and find all kinds of these same items from churches that have been torn down or big churches they can’t afford to repair.”

The Oblates paid for the return of the items. Thorson is particularly relieved that the bust of St. Eugene de Mazenod – which was priced at $380 – was saved. He will ensure that it is given a special place for display.

The items had been on sale for two weeks, but only a few candle holders, crucifixes and a lectern were sold. Thorson said Oblates will compensate anyone willing to return the sold items.

Angie Frizzell (Submitted photo)

Frizzell said she was glad to play a part in the recovery.

“I think it’s wonderful. We need to save this kind of stuff,” she said. “This is where the items need to be and should have been from the beginning.”





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L’Arche reports sexual misconduct by founder Jean Vanier

Sun, 02/23/2020 - 17:32

By Courtney Mares, Catholic News Agency

[Paris, France – CNA] – L’Arche International published the results Feb. 22 of an independent investigation detailing sexual misconduct by its founder Jean Vanier with six women without disabilities in the context of spiritual direction.

“We are shocked by these discoveries and unreservedly condemn these actions, which are in total contradiction with the values Jean Vanier claimed and are incompatible with the basic rules of respect and integrity of persons, and contrary to the fundamental principles on which L’Arche is based,” the leaders of L’Arche International, Stephan Posner and Stacy Cates-Carney, wrote in a letter to L’Arche federation Feb. 22.

Vanier was the founder of L’Arche, an international community of individuals with intellectual disabilities and their supporters, and of Faith and Light, an ecumenical Christian association of prayer and friendship for those with intellectual disabilities and their families.

The report found that none of the abused women were intellectually disabled.

L’Arche commissioned GCPS, an independent U.K. consultancy specializing in the reporting of exploitation and abuse last April to investigate Vanier’s link to Fr. Thomas Philippe, an abusive Dominican priest sanctioned by Church authorities in 1956, whom Vanier described as his “spiritual mentor.”

During the investigation, the inquiry received “credible and consistent testimonies” from six adult women without disabilities that Jean Vanier initiated sexual behaviors with them often “in the context of spiritual accompaniment” over the period of more than 30 years from 1970 to 2005, according to the L’Arche summary report of the investigation’s findings.

“The women each report that Jean Vanier initiated sexual behaviours with them, usually in the context of spiritual accompaniment. Some of these women have been deeply wounded by these experiences. Jean Vanier asked each of the women to keep the nature of these events secret. They had no prior knowledge of each other’s experiences, but these women reported similar facts associated with highly unusual spiritual or mystical explanations used to justify these sexual behaviours,” a L’Arche International report summary states.

This behavior follows the pattern of sexually inappropriate behavior demonstrated by Fr. Philippe, the report finds. The Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith (CDF) confirmed and completed in December 2019 elements in the inquiry relating to the trial of Fr. Philippe, who died in 1993, and Vanier’s knowledge of the misconduct.

According to archived letters studied in the report, the CDF directed in 1956 that Jean Vanier be informed of the Church’s condemnation of Philippe’s conduct and “mystical doctrine.”

Vanier denied in 2015 and 2016 that he had any knowledge of Fr. Thomas Philippe’s abusive behavior.

Tina Bovermann, the executive director of L’Arche USA, said the results of independent inquiry caused her “pain and resolve.”

“Pain, because of the suffering of innocent lives. Pain, because of the hurt that it might create in you, members and friends. Resolve, because truth matters. Resolve, because the value of every person matters. Always. Unconditionally. Particularly when marginalized and silenced for many years,” Bovermann said in a statement.

She emphasized that the inquiry found no misconduct related to L’Arche in the United States.

Until the late 1990s, Vanier oversaw the entire L’Arche organization, which grew into 154 communities and more than 10,000 members. He penned 30 books, was feted with awards and honors from governments around the globe, and became a sought after speaker. He was a member of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for the Laity.

Vanier died in May 2019 at the age of 90 after a protracted battle with cancer.

L’Arche International has set up an additional centralized reporting procedure for any further information that people may wish to report. This information will be received by a task force composed of people outside of L’Arche.

“We will continue to develop and implement our safeguarding policies and procedures so that they become an integral part of our community life and contribute to the safety and growth of all our members,” Posner and Cates-Carney said.

“In the weeks and months to come, we will be asking our leaders to organize spaces for dialogue and support so that any and all members with or without disabilities will have the opportunity to express their feelings, thoughts and questions,” they stated.


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Glorifying God and building fraternity through hockey

Fri, 02/21/2020 - 13:29

By Myron Rogal, Catholic Saskatoon News

The Vonda Kings hosted a 3-on-3 annual Catholic men’s hockey tournament Feb. 8, 2020, to raise funds for a designated charity.

This year the charity of choice was the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon Priests’ Pension and Retirement Fund. A grand total of $3,115 was raised solely through the donations of participating players, with no funds raised through the sale of alcohol or through gambling.

This year four teams participated with team names ranging from “Memento Mori” to “the Swiss Guard.”

In a new format from other years, teams were configured through a random draw.  The new selection format made the teams incredibly evenly matched creating some very close matchups.

In the end, the Swiss Guards, (pictured above) went on to victory.

The event was family friendly and attracts many children and youth coming out to cheer on their dads and grandpas.  Jared Podhorodeski, who co-organised the tournament along with Garth Wruck, had this to say: “What an awesome day; glorifying God and building fraternity through hockey!”

Over the past three years, Catholic men of all ages and all skill levels, lay and ordained, from the Trinity pastoral region of St. Denis, Vonda, Prud’homme and beyond have gathered on Sunday nights to play hockey.

Each player sports a jersey with a logo highlighting Christ the King.  Players look forward to this weekly tradition as they grow together in faith, friendship and their appreciation the game.  Don Courchene, who has become a regular this year, sums up his experience this way: “Sharing the game and my faith with Catholic men has been a real blessing for me.”


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Annual Newman retreat for university students celebrates saints

Fri, 02/21/2020 - 13:19
Exploration of canonization and walking pilgrimage to St. Peter’s Cathedral were among the highlights of a recent weekend of reflection and fellowship held at Benedictine abbey

Article courtesy of St. Thomas More College, Saskatoon

For over 40 years, St. Thomas More (STM) students, staff and faculty, as well as Newman members from across the University of Saskatchewan campus have gathered at St. Peter’s Abbey in Muenster, SK, for the annual Newman Retreat.

This year, the retreat was held Jan. 31-Feb. 2, exploring the theme: “Celebrating Saints.”

The theme was apt this year, as the patron of Newman Centres all around the world – John Henry Cardinal Newman – was canonized a saint in October 2019.

The retreat weekend was an exploration of what makes a saint, who are some of the saints, and what is the process to become one. During the gathering, participants heard about Newman, St. Thomas More, and many other saints. They also watched a short video of STM faculty and staff talking about their favourite saints.

The weekend included prayer, a screening of the movie “A Man for All Seasons,” socializing and games, a photo scavenger hunt, an All Saints Jeopardy game, and music led throughout the weekend by STM Campus Ministry’s own Celeste Woloschuk.  Evening prayer was led Friday by Fr. Andre Lalach, and was an Akathist to Blessed Vasyl Velychkovsky, C.Ss.R., who was a Bishop and Martyr.

A highlight of the weekend for many was the pilgrimage walk to St. Peter’s Cathedral in Muenster, where Fr. Paul Paproski, OSB, and Fr. Demetrius Wasylyniuk, OSB, talked about all the saints and the art in the church painted by Count Berthold von Imhoff, an artist known for his religious themes.

The Newman Executive is responsible for planning the retreat with the guidance of their STM staff mentor,  Michael MacLean. MacLean included a remembrance of long-time Newman Retreat attendee and well-loved STM faculty member Dr. Alan Reese, who died in June 2019.

The weekend wrapped up with Sunday Mass celebrated with the monks of St. Peter’s Benedictine Abbey.

Abbot Peter Novecosky, OSB, presided, and spoke in his homily of the saints and those in the world that inspire us by their perseverance and dedication. There was a positive spirit amongst the retreatants, and they commented on their evaluations expressing gratitude for this special weekend away.

 To keep up with the Newman activities on campus, follow their Facebook page, found here:


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Elders share storytelling with STM community

Fri, 02/21/2020 - 13:08

By Paul Sinkewicz, St. Thomas More College, Saskatoon

St. Thomas More (STM) College hosted a special event on Monday, Feb. 3 to mark Indigenous Achievement Week at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon.

Gotta Story! âchimo! (tell as story) brought four elders to the Shannon Library to tell stories in the Cree tradition. It was an opportunity to reflect on how knowledge is transmitted through story, while sharing fellowship and traditional food and drink.

The event was organized by Harry Lafond, STM Scholar in Indigenous Education, and co-hosted by the Leslie and Irene Dube Chair for Catholic Studies.

Sharing their stories were Maria Linklater and her son Lyndon Linklater, of the Thunderchild First Nation, A.J. Felix, of the Sturgeon Lake First Nation, and Gladys Wapas-Greyeyes, of the Thunderchild First Nation.

Marie Linklater has helped nurture more than 350 children in her life, and serves the spiritual needs of Indigenous people wherever she can. (Photo courtesy of St. Thomas More College)

“The four storytellers are very special people and we honoured their knowledge by listening to bits and pieces of their life experiences, some of which were told with good Cree humour,” Lafond said.

Lafond said the objectives of the event were to show that it is important to incorporate storytellers into the life of STM, and to make Indigenous knowledge keepers welcome and provide a venue for them to share their diverse voices.

“The human interaction between storyteller and listener is a fundamental expression of relationship building (wahkotowin),” Lafond said. “It really can’t be replaced just by media and technology.”

Participants split up into three groups and travelled to different stations to listen to each storyteller in turn, before uniting at the end of the evening to listen to Wapas-Greyeyes.

Elder A.J. Felix explained how fire represents a happy home, health and safety. (Photo courtesy of St. Thomas More College)

At his station beside the fireplace, elder A.J. Felix told the first group to visit him that his people didn’t have the written version of their past.

“So, stories were passed on from one generation to the next. And how we were able to keep them is not a mystery. Because some stories were sacredly and ceremoniously requested. You want that story to be remembered. And that story is a teaching tool. In our culture, this has been a scared exercise.”

As National Treaty Firekeeper, responsible for bringing fire from one treaty meeting to the next, it was very appropriate that Felix chose to share the story of the sacred place that fire has in the family home, what it means for health, comfort and a happy life.

“The way the old people use to say, that fireplace is the centre of your home, and if you keep to the rules of that fireplace, you will have a fireplace that will burn a long time. You will end up still sitting around that fireplace with grey hair; With your children coming to visit you, with grey hair and bringing your grandchildren and great grandchildren with them, around your fireplace. That’s how sacred it is.”

Rachel Harper and Emily Zwaan are both first-year student with an eye toward majoring in Indigenous Studies and Education.

Harper noted Felix was using fire to teach broader themes of how to live life and if you try to be a good person, good will come to you.

Both students have had experience powwows before, but this was their first exposure to Indigenous storytelling.

Zwaan said that she liked Elder A.J.’s fire story. “It showed there’s always hope. If your fire burns out, you can always light another one once you know what went wrong with the first one.”

Lyndon Linklater described connecting with his culture and assuming the role of a knowledge keeper, sharing traditional methods and ceremonies with a new generation. (Photo courtesy of St. Thomas More College)

Lafond received many positive comments about the evening and said there have been countless times information that is ordinary and normal for him, as a Cree person, gets someone hearing traditional storytelling for the first time excited about the new relationship they may be experiencing. He is hoping to organize another storytelling event before the end of this academic year.

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Canadians can draw many parallels in exhortation about Amazon

Fri, 02/21/2020 - 12:58

By Michael Swan, The Catholic Register

[Toronto – Canadian Catholic News] – In his apostolic exhortation “Beloved Amazon” Pope Francis is talking about much more than just the Amazon.

“What really struck me in several places was how you could take the word ‘Amazon’ out and put the word ‘Canada’ in,” said Agnes Richard, co-ordinator for the Global Catholic Climate Movement in Canada. “We’re talking about exactly the same things.”

Jesuit Fr. Peter Bisson, in charge of encouraging and co-ordinating Jesuit-Indigenous relationships across Canada, saw the same parallels between Canada and the Amazon as he read Querida Amazonia, the Latin title of Pope Francis’ reflections on last fall’s Synod of Bishops on the Amazon.

“A lot of our situation in Canada is not the same, but it’s analogous in a strong way,” Bisson said. “You’ve got the boreal forest, which is the largest forest in the world (not all of it is in Canada, more of it is in Russia) and we’ve got the Arctic zone that is experiencing climate change far more radically than the Amazon is. And Indigenous communities live in all those zones.”

Threats to both natural environments and to the Indigenous cultures tied to them are immense both in Canada and the Amazon, Bisson said. The reasons they are under threat are also the same, he said.

“The Pope uses the words colonial and colonialism so often,” noted Bisson. “We’re not used to hearing that and when we hear it in Canada, we’re a little shocked. But certainly that’s a term that Indigenous scholars use again and again.”

What Pope Francis calls “extractivism” — treating the environment as a source of raw materials and the Indigenous as an obstacle — is embedded in our economics and our mindset, said Bisson. The Pope requires Catholics to find a better way to relate to the natural world and to Indigenous cultures.

For many observers, the media focus on whether Pope Francis would allow or not allow married deacons to be ordained priests in remote Indigenous communities has been a frustrating distraction.

“Literally every headline from the Amazon synod this morning is about the priesthood,” Development and Peace’s Luke Stocking wrote in a Facebook post. “I thought it was a synod about the Amazon and what the Church needs to do and be in the face of ecological crisis.”

Sr. Linda Gregg of the Sisters of St. Joseph said she found herself reading a document with a deeply Catholic vision for the 21st century.

“Pope Francis stresses the importance of contemplation,” said the director of Villa St. Joseph, an ecologically focused retreat house in Cobourg, Ont. “We are taken into the thrall of the technocratic and consumerist paradigm that robs us of our spiritual source of peace. Engaging in contemplation and prayer calls us beyond this superficiality, into the heart of God in creation.”

The disagreement over issues such as married priests aren’t just a distraction, it is destroying our sense of what it means to be Catholic, said David Deane of the Atlantic School of Theology.

“This is so horrifically toxic. It’s impeding both the papacy and the Church from having a 21st-century life — these 20th-century debates,” said the Irish theologian. “Francis is in keeping with Christian tradition. He is trying not to speak into this stereophonic nightmare of right and left. And yet, everything he says is being interpreted through these lenses.”

The Pope’s call for a Catholicism fully integrated into Indigenous culture in the Amazon revives the kind of adaptive Christianity that gave us Celtic Catholicism more than 1,000 years ago, he said.

“You know St. Brigid, her evangelical capacity was on the basis of the fact that she co-opted pre-existing Celtic motifs, pre-existing Celtic models. We were left with a kind of syncretistic, explicitly Christian saint that was infused with these plural cultures and traditions,” said Deane.

“That’s what every single emergent Christian culture has done. Every single one of them. Francis is saying that’s what’s happening here in Amazonia.”



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Psychotherapists wary of new guidelines related to euthanasia

Fri, 02/21/2020 - 12:48

By Mickey Conlon, The Catholic Register

[Toronto – Canadian Catholic News] – Canadian psychotherapists expect to soon find themselves in the same position as physicians when it comes to so-called medical assistance in dying (MAiD) — as the government looks to expand access to legal, medically-induced suicide and euthanasia.

And that’s making some of them extremely uncomfortable.

Just as doctors in most Canadian jurisdictions must check their conscience and help a patient die under certain circumstances — even if it is only in referring a patient to someone who will carry out the practice — psychotherapists expect that if the rules change, they will also be forced to go against their conscience in helping a patient with a mental disorder commit suicide.

Dr. John Maher, in an opinion piece for CBC (“Why legalizing medically assisted dying for people with mental illness is misguided”) noted he’s had a number of patients ask for his help in attaining a medically-assisted death, though he’s explained to them this is not an option because their death is not “reasonably foreseeable” under the current Canadian law’s criteria.

Yet since the Truchon decision in Quebec in September that struck down as unconstitutional the reasonably foreseeable and imminent death requirement needed for an assisted death, Maher expects less-stringent criteria when the federal government passes new legislation to adapt to the court ruling.

“Under the guise of legal equality of access to a so-called medical act, Canadian legislators are considering the use of doctors as surrogates to end the lives of our fellow citizens who suffer from treatable mental illness,” wrote Maher, an Assertive Community Treatment psychiatrist and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Ethics in Mental Health.

There’s no reason to believe that rights denied to physicians who won’t participate in medically-induced suicide or euthanasia for religious or conscientious reasons will be any different for psychotherapists. Dr. Wayne Ottenbreit, a Calgary-based marriage and family therapist and former president of the Catholic Psychotherapist Association of Canada (CPAC), said mental health professionals need to be prepared.

“No matter the source of directives, government or professional groups, no one (whether Catholic, religious or other) can co-operate with injustice (of sufficient degree) and people must even go to heroic lengths if necessary,” said Ottenbreit in an e-mail interview with The Catholic Register. “Professionals should have legal counsel and network with colleagues to understand their positions and their options.”

This includes exploring legal options and being prepared, if they must, “to resign rather than act in evil.”

“At times there is an obligation to speak up, especially for those who have no voice.”

The Expert Advisory Group on Medical Assistance in Dying released a report Feb. 13 cautioning that new policies on assisted suicide must not put lives of people with mental illness at risk. Unlike some medical conditions, the group said, mental illness can never be predicted to be irremediable.

“Society would think people were being helped to die with MAiD to relieve suffering from an irremediable illness, but in reality we would be ending their lives because of loneliness, poverty and all sorts of other life suffering,” said group coordinator Dr. K. Sonu Gaind, a Toronto psychiatrist. “Lives of people who could get better.”

Group member Mark Henick has lived with mental illness and depression for more than two decades and says he would have chosen assisted suicide if it had been available. He’s in a better place now and is glad he didn’t have the option.

“My suicidal-self wouldn’t believe my well-self now, but that’s exactly why I’m so glad that I didn’t have access to an irremediable solution to my suffering,” said Henick. “I would have lost out on so much that I then never imagine could some day be possible.”

Ottenbreit agrees that should psychotherapists be forced to forego their conscience rights, they will be abandoning the most vulnerable who are by no means beyond hope.

“While scripture tells us to be mindful of the widow, the orphan and the stranger in our midst, MAiD takes place at the expense of the most vulnerable instead of us softening our hearts to their suffering and seeing in them Jesus,” he said.

Psychotherapists could be facing an uphill battle. Physicians have not been able to gain conscience rights in most jurisdictions since assisted suicide was legalized in 2016. Since then, Canadian courts have sided with professional associations that force physicians to give a referral for services such as assisted suicide and euthanasia that conflict with moral or religious beliefs. An exception is Manitoba where conscience rights have been enshrined in legislation.

Statistics from the Fourth Interim Report on Medical Assistance in Dying claim there were 6,749 medically-induced deaths in Canada up to Oct. 31, 2018.

Catholic psychotherapists can not turn to CPAC, which last November wound down. But Ottenbreit said the final board of the CPAC will provide contacts for psychotherapists where it can.

Maher, in his CBC piece, said the whole issue would be moot if government would only properly fund proper mental health care in prevention measures and the implementation of the right services.

“If society won’t pay for the timely access to effective treatments, then society must not make me its surrogate killer. My vocation, training and oath all aim to relieve suffering and help people find meaning and purpose.”


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Federal government wants more time to make changes to euthanasia / assisted suicide law

Tue, 02/18/2020 - 14:33

By Brian Dryden, Canadian Catholic News

[Ottawa – CCN] – The federal government wants four more months to change Canada’s assisted suicide rules to comply with a Quebec court decision that came down in September that said the existing regulations are too restrictive.

In a joint statement released by Justice Minister David Lametti and Health Minister Patty Hajdu late in the afternoon of Feb. 17, 2020, the ministers said a four-month extension would allow the government to better address the “complex and deeply personal issue.”

“We recognize that medical assistance in dying is a complex and deeply personal issue. The high level of engagement during the January 2020 online public consultations—which received nearly 300,000 responses—is a strong demonstration of the importance of this issue for Canadians,” the statement from the ministers said, adding that “we remain committed to responding to the Court’s ruling as quickly as possible.”

Up until the extension request, Justice Minister Lametti had indicated that he wanted to present proposals for changes to the law in the House of Commons by mid-February as the Quebec court ruling set a deadline for changes of March 11, 2020. But Lametti also always left the door open for the federal government to seek an extension to make changes to what the government calls MAiD (medical assistance in dying).

Without this extension, the ‘reasonable foreseeability of natural death’ criterion from the federal law will no longer be applicable in the province of Quebec come March 12, but with the extension, will remain in effect in other provinces and territories.

“Following the successful completion of the government’s consultations on this important matter, we fully intend to introduce new medical assistance in dying legislation in the near future. An extension would give Parliament time to consider and enact proposed amendments,” the ministers’ statement said.

Opponents of legally-sanctioned medical suicide and euthanasia in Canada have been extremely critical of the way the federal government has handled its response to the Quebec Superior Court ruling known as the Truchon ruling, arguing that the federal government should have appealed the ruling and many have criticized the two-week online survey of Canadians in January as being insufficient for such an important issue. Critics have also argued that the questions in the online survey were skewered towards support for expanding legal euthanasia in Canada.

In a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dated Jan. 31, which was four days after the federal government’s two week online survey of Canadians regarding changes to eligibility for assisted suicide / euthanasia ended on Jan. 27, Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) president Richard Gagnon reiterated the Catholic Church’s opposition to government-sanctioned suicide / euthanasia while slamming the idea that a survey is the way to address “grave moral questions.”

“It is inappropriate and superficial to use a survey to address grave moral questions concerning life and death,” said Gagnon, who is Archbishop of Winnipeg. “Two weeks is entirely insufficient to study the question as well as to learn from the sobering lessons in other jurisdictions where euthanasia/assisted suicide has been practised with fewer restrictions.”

Ray Pennings, executive vice-president of the Ottawa faith-based think tank Cardus, said he is happy to see that an extension for the timeline has been requested by Ottawa. But Pennings added that an extension must be put to good use, and issues that have not been part of the discussion to this point must be addressed.

“I welcome that,” Pennings said of the timeline extension asked for by the federal government, speaking in an interview with the Canadian Catholic News Feb. 18. “But the time is only meaningful if it is used well. This is a significant policy change being driven by court decisions. I welcome the opportunity for more discussion.”

He said the debate over the possible expansion of the assisted suicide / euthanasia system has been focused on opening up the option of an assisted suicide to more people, but other important issues are not being addressed that should be part of the discussion as well.

“If MAiD is legal, how are we making sure that there are proper safeguards in place, how do we make sure that people don’t feel pressured to take part,” he said, adding that issues such as conscience rights for health care workers who are opposed to medically-induced suicide / euthanasia should be examined carefully, as well as whether assisted suicide and euthanasia are going to be part of the health system going forward, and what impact that has on the health care system as a whole.

While the federal government is now asking for more time to make changes to legislation, the Quebec government has made it clear that its rules regarding legal assisted suicide will be changed by March 11, 2020 (which the Truchon ruling set as a deadline).

However, pending further consultation on that issue, the Quebec government has backed off from the idea of making changes surrounding the controversial issue of allowing people with mental-illnesses to seek an assisted suicide.


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Congress Days 2020 will be held March 27-28 in Saskatoon: “Proclaim Christ and God’s Kingdom”

Tue, 02/18/2020 - 11:59

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

Two days of inspiration and training focused on the new diocesan Pastoral Plan: “Proclaim Christ and God’s Kingdom” will be held March 27-28, 2020 for parish leaders and any interested parishioners from across the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon.

Congress Days 2020 will run from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Friday, March 27 at the Cathedral of the Holy Family, beginning with Bishop Mark Hagemoen presiding at morning Mass, and continuing on Saturday, March 28 from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. (with Day 2 also held at the cathedral, 123 Nelson Road, Saskatoon).

Those interested in attending can register for one day only (either Friday or Saturday) for $35/day or for both days for $50. The student rate is $20. (Registration fee includes lunch/brunch each day).

Click here for REGISTRATION

Keynote speakers at Congress Days 2020 will be André Regnier addressing the call to Proclaim Christ and God’s Kingdom, and Harry Lafond speaking on embracing the TRC “Calls to Action” in parishes.

André Regnier

André Regnier co-founded Catholic Christian Outreach (CCO) at the University of Saskatchewan in 1988, along with his wife Angele. For more than three decades CCO has provided outreach on campuses across Canada, and in missions around the world.

The three pillars of CCO are to “proclaim, equip and commission,” grounded in the belief that a clear and simple proclamation of the Good News of Jesus is urgently needed in the world, even among Catholics – which is precisely the mandate of what was first identified by St. Pope John Paul II as “the New Evangelization.” Having proclaimed the Gospel, CCO then seeks to equip those who have experienced conversion with the necessary skills to evangelize others. The organization’s website explains: “Our goal is share the message of Jesus and to spread His mission. This mission is to form apostles—believers who, through the empowerment and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, send others to proclaim the message.”

André Regnier’s opening session at Congress Days March 27 is entitled: “Clear and Simple – Having a Conversation that Leads to Conversion.”

Harry Lafond

Harry Lafond is from Muskeg Lake Cree Nation. He has a Masters degree in education with certification to teach the Cree language. He was asked to be the chief of Muskeg Lake and served the people in this role for 10 years. He is currently a councillor. For 11 years Lafond served as the Executive Director of the Office of the Treaty Commissioner in Saskatchewan.

Harry Lafond speaks about the power of building relationships as the primary road to a better community.


Evangelization workshop

Together with John Hickey of CCO Saskatoon, André Regnier will also present a workshop March 28 entitled “Evangelization as a Catholic Community”  providing practical training on how a parish can become mission-oriented and reach one person at a time.


Breakout sessions

Regnier will also present a breakout session for priests only March 27, while other participants choose from two other breakout sessions March 27: “Dying Healed (condensed version)” with Jackie Saretsky, coordinator of Catholic Hospital Chaplaincy for the diocese of Saskatoon, and “Called to Share the Hope Within You” with John Hickey of CCO.

Breakout sessions will also be offered March 28, with participants invited to choose between “Managing Polarities in Parishes” with Patrick Clarke, Human Resources director for the diocese of Saskatoon, and “Kerygma 4 Kids” with Masson Normand of Pulse.

For more information or to register for Congress Days, see: Diocesan WEBSITE or contact: Marilyn Jackson, Director of Ministry Services, 306-659-5836 or or Naomi Jalbert at the Catholic Pastoral Centre, 306-659-5831 or

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St. George Catholic School in Saskatoon celebrates installation of Treaty 6 medal

Fri, 02/14/2020 - 12:37

By Derrick Kunz, Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools

A celebration was held Feb. 11, 2020 at St. George Catholic School in Saskatoon, to mark the official installation of a Treaty 6 medal at the school, the culmination of a long process of learning about treaties, their history and the meaning of treaties for all Canadians today.

The program included a program of guest speakers and a range of presentations by students.

Kindergarten, Grade 1 and 2 students presented a poem expressing how we are all treaty people. Students from Grade 4 gave a report about treaties, and students from Grade 5 spoke about the history of Métis people, and about flags.

Students participated in the program highlighting the meaning of treaties, culture, history, and the relationship between peoples. (Photo by Derrick Kunz)

Grade 6 and 7 students gave a presentation about residential schools, which included a student reading the Government of Canada’s official apology, which was read by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in the House of Commons on June 11, 2008.

Students in Grades 6 and 7 gave a presentation on residential schools. (Photo by Derrick Kunz)

Fr. Matthew Ramsay, pastor of St. Anne Parish (which has also installed a Treaty 6 Medal in its church building) offered a prayer and blessed the school’s Treaty 6 medal, a replica of medals originally presented to participating First Nations in commemoration of Treaty 6.

(Photo by Derrick Kunz)

The medal portrays a treaty commissioner grasping the hand of a First Nations man. Between them lies a hatchet buried in the ground. Other symbols on the medal are grass and water, symbolizing that the treaty is to “last for as long as the sun shines, the grass grows and the rivers flow.”

Other special guests at the St. George School celebration included:

  • Chief Roy Petit of Beardy’s and Okemasis First Nation
  • Trish Greyeyes, Executive Operating Director from the Office of the Treaty Commissioner
  • Elder Roddy Stonne: traditional prayer, smudge and blessing
  • Gordon Wyant, Deputy Premier, Minister of Education and MLA for the area
  • Diane Boyko, Chair of the Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools board of education

The idea of installing Treaty 6 medals in Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools was inspired by the installation of a Treaty 6 medal at the Cathedral of the Holy Family in June 2016.

École St. Paul School principal Ted View wanted a similar visual testament to reconciliation at the school (the first of the Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools to install a medal) and his efforts laid the groundwork for future medal installations in the school division. The process of installing a Treaty 6 medal at that first school in 2018 was not only about educating the students, but also about informing and involving the Catholic school community council, parents and the wider community. Several Catholic schools have subsequently used the École St. Paul School process as a model to install Treaty 6 medals in their school.

The long-term plan is to have a Treaty 6 medal in all 50 Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools as a visible testament and reminder that we are all part of treaties and that everyone must do their part to achieve reconciliation.




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Concern for conscience rights grows: “Somebody needs to step up”

Fri, 02/14/2020 - 11:36

By Brian Dryden, Canadian Catholic News

{OTTAWA – CCN] – As the federal government moves towards expanding who can legally access medically-induced suicide or euthanasia, a vocal critic of state-sponsored death is demanding that conscience rights for doctors who don’t want to take part in what the Canadian government calls medical assistance in death (“MAiD”) be protected by a federal law.

Although Euthanasia Prevention Coalition director Alex Schadenberg is vehemently opposed to allowing state-sanctioned medical suicide, he said if there is going to be such a system in Canada, healthcare providers who are morally opposed to it must be allowed to follow their conscience and must not be required to participate in any way.

“Look, I don’t expect much to come from this (federal) government and I certainly don’t expect much to come out of Quebec, but somebody in the House needs to step up and bring the protection of conscience rights for health care providers to the forefront,” Schadenberg said.

The issue of conscience rights for health care providers on issues such as assisted suicide, euthanasia and abortion has long been a sore point among some healthcare providers, as there is a wide range of regulations across the country, given that provision of medical care in Canada falls under provincial jurisdiction.

The province of Manitoba has passed rules protecting conscience rights for doctors, but in other provinces such as Ontario, court decisions have effectively mandated that although healthcare providers do not have to carry out an assisted death, they must refer patients to another healthcare provider who will. For healthcare providers who are morally opposed, such a mandated referral is a form of participating in the procedure.

Canadian Physicians for Life executive director Nicole Scheidl said that the issue of demanding heath care providers in Ontario to refer patients to doctors who will provide the service is putting the burden on some doctors to participate in a procedure that they do not want to be involved in at all because of grave moral concerns.

“Those who support a MAiD system should be responsible for setting up referral lines that people can call (directly) if they want that kind of a referral. It should not be up to a doctor who does not want to participate,” she said in a recent interview with the Canadian Catholic News.

Before last October’s federal election, former Conservative MP David Anderson put forward a private member’s bill to amend the Criminal Code to make it an offence to intimidate a medical practitioner, nurse practitioner, pharmacist or any other health care professional for the purpose of compelling them to take part in the provision of medically-assisted suicide or euthanasia.

That proposed bill would also have made it an offence to dismiss from employment or to refuse to employ such practitioners because they refuse to take part in medically-assisted death. However, that proposal died on the order paper when the federal election was called. Anderson did not run for re-election in the 2019 federal campaign.

A recent effort to bring forward a law in Alberta to enshrine conscience rights for doctors failed to be brought to a full vote in that province’s legislature, even though it was advanced as a private members bill by a backbencher in the governing party.

The federal government is expected to propose changes to the assisted suicide/euthanasia system this month. The decision to act now in making changes is tied to a recent Quebec court decision in September 2019: the Truchon decision struck down as unconstitutional the “reasonably foreseeable” and imminent death requirement to qualify for assisted suicide or euthanasia.

Both the federal and Quebec governments could have appealed that decision, but have decided not to, continuing a pattern in which the legalization of assisted suicide and euthanasia in Canada has been driven by court rulings. The federal laws around assisted suicide and euthanasia were originally introduced in 2016 as a result of a Supreme Court of Canada decision in 2015.

The federal legislation presently includes a requirement that a person receiving medically-assisted death must already be nearing the end of life (which the Quebec court decision has struck down). In addition, under the law, anyone seeking an assisted death must be an adult, and cannot be suffering from a mental illness. The law also forbids advance permission for euthanasia to be administered after a patient’s condition deteriorates to the point in which they are mentally impaired from making a decision.



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Inspire YXE faith-based conference in Saskatoon strives to help youth overcome obstacles and influence the world

Thu, 02/13/2020 - 12:44

Inspire YXE – Media Release

More than 1,000 Saskatchewan grade 6-12 youth will gather March 6-7 at Inspire YXE, a faith-based youth conference.

Nearly 20 guests will be presenting including Jassie Virk, cohost of the Alpha Youth Film Series and Leah Perrault, Director of Mission at St. Paul’s Hospital. Inspire YXE will explore topics such as leadership, mental health, truth and reconciliation, social justice, cultural diversity and spiritual growth.

Youth will have opportunities to express themselves creatively through workshops in hip hop dance, graffiti painting, floor hockey, basketball and more during the conference.

The Inspire YXE planning team is a diverse group of teachers and youth workers from various churches and organizations in Saskatoon. They recognized a need to create more opportunities to support youth. “We believe that young people have so much to offer our community, but their voices are often silenced because of the struggles they face. Sometimes they just need someone to believe in them and help them realize that there is an amazing plan and purpose for their life” explained Curt Wagner, Inspire YXE event promoter.

The vision of Inspire YXE is to bring grade 6-12 students together from all over the province to inspire them to overcome their struggles and be influencers for positive change in the world.

Inspire YXE is also a celebration of multicultural diversity in Saskatchewan. “By bringing diverse communities together, we want to build positive cross-cultural connections and break down racial barriers and misconceptions. We want to create unity among Saskatchewan youth,” says Wagner.

Inspire YXE is a big budget event, but due to the generosity of local sponsors, all participants will receive a free ticket when registering. Last April, INSPIRE YXE 2019 welcomed 800 youth and leaders from across the province. In the words of an attendee from last year “INSPIRE taught me how to overcome my struggle and that my life has purpose.”

Inspire YXE is geared for youth but parents, caregivers and youth leaders are invited to join in for the main sessions, attend specially designed workshops and check out the various booths at the trade show. Food will be available for purchase on site.

Inspire YXE is taking place at Elim Church in Saskatoon.

For more details and to register:

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Pope Francis’ Amazon exhortation calls for holiness, care for the poor, care for creation

Wed, 02/12/2020 - 14:27

By Courtney Mares, Catholic News Agency

[Vatican City – CNA] – Pope Francis published his response to the Vatican’s 2019 Amazon synod in an apostolic exhortation Feb. 12, 2020.

Querida Amazonia, Pope Francis’ much-anticipated post-synodal apostolic exhortation, presents the pope’s “four great dreams” for the Pan-Amazonian region’s ecological preservation and “Amazonian holiness.”

Despite widespread speculation following the Amazon synod, the pope does not call for married priests, but seeks to expand “horizons beyond conflicts.” The exhortation does not quote from recommendations made by bishops at the Vatican’s October meeting on the Amazon. Instead, Pope Francis “officially present[s]” the synod’s final document alongside his exhortation, asking “everyone to read it in full.”

Nearly half of the pope’s own 24-page document is dedicated to outlining the pontiff’s “Ecclesial Dream” for the Amazon region, in which Pope Francis stresses the singular role of the priest, while affirming the laity’s ongoing contributions to evangelization.

“No Christian community is built up which does not grow from and hinge on the celebration of the most holy Eucharist … This urgent need leads me to urge all bishops, especially those in Latin America, not only to promote prayer for priestly vocations, but also to be more generous in encouraging those who display a missionary vocation to opt for the Amazon region,” Pope Francis wrote in the exhortation, published Feb. 12.

Pope Francis said that Querida Amazonia provides his “own response” to the discussions that took place at the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazonian region October 6-27.

In Querida Amazonia, Pope Francis warns against an outlook that restricts “our understanding of the Church to her functional structures.” The pope also rejects a narrow vision of “conceptions of power in the Church” that “clericalize women.”

“Efforts need to be made to configure ministry in such a way that it is at the service of a more frequent celebration of the Eucharist, even in the remotest and most isolated communities … There is also a need for ministers who can understand Amazonian sensibilities and cultures from within,” Pope Francis wrote.

“The way of shaping priestly life and ministry is not monolithic; it develops distinctive traits in different parts of the world. This is why it is important to determine what is most specific to a priest, what cannot be delegated. The answer lies in the sacrament of Holy Orders, which configures him to Christ the priest. The first conclusion, then, is that the exclusive character received in Holy Orders qualifies the priest alone to preside at the Eucharist,” Francis said.

The pope called for revision to “the structure and content of both initial and ongoing priestly formation” to be more pastoral and in dialogue with Amazonian cultures. Francis said that “the stable presence of mature and lay leaders endowed with authority” is required in the region, calling for more permanent deacons and women religious to address the Amazon’s challenges.

Following the controversy sparked by the presence of indigenous statues at Vatican events during the Amazon synod in October and the subsequent apology by Pope Francis for “Pachamama” being thrown in the Tiber River, Pope Francis uses the post-synodal apostolic exhortation to appeal for unity and sensitivity to the over 110 distinct indigenous cultures in the Amazon.

“Let us not be quick to describe as superstition or paganism certain religious practices that arise spontaneously from the life of peoples,” Pope Francis wrote.

“It is possible to take up an indigenous symbol in some way, without necessarily considering it as idolatry. A myth charged with spiritual meaning can be used to advantage and not always considered a pagan error. Some religious festivals have a sacred meaning and are occasions for gathering and fraternity, albeit in need of a gradual process of purification or maturation,” he explained.

“The greatest danger would be to prevent them from encountering Christ by presenting him as an enemy of joy or as someone indifferent to human questions and difficulties,” he added.

In a section entitled, “Expanding horizons beyond conflicts,” Pope Francis lays forth his call for a transcendence of conflict. “It often happens that in particular places pastoral workers envisage very different solutions to the problems they face, and consequently propose apparently opposed forms of ecclesial organization,” Pope Francis said.

“When this occurs, it is probably that the real response to the challenges of evangelization lies in transcending the two approaches and finding other, better ways, perhaps not yet even imagined.  Conflict is overcome at a higher level, where each group can join the other in a new reality, while remaining faithful to itself,” he added.

Pope Francis presented his four dreams — social, cultural, ecological, and ecclesial — for the “Beloved Amazon” region with indigenous poetry interspersed throughout the apostolic exhortation.

“Poets, contemplatives and prophets, help free us from the technocratic and consumerist paradigm that destroys nature and robs us of a truly dignified existence,” the pope wrote.

The pope also made a point that this apostolic exhortation is addressed “to the whole world,” not just to the Amazonian region.

“The equilibrium of our planet … depends on the health of the Amazon region,” he said. “It serves as a great filter of carbon dioxide, which helps avoid the warming of the earth.”

Francis’ ecological dream for the region encompasses an integral need to protect the human dignity of people living in the region.

“We do not need an environmentalism that is concerned for the biome but ignores the Amazonian peoples,” he wrote. “My predecessor Benedict XVI condemned ‘the devastation of the environment and the Amazon basin, and the threats against the human dignity of the peoples living in that region.’”

“We cannot allow globalization to become a new version of colonialism,” Pope Francis said, after apologizing for historic “crimes committed against native peoples during the so-called conquest of America.”

Colonization has not ended, Pope Francis said, it has been “changed, disguised and concealed, while losing none of its contempt for the life of the poor and the fragility of the environment.”

Pope Francis signed the post-synodal apostolic exhortation on Feb. 2, 2020 in the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, the cathedral of the Bishop of Rome.

“The pastoral presence of the Church in the Amazon region is uneven, due in part to the vast expanse of the territory, its many remote places, its broad cultural diversity, its grave social problems, and the preference of some peoples to live in isolation. We cannot remain unconcerned; a specific and courageous response is required of the Church,” Pope Francis said.


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Thousands of Christians will gather together in Saskatoon for Pentecost 2020

Tue, 02/11/2020 - 11:36

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

Christian churches in Saskatoon will join together at SaskTel Centre on the afternoon of May 31, 2020 to pray and worship God through song, prayer, scripture, and fellowship at a massive prayer service entitled “Pentecost 2020: One in the Holy Spirit.”

Pentecost 2020 organizers say they envision the gathering as an overdue “family reunion” for the Christian churches in Saskatoon – but it is a family reunion with an open invitation to anyone who might be curious about God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.  Pentecost 2020 is a time and place to see the church as one expression of Christian faith in all its diversity.

We will sing, confess our faith, hear scriptures, pray, and acknowledge where we have missed the mark as church.” – Pentecost 2020 Vision website

Organizers say: “By focusing on Jesus Christ and His unifying Person we can gather under one roof despite our differences, reflecting a God who is three persons in one communion. The common understanding is that there are several churches because of how we as a church have acted. But there is only one church – the body of Christ, and He is not divided. It is time that we begin to reflect that reality in practical ways.”

Doors for the free event open at 2 p.m., with the celebration beginning at 3 p.m. on May 31, the Sunday on which many Christians celebrate Pentecost – a day commemorating the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples of Jesus, held 50 days after Easter.

Showing love, respect and care for one another, despite differences, is how people will know that you are my followers, said Jesus some 2000 years ago, note the organizers of Pentecost 2020.

“As a church – one body with many members – we acknowledge and confess that we often have misused the trust and abused the power we have been entrusted with. In many ways we have failed in the witness we are called to. At the same time, it is our hope and belief that in confessing our common faith in God and in God’s ability to heal that which is broken, we find the way to renewed life and witness,” says fr. Jakob Palm of Holy Covenant Evangelical Orthodox Church.

At a closing celebration for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in January, fr. Jakob Palm of Holy Covenant Evangelical Orthodox Church noted the Pentecost 2020 event planned for May 31 in Saskatoon as another important ecumenical event in the life of the community. (Photo by Cathryn Wood of Prairie Centre for Ecumenism)

Palm spoke about the upcoming Pentecost 2020 event during his talk at the closing service for this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity held Jan. 26 at St. Philip Neri Church in Saskatoon. “I believe that Pentecost 2020 on May 31 at Sasktel Centre is part of the answer to prayers for unity that have gone on in Saskatoon for many years.”

The list of participating Christian churches involved in Pentecost 2020 is growing, and includes:

  • The Bridge Fellowship Center
  • C3 Church Saskatoon
  • Holy Covenant Evangelical Orthodox Church
  • Hope Fellowship Church
  • Emmanuel Baptist Church
  • Awakening Church
  • Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Saskatoon
  • Elim Church
  • 15:5 Church
  • The Rock Church
  • St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church
  • Forest Grove Community Church
  • Good Shepherd Lutheran Church
  • House For All Nations
  • Prairie Centre for Ecumenism
  • Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon
  • Louise Street Community Church of the Nazarene
  • Campus Collective
  • Anglican Diocese of Saskatoon
  • City Centre Church

Pentecost 2020 will involve recruiting a range of volunteers, including plans for creating a large ecumenical choir to lead singing at the event.

There will also be opportunities to help with fundraising via an online campaign at:


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World Day of the Sick: “I will give you rest”

Tue, 02/11/2020 - 11:21

By Moira McQueen,  Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute

(This reflection by Moira McQueen, LLB, MDiv, PhD is published at:

Pope Francis’s message for the 2020 World Day of the Sick is “Come to me all you who labour and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest (Matt 11:28).”

The promise of “rest” can mean many things in the health care setting: actual rest, peace, respite or relief, both for patients and families.

We need to remember to turn to God for help and rest, as well as to our human helpers.

As an example, Artificial Intelligence (AI) promises to be extremely valuable in many areas of health care, for speed and accuracy of diagnosis, efficiency, cost cutting, research and so on. When it comes to the patient/caregiver relationship, however, artificial intelligence sounds rather cold and, well, artificial. Most of us prefer being face to face with a sympathetic and supportive human being in that situation.

It is true that some hospitals have robots in place which act as substitute caregivers or friends in helping deal with some situations. These have their place and could be useful in short-staffed area and in handling preliminary questions or in helping patients navigate hospital systems. But of course they have limits, as even humans do in some circumstances. It is hard to imagine that a robot could hug people in the same way as humans, or with the same emotional feeling, even if programmed to say appropriate things. So much is conveyed through our senses, which is why we have them—to be used!

In his message for the 2020 World Day of the Sick, Pope Francis calls for “human warmth” and the personalized approach of Christ, and we can see that this involves mercy, empathy, emotions, feelings and often heartfelt hugs that convey warmth and appreciation for the person and for what the person is enduring. Watch a mother with her baby, how she hugs and holds the child, pressing the baby as closely to herself as possible, her joy in the child showing on her face! That is so human and reflects what all of us need in some situations, child or adult.

Further, the Pope explains that Jesus does so because He Himself became frail, endured human suffering and received comfort from His Father. According to the Holy Father, only those who personally experience suffering are able to comfort others. This is so important! Suffering of any sort is inevitable for all of us and while at the time it can seem destructive, it can strengthen us as individuals and help us become more aware of the help and support that others need when they undergo difficulties.

When we are sick, the help we receive from others makes us truly grateful for them, and exemplifies a sort of communion in solidarity with our fellow human beings, even if this is only a temporal relationship between patient and caregiver (which sounds more personal than healthcare worker!) Communion and solidarity are very much part of the Catholic way of life, although found not only in personnel in Catholic facilities, since these qualities, or virtues, are deeply human, developed through experience, as the Pope reminds us.

I think it’s true: being supported in pain and suffering sensed as coming from a deep place in the other’s heart is truly like having a burden shared. We are never so weak and vulnerable as when we are suffering from a serious illness, or when we are faced with the possibility that the end could be near. Everything else is then placed in a different perspective and we need people more than ever.

For those with chronic disease, how heavy the burden must be and how difficult to find rest!

When we are ill, as soon as we begin to see light at the end of the tunnel we start to make plans and often venture forth again a bit too early because we can’t wait to feel ourselves again. Think of what it must be like not to have that attitude and relief return to our life—to know that, short of a miracle cure, life will remain on the same plane: the illness continues, I won’t be able to do anything much more than I’m doing now for the rest of my life, I’m somewhat static and the pain endures. I can’t imagine the resignation and acceptance called for, although I have known people who exemplified that acceptance and who served as incredible witnesses to the resilience of the human spirit and to their faith in God.

A major watchword for Pope Francis is mercy, and the many photographs of Francis hugging, kissing and caressing sick people of all ages and stages illustrate his deep compassion and willingness to be of comfort to them. He embodies his own message found in Matthew’s Gospel: “…come to me, and I will give you rest.”

There is no doubt that sick people heed this message: they long for it, they need it, it comforts and supports them on their journey. This of course extends to their families, and there are several respite agencies and organizations that take this further, taking people into their care so that parents or caregivers may have a “break” from their constant routine.

They are examples of what the Pope calls “Inns of the Good Samaritan” and he asks all of us, not just health care facilities, to reflect that image in whichever way we can. Then we will be helping the heavily burdened, and we will be helping them find rest, in Christ’s name.


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World Day of the Sick 2020 – Message from Pope Francis

Fri, 02/07/2020 - 11:37

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

The World Day of The Sick is celebrated each year on Feb. 11, the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.

Pope Francis’ 2020 message for the World Day of the Sick focuses on the scriptural theme: “Come to me, all you who labour and are burdened, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28). In his message, Pope Francis urges that “what is needed is a personalized approach to the sick not just of curing, but also of caring in view of an integral human healing.”

Pope Francis’ message for the World Day of the Sick 2020 is available at the Vatican website:

The Catholic Health Association of Saskatchewan (CHAS) has again prepared resources for local parishes, including a blessing for those who work and serve in health care, and prayer intentions for the sick and suffering, for health care providers and caregivers, for those pursuing studies in health care fields, for administrators and government representatives, and for hospital chaplains and those providing spiritual care to the sick.

“Ultimately, Catholic health care ministry is an activity of the whole Church – responding to human suffering and caring for the well-being of the whole person.  Together, we build a faith community that is continuing the healing ministry of Jesus,” the resource affirms.

Blessing Prayer for the Sick

CHAS – 2020 Blessing and Prayers of the Faithful

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Knights of Columbus lift veil of secrecy on century-old initiation ceremonies

Fri, 02/07/2020 - 11:18

By Agnieszka Ruck, The B.C. Catholic

[Vancouver – Canadian Catholic News] – Gone are the days of secret, lengthy, and complex rituals for fledgling members of the Knights of Columbus.

In a bid to make the worldwide Catholic men’s organization more inviting to new members, the Knights of Columbus have simplified the initiation ceremony and for the first time now allow families and non-Knights to participate.

“The doors are wide open. Anybody can come and watch; they don’t even have to be Catholic,” said Marcel Renaud, state treasurer for the B.C. and Yukon district of the Knights of Columbus.

“We’re hoping men who are not yet members of the Knights can come and watch the ceremony and say: ‘Yeah, I want to be a part of that. This is what I am looking for.’”

Since the Knights of Columbus was founded in 1882, new members have had to participate in a series of confidential initiation ceremonies that were often more than an hour long, used heavy, “archaic” language, and could be spaced months or years apart. The First Degree focused on the Knights’ principle of charity; the second, unity; the third, fraternity. Later, a fourth degree was added: patriotism.

Each degree utilized its own, unique ceremony, which Renaud explained was only open to Knights so it would be an impactful, novel experience for new members every time.

“That was a great idea in the 1880s. Even in the 1980s. But not today. It tarnished us in that it gave people the idea that we were a secret society. We’ve never been,” said Renaud.

As of Jan. 1, 2020, all of that has changed. The first three degrees have been wrapped up into one 30-minute ceremony called the Exemplification of Charity, Unity, and Fraternity. The language has been updated to modern English and anyone can attend.

The first exemplification ceremonies in the B.C. and Yukon district were held Jan. 25 at St. Bernadette’s Parish in Surrey and Jan. 28 at St. Luke’s Parish in Maple Ridge, with a total of 74 men becoming third degree Knights.

“I would like to congratulate you for making a huge step as a Catholic gentleman,” said Ed Panes, the B.C. state secretary, at the Maple Ridge ceremony.

“We urge you brother Knights, and your families, to be involved with your parish, support the council and community by putting your faith in action. You are a member of an organization that will make a difference in someone’s life.”

The uniquely Catholic ceremony (which took about two years to update) included prayer, reflections on the three principles of charity, unity, and fraternity, and solemn presentations of new rosaries and pins to the men.

Making the quick transition to third degree Knights means the new members are already eligible to run for elected positions on Knights councils or to participate as a delegate in the B.C. state convention in April.

A Knight for 26 years, John Work said the new ceremony will take some getting used to.

“There were some special parts of the degree that I’m sorry aren’t there anymore,” he said. “There were beautiful degrees and after doing them for so long, it’s hard to let them go. I’m going to have those in my memory banks for the rest of my life.”

But, he added, “it’s time.”

Gus Bonnett was one of 10 men who became a Knight in the Jan. 28 ceremony, his wife Martha cheerfully watching from the sidelines.

The pair are active members of St. Luke’s Parish as adoration chapel coordinators and members of the local pro-life and migrant farm worker ministries. Martha also devotes some of her free time to bringing communion to the elderly and designing posters for parish events.

Gus said their strong Catholic faith motivates everything they do. “We really love Jesus,” he told The B.C. Catholic after the ceremony. “The meaning of life for us is Jesus and what we can do for his kingdom – and [joining the Knights] is a good way to do it. The Knights are a good example of charity.”

Bonnett has had the Catholic fraternal and charitable organization on his mind for the last 10 years.

“I’ve been called by different Knights in my parish asking me to join, but I felt I was too busy working in my job and I didn’t have the time to give what they expected me to give, but I always believed I was a Knight in my heart,” he said.

He retired in August of 2019, toured a bit of Europe, then started planning what to do next with his life. The Knights were near the top of his list.

“I believe it is a call of God,” he said. “For me, it was time to do it, and now I am happy and so excited and ready to respond to the call to do whatever they need me to do.”

Martha was enthusiastic about his decision. The couple attend daily Mass and has been particularly moved recently by a call to serve the Church. “Many homilies we’ve heard this year [were] about service, service, service. I think that also got to [Gus]. We need to answer our Lord. He gives us everything. We need to respond,” she said.

The Knights have also made other efforts to gain new members besides the rewritten ceremony. About two years ago, they launched online membership, giving men a chance to join the Knights with the convenience of their smartphones.

Renaud said those who joined online would receive regular emails informing them about various activities the Knights are involved in and a chance to join a local branch in person.

“For every three men who join us online, two will join a council,” he said. “That’s amazing. It’s another sign the Knights are stepping forward.”

Last year, the Knights updated their Fourth Degree uniform, replacing the familiar cape and feathered chapeau with a jacket and beret.

The Knights of Columbus has nearly 2 million members across the globe, making it the largest group of lay Catholic men worldwide.

Their activities include charitable works and fundraising (they gave $186.7 million to charities in 2018), volunteering at parishes, selling insurance, and supporting vocations to the priesthood.


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Proper end-of-life care remains elusive in Canada with focus on euthanasia and not on palliative care

Fri, 02/07/2020 - 10:55

By Michael Swan, The Catholic Register

[Toronto – Canadian Catholic News] – The cry for more palliative care continues to grow louder in Canada.

While protesting the introduction of legislation expected to expand access to assisted suicide and euthanasia next month, Canada’s bishops joined many advocates in decrying stalled plans to give Canadians the alternative of palliative care.

“As citizens, we see all levels of government, abetted by regulatory bodies and the media, give priority to those who want to choose euthanasia and assisted suicide while providing minimal funding and support for palliative care, home care and hospices,” said the bishops’ Jan. 31 letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, signed by Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) president Archbishop Richard Gagnon.

A guaranteed right to doctor-assisted death in Canada has still not been matched with a right to palliative care as the vast majority of Canadians continue to die among strangers in institutions, either without palliative care or with too little palliative care delivered too late in their disease trajectory, palliative care experts recently told The Catholic Register.

Of Canadians who died at home in 2016-17, even though two-thirds (66 per cent) received home care during their last year, less than one-in-six (15 per cent) received palliative care at home, according to a 2018 Canadian Institutes of Health Information (CIHI) report. Only six per cent of people in long-term care, and just 22 per cent of long-term care residents with less than six months to live, received palliative care.

Only 15 per cent of Canadians die at home, even though 75 per cent say they would prefer to spend their final hours with family at home.

“Before you can even start looking at the data for MAiD (Medical Assistance in Death), you have to make palliative care a consistent and equal access for everybody,” said palliative care specialist Dr. Sheri Bergeron. “Because if you don’t, then are people making this choice because there isn’t any other choice?”

Canada’s Catholic bishops and other opponents of assisted suicide and euthanasia aren’t wrong to suggest greater access to palliative care might reduce requests for medically-assisted death, according to Bergeron. “Are people still going to choose MAiD, even if they have access to palliative care? Probably,” she said. “But the bigger shame would be people choosing MAiD because of lack of access.”

“Experience has shown that patients are more likely to request euthanasia/assisted suicide when their pain is not properly managed by palliative care,” said the CCCB letter.

“Health care practitioners, elected officials and policy makers must not have recourse to euthanasia/assisted suicide as an answer to pressures and deficiencies in the current health care system given that an alternative already exists, namely palliative care.”

Governments have been talking about alternatives to medicalized and institutionalized dying for at least 25 years, points out Sr. Nuala Kenny, a doctor, retired professor of medicine and bioethicist.

The first major report on the availability of palliative care, tabled in the Senate in 1995 by Senator Sharon Carstairs, was called “Of Life and Death.” In June 2000, Carstairs tried again with an even bigger, more detailed report called “Quality End-of-Life Care: The Right of Every Canadian.”

The courts, however, have not ruled Canadians have a right to palliative care.

“We know that MAiD is law. It’s now a right bestowed on all Canadians. I’m not sure the same can be said about the availability of palliative care as a viable option of care for all Canadians,” Pallium Canada CEO Jeff Moat told The Register. “Fundamentally, Canadians now have a legal right to die, but they also have a right to live.”

Pallium Canada provides palliative care training to a broad range of health care professionals and has been working with the CCCB to produce education kits aimed at helping parishes ensure Catholics understand what palliative care is and how they can access it. The kits will be available in 2021.

Former Ursuline Residence will be Sasatchewan’s first free-standing hospice: ARTICLE

“These (government) promises (to boost palliative care) go way, way, way back,” said Kenny. “We then legalized and decriminalized (voluntary euthanasia) first, before we delivered on the promise of hospice palliative care.”

The country’s largest provider of home care is seeing small, gradual increases in funding and access to palliative care at home, said St. Elizabeth Health Care chief clinical executive and senior vice president Nancy Lefebre.

Ottawa’s Action Plan on Palliative Care is making some progress in making health care professionals and patients more aware of the scope and benefits of palliative care, she said.

“They’re overall trying to increase awareness and understanding. I think there’s a lot of work being done in that area,” she said.

In 2017 Parliament passed the Framework on Palliative Care in Canada Act, then spent 2018 negotiating with the provinces and territories who have responsibility for delivering health care. Funding agreements signed with provinces and territories in 2019 covered some aspects of palliative care.

In the 2017 budget the federal government committed to spend $6 billion over five years building up palliative care capacity across Canada. Health Minister Patty Hadju must report progress on the Framework on Palliative Care to Parliament in 2023.

“Some activities have already begun, while others are at the concept stage and will be developed further and rolled out over the coming years,” Health Canada spokesperson Natalie Mohamed told The Catholic Register in an e-mail.
Kenny sees very little happening to expand access to palliative care, despite the 2017 budget commitment and the 2019 Action Plan.

“I still get all the medical correspondence. I’ve never seen anything since this announcement, and I’m involved in the area,” she said.

Whatever procedural safeguards result from the recent two-week, online consultation on regulation of assisted suicide and euthanasia, palliative care is still in the shadows, according to Kenny.

“Medically-assisted death has become normalized so rapidly,” she said.


Journey Home Hospice is an oasis of comfort and care

By Michael Swan, The Catholic Register

[Toronto – Canadian Catholic News] – Sitting in his lounger with a flat screen TV hanging off the wall opposite and a drink in his hand, Glen Horlock is a happy guy. He kibbitzes with the nurses, needles the doctor and welcomes the opportunity to talk with a stranger.

At this point, Horlock, 63, has been in the Journey Home Hospice just east of downtown Toronto for about a month.

The stroke is behind him but the cancer isn’t going anywhere. He eats as often as he likes and he’s never far from the kitchen in the centre of the four-bed hospice. He’s safe and warm and can’t believe his luck.

“It was weird coming here. They get you everything,” he said. “You’re pampered. You feel guilty.”

Not bad for a guy who has been living on the street for years, consumed with bitterness and rage over the 2006 murder of his 21-year-old son, drinking his way through every dollar that came his way. “Money don’t last long when you’re drinking,” he said.

At first glance the Journey Home Hospice doesn’t look like the lap of luxury. It’s four patient rooms, kitchen and tiny, crowded nursing office have been carved out of the sixth floor of a public housing apartment building. The walls all have tell-tale public housing paint jobs, haunted by all the other paint jobs that went before. It’s filled with furniture rescued from places that couldn’t wait to be rid of it. Scented candles and throw cushions make it cozy.

Managed and staffed by St. Elizabeth Health Care, Journey Home was set up in 2018 specifically for people like Horlock. In its first year it was home to 19 homeless men and women facing death. As it approaches its second birthday in May, work has begun on remodeling the apartment next door to expand Journey Home into a 10-bed facility.

“A unique population that wasn’t getting very much by way of palliative care services, even just health care services in general,” is how Dr. Sheri Bergeron describes Journey Home’s mission. “It’s a population that kind of gets forgotten, because traditional medicine is the way it is. … This is a vulnerable group.”

Journey Home is not like other hospices. Patients stay a bit longer. Often their health stabilizes and even improves simply because they’re eating regularly and sleeping in a warm bed. Sometimes their condition improves to such an extent that hospice staff has to find another home for them.

“That was a new skill for me,” said nurse Felicia Kontopidis, who is the Journey Home director of care. “Like a social work skill.”

Kontopidis spent seven years as a St. Elizabeth nurse making home visits in all the downtown Toronto shelters. She got a sense of why a hospice for the homeless might be necessary when she met with one of her patients in St. Michael’s Hospital. The patient had been diagnosed with lung cancer. As he was absorbing the diagnosis the doctor had to tell him that unless he could find stable housing, a normal course of IV chemotherapy was not a treatment option. If he was living on the street, getting sick from the chemotherapy on the street, there was simply no chance he would benefit from chemo.

“That was just sort of an eye-opener,” Konopidis said. “It’s unfortunate that (medical) decisions get made based on your housing situation and your economic status and other factors that have nothing to do with your disease.”

The idea of going to a hospice to get better doesn’t seem strange to Bergeron. The palliative specialist and adjunct professor at Western University’s faculty of medicine thinks optimal health is the goal of all medicine, including palliative care.

“Sometimes they actually get better, and that’s a good thing,” she said. “What looked like they were very close to end-of-life, now they’re living longer. Which is fantastic. Which is really the goal — living longer and living better.”

Not all the healing is physical. For Horlock, Journey Home has been a place to rediscover his humanity and let go of the grief and anger that has consumed him since his son’s murder. He never felt the courts gave his son justice and at one point crossed the country with every intention of killing the young man who was convicted in the death of his son.

When that plan failed he found himself back in Toronto, on the street, coughing up his lungs. The prospect of death and the time and space afforded by Journey Home has led Horlock to rethink his dedication to vengeance.

“I just gave it up, let it go — the hate,” he said. “I had to get over it.”

Horlock was born in this Cabbagetown neighbourhood, almost next door to the hospice. He wasn’t always homeless. He has run a couple of successful businesses, installing interlocking brick and doing landscaping and then a furniture finishing and repair business.

“Except for my son, I’ve had a great life,” he said. “Two cars, a house — who can complain?”


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