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Updated: 2 years 23 weeks ago

Prime Minister targets Catholic Church for not doing enough to make amends for role in residential schools

Tue, 06/08/2021 - 06:59

By Brian Dryden, Canadian Catholic News

[Ottawa – CCN] – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau chastised the Catholic Church in a press conference June 4, saying that as a Catholic he is “deeply” disappointed that years after he asked Pope Francis to apologize for the Church’s role in residential schools in Canada such an apology has yet to be issued.

However, as Canadian politicians and others continue to call on the Catholic Church to do more to make amends and apologize for the Church’s role in operating residential schools on behalf of the Canadian government in the past, a senior Canadian Catholic cardinal said the prime minister’s comments have not been helpful and are “ill-informed.”

Toronto’s Cardinal Thomas Collins’ comments June 6 came on the same day that Pope Francis raised the issue in the Vatican.

“I join the Canadian Bishops and the whole Catholic Church in Canada in expressing my closeness to the Canadian people, who have been traumatized by this shocking news,” Pope Francis said in St. Peter’s Square.

But Pope Francis failed to do the one thing that Indigenous leaders in Canada and now increasingly Canadian politicians are demanding – formally and unequivocally apologize on behalf of the Catholic Church.

In Prime Minister Trudeau’s June 4 statements about the Catholic Church, he said other faith communities that were involved with residential schools have been more willing to officially and formally take responsibility. He called on Canadian Catholics, such as himself, to continue to press the Church to officially apologize.

And he implied that the federal government has “tools” that it can use if the Church does not make an official apology and agree to release more documents and information about its involvement with residential schools in Canada.

“We’re still seeing resistance from the Church,” he said during a press conference June 4 in which he continued to apologize for Canada’s past treatment of Indigenous Canadian children and his own government’s and past Canadian government’s treatment of Indigenous Canadians.

The discovery of the bodies of 215 children at a residential school site in Kamloops, B.C. at the end of May has sparked outrage across the country and has renewed calls for the Pope to formally and officially apologize for its role in running residential schools across Canada.

One of the recommendations made in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) into residential schools was a demand for the Catholic Church to officially apologize for its role in Canada’s residential schools, calling for an apology from Pope Francis on Canadian soil.

Trudeau said that like other Canadian Catholics, he wants the Church to take more responsibility and do more.
“Many Catholics like myself over the course of the past many days wonder why the Catholic Church in Canada is silent, is not stepping up, is not showing … leadership,” he said.

Individual Catholic dioceses and religious order in Canada that have been involved in residential schools in the past have made a number of apologies over the years and the Church in Canada does emphasize the need for reconciliation with Canada’s First Peoples.

On June 2, 2021,  the Archbishop of Vancouver J. Michael Miller did pledge to turn over any documents asked for and also apologized for the impact of residential schools on Indigenous Canadians, but a formal apology from the Vatican on behalf of the Church as a whole has never been issued.

Cardinal Collins, who is archbishop of Toronto, made an apology during Mass June 6, but in an interview with the CBC he questioned the need for the Pope on behalf of the Church to make what he called a “dramatic” gesture.

“I don’t know whether some big or dramatic thing is the way forward,” Cardinal Collins told the CBC as he pushed back against the prime minister’s comments. “No one that I know of is trying to hide records.”

“I think those are extremely unhelpful remarks from Mr. Trudeau and uniformed,” Collins said.

Indigenous leaders in Canada have long demanded the Catholic Church turn over all documents that have anything to do with residential schools in Canada and not just documents the Church itself says are pertinent.

The Prime Minister has warned the Catholic Church that his government will take further legal action if it has too.

The political and moral firestorm that has been felt across the country since the discovery of 215 bodies at the site of residential school in Kamloops, B.C.,  has prompted special debates in Parliament in both the House of Commons and the Senate, where a special “day” to mark what happened at residential schools in Canada has been created.

A federal National Day for Truth and Reconciliation will be held on Sept. 30 every year from now on after both the House and Senate passed a motion to that effect.

Former Abegweit First Nation Chief and now Senator Brian Francis told the Senate that such a day is needed to make sure the experiences of residential school survivors are never forgotten.

“Most of us cannot begin to understand the abuse and trauma all endured, or the strength it has taken for some of them to come forward and relive it,” Francis said. “Without the courageous and persistent efforts of survivors, the shameful treatment of Indigenous people would not have been brought to light.”

As one of the Catholic organizations that were heavily involved in residential schools, — including the residential school at Kamloops from 1890 to 1969 – the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate apologized in 1991 for their role in operating residential schools.

In an “Indian Residential Schools and the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate Q&A” on the Oblates’ website, the Oblates support a visit to Canada by the Pope to officially apologize on behalf of the Church.

“Oblates believe that such a visit would be a great blessing for Canada, and an important step in the healing journey of many Indigenous people, especially residential school survivors,” the statement on the Oblates’ website said.

“Oblates continue to hope and pray that such a visit happens soon, and that such an apology be delivered by the highest levels of the Canadian and worldwide church.”

In addition, the Oblates’ website addresses the matter of school records (Question #6): “The 1991 Oblate apology committed to ‘an effective process of disclosure vis-à-vis Residential Schools.’ Although complicated, because there are several categories of archival material, the Oblates have worked diligently to live up to their obligations to make their archived material available. They believe they have done so in good faith and are prepared to do more.”

Statement from Cardinal Thomas Collins, Archdiocese of Toronto: LINK

Statement of Commitment and of Apology from Archbishop Michael Miller, Archdiocese of Vancouver: LINK

Statement of Apology and Commitment from Bishop Joseph Nguyen, Diocese of Kamloops, BC – LINK

Statement from the Archdiocese of Regina, Archbishop Donald Bolen – LINK

Statement from Bishop Mark Hagemoen, Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon – LINK

List of statements and apologies by Canadian Catholic dioceses and organizations about residential schools – LINK


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Pope Francis expresses sorrow after discovery of children’s graves at Church-run school

Mon, 06/07/2021 - 15:58

Speaking after praying of the Angelus June 6, 2021, the pope assured Canadians of his sympathy and prayers, but did not issue a formal apology for the Catholic Church’s role in residential schools, as requested by the Canadian government.

He said: “I follow with sorrow the news from Canada about the shocking discovery of the remains of 215 children, pupils of the Kamloops Indian Residential School in the province of British Columbia.”

“I join the Canadian bishops and the whole Catholic Church in Canada in expressing my sympathy to the Canadian people, who have been traumatized by the shocking news.”

He continued: “The sad discovery further increases our awareness of the pain and suffering of the past. May Canada’s political and religious authorities continue to work together with determination to shed light on this sad event and humbly commit themselves to a path of reconciliation and healing.”

“These difficult times are a strong call for all to turn away from the colonizing model, and even the ideological colonisations of today, and walk side by side in dialogue, mutual respect, and recognition of the rights and cultural values of all the daughters and sons of Canada.”

Asking pilgrims to observe a moment of prayer, he said: “We commend to the Lord the souls of all the children who have died in Canada’s residential schools and we pray for the grieving families and communities of Indigenous Canadians.”

Related – Fr. Raymond de Souza in National Post “Historically inaccurate to suggest Catholic Church hasn’t apologized for residential schools – LINK

Related – Archbishop Richard Gagnon interview by Winnipeg Free Press “Pope to receive Indigenous delegation in fall, archbishop says” – LINK

The discovery of the unmarked Indigenous graves at a former Church-run residential school in Kamloops, British Columbia, has caused an outcry in Canada.

The remains of 215 children at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School were located in mid-May through the use of ground-penetrating radar. The children were buried in unmarked graves, and it is unclear how they died.

The school was the largest institution of its kind and was overseen by the Church between 1890 and 1969.

Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which ran from 2008 to 2015, estimated that 4,000 to 6,000 students died as a result of neglect or abuse in the country’s residential schools.

Among the commission’s 94 Calls to Action was a call for the pope “to issue an apology to Survivors, their families, and communities for the Roman Catholic Church’s role in the spiritual, cultural, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children in Catholic-run residential schools.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau raised the possibility of an apology during a meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican in 2017.

On Saturday, June 5, 2021, the pope met with two senior Canadian Vatican officials, Cardinal Michael Czerny and Cardinal Marc Ouellet, and also appointed a new Vatican ambassador to Canada.

Pope Francis gave his live-streamed Angelus address at a window overlooking St. Peter’s Square, where a sizeable crowd of pilgrims stood wearing face coverings to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

He dedicated the address to the feast of Corpus Christi, celebrated on Thursday, June 3  at the Vatican, but observed on Sunday in Italy, Canada, and a number of other countries.



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Our Lady of Guadalupe parish in Saskatoon holds four-day memorial wake for 215 children found buried at Kamloops residential school

Mon, 06/07/2021 - 15:13

A teepee stood on the grounds of St. Mary Church in Saskatoon, next to the statue of St. Kateri Tekakwitha, part of a four-day memorial wake organized by Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish. St. Mary Catholic Church is where Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish celebrates Sunday Mass every week at 1 p.m. (Photo by Fr. D. Millette)

The Fiddler family drum group presented honour songs in memory of the 215 children at both the opening and closing Masses of the four-day wake. (Photo by Kiply Lukan Yaworski)

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

Saskatoon’s Indigenous Catholic parish held a four-day memorial wake Thursday, June 3 to Sunday, June 6 for the 215 children recently found in unmarked graves at the former Kamloops residential school in British Columbia.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, which serves First Nations, Métis, Indigenous and non-Indigenous parishioners in the heart of Saskatoon, organized the event in response to the heart-breaking discovery of the children’s bodies, which has caused trauma throughout their community and reopened wounds for survivors and their families.

Held on the grounds of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Saskatoon – where a teepee was set up near the church building at the corner of Avenue O South and 20th Street West – Our Lady of Guadalupe’s memorial “Wake Honouring the Lost” opened each day with a 6 a.m. sacred pipe ceremony and a sacred drum song.

Beginning and ending with Mass celebrated by Bishop Mark Hagemoen June 3 (Vicar General Fr. Kevin McGee was also present for the opening Mass) and Sunday, June 6, the wake also included morning and evening prayers for the dead from the Liturgy of the Hours, lighting of vigil candles (one for each of the children found at Kamloops), intermittent prayer throughout each day, smudging, sacred drum and honour songs.

But most of all, the four-day event provided a prayerful presence to those struggling with the profound grief, anger and hurt of the recent discovery at a residential school run by Catholics from 1890 to 1969, when the federal government took over until the school closed in 1978.

Parish elders Irene Sharp, Sharon Genaille, Dianne Anderson, and Gayle Weenie joined Parish Life Director Debbie Ledoux, Our Lady of Guadalupe pastor Fr. Graham Hill, CSsR, Deacon Paul Labelle and St. Mary pastor Fr. Mick Fleming in praying with and listening to those who came forward to share their grief and their anger.

Sr. Carol Borreson, SGM, Elder Dianne Anderson, Elder Sharon Genaille, Elder Irene Sharp and Elder Gayle Weenie (l-r) at the opening Mass June 3 of the Wake Honouring the Lost. (Photo by Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)

Related: June 2 -Bishop Mark Hagemoen message about discovery at former school – LINK to letter

Related: Interview with Chief Wilton Littlechild and Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith – LINK to video


Elder Rod Stone, who led the pipe ceremony on three of the four days of the wake, spoke at the end of the closing Mass June 6, speaking in his own language before addressing the crowd in English.

“Stories have been told. Now we are on a healing journey, and that involves everybody,” said the Elder, recalling the devout Catholic faith of his own parents, who were residential school survivors. He also expressed disappointment that he did not hear an apology in the recent statement from Pope Francis about the discovery of the 215 children at Kamloops.

“So, I think it is up to the individual churches, if they have the will, to bring people back in a good way. What I see (in the celebration) today, in terms of what has happened – the smudge, the tobacco, the cloth, the sweet grass, the pipe – I never thought I would see that,” Elder Stone added, thinking of how proud his father would have been to experience these traditional elements in a Catholic celebration.

Elder Rod Stone led a pipe ceremony on three of the four days of the memorial wake. (Photo by Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)


“I think we are starting a journey here, and I think that journey is looking to the next generation… my children, my grandchildren, my great grandchildren,” said Stone, who attended the closing Mass with three of his six great-grandchildren whom he has raised from birth.

“It is a beautiful feeling… loving a child, to watch them grow up to be happy, to play like a child, to show them the love and care because they are the next generation,” he said, recalling those who did not have that experience because of the residential school system.

“There is always the opportunity to change,” he added, pointing to traditional teachings as a way to heal such great loss and overwhelming grief. “Healing is right here — look at the pipe. When the elder is praying, he lifts it up, he brings his heart and his mind together,” he said. “It is a way to release the poisons.”

Parish Life Director Debbie Ledoux, who herself attended residential school in Saskatchewan for nine years, also spoke about the impact of the recent news about the 215 children – most especially for residential school survivors and their families.

“We all share the pain and the sorrow, the hurt, you name it,” she said at the conclusion of the closing Mass June 6. “It has been a very, very difficult week since the news of these babies, these children, being found.”


Parish Life Director Debbie Ledoux spoke at the conclusion of the four-day celebration, recalling the profound grief, anger and hurt of the residential schools. (Photo by Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)

In the face of all of the grief and anger, the parish elders led the way to envisioning and holding the wake, along with pastors Graham and Fleming, and Deacon Labelle, she said.

The pain of the recent discovery of the children’s bodies is particularly deep because it was “caused by our Catholic Church, caused by supposed reverential leaders…. This is what they did to us, and they are supposed to be servants of our Creator God,” she said.  “And we wonder: what happened? What happened? How can you hate someone so badly that you could do that to our babies – our kids? That is so evil. That is sin.”

She continued: “I cried and I cried and I cried when I heard the news. I thought of my own babies, of my grown sons now that have babies. It is painful. It’s painful. It’s so painful.”

For those who don’t “get” the hurt, she described the encounters with just two of those who stopped by at the teepee during the days of prayer – a 60-year-old man and a 19-year-old woman, who were both devastated by the recent news, and filled with anger and pain.

“I just had a 60-year-old man standing at the fence, I was talking to him, a residential school survivor. He told me that he could not stop crying when he heard the news. He said: ‘All those things that happened to me at the residential school came back. ‘They came back and it hurts,’ he said. ‘I don’t know what to do….I am sorry,’ he said, ‘if I hurt you, but it was the Church. Weren’t they supposed to love us?'” she said, describing her own deep hurt and conflict as an Indigenous person who works for the Church and tries to bring her people back to the Church. “What do I say? What do I say?”

She also tearfully recounted the encounter with a hurting, angry young woman of 19, whom she listened to and encouraged to pray in her own language.

“Then I had to explain to her why I was still here. And why am I here? Because I am here to serve Creator God, and without Him in my life, I would not be able to try and help my people. That’s the reason I am here.”

Ledoux asked for prayer and solidarity from non-Indigenous people. “It is very painful, there’s a lot of anger out there. We need to help each other. Don’t say ‘I’ll pray for you’, say ‘I will pray with you’. Walk with us. Be with us.”

Candles represented the 215 children discovered in unmarked graves at the former Kamloops residential school. (Photo by Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)

During the closing Mass, expired candles that burned throughout the four-day vigil were placed near the altar around the statue of St. Kateri Tekakwitha (an Indigenous woman canonized as a saint of the Catholic Church in 2012).

“They represent the 215 young lives whose graves we are holding this wake for,” explained Fr. Graham Hill after the prayers of the faithful during the closing Mass held on the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ.

“On the beginning of this journey together we asked the bishop to bless a fire from which we kept the light burning,” said Hill, before inviting the bishop to share the same light, by lighting a single candle in front of a rock placed in front of the altar, with the word “hope” written in both forms of the Cree alphabet.

During the closing Mass June 6, Bishop Mark Hagemoen lights a candle to place in front of a rock with the word “hope” inscribed in both Cree alphabets, as Deacon Paul Labelle and Elder Irene Sharp look on. (Photo by Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)

At the conclusion of Mass, Hill invited those present to take a candle with them:  “take it home and pray for one child – not as a statistic but as a person, a life, and to keep that memory alive.”

Later Fr. Hill also shared words from the residential school survivor who created the star blanket that decorated the altar.

“As I put this star blanket together, I felt all the areas of the medicine wheel: emotional, physical, mental spiritual,” she wrote. “When I was eight I went to the residential school By making this blanket, I was able to heal and release my past, the hurt. With every stitch I said prayers for our people, that everyone who looks at it or walks past it will feel God’s peace and God’s love and joy.”


Bishop Mark Hagemoen presided at the closing celebration for the four-day prayer vigil. The event concluded with Our Lady of Guadalupe’s Sunday Mass at St. Mary Church on the Feast of Corpus Christi – the Body and Blood of Christ. (Photo by Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)

Bishop Mark Hagemoen presided at Mass for both the opening (outdoors on June 3) and the closing (inside the church building on June 6) of the memorial days of prayer.

“I am very grateful for the teepee – the tent – that is beside the church,” he said in his June 6 homily, before pointing to the scriptural story of the tent that carried the Covenant, the Word of God, on the journey of the people of Israel, until the temple was built to contain it.

“Let the tent teach the temple, and may the temple be able to hold the journey to an uncertain future,” he said, admitting he does not know what the future holds. Even so, he affirmed trust in the abounding love, mercy and presence of God as tent and temple, teepee and church, move forward together.

“On this day that we celebrate Corpus Christi, we pray that God’s real presence will continue to bring blessing, bring strength to those who mourn, and to be able to take us on a new journey together,” Hagemoen said.

Photos from June 3 opening ceremony:









More photos from June 6 closing Mass:








Video of the closing Mass June 6:





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‘Mass grave’ narrative misses need for answers

Mon, 06/07/2021 - 11:39

By Terry O’Neill, The B.C. Catholic

[Vancouver – Canadian Catholic News] – When the Chief of the Kamloops Indian Band announced on May 27 that researchers had located the remains of 215 children in unmarked graves near the former Kamloops Indian Residential School, she said the discovery confirmed what she and her people had long known, that many children had died while attending the residential school.

“We had a knowing in our community that we were able to verify,” Rosanne Casimir stated in a news release, explaining that ground-penetrating radar had been used to locate the graves.

Indeed, as National Post’s Tristin Hopper wrote in response to widespread expression of “shock” and “disbelief” in the wake of the news, the existence of such graveyards was never a secret. “Communities and survivors knew the bodies were there, as did any investigation or government commission that bothered to ask,” he wrote.


The landmark Truth and Reconciliation Commission was one such body that did ask, and in 2015 reported that its research showed that, of the 150,000 First Nations, Inuit, and Metis children who attended Canada’s Indian Residential Schools, about 4,000 perished, and many were buried in unmarked graves near the schools. “It was a rate of death driven by far higher levels of malnutrition, disease, and abuse than the norm at the time in white schools,” the TRC reported.

The TRC report drew on the labours of many investigators and consultants, including Dr. Scott Hamilton, a professor in the Department of Anthropology at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, who worked from 2013-15 identifying Residential-School-related gravesites across Canada.

His full, 44-page written report Where are the Children buried? was published online only following Chief Casimir’s announcement. Hamilton said in an interview with The B.C. Catholic that he believes his study provides important detail and context for a public grappling with the implications of the Kamloops news.

Of particular concern to him is the fact that many news reports described the Kamloops gravesite as a mass grave, a term most often used to describe sites associated with war crimes or massacres in which people all killed at one time are buried en masse in a site that is then hidden.

In fact, deaths at residential schools accrued year over year, with “wild fluctuations” that probably reflected periodic epidemics, Hamilton said. The high death rates continued until the middle of the 20th century, when they finally fell to match those in the general population.

Hamilton said the “mass grave” description “misses the point with the Residential-School story,” a story that unfolded over more than a century and in which appalling conditions led to high death rates due to disease, the most devastating of which was tuberculosis.

Deceased students were often buried in simple graveyards near the schools because federal authorities provided no funding to send the bodies home or to conduct proper burials. The result, Hamilton told The B.C. Catholic, was that the children were interred in de facto “pauper’s graves” with simple wooden crosses that have deteriorated and disappeared over the decades. His report found no evidence that school officials intended to hide the graves.

Communicable diseases were a primary cause of poor health and death for many Aboriginal people during the 19th and early 20th centuries, Hamilton wrote in his report.

“Some children might have contracted disease at home prior to attending school, but others were likely infected within crowded, often unsanitary and poorly constructed Residential Schools,” he wrote.

He also noted in his report that, since the early Residential Schools operated at a time of high death rates and were associated with missions located close to reserves, “the mission cemeteries likely contain both the bodies of local school children and other community members.”

He also wrote that, in some areas, it is likely that the remains of teachers and their own children, nuns, and priests will also be found in school-related cemeteries.

None of the remains in Kamloops has been identified.

Hamilton wrote that the late 19th century was a time of “comparatively undeveloped health care, with epidemiologically vulnerable Indigenous populations coming into sustained contact with Euro-Canada newcomers.”

Patterns of illness and death within the schools likely mimicked those on reserves, “but the crowded and generally poor living conditions within the schools may have exacerbated the problem.”

The Kamloops discovery “didn’t surprise me, sadly enough,” he said in the interview. “But what surprised me in the years since I was last involved in this file was that there was lots of talk, lots of ‘we shalls’ in 2015. And as an outsider looking in, I don’t detect a lot of substantive action.”



SIDEBAR Explaining lost cemeteries

In his report on burials associated with Indian Residential Schools, anthropologist Dr. Scott Hamilton discovered that not only did the federal government fail to develop a policy on how deceased students should be buried (other than to instruct school officials to spend as little as possible), but Ottawa also produced no plan for the maintenance of cemeteries after the schools closed.

Moreover, Hamilton discovered that while some graves and cemeteries associated with Residential Schools are known and maintained, “others are now unknown or incompletely documented in the literature, and may even have passed from local memory.”

He found that many of the inactive and overgrown cemeteries cannot be easily identified. “Without formal documentation, it becomes more difficult to offer protection from contemporary or future land development,” he wrote in his report, entitled Where are the Children buried?

“Even when considering presently known and maintained cemeteries, some graves may lie unrecognized after the decay and disappearance of wood grave markers and enclosing graveyard fences. This presents a serious challenge for identifying, commemorating, or protecting unmarked graves and undocumented cemeteries.”

Dr Scott Hamilton

Hamilton told The B.C. Catholic that he had to resort to Google Earth satellite photos and Google Street View images to discover the location of many of the cemeteries.

His report, which was completed in 2015 but published online only following the news of the 215 graves in Kamloops, called for the development of strategies for documentation, commemoration and preservation of the cemeteries – strategies that should be led by the First Nations that are most affected.

He also recommended that additional information about cemeteries “must be sought” from survivors and other knowledge holders; collection and integration of archival data and local knowledge should proceed any potentially invasive technical inspection of a cemetery site; and information about the cemeteries must be made available to planning and regulatory agencies in order to enhance cemetery protection.

Looking back on his work, Hamilton said he spent hundreds of hours trying to find answers to where the deceased students were buried.

“It was often very frustrating, but it became very consuming. It’s something that is important to me, but it is also something that I could do in my small way towards addressing pain and suffering that the kids who didn’t get to go home [experienced], as well as those who survived the experience.”


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MPs won’t ban sex selection abortion in Canada

Thu, 06/03/2021 - 16:03

By Brian Dryden, Canadian Catholic News

[Ottawa] – Only one-third of federal MPs are willing to ban female babies from being targeted for an abortion, but supporters of a private members bill that was snuffed out by a vote in the House of Commons June 2 vow to continue to try and convince Canadian lawmakers to put some regulations in place to protect the unborn.

“It was evident in the debates that while Canadians are having ongoing conversations about abortion, elected lawmakers seem unprepared for it. Most Canadians support common sense abortion restrictions, including a restriction on sex selective abortion. There can be nuance in restricting abortion in a way that many in Parliament do not yet acknowledge,” said Tabitha Ewert, legal counsel for the pro-life organization We Need a Law.

“This is clearly an issue that resonates with Canadians,” said Ewert after only 82 MPs voted in favor of Conservative MP Cathay Wagantall’s proposed Bill C-233, known as the Sex Selective Abortion Act, that would have prohibited doctors from knowingly performing sex selective abortions.

Wagantall and supporters of the bill argue that Canadians support such specific restrictions on abortion, but most MPs, and even the leader of the Conservative Party who was one of the 248 MPs to vote against Bill C-233, have made it clear in the debate surrounding Bill C-233 that there is no path forward at this time in the the House of Commons for any legal changes that would impede access to abortion in Canada.

“The debate around sex selective abortion is necessary and will continue. Women’s rights cannot include targeting women before they are born. Sex selective abortion is antithetical to Canada’s commitment to equality and needs to be prohibited as an unacceptable practice. Until MPs have the courage to prohibit this practice, it remains legal and will continue to happen in Canada,” said Ewert.

“We look forward to when Parliament catches up to where Canadians are already at and accepts a prohibition on such an overtly sexist practice,” she said.

While Conservative leader Erin O’Toole and some other high-profile Conservative MPs such as Alberta MP Michelle Rempel Garner voted against Wagantall’s proposed bill, more Conservative MPs voted for the abortion restriction than voted against it, highlighting the split within the party between the party’s leadership and what is called the social-conservative faction of the party and many of its elected MPs.

“Despite Erin O’Toole’s emphatic pro-choice stance and commitment to vote against this bill, exactly two-thirds of his caucus voted in favour of it,” said a statement from We Need A Law after the vote was held in the House.

As the debate in the House of Commons during second reading of Bill C-233 showed, any discussion of adopting laws in Canada related to abortion runs into a stone wall of opposition within the Liberal, NDP and Bloc Quebecois parties.

Liberal, NDP and Bloc MPs who spoke in the House on Bill C-233 dismissed Wagantall’s proposed bill as a Trojan Horse attempt to chip away at existing abortion rights in Canada by the pro-life movement.

“The sponsor claims that this bill is to address sex-based discrimination,” Liberal MP Anita Vandenbeld said during debate in the House on May 28.

“While I note that the offence is ostensibly aimed at doctors, I must point out that it would also criminalize women as parties to the offence. Make no mistake, Bill C-233 will limit a woman’s right to choose by doing this,” she said. “Criminalizing a woman for seeking an abortion is a violation of the fundamental rights of women in Canada, and it is just plain wrong.”

Bloc Quebecois MP Christine Normandin accused supporters of Bill C-233 and Wagantall of “shamefully” using sexism as an excuse to roll back access to abortion in Canada.

“Unlike what some would have us believe, Bill C-233 does not seek to restore the balance between the situation of young girls and young boys. It is not a bill to combat sexism. It is anti-abortion legislation, period,” Normandin said.

“It is a pretext, a roundabout way for the member to achieve her purpose, an attempt to reopen a debate that we hoped had been closed for several decades now,” she said. “The member is shamefully using and hijacking the discourse on human rights to hide other intentions.”

It is a charge that Wagantall and pro-life organizations such as We Need A Law dismiss as being out of touch with the views of the majority of Canadians, whether they are pro-life or pro-choice.

“As I have said many times during the course of this discussion, the vast majority of those who would like sex selection to be made illegal are in fact pro-choice,” Wagantall told the House on May 28 during debate before the June 2 vote.

“They are not pro-abortion for any reason, but pro-choice. These facts should send a strong message to everyone in this House. We have a mandate from Canadians to act,” she said.

Along with Wagantall, Conservative MP Kelly Block also conceded that most Canadians support women having access to abortions in Canada, but sex-selection is a different situation.

“It is also important to note that while a majority of Canadians support access to abortion, a majority of Canadians oppose sex-selective abortion,” Block said. “The purpose of the bill is very clear. It is not intended to limit access to abortion … it is being put forward to address the inequality that exists between the sexes in their earliest forms.”

And in an Open Letter to MPs written by a board member of Canadian Physicians for Life (CPL), a doctor said Bill C-233 was “a unique opportunity in Canadian politics where all political parties can unite to expand women’s rights and save Canadian lives.”

But the CPL’s Dr. Kiely Williams said that in monitoring the debate surrounding Bill C-233 in the House, she didn’t understand the opposition to the bill.

“During the debate, many female Members of Parliament in particular professed that they could not support sex-selection abortion, but that they were also firmly committed to opposing any legislation which would prohibit this practice,” Williams wrote to MPs.

“The Liberals and the Bloc Quebecois conceded that they do not support sex-selective abortion, yet they joined the NDP in opposition to this bill,” Williams said. “As a physician and a woman, I asked myself how they could adopt such an irreconcilable position.”

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Ordination of Fr. Alfredo Medinas Ramos, CSsR, celebrated in Mexico

Thu, 06/03/2021 - 14:19

By Fr. Ray Douziech, CSsR

Courtesy of Community Connections / Redemptorist Conference of North America

[Zacatecas, Mexico] –  Fr. Alfredo Medinas Ramos, CSsR – who served several months as a transitional deacon at St. Mary’s Parish in Saskatoon with pastor Fr. Mick Fleming, CSsR – was ordained to the priesthood May 27, 2021.

Ordination livestream:  Ordination live-stream – LINK

The setting for this special day was Zacatecas, Mexico, and the Cathedral dedicated to the Assumption of Our Lady. The church is a world heritage site and thousands of tourists come yearly to see its unique architecture. The original church was built in 1568 and the present Cathedral dates from 1752.

The Neo-Spanish Baroque Cathedral Basilica dominates the historic centre of the city. As the noon Angelus bells ring, attention focused on the procession that began at the entrance of the church.

Everyone in the procession was wearing a mask, a reminder that we are still in a pandemic. The people in the pews were also wearing masks but this doid not stop the enthusiastic singing of an opening hymn. At the end of the procession walking in front of the Bishop was our deacon, Alfredo Medinas Ramos, C.Ss.R.

The interior of the Cathedral is simple yet striking. Large Doric columns line the nave and the front of the building. The massive altar dominates the sanctuary while a modern altar rises majestically against the front wall. On it are various sculptures of saints, topped by a magnificent sculpture of the Assumption and above Our Lady is a picture of the Trinity looking down on the People of God.

Bishop Siegfried Noriega Barceló began with a warm welcome to the large number of clergy present, to the Redemptorists, to the family of Deacon Alfredo, the people of Malpaso (Alfredo’s hometown), visitors from near and far and those watching on the internet.

The bishop also spoke about his own personal connection to the Redemptorists. His mother had a great devotion to Our Mother of Perpetual Help. He was inspired by the Mexican Redemptorists prior to his ordination and had Redemptorists teaching him when he studied in Rome.

The bishop set a tone of formality, but also created a prayerful and relaxed celebration. In his homily, he spoke of the ordination as a “great fiesta” for the Church. He reminded us that we had just celebrated Pentecost, a celebration of the birth of the Church, the presence of the Holy Spirit. At the heart of the Church is the Eucharist.

He talked about the priesthood of the faithful and how certain individuals were chosen to exercise our common priesthood in a special way particularly as a celebrant of the Eucharist. Christ, through the hands of the priest, comes to be our food. The priest in turn is to be food for the people through his service. He is the presence of God announcing the Gospel of Jesus and the reign of God. In short, the priest’s mission is to be Eucharist.

The rite of ordination began with the presentation of Alfredo to the bishop by Fr. Carlos Flores Rodríguez CSsR, Provincial Councilor, a delegate of Fr. Charles Duval, the Provincial. Fr. Rodríguez affirmed that Alfredo was a worthy candidate for ordination. The bishop confirmed this vocation and called Alfredo to the order of ministerial priesthood.

First were a series of questions addressed to Alfredo beginning with the question asking if ordination was something Alfredo wanted. In a clear voice Alfredo replied, “Quiero, si.” “Yes I want/wish (it).”

Before the prayer of consecration Alfredo was robed in his chasuble by his mother. In a touching scene, Alfredo in his new chasuble knelt before his mother and she imparted her blessing and kissed him. It seemed to symbolically mean that she, on behalf of the family, was blessing him and releasing him to the Church.



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Prayers over the city repeated in 2021 as priest again takes to the skies with the Blessed Sacrament to pray for an end to the pandemic

Thu, 06/03/2021 - 04:04

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

For an hour on a Saturday in May, a unique Eucharistic procession in the air saw Fr. Matthew Ramsay once again flying with the Blessed Sacrament over the city, praying for an end to the COVID-19 pandemic, for healing and restoration for all those affected, and for good weather for the new growing season.

The May 29, 2021 flight was a repeat of a similar event near the start of the global pandemic, when the pastor of Saint Anne’s Parish in Saskatoon first took to the skies with local pilot William Hughes, to carry the Blessed Sacrament in a monstrance over the city in prayer. A statue of Our Lady of Fatima was also on board during both flights.

The events were organized with the help of a team of community members, many of whom were praying on the ground while the flight took place overhead.

The idea of prayers over the city captured the imagination and the gratitude of many who heard about it through social media or news reports.

(Submitted photo)

(Submitted photo)

(Submitted photo)


Video about the 2020 flight at the start of the pandemic:



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“Consecration to a life of virginity lived in the world” will be celebrated June 9 in Saskatoon

Wed, 06/02/2021 - 19:26

By Crystal Hampson

My journey of vocation discernment was a long one. I am a candidate for “consecration to a life of virginity lived in the world.” A special Rite will be celebrated June 9, at the Cathedral of the Holy Family in Saskatoon, at which I will be formally consecrated and admitted to this vocation.

This special Mass at 7 p.m. Wednesday, June 9 is open to everyone to attend (register here to attend in person or view the live-streamed video at

Consecrated virgins are women who live their life in the spirit of the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience.

They make a resolution of chastity in the hands of the bishop at the Rite of Consecration.

They don’t explicitly take vows of poverty or obedience, but they live in that same spirit. They spend considerable time in prayer each day. They typically pray the Liturgy of the Hours, particularly Morning and Evening Prayer, and attend daily Mass as they are able, plus other personal prayer.

They are not members of a religious community, and are not called “sister.” They do not wear a habit, but they wear a ring, which is the insignia of their consecration. They may receive a veil at their consecration, also as insignia. It is not part of their daily attire but worn on appropriate occasions.

They live in the ordinary circumstances of life, like most lay people, They earn their own living by having a job or a business. They contribute, usually in small ways, in service to the faith community or the wider community, based on their particular gifts, circumstances and way of life.

This way of life arose in the very early centuries of the Church, pre-dating most forms of religious life. It is in some ways a simpler version of the same general type of call: to live in celibate chastity, for the sake of the Kingdom. It originally applied to men as well as women.

Over time, it evolved and was generally absorbed into religious life. A particular Rite and prayer of consecration for women was developed in the early Church. Over time, it fell into disuse, though some monasteries of women used it.

Vatican II revived its use for women living in the world. The Rite was revised in 1970 and made available once again to women like me. According to a statement from the CCCB in 2018, there are about 60 consecrated virgins in Canada and an estimated 5,000 around the world.

The life of consecrated virgins places a special focus on celibacy or chastity. One of the requirements of candidates is “that they have never married, or lived in public or open violation of chastity.” Of course, if for example someone had been subjected to sexual violence or abuse, that would not exclude her from the possibility of this vocation. The vocation is then both fruit of a life of chastity and a commitment to it going forward.

The heart of this vocation is its spirituality, which is spousal spirituality. The vocation is a sign of God’s great, personal and intimate love for each of us, which we all experience to some degree now and will experience fully in the life to come.

This vocation is a complement to marriage. Both vocations show us the love between Christ and the Church. In Christian marriage, the spouses are this sign in their love for each other. In a complementary way, the love between the consecrated virgin and Christ is also a witness of the love between Christ and the Church. This is why the insignia, as well as many elements in the liturgy of the Rite, are nuptial references. The ring and the veil, for example, are bridal imagery and are signs of that the candidate has been dedicated to Christ, the Bridegroom of the Church.

I had not heard of this vocation until I had already been discerning for many years.

The thought of some form of religious vocation initially came to me in my early teens. Through my late teens and beyond, I continued to seek God, or more accurately, to respond to God who is already drawing us to himself. I explored the possibility of religious life, particularly contemplative or monastic community, but was not finding my place.

At one point, I came across a reference to consecrated virgins and looked up more about them. I read writings describing this vocation, sometimes quite beautifully. As I read, I felt within myself, “I think this might be it.”

A long period of continued discernment followed. I am cautious by nature and didn’t want to head in a wrong direction on such a big decision. I didn’t know much about this life or the women who lived it. Until you understand it well, it can even sound odd. I met or spoke with some of the women who live this life. I continued to search, pray and discern both this vocation and others.

Over time, I began to feel settled regarding this vocation. I stopped searching. It wasn’t that I had made a decision to live this life and then, having made a decision, I stopped searching. It was like whatever within me was impelling me to keep searching, for so many years, stopped here. Then as I began to take concrete steps towards this vocation, contacting specific people locally to talk about it, things kept working out positively. The effect on me seemed good, increasing in the fruit of the Spirit.

I approached the diocese and inquired. A period of assessment and preparation followed for a few years and ultimately Bishop Mark Hagemoen decided to admit me to this vocation through the upcoming celebration on June 9.

The experience of living this vocation is really quite beautiful. It is difficult to do it justice as I try to explain it here. To centre my life on God, and to live increasingly deeply in his awe-inspiring love for us, in this particular way, is an incredible gift and a great joy.

It is truly amazing how the Spirit inspires in the Church a variety of vocations, yet they all form a harmony, with each one being beautiful in a different way.

Let us celebrate these varied signs of the goodness and creativity of God.



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Pope Francis releases video message on the beauty of marriage: prayer intention for June

Wed, 06/02/2021 - 18:49

By Courtney Mares, Catholic News Agency

“Getting married and sharing one’s life is something beautiful,” Pope Francis said in a video message published June 1.

“It is a demanding journey, at times difficult, and at times complicated, but it is worth making the effort.”

The Vatican released a video message to present the pope’s prayer intention for June.

The pope is asking people to pray that couples preparing for marriage with the support of a Christian community may “grow in love, with generosity, faithfulness and patience.”

In his video message, Pope Francis said that marriage is a vocation and “a conscious decision for the rest of one’s life that requires specific preparation.”

“And on this life-long journey, the husband and wife aren’t alone; Jesus accompanies them,” he said.

The prayer request by the pope comes after the marriage rate in the United States hit a record low in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic caused people to postpone marriage plans.

In the European Union, the marriage rate has fallen to nearly half of what it was in 1964, and the divorce rate has more than doubled.

Italy had the lowest marriage rate among all EU countries in 2019 with only 3.1 marriages per 1,000 inhabitants.

Pope Francis said: “Is it true, what some people say—that young people don’t want to get married, especially during these difficult times?”

“A great deal of patience is necessary in order to love,” he said. “But it is worth it.”

Each month, the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network produces a video to spread the pope’s prayer intention. In 2021, these intentions have ranged from prayer for women who are victims of violence to prayer that more people will return to the sacrament of confession.

The Vatican Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life contributed to the publication of this month’s video as part of the “Special year of the family,” which began on March 19.

Gabriella Gambino, undersecretary of the dicastery, said that it important to prepare “young people and engaged couples for a real vocation, not just for the celebration of a wedding.”

“To understand the presence of Christ in the daily lives of engaged couples, and then of spouses, by building on the meaning of Baptism is indispensable in giving young people the certainty that their family project is a response to a definitive call and that this project is possible,” she said.

“In a secularized society that no longer believes in marriage, it is fundamental to proclaim the strength and power of the sacrament as a vocation and to show that family relationships can have a salvific value for people and be a path to holiness. It is a matter of concretely bringing Christ into the lives of families.”

Pope Francis said: “Please, never forget this. God has a dream for us —love— and He asks us to make it his own.”

“Let us make our own the love which is God’s dream for us.”


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Revitalizing languages key to implementing United Nations Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Wed, 06/02/2021 - 18:30
Reviving lost dialects may be too late, some fear

By Michael Swan, The Catholic Register

[Toronto – Canadian Catholic News] – When it came time to officially endorse the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Guadalupe Circle chose to focus on what UNDRIP could mean for defending and revitalizing endangered languages.

“The Our Lady of Guadalupe Circle continues to emphasize the importance of Indigenous languages,” the group said in a Pentecost Sunday statement, saying it is “committed to encouraging and celebrating the revitalization of these teachings and languages.”

Canada’s Indigenous languages are up against extinction and the primary collaboration between Catholic bishops and Indigenous elders knows it.

The role of Church-run residential schools in eradicating Indigenous languages has been highlighted by the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission report and its 94 Calls to Action. With passage of Bill C-15, Canada will have to make its laws consistent with Article 13 of UNDRIP.

“Indigenous peoples have the right to revitalize, use, develop and transmit to future generations their histories, languages, oral traditions, philosophies, writing systems and literatures, and to designate and retain their own names for communities, places and persons,” reads the 2007 UN resolution.

That would fall in line with TRC Call to Action 14, which demands Parliament enact an “Aboriginal Languages Act.” But it may be too late, said Mary Ann Corbiere, associate professor of Anishnaabe language at the University of Sudbury.

“I’m not optimistic,” Corbiere said. “The only hope is that there will be a small group, or there is a small group, who both have the aptitude and the commitment.”

Corbiere has spent the last 30 years documenting her mother tongue and producing educational materials used by language teachers throughout traditional Anishinaabe territory surrounding the Great Lakes. Despite the effort, few young people have advanced enough in their language to be called truly fluent, she said.

“They’re still often just stuck at rote questions and answers, rote phrases, word lists. For whatever reason, there is an issue with the curriculum.”

Nor does Corbiere see a role for the Church in helping Indigenous people recover their language. While many elders remain committed Christians, young people have turned their back on the Church, she said.

The residential schools history, highlighted again by the discovery of a mass grave at a residential school in Kamloops, isn’t helping.

“Among the younger learners, I do detect quite an anti-Christian bias now, because they’ve heard about the residential schools and they are feeling hurt on behalf of their elders, who were in the residential schools. I suspect they would be resistant,” she said.

Linguists predict that by the end of this century 90 per cent of the 6,000 to 7,000 languages spoken on Earth, most of them Indigenous, will be extinct. There’s no reason to believe Canada can avoid the language die-off.

“We’re at a very precarious stage there in terms of intergenerational transmission,” she said. “Even the language I speak, which most people know as Ojibway — we ourselves generally say we’re Anishnaabe — even though it’s considered among those with the strongest chances of survival, along with Inuktitut and Cree, even in our case….” The challenge the Anishnaabe face is the “many small communities where there’s just one or two elders in some cases that still speak the language.”

Any language revitalization has to be at the invitation and the initiative of Indigenous people themselves, Scarboro Foreign Missions linguist Fr. Ron MacDonell said.

MacDonell has spent more than 20 years in the northern reaches of the Amazon basin helping the Makushi people defend and revitalize their language. With a radio station operating in Makushi and new books being published, the effort has been fairly successful.

MacDonell does not doubt that the Church must help where it can.

“Pope Francis said very clearly (at the Synod for the Amazon) that the world has to listen to the wisdom of Indigenous peoples. Are we hearing what the Pope and what the synod has said?” he asks. “If you’re going to listen to the wisdom of the Indigenous peoples, isn’t it better to do it in their languages?”

MacDonell doesn’t see how a commitment to people can be separated from a commitment to their language and culture.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Circle is a Catholic coalition of Indigenous people, bishops, clergy, lay movements and institutes of consecrated life, engaged in renewing and fostering relationships between the Catholic Church and Indigenous Peoples in Canada.


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Vancouver archbishop promises transparency, support after Kamloops discovery

Wed, 06/02/2021 - 18:21

By B.C. Catholic staff

[Vancouver – Canadian Catholic News] – Vancouver Archbishop J. Michael Miller June 2 announced a plan to offer increased supports and transparency to First Nations people in the wake of the discovery of an unmarked burial site near a former residential school in Kamloops.

“The Church was unquestionably wrong in implementing a government colonialist policy which resulted in devastation for children, families, and communities,” he said June 2.

The archbishop repeated his commitment to the apology he gave before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2013: “I wish to apologize sincerely and profoundly to the survivors and families, as well as to all those subsequently affected, for the anguish caused by the deplorable conduct of those Catholics who perpetrated mistreatment of any kind in these residential schools.”

Adding that apologies must be followed with concrete actions, today he committed to five “first steps” to support First Nations people and others affected. They are:

  • Being “fully transparent” with archdiocesan archives and records regarding all residential schools and encouraging other Catholic and government organizations to do likewise.
  • Offering and supporting mental health support and counselling for people whose loved ones may be buried at the Kamloops site.
  • Offering assistance with “technological and professional support” to help Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc and other First Nations people affected to honour, retrieve, and remember their children in whatever way they choose.
  • Committing to supporting the same for all Nations where Catholic-run residential schools were located within the historical bounds of the Archdiocese of Vancouver.
  • Renewing efforts to listen to Indigenous people about how best to walk together “along the path of justice.”

“Each time new evidence of a tragedy is revealed, or another victim comes forward, countless wounds are reopened, and I know that you experience renewed suffering,” he said.

“We recognize that there is so much work that remains to be done, yet we hope that, if we persevere in these commitments with humility, we can restore the trust among us that will bring healing.”

Vancouver Archbishop Michael Miller – Statement

Saskatoon Bishop Mark Hagemoen – June 2 Letter

Last week the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation reported the discovery of an estimated 215 bodies in an unmarked grave at the site of a former residential school in Kamloops. Chief Rosanne Casimir said there was a “knowing” in the community that was recently confirmed by ground penetrating radar.

The Kamloops Indian Residential School was opened in 1890 and run by Catholics and the Canadian federal government. The federal government took over administration in 1969 and ran it as a residential building for students at day schools. It was closed in 1978.

Catholic bishops across Canada as well as two religious orders (Oblates and Sisters of St. Ann) have expressed deep sadness over the news.


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The power of the Eucharist to transform

Wed, 06/02/2021 - 16:41

By Peter Oliver, Olive Branch Marriage and Family Ministry

“Jesus’ Blood never failed me yet, never failed me yet, Jesus’ blood never failed me yet, there’s one thing I know, for he loves me so…” These are the lilting words of a homeless man that Gavin Bryars transformed into an astounding piece of classical music.  With the celebration of the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ this Sunday, we might ask what Bryars’ inventive music could teach us about the reception of Eucharist by people who are not currently welcome at the table.

There is much that is astounding about Bryars’ composition but one of the things that struck me was the visage of an entire orchestra poised to begin playing while a recording of the homeless man’s words fills the concert hall.  What is astounding about this is that they remain so poised for a full four minutes while the words quoted above loop over and over.  Jesus’ blood has never failed me yet, repeated over and over and over and over for a full four minutes, by a homeless man, and a full orchestra together with the audience, completely mesmerized!!!

Now that’s extraordinary! But it doesn’t stop there.

Consider this comment from the YouTube site which features the full hour and fifteen minute concert:  “I’m not religious and my dad’s the most atheist person I know, but whenever we put this song on, we just go back to the past, driving along amidst the woods in a foggy morning to get to our country house which took more than an hour to get to. This song played during the whole trip. I used to tell my dad “It’s enough already don’t you think? The song should be shorter” I’ve never been so wrong in my life. Thank you for showing me this masterpiece dad.”

Seriously!  Wow! What homilist could hope to hold the attention of “the most atheistic person I know” for more than an hour and with only a repeated reference to Jesus’ blood not failing us?  And this is only one of many similar comments.

Wow!  Wow! And wow!

So… what is the application to pastoral questions concerning those who are not welcome at the Eucharistic table?  The story connected with Bryars music is instructive.  The homeless man’s song was captured on tape when Bryars was working on a film about people in the rougher part of London.  The recording was not used in the film but Bryars was intrigued by a slight irregularity and the way it harmonized with his piano, so he decided to record a loop of the song on a continuous real tape. Bryars goes on to say, “The door of the recording room opened on to one of the large painting studios and I left the tape copying, with the door open, while I went to have a cup of coffee. When I came back, I found the normally lively room unnaturally subdued. People were moving about much more slowly than usual, and a few were sitting alone, quietly weeping (Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet, Wikipedia).” And that’s “the something” we can learn.

Bryars was alert to the power of the song and its effect on the people who encountered it. Now if a homeless man’s song about Jesus’ blood can mesmerize and transform such a wide array of people, surely the Eucharist, the actual encounter with Jesus’ Body and Blood, must have the power to mesmerize and transform those who are baptized into the paschal mystery. It strikes me that a conviction such as this is behind Pope Francis’ words in Amoris Laetitia when he says,  “I would also point out that the Eucharist “is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment  for the weak (ibid., 47: 1039)” (note: 351)”.  But then again, what do I know?

“…there is one thing I know; Jesus’ blood has never failed me yet.”


In partnership with Queen’s House of Retreats, Olive Branch Marriage and Family Ministry is offering two new programs: Bitter or Better  and Marital Separation: Money and Property

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Rules on embryo research relaxed: 14-day limit prohibition abandoned

Wed, 06/02/2021 - 14:37

By Michael Swan, The Catholic Register

The international scientific body governing stem cell research is abandoning the absolute 14-day limit on culturing human embryos in the laboratory, putting pressure on Canada’s law prohibiting the practice.

“As happens so often in human affairs, opening the door on a controversial but somewhat defensible position (not from the Church’s point of view though) bumps up against a boundary which is first deemed arbitrary and then seen as limiting true science. So the push is on to expand the pool of available research material,” Redemptorist bioethicist Fr. Mark Miller told The Catholic Register in an e-mail.

On May 26 the International Society for Stem Cell Research said it was relaxing the 14-day rule, which prohibited experiments on human embryos past 14 days of development in the lab. Rather than replace or extend the limit, the ISSCR now believes studies proposing to grow human embryos beyond two weeks should be considered on a case-by-case basis, subject to several phases of review.

Up to 14 days, a human blastocyst (the earliest stage of fetal development) consists almost entirely of pluripotent cells — cells that could develop into the constitutive elements of any organ in the human body. Beyond 14 days, the fetus becomes more complex and cells begin to acquire the specific attributes of the organs they will become.

Following a decade-long Royal Commission on New Reproductive Technologies, Ottawa passed the Assisted Human Reproduction Act in 2004, which says, “No person shall knowingly … maintain an embryo outside the body of a female person after the 14th day of its development following fertilization or creation, excluding any time during which its development has been suspended.”

Blowing past the 14-day limit opens up a pandora’s box of ethical challenges, said Archdiocese of Toronto research director Suzanne Scorsone. Scorsone was a commissioner on the Royal Commission in the 1990s.

“You are dealing with the attempted re-opening of an utterly huge subject,” she said in an e-mail. “The difficulty of distinguishing pure research from commercial applications is very much at the core of the issues.”

Society has a legitimate role in regulating scientific research, Scorsone said.

“There will always be some people who will be trying to push the boundaries for their own interests, aware or unaware that they are pushing beyond what is for the common good or in keeping with human dignity,” she said. “… wider society does have to oversee and set the terms in law for doing this.”

Scientists themselves recognize and welcome outside scrutiny, Jesuit geneticist and microbiologist Fr. Rob Allore said.

“Scientific developments do often run ahead of the public discourse,” Allore wrote in an e-mail. “Many scientists today believe it is important to find meaningful ways to include the wider public in the discourse around various research practices.”

While the Church has maintained opposition to in-vitro fertilization and experimentation on the developing human fetus, what limits should be placed on science and how to enforce them have been live issues since culturing humans in labs became possible in the 1970s. Human embryonic stem cell research began in the 1990s. Dolly the sheep was cloned in 1996. CRISPR technology for reading gene sequences began in 2005, but the possibilities became much more apparent in 2013 with CRISPR-Cas9 genome-editing technology. (CRISPR stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats, a way of describing how gene sequences can be read).

Recent experimentation that has cultured lab-grown monkey embryos for up to 20 days and the possibility of creating human-monkey chimeras (beings that contain genetic codes from two different species) has further pushed the envelope on embryonic stem cell research.

“It would be untrue to suggest that there is only one opinion among scientists on this issue,” said Allore.

The Church’s opposition to all forms of lab-made human fetuses should not mean that there is no Catholic voice on this developing science, according to Allore.

“The Church has, generally, been interested in having a creative role in conversations about research involving human subjects and human biological material. This interest extends to the discourse around in-vitro fertilization and stem cell technologies,” he said. “It is not true that scientific research requires that any and all experimental procedures must be permitted. … Engagement with the wider public is a necessary feature of a healthy atmosphere for research.”

Allore points out that the promise of therapeutic breakthroughs using fetal stem cells never materialized, while research on more accessible adult stem cells has produced results.

“The argument that there is only one good way to approach research in a particular field is clearly a false one,” he said.
The role of the Church will be to focus debate on some basic questions, said Miller.

“What or who are you performing your experiments on?” he asks. “There will be some interesting answers, like ‘pre-human life,’ ‘developing human life,’ but no reference to the individual and the sanctity of life.”

Miller wants to know whether research on lab-cultured human fetuses beyond 14 days is “really aimed at greater knowledge or alleviation of issues around pregnancy and birth? Or is there something more specific and possibly more lucrative if discoveries lead to patented procedures? In short, is it a fishing trip?”

As far as he can see, breaking the 14-day barrier “is one more example of human beings and human lives being dismissed because they are worth more under the microscope of a researcher.”


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Those who trust in the Lord will find new strength

Tue, 06/01/2021 - 19:07

By Fr. Edward Gibney, State Chaplain, Saskatchewan Knights of Columbus 

(Re-printed with permission from the May 2021 edition of the Knightline newsletter)

The Book of Isaiah, referring to God, tells us, “He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”

I am sure that we are all feeling a bit tired these days. The past year has been a strain on us all. By nature, humanity is a communal people, desiring to be with others and very importantly, gaining strength from social get-togethers, group sporting events and multi-person work efforts. But all of these things have been restricted for the past year as has the communal nature of church gatherings. We are all tired of these changes that have become regular parts of our daily lives and we need God’s help to combat these feelings.

God made us flesh and blood human beings. At Creation, he set aside one full day of rest per week because he knew we would need it. Jesus, in the time that he walked on earth, lived in a human body, so he understands what it means to be tired. He often would slip away, by himself, to pray and to recharge his batteries, so to speak. In this, he also understood the limitations of his disciples as they went out to spread the Good News to other communities, and so he regularly led them in taking breaks to pray and rejuvenate. Our lives, today, have a certain level of busyness, but they are also filled with frustration which exhausts our minds and saps energy from our bodies, and so our lives must be balanced by regular attention to the health of our bodies AND our souls.

Being overly tired is dangerous because it can keep us from thinking clearly or cause us to do or say something we might regret later. The devil is prepared to tempt those whose minds are weakened by frustrations and by lack of closeness to our divine Master. But at the same time, our weariness is an opportunity to experience God’s faithfulness, as long as we allow ourselves to open up to him. If we do, He will give us renewed strength when we grow weary. When we come to Him in praise and adoration, he refreshes our hearts. When we come to him in prayer, he refreshes our souls. When we come to him in community, he refreshes our Faith. When we come to him in need, he refreshes our trust. When we come to him in thankfulness, he refreshes our relationship with him. Coming to God releases us from our burdens and allows us to draw strength from him, the source of all strength.

We may not be physically tired by our current situation; we may not be tired in a fashion that we normally consider, but the frustrations we are experiencing in our world today are causing us to be tired in ways in which we are not accustomed. But God is with us to help us in all our weaknesses and powerlessness.

And so we are reminded of the words of Jesus who said, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” The changes that have come into our lives in the past year are, indeed, a heavy burden. Come to Jesus and he will lighten your load.

May God Bless you and keep you safe.

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Funeral held for Fr. Ron Beechinor (1936-2021)

Tue, 06/01/2021 - 18:36

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski

A funeral was held June 1, 2021 for Fr. Ron Beechinor, on the same date that he was ordained as a priest for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon 58 years ago.

Fr. Beechinor died May 27 in hospital at the age of 84 years.

Born and raised in Saskatoon and ordained June 1, 1963 by Bishop Francis Klein, Fr. Beechinor’s responsibilities positions and responsibilities in the diocese of Saskatoon over the years have included serving as Diocesan Administrator between bishops on two occasions – from July 2000 to October 2001 (between Bishops Weisgerber and LeGatt), and from September 2009 to March 2010 (between Bishops LeGatt and Bolen).

He also served as Vicar General for three bishops in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon  – Bishop James Weisgerber, Bishop Albert LeGatt and Bishop Donald Bolen.

As well, for some 50 years, Fr. Beechinor was associated with Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools where he helped foster an environment that embraced the values of the Catholic Church, and provided spiritual guidance to all who worked within the school system.

Parishes that Fr. Beechinor served over the years – sometimes more than once – have included St. Philip Neri, St. Francis Xavier, Holy Family, St. Paul Cathedral, St Peter the Apostle, St. Anne, Our Lady of Lourdes and St. John Bosco in the city of Saskatoon; as well as St. Anne, Delisle; St. Anthony, Blucher; St. Theresa, Asquith; St. Anne, Arelee; St. Mark, Langham; St. Columkille, Radisson; St. Francis, Vanscoy, St. George Chapel, Dundurn; St. Aloysius, Allan; St. Alphonse, Viscount; and St. Mary, Colonsay.

Among the celebrants at the funeral Mass were Bishop Mark Hagemoen of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon, Archbishop Donald Bolen of the Archdiocese of Regina, and Archbishop Emeritus James Weisgerber (who served as both bishop of Saskatoon and of Winnipeg).

Priests from across the diocese of Saskatoon, former colleagues, friends and family were also in attendance at the celebration, which was live-streamed because of restricted attendance under COVID-19 regulations (find the video below).

As per Fr. Beechinor’s request, Fr. Ken Beck was the homilist at the funeral Mass.

“We gather in this holy place to give thanks for Fr. Ron,” Beck said, reflecting on the readings from Isaiah, from the Second Letter of John and the Gospel of Matthew in light of Fr. Beechinor’s faith and how he lived his life. “Fr. Ron believed those words; Fr. Ron lived those words,” Beck said of the powerful scripture passages about being loved by God.

The Beatitudes in the Gospel of Matthew bring together what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, explained Beck, adding that those who knew Fr. Beechinor will recognize and treasure the memory of the same qualities of discipleship in his life and service.

At the conclusion of the celebration, Archbishop Emeritus James Weisgerber reflected on the long friendship he shared with Fr. Beechinor.

“Ron and I shared a lot of history,” Weisgerber, said. “As teenagers we were both in Muenster (at St. Peter’s Abbey) where we got our education. And on June the first, 1963 – 58 years ago today – we were both ordained, along with Ralph Kleiter.”

Weisgerber added: “Many of you are too young to know that 1963 was smack in the middle of the Second Vatican Council and we had a lot of energy to expend to try and figure out how to implement the council – that took up so much of our time.”

When Weisgerber arrived in Saskatoon as the new bishop, one of the first tasks for the new bishop was to name a Vicar General for the diocese. “So in the light of the council, I decided to consult the priests – sent out a letter asking for the three suggestions, and Ron was the one who was chosen.”

“It was a little strange because he had not spent a lot of time working in the diocese…  he was completely dedicated, wonderfully dedicated to Catholic education all those years – but he accepted. And he was absolutely wonderful. He was supportive, he was open, he did not have any personal agenda, and he always told the truth, even when it hurt a lot, and he had a great capacity to laugh and to smile. It was great, great to be with him.”

Before the final commendation, Archbishop Donald Bolen also spoke about Fr. Beechinor, who served as Vicar General during Bolen’s first four-and-a-half years as bishop of Saskatoon.

“Three things stand out among many that I remember him for: the first was the warmth of his personality, his kindness, his gentle spirit, his goodness of heart; secondly, his willingness to do anything that we asked, and as Vicar General he knew what we needed, and he knew the most difficult situations that arose and was often willing to take those on,” said Bolen.

“Thirdly, he was so deeply human. He had a great capacity for friendship for relationship, he cherished and loved his family… he was so profoundly human in all its glory and all its struggles… We entrust him to God, who loves what it is to be human, who loves Ron – may he rest in peace and rise in glory.”

Archbishop Emeritus James Weisgerber, Bishop Mark Hagemoen and Archbishop Donald Bolen were among the celebrants at the funeral Mass for Fr. Ron Beechinor June 1 in Saskatoon.

Obituary of Ronald Lawrence Beechinor – LINK

Born August 15, 1936, Ron Beechinor was raised in Saskatoon by his parents John and Anne, along with nine siblings.

He is survived by his nephews: Mike Beechinor, Tim (Lisa) Beechinor, John Beechinor, Kevin (Stephanie) Beechinor, Tom (Lindsay) Beechinor, Tom Feasby, Mike Feasby, Paul Feasby, Jim Feasby, Christopher Wells, Brian Doherty, Douglas Muzyka, Jim Muzyka, and  his nieces; Colleen Cartwright, Melaine Beechinor, Linda Victorino, Kathleen Sarson, Susan Carter, Bridget Munnoch, Megan Wells, Jennifer Wells, Barbara Wilcox, Catherine Kiar, Elizabeth Rene` Roy, Isobel Ferrara, Patricia Diamond, Lara Taylor, Donna Muzyka, Joanne Rush. Also left to mourn are numerous friends, Sean, his ever faithful canine companion, and a lifetime of acquaintances influenced by his presence.

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Pope Francis unveils sweeping reform of Catholic Church’s penal sanctions

Tue, 06/01/2021 - 14:18

By Courtney Mares, Catholic News Agency

[Rome – CNA] –  On June 1, 2021, the Vatican published major revisions to Book VI of the Code of Canon Law, which covers penal law in the Church, including sanctions related to clerical sexual abuse.

The revisions, which have been more than a decade in the making, were first commissioned by Benedict XVI with the aim of making the code’s penal sanctions more effective and applied evenly across the Church.

Pope Francis introduced the changes with the apostolic constitution Pascite gregem Dei (“Tend the Flock of God”). He wrote that those who have committed a crime “need both mercy and correction on the part of the Church.”

The pope said that the revisions have improved “fundamental aspects of criminal law, such as the right of defense, the statute of limitations for criminal action, [and] a more precise determination of penalties.”

The reforms also introduced new crimes in the area of economic and financial matters to canon law and moved the canons concerning the crime of sexual abuse of minors and crimes of child pornography from the section on “crimes against special obligations” to that of “crimes against life, dignity, and freedom of the person,” as CNA reported earlier this month.

Under the revised laws, lay people, including founders of lay religious movements and parish employees, can also be sanctioned for sexual abuse.

The Vatican initiated the reform to canon law because of concerns that some parts of the Church were failing to apply penal sanctions amid the burgeoning abuse crisis.

“In the past, much damage has been caused by the Church’s failure to perceive the intimate relationship between the exercise of charity and recourse — when circumstances and justice require it — to the discipline of punishment,” Pope Francis wrote in Pascite gregem Dei.

“Such a way of thinking — experience teaches us — risks leading to living with behavior contrary to the discipline of morals, for the remedy of which exhortations or suggestions alone are not sufficient. This situation often brings with it the danger that, with the passage of time, such behavior will become consolidated to the point of making it more difficult to correct and in many cases creating scandal and confusion among the faithful.”

Pope Francis signed Pascite gregem Dei on the Solemnity of Pentecost and the text was released on June 1. The revisions to Book VI will enter into force on Dec. 8, 2021.

At a Vatican press conference, Archbishop Filippo Iannone, the president of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, the Vatican department that oversaw the changes, said that there had been misunderstandings about the relationship between justice and mercy in recent years.

This has “fed a climate of excessive laxity in the application of criminal law” in the Church, the archbishop said.

“The presence of some irregular situations within the communities, but above all the recent scandals, which have emerged from the disconcerting and very serious episodes of pedophilia, has, however, led to the need to reinvigorate canonical penal law, integrating it with precise legislative reforms,” Iannone explained.

Bishop Juan Ignacio Arrieta Ochoa de Chinchetru, the secretary of the pontifical council, highlighted how the revised Code of Canon Law now includes crimes that have been typified in recent years in special laws, such as “the attempted ordination of women, recording of confessions, and sacrilegious consecration of the Eucharistic species.”

He said that new cases enumerated in the code also include the violation of papal secrecy; the omission of the obligation to execute a sentence or penal decree; the omission of the obligation to give notice of the commission of a crime; and the illegitimate abandonment of the ministry.

Msgr. Markus Graulich, the council’s undersecretary, said in an interview with CNA Deutsch, CNA’s German-language news partner, that these changes to Church law were necessary because the previous criminal law was not very “user-friendly.”

“In many places, punishments were mentioned only as a possibility, and the whole text gave the impression that it was almost merciless to apply punishments,” he said.

“In this regard, it must be remembered that the penal law was renewed at a time when the law in the Church, and especially the penal law, was fundamentally questioned. Today — also due to the examination of the abuse of minors — the atmosphere is different.”

The Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts is not itself a lawmaker, but assists the pope, who is the Church’s supreme legislator, in drafting, and interpreting canon law.

Pope Benedict XV established the pontifical council following his promulgation of the first Code of Canon Law in 1917. The Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts has since played a role in interpreting the decrees of the Second Vatican Council and revising the code of canon law. A new code for the Latin Catholic Church was promulgated in 1983, and a code of canons for Eastern Catholic Churches was promulgated in 1990.

The council worked for more than a decade on the revisions to Book VI, published on June 1.

Archbishop Iannone said: “This reform, which is presented today, therefore, as necessary and long-awaited, has the aim of making universal penal norms ever more suitable for the protection of the common good and of the individual faithful, more congruent with the demands of justice and more effective and adequate in today’s ecclesial context.”



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Grief and trauma of Kamloops residential school discovery resonates in diocese

Mon, 05/31/2021 - 11:40

UPDATE June 2, 2021 – Bishop Hagemoen releases follow-up letter – LINK

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

(With files from The B.C. Catholic – CCN)

[Saskatoon – May 31, 2021] – The steps of St. Paul Co-Cathedral in Saskatoon were lined with tiny pairs of children’s shoes May 30, placed there by members of the community to commemorate the lives of 215 children whose unmarked graves were recently found on the grounds of a residential school in Kamloops, B.C. that operated from 1890 to 1978.

Cathedral Rector Fr. Stefano Penna welcomed those placing the tribute on the steps, and celebrated the Sunday evening Mass with the doors open, observing four minutes of silence during the penitential rite to pray for the children who died at residential schools. At the start of his homily for Trinity Sunday earlier that day, Bishop Hagemoen called for a minute of silence to pray for the children, their families and communities.

“This silence was to honour others and to honour God on the occasion of the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity,” Hagemoen explained. “While we may not have the words and plan worked out – God shows us through Jesus Christ the way of love, respect, accompaniment, and healing that we must follow.”

Elders and leaders at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Saskatoon – which serves Indigenous, First Nations, Métis and non-Indigenous parishioners, including many residential school survivors and their descendants – gathered for prayer and ceremony May 31 in response to the news of the discovery recently released by the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation.

A prayer event is being planned in the diocese, with details to be announced in the near future.

Fr. Stefano Penna, Rector of St. Paul Co-Cathedral participates in Smudging prayers on the steps of St. Paul Co-Cathedral, where members of the community placed children’s shoes and other items to honour the children who died in residential schools. (Submitted photo)

On May 31, Bishop Mark Hagemoen also released a statement  to the diocese about the discovery.

“I join with my brother bishops in B.C. and beyond with expressing on behalf of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon, my sadness and sympathy to Chief Rosanne Casimir of the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Nation who are mourning the loss of young people upon the discovery of 215 unmarked graves on the site of the former residential school on the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation,” Hagemoen said. “I also express sympathy for the many residential school survivors and their families for whom this news is again the occasion for great mourning and grief.”

Hagemoen also expressed his respect for the memorial tribute on the steps of St. Paul Co-Cathedral. “These items will be left in place in the coming days, in solidarity with other memorials and events being held by schools, our provincial and federal governments, and other organizations,” the bishop said.

“May this occasion of mourning and grief also be the occasion for renewed commitment and efforts to build caring relationships between our Indigenous and non-Indigenous brothers and sisters, in a world that continues to grapple with a history that often falls short. The discovered 215 graves is a reminder of this history. Our respectful silence and solidarity together can be a part of the long and careful journey to an unknown and hopeful future,” said Hagemoen.

Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation statement – LINK

CCCB Statement – LINK

Bishop Mark Hagemoen – May 31 / Bishop Mark Hagemoen – June 2 follow-up

St. Thomas More College President Still Statement – LINK

Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools prayer – LINK

Historical list of apologies from Catholic organizations and leaders – LINK

Related article from Kamloops This Week newspaper: “Religious order ran Kamloops school reaches out”

Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation May 27 publicly reported the findings of ground-penetrating radar that confirmed the “unthinkable loss” of the undocumented bodies of more than 200 children on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School.

“We had a knowing in our community,” Chief Rosanne Casimir said of the discovery, adding that some of the children were as young as three years old. “We sought out a way to confirm that knowing out of deepest respect and love for those lost children and their families, understanding that Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc is the final resting place of these children.”

The Kamloops Indian Residential School was opened in 1890 and run by Catholics and the Canadian federal government. It was the largest in the Indian Affairs residential school system, with enrolment reaching a high of 500 students in the early 1950s.

The school was one of five residential schools run by Catholic religious orders in the historical geographic boundaries of the Archdiocese of Vancouver. In 1945, with the establishment of the present-day Diocese of Kamloops, the school fell under the boundaries of the new diocese.

The school eventually ceased running classes and in 1969 the federal government took over administration. At the time it was being used as a residential building for students at day schools. It was closed in 1978.

“I am filled with deep sadness at the troubling news about the 215 children found buried at the Kamloops Indian Residential School,” said Archbishop J. Michael Miller of the Archdiocese of Vancouver. “The pain that such news causes reminds us of our ongoing need to bring light to every tragic situation that occurred in residential schools run by the Church. The passage of time does not erase the suffering that touches the Indigenous communities affected, and we pledge to do whatever we can to heal that suffering.”

Bishop Joseph Nguyen of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Kamloops (formed in 1945 as a suffrage of the Archdiocese of Vancouver) said: “I humbly join so many who are heartbroken and horrified” by the news of the discovery.

“On behalf of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Kamloops, I express my deepest sympathy to Chief Rosanne Casimir of the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Nation and to all who are mourning this tragedy and an unspeakable loss. No words of sorrow could adequately describe this horrific discovery,” Nguyen said, offering his prayers on behalf of the diocese for the First Nations community.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) released a statement May 31 about the discovery of the unmarked graves in Kamloops. “As we see ever more clearly the pain and suffering of the past, the bishops of Canada pledge to continue walking side-by-side with Indigenous Peoples in the present, seeking greater healing and reconciliation for the future,” wrote CCCB President Bishop Richard Gagnon of Winnipeg.

In the diocese of Saskatoon, Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools held special prayers, and joined other groups in lowering flags to half-mast. St. Thomas More College President Carl Still released a statement May 31, expressing sorrow, pain and commitment to “the work of transforming Canadian society.”

“The discovery of these 215 children sparks a range of emotions,” said Still. “Perry Bellegarde, National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, reminds us that ‘while it is not new to find graves at former residential schools in Canada, it’s always crushing to have that chapter’s wounds exposed.’ These crushing moments might tempt us to look away. However, to live in solidarity and to walk authentically along the path of reconciliation requires the courage to face the truth of our collective histories. We send out our compassion along with our prayers for all those who are suffering right now.”

In the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation statement about the discovery, Kukpi7 Rosanne Casimir said: “We are thankful for the Pathway to Healing grant we received to undertake this important work. Given the size of the school, with up to 500 students registered and attending at any one time, we understand that this confirmed loss affects First Nations communities across British Columbia and beyond.”

The First Nation said next steps include working with a coroner, reaching out to communities whose children may have attended the school, protecting the locations of the remains, and seeking records of the deaths.

The tragedy of missing children, unmarked graves, and residential school cemeteries was documented by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2013. Its final report,  Honouring the Truth, included several Calls to action, including the updating of records on the deaths of Indigenous children, completion of a national student death register, and creation of an online registry of residential school cemeteries with maps showing the location of deceased residential school children.

The Missing Children Project documents the deaths and the burial places of children who died while attending the schools. To date, more than 4,100 children who died while attending a residential school have been identified. (Source:




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Diocese of Saskatoon Catholic Foundation announces appointment of new Executive Director

Thu, 05/27/2021 - 13:36

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

Community and the strong foundations provided by faith are among the touchstones for the new Executive Director of the Diocese of Saskatoon Catholic Foundation.

Raissa Bugyi will begin her new role July 5, 2021. Her appointment was announced May 27 by Ray Kolla, Chair of the Diocese of Saskatoon Catholic Foundation, the fund-raising arm that supports the work of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon.

“On behalf of the Catholic Foundation and Bishop Mark Hagemoen, I am delighted to announce the appointment of a new Executive Director for the Diocese of Saskatoon Catholic Foundation,” said Kolla in a letter to parishes, pastors, staff and parishioners across the diocese.

“Raissa comes to us with a deep understanding and appreciation for the importance of community and faith. Most recently she has served as Executive Director of Preston Park II Retirement Residence in Saskatoon, and has extensive experience in marketing and management,” Kolla said.

Announcement from Diocese of Saskatoon Catholic Foundation – PDF

Raissa Bugyi will succeed Executive Director Don Gorsalitz, who has served as the Executive Director of the Catholic Foundation since it was established. Gorsalitz is leaving that role in order to focus more time on his consulting firm, DCG Philanthropic Services Inc.

Thanks to Don Gorsalitz

On behalf of the Catholic Foundation board and the diocese of Saskatoon, Kolla thanked Don Gorsalitz for his “dedication, commitment and outstanding service.”

“Don’s generosity in providing his expertise, professionalism and passion in a volunteer capacity, leading the Catholic Foundation through its establishment and growth, and his many stewardship and fund-raising accomplishments in our diocese over the years has had an immeasurable impact on our diocesan Church and the wider community,” said Kolla.

Reflecting on the transition, Bishop Mark Hagemoen said: ““We will miss Don Gorsalitz very very much. He has contributed so much to building our diocese. However, I am very grateful that God has provided us Raissa, to build on the good work and strong foundation established by Don.”

Introducing the new Executive Director

Raissa (pronounced “Ray-sha”) Bugyi was born in Lestock, SK, and grew up in Wishart, SK, as a member of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish. She points to the faith and the example of her parents as the foundation for her own sense of community.

“It is those roots that matter so much,” she said, describing the great example her parents provided as she was growing up.

“Faith was always important. My parents’ doors were always open. If one more person came for a Christmas meal or a family meal, my mother would never turn anyone away. She would say ‘invite whomever you want, we will make it work.’”

That strong spirit of generosity and service is behind Bugyi’s interest in philanthropy and working with the community to make the world a better place.  “I feel it is so important to give, and to teach people how to give, to provide an opportunity for them to give, and to help them to realize that when you give, you get so much back.”

The blessings of serving at Preston Park II have reinforced that firm belief, she added. “The people I have met here do not realize how much they have given back to me,” says Bugyi, describing her “soft spot” for seniors.

Children and youth are another priority for Bugyi, the mother of four. “As a community, we can do so much more to give our kids solid roots.”

She added: “Everybody has a story, everybody has challenges and hardships – it is what we do with that experience that matters. Instead of focusing on the struggle, we can turn that into a positive…. And when you have a sense of community and of acceptance and belonging it comes easier.”

A long-time figure-skating coach, Bugyi and her husband moved to New Zealand for a time, before returning to Canada to live and work in Meadow Lake and then Humboldt.  In Regina, she and her husband set up their own business, selling it after nine years to move with their four children to Saskatoon in 2013.

In her time at Preston Park II Bugyi says she has worked to “establish a community within a community.”

Listening and compassion have been integral to her leadership at the retirement residence. “Change is always difficult at any age, and transitioning into a different stage, new residents are afraid,” she described. “We worked to create an experience that sets up everyone for success, that lets each person know ‘there is a place for you here.’”

In his message to the diocese about the appointment, board Chair Ray Kolla looked ahead to the ongoing mission of the Diocese of Saskatoon Catholic Foundation.

“We look forward to Raissa’s arrival, as we continue the Catholic Foundation’s mission to provide the financial resources for current and future needs of our diocese through good stewardship practices, fund-raising and helping parishioners to be actively engaged and supported through their faith journey,” Kolla said.


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Final vote on pro-life MP’s abortion sex selection bill expected at beginning of June

Wed, 05/26/2021 - 15:06

By Brian Dryden, Canadian Catholic News

[Ottawa – CCN] – A final vote in the House of Commons on a Conservative MP’s effort to get support across party lines to ban female babies from being targeted for an abortion just because of their sex is expected to be held on June 2.

The vote in the House of Commons will come after the final hour allocated for debate surrounding Conservative MP Cathay Wagantall’s proposed private members Bill C-233 is held in the House on Friday, May 28.

“That is what we are expecting at this time, the final hour of the two hours allocated for private members bills will be on May 28 and then the vote being held on June 2,” Wagantall’s legislative assistant Tristan McLaughlin told the Canadian Catholic News.

While Wagantall’s proposed bill has garnered vocal supported from pro-life organizations across Canada, when the proposed bill was debated during second reading in the House of Commons on April 14 it came under attack by MPs from the Liberal, NDP and Bloc Quebecois parties as an alleged Trojan Horse effort to reopen the debate about abortion in Canada.

While Wagantall was free to put her proposed bill forward in the House of Commons, Conservative Party leader Erin O’Toole has said he will vote against the bill.

Conservative MP Karen Vecchio, who said that she herself supports a woman’s right to choose when it comes to abortion, does take issue with the tone of debate in the House of Commons whenever issues surrounding abortion in Canada are raised in Parliament.

“Debate is characterized by a great deal of animosity from all sides with no resolutions,” Vecchio said.

“This is a topic that people are very vocal on, with people being labelled as either absolutely right or completely wrong. Everyone has a label forced on them, but is that really what we want when it comes to such a complex issue?” she said.

“This should not be about how we feel on the right to choose to have an abortion. This is whether sex-selection abortion is happening in Canada and what is ethical in this situation,” Vecchio said.

According to Wagantall, sex selection is indeed occurring in Canada.

“Sex-selection abortion is wrong, it is a discriminatory practice on the basis of sex and it takes place in our country because we have no law against it,” Wagantall said in the House of Commons.

“It is really important that we recognize that the Canadian Medical Association did major studies in 2012 and 2016 with ethnic researchers involved and with the ethnic community involved, and they indicated that this is a growing problem in Canada that needs to be addressed,” argues Wagantall.

“The truth of the matter is that this is a scenario where the majority of Canadians are saying they are not polarized the way certain groups would like them to think they are. This is an issue where Canadians come together and want a law that restricts sex selection as an option for abortion,” she said.

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

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

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

According to the summary of Wagantall’s proposed Bill C-233 “this enactment amends the Criminal Code to make it an offence for a medical practitioner to perform an abortion knowing that the abortion is sought solely on the grounds of the child’s genetic sex. It also requires the Minister of Health, after consultation with representatives of the provincial governments responsible for health, to establish guidelines respecting information provided by a medical practitioner in relation to a request for an abortion.”


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Federal government moves forward with commitment to adhere to UN Declaration on Indigenous Rights

Wed, 05/26/2021 - 14:43
Questions remain over exactly how Bill C-15 will be interpreted by the courts in the future

By Brian Dryden, Canadian Catholic News

(With files from The Catholic Register)

[Ottawa – CCN] – Almost 14 years after the United Nations adopted a framework establishing the rights of Indigenous people, Canada is finally on the brink of implementing the historic document.

Despite concerns being raised by some opposition MPs over exactly what adopting the United Nations’ Declaration on Indigenous Rights (UNDRIP) will mean legally, the minority Liberal government, with the aid of the NDP and Bloc Quebecois, passed Bill C-15 by a 210-118 margin on May 25. It now goes to the Senate for final approval.

Bill C-15, “An Act respecting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” forces the federal government to bring all of Canada’s laws into line with the UNDRIP. This is the second time since the United Nations passed the non-binding declaration in September 2007 that Ottawa moved to fold the UNDRIP principles into Canadian law. A 2018 private member’s bill died in the Senate when Parliament dissolved for the 2019 election.

Many Catholic and non-Catholic faith organizations in Canada and social justice organizations support declaring Canada’s fidelity to the UN declaration.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), in an April 26 statement from its executive committee, called for the “timely and necessary inclusion of UNDRIP within Canadian law (to) thus contribute to truly respectful and just relations in this land.”

The CCCB statement came on the heels of an April 21 endorsement from the Canadian Religious Conference that called the bill “instrumental for renewing the spirit of reconciliation in Canada and encouraging the work of decolonization, in order to establish right relationships and a common vision for the future of our country.”

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which wrapped up in 2015, also made adopting the principles of the declaration within Canadian law a key recommendation in its final report.

Conservative MPs have raised concerns about what Bill C-15 will mean in practice because they claim the federal Liberal government, which has made Bill C-15 a key piece of government legislation, has not clearly stated how the United Nations’ Declaration on Indigenous Rights (known as UNDRIP), will interact with existing Canadian law.

According to the federal government’s summary of Bill C-15, which is called “An Act respecting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples”, the Canadian government must “take all measures necessary to ensure that the laws of Canada are consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and must prepare and implement an action plan to achieve the objectives of the Declaration.”

Exactly how the declaration will be implemented in law was a concern expressed as Bill C-15 was debated in the House of Commons.

“What Bill C-15 proposes is unique, because no other UN declaration has a legislative declaration with application in Canadian law,” said Conservative MP Arnold Viersen during debate in the House of Commons, adding that the issue is how Bill C-15 will be interpreted going forward in relation to what is called FPIC or “or free, prior and informed consent.”

“I would say we are well on our way to developing systems in Canada that fit in with UNDRIP and come into free, prior and informed consent. As our laws develop, with requirements to consult, we see companies going out and consulting,” he said, adding he is worried that Bill C-15 as it stands now may actually end up creating “confusion.”

“When I asked the department of Justice officials about this at committee, they said that I was correct, that it is a unique thing,” Viersen said. “We are looking for clarity on a number of things, and this bill would not do anything to clarify any of these issues,” he said.

Federal Justice Minister David Lametti said the government has been clear and that the UNDRIP declaration reaffirms the government’s commitment to make sure that First Nations / Indigenous peoples in Canada are consulted in a meaningful and full manner, but dismisses the idea that Bill C-15 would give First Nations a form of veto power.

“FPIC is about meaningful consultation, discussion and dialogue with Indigenous peoples affected by a particular decision, say a resource development project, that they be at the table from the beginning,” said Lametti.

“FPIC is a process,” he said. “It is going to continue to be a process. It will be contextual, so there is no way to precisely define it at the outset, and there is no way it should be precisely defined at the outset.”

Viersen, who is the Conservative MP for the Alberta riding of Peace River-Westlock, said the government has not made it clear if the duty to consult will in fact be interpreted as a First Nations veto by the courts in the future, since the actual wording of Bill C-15 does not specifically say it does not.

“If the government is insistent that it does not mean a veto, what does it mean? What does that consultation piece look like? Does the jurisprudence on duty to consult still stand?” Viersen said.


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