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Updated: 2 years 23 weeks ago

Mother challenges the UK’s abortion law regarding Down syndrome

Tue, 05/25/2021 - 10:00

The 33-year-old accountant is one of two people who applied to the High Court to hear a landmark case challenging the UK’s law allowing abortion up to birth for Down syndrome. The application was granted last October and the hearing date set earlier this month.

Her involvement in the case dates back to February 2020, when she saw a television interview with Heidi Crowter, a young woman with Down syndrome.

Crowter was discussing why she objected to the UK’s current law, which permits abortion up 24 weeks for all unborn children but with no time limit if there is a “substantial risk” of disability.

“It makes me feel unloved and unwanted,” Crowter told her interviewer.

Crowter’s words resonated with Lea-Wilson, who had given birth to her second son, Aidan, in June 2019.

“I had discovered that Aidan would likely be born with Down syndrome when I was 34 weeks pregnant, and then was asked repeatedly if I wanted to terminate the pregnancy,” she told CNA in an email interview.

“Suddenly the way I was treated changed from an excited parent expecting a second child, to a woman facing a great tragedy who had to make a ‘choice’ — to abort my pregnancy or not.”

“I have two sons who I love and value equally, so I cannot understand why the law does not value them equally.”

She decided to write an open letter to British Health Secretary Matt Hancock explaining why she stood alongside Crowter in opposition to the disability clause in the Abortion Act 1967.

Section 1(1)(d) of the UK Abortion Act permits abortion up to birth if “there is a substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped.”

She wrote: “I have two sons. Both are headstrong, determined, independent spirits and loving. As their mother, they need me to care for them, to teach them about the world, to love them and to value them.”

“As their mother, I can tell you I value them equally; but it appears that the law does not. The reason for this is that one of them has Down’s Syndrome, and the other does not.”

Lea-Wilson’s post was widely shared and brought her into contact with Heidi’s mother, Liz Crowter, and her solicitor. Together, they discussed how her experience could contribute to a legal case.

She said: “It means so much that we have the opportunity to change the law. As a mother, all I want for my son is for him to be treated fairly and equally. In his short life, we have already experienced so much discrimination. I am often asked: ‘Did you know he had Down syndrome before he was born?’”

“The implication of that question, that surely I must not have or I would have terminated the pregnancy, is incredibly hurtful and it does not afford him the value or the dignity which he deserves.”

“I truly believe that this law, which differentiates the time limit for abortion based on disability, allows a narrative to prevail where people with disabilities are valued less and thought of as a burden on their family and society more broadly.”

While she has not yet met with Heidi Crowter in person because of the coronavirus pandemic, she has had the “absolute honor” of getting to know her fellow High Court applicant via Zoom calls.

“I can think of few times in my life when I’ve laughed more,” she commented. “She is brilliant.”

The two women are being supported by the group Don’t Screen Us Out, founded in January 2016 amid concern over the introduction of a new prenatal test for Down syndrome in the U.K.

There were 3,183 abortions on the basis of disability recorded in England and Wales in 2019, 656 of them following a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome.

Abortion on the basis of disability is also a common practice in other countries. The number of babies with Down syndrome born in Europe fell by half between 2011 and 2015, according to a study in the European Journal of Human Genetics. Only 18 babies with the genetic condition were born in Denmark in 2019, while CBS News reported in 2017 that Iceland had come close to “eradicating Down syndrome births.”

Lea-Wilson thinks there is a lot at stake when the High Court hears the case on July 6-7.

“I hope that if we succeed, we can set society on the path for true equality and inclusion of people with Down syndrome,” she said.

“Recently, Richard Dawkins tweeted that it would be ‘immoral’ to knowingly bring a baby with Down syndrome into the world, and when interviewed by [RTÉ Radio 1 host] Brendan O’Connor on the matter, he suggested the reason for that would be because a baby with Down syndrome would increase the suffering in the world and would not increase the happiness.”

She continued: “This is only one example, but from experience, I know that these narratives are commonplace. For other parents like myself, this is jarring because it in no way tallies with our lived experience.”

“Aidan brings so much joy and happiness into the world. What does this say to my son, and to other people with Down syndrome, that they don’t have equal worth? That they are not equally valued?”

“If the law changes, I hope that new and expectant parents start to be given fair and unbiased information about the condition and, above all else, I hope that it means people like my son start to look to a future where they can live a life free from discrimination.”

Lea-Wilson and Crowter are seeking to raise £100,000 (around $140,000 US) to cover the cost of going to court. So far, they have raised £93,000 ($131,000 US) from almost 3,000 donations via the CrowdJustice website. But they need more help to reach their goal.

As she prepares for her day in court, Lea-Wilson is squarely focused on what she regards as the central problem of the law: its denial of the equal dignity of human beings.

“As a society, we proclaim that we believe that everyone deserves a fair and equal chance at life. This same society decided that the point of viability, 24 weeks, was the acceptable time limit for abortion for a typically developing baby, yet not for a baby with a disability like Down syndrome,” she reflected.

“If we truly believe that people should be treated equally irrespective of ability status, if we truly believe that people with Down syndrome are valuable and deserve a place in society, then there should be parity in the law.”


The post Mother challenges the UK’s abortion law regarding Down syndrome appeared first on Catholic Saskatoon News.

Pope Francis launches seven-year Laudato si’ action plan

Tue, 05/25/2021 - 09:55

By Courtney Mares, Catholic News Agency

“We need a new ecological approach that can transform our way of dwelling in the world, our styles of life, our relationship with the resources of the Earth and, in general, our way of looking at humanity and of living life,” Pope Francis said in a video message May 24.

The pope marked the end of the year celebrating the fifth anniversary of his environmental encyclical Laudato si’ with the message announcing the initiative.

He said that the year would be followed immediately by a seven-year plan known as the Laudato si’ Action Platform.

The Laudato si’ Action Platform will focus on seven sectors: families, parishes, schools, hospitals, businesses, organizations, and religious orders.

The pope explained that the action plan also has seven goals: the response to the cry of the earth, the response to the cry of the poor, ecological economics, adoption of simple lifestyles, ecological education, ecological spirituality, and community involvement.

“Our selfishness, our indifference and our irresponsible ways are threatening the future of our children,” Pope Francis said.

“I therefore renew my appeal: let us take care of our mother Earth … let us overcome the temptation of selfishness that makes us predators of resources, let us cultivate respect for the gifts of the Earth and creation, let us inaugurate a lifestyle and a society that is finally eco-sustainable.”

“We have the opportunity to prepare a better tomorrow for all. From God’s hands we have received a garden, we cannot leave a desert to our children,” he added.

Cardinal Peter Turkson, the prefect for the Dicastery for Integral Human Development, said at a press conference May 24 that the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted many of the Vatican’s planned events, conferences, and celebrations for the Laudato Si’ year, but expressed gratitude to the parishes and associations that organized local events.

In particular, the cardinal commended Catholics in Bangladesh for planting 700,000 trees over the course of the past year.

Fr. Joshtrom Isaac Kureethadam, who leads the Ecology and Creation section of the Vatican dicastery, stressed that the Laudato Si’ Action Platform can only be accomplished in partnership with “the synodal path that Pope Francis is proposing to the entire Church.”

“Integral ecology demands that we journey together on this mission,” he said.

Kureethadam explained that the first year of the initiative will be dedicated to “drawing up concrete action plans” following by “five years of concrete action” with the final year dedicated to “praise and thank God.”

In addition to the Vatican dicastery, Eco-Jesuit, the Pan-Amazonian Church Network (REPAM), the Global Catholic Climate Movement, the Union of Religious Superiors in Rome, and other Catholic groups are involved with the organization of the seven years of programming.

“On a journey that will last for seven years, we will let ourselves be guided by the seven aims of Laudato si’, which will show us the direction while we pursue the vision of integral ecology,” Pope Francis said.

“There is hope. We can all collaborate, each one with his own culture and experience, each one with her own initiatives and capacities, so that our mother Earth may be restored to her original beauty and creation may once again shine according to God’s plan.”


The post Pope Francis launches seven-year Laudato si’ action plan appeared first on Catholic Saskatoon News.

Four killed as Myanmar army artillery shell hits Catholic church

Tue, 05/25/2021 - 09:47

By Christine Rousselle, Catholic News Agency

[Rome newsroom – CNA] – Four people were killed after the Myanmar army shelled a Catholic church in the early hours of Monday, May 24, 2021.

The National Unity Government of Myanmar (NUG), which describes itself as the country’s legitimate governing authority following a Feb. 1 coup, said that four civilians were killed and around eight others injured when the military fired a heavy artillery shell at a Catholic church in Kayan Thar Yar village in the eastern Kayah State.

The NUG said in a statement that the attack occurred at 1 a.m. on May 24. The statement was accompanied by photographs showing a church with a demolished roof and a floor covered with bloodstains, clothing, and debris.

The NUG, which was formed on April 16, said that children and elderly people were hiding in the church after fleeing their homes amid bombardment.

Vatican News reported on May 25 that all those killed and injured were Catholics.

The Asian Catholic news agency UCA News identified the church as Sacred Heart Church, near Loikaw, the capital of Kayah State. It said that more than 300 people had sought refuge there amid clashes between the military and group called the People’s Defense Force.

Benedict Rogers, a senior analyst on East Asia for the human rights group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), lamented rising civilian deaths following a crackdown by the military, known as the Tatmadaw.

“Civilians in Myanmar have now been subjected to horrific violations at the hands of the Tatmadaw for well over 100 days,” he said.

“We extend our deepest condolences to all those who have lost loved ones in the recent attack on the Catholic church in Kayan Thar Yar and continue to call on the Tatmadaw to cease all targeting of innocent and unarmed civilians.”

He added that while the sanctions placed on the country were “welcome,” governments must do more to increase pressure on the military.

“We urge the UK government and like-minded allies to take the lead in implementing further sanctions against the military and their enterprises, and to coordinate the imposition of a global arms embargo,” he said.

Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, is a country in Southeast Asia with a population of 54 million people. The military detained the country’s elected civilian leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, and president, Win Myint, in the early hours of Feb. 1 amid a dispute over election results.

Protests have taken place across Burma since the coup. Catholic priests and nuns have joined the protestors in the majority Buddhist country, where Christians make up around six per cent of the population.


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Developing a fall-back position when it comes to prayer

Tue, 05/25/2021 - 08:22

By Peter Oliver, Olive Branch Marriage and Family Ministry

Prayer. It is so important, especially when you are in a crisis such as are experienced during a separation and divorce. However, there is a problem, crises have the effect of throwing us off course. When it comes to prayer, this often results in giving up.  Developing a fall-back position can help with this dilemma.

Before I touch on the idea of a fall-back position as it relates to prayer, it will be important to say a few words about the discipline of prayer.  A fall-back position only makes sense in relationship to a living prayer life.

A living prayer life is better understood in relationship to consistency than quantity.

When I entered the junior seminary a thousand years ago, we were encouraged to adopt an hour of personal prayer each day.  Throughout my life I have wrestled with this ideal. I have found that the fruitfulness of my prayer is not so much related to achieving an hour of daily prayer but rather in developing a rhythm of prayer that can be sustained on a daily basis.

Here is an example of what I mean. A few years ago, I ran into a number of brick walls that knocked me down – a cancer diagnosis and a job termination. When combined with years of clinical depression these obstacles presented formidable barriers to daily prayer, but I also recognized personal prayer was essential to recovery. I reminded myself, consistency will be more important than quantity and my prayer life took on this form: do just ten minutes of prayer a day and include some exercise.

I know, it’s not flashy but a living prayer life need not be flashy.

In the beginning, praying for ten minutes a day and doing some exercise was not always achievable but it represented a pattern that I could reasonably hope to practice on a daily basis. But what about the days I could not realize the modest goal I had set for myself?

This part is even less flashy.

I told myself, on days when you cannot bring yourself to spend ten minutes praying, commit yourself to saying the Hail Mary slowly and thoughtfully at least once in the day and walk for one minute on the treadmill. This is the fall-back position I spoke of at the beginning of this reflection.

A fall-back position does two things. First, it prevents you from slipping ever deeper into the “I-can’t-do-its.”

The reality is, you have prayed and your relationship with God has benefited from your expression of love.

The second thing a fall-back position does is it tricks you. In my case, the thoughtfully prayed Hail Mary often turned into a thoughtfully prayed Hail Mary followed by listening to one of Bernadette Farrell’s hymns on YouTube. It seems silly but it is effective.

Today my prayer life is much more robust. It includes journaling, spiritual direction, and significantly more sustained periods of prayer, but I continue to find it important to have a good fall-back position. That position has become fuller, and I don’t need to draw on it as often, but it is invaluable when the need arises.

If you are going through a marital separation and looking for a listening ear, contact Madeline Oliver at Olive Branch Marriage & Family Ministry or 306-361-9318.


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Bishop Mark Hagemoen announces pastoral appointments, moves and updates: more expected later

Fri, 05/21/2021 - 18:50

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

A first round of pastoral appointments, assignments and moves in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon was recently announced by Bishop Mark Hagemoen.

With a few exceptions, most of the assignments take effect July 31, 2021, with further announcements still to come, the bishop noted in his message to the diocese on May 21, the Feast of St. Eugene de Mazenod.

“I take this opportunity to thank all of these priest for their ministry in our diocese and we ask God’s blessings on their priesthood as they move forward to new assignments,” said Bishop Hagemoen. “Let us remember them in prayer.”

Announcement from Bishop Hagemoen: Link to PDF


Fr. Mick Fleming, CSsR

Fr. Mark Miller, CSsR

Fr. Mick Fleming, CSsR, who returned to the diocese of Saskatoon in 2019 to serve at St.Mary Parish, Saskatoon, will be taking another assignment with the Redemptorists in the diocese of Mackenzie-Fort Smith, beginning August 2021.


From July 3, 2021 to Dec. 3, 2021, Fr. Mark Miller, CSsR, will serve as pastor of St. Mary Parish in Saskatoon. He is currently the Edmonton Toronto Regional Coordinator and Vicar-Provincial for the Redemptorist Province of Canada.


Fr. Kevin McGee



Fr. Kevin McGee, will begin serving as pastor of St. Mary Parish in Saskatoon effective Dec. 4, 2021, concluding his time as pastor of St. Augustine, Saskatoon. Fr. McGee will continue to serve as Vicar General for the diocese.


Fr. Darryl Millette





Fr. Darryl Millette, who is currently pastor at Holy Spirit Parish in Saskatoon (since 2015), will serve as parochial vicar at the Cathedral of the Holy Family in Saskatoon from July 31 to Dec. 3, 2021 (serving with pastor Fr. Gerard Cooper), before taking up a new assignment as pastor of St. Augustine Parish in Saskatoon.

Fr. Millette will continue to serve as Chancellor for the diocese of Saskatoon, and will continue his ongoing studies in canon law.



Fr. Joseph Salihu


Fr. Joseph Salihu is appointed as pastor of Holy Spirit Parish, Saskatoon effective July 31. Fr. Salihu has been serving as pastor at St. Augustine Parish, Humboldt; St. Scholastica Parish, Burr; and Holy Trinity Parish, Pilger, since joining the diocese in 2016.

Fr. Colin Roy

Fr. Colin Roy is appointed as pastor of St. Augustine Parish in Humboldt effective July 31, 2021. Since 2016, Fr. Roy has served as pastor of St. Michael Parish in Cudworth, Canadian Martyrs Parish in Middle Lake, and St. Benedict Parish in St. Benedict.






Fr. Prince Sarpong

Fr. Prince Sarpong, will be joining the diocese of Saskatoon after six years of service in his home archdiocese of Kumasi, Ghana. He is appointed pastor of the parishes of Little Flower in Leader, Sacred Heart in Lancer, and Sacred Heart in Liebenthal, replacing Fr. Madonna-Godwin Aghedo, OP, who is currently serving as parochial administrator of the three parishes.


Fr. Nestor Silva, OMI



Fr. Nestor Silva, OMI, is appointed pastor of St. Theresa Parish in Asquith. He will also continue to serve as associate pastor at St. Patrick Parish, Saskatoon, where he has served since 2018.



Fr. Graham Hill, CSsR





Fr. Graham Hill, CSsR, is appointed pastor of St. Francis Xavier Parish in Vanscoy. Fr. Hill will also continue to serve as Pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Saskatoon, where he has served since 2016.



Fr. Emmanuel Olusola


Fr. Emmanuel Olusola, has accepted an assignment with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Hamilton, ON. Fr. Olusola has served with the diocese since 2016 as pastor of St. Aloysius Parish in Allan, St. Alphonse Parish in Viscount, and St. Mary Parish, Colonsay, as well as serving as chaplain for Bishop Murray and Bethlehem high schools.

Fr. Deyre Azcuna







Fr. Deyre Azcuna has concluded his assignment with the diocese of Saskatoon and will be taking another assignment with the Prelature of Batanes, Philippines. Fr. Azcuna has served with the diocese since 2016 as associate pastor of the Cathedral of the Holy Family in Saskatoon.

Vocation updates

Van Tam (Luke) Tran

Diocesan seminarian Van Tam (Luke) Tran, has started an internship at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Saskatoon as of May 1, 2021. He has been studying at Christ the King Seminary in Mission, British Columbia. He will be entering into his third year of theology in 2021.

Sr. April Mireau, PM

Sr. April Mireau will make her Profession of Perpetual Vows as a Sister of the Presentation of Mary on the Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, June 12, 2021, at Sacred Heart Cathedral, Prince Albert. A Mass of Thanksgiving will take place June 13, 2021, at the Cathedral of the Holy Family, Saskatoon. (These celebrations will be live-streamed at

Crystal Hampson

Lay woman Crystal Hampson will be making a final Rite of Consecration to a Life of Virginity at 7 p.m. June 9, 2021, at the Cathedral of the Holy Family in Saskatoon. (The celebration will be live-streamed at



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Vatican asks all Catholic dioceses to take part in synod on synodality

Fri, 05/21/2021 - 16:02

By Courtney Mares, Catholic News Agency

[Vatican City – CAN] – The Vatican announced May 21, 2021 that the Synod of Bishops on synodality has been postponed to 2023, with a two-year consultative preparatory phase involving Catholic dioceses worldwide.

The synod on synodality will officially open with a “diocesan phase” in October 2021 and conclude with the XVI Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops at the Vatican in October 2023.

Cardinal Mario Grech, the general secretary for the Synod of Bishops, said in an interview with Vatican News published May 21 that the synod has been transformed “from an event into a process.”

“The Second Vatican Council teaches that the People of God participate in the prophetic office of Christ. Therefore, we must listen to the People of God, and this means going out to the local churches,” Grech said.

Pope Francis will officially “inaugurate the synodal path” over the weekend of Oct. 9-10 with an opening session and a Mass. All dioceses are invited to also offer an opening Mass on Sunday, Oct. 17.

During the diocesan phase, each bishop is asked to undertake a consultation process with the local Church from Oct. 17, 2021, until April 2022.

The Vatican will send dioceses a preparatory document, accompanied by a questionnaire and a vademecum with proposals for consultation. Superior generals, unions and federations of consecrated life, international lay movements, and Catholic universities will also be sent this questionnaire and vademecum.

Both bishops and bishops’ conferences can appoint a contact person, and eventually a team, to be a point of reference during this local synodal process, the program explains.

The Vatican will then release an instrumentum laboris (working document) in September 2022 for a period of “pre-synodal discernment in continental assemblies,” which will influence a second draft of the working document to be published before June 2023.

The entire process will culminate in a meeting of bishops from around the world at the Vatican in October 2023, held according to the established norms outlined in the 2018 apostolic constitution Episcopalis communio.

A synod is a meeting of bishops gathered to discuss a topic of theological or pastoral significance, to prepare a document of advice or counsel to the pope.

The theme for the upcoming Synod of Bishops is “For a synodal Church: communion, participation and mission.”

Pope Francis has frequently discussed the concept of “synodality,” particularly during the previous ordinary Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith, and vocational discernment in October 2018.

Synodality, as defined by the International Theological Commission in 2018, is “the action of the Spirit in the communion of the Body of Christ and in the missionary journey of the People of God.”

The term is generally understood to refer to a process of discernment, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, involving bishops, priests, religious, and lay Catholics, each according to the gifts and charisms of their vocation.

The Synod of Bishops was established in 1965 by Pope Paul VI, who hoped that the synod would encourage close union between the pope and the world’s bishops, and “ensure that direct and real information is provided on questions and situations touching upon the internal action of the Church and its necessary activity in the world of today.”

Ordinary synods happen every three years on issues voted upon by synod delegates elected or appointed from each continent, and from certain Vatican offices. There have been 15 ordinary synods to date. There are also extraordinary synods and special synods.

The synod that took place in October 2019 was a special Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazonian region. Following that synod, the pope stressed that “synodality is an ecclesial journey that has a soul that is the Holy Spirit.”

The Vatican first announced the Synod of Bishops on synodality in March 2020.

For this upcoming synod, Cardinal Grech said that the General Secretariat wanted “to allow everyone to make his or her voice heard, that listening is the true ‘pastoral conversion’ of the Church.”

“God willing, one of the fruits of the Synod is that we might all understand that a decision-making process in the Church always begins with listening, because only in this way can we understand how and where the Spirit wants to lead the Church.”




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Beauty of Ave Maria drew young woman to the Church

Fri, 05/21/2021 - 15:51

By Agnieszka Ruck, The B.C. Catholic

[Vancouver – Canadian Catholic News] – Though she could not comprehend the Latin, something about a powerful, building song the Chor Leoni Men’s Choir performed at a Christmas concert two years ago captured Emma Larson’s full attention.

Even after the show was long over and Larson had left the Orpheum theatre in Vancouver, that single composition continued playing in her mind. It was the Ave Maria.

“I had no idea what that meant, but in that moment, ever since I heard it, it stuck in my head.”

A day later she did an internet search for “Ave Maria.” She learned it meant “Hail Mary.”

Having grown up in a music-loving but non-religious home, Larson had no idea what the Hail Mary was and knew little about Catholicism. But the stirring in her heart made her want to hear the song again, and she was soon looking up various versions online.

She discovered a second Catholic hymn: Ave Maris Stella. “That’s when I just couldn’t get enough. It was just so beautiful. After hearing that one, I started looking more into Catholicism. What was this about? Why was this music so beautiful?”

The COVID-19 pandemic set in not long after that remarkable concert, and Larson found herself with plenty of spare time to read about Catholicism. She started with the Rosary and soon learned there was a Catholic cathedral named for the Holy Rosary in Vancouver.

Around the same time Larson was also facing a personal crisis. She had ended a relationship she’d been in for some time during college, and as a young woman in her early twenties, was seeking solace and new beginnings.

She happened to hear about a popular Anglican church in downtown Vancouver and gave that community a try. When their worship services moved online, she continued watching them and others, while also researching Catholicism and teaching herself to pray the Rosary.

“In terms of learning about the Rosary, and the different mysteries, I loved that. I loved learning about the Sorrowful Mysteries, just how she endured this unimaginable sorrow and suffering,” said Larson.

“Something that I found really cool about Catholicism is there so many names or titles for Mary. That was something I didn’t find in any other church. Everything about Catholicism rang really true to me.”

One day, she discovered Holy Rosary Cathedral’s YouTube channel and watched Mass for the first time.

“I didn’t understand the Mass or anything, but it immediately drew me in.”

She started reading about the history of Christianity and the various denominations and realized some elements of Mass she enjoyed, like the structure, choral tradition, and mentions of Mary, were missing in other traditions.

It took her a while to gather the courage, but after much time, prayer, and thought, she reached out to Holy Rosary Cathedral directly. “Asking God gave me the courage to take the first step in becoming Catholic,” she said.

Reflecting on Mary’s “yes” to carry Jesus in her womb also gave Larson the strength.

“That always stuck out to me, how she was scared and uncertain of what the angel was telling her, and the way she just said, ‘let it be done to me according to your word,’ gave me so much courage, how she just said yes to God without knowing how it was going to work out.”

Larson emailed a cathedral priest to say she enjoyed praying the Rosary and thought she would like to become a Catholic.

In September 2020, she entered the Rite of Christian Initiation program at Holy Rosary Cathedral. Led by Deacon Richard Chau, the program was run entirely online and introduced Larson to some of the first Catholics she had ever personally met.

“I don’t have anyone who’s Catholic in my family and I felt kind of overwhelmed. I remember thinking it was such a big change in my life, to go from not being brought up religious at all to actively living as a Catholic,” said Larson.

“Every time I thought it was going to be too hard – I am going to change my life too much, I don’t know if I can do this, the thought of being the only Catholic in my family – every time I had those doubts, I would discover something else about Mary and it would bring me back.”

This April, in a small, private ceremony at Holy Rosary Cathedral, Larson was baptized a Catholic.

Deacon Chau said she looked overwhelmed with emotion.

“Mary was drawing her into the Church and pointing her to Christ, and she responded to that. It’s wonderful,” said Deacon Chau.

“Mary is still active, bringing people to Christ.”

Five others from Larson’s RCIA class have also been baptized, and two have been confirmed.

Larson said since her conversion many family members have become curious about various elements of Catholicism and start conversations with her about them. Her mother, who attended a Christian church in her youth, was especially moved.

“Ever since I became Catholic it has deepened my relationship with my mom. Talk about God with my family is more than I could have hoped for.”

She looks forward to the day she can attend Mass in person, gather with other young Catholics, and become a volunteer at one of the Catholic parishes in her neighbourhood. In the meantime, she participates in livestreamed Masses, watches informational Catholic content online, reads prayer books, and, no surprise, prays the Rosary on a set of pink beads every day.

“I don’t know what I would do without it,” she said.

“During these times, we’re distant from the Church. Something like that, that you can physically hold, is really grounding. You feel connected to the rest of the Church.”


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Resilient community farms provide ‘living’ nourishment

Fri, 05/21/2021 - 15:03
Sustainable methods harken back to the day when the family farm was king

By Michael Swan, The Catholic Register

[Toronto – Canadian Catholic News] – Winter is not just weather and neither is spring. Our long, grey season of COVID discontent and loneliness is not quite over, but outside our windows and outside our cities spring is relentless.

“We just need hope so much,” said Elizabeth Stocking as she walked past puddles and fields to introduce a journalist to the livestock on her Willo’Wind Farm near Uxbridge, northeast of Toronto.

The horses — Maggie, Millie and Monty — and Lilly the dairy cow are eyeing the fresh, vibrantly green grass on the other side of the fence. But it’s too early in the season to let them out there. Soon the ground will be solid enough, the grass long enough.

Stocking is deeply grateful for her front row seat at the miracle of spring in farm country. She begins her days with an old poem by Thomas Blake: “Every morning, lean thine arms awhile upon the windowsill of Heaven and gaze upon thy Lord. Then, with vision in thy heart, turn strong to meet thy day.”

“Everyone needs to find that vision,” Stocking said. “We’re blessed here that every window here we look out of is actually a windowsill of Heaven.”

But it’s not a blessing Stocking hoards on her 50 acres.

Her land feeds 200 families through a community supported agriculture (CSA) system and many more through sales at three different farmers’ markets. The apiary (beehives) on her land is tended by another farm family and that honey feeds even more families.

Through a “Community Supported Agriculture” system, Elizabeth Stocking grows food for some 200 families on her Willo’Wind Farm near Uxbridge, northeast of Toronto. (Photo by Michael Swan, The Catholic Register – CCN)

Small family farms that grow a variety of crops and keep a few animals are disappearing under pressure from large-scale, industrial farming and an integrated food system that spans the globe, said Grange Farms founder Rory O’Neill.

After three separate pilgrimages along the Camino de Santiago sparked growing appreciation of the contributions of Benedictine monasticism, O’Neill and his family turned to farming and began gathering a network of other small farmers committed to sustainable, ethical farming.

“People are so busy now, they don’t realize the knife-edge we’re on,” said O’Neill. “If we don’t recover these things (farming traditions) we’re going to lose them. If we don’t figure out a way to grow food properly, in a more stewardship-centred way with the land, then we’re really going to put ourselves in a precarious position environmentally.”

Until 10 years ago, O’Neill and his family lived in the decidedly urban neighbourhood around Roncesvalles Avenue just west of downtown Toronto. He understands that most Canadians — 81.5 per cent of whom live in urban areas — don’t think they have a say in the food system. Life is hard and expensive enough without driving out to farmers markets to pay double for eggs and milk and vegetables.

But COVID should teach us that a big, complicated, global food system hides risks and costs that can’t be avoided forever, he said.

“If we think resilience is important, then we need to have shorter supply lines, more resilient supply lines, rather than just depending on cheap petrochemicals to haul our stuff around the world, thinking nothing is ever going to happen to disrupt any of this,” warned O’Neill.

But it isn’t just the economic fragility of the system that worries him. O’Neill sees a food system that is an ongoing ecological disaster dependent on a global, consumerist culture alienated from the food that should sustain life.

“The threat of boiling everything down to just a consumer-production matrix is a big threat to our culture and our humanity,” he said. “If everything is reduced to a consumer and a dollar figure, that’s a huge threat… It’s almost too late in the game. The farmers that are left now are fully integrated into the massive system.”

For Mike and Patty Black farming and faith run together. They understand the romance of fresh green fields in spring, the smell of dirt and a connection to the land. But they also understand the commitment they have made.

“There’s romance. But I was more realistic coming from my childhood of 16-hour days (on the farm),” Mike Black said.

Families like the Blacks of Markdale, Ont. – Mike and Patty and their four boys, John, James, Chris and David – continue to keep the family farm alive, serving as an important source of nourishment in their communities, providing food for hundreds of local families. (Photo by Michael Swan, The Catholic Register – CCN)

The Blacks operate Black Market Produce and they supply lamb and pork for the Grange Farms network of direct, farm-to-consumer sales. Mike still works as a carpenter and construction contractor. The farm chugs along with help from their sons John, James, Chris and David.

“I know a lot of people who move up from the city. They want to be connected (to the land),” said Mike. “But they soon learn that there’s a real, physical — there is a commitment. There’s a commitment that not everybody is aware of.”
If it’s hard, it’s also rewarding, said Patty.

“There’s a satisfaction that comes amidst all the work,” she said. “When you put everybody’s plate on the table and everything has come — the entire meal has come from the sweat of our brow, as much as I complain in the heat of July, there still is a satisfaction.”

Stocking believes everyone who eats should feel a part of that satisfaction.

“Find a market and buy local,” is her advice to urbanites. “Because when you pick up that produce, you feel it in your hands, it’s living and it’s breathing.”

Living through COVID has sharpened the constant question of farm life for Stocking.

“What nourishes you?” she asks. “It’s a challenge because it’s not just about the food we eat. It’s the people we eat with and sitting down at a table. COVID has been hard for us as farmers. It’s been brutally hard for us as a big family, because this is what we do. We gather and eat. That’s the question, isn’t it? What nourishes you? It has to be living food.”


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Online evangelization a virtual twist for young NET Ministries missionaries

Fri, 05/21/2021 - 12:27

By Angelica Vecchiato, The Catholic Register

[Toronto – Canadian Catholic News] – National Evangelization Teams (NET) missionaries are not barnstorming across the country to make face-to-face presentations as in years past.

But in a COVID-19 world, the mission to inspire young Catholics to embrace Christ and the Church remains the same, even though it is now carried out with a virtual twist.

“It is a common misconception to think that online ministry is not impactful. This simply isn’t true. The Lord can work through a screen too,” said Noah Runstedler, a second-year missionary with NET.

Although the bulk of NET Ministry’s evangelization since 1995 has consisted of delivering 5,000 in-person retreats, it has re-modelled its traditional set-up and grown to encompass an online ministry, feeding a youthful and virtual crowd.

Pierre O’Reilly, who had only been executive director of NET for five months before the pandemic hit, says that though the in-person option is preferable, the online alternative is solid.

“Online ministry has been a big surprise. An online presence means we can increase resources and accessibility for youth in churches and schools across Canada,” said O’Reilly, originally from Regina.

O’Reilly boasts 10 years of missionary experience at Catholic Christian Outreach, an evangelization organization present at Canadian universities. Drawing from his past involvement, he maintains that the ministry must forge forward.

“The short answer is that God wants us to continue even during a pandemic, so we keep on doing it,” said O’Reilly. “People are still booking us, we are still financially viable and missionaries are still applying. Although there is a pandemic, youth are still hungry for Christ.”

Though NET is more renowned for its retreat ministry, the organization also branches off into a discipleship sector, where a team of six to eight missionaries are stationed in a certain location across Canada for a year.

Runstedler is part of a discipleship team in Abbotsford, B.C. To gain the trust and fellowship of St. John Brebeuf Catholic Secondary School students, the 20-year-old along with five other NET missionaries attend classes with the students and facilitate after-school youth groups for them.

“Although the cohort system in place at schools because of COVID means we can’t reach as many youth, it also brings blessings,” said Runstedler.

“It brings more of an intentionality and attention to a certain grade. Personally, we have seen the fruits of our mission. We have observed a change of culture for the better within the school.”

As a first-year missionary, 19-year-old Miriam Pereira has already been a part of a retreat squad in Calgary, a discipleship team in Whitehorse, Yukon, and just recently has become the female team leader of a discipleship ministry in Stoney Creek, Ont.

“The prayer time with youth is very transformative. Here, we plant the seed to deepen a relationship with Christ. During prayer time, we missionaries pray over the youth. Some youth said that they could even feel tingles throughout their body as we were praying with them,” said Pereira, who was born and bred in a NET family and discerned her calling as a missionary in Grade 12.

Pereira offers advice to Catholic youth struggling with the challenges of the day.

“It is hard to be in the world and not of the world at the same time. However, we have to keep in mind the ultimate goal which is God. We make time in life for things that are important. Make time to talk to God.”



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Sisters of Charity ask New Brunswick city to support ban on nuclear weapons

Tue, 05/18/2021 - 13:52

By Roma De Robertis, SCIC

[Saint John, New Brunswick] — Two Sisters of Charity of the Immaculate Conception recently influenced the Saint John, NB, mayor and council to endorse the Cities Appeal of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).

The campaign calls for support for the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons which entered into force Jan. 22, 2021. Among other Canadian municipalities to endorse the Cities Appeal are Halifax and Cape Breton, NS, as well as Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver and Victoria, BC.

In January, Sr. Muriel Buckley and Sr. Roma De Robertis of Saint John each sent letters to Mayor Don Darling and city councillors. At an April 19 meeting, the municipal leaders responded by voting to endorse ICAN’s Cities Appeal.

Sr. Muriel Buckley said the endorsement is “important for everyone in the Saint John area.” She added that the decision is also vital for people worldwide and for “earth and the planet.”

Originally from Saint John, Sr. Buckley was a long-time missionary in Peru among those experiencing poverty and environmental destruction after years of military and economic colonization. Sr. Buckley added, “I really feel we have to do something to change our way of living.”

Sr. De Robertis said she was grateful local civic leaders responded positively to ICAN’s Cities Appeal for the sake of local and global peace with justice. However, she said she hopes leaders and citizens will more fully recognize dangerous connections between planned nuclear energy expansion and nuclear weapons.

ICAN received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017 for its efforts to achieve and promote the UN treaty prohibiting development, possession and use of nuclear weapons. The Holy See (Vatican) was one of the first states to sign and ratify the treaty.

Globally, nine countries possess an estimated 13,400 nuclear weapons. Russia and the United States possess most of these weapons of mass destruction. In their 2019 Statement on Nuclear Weapons, Canada’s Catholic bishops strongly opposed such weapons and appealed to the government of Canada to sign the treaty.

However, Canada has neither signed nor ratified the UN treaty.  In 2019, Sisters of Charity, I.C. and Associates wrote letters to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urging the Canadian government to sign the UN nuclear weapons ban treaty.  While Canada does not have nuclear weapons, it supports the retention and potential use of such weapons on its behalf as a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Known as “nuclear deterrence,” this theory holds that possession of nuclear weapons is necessary to deter other states from attacking with their nuclear weapons. However, Catholic teaching rejects both possession and use of nuclear weapons.

At a Vatican symposium in November 2017, Pope Francis rejected the doctrine of nuclear deterrence. Referring to nuclear weapons, he explicitly condemned “the threat of their use, as well as their very possession.”

Raising Concerns

The pope has gone further to question the safety of nuclear energy. During his November 2019 visit to Japan, he highlighted the Japanese bishops’ call for an end to nuclear power.

Later, as reported by Reuters news agency, the pope told journalists “there is not enough security to guarantee that there will not be a disaster” from the use of nuclear energy.

In 2011, Japan was rocked by an earthquake which triggered a tsunami and nuclear power plant meltdown in Fukushima. Major nuclear power plant disasters have also occurred in other parts of the world, unleashing deadly radioactive debris.

Proponents of nuclear energy claim it reduces carbon gas emissions to help address climate change, while generating needed electricity and providing jobs.  Partnering with the nuclear industry, the federal and New Brunswick governments have invested millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money to expand nuclear energy through development of small modular nuclear reactors. Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta are also investing in SMNRs.

Plans are underway for SMNRs to be built at the same site as the only nuclear generating station now operating outside Ontario. Owned and operated by the New Brunswick Power Corporation, the Point Lepreau nuclear station is about 50 kilometres west of Saint John on the Bay of Fundy.

However, critics of planned SMNRs call instead for governments to invest in renewable energy, as well as energy efficiency and energy storage technologies.  Their concerns about nuclear energy include high costs and major risks to human health and the environment. They also highlight lack of safe storage options for highly radioactive nuclear waste.

Critics also warn about links between nuclear energy and nuclear weapons. They point to threats posed by terrorist groups and criminal organizations seeking radioactive plutonium produced by nuclear reactors. Internationally, Canada has long sold uranium as nuclear fuel and has also marketed conventional nuclear reactors.

During the Second World War, Canada joined the United States and United Kingdom in their efforts to produce a nuclear bomb. According to an official government website, Canada provided uranium to help fuel two atomic bombs the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan in 1945. After the war, Canada continued to supply uranium for military purposes.

For more about ICAN and the Cities Appeal, please see  The website for SCIC and Associates is at

To share your concerns about the development of nuclear energy in Saskatchewan and work with Sask Power towards other viable solutions, please click here for more information: Consultation Link



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Catholics mark anniversary of Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’ encyclical on care for creation

Tue, 05/18/2021 - 11:20

By Global Catholic Climate Movement staff

To celebrate the end of the Laudato Si’ special anniversary year, Pope Francis invites the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics to joyfully participate in Laudato Si’ Week 2021, to be held May 16-24, 2021.

The Vatican-sponsored celebration will bring Catholics together to rejoice in the great progress they’ve made in bringing Laudato Si’ to life and to plan ambitious action ahead of the United Nations Biodiversity Conference, the 26th UN Climate Change Conference and the decade ahead.

More information about Laudato Si’ Week:

The theme for the weeklong celebration is, “for we know that things can change” (Laudato Si’ 13).

The event coincides with the sixth anniversary (May 24) of when Pope Francis finished writing the encyclical. Laudato Si’ has enlivened Catholic communities across the globe to work against the ecological crisis and climate emergency.

In light of the rapid pace of species extinction and climate change, more urgent action is needed to create a more just and sustainable future.

As Pope Francis said on Earth Day, “When this destruction of nature is triggered, it is very difficult to stop it. But we are still in time. And we will be more resilient if we work together instead of doing it alone.”

During Laudato Si’ Week, Catholics will come together and present to the world a living testimony of Laudato Si’ transformations.

The week will feature presentations from world-renowned leaders that will showcase how they’ve transformed their communities and invite Catholics to take similar action regionally and locally.

The dialogues will carry a special focus on advocacy efforts aimed at raising the Catholic voice ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conferences known as COP15 and COP26.

At the grassroots level, local leaders will spearhead similar opportunities, including sustainability initiatives, educational events, and prayer gatherings, that will seek to inspire concrete action for our common home.

Laudato Si’ Week also will feature a missionary-like sendoff that will encourage the faithful to go and announce the care of creation in every corner of the globe.

The week will finish with a preview of the tool that will help the global Church realize more progress in the decade ahead: the Laudato Si’ Action Platform. The Vatican-led effort will empower Catholic institutions, communities, and families to implement Laudato Si’.

Catholics will be uniting at a crucial time in 2021. In November, at COP26, countries must announce their plans to meet the goals of the Paris agreement. At COP15, scheduled for October in China, the world will have the opportunity to set meaningful and robust targets to protect creation.

The Laudato Si’ Special Anniversary Year was launched by the Vatican last May, at the end of the 2020 Laudato Si’ Week, which commemorated the fifth anniversary of the encyclical.

Laudato Si’ Week 2021 is sponsored by the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development and facilitated by the Global Catholic Climate Movement in collaboration with RENOVA+, Caritas Internationalis, CIDSE, International Union Superiors General, Union of Superiors General, Society of Jesus, the General office for justice, peace and integrity of creation from the Order from the Franciscan Friars, and in partnership with dozens of Catholic partners.

All official program events will focus on three key elements of celebration – action – testimony, and will be simultaneously translated into English, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Polish, and French.


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Abuse and cover-ups must stop everywhere, pope says

Mon, 05/17/2021 - 15:36

By Catholic News Agency staff

Pope Francis told an anti-pedophilia group Saturday that its work is “more necessary than ever.”

Speaking to members of the Meter association in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace on May 15, the pope noted that the internet is facilitating child abuse.

The Holy Father said: “Your work is more necessary than ever because, unfortunately, the abuse of children continues. I refer in particular to the solicitations that take place through the internet and the various social media, with pages and portals dedicated to child pornography.”

“This is a scourge that, on the one hand, needs to be addressed with renewed determination by institutions, and, on the other hand, requires an even stronger awareness on the part of families and the various educational agencies.”

He added: “Even today we see how often in families, the first reaction is to cover everything up; a first reaction that is always there in other institutions and even in the Church. We have to fight with this old habit of covering up. I know that you are always vigilant in protecting children even in the context of the most modern media.”

The Guardian newspaper reported in February that the rapidly expanding volume of child abuse material online is threatening to overwhelm U.K. police.

It said that the U.K.’s child abuse image database contained 17 million unique images, with half a million more added every two months.

In his address, the pope noted that the Meter association, based in the city of Avola, Sicily, dates back to 1989, “when few people talked about this scourge.”

Fr. Fortunato Di Noto, the association’s founder, decided to dedicate his life to combating abuse in the late 1980s when he first became aware of the exploitation of minors on the internet as a student at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University.

He began sharing his research with police around the world, leading to hundreds of arrests and the liberation of abused children. He formally established the association in 1996.

The pope said: “Over the years, with your generous work, you have contributed to making visible the Church’s love for the smallest and most defenseless. How often, like the Good Samaritan of the Gospel, have you reached out with respect and compassion, to welcome, console and protect!”

“Closeness, compassion, and tenderness: this is God’s style. How many spiritual wounds you have bound up! For all this, the ecclesial community is grateful to you.”

Describing child abuse as a form of “psychological murder,” the pope said that all states had a duty to protect the young and identify traffickers and abusers.

“At the same time, denunciation and prevention in the various spheres of society — schools, sports, recreational and cultural organizations, religious communities, and individuals — are more than ever a duty,” he said.

Concluding his address, the pope reflected on the association’s logo, which features a large letter “M” drawn by children evoking the idea of a womb. Inside the “M” are 12 stars, symbolizing the Virgin Mary’s crown.

He said: “She, a caring mother, fully intent on loving her Son Jesus, is a model and guide for the entire association, encouraging us to love with evangelical charity the children who are victims of slavery and violence.”

“Charity towards our neighbor is inseparable from the charity that God has for us and that we have for him. For this reason, I urge you always to root your daily activity in your daily relationship with God: in personal and community prayer, in listening to his Word, and above all in the Eucharist, the sacrament of unity and bond of charity.”

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Catholic priest in Gaza says Israel-Gaza violence “extremely serious”

Mon, 05/17/2021 - 15:16

By Blanca Ruiz, Catholic News Agency

More than 200 people have died in Gaza, 59 of whom are children, the BBC reports. In Israel, 10 have died, of whom two are children.

Israel is conducting air strikes on Gaza, while militants from Hamas, the Islamist movement which has ruled the territory since 2007, are firing rockets at Israel.

Tens of thousands of Gaza residents have been displaced by the violence, and both hospitals and schools have been destroyed in the territory.

Fr. Gabriel Romanelli is the pastor of Holy Family parish, the only Catholic parish in the Gaza Strip.

The priest told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish language news partner, “the situation in the Gaza Strip is very bad. Day and night we’re bombarded. The bombing usually only takes place at night and during the day life is more or less normal. But these days, both day and night, there is bombing, rockets from the strip and the Israeli response, with planes and tanks.”

“Currently there is constant bombing. Even when it stops, the silence is strange and makes you feel like you’re in the eye of the hurricane,” he said.

The priest noted that since November 2019 there has been no “talk of war” in the area and even “material progress, there were more businesses and the housing was better.” However, after the start of the attacks, the situation is “very uncertain.”

“There is no neighborhood or city that hasn’t been hit, some very hard. And the Israeli authorities state that as long as the aggression continues they will continue to bomb and the Palestinians also say that as long as the (Israeli) advance doesn’t let up, they will continue to respond,” the priest explained.

“Our parish is a very small but beautiful and strong community. The Greek Orthodox also come. There are 133 of us Catholics, including 13 religious from the Incarnate Word community. We fan out to make contact with the families, so both Catholics and Orthodox, as well as poor Muslim families, feel the spiritual and material closeness of the parish to them,” Romanelli told ACI Prensa.

The Incarnate Word priest said the difficulties faced by the people in the Gaza Strip for decades should not be forgotten, because they “have suffered from an embargo of all kinds of things for years, which is why it’s called the largest open-air prison in the world.”

Faced with the serious difficulties being experienced in the Gaza Strip, Romanelli encouraged people to pray and offer sacrifices for peace so “the governing authorities and those who have the ability to conclude a truce in this situation are enlightened to do so.”

The priest stressed the importance of sending material aid “through official channels such as the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, or Catholic charitable associations, which are very effective.”

The latest round of violence began after clashes last month between Israelis and Palestinians at al-Aqsa Mosque, which is built on the Temple Mount. Hamas urged Israel to withdraw soldiers from the site, fired rockets May 10 when this did not happen, and Israel returned air strikes.

Israel has said more than 3,000 rockets have been fired at it in the past week. About 90 percent of the rockets have been intercepted by its Iron Dome defense system.

In May 2019, a similar bout of rockets from Gaza and air strikes by Israel killed about 30 Gazans and four Israelis.

The Gaza Strip is home to about 2 million people. There are about 1,000 Christians in the territory; most of these are Eastern Orthodox, and about 100 are Catholics.


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Pro-Life march draws hundreds to the streets of Ottawa despite ongoing COVID restrictions

Mon, 05/17/2021 - 10:45

By Brian Dryden, Canadian Catholic News

[Ottawa – CCN] – The ongoing COVID pandemic did not deter organizers of the national March for Life from returning to an in-person event May 13, 2021.

Hundreds of pro-life Canadians marched through the streets of the nation’s capital on May 13 and thousands more watched online as pro-life Canadians were told to stand up for their principles as the “culture of death” continues to seep into the nation’s soul.

“Do not compromise. Never, ever, backdown from your principles, even if it feels like you are all alone,” Independent MP Derek Sloan told hundreds of pro-life Canadians gathered on Parliament Hill.

They were back on the hill again for the annual March For Life after the actual in-person march was cancelled last year because of the COVID pandemic.

Even though the province of Ontario continues to have a stay-at-home edict in place, hundreds of pro-life Canadians and march organizers the Campaign Life Coalition were adamant that this year they would gather in-person on Parliament Hill again because, as one marcher told the Canadian Catholic News, “the pro-life message is an essential service.”

“They are still killing babies. This (COVID) hasn’t stopped abortions,” said Muriel Duclair, a Gatineau resident said when asked why she attended this year’s march even though most of the 2021 events surrounding the March For Life were also being broadcast online like they were in 2020.

“I feel it is important to do this in person if we can because it shows that we are not going to be silenced,” she said, as she held one of 300 roses that March For Life rally organizers handed out at the event to symbolize the 300 babies that are aborted every day in Canada.

March for Life organizers handed out 300 roses symbolizing the 300 children aborted on average each day in Canada. (Photo by Bryan Dryden, CCN)

Just before the march proceeded with a City of Ottawa police escort through the streets of downtown Ottawa, Campaign Life Coalition Ottawa organizer Debbie Duval joined with other speakers in denouncing the fact that while most non-emergency medical procedures have been cancelled or delayed since governments brought in severe COVID pandemic regulations since March 2020 to stop the spread of the virus, abortions have been treated as an essential service.

“They have not stopped, so why would we?” Duval said. “Nothing is more essential than life.”

The 2021 March for Life May 13 coincided with the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima, with some participants carrying a statue in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary during the March for Life. (Photo by Bryan Dryden, CCN)

Signs that said “Abortion is not essential” were distributed by organizers and many protesters such as Rapa Tola displayed that message during the event as they gathered on Parliament Hill.

His sign said “Abortion is not health care”.

“How can aborting children be considered essential,” said Tola, who lives in Ottawa now but had lived in Alberta when he first came to Canada.

While one of the themes of this year’s March For Life was “you are not alone”, when it comes to political support for the pro-life movement during the rally on Parliament Hill pro-life Canadians were close to being alone.

The only sitting MP who took part in the rally was the former Conservative and now independent MP Derek Sloan. The only other political figure to speak at the rally was Christian Heritage Party (CHP) leader Rod Taylor. The CHP, which calls itself the only pro-life federal party in Canada since it was founded in 1987, has never elected an MP in a federal election.




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Bishop Jon Hansen launches appeal for flood relief in Mackenzie-Fort Smith diocese

Mon, 05/17/2021 - 10:01

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

The spring break-up on the Mackenzie and Liard rivers has caused historic and devastating levels of flooding in the Northwest Territories, including several communities in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Mackenzie-Fort Smith.

“Particularly hard hit has been Fort Simpson, where over 700 people have been evacuated, and Jean Marie River which was completely inundated by the river waters,” says Bishop Jon Hansen, CSsR, of Mackenzie-Fort Smith in a recent Facebook post.

“While we can be grateful that there has been no loss of life, the property loss and the trauma caused by dislocation and anxiety is incalculable,” says Bishop Hansen.

Bishop Mark Hagemoen – who served as bishop of the Diocese of Mackenzie-Fort Smith before his appointment as bishop of Saskatoon – has been in touch with Bishop Hansen and others from his former diocese.

“The flood of the massive Mackenzie River is unlike ever seen before,” says Bishop Hagemoen. “This is affecting all of the communities along the Mackenzie River, from Fort Providence, and potentially all the way to Inuvik. The most devastated are the communities of Jean Marie River and Fort Simpson.”

Bishop Hansen is asking for prayers and for financial support to assist in responding to the ongoing crisis.

“I would ask that you please pray for all those who have been affected by the flooding or are waiting downstream and preparing for the flood waters to arrive,” he says in his Facebook message.

Throughout the northern diocese a special “second collection” was taken up in aid of flood relief in the diocese of Mackenzie-Fort Smith. The proceeds from this collection will be received by the diocesan centre in Yellowknife, from where it will be distributed to the affected regions, explains Bishop Hansen.

“Between the pandemic and the floods, we are all under great stress these days determining the best way to cope,” adds the bishop in his message to the diocese. “Please take time to care for yourself the best you can and place your trust in God. May the strength we gain by drawing together as a community sustain us in the days ahead.”

Saskatoon’s bishop is also encouraging prayer and financial support from his diocese. “We pray for the protection and well-being of all of the people in these areas, and that the effects of the flooding will be minimized,” says Bishop Hagemoen. “I also encourage people to respond to Bishop Hansen’s request for financial support for those communities in crisis at this time.”

Those who would like to donate on-line can use the northern diocese’s Canada Helps donation link: (please indicate that your donation is for flood relief.)


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CNEWA launches emergency campaign to provide relief in COVID-stricken India

Thu, 05/13/2021 - 18:05

By Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) staff

Catholic Near East Welfare Association has launched an emergency campaign to encourage Canadians to help the most vulnerable persons in India who are suffering from the alarming spread of COVID-19.

“We urge all Canadians to remember the people of India as they battle the spread of COVID and, for those who can, to contribute financially to the efforts of our church partners on the ground,” says Carl Hétu, national director of CNEWA Canada.

“Catholic communities and groups in India need our support as they deliver emergency assistance, both physical and spiritual, to those who are often overlooked or outside of the reach of government assistance.”

CNEWA has been at the service of the churches and peoples of India for more than eight decades, working closely with the nation’s Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara Catholic churches. From its offices in Kerala, CNEWA supports the many ministries of these vital communities – from support of their programs for the marginalized, including services for those with special needs, children and the elderly, to the support of the formation of priests and religious sisters.

Campaign funds will aid CNEWA’s partners to distribute personal protective equipment, medical care, hygiene kits and food packets.

News stories report on the worsening situation in the country — with deaths now exceeding 250,000. Pope Francis and religious leaders from around the world have called on all persons to pray for an end to the pandemic.

CNEWA accepts donations online at or by phone at 1-866-322-4441. Cheques can be mailed to CNEWA Canada at 223 Main Street, Ottawa, ON K1S 1C4, marked “Emergency India.” Tax receipts will be issued for donations of $10 or more.


An agency of the Holy See, CNEWA works for, through and with the Eastern Catholic churches throughout the Middle East, Northeast Africa, India and Eastern Europe. Founded by Pope Pius XI in 1926, CNEWA provides pastoral and humanitarian support to the churches and people of the East. CNEWA Canada was incorporated as a registered charity by Canada Revenue Agency in 2003.

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For Carl Hétu of CNEWA, the desire for justice runs in the family

Thu, 05/13/2021 - 17:18

By Wendy-Ann Clarke, The Catholic Register

When Carl Hétu was a teenager growing up in Quebec, he recalls a conversation he had with his father that helped shape the man he would become.

In those days, there was little to no racial diversity in Beloeil, the city just east of Montreal where Hétu and his family lived. At age 13 or 14, in the mid-1960s, classmates began throwing around the N-word in reference to Black people. He didn’t think much of it but that changed one night because of his father.

“I remember coming home and I used that word and I got it so hard from my father,” remembered Hétu. “He put me in my place. I remember it as if it was yesterday. He spoke to me about the dignity of people and about how those words are used to continue enslavement. So here I am getting my first teaching (about systemic injustice) from my father who did not work in an environment with people of colour but he knew that this was wrong and that shouldn’t be used. I never used that word again.”

It was moments like that Hétu says marked his personal evolution, which eventually led him to the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA). He has been director of its Canadian branch since 2004 and last month his contract was renewed for another three years.

CNEWA was founded as a papal agency in 1926, operating on the ground in areas where Muslims, Christians, Jews and other religions live and interact with one another on a daily basis. The strength and survival of the Catholic faith over the centuries, Hétu says, has been its ability to foster meaningful relationships with other faiths and provide quality services to those in deepest need.

CNEWA supports the Catholic Church in parts of the world where Catholics are a religious minority, yet still make a disproportionate impact in providing quality schools and social services. It helps form priests, aids farmers, teaches children and provides emergency relief to refugees, all while encouraging dialogue. This is how Hétu says Catholic values continue to be shared in that part of the world.

Social justice came naturally to Hétu. He took to looking out for others like his parents had — they met through their work with an organization called La jeunesse ouvrière chrétienne (Young Christian Workers), a Church-led initiative founded by Fr. Joseph Cardijn in 1925 to provide vocational assistance to young people.

The social justice teaching of the Catholic Church formed the moral foundation of their family. Hétu’s mother was a social worker supporting disadvantaged people with health issues, his father a trade union leader fighting for workers.

As a teenager Hétu embraced social responsibility and was deeply involved in student politics. Angered by any injustice he saw in his school environment, he wasn’t afraid to put his body on the line in defence of someone who was being beat up or discriminated against for one reason or another.

Through the years he’s been able to transfer that passion into the positive action through faith, which has defined his work at CNEWA.

Driven by the parable of the good Samaritan, Hétu believes the work of the Catholic Church goes far beyond responding to incidences of injustice or need. It also involves working to understand the systemic issues that cause injustice. It’s faith in action inside and outside of the four walls of the church that defines Catholicism and is continuing to bring the teachings of Jesus to people all over the world.

“Never underestimate the teaching of the Church that is done via the schools, hospital services, providing help for the elderly, handicapped, refugees and the displaced,” said Hétu.

“All of that work is done in the name of Jesus, serving all, transforming all. Despite the small number of Catholics we continue to do God’s plan, to teach about being kind with your friend. Like the good Samaritan, we don’t care about your religion or if you’re a good person when you are in need. You might have been the worst person and maybe you deserve to be beaten up on the side of the street but that gesture to help that person could transform them to maybe become a better person.”

Michael J. Lacivita, communications director of CNEWA New York, has worked closely with Hétu over the years. They’ve travelled together on many trips throughout the Middle East and beyond, from Lebanon to Rome to Israel. He has been personally impacted by Hétu’s energy and drive to see the Gospel in action.

“His dedication, his passion, his witness to the Church and to the people of God in general is really noteworthy,” said Lacivita. “At times it’s quite humbling because he’s really passionate about what he sees as the role of the Church in the regions that we are privileged to serve. He understood the unique role that the Church in Canada could play in helping the Church in general reach out, build up and empower others. He recognized the opportunity and potential and quickly seized on it.”

Over the past seven years CNEWA Canada has raised over $4 million annually for its work to advance the mission of the Church on the ground in the Middle East.

Accustomed to being on work trips steadily throughout the year, Hétu has been grounded since the pandemic hit but continues to work virtually with staff and partners around the globe.

Though doing the work from a distance has its challenges, he is grateful to have more time with his wife Lorraine at their home in Gatineau, Que., across the river from Ottawa. The couple has four adult children.

Hétu remains as passionate as ever and is hopeful that with the increasing vaccine distribution the world is on its way to some semblance of normal. Despite the troubles around the world with the increasing number of migrants and refugees, he says people of faith need to continue to believe that good things are happening if we work together.

“We have to put our trust in God,” said Hétu.

“Human beings are so weak, but together we can be so strong. With God motivating us, inspiring us, we can change the world as He did. What an amazing movement Christianity has been. I have been blessed to be a part of it.”


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U.S. President Biden call fuels vaccine effort for poor nations

Thu, 05/13/2021 - 17:01

By Michael Swan, The Catholic Register

[Toronto – Canadian Catholic News] – After U.S. President Joe Biden’s surprise turnaround in favour of temporarily suspending patent protection for COVID-19 vaccines, Church leaders are redoubling their lobbying, hoping a World Trade Organization (WTO) agreement will get vaccines into arms south of the equator.

Meanwhile Canada refuses to say whether it will support the new U.S. position at the next WTO meetings June 8-9.

At previous WTO meetings to discuss the issue, Canada asked a series of wide-ranging questions about how the TRIPS waiver would speed up vaccine production and distribution. The questions prevented the proposal from moving forward.

The Catholic Church’s largest order of religious priests issued another demand for action on vaccine patents May 10.

“Eighty-seven per cent of administered vaccines have gone to high-income or upper-middle income countries while low-income countries have received only 0.2 per cent of available vaccines,” said the global social justice and ecology secretariat of the Jesuits.

“Excessive vaccine stockpiling by wealthy countries further threatens the lives of people around the world,” said the statement signed by Jesuit conferences in Latin America, North America, Africa, Europe, India and Asia.

“We are very encouraged by (Biden’s) decision and urge all WTO member countries to support this waiver,” said Canadian Fr. Ted Penton, secretary of the office of justice and ecology for the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States.

The WTO operates by consensus and a TRIPS (Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) waiver would require agreement from all 164 member nations. Biden’s support for a TRIPS waiver leaves the United Kingdom and Switzerland in the forefront of the fight against unlocking the patents. More than 100 mostly poor nations back the proposal. So far, Canadian leaders have refused to say whether they would support the TRIPS waiver.

“I can assure you that Canada is not interfering or blocking,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told a press conference May 7. “Canada is very much working to find a solution that works for everyone.”

Sixty-four Members of Parliament, including 30 Liberal backbenchers plus a senator, signed a multi-party letter to Trudeau urging him to support the waiver.

“We all benefit when every human is vaccinated and barriers to this objective must be removed wherever possible,” said the letter.

Canada’s Catholic development and aid organization believes a solution means listening to the poor countries asking for a TRIPS waiver and not the pharmaceutical industry which opposes it.  “We’re going to watch to see that Canada does indeed support a TRIPS waiver,” said Development and Peace spokesperson Minaz Kerawala.

The pharmaceutical industry lobby group Innovative Medicines Canada reacted to Biden’s new position by insisting a TRIPS waiver won’t solve the global vaccine supply problem. But a world religious leaders’ statement issued April 27 disagrees.

The World Religious Leaders’ Call for a People’s Vaccine said “we cannot abdicate our responsibilities to our sisters and brothers by imagining that the market can be left to resolve the crisis or pretend to ourselves that we have no obligation to others in our shared humanity. … Neglect would undermine the dignity not only of those left behind but also of those who have left them behind.”

Global Affairs Canada did not answer questions about whether Canada’s position is an attempt to avoid conflict with the pharmaceutical companies.

Ottawa did announce Canada will continue to draw on vaccines from the COVAX fund, which was set up by the United Nations and World Health Organization to get vaccines to low- and middle-income countries.

Canada has contributed $940 million to the COVAX facility and has a legal right to withdraw vaccines. As of April 11, COVAX had delivered 38.5 million doses, short of its 100 million goal by the end of March.


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Pope Francis institutes new ministry of catechist

Wed, 05/12/2021 - 16:12

By Catholic News Agency Staff

[Rome – CNA] – Pope Francis issued an apostolic letter May 11, 2021, formally instituting the new lay ministry of catechist.

The Vatican released the papal letter Antiquum ministerium (“Ancient ministry”), on May 11 in eight languages, including Italian Sign Language.

The pope said that the institution of the new lay ministry would “emphasize even more the missionary commitment proper to every baptized person, a commitment that must however be carried out in a fully ‘secular’ manner, avoiding any form of clericalization.”

The letter, issued motu proprio (“on his own impulse”), is dated May 10, the feast of the 16th-century Spanish Doctor of the Church St. John of Avila.

In the apostolic letter, the pope recalled the role of catechists in Church history, beginning with the New Testament’s First Epistle to the Corinthians, which refers to “teachers” within the early Christian community.

The Holy Father said that catechists played a critical role in the Church’s missionary expansion in the following centuries.

The pope described the Second Vatican Council, held from 1962 to 1965, as a turning point that led to “a renewed appreciation of the importance of lay involvement in the work of evangelization.”

He also highlighted the “great foresight” of his predecessor St. Paul VI, who encouraged bishops’ conferences worldwide to consider instituting the ministry of catechist in their regions in his 1972 apostolic letter Ministeria quaedam.

Pope Francis said that recent decades had seen “a significant renewal of catechesis,” citing the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church in 1992, Pope John Paul II’s 1979 apostolic exhortation Catechesi tradendae, and the catechetical directories released since Vatican II.

Describing the qualities that the Church seeks in participants in the new lay ministry, he wrote: “Catechists are called first to be expert in the pastoral service of transmitting the faith as it develops through its different stages from the initial proclamation of the kerygma [Gospel proclamation] to the instruction that presents our new life in Christ and prepares for the sacraments of Christian initiation, and then to the ongoing formation that can allow each person to give an accounting of the hope within them.”

“At the same time, every catechist must be a witness to the faith, a teacher and mystagogue, a companion and pedagogue, who teaches for the Church.”

He emphasized that candidates should receive “suitable biblical, theological, pastoral, and pedagogical formation to be competent communicators of the truth of the faith and they should have some prior experience of catechesis.”

Pope Francis has emphasized the role of the laity since his election in 2013.

In his 2020 post-synodal apostolic exhortation Querida Amazonia, he said that there was a need to strengthen lay leadership in the Amazon region.

He wrote: “A Church of Amazonian features requires the stable presence of mature and lay leaders endowed with authority and familiar with the languages, cultures, spiritual experience and communal way of life in the different places, but also open to the multiplicity of gifts that the Holy Spirit bestows on every one. For wherever there is a particular need, he has already poured out the charisms that can meet it.”

“This requires the Church to be open to the Spirit’s boldness, to trust in, and concretely to permit, the growth of a specific ecclesial culture that is distinctively lay. The challenges in the Amazon region demand of the Church a special effort to be present at every level, and this can only be possible through the vigorous, broad, and active involvement of the laity.”

In January this year, the pope issued a motu proprio, Spiritus Domini, changing canon law to allow women to serve as lectors and acolytes.

Lector and acolyte are publicly recognized ministries instituted by the Church. The roles were once considered “minor orders” in the tradition of the Church and were changed to ministries by Pope Paul VI.

The Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments will publish a Rite of Institution of the new lay ministry of catechist.

The pope wrote: “This ministry has a definite vocational aspect, as evidenced by the Rite of Institution, and consequently calls for due discernment on the part of the Bishop.”

“It is in fact a stable form of service rendered to the local Church in accordance with pastoral needs identified by the local Ordinary, yet one carried out as a work of the laity, as demanded by the very nature of the ministry.”

The pope said that bishops’ conferences should decide the “necessary process of formation and the normative criteria for admission” to the new ministry.


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Appeals of Bill 21 court ruling in Quebec will be making very different arguments

Tue, 05/11/2021 - 09:33
Critics of the “secularism law” agree that the April court ruling must be appealed

By Brian Dryden, Canadian Catholic News

[Ottawa – CCN] – Two of the organizations trying to have Quebec’s controversial secularism law Bill 21 overturned by the courts recently announced hat they will be joining the Quebec government in appealing a court decision released in April, which upheld most of Bill 21.

But the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM) and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA), who were the first to challenge Bill 21 in the courts, will be appealing the ruling for very different reasons than Quebec’s government.

In his 242-page Quebec Superior Court ruling released on April 20, 2021, Justice Marc-André Blanchard ruled that for the most part the Quebec government does have the power to force government employees not to wear any religious symbols while they are at work.

He made that decision even though his ruling concedes that Bill 21 infringes on the religious freedom and freedom of expression rights of Canadians. But Blanchard ruled that because Quebec’s government invoked the notwithstanding clause of the constitution, most of Bill 21 is shielded from being challenged in the courts.

However, Justice Blanchard did strike down a part of the bill that relates to English language education rights in Quebec because he ruled that the law violates Section 23 of the charter of rights. His ruling says minority education rights can not be upended by the notwithstanding clause.

It is that aspect of the ruling that has angered the provincial government and prompted the Quebec government to announce it was appealing the ruling almost immediately after it was made public on April 20.

Quebec Justice Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette told a press conference after the court ruling that the province does not believe the law in Quebec should be applied differently based on language.

“The laws of the National Assembly apply throughout Quebec. There is no question of dividing Quebec in the application of Quebec legislation,” said Jolin-Barrette.

But while the ruling has appeased English school boards in Quebec that were part of the challenge to Bill 21 — and those school boards vow to defend the court ruling on appeal — two of the main English school board’s allies in the case challenging Bill 21 now say will also appeal the ruling. And they say it is Bill 21 and the Quebec government that is dividing Quebecers, not those who are against Bill 21.

“Justice Marc-Andre Blanchard recognized that there are fundamental problems with Bill 21. The stories of how real people continue to be harmed by Bill 21 are clear in this decision. There are real life consequences to the harms that Bill 21 causes,” a joint statement May 6 from the NCCM and CCLA said, adding that the two organizations will continue to challenge Bill 21 to the Canadian Supreme Court if they have to.

“The government wants to make us believe that the court’s decision divides Quebecers,” said CCLA equity program director Noa Mendelsohn Aviv.

“In fact, the legislation known as Bill 21 is itself the source of division, discrimination, and harm to Quebec society,” she said. “Quebecers deserve choice and freedom from government oppression, and that is why we will continue to fight Bill 21.”

Many human rights and religious groups have been calling on the federal government to get involved in the legal challenges to Bill 21, but so far the federal government’s position has been to stay out of the Quebec court cases. That is a position that has been reiterated by most of the other federal political parties in Canada, including the Conservatives and the NDP.

But despite the lack of action or support from the main federal political parties which have all framed the issue as being a provincial issue in Quebec, opponents of Bill 21 will continue to seek to overturn Bill 21 in the courts.

“It has been almost two years of second-class citizenship for Quebecers who wear religious symbols such as the hijab, kippah, or turban,” said NCCM Director of Quebec Affairs Yusuf Faqiri.

“We promised that we would not stop fighting until second-class citizenship ends for all Quebecers.”


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