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

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Updated: 1 year 6 days ago

Catholic bishops object to deciding “grave moral questions” by online survey

Fri, 02/07/2020 - 10:44

By Bryan Dryden, Canadian Catholic News

[Ottawa – CCN] – On a matter of life and death Canadians were given two weeks in January 2020 to make their views known to the federal government on the possible expansion of who can ask to be put to death by a doctor in Canada legally.

When the federal government was considering legalizing pot, they were given two months from Nov. 21, 2017, to January 20, 2018, to comment.

The federal government is coming under increasing fire from critics of legal medically-assisted suicide in Canada for how quickly it is moving to change the regulations surround the existing medically-assisted suicide / euthanasia system — known as “Medical Aid in Dying” or MAID — and for how short a time period Canadians were given to express their views in an online survey overseen by the Ministry of Justice.

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

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

On an issue of such importance, the federal two week online consultation period is troubling to others as well.

“The government gave Canadians just 14 days to fill out a bare-bones online questionnaire on expanding MAID. Graduating high school students have more time to consider a university acceptance letter than Canadians were given to consider monumental social change fraught with moral complexity,” said Ray Pennings, executive vice-president of the Ottawa faith-based think tank Cardus.

“The government needs to take its time,” he said.

The short time period Canadians were given to comment on possible changes to the assisted suicide/ euthanasia system is tied to a recent Quebec court decision in September 201,  known as the Truchon decision, that struck down the “reasonably foreseeable” and imminent death requirement to qualify for an assisted death as being unconstitutional.

Both the federal and Quebec governments could have appealed that decision but have decided not to appeal, which means that the federal government will make changes to Canada’s assisted-dying regulations to comply with a court deadline of March 11 of this year. Federal Justice Minister David Lametti has said he wants to put issue on the docket to be debated in the House of Commons by the middle of February.

Legal medically-assisted suicide / euthanasia in Canada has been driven by court rulings, with the federal government passing legislation to regulate the procedure following a Canadian Supreme Court decision in 2015 that led to the existing federal law in 2016.

That law included a number of restrictions. In addition to the requirement that a person already be nearing the end of life, which the Quebec court decision struck down, assisted suicide or euthanasia is presently only available to adults, cannot be administered to someone who is suffering from mental illness, and may not be administered through an advance directive after a patient’s condition deteriorates to the point in which they are mentally impaired from making a final decision.

The federal decision not to appeal that Quebec ruling has been a hot-button issue for opponents of assisted suicide and euthanasia and of any possible expansion of who qualifies for medically-assisted death.

“We are disappointed and deeply concerned that the federal government has recently refused to appeal the Quebec Superior Court ruling on extending euthanasia/assisted suicide to persons whose deaths are not imminent,” CCCB president Gagnon said on behalf of Canada’s Catholic bishops.\

That disappointment is reiterated by Alex Schadenberg of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition, who said the federal government had a “duty” to appeal the decision even if it agreed with the court decision.

“They abdicated their responsibility as the federal government,” he said, calling the government’s two week online survey which the Ministry of Justice said 300,000 Canadians took part in a “dog and pony show.”

“The online consultation questionnaire was a sham,” Schadenberg said. “Many of the questions implied an outcome. It is a sham to ask people to complete a questionnaire when some of the questions are designed to provide a predetermined outcome.”

In the CCCB’s letter to the prime minister, Archbishop Gagnon also took issue with the federal government’s survey questions.

“The way the survey was constructed requires Canadians to agree tacitly in the expansion of euthanasia before even being able to express opposition and any concerns they may have,” Gagnon’s letter to the prime minister said.

“We, as bishops of the Catholic faithful in Canada, call on the government to engage in a more rigorous, impartial and prolonged study of the problems inherent in euthanasia/assisted suicide by involving those whose experiences offer a different perspective and even present inconvenient truths,” the CCCB letter said.

In response to the CCCB’s letter, Rachel Rappaport, press secretary to Justice Minister David Lametti, said that what the government is doing at this point is responding to the Quebec court decision, but pointed out that there will be a further review of Canada’s legally-assisted death system starting in summer 2020 as promised when the legislation around assisted suicide and euthanasia was first enacted.

“Our government recognizes that medical assistance in dying is a complex and deeply personal issue. We remain committed to protecting vulnerable individuals while protecting the Charter rights of all Canadians,” Rappaport said. “We received nearly 300,000 responses from the public as part of the online survey, demonstrating just how engaged Canadians are with this deeply significant issue.

“Canada’s current medical assistance in dying law requires a parliamentary review of the law’s provisions, as well as the state of palliative care in Canada starting at the beginning of the fifth year after becoming law, which would be the summer of 2020,” she said. “This review would allow for further public and parliamentary debate on all aspects of medical assistance in dying in Canada.”


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Laity have role in stemming tide of assisted suicide

Fri, 02/07/2020 - 10:28

By Agnieszka Ruck, The B.C. Catholic

[Vancouver – Canadian Catholic News] – Living in the region with the highest number of assisted suicides in Canada, Fr. William Hann of the Diocese of Victoria says he has seen much moral distress, broken families, and troubling situations.

“Remember when we talked about the slippery slope? Even before five years are up, the slope is becoming more slippery,” Hann told 95 priests, chaplains, and health care volunteers Jan. 21.

In 2016, assisted suicide and euthanasia were legalized for Canadians whose deaths were “reasonably foreseeable.” In the two years that followed, 500 people on Vancouver Island sought a doctor-aided death – five times the Canadian average.

With the wrapping up of a federal government consultation on public opinion about expanding eligibility for assisted suicide, Hann is skeptical. “The government does not want to hear the stories of what we are experiencing in our diocese where people are suffering moral distress.”

On Vancouver Island, “where everybody comes from everywhere else to retire,” many elderly people have fallen out of touch with friends and support networks and become vulnerable, he said.

He has met nurses who have lost jobs over refusing to participate in assisted suicides. He sees ailing people mired in isolation because family members consider it too inconvenient to travel to the island. And he has reached out to a parent in the early stages of cancer who was urged on toward death by her children.

“Dying with dignity? Sounds nice, doesn’t it? But it’s corrupted,” he said. “We live in this culture that is death-denying and death-defying – the last great selfish act.”

Yet despite the grim scenarios, Hann said people of faith still have a vital role to play.

“We are called to the healing ministry of Christ, to walk with people, to be with them in their time of need,” he said. “We must always come back to the very core of who we are called to be. Pope Francis invites us to swim against the tide of cynicism and despair and be people of hope and mercy, even in these difficult, challenging times.”

Opportunities range from sharing one’s views about assisted suicide on social media to spending time in a care home or hospital with someone who is ill. When there are no family members nearby, those visits can make a world of difference for someone.

“People tell chaplains things they don’t tell doctors because the heart speaks to heart. That is something we have lost in British Columbia in the most part.”

Hann encouraged lay people to take up the challenge to be like Jesus for the ill, elderly, and dying.

He offered a quote from Jesuit theologian Father James F. Keenan: “Mercy is the willingness to enter into the chaos of another.”

“I love the definition,” said Hann. “Mercy is the ability to enter into the chaos of someone’s life and be with them in their need.’ Jesus did that. He did that and so must we.”

Taking questions from the crowd, Father Hann said he accompanies the ill and dying as long as they want – but not if they request an assisted suicide. That’s where he draws the line.

“As priests, as pastoral care workers, as chaplains, when we bring Jesus to people, we have discovered, when they are supported, when they are loved, when they are affirmed, when they are included, they don’t need to make choices to end their life.”

Hann was speaking at a one-day conference for chaplains and lay pastoral care workers in Vancouver Jan. 21. Also speaking was Bob Breen, head of the Catholic Health Association of B.C. and the Denominational Health Association, who said the faithful have a role in building a culture of life.

“It’s not the reins that pull the carriage, it’s the horses,” he said. In combatting assisted suicide, “we need to look to the laity.”

Star of the Sea Parish, for example, offers a pastoral care program to train parishioners to become regular visitors for the hospitalized and homebound. The health association is making the same training available to any parish in the Archdiocese of Vancouver.

“Be with people, sit down, and hold a hand for half an hour … listen and let them share,” said Breen. “Once they get to know you, they will share things they may not share with their family. They need to get it off their chest. It’s listening that makes a difference in their quality of life.”

His organization has also released a Health Ethics Guide smartphone app with resources for chaplains and Catholic health care workers who face troubling moral situations.

Speakers Fr. John Horgan, pastor of St. Pius X Parish in North Vancouver, and Peter Nobes, head of Catholic Cemeteries, discussed how to navigate cultural expectations and complex situations regarding funerals.

“We need to have the courage to reach out in love so even in times of brokenness, when they can’t see the fullness of Christ’s love, they can see some of it,” said Horgan.

Nobes said some statistics show 16 per cent of Catholics actively practise their faith, but double that number requests a Catholic funeral Mass.

In his work he draws inspiration from a woman he knew named Mary who was so reconciled with her family and death and had such strong faith that she cried out on her deathbed: “Lord, I am ready! Take me!”

“Our aim is to prepare people to be like Mary,” he said.


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Challenge to show “Unusual Kindness” – Closing service for Week of Prayer for Christian Unity held in Saskatoon

Tue, 02/04/2020 - 11:27

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

Oars marked with powerful words spoken in prayer were brought forward during a celebration Jan, 26 at St. Philip Neri Parish in Saskatoon for the closing of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

The words of prayer and reflection – reconciliation, enlightenment, hope, trust, strength, hospitality, conversion, and generosity – along with the nautical symbol of oars provided a visible connection to the 2020 scriptural theme of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, taken from the account in Acts 28:2 of St. Paul’s experience of help provided after a shipwreck: “They showed us unusual kindness.”

“Unusual kindness” is what Christians are called to in their relationship with others, said fr. Jakob Palm of Holy Covenant Evangelical Orthodox Church, who gave the homily at the closing service.

“You will have a really hard time seeing the divinity of Christ if you fail to see the humanity of your neighbour,” said Palm.

“Jesus sees our potential, our willingness to do good things even though we often fail. He sees our story and what happened to us. He can empathize fully. He sees our shame and our guilt as the very point from where he can launch his reconciliation. What needs to happen is that we as his hands and feet – as his body – start to share his vision, that we start to see ourselves as Jesus sees us, with kindness in love, diverse but one.”

Kindness is one of the chief characteristics of Jesus, Palm stressed. “Kindness is the key that opens the door to the heart made of stone. …When we are kind, we give room and space to others to tell their story of broken heartedness. We take the time to listen rather than just ‘solve a problem.’ To be kind is to be present with each other and all of creation in the moment.”

In a broken relationship, a first step to healing is to think and act with kindness, he continued. “Kindness refrains from passing judgements on other persons’ beliefs but also gives you the courage to give an honest answer when asked for your point of view. … To offer a smile rather than the face of judgment reconciles the world. We can do this every day. Be kind: it will open up the reality of the Kingdom of Heaven.”

During his message at the Jan. 26 closing service for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Palm urged his listeners to walk in the care of Christ. “The good news of the Kingdom is that healing – and that which is good, true, benevolent and just – is actually possible for the world and each and every one of us. It is the reality of true peace. Despite everything that is happening in the world, true love and true peace is possible. The Church is supposed to incarnate this new reality –  it is time that we took the next step in faith to put not only our talking but also our walking, our whole being, in the care of Christ.”

Pentecost 2020 May 31 at Sasktel Centre

Palm concluded his homily by looking forward to another upcoming ecumenical event in Saskatoon – “Pentecost 2020: One in the Holy Spirit”, to be held the afternoon of May 31 at Sasktel Centre. Doors for that free event open at 2 p.m., with the celebration beginning at 3 p.m. on the Sunday on which many Christians celebrate Pentecost – a day commemorating the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples of Jesus, held 50 days after Easter.

The event website describes the Pentecost 2020 event, which will involve dozens of Christian churches in Saskatoon and is open to all, including those with no connection to a church: “We will sing, confess our faith, hear scriptures, pray, and acknowledge where we have missed the mark as church.”

“By focusing on Jesus Christ and his unifying person we can gather under one roof despite our differences, reflecting a God who is three persons in one communion. The common understanding is that there are several churches because of how we as a church have acted. But there is only one church – the body of Christ, and He is not divided. It is time that we begin to reflect that reality in practical ways.” – Pentecost 2020 WEBSITE

Jan. 26 prayer services winds up week of prayer

Participants at the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity closing celebration share a greeting / sign of peace. (Photo by Cathryn Wood of Prairie Centre for Ecumenism)

Prayers during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity closing service Jan. 26  included the Nicene Creed and the Lord’s Prayer, as well as prayers of penitence for times of division and lack of charity, as well as prayers affirming unity and reconciliation: “We have come together as Christians, and therefore as fellow disciples. As we yearn for Christian unity, let us commit ourselves anew to work for this common goal.”

Worship leaders and participants at the Jan. 26 service included Fr. Mike Dechant, OMI, pastor at St. Philip Neri Catholic Church, Rev. Patrick Preheim of Nutana Park Mennonite Church, Rev. Trent Felstrom of Redeemer Lutheran Church, Gerri Maddill of Calvin Goforth Presbyterian Church, and Cathryn Wood of St. Stephen’s Anglican Church, as well as Mary Nordick of the Prairie Centre for Ecumenism and St. Philip Neri parishioners Norman Lipinski, Shirley Hyshka, and Rachelle Brockman. Music ministry was provided by a choir led by Joanne Lysyshyn, with Art Evoy as cantor.

A social time followed the worship service Jan. 26 at St. Philip Neri Parish. (Photo by Cathryn Wood of Prairie Centre for Ecumenism)


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CWL Winter Gathering includes sobering message from guest speaker

Mon, 02/03/2020 - 17:11

By Connie McGrath, Catholic Women’s League

Guest speaker Albert Brown delivered a sobering report on pornography and sex trafficking to a diocesan Catholic Women’s League “Winter Gathering” held Feb. 1, 2020 at the Cathedral of the Holy Family in Saskatoon.

As the director of the correctional and justice program at The Salvation Army Crossroads Centre in Saskatoon, Brown runs an “alternative measures” rehabilitation course for convicted clients of prostitutes, who are commonly known as “johns.” Since 2002, he has had more than 1,000 men complete the “johns’ school” program, which strives to help men break their sex addiction and salvage their life.

In his presentation to Catholic Women’s League (CWL) representatives from across the diocese, Brown provided sobering facts about the harm that pornography, human trafficking and prostitution inflicts on individuals, families and society.

When caught, men will often lie and say it is their first time, he reported. Over time, many “johns” will admit that all aspects of their lives have suffered because of pornography or from purchasing sex from prostitutes, and/or from sex addition. This harm includes damage to emotional health (96 per cent), to physical health (56 per cent), and to their relationship with family (over 50 per cent). Their ability to work suffers, and some 26 per cent fear that they purchased sex from a minor. Grandfathers are terrified their children will find out they buy sex and will never allow them to see the grandchildren again, he described. Some shift the guilt and choose to blame others – such as a wife or girlfriend –rather than be honest and take responsibility for their choices, he added.

“Johns” can range in age from 17 to 87 years and come from all walks of life, Brown said. Some 75 per cent have high school education; 46 per cent have a post-secondary education, and 25 per cent make over $100,000 a year. About 50 per cent of the “johns” are fathers with kids at home; 25 per cent are single.

Some 72 per cent started viewing pornography before the age of 19, and 13 per cent started before the age of 13 years.

In his presentation, Brown strongly urged parents to be extremely vigilant in being aware of what their children – boys and girls –are viewing. There are hundreds of porn sites online, but much of regular TV programming also includes offensive sexual images.

Pornography does not depict a tender loving bond between man and woman, he stressed. There is only emptiness and physicality — and often violence, abuse and degradation.

As with an addiction to drugs or gambling, the temporary dopamine surge from pornography negatively affects the brain. First a little satisfies, and then more is needed “to get a buzz.” Desensitization occurs. One cannot “unsee” what one has seen. Viewing pornography is a catalyst to becoming a sex consumer. All sex offenders and pedophiles begin by viewing pornography, he said.

The average age of a prostitute is 13 years, Brown reported. About 85 per cent of those involved in prostitution suffered sexual abuse in childhood; 70 per cent are victims of incest; and 75 per cent have been raped.

Brown apologized for presenting an ugly side of life, but added that it must be exposed. He also warned that the depths of depravity to which a person can sink is not yet known. Organized crime in human trafficking world-wide is a billion-dollar business. Runaways are often picked up by traffickers within 24 hours. Some who are trafficked as prostitutes have been taken to trailers in work camps and violated repeatedly. Most have some form of communicable disease and sexually-transmitted infections.

Some 18 per cent of child porn images online are produced by parents, with 25 per cent produced by a neighbor or someone else known to the family, he added.

Brown said that he is looking for allies and “prayer warriors” to pray for all the people hurt by pornography, prostitution, and human trafficking. With awareness and intervention, there is hope and freedom from sex addiction, he said. “If porn gets through on your computer, turn away, rebuke it!”

CWL members who were present at the event thanked Brown for the work he does and sang a blessing over the guest speaker.

CWL event includes celebration of the Eucharist

The “Winter Gathering” opened earlier that day with celebration of Mass by associate pastor Fr. Deyre Azcuna in the cathedral’s Queen of Peace Chapel. Many of the 60 women present for the CWL gathering were grateful for the opportunity to see the beautiful chapel for the first time.

Fr. Deyre Azcuna, associate pastor at the Cathedral of the Holy Family, presided at Mass in the Queen of Peace Chapel to open the Feb. 1 CWL event. (Photo by Connie McGrath – Saskatoon Diocesan council of the Catholic Women’s League)

The Gospel proclaimed at Mass from Luke 8:24 described how the disciples in the boat woke Jesus in fear and panic during a turbulent storm. Jesus reprimanded the disciples for their lack of faith. The homily was a call to remain faithful and to trust in God. “Having God in your boat does not mean that you will not face any storms. It means that no storm can sink your boat.”

Saskatoon Diocesan CWL President Ingrid Eggerman of Watson welcomed the representatives of 15 of the 43 CWL councils in the diocese who attended the Winter Gathering.

Ingrid Eggerman, Saskatoon Diocesan CWL president, welcomed 60 women from 15 councils to the Winter Gathering meeting, Feb. 1 at the Cathedral of the Holy Family. (Photo by Connie McGrath – Saskatoon Diocesan council of the Catholic Women’s League)

Catholic Women’s Leadership Foundation highlighted

Two Catholic Women’s Leadership Foundation participants from Saskatoon were introduced during the gathering. Rachele Ng and Shannon Granger are concluding the one-year course this spring. The Catholic Women’s Leadership Foundation was established in 2012, and incorporated in 2014, with the intent to educate and train capable women to serve in leadership roles in churches, communities, and the work world.

Rachelle Ng of Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools and Shannon Granger of St. Angela Merici Residence are two Saskatoon participants undertaking the Catholic Women’s Leadership Foundation certificate program this year. (Photo by Connie McGrath – Saskatoon Diocesan council of the Catholic Women’s League)

The Catholic Women’s Leadership Foundation leadership certificate program is women-centred, with networking opportunities and a mentorship plan to help women improve leadership skills. The one-year program consists of an in-person residency program at Saint Paul University in Ottawa, and online modules guided by trained facilitators.

CWL members heard how interested women of all ages are encouraged to take advantage of this opportunity to develop stronger leadership skills. Visit the website for more details.


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Reflection for the World Day of Prayer for Consecrated Life (Feb. 2) – “Perhaps that is why she is happy wherever she is”

Mon, 02/03/2020 - 16:09

By Sr. Maggie Beaudette, CSJ

In 1997, Pope Saint John Paul II instituted a day of prayer for women and men in consecrated life. The feast of the Presentation of Jesus on Feb. 2 is also known as Candlemas Day, a day in which candles are blessed. Candles when lit, symbolize Christ who is the light of the world. So too, those in consecrated life are called to reflect the light of Christ to all peoples.

Pope Francis speaks of religious life in these terms:

  • Praise which gives joy to God’s people
  • Prophetic vision that reveals what counts
  • It is not about dying, but about new life (especially in these days of decline in membership and aging)
  • It is a living encounter with the Lord in his people
  • It is a call to faithful obedience of daily life
  • It is faithful obedience to the unexpected surprises from the Spirit.

(Pope Francis, World Day of Consecrated Life, 2019)


In 2018, Pope Francis  wrote that everything with regards to vocation started with an encounter with the Lord and a call. I can never renew that encounter without others. Consecrated men and women are called first and foremost to be men and women of encounter.

With these thoughts in mind, I will share a bit of my journey as a consecrated religious, a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph in Canada.

From my earliest time of remembering, I always knew that I would be a Sister and a teacher. There was never any doubt. To that end, I always thought I had a very boring vocation story. There was no great decision, no huge sacrifice.

When I was home at my parents’ at the time of my oldest brother’s death, Mom had started writing her memoirs and she let me read them. In her writing she tells the story of my very early days of life. She tells of being home with a 2 and 1/2 year old, a 1 and1/2 year old, a new baby and the dog. Dad was working night shift in the city. I was about a month old and had a severe cold. I stopped breathing. (Mom, being a nurse knew what to do.) As she tried to revive me she prayed that if I lived, God could do with me what he wanted. And then she writes, “I suppose that is why she is happy wherever she is.”

As I was reflecting yesterday, I realized that, since I was born Jan. 2, it is very likely this event happened around the Feast of the Presentation. Now I knew my vocation story! The seed was planted that night. It continued to be nourished through our family prayer, the faith of my parents and parish community, as I grew up in a small community in Ontario about the size of Enterprise, NT.

A couple of specific examples of our family prayer are very clear to me. We prayed the rosary each night. I was by no means the pious one in the family.

I recall playing baseball in the back field. It did not matter what was happening in the game. I could be up to bat and Mom or Dad would come out and call us in to pray. The bat dropped and in we went. Any of the other friends were welcome to join us.

Or another time, when my youngest brother Tim was able to pray a decade, I clearly remember his first time. We had been watching TV. Off went the program. He was so slow! I said, “Hurry! The commercial will be over!” (Today you can pray a whole decade of the rosary as we have so many commercials!)

My life growing up was very ordinary. My vocation was nourished through my family, my parish community and some Sisters that I met throughout my early years. It was that encounter with God, but also with others that supported this seed of religious vocation.

I entered the community of the Sisters of St. Joseph in 1965, and was received into the community in July of 1966. (There was a beautiful celebration for my 50th Jubilee here in Hay River in 2016.)

After seven years, in 1973, I professed my final vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. I also promised to strive to live the virtues of humility and hospitality, characteristic of a Sister of St. Joseph.

On that day, a wise, elderly Sister said to me, “Congratulations! I will pray for your perseverance.” I thought, what an odd thing to say, since in my mind, I had made it. How wise she was, as through the years I have relied on the prayers of others to remain faithful and true to my calling and commitment. Prayers of others help me to live that obedience to everyday life that Pope Francis spoke about.

Pope Francis also mentioned the unexpected surprise of the Spirit. This is very much a part of my prayer, my willingness to be open to minister where the Lord is calling me. And I always want to be sure that it is God’s agenda, not mine.

Each of us, through our baptism, are brought into relationship with our Creator. We all share in the ministry of Jesus to enhance the kingdom of God, and we are all gifted with the Holy Spirit to guide us in this relationship.

Each of us has a vocation. It may be to the single life, married life, priesthood or consecrated, religious life. As each person lives out his or her vocation, faithfully, with its ups and downs, I am also strengthened in my vocation to be faithful.

In today’s society, we are all busy. Families are often super busy especially with the children’s activities, But, I encourage families to take time for prayer, at meals or bedtime. Pray for openness to the call of the Lord, whatever it might be.

Finally, Pope Francis speaks of consecrated religious life as an experience “of what we need to embrace in order to experience joy: JESUS.” My life, with all its ups and downs, sometimes doubts and confusion, sometimes difficulty in staying focused and faithful to prayer, ultimately is a life of joy.

As I echo my mom’s words “and, so perhaps that is why she is happy wherever she is” I say thank you – mahsi, –   to my parish community, to the community of Katlodeeche and Hay River, where I am nurtured daily to be faithful to my life of enhancing the kingdom of God.






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Monsignor Raymond Senger celebrates 85th birthday

Mon, 02/03/2020 - 11:39

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

Bishop Mark Hagemoen joined friends and family of Monsignor Raymond Senger to celebrate the 85th birthday of the retired diocesan priest Feb. 2 at Columbian Manor in Saskatoon.

Celebration of Mass, a dinner and program marked the occasion honouring Msgr. Senger, who has served as a priest for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon since his ordination more than 54 years ago on June 6, 1965.

Born and raised at Tramping Lake, SK, Msgr. Senger became a teacher before being accepted into St. Pius X Seminary in Saskatoon, and then continuing his formation at St. Peter’s Seminary in London, Ontario.

Ordained by Bishop Francis Klein June 5, 1965 at St. Paul Cathedral in Saskatoon, the newly-ordained Fr. Raymond Senger celebrated his first Mass at St. Michael Church in Tramping Lake the next day.

While serving as assistant pastor at St. Joseph Parish in Kindersley, Fr. Senger taught in the Catholic school system. He later served parishes located in Morengo, Eatonia, Watrous, Young, Colonsay, Bigger, and Landis, the Radar Base at Alsask, as well as at St. Paul’s Cathedral, St. Peter the Apostle and St. Francis Xavier parishes in Saskatoon. He also served as pastor at St. Ann’s Home in Saskatoon.

He was named “Monsignor” on April 2, 2012, a pontifical honour conferred by Pope Benedict XVI for his service as a dedicated pastor in the diocese of Saskatoon.

Msgr. Raymond Senger speaking at Mass Feb. 2 at Columbian Manor in Saskatoon, part of his 85th birthday celebration. (Submitted photo)


Monsignor Raymond Senger, Bishop Mark Hagemoen, and Monsignor Stanley Urbanoski (l-r) celebrate Eucharist Feb. 2 at Columbian Manor to mark Msgr. Senger’s 85th birthday. (Submitted photo)


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Agreements allow high school students to earn post-secondary credits

Thu, 01/30/2020 - 18:13

By Derrick Kunz, Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools

New education partnerships will give some Saskatoon Catholic high school students a head start on their post-secondary studies.

Starting this winter, Grade 12 students enrolled in the Health and Sciences Academy (HSA) at Bishop James Mahoney High School (BJM) will be able to earn credit for select post-secondary courses taught at the school by highly-qualified teachers.

Memorandums of understanding were signed today by representatives from Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools, Saskatchewan Polytechnic’s School of Health Sciences, and the College of Arts and Science at the University of Saskatchewan. There are tentative plans to include more courses in the future.

“We’re pleased to be able to offer our students this advantage,” said Scott Gay, superintendent of learning services at Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools.

“The Health and Sciences Academy already offers students several opportunities to expand their learning beyond a traditional classroom and get a leg up for their future in science or health-care related fields. This is one more reason for students to consider attending the academy,” said Gay.

“Sask Polytech’s School of Health Sciences is excited to offer dual credit courses to all Bishop James Mahoney High School students. Dual-credit courses provide students with the opportunity to get a head start on their post-secondary education,” said Sandra Blevins, dean of the School of Nursing and School of Health Sciences at Saskatchewan Polytechnic. “We look forward to exploring additional dual-credit courses moving forward.”

“The College of Arts and Science is delighted that our colleagues at Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools and BJM brought this partnership opportunity to us,” said Gordon DesBrisay, vice-dean academic at the College of Arts and Science.

“Faculty in our Department of Biology leapt at this chance to work with a well-qualified teacher and an engaged and highly capable cohort of students. The biology course offered to these students is foundational to every STEM field, and will help students find the right post-secondary path for them just that little bit sooner,” DesBrisay said.

The Health and Sciences Academy at Bishop James Mahoney High School, which started in 2017, gives students interested in science or health care a unique learning experience that emphasize hands-on learning, critical thinking, collaboration, creativity and communication. Partnerships, like the ones signed today, allow students to earn industry certifications or post-secondary credits.

Greg Chatlain, Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools director of education (left) and Gordon DesBrisay, vice-dean academic at the College of Arts and Science sign MOU on Jan. 24, 2020. (Photo by Derrick Kunz, GSCS)



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Government of Saskatchewan proclaims “Day Of Action Against Hate And Intolerance”

Wed, 01/29/2020 - 22:22

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

On the third anniversary of a fatal shooting at an Islamic prayer centre in Quebec City that left six worshippers dead and many others wounded, grieving and traumatized, a “Day of Action Against Hate and Intolerance” was declared in the province of Saskatchewan.

“This proclamation recognizes that there’s no place for racism in Saskatchewan,” stated a government media release about the Jan. 29, 2020 event.

“Violence of any kind is unacceptable in our country,” said Justice Minister and Attorney General Don Morgan. “We must all stand together against all forms of hatred and intolerance, and work together to promote inclusion and acceptance.”

At the request of two branches of the Islamic Association of Saskatchewan, an idea for observing Jan. 29 as a day of remembrance and action against Islamophobia was expanded in the province of Saskatchewan to include all those who are marginalized or affected by religious intolerance and hate-filled violence –  which in recent years has included increasing numbers of anti-Semitic attacks, targeting of Muslims, and violence against Christians around the world, as well as persecution of many for their faith, race, or ethnicity.

“Jan. 29 will forever be marked by the odious shooting at a Quebec City Mosque,” the Islamic Association of Saskatchewan said in the government media release.  “By proclaiming this day as a provincial ‘Day of Action Against Hate and Intolerance,’ the government of Saskatchewan has taken a principled stand in solidarity with those who suffer and against those who would seek to divide our nation with hate and intolerance, and has reaffirmed our province’s motto: ‘Multis e gentibus vires, from many peoples, strength’.”

The members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Saskatoon also expressed gratitude to the Saskatchewan government for recognizing that hate has no place in society. “Islam is a religion of peace, love, and harmony. This is why the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at believes and practices the motto ‘Love for all, hatred for none’,” said Mubarik Syed.

Bishop Mark Hagemoen of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon was among the faith leaders in the province who issued a statement to mark the Day of Action Against Hate and Intolerance.

“I have yet to see the creed of any main-line faith or religion in our world today advocate violence, hatred, intolerance, and persecution. Quite the contrary – people who are committed to God’s plan of blessing and renewal are called to seek the way of healing and forgiveness, respect and reverence of everyone and everything in creation, and to propose a holy and righteous response to intolerance,” said the Catholic bishop of Saskatoon.

Bishop Mark Hagemoen’s complete statement – LINK

“People who believe in one Creator God of the universe, and indeed all people of good will, acknowledge that we are led forward to realize an ongoing and renewing vision of peace, solidarity, and mutual respect as we hear the Spirit lead us into greater respect, dialogue, and common action,” Hagemoen said. “Our spiritual commitment and energy must compel us all to build trust, respect, and relationship in a world that can fall too easy to fearful and hateful responses of disrespect and violence. Let us choose wisely not only the higher path, but the lasting one.”

Rabbi Claudio Jodorkovsky of Congregation Agudas Israel reflected on the support and solidarity that people of all faiths have shown in Saskatoon.  “I am proud to support the Day of Action Against Hate and Intolerance on behalf of the Saskatoon Jewish community,” Jodorkovsky said, quoted in the government media release.  “The religious institutions in Saskatoon are like a family, we are all connected.  Our community will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with all faiths and cultures to challenge intolerance.”

Examples of local faith communities standing together in the past have included a vigil of support at Saskatoon City Hall on Jan. 31, 2017, just days after the shooting at the Islamic Cultural Centre in Quebec City. The following year, representatives of many faiths in Saskatoon also joined the Jewish community for a vigil hosted by Agudas Congregation Israel Oct. 30, 2018 to mourn the 11 victims who died in a shooting on Saturday at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue.

Agudas Israel Synagogue was packed in October 2018 as representatives of many faiths and people from across Saskatoon gathered for a vigil to honour and mourn the 11 victims who died in a shooting at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue. (File photo by Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Saskatoon Catholic News)








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Catholics and Evangelicals chip away at wall of misunderstanding

Wed, 01/29/2020 - 22:07

By Andrew Ehrkamp, Grandin Media

[Edmonton – Canadian Catholic News] – The “Berlin Wall” between Catholics and Evangelicals in Canada is slowly but surely being chipped away, say two experts who are part of a group at the forefront with a metaphorical hammer and chisel.

“People couldn’t imagine what the end of the Cold War was going to look like, and then one day they woke up and no one was guarding the wall. People started taking it down. Christian unity has to be something like it. Until it’s achieved, it’s kind of unimaginable. You don’t know what it will look like,” said Brett Salkeld, the archdiocesan theologian for the Archdiocese of Regina.

“We’re chipping away at that wall. Absolutely,” added Jo-Ann Badley, the academic dean at Ambrose University in Calgary.

“I really do hope that this is a model and a gift that will take it up. I think as we do that, what we will find is ways of moving forward. That’s what I would hope for, that we would find common language to begin to affirm each other’s participation in the kingdom of God.”

Both are members of the Roman Catholic-Evangelical Dialogue of Canada, which has met twice a year for more than a decade. It has produced two documents in which Catholics reflect on Evangelicals, and vice-versa. It’s an attempt to chip away at centuries of misunderstanding and misrepresentation.

“It’s a scandal to the world that Christians disagree and fight with each other,” said Salkeld, who co-hosts a podcast on theology for the Archdiocese of Regina. “So much of our disagreements are rooted in misunderstanding, misrepresentation. So much of Catholic-Evangelical relationships are built on literally centuries of mischaracterizing each other.”

The pair highlighted common Christian witness and agreement on social issues, while agreeing to disagree on others ranging from papal authority to the veneration of Mary. They shared their thoughts in an interview on the sidelines of a Jan. 24 presentation in Edmonton on the progress of Catholic-Evangelical dialogue, and capping off the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

Both say Catholics and Evangelicals have realized they have more in common than they thought, especially as Christian witnesses in an increasingly secular world. The dialogue has also strengthened the convictions on each side. Their hope is that the national dialogue will be replicated at a local level.

“There’s a lot of people for whom this is permission and relief,” Salkeld said. “We know that we are Christians, but we have no tools for talking to each other. We don’t know how we’re supposed to do this. Thank you. What can we do next? How about you take the documents and read them together and talk about them? It was amazing to see how excited people were about that possibility.”

Why have the national dialogue at all?

“The first reason is Jesus was pretty committed to that. We think of some the things he says in the Gospel of John, where the unity of the church is actually one of the pieces that make it credible, or incredible, believable or not believable,” said Badley.

“The second reason is that I think Jesus was probably right. In fact, the church’s witness in this time and place is more credible if in fact we treat our neighbours – particularly our Christian neighbours, as people who love the Lord and who are also trying to make their way in a world that increasingly doesn’t know the Lord.”

Over a decade ago, Canadian Catholic and Evangelical church leaders came together to speak out on Parliament Hill about common positions on social issues. It began with same-sex marriage legislation, and continues today on euthanasia and assisted suicide, as well as conscience rights for health-care workers.

“Obviously people don’t line up 100 per cent all the time, everywhere, but there’s a lot of common concern for what does it mean to be a public Christian in cultures that are increasingly secular,” Badley said.

“I think that people that you thought were a long way away from you turn out to be closer than people that are actually a long way away from you. So it turns out that people of faith in any context almost have more in common with you than people of no faith.”

Both Salkeld and Badley said the national dialogue, and meeting face to face, has helped dispel misunderstandings – so much so that there is more agreement in Canada than perhaps anywhere else.

“There’s a lot of competing for converts, for example, in Latin America,” Salkeld said. “Largely it’s Evangelicals converting traditionally Catholic populations, and that leads to a lot of tension. That’s not the same context that we have here.”

Nevertheless, there are some areas where the proverbial Berlin Wall still exists. Chief among them are papal authority and church structure – the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada is more loosely defined.

“The EFC is a collection of a wide variety of kinds of Evangelicals. We have no equivalent kind of authority structure,” Badley said. “Evangelicals would say the church is the gathering of those who have been converted and baptized, but the Catholics have much more of a sense that you’re born into this. “There is more of a sense that this is a community.”

“For Catholics, the church needs to have strong visible elements,” Salkeld added. “Things that Catholics can look at are things like sacraments. We know we are in communion with one another. Whereas, in an Evangelical vision of church, the church would be all the people who accept Jesus as saviour, which might include some Catholics but it doesn’t automatically include Catholics. For Catholics, if you’re baptized into this sacramental community, we can see the borders of the church. It’s more defined.”

Badley said the loosely defined structure of the Evangelical church made it more difficult for it to affirm the documents in the Roman Catholic-Evangelical Dialogue than it was for the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Two other issues include the reading of Scripture and the Catholic veneration of Mary, which was the subject of the last Roman Catholic-Evangelical Dialogue meeting last December.

“At the end of the conversation, we concluded that we could see how what you’re doing makes sense … We still can’t see how it’s important or helpful or necessary. You come away with an understanding, a clearer sense of what’s going on here. But we’re still going to go ahead in our own two directions.”

Nevertheless, Salkeld said Evangelicals came away thinking that maybe Mary needs more attention. And on the reading and interpretation of Scripture, Evangelicals tend to have a wider interpretation than the Catholic magisterium.

“Evangelicals are going to be all over that map in how they read the Bible and how they understand what they’re doing when they read the Bible,” said Badley , who taught Scripture at Newman Theological College for nine years.

However, “there’s a very robust conversation in terms of re-reading early church fathers and re-reading early church materials that are coming into the mainstream of Evangelical thinking,” she said.

Today, the conversations continue at the national Roman Catholic-Evangelical Dialogue. Both Badley and Salkeld say they have helped them define what they truly believe. But formal unity is a different matter. They say ecumenical dialogue doesn’t lead to relativism or the lowest common denominator.

“These are really rigorous conversations. This is not fluffy, everyone say the right thing to get along,” Salkeld said. “That’s not how ecumenical dialogue works.”

Badley adds: “To have a formal unity, where we’re all in the understanding and the structure is the same way, that doesn’t even happen within Evangelicalism. I taught at Newman for nine years … And I came away more profoundly Protestant than when I went in. It’s just because you realize ‘I really have strong commitments to these particular values’ and that I practise what I believe in a different kind of way.”

Still, they note there has been progress toward dislodging the bricks in the wall. Last November marked the 20th anniversary of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, a landmark agreement on what had been a fractious point of doctrine between Catholics and Lutherans.

“If Catholic-Evangelical unity looks impossible now, well, Catholic-Lutheran agreement on justification looked impossible for 455 years,” Salkeld said. “So you never know.”


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Assisted suicide and euthanasia in Canada lack safeguards, say disability advocates

Wed, 01/29/2020 - 15:36

By Michael Swan, The Catholic Register

[Toronto – Canadian Catholic News] – As most Canadians support fewer restrictions on assisted suicide, disability activists are worried the current system lacks safeguards.

According to Adele Furrie, an information management consultant with 40 years experience at Statistics Canada, data is not being collected that would help establish whether or not vulnerable people are opting for assisted suicide. She is worried the disabled, the poor and the socially isolated may be at heightened risk for a medically- induced death.

Whether or not vulnerable people are being pressured by a culture, legal system or medical profession to opt for assisted suicide has not been mentioned in four interim reports on Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD) released by Health Canada.

While Furrie worries that we don’t know enough about medical deaths — particularly who is getting euthanized — most Canadians believe it’s a matter of individual choice. Four out of five Canadians told the Angus Reid Institute the week before Christmas it should be easier for individual Canadians to make their own end-of-life decisions on doctor-induced dying.

With the first annual report on medical deaths due in March, Furrie is waiting to see what level of detail will be available as the government’s monitoring system moves from makeshift to permanent.

“They need information, like the social network that the individuals had, the number of options they were offered other than MAiD,” Furrie said. “I don’t believe they are collecting that. We’ll see.”

Amy Hasbrouck, the director of Toujours Vivant – Not Dead Yet, shares Furrie’s concerns.

“We do not believe that the monitoring system will be able to detect when ineligible people are euthanized, when safeguards are not respected, when people choose euthanasia because of socio-economic pressures,” said Hasbrouck. “And it won’t detect when doctors don’t report what they’re doing.”

In its last interim report, issued in April 2019, Health Canada pegged the rate of medically-induced deaths at 1.12 per cent of all deaths in Canada. However, that number was based on statistics that excluded Quebec, the Yukon, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. Euthanasia Prevention Coalition executive director Alex Schadenberg believes the rate is closer to 1.5 per cent and growing.

While acknowledging gaps in the data, the Fourth Interim Report on Medical Assistance in Dying in Canada claimed there had been 6,749 medically-administered deaths between Dec. 10, 2015 and Oct. 31, 2018. But the report had little to say about who is opting for lethal injections.

Hasbrouck hopes the permanent monitoring system would capture more detailed information.

“We sent a very long list of measures for what we thought would improve the data,” Hasbrouck said.

Factors from income to social networks can be measured, said Furrie. Statistics Canada has a long history of collecting precisely that kind of information on social surveys, she said.

“I mean, this is — this truly is — life or death. I think you can ask to have that kind of information,” said Furrie.

Quebec’s monitoring system has shown some doctors are reluctant to report their life-terminating activities, Hasbrouck said. Comparing hospital reports to individual doctor filings in Quebec shows that not all procedures were reported and not all euthanized patients were legally eligible for the procedure.

“The federal system has no such check, no such verification process,” she said. “So if a doctor decides he doesn’t want to fill out the form to report the euthanasia then he doesn’t, and there’s no way to check.”

Collecting data won’t reverse the court decisions or the legislation that made euthanasia legal, but it might change how the law is applied, Furrie said.

Health Canada was unable to respond to Catholic Register questions before deadline.


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‘Never again’: Pope Francis calls for prayer on Holocaust Remembrance Day

Tue, 01/28/2020 - 12:31

By Courtney Mares, Catholic News Agency

[Vatican City – CNA] – Pope Francis recently asked for people to spend a moment in prayer and recollection for International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Jan. 27, 2020 marked the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Nazi-occupied Poland.

Between 1940 and 1945, the Nazi regime murdered 1.1 million people in Auschwitz, many killed in the gas chambers immediately upon arrival at the camp. Six million Jews died in the Holocaust.

“In the face of this huge tragedy, this atrocity, indifference is not admissible and memory is a must,” Pope Francis said Jan. 26 in his Angelus address.

The pope invited each person to spend a moment on the anniversary in prayer and recollection with  “each person saying in his own heart: ‘never again, never again!’”

In a meeting with the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights organization, last week Pope Francis recalled his 2016 visit to the Nazi concentration camp:

“I went there to reflect and to pray in silence. In our world, with its whirlwind of activity, we find it hard to pause, to look within and to listen in silence to the plea of suffering humanity.”

“If we lose our memory, we destroy our future. May the anniversary of the unspeakable cruelty that humanity learned of 75 years ago serve as a summons to pause, to be still and to remember. We need to do this, lest we become indifferent,” Pope Francis said.

The pope also condemned the “barbaric resurgence” of cases of anti-Semitism in the world, and urged the need to respect each person’s human dignity.

“It is troubling to see, in many parts of the world, an increase in selfishness and indifference, lack of concern for others and the attitude that says life is good as long as it is good for me, and when things go wrong, anger and malice are unleashed,” Pope Francis said Jan. 20.

“This creates a fertile ground for the forms of factionalism and populism we see around us, where hatred quickly springs up,” he said. “Even recently, we have witnessed a barbaric resurgence of cases of anti-Semitism. Once more I firmly condemn every form of anti-Semitism.”

The Council of European Bishops’ Conferences and the Commission of the Bishops’ Conference of the European Union also denounced anti-Semitism, racism, and xenophobia in a Jan. 25 statement marking the anniversary.

“At the hour of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, let us light candles and say a prayer for people murdered in death camps of all nationalities and religions and for their relatives. Let our prayers broaden the reconciliation and brotherhood, of which the opposite is hostility, destructive conflicts and fueled misunderstandings,” the bishops encouraged.

“Cruel wars, genocide, persecution, and different forms of fanaticism are still taking place, although history teaches us that violence never leads to peace but, on the contrary, breeds more violence and death,” they added. “May the power of Christ’s love prevail in us.”


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Paintings blessed, plaque unveiled on Feast of Conversion of St. Paul

Tue, 01/28/2020 - 11:27

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

An important feast day for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon Jan. 25, 2020 was also the occasion for blessing a unique gift of art at St. Paul Co-Cathedral.

On the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, patron saint of the Saskatoon diocese, Bishop Mark Hagemoen celebrated noon-hour Mass with the St. Paul parish community, blessing paintings of Sts. Peter and Paul by Count Berthold von Imhoff donated by a now-closed parish in the diocese of Prince Albert.

Fr. Stefano Penna, rector and pastor at St. Paul Co-Cathedral, described how when St. Andrew Parish in Blaine Lake, SK, was closing, a family connection with parishioners there eventually led to the two large paintings by the well-known Saskatchewan religious artist finding a new home at the historic downtown co-cathedral in Saskatoon.

“My dear cousins, Ed and Carol Thorsteinson were members of that parish (at Blaine Lake) and Carol got ahold of me and I got ahold of her, and we talked to the bishop of Prince Albert, and Bishop Albert Thévenot, with the with the support of Bishop Mark, said that he would be happy to have these two pictures brought here,” said Penna.

The paintings were moved, prepared, and installed under the direction of Ray Marchildon, St. Paul Co-Cathedral building manager, and were unveiled on either side of the co-cathedral crucifix on the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul in June, with several representatives of St. Andrew’s Parish in Blaine Lake in attendance at that special celebration (ARTICLE).

Since Bishop Mark Hagemoen was unable to attend the June celebration, his official blessing of the paintings in their new home was scheduled for the later date of Jan. 25 — the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul.

In the corners of the paintings are limestone carvings created by Derek Boldt and Brian Cey, which feature the cross of St. Andrew (in honour of the Blaine Lake parish), the sword of St. Paul, and the keys of St. Peter, Penna described.

In addition, a plaque was installed in the cathedral near the entrance closest to the tabernacle, acknowledging the gift of the paintings. The inscription reads: “Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, January 25, Year of our Lord 2020, to the glory of God and the honour of St. Paul and St. Peter, the paintings of Berthold von Imhoff that graced the church of St. Andrew in Blaine Lake since 1916 were welcomed into the apse by Bishop Mark Hagemoen. May the Lord bless the parishioners of St. Andrew for this gift.”

“These wonderful paintings look like they have been here forever,” observed Bishop Hagemoen, expressing his own words of thanks to all involved in bringing the artwork to the co-cathedral. “They look like they not only belong, but are just so well suited for this holy place.”

In his homily, Hagemoen reflected on the life and conversion of St. Paul. “To celebrate a conversion in the life of the church is extremely significant,” he said, noting that St. Paul is the patron of the diocese of Saskatoon. He reflected on how Saul of Tarsus was a talented and zealous religious leader who was trying to destroy the new Christian movement when he encountered Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus, was struck blind, and underwent a profound “metatonia” or “turning around”, before eventually becoming the great evangelizer of the gentiles who preached the gospel far and wide.

Hagemoen quoted the words of a homily by St. John Chrysostom included in the Liturgy of the Hours for the day: “Paul, more than anyone else, has shown us what man really is, and in what our nobility consists, and of what virtue this particular animal is capable. Each day he aimed ever higher; each day he rose up with greater ardour and faced with new eagerness the dangers that threatened him. He summed up his attitude in the words ‘I forget what is behind me and push on to what lies ahead.’ when he saw death imminent, he bade others share his joy: ‘Rejoice and be glad with me!’ And when danger, injustice and abuse threatened him, he said: ‘I am content with weakness, mistreatment and persecution.’ These he called the weapons of righteousness thus telling us that he derived immense profit from them.”

St. Paul’s conversion demonstrates truth for all of us, said Hagemoen. “We will not grow in our faith on a regular basis — and we must — without a regular, personal encounter with Our Lord Jesus Christ,” he stressed.

Intimacy with Jesus Christ, nurtured through the sacraments, “is able to nurture you and I, so as we go out of the doors of this sacred temple, so that we can truly be the ‘temple in the world.’ But we can’t be that temple, if we don’t encounter and receive Jesus Christ.”

St. John Chrysostom also said that the most important thing about Paul was “that he knew himself to be loved by Christ,” said Hagemoen.

As for what we learn as we look at the life of St. Paul and his conversion, the bishop said: “Nothing is more important than to fulfill God’s plan for our lives… We must proclaim Jesus Christ. Everyone of us here, and in the diocese of Saskatoon, and beyond must proclaim the Lord Jesus Christ. We have one specific vocation, you and I… each of us is called to the ongoing journey of deepening holiness that is a constant and sure vocation. Everyone is called to the specific vocation of a call to holiness, to proclaim the kingdom of God, to proclaim Christ in all things.”

When we look to the life of Paul, we also learn what it means to “name and claim our weaknesses,” Hagemoen added. “It is only when we meet and encounter Christ that we find a way forward from our weaknesses. Otherwise sooner or later our limitations will get the better of us. But with God’s grace and help — if all of our life is turned over, and not just what we are comfortable turning over — God can bless and take over.”







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Cancer survivor now fighting for B.C. hospice that refuses to offer euthanasia

Mon, 01/27/2020 - 09:20

A hospice is being pressured by the B.C. government to allow assisted suicide on its premises. (Submitted photo – CNN)

By Agnieszka Ruck, The B.C. Catholic

[Delta, B.C. – Canadian Catholic News] – Angelina Ireland first learned about Delta Hospice five years ago.

Back then, she was on a “cancer journey” and seeking help, healing, and resources to cope with her difficult diagnosis. She found the help she needed in a Living With Cancer support group offered by the Delta Hospice Society, headquartered in Ladner.

“It has a very special place in my heart,” she told The B.C. Catholic Jan. 17. “I have known friends who were not successful in their cancer journey and passed away in this hospice.”

Ireland beat her cancer, and a short time later, decided to give back to the community that had been there for her. She joined the society’s board of directors and later became the president of an institution that for over 25 years has provided programs and compassionate care for the sick and dying.

“It is an incredibly special place that’s been created.”

Now, that incredibly special place is facing serious threats and backlash. The Fraser Health Authority and Health Minister Adrian Dix are pressuring the society to provide assisted suicide on site, something Ireland says is against the hospice’s own constitution.

“It’s been extremely difficult on many fronts,” she said. “First of all, you’re standing up to the big government. We’re just a little 10-bed hospice but we’re standing on what we believe to be correct, what we believe to be true … We believe we are following on what palliative hospice care truly is.”

Second, the community has become deeply divided over the issue. Ireland said the hospice society has wholehearted supporters as well as strident opponents. She and other staff members have received personal threats on social media.

“It’s been difficult to be called a monster and to be called a horrible person. All we’re trying to do is truly protect the vulnerable,” she said.

“It’s not an easy stance to make but we feel that it’s necessary because we are committed to hospice and palliative care.”

She will tell you, as she has explained many times in the last couple of months, that hospice and palliative care are “diametrically opposed” to assisted suicide / euthanasia. Offering a lethal injection to a dying person has never been part of the hospice’s practice and not something it is interested in starting to offer.

She added that anyone who wants to speed up their dying process with assisted suicide can do so at Delta Hospital, just a few hundred metres away.

“They tell us if we’re getting taxpayer money, we have to” provide assisted suicide, Ireland said. But “the people we take care of are taxpayers too. We are on the side of the taxpayers who want to access hospice palliative care.”

The Ladner hospice only has 10 beds and Ireland hopes it can retain the right to use all of them solely for hospice care. She, on behalf of the hospice, made an offer to the Fraser Health Authority Jan. 15 to forego $750,000 of federal funding in exchange to continue operating without euthanasia on site.

The health authority verbally rejected her offer and has been asked to reconsider.

In a Dec. 23 letter provided to The B.C. Catholic by Ireland, Fraser Health gives the hospice a deadline of Feb. 3 to comply with the assisted dying mandate.

“Fraser Health’s expectation is that the society will immediately comply with both the ministry policy and Fraser Health policy such that the society will permit the provision of MAiD [Medical Aid in Dying] at the hospice … If such compliance is not obtained by February 3, 2020, Fraser Health will consider the society to be in default of its contractual obligations under the agreement and reserves all of its rights and remedies, under the agreement, the lease between Fraser Health and the society dated Sept. 10, 2008, relating to the land on which the hospice sits, and otherwise.”

“We’ve been pushed into a corner,” said Ireland.

“There is no need for this kind of treatment. All we’ve ever wanted to do is take care of people.”

The Delta Hospice Society was founded in 1991 on the kitchen table of area resident Nancy Macey. She was personally opposed to assisted suicide and has long championed palliative care in the region as the hospice’s director until she was fired by a pro-assisted suicide board in September 2019.

Assisted suicide / euthanasia was legalized in Canada in 2016.

The Fraser Health Authority has noted that Delta Hospice is not a faith-based organization, and cannot opt out, although individuals and volunteers who have a “conscientious objection” to assisted suicide / euthanasia do not have to participate in assessing eligibility or administering assisted death.




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Prayers for unity and reconciliation at Queen’s House

Fri, 01/24/2020 - 20:17

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

The chapel at Queen’s House of Retreat and Renewal was filled with song and prayer for a lunch hour worship service during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Staff and volunteers from Queen’s House led the service and provided ministries for the service, which was followed by a meal.

The service featured prayer resources prepared by the Christian churches in Malta, where the faith dates back to the time of the apostles. The week’s theme focuses on the hospitality shown by the islanders towards those shipwrecked on their shores, including St. Paul, as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles: “They showed us unusual kindness” (Acts 28:2).

Queen’s House executive director Brendan Bitz welcomed those assembled for the service.Sr. Teresita Kambeitz, OSU, led music ministry, and scriptures were proclaimed by Queen’s House live-in volunteer David Henderson, housekeeping representatives Romalyn Delarosa and July Gregorio, with prayers led by engagement and events coordinator Martha Fergusson.

Worship leaders included Fr. Paul Fachet, OMI and program director Sarah Donnelly of Queen’s House, and homilist Fr, Jakob Palm of Holy Covenant Evangelical Orthodox Church.

“Sin is a wound,” said Palm in his reflection on readings from Acts 28:3-6 and Matthew 18: 1-6. “A wound is the result of things being separated and divided… sin is the twisting and pulling apart of something that was originally good, something that was once one and whole.”

He added that understanding sin as primarily a wound in need of healing rather than simply a moral failure changes our response. “Then we might perceive that our divisions in the church – and therefore segregation in society – is not made whole by our efforts,” he said. “To stop the bleeding we need help, we need the Doctor’s healing, and that is Jesus.”

Evil fails to inflict wounds unto death where the love and kindness of Christ through the Holy Spirit is present, Palm asserted, reflecting on the account in Acts of St. Paul surviving the shipwreck and the bite of a poisonous snake. “The flame of the Holy Spirit is kindled when we act in kindness towards each other. It drives division, segregation, sin, death and the snake away. The divinity of Christ becomes apparent when we, Christ’s body, see the humanity and need of our neighbours: when we act with kindness.”

During the service, as Queen’s House engagement and events coordinator Martha Fergusson led the prayers of the people, individuals came forward with small oars, each marked with a word of reflection related to the prayer, placing them in the model of a boat on the altar to signify prayers for reconciliation, enlightenment, hope, trust, strength, hospitality, conversion, and generosity.

“We cannot face the storms of life alone. A boat moves forward when all row together. In the face of difficulties we recognize the need to pull together and to unite our efforts,” prayed Fergusson.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity celebrations continue in Saskatoon until the end of the week, organized by the Prairie Centre for Ecumenism, including an evening social event with music on Friday, Jan. 24, and the Closing Celebration at 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 26 at St. Philip Neri Catholic Church, corner of Taylor Street and Munroe Avenue.






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Western youth ministers find faith connection

Thu, 01/23/2020 - 17:27

By Kyle Greenham, Grandin Media

[Edmoton – Canadian Catholic News} – It’s a rapidly changing world for young people – where anxieties, apathy and social isolation abound.

Fostering a relationship with God in the midst of that can be a daunting task, but it’s one the Western Canadian Association of Catholic Youth Ministers (WCACYM) is set on addressing.

“Youth is a time where you’re confused about life, your identity and sometimes it feels like you don’t have anywhere to turn to,” 22-year-old youth minister Alicia Chichak said at the association’s annual gathering in Edmonton’s Providence Renewal Centre, Jan. 16-19, 2020.

“So much of youth ministry is creating a space where young people can just get together and talk, to be that safe space for them where they can experience comfort, be who they are and work through their struggles. Through that, they also come closer to God.”

It’s a view shared by the 28 youth ministers from Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba at the gathering. Others from B.C. and the Northwest Territories also took part in the conference via video chat.

Youth ministers and diocesan representatives at the WCACYM event discussed strategies and plans to make youth ministry relevant to young people today. (CCN Photo by Kyle Greenham, Grandin Media)

Their main concern was how youth ministry can better tackle the issues young people face. In presentations by Rev. Kris Schmidt and author Leah Perrault, the guests noted how attachment to personal devices, a sense of continuous boredom, and a lack of close relationships are rising concerns for youth today.

“When I was young we did know our neighbours. We had extracurricular activities, part-time jobs, set places we would always meet. That is less and less common among young people growing up now,” said Lisa MacQuarrie, coordinator with the office of youth evangelization at the Archdiocese of Edmonton.

“Young people today really struggle with finding places they belong to. Although they are constantly connected to each other by social media, they often lack strong personal friendships and people they feel they can rely on.”

But these are obstacles that a strong faith can conquer, said Amber Wsiaki, a youth minister at the Parish of Saints-Martyrs-Canadiens in Winnipeg.

“I work with a lot of 12- to 17-year-olds. At that age, church is typically something they have been forced to go to,” she said. “So one thing I’m trying to help them understand is that their faith is ultimately a choice, and it’s one worth choosing.”

Amber Wsiaki is a youth minister at the parish of Saints Martyrs Canadiens in Winnipeg. (CCN Photo by Kyle Greenham, Grandin Media)

“By meeting other young people, hearing their testimonies about how a relationship with God has made them grow as a person, discover who they are and make connections through that experience — they see their faith in a much different light,” said Wsiaki.

As assistant director for Camp Oselia, a three-week summer camp for young Ukrainian Catholics in Edmonton, Chichak agrees friendships are key to helping young people connect with the Church.

She believes social media can be a tool of evangelization, but only with the support of real world connections made at summer camps or church events.

“Once you have an established community of young Catholics, social media really helps to reinforce it and bring people together,” she said.

“But that community has to already be there, otherwise social media is not a helpful resource. Depending on how you use it, it can also be a way to really isolate yourself from others.”

Youth ministry itself has been a source of faith for Chichak, and she hopes the ways her ministry has grown her relationship with God will inspire others.

“I’ve been involved with youth ministry for eight years, and it’s really made me who I am,” she said. “Just realizing that I can help bring people closer to God, be that light of God for others, and help people see and understand God through me — it’s such an honour to be able to do that.”

That sentiment was common among many of the youth ministers. It was his own experience at a Catholic camp in Regina that led 28-year-old Braden Kuntz to begin his career in youth ministry.

“The first time I attended the leadership camp run by the Archdiocese of Regina really changed my life,” said Kuntz, who now works in the Archdiocese of Regina’s office of youth ministry. “Being at camp, surrounded by people who loved and cared for me unconditionally — at a time in my life where I felt really unlovable — it had a profound impact on me.

“After the experience I decided my life needed to be different. I wanted to do everything I could to ensure no young person ever went through struggles alone. It’s a lofty goal, but it’s what’s kept me going these past seven years.”

Braden Kuntz and Chelsea Dumontier of the Archdiocese of Regina at the WCACYM conference in Edmonton. (CCN Photo by Kyle Greenham, Grandin Media)

Since its founding 30 years ago, the Western Canadian Association of Catholic Youth Ministers has grown to include 22 dioceses and more than 100 members. When asked the greatest benefit to their annual gathering, all the ministers agreed — it’s the sense of community that it brings them.

“If you’re working in a parish by yourself, it’s easy to feel alone,” said Kuntz. “Coming to something like this, you meet other people in this field and we can share in the challenges and the joys of doing this work.”

“Some of my closest friends I’ve met through this organization. Some are no longer here, but I still feel at home.”


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Food is more than calories – SaskEthics reflection

Thu, 01/23/2020 - 17:05

By Dr. Mary Heilman, CHAS Bioethicist

[Reprint of SaskEthics, an Ethics Newsletter for Catholic Healthcare Organizations in Saskatchewan, January-February 2020]

Food. Such a wonderful thing to think about, and with winter settled in it’s hard not to spend January planning life one meal at a time. However, I’m willing to admit that might be my pregnancy talking.

Dr. Mary Heilman, PhD,
CHAS Bioethecist

Food is also the topic of many ethics consults, as patients, families and staff often struggle to make decisions regarding at risk eating and feeding tubes. One of the most common consults I receive is from staff who are struggling with the challenges of feeding a resident who is at risk of choking.

World Day of the Sick Feb. 11, 2020: Message from Pope Francis: LINK

When I am called into these consults, I usually want to explore things like whether a swallowing assessment has been completed, and whether the patient or their substitute decision-maker understands the risks of eating food by mouth. Assuming that everyone is on the same page about these items, the next topic of conversation becomes: Why is food so important? What makes it worth the risk?

From the perspective of a health care professional, food can sometimes be simplified down to its physiological value. Food is important because it gives nutrition and energy, and since there are other ways to receive these goods (i.e., through a feeding tube) it can be easy to question why anyone would eat at risk.

However, food is also important for reasons that go beyond the physical. How many of us sat down to our Christmas dinner this year and thought, “I can’t wait to receive my nutrients”? If you were anything like me, you were probably even more excited by the tastes, the traditions and the joy that comes from sharing a meal with loved ones.

In conversations with residents who choose to eat at risk, I have learned that their attachment to food is much more than physical. Eating is a social, spiritual and emotional experience that can bring back memories, calm anxieties and form connections with others. For many, it is well worth the risk to participate in this fundamental human experience.

Another reason that eating by mouth can be important is that it gives a sense of control. This is something I think we all learn as children from the moment we throw our first Brussels sprout across the room. Illness can often be a source of depression as control is slowly lost in many of areas of life, and for some the choice of which foods to eat and how to eat them can be an important expression of their dignity.

How does a medical team manage the anxiety that comes with supporting someone who is at risk of choking? Does it help to understand the person’s reasons for eating at risk? How would it feel to never be able to eat again?

On a personal note, my husband and I are expecting our first child in March, so this will be my last newsletter for a year. Keep your eyes open for the next SaskEthics from my replacement in April 2020.

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Week of Prayer for Christian Unity opens in Saskatoon

Tue, 01/21/2020 - 11:10

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

Anglican Bishop Chris Harper called for a deeper focus on praying for Christian unity during his homily at an opening service for the 2020 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in Saskatoon, held at Knox United Church on a cold Sunday afternoon Jan. 19.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in Saskatoon: DETAILS

“The week for Christian unity begins — but what does that mean for us as Christians, especially in a world with such division?” asked Bishop Harper as he began his reflection following proclamation of a scripture reading about Paul’s ship being besieged by a storm in Acts 27:18-19 and the parable of the pharisee and the tax collector praying in the temple from Luke 18:9-14.

“There are so many ways that we put up fences and borders, seen and imaginary,” he said.

Harper also described the great blessing of gathering as brothers and sisters in Christ for the first Week of Prayer for Christian Unity since he became the bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Saskatoon.

“How important it is that we step out today from beyond those borders.”

Often our prayer is a response to being in a difficult or dangerous spot — such as the storm and the sinking ship facing Paul in the reading from acts — but Christians are being called to “raise their voices as one in prayer in support and love and blessing of each other” at all times and in all conditions, he said.

“Do we need to be driven down to our knees in times of desperation …when something bad is going to happen?” he challenged, encouraging prayer as the first course of action at all times. “And can we start as Christians, as a gathering of believers in Christ, and come back to the basics of things?”

The bishop observed that when we are asked “what is your faith?” we often respond by naming our particular denomination, rather than beginning with the first and most basic truth: “I am a Christian.”

Naming our Christian identity first helps us to avoid an “us and them” position, he said.

“Let us first and foremost state that ‘I am Christian’ and to respect each other for our differences, and to respect each other for our ministries, and still be able to walk together ecumenically and as one in the Body of Christ.”

During the opening service for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Mary Nordick, Chair of the Prairie Centre for Ecumenism, provided words of welcoming for the gathering, along with Rev. Brian Maitland, pastor of the hosting community of Knox United Church.

Prayers during the service included material prepared by Christians in Malta, the site of Paul’s shipwreck, where he the kindest mentioned in the theme for this year’s Week of Prayer:  They showed us unusual kindness (Acts: 28-2).”

“In the face of our difference and distance, God, call us back to the core of what we believe and what Jesus teaches — to love the stranger, to overthrow the walls of division, to rest firmly in relationship with You and therefore with each other,” the assembly prayed together. “Help us to live as sisters and brothers in faith, welcoming everyone in Your name, sharing with each other the joy of being Your people, made in Your image, yearning to be fully disciples of Jesus.”

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity continues in Saskatoon until Jan. 26, with 8 a.m. services in different churches each week, and with special events including a hymn-singing evening “Singing into Unity” 7:30 pm Tuesday, Jan. 21 at St Stephen’s Anglican Church, 10 Grosvenor Crescent, Saskatoon; a prayer service and luncheon 12:00 pm Thursday, Jan. 23  at Queen’s House, 601 Taylor Street West, Saskatoon; and an Ecumenical Ceilidh (social event with music) 7:30 pm Friday, Jan. 24 at Christ Church Anglican, 515 28th Street West, Saskatoon.

The closing service for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity will be held at 3:00 pm Sunday, Jan. 26 at St Philip Neri Roman Catholic Church, 1902 Munroe Avenue (at Taylor Street East), Saskatoon.


Anglican Bishop Chris Harper, Rev. Brian Maitland and Joan Fast of Knox United Church (l-r) were among those leading worship at the opening service for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in Saskatoon. (Photo by Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)

Anglican Bishop Chris Harper provided the reflection at the opening service for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in Saskatoon. (Photo by Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)

Martha Fergusson of St. Andrew Presbyterian Church read the gospel at the opening service for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in Saskatoon. (Photo by Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)


Rev. Brian Maitland of Knox United Church welcomed participants to the opening service for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. (Photo by Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)

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Development and Peace/ Caritas Canada: A Student Perspective

Tue, 01/21/2020 - 07:44

By Gabrielle Achtymichuk

I am privileged to be the social justice chair for Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Outlook, SK.

The Development and Peace/Caritas Canada program is the focus of our parish initiative. Through this Canadian Catholic organization, we are able to bring some of the current global issues to the attention of our community and raise support for those in the world who need it.

As a university student in veterinary medicine, education is very important to me. I love to learn and to teach, and the campaigns provided by the Development and Peace program allow me to do both. I learn about the issues and then present them to the parish.

Of special importance to me are issues of women’s education and the environment – both of which are frequently a focus of Development and Peace.

The stories, both challenges and successes, of the women in various countries overcoming inequality and becoming leaders in their communities are inspiring and should be acknowledged. I’ve been able to pursue a professional degree, and I know I am one of the lucky ones – when an estimated two-thirds of the 750 million illiterate adults in the world are women, that is an issue. Step one to solving any problem is defining the issue, followed by educating people that there is an issue. So, I want to do my part by bringing these concerns to the attention of others which can then initiate change.

When I complete my veterinary medicine degree, I hope to focus on research involving ecosystem health. One of the largest issues with environmental change, is that many people don’t recognize the harm we are causing. We need to understand that “actions have consequences” before we will have the desire to change our actions.

University is an amazing place where there are so many people looking to understand how the world works and come up with solutions. However, we can do all the research in the world, but if it is never discussed, it will never lead to change. So, I want to be involved in both research and educating others.

Through my university education in the veterinary medicine program, I hope to use research to further my understanding of ecosystem health. Through the Development and Peace program I am able to spread awareness about issues that are important to me – including women’s education and the environment. Knowledge is power. And I believe that even little actions have the power to make a difference – whether for one individual or to promote change on a larger scale.

Development and Peace / Caritas Canada diocesan workshops on Share Lent 2020 will be held in two locations for all those interested in a deeper discussion on the effects of the damages to the Amazon rainforest – both on Indigenous Peoples and on the global ecosystem. Workshops will be held  2 pm Saturday, Feb. 8 at Holy Spirit, Saskatoon and 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 9 at St. Augustine, Humboldt – DETAILS

Gabrielle Achtymichuk (Photo by Bernice Daratha)

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Alberta bishops urge end to euthanasia law and expansion – pastoral letter released

Mon, 01/20/2020 - 19:40

By Andrew Ehrkamp, Grandin Media

[Edmonton – Canadian Catholic News] – The bishops of Alberta and the Northwest Territories are calling on Catholics to mobilize in their opposition to euthanasia and assisted suicide even as the federal government looks to expand the criteria to qualify.

“We are absolutely opposed to euthanasia and assisted suicide and we disagree vehemently with its very existence in the country,” Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith said of the 2016 law that legalized assisted-suicide / euthanasia as “Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID)”, which is under review.

“Naturally, we would be opposed to its expansion,” Archbishop Smith said. “The longer that something is in law, the longer people can think that because it’s legal, it’s also morally permissible. That’s a stance that we can’t allow to stand unchallenged. We have a number of things in our country that might be allowed legally, that doesn’t mean that they are morally permitted.”

A pastoral letter signed by Smith, and the bishops of Calgary, St. Paul, Grouard-McLennan, McKenzie-Fort Smith, and the Ukrainian Eparchy of Edmonton, was shared with parishioners at masses on the Jan. 18-19 weekend.

“Euthanasia and assisted suicide stand in stark opposition to the Christian way of living and our belief in the sanctity of human life,” the bishops’ letter says. “Neither is permissible, since they violate the prohibition against taking innocent human life and stand as a rejection of God’s absolute sovereignty over life and death.”

In their letter, the bishops call on all Canadians, and Catholics in particular, to press members of parliament to vote against any expansion of assisted suicide / euthanasia. They also call on the federal government to expand palliative care, and on health professionals to assert their right to refuse to participate in euthanasia and assisted suicide.

Canadians are being asked to weigh in on changes to the assisted suicide / euthanasia law as Ottawa seeks to amend the Criminal Code to permit greater access to assisted suicide. Survey responses are being accepted until Jan. 27. Over 100,000 people have responded, Health Minister Patty Hajdu said in Calgary after closed-door talks on the issue on Jan.17.

The Liberal government’s move to amend the assisted suicide / euthanasia law is in response to a Quebec court decision. In September, a judge declared parts of the federal and provincial laws on assisted dying unconstitutional, ruling that the requirement that a patient must face a “reasonably foreseeable” death before asking for medically-assisted suicide / euthanasia violated their Charter rights.

If no new legislation is passed by March 11, the “reasonably foreseeable” provision in the law will be suspended in the province. Even without the court ruling, the law was facing review this year.
Since it was legalized, the federal government reports more than 6,700 Canadians have died through medically-assisted suicide / euthanasia.

Current eligibility requirements say candidates must be 18 or older, able to make health decisions for themselves, and “in grievous and irremediable medical condition” – although not terminal – to qualify.

The survey asks whether the federal government should change the length of the 10-day reflection period between requesting and receiving a medically assisted death. It asks about an “advance request” for medically-assisted suicide / euthanasia for patients who later lose their capacity to confirm their consent.

The survey also noted that the report of an expert panel last year looked at the possibility of expanding medically-assisted suicide / euthanasia to people under 18 – if doctors decide they are mature enough to make decisions on their own care – as well as people with certain psychiatric conditions.

The survey itself is disingenuous, says Dr. Thomas Fung, a Catholic physician in Calgary. He noted the survey is steered towards removing the “reasonable foreseeable” death criteria from the assisted suicide / euthanasia law while not explicitly asking whether Canadians favour removal at all.

“It basically was kind of like a foregone conclusion that this was going to happen,” Fung said, adding once the criteria are removed, assisted suicide / euthanasia will be easier to access. “It really opens the doorway for suicide on demand essentially … At some point, human suffering is a subjective experience, so it’s really hard to objectify who should qualify for MAID when the near-death criteria is removed.”

Archbishop Smith said the bishops are issuing their pastoral letter because of what they see as an alarming culture that is not only normalizing euthanasia and assisted suicide but favouring expansion – in particular, through the “advanced request.”

“That puts the decision in the hands of somebody else. And we don’t have the right to ask somebody else to decide for me when my life is deserving of coming to an end,” Smith said. “It seems that it robs the person of that capacity, over time, to change their position, to change their mind and to be acting in freedom at the moment that such as serious action is taken.

“It had always been up until now, a rock-solid conviction that medicine is dedicated to the preservation of life and to doing no harm. Well, now we have … medicine being used actually prematurely to end life, which turns the medical profession on its head,” Smith said. “It introduces the possibility of a lack of trust between patient and doctor. This is something that divides families.”

Assisted suicide / euthanasia is also an issue that has divided the medical profession. Fung noted the conscience rights of physicians who object to medically-assisted suicide / euthanasia – as well as other controversial procedures such as abortion – are under fire.

An Ontario court ruled that doctors in that province must give referrals for medical services such assisted suicide / euthanasia and abortion, which is tacit approval. In Alberta, a bill to protect the conscience rights of health providers never got past the committee stage. In Delta, B.C., a hospice has been ordered by the local health authority to provide assisted suicide / euthanasia, even though such an action would violate their constitution.

“Really we’re seeing discrimination at every level for those of us who object to MAID,” Fung said.

“Despite Canadian Medical Association code of ethics and other provincial association guidelines to protect conscientious objectors, there is really nothing legal that is helping us to advance our case in court. We’re losing every time we go to court, and I think we’re seeing a pattern here.”

Assisted suicide / euthanasia “is a moral evil,” Fung said. “It’s become, in a way, a kind of right in itself. And I think that rests on a false premise of unlimited autonomy. As a Catholic, one cannot participate in any way, shape or form but the way the government is implementing it, one may not have much of a choice in the future, especially with some of the court rulings.”

Nevertheless, Fung said there is a possibility of striking a balance.

“If we enshrine legal conscience protection for physicians, that will allow us to continue to practise without undue pressure and professional repercussions,” he said. “As long as there’s robust self-referral access resources available, patients do not need to go through providers who object in order to access that service.”

In their letter, the bishops recognize that there are situations where a family member or loved one experiences pain and suffering. And it’s a personal issue for Archbishop Smith, whose father Donald suffered from dementia for years until his death on Sept. 28.

“We just said it’s on us, as the children who love him, and we owe it to him as our father, we owe it to him as a human being in dignity to give ourselves to him too and accompany him at every stage, even when he ceased to know us or really understand the relation,” Smith recalled, “and by our presence and by our love and by our care, just communicate as clearly as we could that this individual is of great, great dignity and of great, great worth ̶ and none of that is diminished by his physical capacity.”

Smith’s message to families who have a loved one who is suffering is to continue to love them.

“Just continue to be with them. Look for any opportunity, if there’s a need for reconciliation, for the healing of relationships. We will never, ever regret the time that we spend with our loved ones.

“Be there in that attitude and stance of love, even when sometimes the suffering doesn’t allow conversation or speech. That has a power within the soul of the individual that is difficult for us to grasp humanly or to express humanly either.”


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Grow Hope and Canadian Foodgrains Bank were part of an annual crop production event in Saskatoon

Mon, 01/20/2020 - 17:13

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Saskatoon Catholic News

Several of the farmers and organizers involved in the 2019 season of Grow Hope Saskatchewan were among those who gathered for the Western Canadian Crop Production Show held Jan. 13-16 at Prairieland Park in Saskatoon.

Through the Grow Hope project, Saskatchewan farm families grew crops on a total of 180 acres this year, partnering with donors – urban and rural – who contributed funds to pay for the seed and other input costs. When 122 sponsored acres were harvested, proceeds from the sale of the crops went to Canadian Foodgrains Bank to address hunger and food security for vulnerable people in crisis around the world. The amount raised and donated to Canadian Foodgrains Bank is also matched four-to-one by the Canadian government, multiplying the impact of the project.

“With the Canadian government match this year, up to $480,000 will be distributed through Canadian Foodgrains Bank account holders to feed people and develop sustainable growing practices in vulnerable areas of the world,” noted Myron Rogal, coordinator of Justice and Peace for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon.

Catholic farm families involved in Grow Hope last year were Michelle and Brian Hergott, who farm near Bruno (planting 40 acres of canola for the project), and Ian, Patrick and Reg Sonntag who farm near Goodsoil (growing 50 acres of oats). The Rosthern-area Mennonite farm family of Nathan and Jeanette Janzen also seeded 90 acres of wheat for Grow Hope.

The project’s many partnerships were highlighted during presentations at the 2019 Grow Hope Field Day in August: NEWS ARTICLE. Among those joining together to address hunger through Grow Hope were urban and rural residents, volunteers and businesses, and faith-based organizations including the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (Caritas Canada), the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon, and the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC).

For more information about Grow Hope and how to get involved, contact Myron Rogal, coordinator of the diocesan Office of Justice and Peace at or (306) 659-5841.




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