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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: 2 years 1 week ago

STM College unveils new Centre for Faith, Reason, Peace, and Justice

Thu, 01/28/2021 - 17:48

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

St. Thomas More College at the University of Saskatchewan held an online event Jan. 28 to unveil the creation of a new academic centre.

The Centre for Faith, Reason, Peace, and Justice is dedicated to fostering excellence in teaching, research, and community outreach in three of St. Thomas More (STM) College’s interdisciplinary and distinctive program areas:

  • Catholic Studies, engaging the intersections of faith, reason, and culture in Catholic traditions;
  • Critical Perspectives on Social Justice and the Common Good, exploring expressions of justice and solidarity across diverse cultures and contexts; and
  • Peace Studies, concerned with the analysis and creative transformation of conflict.

“The centre will truly succeed if it convenes discussions on critical issues that might not otherwise take place,” said STM President Carl Still in opening remarks during the online event.

“At a time when many of us are more comfortable talking only to those who already think the way we do, the centre will practise the art of dialogue, which Pope Francis recommends most strongly.”

The centre will further the ongoing dialogue between the Catholic Church and the wider society, “but also to welcome into that discussion many perspectives, from other Christian communities, from other communities of faith, and from any and all people of good will who are engaged in making our society a more equitable and peaceful place for all its members.”

There is much to “talk about and to learn from one another,” particularly at this challenging time of a world-side pandemic, he noted.

STM President Dr. Carl Still shared the history of the new Centre for Faith, Reason, Peace, and Justice. (Video image)

“This centre has been years in the making,” said the president of STM college.

Still described how the establishment of the new centre follows years of discussion that began with the establishment of a minor in Catholic studies at St. Thomas More (the federated Catholic College at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon), and continued as another minor in Social Justice and the Common Good was launched at STM.

Because both of these new minors were multi-disciplinary, they had no obvious departmental home, Still explained. “One way to house them was to create a centre which could oversee these programs, coordinate between them, and provide active community outreach to potential partners,” he said, describing the history that has led to the establishment of the new centre.

“As we launch the new centre today, STM has also proposed a new program in Peace Studies, which again has no parallel at the University of Saskatchewan,” Still said.

The name and the work of the new Centre for Faith, Reason, Peace and Justice therefore focuses on the three interdisciplinary areas of study — Catholic Studies, Social Justice and the Common Good, and Peace Studies, he said.

“The new centre will coordinate instruction in these three programs, and it will foster new inquiry into all kinds of topics associated with faith and reason, peace and justice,” said Still. “In all those ways it will serve the students at St. Thomas More College and the University of Saskatchewan by creating opportunities for study that would not otherwise exist on our campus.”

However, creation of this centre goes beyond that academic benefit, Still stressed.

“This centre is intended to reach beyond the walls of STM and the university campus to engage community partners who share an interest in issues of our time that involve faith, peace and justice,” he said.

“It will amplify the work already made possible by the Leslie and Irene Dubé Chair of Catholic Studies at STM and extend it even further out into our community.”

Panel discussion

Reflecting that broader vision, the online launch of the new Centre for Faith, Reason, Peace and Justice included a panel discussion with representatives of Catholic health, Catholic education and the Catholic diocese, moderated by centre Director Dr. Chris Hrynkow.

Representatives of Catholic health, Catholic education and the Catholic diocese were in conversation with Dr. Chris Hrynkow, the first Director of the Centre for Faith, Reason, Peace, and Justice at STM. (Video image)

Panel participants included Blake Sittler, Executive Director of the Catholic Health Association of Saskatchewan; Darcie Lich, Coordinator of Religious Education for Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools; and Myron Rogal, Coordinator of Justice and Peace for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon.

The three members of the centre’s advisory committee reflected on the vision, potential and hope for the new Centre for Faith, Reason, Peace, and Justice, and how it might benefit their own work and build stronger connections in the wider community.

Efforts to strengthen and articulate Catholic identity in an increasingly diverse world was identified by Sittler as a priority for Catholic Health Care institutions that could be enhanced by the work of the new centre.

“I think that something like the centre gives us the chance to partner to have that conversation, to begin to articulate who we are and what we mean in this modern context,” said Sittler.

As an example, Sittler cited areas that have not traditionally been talked about in terms of health, but which have an impact, such as the environment, justice, reconciliation with First Nations, the common good, equity, immigration, affordable housing, racism and relationships with LGBTQ2 persons.

As advice for the new centre, Sittler said: “you need to be bold … and you need to really offer something challenging and relevant and current.”

Lich said the centre will provide another resource for animating faith discussion and formation for teachers and students in the Catholic school system. “I see a lot of places where our work can intersect in terms of what we are doing together as people of faith,” she said.

Lich also stressed the importance of communication and persistently making connections.

Rogal pointed to the potential for greater collaboration and connections with many community partners, as a kind of “clearing house” for justice and peace efforts in the community through a lens of Catholic Social Teaching.

For instance, he pointed to the ongoing partnerships in “hosting events that are engaging and supporting the work of one another as something that I think the centre will really enhance,” said Rogal.

He noted two events that are already scheduled — a three-part online series looking at the Amazon Synod and challenges faced by the people of the Amazon and similar challenges to Indigenous People in Canada (with the next session in the series to be held Feb. 16), and an upcoming online dialogue March 2 about the papal encyclical Fratelli Tutti and just recovery from COVID-19.

During the panel discussion, Rogal challenged the new centre to “deliberately seek out those whom we disagree with,” to identify gaps in the community, and to use the medium of stories to foster dialogue and to hopefully “break down false dichotomies that divide us and paralyze us from accessing the truth.”

Goals identified for the Centre for Faith, Reason, Peace, and Justice include:

  • Animating in St. Thomas More College (STM) students a passion for learning and service in the areas of faith and reason along with peace and justice.
  • Sponsoring and partnering to deliver engaging conferences, lectures, and panels, which touch upon one or more of the Centre’s key areas.
  • Hosting film nights introduced for their relevance to the Centre’s key fields and followed by a short panel and open conversation.
  • Acting as a link between (1) non-profit organizations and community groups active in one or more of the Centre’s areas, and, (2) STM faculty whose expertise can benefit those organizations and groups.
  • Teaching, research, and outreach support for STM faculty undertaking community-based projects in Saskatchewan relating to the Centre’s key areas.
  • Recruiting students, managing, and delivering academic programs in Catholic Studies, Critical Perspectives on Social Justice and the Common Good, and Peace Studies.
  • Celebrating the work and experiences of STM students involved with centre programming.
  • “Friend-raising” to create a core contact list of people and groups interested in the centre and its activities.
  • Establishing a social media presence to promote the centre’s activities and share information related to the centre’s three fields.

Other participants in the online event were STM Dean Dr. Arul Kumaran, who noted the centre is a continuation of St. Thomas More College’s ongoing mission, both in the areas of academics and outreach, and STM Director of Mission and Ministry Gertrude Rompré who led a commissioning and a prayer of blessing for the new centre to conclude the event.

“May STM’s new Centre for Faith, Reason, Peace, and Justice be a place where faith and reason walk hand-in-hand, a moment when justice deepens our love for each other, and a continuing conversation where swords are transformed into ploughshares,” prayed Rompré

She also prayed that the centre would be an “incubator of hope, a birthplace of understanding, a leaven for reconciliation.”




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Mary Wagner and a mother’s influence

Wed, 01/27/2021 - 13:31

By Quinton Amundson, The Catholic Register

[Toronto – Canadian Catholic News] – Jane Wagner remembers the raw emotion she experienced when her daughter Mary Wagner was first arrested in Vancouver in 1999 for her crusades on behalf of the unborn.

“It was very difficult for me,” recalled Jane. “Just the idea of your daughter being in jail with murderers was so overwhelming. I thought, ‘how can you do this?’ But Our Lady came to me and told me to be supportive so I became supportive through an act of will.”

Jane and Mary sat side by side speaking about their special mother-daughter bond during a virtual meeting of a Catholic Mom’s Group Jan. 14 in the Archdiocese of Toronto. Dorothy Pilarski, a writer, communications professional and radio host who founded the group in Toronto, led a Zoom Q&A with the Wagners while also sharing questions from the audience of Catholic mothers.

Mary, 46, has essentially spent some six years of her life in prison in Toronto or Vancouver because of her continued willingness to defy the “bubble-zone” laws — anti-abortion protests within a 50-metre radius of health-care centres are illegal.

She walks into abortion clinics and calmly counsels women with alternative options to terminating the child in their womb, sharing red or white roses and pamphlets with each woman to whom she speaks.

Her most recent arrest was just before Easter in 2019 at the Everywoman’s Health Centre in Vancouver.

The sacrifices Mary has made, including numerous Christmas and Easter celebrations imprisoned and away from family, can be credited to the example set by Jane and her father, Frank. The seminar afforded Mary a platform to talk about Jane’s motherhood and her upbringing.

Mary said one of the greatest gifts given to her and her siblings by her parents was a passion towards the concept of adoption.

“I remember that the idea of adopting a child was something that excited my siblings and I long before my parents decided to adopt,” said Mary. “From early on the seeds were planted about openness to others. This had a really profound impact on me along with their lesson to put Jesus first.”

Jane and Frank have raised seven biological children, five adopted children and four foster children. Pilarski opened the seminar by asking Jane about her eye-opening experience towards adoption while she and Frank were stationed in Africa where he taught at a polytechnic institute.

“We were eating on the beach and this two-and-a-half year old boy came up and he was wearing a rag and he showed all the symptoms of protein deficiency. He was looking not at us but at our food. It was a turning moment for me. This was a boy who had nothing — literally nothing. Of course, we gave him everything we had,” said Jane.

“I said, ‘Frank, we have to do something.’ He said, ‘what can we do?’ And I said, ‘maybe we could adopt him.’ He said we can look into it as we watched the boy down the beach having a swarm of kids descend on him and take everything he had. They were hungry too.”

While Frank and Jane were unsuccessful in adopting the children she encountered that day, the couple returned home determined to open their home to children.

Jane concluded the seminar by urging mothers to carry out the sacred gift and duty given to them by God.

“What is most precious in your life, you devote yourself to. A child, a gift from God like that is so irreplaceable and priceless that you do have a duty to be there and safeguard that child, and lead them toward God.”


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The encounter with Christ that “heals our souls and lifts us from our mats”

Wed, 01/27/2021 - 13:23

By Ryan LeBlanc, Teacher Chaplain, E.D. Feehan Catholic High School

Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? – Read Luke 5:17-26

Which is easier, to say ‘have hope during a pandemic’, or to say that bread and wine have become the flesh and blood of the Creator of the universe?

Which takes the more faith?

Which makes us more vulnerable?

Many of us are walking upright, and more-or-less emotionally regulated – this year, that is a huge blessing, a great success.

But it is also true that COVID has paralyzed us.

This man on a stretcher in the gospel was isolated.  He was restricted. He could not go into crowds. His freedom was collapsed.  He could not do the things he wanted to do.

This man on a stretcher is us. Our whole world.

We cannot go out like we once could.

Many good things that we loved doing we cannot do right now.

Yet, when we come before Jesus, he is first concerned with our spiritual healing. He wants to touch the wounds in our relationship with him, to free us from the sin that enslaves us. He’s not worried about how often I go to my favourite restaurant, or whether I can go shopping in person.  He deals with what is troubled and broken in our hearts first.

But our physical illness and our lack freedom to do what we want – we are obsessed with these. We wonder, and we wish, and we agonize: why does it have to be this way?

Why does the world have to suffer so much?

Why do I have to carry such a burden?

To mix in another Gospel miracle story, when Jesus’s disciples saw the man born blind, they asked what they thought was a smart question. This guy was born blind, and blindness is a punishment for sin, but he couldn’t have sinned before he was born, could he? So who’s to blame for this suffering? His parents or him?

Who’s to blame?

In my heart and on my social media, this question is everywhere. Who’s to blame for the pandemic? Who’s to blame for the restrictions? Who’s to blame for the lack of restrictions? Who’s to blame for the inequities that are made worse? Who’s to blame for privileged people suddenly feeling isolated and misunderstood? Who’s to blame for the way I feel at the end of an exhausting day?

These questions, these sufferings are what end up driving us to Jesus. Or, rather, it is the faith of our community that carries our broken hearts to him.

It is the faith of the paralyzed man’s friends that brings him to the healing savior.  It can be the faith of the Holy Church and of all people of good will that can bring our pandemic paralysis to the Lord Jesus.

Even when we cannot go to a building, the living temple of the People of God, the living Word of the Scriptures, the living tradition of the saints and the prayers, they can carry us when we don’t even feel like we can move an inch. And, carried by the faith of those around us, we find ourselves, broken and trapped, finally in the presence of the one with the power to heal it all.

We know God can bind coronavirus, end the illness. This is it.

Then Jesus says, “My child, your sins are forgiven.”

I love to imagine that moment right after those words.

Here’s the paralyzed guy who clearly only wants to walk. Here’s his friends who have circumvented the crowds, torn apart a house, strained their muscles. Here’s the crowd that knows Jesus can heal, who were in the middle of hearing his healing words, who are holding their breath to see a miracle right before their eyes.

“Your sins are forgiven.”

It happens quick in the Bible, but I imagine the paralyzed man looking at Jesus in confused hope, and Jesus looking at him with love.

And slowly, he realizes what Jesus has done for him.  What he has needed all along.

How resentful has his heart been?

How many curses has he made to God? To those around him?

How long has he drowned himself in self-pity?

How bitter has he been about his imprisonment?

How often has he ignored those who wanted to help him, those who offered their presence? His friends, his children, his community?

How selfish has he become in response to his great loss?

All of that is gone. All of that is healed.

The crowd has to be shocked and disappointed.  The scribes and the Pharisees are scandalized. But I think, for the paralyzed man, it is enough. I think he has already received what he needed, and the physical healing was only for the crowd. They needed to see on the outside what Jesus had done to the man on the inside.

As with the man born blind, as with the coronavirus pandemic, the suffering is not because anyone sinned, but so that the glory of God might be shown in us.

Now that man can move. Now that man can pick up his own mat and glorify God.

Jesus can do this with us.

All of it.

As the faith of his church brings us to him, we have the opportunity to see our situation the way Jesus sees it. We have the chance to see that what really oppresses us is our own sinful heart.

Is it enough for us?

To be healed and forgiven and loved by Jesus – but to remain paralyzed by the pandemic?

Can we allow the healing to go so far into our hearts that we can trust and accept God’s mysterious will?

For many of us, however, God has already worked miracles. We have been given the freedom to come to school and work, to meet and encounter our colleagues and students, some of whom might be needing healing really badly.

Now that we can walk and carry a mat, we can work together to carry a hurting person to Jesus.

We have to avoid crowds.

We have to tear open some new pathways.

We might have to strain our muscles.

But we can bring each other to Jesus. We can work together to bring those who are suffering to Jesus. Not by our strength, but by our faith.

It’s that vulnerable faith – inseparable from hope – that turns us to the encounter with Christ that heals our souls and lifts us from our mats. It is faith that opens our hearts to the graces he wants to pour into the world through us.


Ryan LeBlanc is the Teacher Chaplain and Catholic Studies Department Head at E.D. Feehan Catholic High School, and he blogs and offers online courses at 

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First free-standing hospice in Saskatchewan opens in Saskatoon

Mon, 01/25/2021 - 06:23
Catholic facility marks new era in end-of-life care

By St. Paul’s Hospital Foundation staff

The Hospice at Glengarda, Saskatchewan’s first free-standing residential Hospice will accept its first admission before the end of January.

Emmanuel Health Board Chair Daryl Bazylak says the opening marks a new era in hospice care in Saskatchewan.

“St. Paul’s Hospital began working with community partners to make a hospice a reality for Saskatoon in the early 1990’s. We couldn’t be more pleased to complete this project, broadening the palliative care service continuum in Saskatoon,” says Bazylak. “The outstanding generosity received from across the province to build the Hospice and advance end-of-life care programs is an indication of the need for increased services in this area.”

St. Paul’s Hospital Foundation’s Board Chair Neil Weber says: “The Hospice at Glengarda was built by the community for the community, to serve the people of Saskatchewan.”

The 15-bed Hospice at Glengarda, located on the corner of Hilliard Street East and Melrose Avenue, is governed by Emmanuel Health and owned by St. Paul’s Hospital. The building was purchased from the Ursuline Sisters in 2014, and construction and renovations to the facility were funded through St. Paul’s Hospital Foundation’s Close to Home Campaign for hospice and end-of-life care.

Bishop Mark Hagemoen prays during a blessing celebration Dec. 23 for the new Hospice at Glengarda Catholic health facility. (Photo by Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)

In a quiet celebration Dec. 23, Bishop Mark Hagemoen blessed the Catholic facility that offers hospice care for all residents of Saskatchewan.

“I not only congratulate Emmanuel Health in partnership with the Sisters for this launching, but I am also very thankful to almighty God that the identity and mission of this Catholic health care institution – which is open and outreaching to all of God’s people, in the city of Saskatoon and beyond – will continue,” Hagemoen said.

Hospice bedroom and fireplace (Photo by Matt Smith, SPH Foundation)

A fellow subsidiary of Emmanuel Health, Samaritan Place, has taken on the role of developing and delivering the operational plan and patient programming for the Hospice.

Samaritan Place Executive Director Bette Boechler recently reflected on the newly expanded mandate. “Samaritan Place has experience in delivering compassionate and holistic long term care. The Hospice at Glengarda represents a unique opportunity to expand our services and expertise to include end-of-life care,” says Boechler. “We look forward to serving our community in this new way.”

Hospice main common area (Photo by Matt Smith, SPH Foundation)

Tracy Muggli, Executive Director of St. Paul’s Hospital, says that support for the campaign has done far more than simply build the facility.

“In addition to providing funding to construct and furnish the Hospice at Glengarda and effectively close a significant gap in end-of-life care, the campaign has supported renovations to the Palliative Care Unit at St. Paul’s Hospital, created a palliative education and training fund for care-givers and the community, and established endowments to support holistic care services such as spiritual care, bereavement care and art therapy,” reports Muggli.

“The Hospice at Glengarda was built by the community for the community
to serve the people of Saskatchewan.” – Neil Weber

St. Paul’s Hospital Foundation CEO Lecina Hicke expresses deep gratitude to to everyone who contributed in so many ways to the Close to Home Campaign.

“On Jan. 30, 2019 we launched the Close to Home campaign with our dear friend Gord Engel and his beautiful family at our side. Gord bravely detailed his personal inspiration to advocate for the campaign – he was preparing to say goodbye to his family and wished that our community would consider what they might similarly wish for their family during such a time – a safe, comfortable and home-like space delivering quality end-of-life care,” says Hicke.

“Sadly, Gord passed away in March 2019, but his story captivated our community and inspired countless gifts to the Close to Home campaign. We thank Gord, the Engel family and all of our supporters for helping to build the Hospice at Glengarda and provide holistic, compassionate and thoughtful end-of- life care for those we love, when they need it most.”

Donor wall at the new Hospice at Glengarda (Photo by Matt Smith, SPH Foundation)

The government of Saskatchewan committed $1.34 million in 2020-21 to operate the hospice and has committed to ongoing annual funding.

“This new hospice will provide exceptional care and comfort to individuals and families who are experiencing very difficult circumstances,” says Health Minister Paul Merriman. “Our government is proud to support it and we congratulate all who contributed to making it a reality.”

The hospice is integrated into the continuum of health care in Saskatchewan and there is no need for a separate application to receive care in the Hospice.

“We are thrilled to celebrate the opening of the Hospice at Glengarda,” says Jennifer Hiebert, Director of Clinical Integration, Public Health and Home Health – Primary Health Care with the Saskatchewan Health Authority. “The new hospice will be integrated into our existing health services and teams to support smooth care transitions for residents and families and will be a valuable support for our community for generations to come.”

Those who feel they would benefit from palliative services, including hospice care, are asked to discuss the option with their present health care team. Any member of the care team, including physicians, home care Registered Nurses, and staff from Client Patient Access Services (CPAS) can support a referral to hospice.

The first admission to Saskatoon’s new residential hospice is expected to be in the last week of January. For more information on care at the Hospice at Glengarda, please visit .

Due to Covid-19, a Grand Opening event will not be held. A virtual online tour of the Hospice at Glengarda can be viewed  at .

Donation announced

St. Paul’s Hospital Foundation’s Board Chair Neil Weber this week also announced a new donation to the Close to Home fundraising campaign: $250,000 from Orano Canada. “In addition to providing $175,000 to help build the facility through the Close to Home Campaign, they have also made the first major gift to the Hospice at Glengarda in the form of a $75,000 endowment to advance staff and volunteer cultural responsiveness training as it relates to end-of-life care.”

Tammy Van Lambalgen, Orano Canada’s Vice President, Chief Corporate Officer presenting Orano’s gift of $250,00. (Photo by Matt Smith, SPH Foundation)

“We are so pleased to offer support for this important and necessary facility in our city,” said Tammy Van Lambalgen, Orano Canada’s Vice President, Chief Corporate Officer. “For us, the connection is very personal and we are happy to see that despite the challenges of 2020, this facility is ready to serve residents and their families with compassion and high-quality end-of-life care.”



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Dr. Tam asks for church aid in bringing end to pandemic as vaccines roll out

Fri, 01/22/2021 - 12:00

By Michael Swan, The Catholic Register

(with additional material from Catholic Saskatoon News)

[Ottawa – Canadian Catholic News] – The end of our long COVID-19 crisis may be in sight, but until we get there, churches and faith leaders still have a job to do, Canada’s chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam told over 1,300 faith leaders on a Jan. 20, 2021 nationwide Zoom call.

“All pandemics come to an end and this one will as well,” Tam said.

However, with delays in vaccine delivery and the enormous logistical effort required to distribute vaccines to every corner of a vast country, exactly when the COVID-19 pandemic will end is still unknown. Between now and then Tam is asking churches to continue to promote the basics of safety under the pandemic — mask wearing, hand washing and social distancing — working with local public health officials.

Canada’s COVID-19 Immunization Plan – Health Canada website

Tam also wants faith leaders’ help in reassuring Canadians that the vaccines are safe, effective and our best hope for a return to normal.

While the majority of Canadians want and trust the vaccines, there are still pockets of resistance and waves of misinformation washing over social media, said Tam. She pleaded with faith leaders to use their influence to promote accurate information about the vaccines.

Calling the faith leaders “influencers,” Tam praised their ability to reach out directly to their congregations and the high level of trust people place in them.

“You know what is in the hearts and in the minds of your members,” she said.  “Your leadership is vital for supporting and building resilience in your communities as we move through this pandemic,” Tam added, listing support being provided for those who are high risk, those who are isolated, or under quarantine or people struggling with mental health issues.

She also noted the role that faith communities can have in assisting marginalized individualized and groups who do not trust vaccines or the health system because they have experienced inequities, discrimination or difficulties accessing health care and other resources. “You, as faith communities, can help overcome that,” Tam said, thanking faith leaders for outreach to those who are marginalized.

During the Zoom call with faith leaders, Ian Shugart, Clerk of the Privy Council, also addressed the role of faith communities and faith leaders in the pandemic and also asked for their prayers.

“Faith communities are in a uniquely strategic position to contribute to our society’s management of the pandemic, to offer hope, and a place to wonder and explore what this pandemic might have to teach us about ourselves and about our society,” Shugart said. “You can inspire people to actions and disciplines that are oriented to the interests of others; you can model and teach the virtue of care, (and) that none of us is entirely self-sufficient.”

During a question and answer session at the conclusion of the call, Tam affirmed that the COVID-19 vaccines do not contain human fetal cells or any animal elements.

Crux interview with Fr. Matthew Schneider about ethical questions related to vaccines: LINK to Article

How to Vaccinate Like a Catholic: A Guide Through the Prickly COVID-19 Issues by Brett Salkeld – LINK to Article

Letter from Bishops of Alberta and NWT re: morality of vaccine: LINK to Letter

Canadian Catholiic Bioethics Institute – resources concerning COVID-19 and vaccine – LINK to CCBI website

Interview with Dr Moira McQueen: Explaining why Catholics should get the COVID-19 vaccine: LINK to video

Church response

There’s no question that Canada’s Catholic bishops want to contribute to a smooth rollout of the vaccines, including the effort to ensure accurate information, Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) president Archbishop Richard Gagnon of Winnipeg told The Catholic Register after the Zoom call.

“Like many bishops, I would say our communications office, our web site and that sort of thing will be used to assist in the rollout of the vaccine and providing proper information and encouraging people to take the vaccine, for sure,” he said.

Whether it’s reinforcing COVID safety protocols or broadcasting information about the vaccines, the Archdiocese of Toronto is already on board, said communications director Neil MacCarthy.

“We want to reiterate the credible advice that is out there,” MacCarthy said.

MacCarthy frequently fields calls from parishioners frustrated with restrictions on Mass-going.

“What I often say to people is, ‘We share your frustration,’ but the sooner we can get the numbers down, get people vaccinated, then the sooner we can get people back to full and active participation in our places of worship — which is the end-goal we all share,” MacCarthy said.

The archdiocese also stands ready to make church halls and other spaces available as vaccination sites if they are needed. That’s a request that would come from local health authorities charged with inoculating the public. At current levels of vaccination, the need has not yet arisen.

Toronto’s Archbishop Cardinal Thomas Collins has encouraged pastors to respond positively should the request come, “just as we would for election polling or a blood donor clinic, things like that,” MacCarthy said.

Tam stressed the importance of getting information from a credible source, such as the Health Canada website including information on Canada’a immunization plan.

Among people whose primary source of news and information is social media there is a higher tendency to doubt the vaccines or believe inaccurate information about them, Tam said. The Catholic tradition of seeking truth and building trust should be a bulwark against misinformation, according to MacCarthy.

“We’ve got to trust the people who have that expertise, have the background, are in positions of leadership,” he said. “We want to reiterate the credible advice that is out there.”

While rumours of serious side-effects from the vaccine continue to circulate on the Internet, the facts thus far are far from alarming, said Tam. Out of 338,223 vaccine doses administered prior to Jan. 8, a total of 24 recorded an adverse reaction and only 10 of those were serious. In total, adverse reactions came in at 0.007 per cent of all the doses administered so far.

While the government projects four million Canadians will have received a vaccine by the end of March and the bulk of the population by September, in the meantime Tam would like faith leaders’ help in persuading Canadians to observe safety protocols and thus drive down the numbers that need hospitalization. “Please do continue to listen to your public health authorities to help flatten this curve of resurgence we are experiencing, so we can give the vaccine a bit of a runway to get going.,” she said.

The government’s direct outreach to faith leaders is a positive step, said Gagnon.

“I think it’s good to ask the faith communities to co-operate. It’s appropriate. It’s logical,” he said.

“Maintaining social, community and spiritual closeness at this time is more important than ever,” said Tam.


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100 Words – Third Sunday in Ordinary Time: “Nearness”

Thu, 01/21/2021 - 15:50

By Peter Oliver, Olive Branch Marriage and Family Ministry

Jesus said to them, “Come follow me and I will make you fishers of people.” And immediately they left their nets and followed him. (Mark 1:18)

This Sunday! Troubled World meets Mark’s Jesus

Mark’s Jesus comes, “proclaiming the Good News of God.” The heart of Jesus’ Good News is “the Kingdom of God has come near.”

Is there “Good News” for people experiencing separation and divorce? Definitely.

This nearness of God is so moving that some hard-working fishermen immediately leave their nets and follow Jesus.  Leave their nets = they immediately let go of that which provided security.

Mark wants to be exceedingly clear: The Good News, i.e. God’s supernova-compassionate-stunningly-welcoming-nearness is present in Jesus.

That same nearness is made present when our Church communities welcome people who are experiencing separation and divorce.

ReStart – Building divorce and separation resilience


[This is a weekly blog re-published from with permission from author Peter Oliver. Each post is exactly 100 words.]

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New STM College plan celebrated with online launch and liturgy event

Thu, 01/21/2021 - 14:20
Plan seen as roadmap to future success and includes five priority areas

By Paul Sinkewicz, St. Thomas More College

[Editor’s note: This article is reprinted with permission from the St. Thomas More College website: LINK]

A major milestone for St. Thomas More College was achieved Jan. 18 under the trying circumstances of the pandemic, with the liturgical launch of the St. Thomas More College Plan 2025.

Work on the new five-year plan began in spring of 2019 with assistance from Academica Group and leadership of the College-formed Steering Committee. There was participation and collaboration with numerous STM stakeholder groups for input, culminating in the completed plan this past fall.

“Of course, we wish we could be gathered together in the college chapel, as we normally would for Mass and ceremonies,” said Dr. Carl Still, president of STM College. “But even though COVID-19 restrictions continue, we are going forward with our new college plan, and though we have to be connected technologically to make this happen, we are no less connected spiritually.”

The theme of the plan is “Community in Partnership Rooted in Spirit.” Dr. Still noted that theme could be seen in the online event through the College’s partnership with Indigenous peoples as part of its effort to achieve its priority of authentic Indigenization.

The ceremony included two traditions with the Liturgy of the Word paired with a smudging and blessing ceremony overseen by Elders Patricia and AJ Felix, members of STM’s Indigenous Advisory Circle.

Dr. Still made special mention of Deacon Harry Lafond, the first STM Scholar in Indigenous Education, who will be leading the work of the priority devoted to Authentic Indigenization.

“In the plan itself we say that we will integrate Indigenous ceremony into College processes and celebrations,” said Dr. Still. “So, in other words, we are already following the plan in this very liturgy to launch and bless the plan.”

The event was hosted by Celeste Woloschuk of STM Campus Ministry, and included comments from Dr. Still, Dr. Gertrude Rompré, Director of Mission and Ministry, and Deacon Lafond. Also participating in the ceremony were Dr. Jenn Briere, Dr. Michael Cichon, Gail Morrison, and Michael MacLean.

The recent challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic prove the value of having a five-year plan, according to the introduction Dr. Still included in the plan.

“The shifting landscape in which we find ourselves makes future planning difficult, but all the more imperative: we need a roadmap to the future that is clear enough to guide decision-making, but flexible enough to respond to unexpected developments, like the global pandemic of 2020. A plan is also a statement to our extended STM community and the wider society of where we aspire to go in the next five years and why we hope they will support us in getting there.”

“As we move toward the end of our 2015-2020 plan, we have considerable momentum in the five priority areas of Catholic mission and identity, student experience, research and discovery, sustainability, and Indigenous engagement.”




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New Appointments for STM Board of Governors

Thu, 01/21/2021 - 11:43

By St. Thomas More College staff

[Editor’s note: This article is reprinted with permission from the St. Thomas More College website: LINK]

St. Thomas More College (STM) Board of Governors has announced the appointment of Dr. Helen Horsman as Chair and new Board members Melvin Gerspacher, Gordon Martell and Dr. Saeed Moshiri effective January 1, 2021.

STM College is the federated Catholic college at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon.

Dr. Helen Horsman, BEd, PGD, MEd, PhD, is the new chair of the STM College Board of Governors.

Dr. Horsman’s academic achievements and extensive resumé include serving as an instructor at both Saskatchewan universities, as well as for ITEP, SUNTEP, NORTEP, and the Indian Federated College. Dr. Horsman was superintendent for Moose Jaw Catholic Schools, Director of Education for both Holy Trinity School Division and Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools, and has served as the Assistant Deputy Minister of Learning, as well as the Chair of the SIAST Provincial Foundation Board. Dr. Horsman was inducted into the 2010 USask Alumni Wall of Fame.

Melvin Gerspacher

Dr. Gordon A. Martell

Dr. Saeed Moshiri









Appointed to the STM College Board of Governors as members-at-large are Melvin Gerspacher, QC, FCPA, FCA, a partner at Robertson, Stromberg LLP, a corporate and commercial lawyer with particular expertise in taxation; Gordon A. Martell, PhD, Superintendent of Learning Services with Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools and an adjunct professor in educational administration at the University of Saskatchewan; and Dr. Saeed Moshiri, PhD, economics professor and department head for STM College, with research published in top economic journals.

Other members of the STM College Board of Governors include Vice-Chair Jason Aebig, Treasurer Neil Reddekopp, Sr. Anne Lewans OSU, Marie Stack, Taylor Spock and STM College President Dr. Carl Still.



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Delta Hospice Society pledges to fight on as it faces layoffs, eviction for refusing to provide euthanasia on site

Tue, 01/19/2021 - 08:49

By B.C. Catholic staff

[Vancouver – Canadian Catholic News] – The Delta Hospice Society in British Columbia says it has been forced to issue layoff notices to clinical staff at its 10-bed hospice in Delta effective Feb. 25, all due to its opposition to on-site euthanasia.

“We have been left no other choice due to the Fraser Health Authority cancelling our service agreement and 35-year lease,” president Angelina Ireland said in a statement Jan. 8.

“Fraser Health is about to evict us and expropriate approximately $15 million of our assets simply because we decline to euthanize our patients.”

The DHS has been fighting an uphill battle since last February, when the Fraser Health Authority announced it was cancelling the society’s lease and terminating contracts effective February 2021 due to the society’s unwillingness to support assisted suicide at its hospice. That led to legal battles and protests as the society has tried to maintain its position that assisted suicide is contrary to hospice care and the mission the Irene Thomas Hospice was founded on nearly 30 years ago.

Ireland said health and government officials have refused offers to negotiate. “They want us to give everything over to them voluntarily … just give them everything, be quiet, and go away.”

Late last year The B.C. Catholic reported the hospice was considering a Supreme Court of Canada appeal, saying the society is being “mistakenly” treated as a public institution rather than a private one.

Ireland wasn’t immediately available to provide an update, but said in a video message Jan. 7 the controversy won’t end when the lease does. The society has launched Save Delta Hospice and plans to lobby legislators to ensure some hospices remain euthanasia-free zones.

“We are a society that has gone national in our quest for hospice sanctuary and safe spaces in this country,” she said. “The fight is not over. The fight has just begun.”

The society has support from some top voices in palliative care in B.C. and Ontario. Dr. Margaret Cottle, a Vancouver palliative care physician for more than three decades, said forcing assisted suicide into hospices undoes the legacy of physicians who pioneered palliative care through its early years.

“We spent a lot of time talking to patients, talking to our colleagues, saying ‘We are not Dr. Death. Palliative care does not hasten or prolong natural death.’”

She said hospices exist to help people live well and symptom-free until natural death.

“If I come to the end of my life and I’m in a position where I am desperate for some reason, maybe I lost hope, maybe I’m having symptoms that I’m having trouble getting under control … maybe it’s a bad day for me … I want to be sure that I’m in a place that won’t just take me at my word when I say I just want to die,” she said.

“I want to be in a place where people will love me, who will come alongside me, who will provide hope for me and say, ‘what is the worst part of this for you? How can we help you? How can we reframe hope for you? How can we help you control your symptoms? How can we help you come together with your family?’ That’s what this is all about.”

Dr. Neil Hilliard, a palliative care physician in Abbotsford, said he resigned from a post as palliative care program director with Fraser Health in 2017 over the issue of requiring hospices to provide assisted suicide.

“We know that only five per cent, at most, of Canadians wish for medical assistance in dying,” Hillard said. “It makes me wonder why the province of B.C. has taken this particular action of forcing a hospice against their principles to provide physician-hastened death.”

Dr. Rene Leiva, a family physician in Ottawa, said institutions across Canada are allowed to practise under their own ethical principles. For B.C. to impose its own values on unwilling hospices “is very unusual for a government to do … it is, in fact, totalitarian.”

He said in this case the government is failing to provide a “reasonable accommodation” of the hospice, especially since access to assisted suicide is available at the Delta Hospital next door.

Vancouver family physician Dr. Williard Johnston called the lease cancellation an “obviously unfair and unjust attack.”

Johnston related how one of his patients went into hospice care two years ago with no intention of asking for a doctor to end her life. “She was hoping to live the remaining days of her life as fully as she possibly could,” he said.

Within days of arriving, the patient was “pressured” into signing an assisted death request that would end her life in four days. Her brother arrived from Australia a few days later and was able to help her change her mind. She lived for another month, made amends with family members, and died a natural death.

“The vast majority of people have no interest in having anything to do with euthanasia,” Johnston said, adding the public benefits from spaces where they can “be absolutely convinced and safe in their trust of the classic palliative care principles, which involve living as fully as you can until dying of a natural death.”

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition has also expressed its support of DHS through executive director Alex Schadenberg.

“This is a situation where I very clearly see that the B.C. government policy discriminates against people who want to be cared for in a euthanasia-free environment,” he said, adding that the EPC has received many calls from people saying they or people they love have felt pressure to end their lives.

“If you think it’s something that doesn’t happen, in fact it is happening.”

Supporters of the Fraser Health decision, including members of a group called Take Back Delta Hospice, have called it an issue of human rights and access to palliative care to all citizens regardless of end-of-life choices.


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Pope Francis to mark fifth anniversary of ‘Amoris laetitia’ with year dedicated to family

Mon, 01/18/2021 - 15:51

By Catholic News Agency staff

[Vatican City – CNA] –  Pope Francis has announced a special year dedicated to the family, marking the fifth anniversary of the publication of his apostolic exhortation Amoris laetitia.

In his Angelus address Dec. 27, the feast of the Holy Family, Pope Francis noted that March 19, 2021, would mark five years since the signing of Amoris laetitia, following synods on the family in 2014 and 2015.

The Holy Father said: “Today’s feast reminds us of the example of evangelizing with the family, proposing to us once again the ideal of conjugal and family love, as underlined in the apostolic exhortation Amoris laetitia, promulgated five years ago this coming March 19. And it will be a year of reflection on Amoris laetitia and it will be an opportunity to focus more closely on the contents of the document. These reflections will be made available to ecclesial communities and families, to accompany them on their journey.”

“As of now, I invite everyone to take part in the initiatives that will be promoted during the Year and that will be coordinated by the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life. Let us entrust this journey, with families all over the world, to the Holy Family of Nazareth, in particular to St. Joseph, the devoted spouse and father.”

The pope’s announcement follows his proclamation of a year dedicated to St. Joseph, which began on Dec. 8 and will conclude on Dec. 8, 2021.

Pope Francis released the apostolic exhortation Amoris laetitia (“The Joy of Love”) on April 8, 2016, though it was signed on March 19 that year. One of the longest documents in papal history, it consists of an introduction and nine chapters, reflecting on challenges to marriage and family life.

A Dec. 27 press release from the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life said that the newly proclaimed year would be known officially as the Year “Amoris Laetitia Family.”

The Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life said: “The pandemic experience has highlighted the central role of the family as the domestic Church and has shown the importance of community ties between families, which make the Church an authentic ‘family of families.’”

“Through the spiritual, pastoral, and cultural initiatives planned in the Year ‘Amoris Laetitia Family,’ Pope Francis intends to address all ecclesial communities throughout the world, exhorting each person to be a witness of family love.”

Brochure for Year “Amoris Laetitia Family” in English  / or in French

The Dicastery added: “Resources will be shared within parishes, dioceses, universities, and in the context of ecclesial movements and family associations, on: family spirituality, formation and pastoral activity for marriage preparation, young people education in affective maturity, and on the holiness of married couples and families who live out the grace of the sacrament in their daily life.”

“International academic symposiums will also be organized to examine in-depth the contents and implications of the apostolic exhortation in relation to highly topical issues that affect families around the world.”

The dicastery also announced the creation of a new website,, dedicated to the year, which will begin on March 19, 2021, and end on June 26, 2022, with the celebration of the 10th World Meeting of Families in Rome.

Among the initiatives announced in the brochure are a forum to be held June 9-12, 2021, entitled “Where are we with Amoris laetitia? Strategies for implementing the apostolic exhortation of Pope Francis.” Forum participants will include the heads of offices for family pastoral ministry of the world’s bishops’ conferences, as well as members of international movements and family associations.

The brochure also said that Pope Francis would take part in a project called “10 Videos Amoris Laetitia” in which he would “explain the chapters of the apostolic exhortation, along with families who will give witness by sharing some aspects of their daily lives.” The videos will appear monthly.

The dicastery said that the new website dedicated to the special year sought to help in “spreading the Christian message on the family in light of the challenges of our time; promoting a deeper understanding of the text of the apostolic exhortation and of the magisterium of Pope Francis; inviting episcopal conferences, dioceses, and parishes, together with ecclesial movements, associations, and families, to devote themselves enthusiastically to the pastoral care of the family by implementing Amoris laetitia.”

The dicastery added that the site would be presented in five languages — English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian — and would be “updated with the proposals and initiatives that will gradually develop over the course of the year.”

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Decision to deny appeal of 2020 court ruling makes Catholic archdiocese liable for abuse at Mount Cashel

Mon, 01/18/2021 - 15:22

By Bryan Dryden, Canadian Catholic News

[Ottawa – CCN] – The Archdiocese of St. John’s is responsible for paying victims of child abuse at Newfoundland’s infamous Mount Cashel Orphanage.

In a decision announced Jan. 14, the Supreme Court of Canada has declined to hear one last appeal from the archdiocese, which has always denied it was responsible for the abuse that occurred at Mount Cashel dating back to the 1950s. The orphanage was run by the Christian Brothers of Ireland, which declared bankruptcy in 2012 while settling abuse lawsuits. The orphanage itself was demolished in 1992.

As is often standard practice, there was no reason given for why Canada’s Supreme Court decided not to hear the appeal filed by the Archdiocese of St. John’s that sought to reverse a Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal ruling that found that the diocese had “vicarious liability” for what went on at Mount Cashel.

“(C)onsidering the whole of the evidence, we conclude that the Brothers at Mount Cashel were working on the account of the Archdiocese when they were caring for the appellants, and that the relationship between the Brothers and the Archdiocese was sufficiently close to make the imposition of vicarious liability on the Archdiocese appropriate,” the 135-page July 2020 ruling by the Newfoundland Court of Appeal said.

The archdiocese has argued before the court that it was not involved in the orphanage’s day-to-day operations and that the Christian Brothers was a lay organization whose members were not ordained priests of the archdiocese.

The lower court ruling in Newfoundland that exposed the Catholic Church to financial liability could have implications not only in St. John’s and across Canada, but the case was also being closely monitored internationally.

Court cases related to what went on at the Mount Cashel orphanage have been ongoing for more than two decades after the Hughes Inquiry in 1989 exposed the abuse suffered by children at the orphanage overseen by the Christian Brothers.

The Archdiocese of St. John’s said in a statement it will review the Supreme Court’s ruling before commenting, but added: “The Archdiocese of St. John’s has immense sympathy for those who suffered abuse at Mount Cashel Orphanage and we ask that all join with us in praying for healing for those who suffer as a result of abuse.”

The archdiocese’s argument that it did not oversee day-to-day operations at Mount Cashel was at first accepted by the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador in 2018, which initially ruled in favour of the archdiocese in a case involving four plaintiffs.

But in a unanimous three-judge decision in July of 2020, Newfoundland’s court of appeal ruled that the diocese was in fact liable and the Church was ordered to pay out about $2 million in damages.

Newfoundland’s Court of Appeal ruled in July that “the Archdiocese established Mount Cashel orphanage to provide care for boys within its religion and culture, and staffed it with Brothers to whom it assigned the task of caring for the resident boys, including the appellants. The evidence shows that this close relationship continued up to and including the 1950s when the appellants were resident.

“Through these years the Archdiocese had authority over the Brothers with respect to their care of the boys in accordance with the Archdiocese’s mandate, had a significant hand in the overall administration and operation of Mount Cashel, exercised authority and control over fundraising, set admissions and child welfare policy, facilitated admissions, and ensured that the Roman Catholic faith informed the education and religious training of the residents,” according to the court ruling, which added: “the Archdiocese was in a position to reduce risk to the appellants but did not do so. It had the ability, through a Diocesan contract or otherwise to set up oversight systems to provide a check on how the Brothers were caring for the appellants.”

“The Brothers were engaged by the Archdiocese to perform services in an orphanage it established and continued to administer and financially support for the benefit of the Archdiocese’s objectives,” the July ruling stated.

“The Archdiocese cannot divest itself of responsibility for the Brothers’ wrongdoing by setting up a situation involving risk, perpetuating that risk, and then saying that Church structure denied them authority over how the Brothers carried out their work at the orphanage,” the ruling continued.

The case was considered a test case for up to 60 other possible plaintiffs and now more cases are expected to go forward by other abuse survivors or their estates.

“What this means is that in this instance the Church can not claim it has no liability,” said Geoff Budden, who was one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs. “The issue of liability has been settled.”

He expects more cases will now be filed in relation to Mount Cashel specifically, but how this will impact other cases involving claims of Church liability depends on the circumstances of each case.

“It all depends on what the Church’s relationship to an organization is, and there are many different relationships between organizations and the Church,” Budden told  Canadian Catholic News in a Jan. 14 interview.

“This doesn’t create blanket liability; the appeal decision in Newfoundland was a nuanced decision that was specific to the situation and relationship between the Church and the orphanage here,” Budden said. “I do, however, expect any lawyers who have clients that are trying to prove Church liability will be looking very closely at what the appeal court ruling said and how that may affect other cases.”

Budden said his clients feel vindicated for having demanded that the Catholic Church in Newfoundland and Labrador be held accountable for what happened at Mount Cashel.

“They are very satisfied with what has happened, even though whenever this comes up of course it brings back up all the bad memories of what happened,” Budden said. “It would be wrong to say they are happy, but they are satisfied.”


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100 Words – 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time: “Home”

Fri, 01/15/2021 - 09:06

By Peter Oliver, Olive Branch Marriage and Family Ministry

When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” (John 1:38)

Fear. We can become so afraid that we don’t even know we’re afraid.

A casualty of this kind of fear is the loss of a sense of home. Home, that place where we are loved; where we are confident, secure, joy-filled – a place where we belong.

The first words Jesus speaks in John’s gospel are, “What are you looking for?”

The disciples’ fascinating response, “Where are you staying?” – Christ-God (Lamb of God), where do you live?

Abstractions don’t help frightened people. Jesus doesn’t offer abstract answers. He says, “Come and see.”Come and abide with me. I am your HOME.

ReStart – Building divorce and separation resilience


[This is a weekly blog re-published from with permission from author Peter Oliver. Each post is exactly 100 words.]

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Bishop Mark Hagemoen declares Jan. 31 as a Day of Prayer for Reverence for Life

Tue, 01/12/2021 - 12:20

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

A day of prayer for Reverence for Life will again be celebrated in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon, with Bishop Mark Hagemoen declaring Sunday, Jan. 31, 2021, as “an opportunity for prayers, reflection and discussion about the value of the precious gift of human life.”

In a letter to the faithful published on Jan. 7, the Memorial of St. André Bessette in Canada, Bishop Hagemoen noted that the year 2020 was marked by “the terrible scourge of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Letter from Bishop Mark Hagemoen about Day of Prayer for Reverence for Life Jan. 31: LINK

He observed that “many things should not go back to the way they were” after the pandemic, stressing that “one of the things that calls out for change is protection for the unborn and most vulnerable.”

Noting the anniversary of the Supreme Court of Canada decision in the Morgentaler case on Jan. 28, 1988, which removed all restrictions on abortion in Canada, Bishop Hagemoen wrote: “Canada continues to deal with the tragic repercussions of the removal of abortion from the Criminal Code… Incredibly applauded by many in our society, these moments in our nation’s history hold within them the tragic reality of millions of lost lives.”

The bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon said: “Victims of abortion include the unborn children who are killed, but also the mothers, fathers and families left wounded after an abortion. The community is also weakened and damaged as the weakest and most vulnerable among us are not valued and protected.”

The introduction of Bill C-7 to expand access to medically-assisted suicide and euthanasia in Canada is another area of profound concern, said Hagemoen, quoting the words of Pope Francis: “The victims of this [throwaway] culture are precisely the weakest and most fragile human beings – the unborn, the poorest, the sick and elderly, the seriously handicapped, etc. – who are in danger of being ‘thrown away’, expelled from a system that must be efficient at all costs.”

Bishop Hagemoen continued: “In this statement, Pope Francis went on to call forth all people of good will to continue the steady work to turn our culture from one of convenience and short-sightedness, to a cultural movement that seeks – through good will and honest reflection – the realization of a truly human culture.”

The bishop also pointed to the “larger deterioration of a culture of human care and respect.”

Bishop Hagemoen wrote: “Today we are more aware than ever of the fragility of environment, and the inter- relationship of all people and all creation. In Laudato Si (June 2015), Pope Francis reminds us that reverence for all human life – especially the most vulnerable and unprotected – cannot be separated from concern and care of creation. As the pope states, ‘Since everything is interrelated, concern for the protection of nature is also incompatible with the justification of abortion. How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties?’ (Laudato Si, #120)”

Hagemoen added: “The Holy Father reminds us that inconsistency about care of the human person will affect our stewardship of creation. ‘When we fail to acknowledge as part of reality the worth of a person, a human embryo, a person with disabilities – to offer just a few examples – it becomes difficult to hear the cry of nature itself; everything is connected.’ (LS #117).”

Failing to reverence human life at every stage and age, an in every circumstance, is “removing the heart from our society,” said Bishop Hagemoen. “This loss of ‘heart’ is also the root cause of so many other evils in our midst: poverty, hunger, discrimination, injustice, racism, and violence,” he added.

“Sisters and brothers, let us respond to loss of heart by holding steady to the hope of the Gospel of Jesus Christ: the Sacred Heart for our world,” Bishop Hagemoen said, urging the faithful to join together in common prayer Jan. 31 and throughout the Year of St. Joseph recently declared by Pope Francis.

“And may our every action always lovingly affirm the deep and sacred value of every human person. Sisters and brothers, we again pray that as a nation we may re-discover our heart!”

Diocesan Prayer – Reverence for Life

Almighty God, giver of all that is good,

we thank you for the precious gift of human life:

For life in the womb, coming from your creative power,

For the life of children, making us glad with their freshness and promise,

For the life of young people, hoping for a better world,

For the life of people who are disabled, teaching us that every life has value,

For the life of the elderly, witnessing to the ageless values of patience and wisdom.

Like Blessed Mary, may we always say “yes” to Your gift.

Help us to realize the sacredness of human life and to respect and cherish it from conception to its natural end.

And bring us at last, O Father, to the fullness of eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN

Diocèse de Saskatoon – Révérence pour la vie

Dieu Tout-Puissant, donateur de tout ce qui est bon, nous te remercions pour le don précieux de la vie humaine:

Pour la vie dans le sein maternel, provenant de ton pouvoir créatif,

Pour la vie des enfants, nous rendant heureux de leur fraîcheur et de leur promesse,

Pour la vie des jeunes, espérant pour un monde formidable,

Pour la vie des personnes qui sont handicapées, nous apprenant que toute vie a de la valeur,

Pour la vie des personnes âgées, témoignant des valeurs intemporelles de patience et de sagesse.

Comme la bienheureuse Marie, puissions-nous toujours dire “oui” à Ton don.

Aide-nous à réaliser le caractère sacré de la vie humaine, à la respecter et à la chérir de la conception à sa fin naturelle.

Et amène-nous enfin, ô Père, à la plénitude de la vie éternelle en Jésus-Christ notre Seigneur. AMEN


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Pandemic an ideal time to bring hope to young people, NET missionaries say

Tue, 01/12/2021 - 11:24

By Agnieszka Ruck, The B.C. Catholic 

[Vancouver – Canadian Catholiic News] – For many Canadians the COVID-19 pandemic meant hunkering down at home, cutting out travel and major life-altering decisions, and waiting out the storm.

But not so for 46 missionaries who joined National Evangelization Teams (NET) Canada last fall. Leaving behind comforts of home, educational pursuits, and jobs, the young people received five weeks of training before heading across Canada to host retreats, share their testimonies, and run religious activities for high school students for the 2020/2021 school year.

Western program coordinator Jean-Paul de Fleuriot sees NET as fulfilling a need “to bring light in the midst of the darkness.”

“Yes, there are restrictions on us, but sharing the Gospel is a necessity,” he told The B.C. Catholic.

Related: Saskatoon’s Bishop Mark Hagemoen in conversation with NET missionaries serving in the northern Archdiocese of Keewatin-Le Pas – LINK to video

During the pandemic, NET is working with dioceses and schools to maintain safety measures while sharing the Gospel. Protocols include ensuring NET missionaries follow all local guidelines that apply to school staff and board in private apartments. (In previous years, missionaries have been put up by host families). The teams have also cut down on the amount of travel they usually do, serving one community for months at a time instead of moving among schools.

Due to current restrictions all parish-based ministry is done online.

“With the current situation, God still knew that young people, families, the whole community, would need hope, and his work is still happening,” said de Fleuriot.

Three teams are currently serving in B.C. One provides religious activities for students at St. John Brebeuf Regional Secondary in Abbotsford and parishes in the area. A second team of missionaries serves at St. Thomas Aquinas Regional Secondary (North Vancouver) and Archbishop Carney Regional Secondary (Port Coquitlam). A third team is in Prince George.

NET missionary Renske de Greeuw leads a small group discussion with high school students. (Submitted photo – The B.C. Catholic, CCN)

NET missionary Renske de Greeuw, who is working at St. John Brebeuf, said many students are struggling with isolation. Having faced lockdowns, online learning, physical distancing measures, and separation based on cohort groups or grades, “they don’t have many people to listen to them,” she said.

Being around the missionaries – who are only a few years older than they are – offers high school students an opportunity to talk to someone who understands their anxieties and has had to ask the same questions about their own futures.

“The challenges can’t compare with the blessings that are coming through this time,” said de Greeuw.

“It is so beautiful how the youth are opening up and how we can share our faith and trust and grow. From the biggest fights come the biggest victories.”

NET missionary Noah Runstedler speaks with students. (Submitted photo – The B.C. Catholic, CCN)

NET teammate Noah Runstedler, who graduated from high school less than a year ago, also sees his service in schools as spreading hope in hard times.

“One of the youth said: ‘I can’t wait to wake up in the morning on Tuesdays and Thursdays because I know the NET team will be there,’” he said. “It gives them a hope and a joy, and we hope and pray that joy will stay when we leave, because it’s not us, it’s God working through us.”

Although the number of NET missionaries in Canada has dropped slightly to 46 from last year, the number assigned to B.C. has doubled to 20 from 10 last season.

While in-person events (outside school activities) are banned in B.C., missionaries are running faith studies and maintaining connections with young people online. Runstedler said digital technologies have been a blessing and a challenge.

Since you’re not ministering to the youth face-to-face, you have less control of what you’re doing in a sense. You’re really forced to trust more in the Lord,” he said. “God is not limited. If he wants to touch a youth, he can do it through a computer screen.”

At the start of the pandemic, 18-year-old Michael Porta was a little anxious about making plans to fly from his home in London, Ont., to Alberta for NET training and then to B.C. for eight months of evangelizing. He registered for NET, but applied to university as a back-up plan.

When he was accepted to both he felt his anxiety about missionary work evaporating. “God knew a pandemic was coming when he called me,” he said.

Porta has deeply moved by the sight of young people at St. Thomas Aquinas and. Archbishop Carney lining up for confession or saying they want to commit their lives to God.

“The most fulfilling thing is seeing youth come to Christ … It’s so rewarding. Being in a small group and hearing a kid say that he wants a relationship with Christ is so awesome.”

Pia Ocenar served as a NET missionary last year and, despite the looming pandemic, chronic illness, and doubts from family members, felt called to continue for a second year.

“I wanted to spread the Gospel to the youth. I still had that calling,” said Ocenar, who put her university studies in history on hold to do this.

“The youth still need Jesus and to know they are loved by him. Just because it’s a pandemic, it’s not going to stop. I felt called to keep on going.”

Perhaps in a pandemic, even more so than in any other time, young people need to hear a message of hope, grace, and peace. “God doesn’t change because there’s a pandemic,” said Runstedler.

“His Gospel doesn’t change. We’re still called to evangelize, and whatever way that might be, he is going to bless it.”


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Canadians urged to stop spread of ‘cultural virus’ of assisted death

Tue, 01/12/2021 - 10:26

By Brian Dryden, Canadian Catholic News

[Ottawa – CCN] – An organization dedicated to stopping the ever-increasing expansion of legally-sanctioned euthanasia and assisted suicide in Canada is hoping that like-minded Canadians will take part in an international online strategy session to stop the spread of what it calls a “cultural virus.”

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC) is joining forces with the U.S.-based Physicians for Compassionate Care Education Foundation to host a free online Zoom conference on Saturday, Jan. 23, that will focus on how participants can help prevent “the spread of euthanasia and assisted suicide.”

“During the COVID-19 pandemic we have heard about what we need to know to prevent the spread of the virus,” said a statement on the EPC’s website, which includes links to register for the online conference.

Free online conference on preventing the spread of euthanasia and assisted suicide: LINK to Zoom Registration.

“Euthanasia and assisted suicide are a cultural virus,” organizers of the Jan. 23 online event said, adding that the speakers at the conference will provide information and direction on how to stop or contain the spread of what they call a “death virus.”

The Jan. 23 conference runs from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. ET (9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. CST) and is entitled: “Preventing the Spread of Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: What You Need to Know.”

Speakers will include Canadian family physician Dr. Ramona Coelho, who has spoken out against the proposed expansion of Canada’s euthanasia system (known as “medical assistance in dying” or “MAiD”) during recent House of Commons and Senate hearings into Bill C-7.

Also taking part in the online discussion on Jan. 23 are the EPC’s Amy Hasbrouck, founder and board member of the Tourjours Vivant – Not Dead Yet Canada; Dr. Leonie Herx, past-president of the Canadian Society of Palliative Care Physicians and chair of the division of palliative medicine at Queen’s University; EPC executive director Alex Schadenberg, who will address how to change the cultural landscape that allows for euthanasia to flourish; Dr. Annette Hanson, a forensic psychiatrist and assistant professor of psychiatry at Tufts University School of Medicine in the United States; Dr. Grodon Macdonald, the CEO of the Care Not Killing Alliance in the United Kingdom; and Dr. William Toffler, a family physician in Oregon where euthanasia was legalized 25 years ago.

The Jan. 23 conference comes as Bill C-7 changes to the euthanasia system in Canada that would make it easier to access a legally-sanctioned suicide Canada has been approved by MPs in the House of Commons, but still must be approved in the Senate.

MPs representing all parties in the House of Commons passed Bill C-7 by a two-to-one margin on Dec. 10. Along with eliminating the need for a person’s death being reasonability foreseeable to qualify for medically-assisted death, the new legislation would also eliminate or ease some of the other safeguards in the law such as lowering the number of witnesses needed when a person consents to euthanasia/assisted suicide. Bill C-7 would also eliminate a 10-day waiting period to perform an assisted suicide after consent is given and opens the door to allowing for advanced directives that could see a person be put to death even if they are mentally incapable of consenting when they are actually euthanized.

Critics of expanding the euthanasia/assisted suicide system have said that hearings at the committee level in both the House of Commons and the Senate show that there is no real consensus among Canadians to make significant changes to the medically-provided suicide / euthanasia system before a promised five year review is undertaken.

“The Senate needs to shelve Bill C-7 until after the five-year review is completed,” said the EPC’s Schadenberg. “If the government insists on passing Bill C-7 then it must limit the legislative changes to the Truchon decision which only required removing the phrase: ‘natural death is reasonably foreseeable.’”

Related article: Fight against euthanasia and assisted suicide continues as delay granted

Link to Canadian Catholic bishops’ Dec. 18 statement (ENGLISH)  / (FRENCH)

Canada’s Catholic bishops also say it is “not too late to reconsider” and stop the expansion of legally-assisted suicide in Canada as they continue to try and convince members of parliament in both the House of Commons and Senate to pull back on making changes to the law now that the federal government has until Feb. 26 to bring federal law in line with a Quebec court decision from 2019.

Canada’s Catholic bishops are hoping that the additional time to consider proposed changes in Bill C-7, whicbwas granted by a Quebec court on Dec. 17, will persuade the country’s politicians to pull back from making it easier for Canadians to kill themselves with the help of a doctor.

On Dec. 18, 2020 the executive committee of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) issued a statement calling on Canadian politicians to reconsider changes that the bishops say are being rushed. “Over the course of the past several months, there has been significant debate among Canadians over Bill C-7. Among the amendments that are being introduced, it seeks to expand access to euthanasia by eliminating the ‘reasonable foreseeability of natural death’ criterion. This would allow those who are not dying to request and obtain euthanasia or assisted suicide in Canada,” the CCCB’s Dec. 18 statement said.

“The Catholic Bishops of Canada remain steadfastly opposed to all forms of euthanasia and assisted suicide. We are especially concerned by the accelerated and reckless pace in which the government is attempting to pass Bill C-7,” the CCCB said.

“Despite the numerous warnings by disability organizations and physicians about the devastating consequences of Bill C-7, the truncated and flawed legislative process has overstepped legitimate democratic debate, while simply racing to meet a provincial court deadline rather than taking the time to deliberate fully the implications of Bill C-7.”


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2021 offers Church many reasons to celebrate

Sun, 01/10/2021 - 11:25

By Agnieszka Ruck, The B.C. Catholic 

[Vancouver – Canadian Catholiic News] – If 2020 was the year of COVID, it looks like there’s a smorgasbord of options for defining 2021, including several of special appeal to Catholics.

Before the new year began, Pope Francis had already revealed his hopes for the Church in 2021 by calling for a Year of St. Joseph, running to Dec. 8, 2021, to draw the Church’s attention to St. Joseph’s “father’s heart.”

Pope Francis made the announcement exactly 150 years after Blessed Pius IX proclaimed St. Joseph the patron of the Catholic Church. He is also one of the patron saints of Canada.
“The greatness of Saint Joseph is that he was the spouse of Mary and the father of Jesus. In this way, he placed himself, in the words of Saint John Chrysostom, ‘at the service of the entire plan of salvation,’” Pope Francis wrote in an apostolic letter.

“In every situation, Joseph declared his own ‘fiat,’ like those of Mary at the Annunciation and Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane,”

Only 19 days later, Pope Francis proclaimed another anniversary would be commemorated with another special “year,” one dedicated to the family to mark the fifth anniversary of his apostolic exhortation Amoris laetitia.

“This special year will be an opportunity to deepen further the content of the document Amoris laetitia,” the Holy Father said Dec. 27. “Let us entrust this journey, with families all over the world, to the Holy Family of Nazareth, in particular to St. Joseph, the devoted spouse and father.”

Amoris laetitia, “The Joy of Love,” was signed in 2016 and focuses on challenges to marriage and family life. The Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life said resources will be made available for families, parishes, dioceses, movements, and associations to “devote themselves enthusiastically to the pastoral care of the family by implementing Amoris laetitia.”

The Year of the Family will run March 19, 2021, to June 26, 2022. More details and resources are available at

The years of St. Joseph and the Family are not the only significant celebrations happening in the Church this year. In November, the Catholic Bishops Conference of Korea launched a jubilee year to mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of St. Andrew Kim Tae-gon, the first Korean priest and a martyr.

The special years for St. Joseph and St. Andrew Kim both come with plenary indulgences attached to them.

In the case of St. Joseph, indulgences can be received under the usual conditions by faithful who meditate for at least 30 minutes on the Lord’s Prayer, take part in a spiritual retreat that includes a meditation on St. Joseph, or perform a spiritual or corporal work of mercy.

In the case of St. Andrew Kim, a plenary indulgence can be obtained by those who visit a designated sanctuary or shrine or meditating in reverence before a relic of the saint. In the Archdiocese of Vancouver, Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB, has designated St. Andrew Kim Parish in Surrey as an appropriate sanctuary for celebrations, which run to Nov. 27, 2021.

Meanwhile, the Church in the Philippines is celebrating 500 years since Christianity was introduced to the nation in 1521.

Vatican News reported that Catholics in the Philippines have been preparing for the anniversary for nine years. Bishop Broderick Pabillo, auxiliary bishop of Manila, said the celebration “is not a reminder of how we were colonized, but of how Filipinos embraced Catholicism.” An estimated 80 per cent of Filipinos are Catholic.

Deacon Greg Barcelon, head of Filipino ministry in the Archdiocese of Vancouver, sees the anniversary as a cause for joy and said various celebrations are in the works.

“The reception of the faith from the colonizers who came to the Philippines in 1521 was not something that immediately brought anything really worthwhile for the locals. If at all, it was seen as an imposition of a foreign culture on the land,” he told The B.C. Catholic.

“Little did we know that wrapped within something that looked dark was the gift of faith the locals eventually embraced and passed on from one generation to the next.”


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Bishop Hagemoen will re-consecrate diocese to St. Joseph during special year

Fri, 01/08/2021 - 11:45

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

During this year of St. Joseph, declared by Pope Francis to mark the 150th Anniversary of the declaration of St. Joseph as the Patron of the Universal Church, Bishop Mark Hagemoen will re-consecrate the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon to St. Joseph during a special Mass Tuesday, Feb. 2 on the Feast of the Presentation / World Day of Consecrated Life.

Related: “St. Joseph serves as the model in a world in need of fathers”

In a letter to the faithful on the Memorial of St. André Bessette (who had a great devotion to St. Joseph), Bishop Mark Hagemoen  said: “Our diocese will join with other dioceses across Canada and in the church throughout the world to re-consecrate the Diocese of Saskatoon to St. Joseph. Please note that there will be a special liturgy of consecration on the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord at a 7:00 p.m. livestreamed Mass on Tuesday, February 2, 2021, at Holy Family Cathedral.”

The live-stream video of this celebration will be posted at as well as on the diocesan YouTube channel at

Prayer resources prepared by the Diocesan Liturgical Commission – PDF


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St. Joseph serves as the model in a world in need of fathers

Fri, 01/08/2021 - 11:38

By Michael Swan, The Catholic Register 

[Toronto – Canadian Catholic News] – For 65 years, Sr. Sue Mosteller has been a Sister of St. Joseph, but her relationship with St. Joseph himself reaches back even further.

As a 17-year-old boarding student at the congregation’s Toronto girls’ school (up from the United States, and an Anglican to boot), Mosteller and her sister were called into the office and given a piece of devastating news — far away in Ohio, their father had died.

“I remember, right away I went to the chapel and I sat in front of St. Joseph,” she told The Catholic Register. “And I said, ‘Could you help me? Maybe you could be a bit of a father to me, in a spiritual sense. Because now, I’m not sure how to go ahead.’ ”

Her life as a religious sister has constantly pointed Mosteller toward nurturing, protecting, helping and caring for others.

“I think Joseph is someone today who represents those energies in a very beautiful way,” she said. “I’m talking about the energies to give life, to love life, to care for life, to promote life, to support it — to encourage and to teach love and forgiveness and the kinds of things that call forth deep energies, because we don’t know how to do it very well.”

Inaugurated by Pope Francis on Dec. 8, we are now in the midst of a year dedicated to St. Joseph and heading toward his feast day March 19. In the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon, Bishop Mark Hagemoen will re-consecrate the diocese to St. Joseph on the Feast of the Presentation Feb. 2, 2021.

Because he’s the patron saint of Canada, a Jubilee Year of St. Joseph is a chance for Canadians to remember who they really are, said Church historian Fr. Terry Faye of the Toronto School of Theology.

“He’s been a good person in our lives and in the life of Canada, leading us away from division and to toleration,” the Jesuit scholar said. “Which is the spirit of Jesus Christ — not division, not telling other people who they have to be or what they have to do, but encouraging them to follow the Gospel, to follow God in their lives.”

St. Joseph has been our patron saint since Canada was New France. The Recollect Franciscan missionaries first proposed St. Joseph as our patron in 1624. It was Pope Urban VIII who confirmed St. Joseph as a model for Canadians in 1637.

St. Joseph became the patron of the universal Church 150 years ago and Pope Francis grabbed hold of that anniversary on Dec. 8, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, to issue an apostolic letter.

“Joseph found happiness not in mere self-sacrifice but in self-gift,” the Pope wrote.

“Our world today needs fathers. It has no use for tyrants who would domineer others as a means of compensating for their own needs. It rejects those who confuse authority with authoritarianism, service with servility, discussion with oppression, charity with a welfare mentality, power with destruction.”

Pope Francis proposes a different model of manhood.

“Today, in our world where psychological, verbal and physical violence towards women is so evident, Joseph appears as the figure of a respectful and sensitive man,” the Pope writes in Patris Corde (“The heart of a father”).

“What does it mean to be a man and confronting toxic masculinity?” asks feminist theologian Doris Kieser. The University of Alberta, St. Joseph’s College professor of moral theology and expert on the Blessed Virgin Mary looks to the Jubilee Year of St. Joseph with the same excitement she greeted the 2015-2016 Year of Mercy.

“I really believe that when the Pope draws attention to these things that it creates something new in us,” Kieser said. “I would love to see it manifest itself in a new commitment to the kind of Church that Pope Francis is calling us to be.”

Joseph is not a minor character in the life of Jesus as related in the Gospels, said St. Michael’s College New Testament scholar Callie Callon.

“Joseph is actually a pretty big mover in the story, particularly in the infancy narrative, but he still doesn’t get (to speak) a line,” she said.

St. Joseph’s silence in the Gospels makes space for Mary’s canticle and draws our attention away from words and towards what Mary’s husband actually does.

“There is this really neat immediacy between what Joseph is commanded to do and how he actually in turn does it,” Callon said.

Rather than talk, St. Joseph does. But what he does is no projection of his personal ambitions but perfect obedience to God. As a man, St. Joseph never seeks a triumph of the will. He seeks to serve.

Pope Francis, writing during the COVID-19 crisis, understands St. Joseph as a model of service, Kieser said.

“There’s a certain sense of a common humanity that he (Pope Francis) is calling forward that would disavow the notion of power and that cultural narcissism,” she said. “He’s calling us to conversion. Whether this succeeds will be a factor of how willing we are to relinquish the power that really is not ours. He says this many times over — the power is God’s.”

For Faye, the Pope’s call should bring Canadians back to traditional, Canadian values such as hard work, humility and hospitality.

“St. Joseph is part of that — being peaceful, not interfering but accepting a multicultural, multi-religious Canada… (St. Joseph) does not impose himself… That’s been a good thing for Canada.”

“Joseph set aside his own ideas in order to accept the course of events and, mysterious as they seemed, to embrace them, take responsibility for them and make them part of his own history,” Pope Francis wrote.

As the patron of workers whom St. Pope John Paul II called “Guardian of the Redeemer,” the spirit of St. Joseph burns particularly bright among front-line workers as they battle COVID-19, according to Pope Francis.

“Amid the crisis, how our lives are woven together and sustained by ordinary people, people often overlooked,” he wrote. “People who do not appear in newspaper and magazine headlines, or on the latest television show, yet in these very days are workers, cleaning personnel, caregivers, transport workers, men and women working to provide essential services and public safety, volunteers, priests, men and women religious and so very many others. They understood that no one is saved alone.”

“The devotion to St. Joseph is on a growth pattern,” said the rector of St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal, Fr. Michael DeLaney of the Congregation of the Holy Cross.
DeLaney sees COVID-19 throwing up icons of St. Joseph everywhere he looks.

“We have health-care workers, we have teachers, we have garbage collectors,” he said.

“We have house cleaners, working people, who have saved the day for us. They become this model of generosity and of selflessness and giving.”

“I would love to see the bishops make a commitment, as a group and as individuals, to take up the heart of St. Joseph in the way that Francis is outlining him in this document. That would give us a very different Church,” Kieser said.

Between Dec. 8, 2020 and Dec. 8, 2021 a plenary indulgence (remission of all temporal punishment for sin, either for oneself or for a soul in purgatory) is available to anyone who prays and contemplates on the life of St. Joseph, goes to confession, receives communion and prays for the Pope’s intentions. For a special indulgence, Pope Francis has particularly urged praying for the unemployed, offering the corporal works of mercy to the vulnerable and those suffering, entrusting one’s everyday work to St. Joseph and meditating 30 minutes on the Lord’s Prayer.

For Mosteller, the Year of St. Joseph is about welcoming the goodness of the master carpenter into her life.

“I want to be connected. I want it to be a relationship,” she said. “There was something in him. He had trust in himself or something. He was a man who was whole.”


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Contemplative approach for Week of Prayer recalls early Christian unity

Fri, 01/08/2021 - 11:21

By Michael Swan, The Catholic Register 

[Toronto – Canadian Catholic News] – For anyone who has ever thought they might have been happier as a monk or a nun, living the contemplative life, this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is your chance to try it out.

An ecumenical community of religious women in Switzerland organized and wrote this year’s prayers and study materials for the annual, week-long celebration of ecumenical unity (available at, which is observed Jan. 18-25.

That contemplative approach to Christian unity is perfect for our uneasy times, said Canadian Council of Churches program co-ordinator Maria Simakova.

“Our own groundedness in God, our own silence, allows us to look outwards and seek unity in the Christian family,” Simakova said.

Virtual Bible Study offered online during Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2021: Details

Saskatoon Bishop Mark Hagemoen: Message for Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2021

“Contemplative life is actually part of Christian life,” explained Fr. Luis Melo, Archdiocese of Toronto director of the Office for Promoting Christian Unity and Religious Relations with Judaism.

For Melo, the Week of Prayer is all about restoring the unity Christ gave and the Church lived in its earliest days. Contemplative life connects us back to that early Church experience of unity, he said.

“The experience of monasticism goes back to the first millennium of the Church. We would say it was a time of greater unity,” he said.

Inspired by the Monastic Community of Grandchamp, Toronto’s main, online celebration of Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, hosted by the Salvation Army on Jan. 24, will feature contributions from two communities of women — the Anglican Sisterhood of St. John the Divine and the Catholic Sisters of Life.

The spirituality of the Grandchamp community, which began with a group of Reformed, Protestant women before the Second World War, is part of a movement in monastic life that includes Taizé in France and Bose in Italy. They all have connections to the theologian, writer and contemplative L’Abbe Paul Irénée Couturier.

Couturier imagined “an ever increasing multitude of Christians of every denomination were to form an immense network encircling the Earth, like a vast invisible monastery in which all were caught up in Christ’s prayer for unity.”

For Grandchamp founder Mother Geneviève Micheli, this “invisible monastery” wasn’t a pipe dream — it was a vital and urgent necessity.

“We Christians, who know the full value of a spiritual life, have an immense responsibility and must realize it, unite and help each other create forces of calmness, refuges of peace, vital centres where the silence of people calls on the creative word of God. It is a question of life and death,” she wrote in 1938.

For Melo, the Grandchamp connection is personal. As a former Vatican official working in the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, Melo has been on retreat at Grandchamp and has appreciated its work for unity through the years.

“So this is a very contemplative service,” Melo said of this year’s main liturgy. “It would have been very beautiful to celebrate it communally.”

People forget that St. Pope John Paul II used to call “spiritual ecumenism” the heart of the ecumenical movement, said Archdiocese of Regina ecumenical officer Nick Jesson.
“Ecumenism is sometimes misunderstood as a process of negotiation, or a whittling down of the Church’s teaching,” Jesson said.

Rather than parsing agreements and dissecting theologies, ecumenism begins with prayer.

“The prayer for unity, that is at the heart of the eucharistic prayer but also at the heart of so much of the prayer life of all of the Christian traditions,” said Jesson.

Unity is actually the vocation of the Church and everyone in it. That vocational sense is hammered home by the Grandchamp community’s choice of John 15:1-17 as the key Gospel passage for this year’s celebrations, said Jesson.

“I am the vine, you are the branches,” Jesus tells His disciples. “Those who abide in Me and I in them bear much fruit.”

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity has long been important to a faithful minority, but Simakova hopes it may reach more people with its online efforts in this COVID-19 era.

“As difficult as it is to organize online things, I’m hearing that a lot of people are doing Bible studies together and a whole cycle of prayer services, where once they would have done just one big worship service. Now they’re doing something smaller but actually extending it across eight days, as it is meant to be celebrated.”


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100 Words – Baptism of the Lord: “Essential Ingredient”

Wed, 01/06/2021 - 10:45

By Peter Oliver, Olive Branch Marriage and Family Ministry

“You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:11)

We are made for love.  Every aspect of our humanity – our bodies, our hearts, our brains, our souls – everything about us, is designed for love. Without love we wither and die.  That’s not an exaggeration.

We require committed, I-will-love-you-forever, relationships with friends, parents, spouses, and kin. It’s essential for life.

But there’s a dilemma: human love is incomplete (sometimes downright destructive) and God’s love is largely communicated through incomplete people.

What’s the answer? There isn’t one – not a made of words answer. But there’s a response. Hold this close to your heart: “I’m beloved just as Jesus is beloved.”


Information about weekly program beginning Jan. 13:  RESTART – Building Separation and Divorce Resilience

[This is a weekly blog re-published from with permission from author Peter Oliver. Each post is exactly 100 words.]

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