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Canada’s Indigenous people are especially vulnerable during COVID-19, says Guadalupe Circle

Thu, 05/14/2020 - 11:12

By Michael Swan, The Catholic Register

[Canadian Catholic News – CCN] – Canada’s bishops and their Indigenous partners in the Guadalupe Circle are calling for “a de-carceration plan” — sending inmates home to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 in heavily Indigenous prison populations.

In a “Reflection on the Challenge and Opportunity of the COVID-19 Pandemic,” Guadalupe Circle co-chairs Rosella Kinoshameg and Archbishop Murray Chatlain also urge people to look out for Indigenous women and children, who may be at greater risk of violence during the lockdown.

“We must not forget the truth revealed by the national inquiry on murdered and missing Indigenous women and children (National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls). Those who have lived under threat of violence are experiencing increased vulnerability during this time of isolation,” said the May 8 statement.

The Guadalupe Circle reflection on COVID-19 was released just as a pattern of coronavirus outbreaks emerged in isolated, under-resourced Indigenous communities in northern Saskatchewan.

Over the May 9-10 weekend there were nine new cases across northern Saskatchewan, three of them in La Loche. A total of 105 COVID-19 cases have been identified in Saskatchewan’s thinly populated north (as of May 13).

Kinoshameg told The Catholic Register she worries about small, under-resourced and isolated communities all across Canada’s north. In her own relatively well-equipped community in the unceded Wikwemikong Territory on Manitoulin Island, the community has set up a checkpoint on the boundary to keep track of everyone entering and leaving the reserve. Kinoshameg is one of a raft of community volunteers checking in on older and isolated members of the community, making sure they’re well and have enough food.

Kinoshameg hopes the world after COVID-19 will not return to normal, but that people will strive to value the relationships in their lives.

“There’s always that hope,” she said. “That people will have a greater appreciation for other people, to live more harmoniously.”

“It (COVID-19) has highlighted the oppressive vulnerability of many Indigenous communities,” said the Guadalupe Circle statement.

“Communities that suffer from inadequate and over-crowded housing; those that lack clean water; underfunded and inadequate health and community services, as well as unreliable infrastructure, that are at greater risk and result in communities living with heightened fears. While some places in Canada may be sensing the threat is receding, that is not so among those who have been often abandoned.”

The statement ends with a quote from Pope Francis’ April 12 letter to popular movements, calling for a post-COVID conversion that “puts an end to the idolatry of money and places human life and dignity at the centre.”


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National March for Life online candlelight vigil held May 13; precedes this year’s virtual march on May 14

Thu, 05/14/2020 - 10:51
Toronto Archbishop blesses pro-life movement ahead of first-ever online version of National March for Life

By Bryan Dryden, Canadian Catholic News

[Ottawa – CCN] – In a country where thousands of babies are aborted each year before they can draw their first breath and euthanasia towards the end of life is now a legally protected aspect of the public health care system, Toronto Archbishop Cardinal Thomas Collins blessed Canadians on the front line of the pro-life movement during a virtual candlelight vigil on May 13.

The National March for Life that would have been held on May 14 in Ottawa is now an online event because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The May 13 candlelight vigil, following a series of pro-life films shown online from May 10 to 12, set the stage for a full day of pro-life messages and online programming planned for May 14 by the Campaign Life Coalition.

Canadians across the country can access the online National March for Life through the website starting at noon EDT (10 a.m. SK time) on May 14 when Ottawa-Cornwall Archbishop Terrence Prendergast will oversee a pro-life Mass.


“Lord bless and protect the unborn and the vulnerable and those nearing the end of life facing the increasing danger of euthanasia that is growing in our country,” Archbishop Collins said during the online candlelight vigil for the victims of abortion in Canada on May 13.

He said that the COVID-19 pandemic has shown the need to care for the most vulnerable in society with love and compassion, and said that is something that the pro-life movement in Canada has been emphasizing and doing for years.

“That is what we in the pro-life movement have been doing for such a long time,” he said, “to care for everyone from the moment of conception to a natural death.”

“This is our prayer, this is why we must not be afraid amidst the struggles we face in these days and we have faced for such a long time,” Archbishop Collins said. “May the Lord bless and keep and guide all who are engaged in this great goal as advocates for life.”

The May 13 hour-long candlelight vigil, hosted by pro-life musicians Kathleen and Jesse Leblanc from St. Augustine Parish in Dundas, ON, followed an earlier special remembrance Mass in honour of Catholic Fr. Alphonse de Valk, CSB, who was a hero of the Canadian pro-life movement and died at age 88 on April 16.

March for Life prepares for online version during COVID-19: ARTICLE

The pro-life Mass overseen by Ottawa-Cornwall Archbishop Prendergast and live-streamed from Ottawa’s Notre Dame Cathedral from noon to 1 p.m. on May 14 (10 a.m. SK time) will be followed by an online pro-life rally staring at 2:30 p.m. ET (12:30 p.m. SK time.)

May 14 marks the anniversary of the passage in 1969 of a federal omnibus bill that decriminalized abortion in Canada. All National March for Life online events can be viewed at the website.



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‘We’ve never known anything like this’ – Helping people mourn during coronavirus

Tue, 05/12/2020 - 13:46

By Catholic News Agency staff

[CNA] – The coronavirus pandemic has upended social life, politics and the economy. It may also transform the nature of grieving, says an expert on the mourning process.

Dr Lynn Bassett told the Catholic News Agency that relatives of those dying of the coronavirus were likely to experience a form of bereavement known as “complicated grief,” associated with sudden death.

Bassett, who served for 14 years as a healthcare chaplain, is a consultant for the Art of Dying Well at St. Mary’s University in Twickenham, London, a center for public engagement, research and policy on death, dying and bereavement.

“Coronavirus is giving us sudden death because people are often quite well and deteriorate very rapidly,” she said. “It’s leaving us not being able to say goodbye because of the infection problems.”

“People are whisked away and you may not see them. The chances of having a conversation are probably small. And then there’s the enormity of the whole pandemic.”

The U.K. has been badly hit by the virus. On May 5, the country overtook Italy as the European country with the highest number of recorded deaths from the coronavirus.

According to media reports, many have died in hospital with family members isolated at home.

“It is just so difficult,” Bassett said. “We’ve never known anything like this. My background is in palliative care. We’ve spent so much time encouraging people to sit by the bedside and be with their loved ones.”

“And suddenly it’s just a complete reversal. We’re hearing the stories: people are swept away in an ambulance and their family never see them again. And that complicates grief so much.”

Bassett praised medical workers for their care of patients and families during the pandemic, noting that hospitals have dedicated liaison staff who keep in touch with relatives.

“But, even with patients who do not have the virus, it doesn’t alter the fact that their relatives may not be allowed in or they may only be allowed a few minutes. They may be fully garbed up in PPE [personal protective equipment]. They may have a view through a window. Or they might just be at home — which is unimaginable.”

Frozen grief

Citing the psychotherapist Julia Samuel, Bassett said that relatives’ grief might be “frozen” until the crisis eases.

“Because we are living in the middle of it, it somehow almost stops the permission to begin to grieve,” she said. “There is a funeral, but not as we know it. There’s no church funeral, no hymns, no family there, or not many — all those things that support the understanding of the reality of the death are diminished.”

“The concrete experiences that help you to move from denial to acceptance are not so much there.”

There are reports on social media of relatives only being able to watch the funerals of their loved ones via livestream due to the lockdown.

Asked what advice she would offer if she were counseling such families, Bassett said: “It’s not so much advice as it is about listening and allowing them to tell their story. One might think that it’s helpful to at least see something of the funeral on the computer. But in some ways it is and it isn’t. We will all have our emotional reactions to that.”

“The only way you can possibly support somebody is by finding out or by listening to or helping them to hear what it is about the experience that was particularly hard for them.”

“It’s not a factual discussion. It’s not: ‘Well, would you have preferred not to have the livestream facility?’ It’s about: ‘Well, what feelings did that evoke? How do you feel now? Is there anything positive that you could take away from the fact that you did actually see something of the funeral?’ And just listening and listening.”

“A lot of it is about rehearsing that story, which is the way that we humans tend to heal.”

The Church’s task

Bassett said with churches closed and public Masses suspended, Catholics need to find creative ways to help those in mourning.

“It’s really important that the Church continues to be what it is and to do what it already does,” she said. “Because it’s perhaps one stable support in a world which is very uncertain and doesn’t feel very stable at all at the moment. And if you’re grieving, you feel even less stable.”

“The kindness and care of the priest, the rituals that we have, are all in place. What we’re finding is very creative ways of reproducing them or continuing to do them without actually walking into church.”

She suggested that priests could remember the bereaved in their Mass intentions and light candles in church for them via livestream. She encouraged lay people to pray for the grieving and to offer them condolences.

She said: “We all have our part to play. That means speaking to people, listening to people, making time to make that phone call or probably still make that casserole and leave it on the step.”

She acknowledged that many worry about saying the wrong thing to those in mourning.

“Well, actually, maybe it’s not so important what you say as the fact that you say something,” she said. “You acknowledge and then you are there for the person.”

“So we all have a role in this and it’s all going to go on for a long, long, long time because grief is not a quick fix.”

She also welcomed plans to hold “large-scale memorial services” after the pandemic, so that those who have lost loved ones “feel that the wider Church is understanding something of your pain.”


Hope and growth

Bassett said that grieving after the pandemic could be a decades-long process.

“Most people who have been bereaved will tell you that you don’t go back to being the person you were,” she explained. “A lot of people will say it doesn’t get better, it just gets different or easier to manage.”

“You go forward to living a life where you have accommodated that loss as part of your existence, because grief — as somebody said — is loving that’s unrequited or unfulfilled. Grief is proportional to love. If you love, then you hurt when you lose.”

She continued: “Without being gloomy, I think there’s potential for hope and growth as well as the pain and suffering. Growth comes from suffering, doesn’t it? So I just hope and pray that we can come out from this more concerned for one another and a little less fixated on our own needs. And that may be a positive.”


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Worldwide interfaith day of prayer and fasting to be held on May 14

Tue, 05/12/2020 - 13:41

By Courtney Mares, Catholic News Agency

[Vatican City- CNA] – On Thursday, May 14, people of all religious affiliations are called to participate in a day of prayer, fasting, and acts of charity for the end of the coronavirus pandemic.

The worldwide day of prayer is the initiative of the Vatican’s Higher Committee of Human Fraternity, formed in August under the auspices of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

The committee sent out an appeal for prayer in Italian, English, French, German, Spanish, Arabic, Pashto, Malay, Persian, Swahili, Turkish, Urdu, Chinese, and Hebrew.

“While we reaffirm the role of medicine and scientific research in fighting this pandemic, we should not forget to seek refuge in God, the All-Creator, as we face such severe crisis,” the committee wrote in the appeal.

It continued: “Each one from wherever they are and according to the teachings of their religion, faith, or sect, should implore God to lift this pandemic off us and the entire world, to rescue us all from this adversity, to inspire scientists to find a cure that can turn back this disease, and to save the whole world from the health, economic, and human repercussions of this serious pandemic.”

Pope Francis said that he had accepted the committee’s proposal so that “believers of all religions will unite spiritually on May 14 in a day of prayer and fasting and works of charity to implore God to help humanity overcome the coronavirus pandemic.”

“Remember, on May 14, all believers together, believers of different traditions will pray, fast, and do works of charity,” Pope Francis said at the end of his Regina Coeli address on May 3.

Following the pope’s acceptance, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmed el-Tayeb and the United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres both backed the proposed world day of prayer.

“In difficult times, we must stand together for peace, humanity & solidarity,” Guterres wrote on Twitter May 3 in announcing his support for the initiative. “In difficult times, we must stand together for peace, humanity & solidarity.”

The Holy See’s Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue formed the Higher Committee of Human Fraternity in late August to work towards the goals for advancing world peace and coexistence laid out in the Document on Human Fraternity, which was released on Feb. 4, 2019 during Pope Francis’ apostolic journey to the United Arab Emirates.

Cardinal Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot leads the committee, which is made up of members belonging to Christian, Muslim, and Jewish faiths.

Cardinal Ayuso said in an interview with Vatican Insider May 12 that the worldwide day of prayer will not involve any sort of public gathering in order to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, but invites each person to pray according to their own tradition.

“It is not a question of organizing, nor will it be organized with anything public or shared. Each one on that day will be able to turn his prayer to God to save and protect humanity from this terrible epidemic,” Ayuso said.

“The world today has an urgent need more than ever for positive and common responses to emerge from dialogue between religions,” the cardinal said.

“This crisis has confronted us with the reality of being part of the one human family and encourages us to promote human brotherhood wherever we live.” – Cardinal Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot


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Bishop Mark Hagemoen celebrates 30th anniversary of priesthood with live-streamed Mass during COVID-19 restrictions

Tue, 05/12/2020 - 12:45

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

Celebration of the Eucharist to mark the 30th anniversary of Bishop Mark Hagemoen’s ordination as a priest was live-streamed at 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 12, with the archived video available at the diocesan YouTube channel.

Because of restrictions on public gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic, the anniversary celebration was necessarily low-key, but the joy is still evident — with good wishes and messages arriving from across the diocese in recent days. Four priests of the diocese of Saskatoon participated in the celebration — homilist Fr. Stefano Penna, along with Fr. Deyre Azcuna, Fr. Marvin Lishchynsky, and Fr. Geoffrey Young.


Born and raised in Vancouver, after completing his undergraduate degree (Bachelor of Arts) at the University of British Columbia, and a year of travel throughout Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Europe, Mark Hagemoen entered St. Peter’s Seminary in London Ontario, completing his Masters of Divinity degree in 1990. He was ordained in Vancouver by Bishop Lawrence Sabatini on behalf of Archbishop James F. Carney on May 12, 1990.

His pastoral assignments included ten years as the Director of the Office of Youth Ministry, and several pastorships. He completed the National Certificate in Youth Ministry Studies and the Diploma for Advanced Studies in Ministry in 1997. He earned a Doctor of Ministry program at Trinity Western University, which he completed in 2007. Beginning in 2004, he was appointed for the Archdiocese of Vancouver to several administrative roles, including: Vicar of Pastoral Services; Moderator of the Curia, and Vicar General. In December 2007, he was honoured by Pope Benedict XVI, who recognized him as “Prelate of Honour” for his work in the Archdiocese of Vancouver.

On October 15, 2013, Pope Francis named Most Rev. Mark Hagemoen as the sixth Bishop of the Diocese of Mackenzie -Fort Smith. He was installed as the eighth Bishop of the Diocese of Saskatoon on Nov. 23, 2017:   Installation celebration for Saskatoon’s eighth bishop

Vocation journey:

In an interview for The Prairie Messenger at the time of his appointment and installation as Saskatoon’s bishop in 2017, Bishop Hagemoen reflected on his vocation, describing how sometimes he experienced God’s call as gentle and compelling, while at other times, it was more insistent.

“There were times when I put God on hold, and he became more like the ‘Hound of Heaven’,” said Bishop Mark Hagemoen, citing poet Francis Thompson’s image of God’s persistence.

Hagemoen’s faith was first nurtured in the heart of a Catholic family.

Born Sept. 4, 1961 in Vancouver, BC, he is the eldest son of Myra (nee Longworth) and Eric Hagemoen. His late mother has a Saskatchewan connection – she was born in Crystal Springs, SK, moving to Vancouver in 1955, where she met and married Eric Hagemoen. The couple had two sons ­ Mark and his brother Daniel. Daniel is married to Lorie and they have three children: Alana, Matthew and Jacob.

Parish life and Catholic education were important to the family, and helped to nurture Hagemoen’s faith in his early years. “I was certainly active and comfortable in my home parish,” Hagemoen recalled.

“I was an altar server and very much involved in my Catholic school of Holy Trinity elementary, and then later on, I went to a Christian Brothers high school, Vancouver College.” He is still connected to Vancouver College today, serving as a board member of the boys school founded in 1922.

“The life of both those schools was also a life of faith and community, and in many ways supported the discernment of a vocation or a call to priesthood,” Hagemoen described.

Another important influence was the experience of the lives of priests, including his own pastor at Holy Trinity Parish in North Vancouver. “I think the lives of pastors and priests are important in the life of the people. That was certainly true for me,” says Hagemoen.

“Certainly through my teen years I thought about priesthood, but I also thought about many other things, – I thought about teaching, about social work. I also considered business,” he says. “I was compelled by the possibility of maybe doing some entrepreneurial work and intrigued by the ability to carry out special projects.”

After attending the University of British Columbia for his undergraduate degree, Hagemoen found that higher education had raised more questions than answers. “At the end of getting that degree, I wasn’t really sure about what I wanted to do. Along with that, personal questions about faith came up and I needed to pursue those.”

Hagemoen worked for a year in the mine exploration, raising money to take another year to travel around the world.  “That trip was about seeing other places and countries, but it was also a pilgrim search.”

As he experienced other cultures and learned about other faiths and religious practices, Hagemoen underwent a powerful formative year of personal discernment.

“In a nutshell, it was during that trip that I was really compelled to look at the person of Christ in a very personal way,” he said, describing how he purchased a Bible and turned first to the Gospel of Mark, partly for the connection of sharing the name of the Evangelist, but also because he knew it was the shortest gospel.

“Reading the life of Christ in the Gospel of Mark, the whole person of Christ really came alive for me in a renewed way,” said Hagemoen. “It was then that I became convinced that really, in whatever I did, I needed to hear Christ’s call to me.”

During that trip, the priesthood would persistently come to mind for Hagemoen. “The priesthood, the priesthood, the priesthood – it was not a loud voice, it was a soft voice. It was not an urgent voice, it was just a steady voice,” he described. “Eventually I knew that I had to at least check out the possibility of the priesthood. It was not going to go away.”

Back in Vancouver, he approached Vancouver Archbishop James Carney in a lettter, “kind of hoping that he would take a couple of months to respond to me.” The archbishop called him immediately, they talked, and that fall, 23-year-old Hagemoen started at St. Peter’s Seminary in London, ON, where he completed his Masters of Divinity in 1990.

“I found the studies, surprisingly intriguing and refreshing, and really very interesting. I didn’t really expect that. It was another affirmation for me,” said Hagemon, describing how academics at the seminary, the study of philosophy and theology opened up a whole new world.  “This was really speaking to my heart, and certainly to my mind, and I wanted to pursue it.”

During those years in the seminary, he also began to gain pastoral experience in a variety of settings, including his year-long internship and summer ministry opportunities. “It wasn’t until my very last year that I said that I really feel this is what God is calling me to do. I said yes, not having all the questions answered – but I knew that was true in any life,” said Hagemoen.

On May 12, 1990 in Vancouver, Bishop Lawrence Sabatini of Kamloops ordained Hagemoen and his classmate Paul Than Bui on behalf of Archbishop Carney (who was ill at that time).

In addition to serving in parishes, Hagemoen worked for ten years as the director of the Office of Youth Ministry in the archdiocese – an appointment that began shortly after he attended World Youth Day in Denver as a young priest. Hagemoen described how Vancouver Archbishop Adam Exner, OMI, had a strong vision of diocesan youth ministry existing to offer support and formation to the local parishes, who would then minister with and for their own young people.

It’s a solid vision that applies to most diocesan ministry, he added. “There is this sort of wonderful relationship between the diocese as a diocesan church, and the local parish community. That relationship is so important. The diocese provides what it is appropriate for it to provide, and the local faith community is where the relationships are really fundamental and dynamic. It is a vision that speaks to the living dynamism of the People of God.”

Hagemoen completed the National Certificate in Youth Ministry Studies and the Diploma for Advanced Studies in Ministry in 1997 and earned a Doctor of Ministry program at Trinity Western University in 2007.

Beginning in 2004, he served in a number of administrative roles in the archdiocese, including Vicar of Pastoral Services, Moderator of the Curia, and Vicar General. He also served as principal of St. Mark’s and president of Corpus Christi Colleges in Vancouver from 2011-13.

In October 2013, Pope Francis appointed Hagemoen as the sixth Bishop of the Diocese of Mackenzie -Fort Smith. The episcopal ordination and installation took place on Dec. 15, 2013 at Saint Patrick’s High School in Yellowknife.

“When I came up here, and sort of got over the numbness of being called to being a bishop, I found that I was very excited about coming north,” said Hagemoen. “I had always dreamed about the northern frontier, and perhaps that is what the Oblates and the religious women of decades ago, experienced too.”

At the same time, he was rather overwhelmed at becoming a bishop, and all the learning his new role entailed. “That included the call to really learn about a people and a life that I knew very little about – in particular, the life of Indigenous brothers and sisters in the north,” he said.

In a huge northern diocese – with many needs and few resources – it soon became clear to the new bishop that he had to start by getting to know the people. “That has been a big feature of my work here as a bishop in the diocese of Mackenzie-Fort Smith. At its heart, it was about trying to be present and to build relationship.”

After four years of encounter, activity and growth for Hagemoen as bishop of Mackenzie-Fort Smith, he was called to serve in another diocese: on Sept. 12, 2017 it was announced that Pope Francis had appointed Hagemoen as the bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon, to succeed Donald Bolen, who was installed as Archbishop of Regina in October 2016.

A favourite scripture passage from Philippians 2: 5-11 has resonated greatly for Hagemoen over the years. The verses are featured on prayer cards for his priestly ordination in 1990 and his episcopal ordination as bishop for the diocese of Mackenzie-Fort Smith in 2013, as well as for his  installation Nov. 23, 2017 as bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon.

The passage offers both a vision and a challenge for his vocation: “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave… he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death –  even death on a cross.  Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should  bend… and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,  to the glory of God the Father.”

As for his episcopal motto – Pax, Servitus, Spes (Peace, Service, Hope) – it remained the same when he took up his new role as Bishop of Saskatoon. Hagemoen relates the three words to how the life of the Trinity challenges us to enter into a dynamic relationship with God and with others.

“The motto is a challenge for me too, as well as an inspiration: to believe the Holy Spirit is alive and well and leading us today, as the Father calls all creation and all peoples to ongoing Shalom, with the incarnate Son of God, Jesus Christ as the Way, the Truth and the Life. The Trinity personifies something that is vitally inspirational to each one of us – including a bishop.”






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Close to Home campaign reaches $20 million goal for hospice and palliative care

Tue, 05/12/2020 - 11:48

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

A Close to Home campaign to build Saskatchewan’s first stand-alone residential hospice and strengthen other elements of palliative care in the community has now surpassed its $20-million goal.

A donation of $1 million from Jim and Lisa Yuel and daughters Neli and Taya was part of an announcement by St. Paul’s Hospital Foundation May 12, held online because of COVID-19 restrictions on public gatherings. During the virtual event, organizers and leaders of the Close to Home campaign also announced that the campaign goal has now been reached and surpassed.

“We are thrilled to announce that with this remarkable gift, we are now able to effectively mark the completion of the Close to Home Campaign for Hospice and End-of-life Care,” said Foundation CEO Lecina Hicke.

Leona Hicke, Executive Director of St. Paul’s Hospital Foundation during the online announcement of a $1-million donation from the Yuel family. (Screen capture image from the video, SPH Foundation)

Since the campaign was officially launched in January 2019, St. Paul’s Hospital Foundation has raised some $20,954,000 for four “pillars” of the Close to Home vision: construction of the Hospice at Glendarda in Saskatoon; renovations and upgrading at the 30-year-old existing palliative care unit at St. Paul’s Hospital; establishment of an educational endowment for palliative care training; and the creation of a holistic care endowment to support spiritual care, bereavement care and healing arts for those journeying through end-of-life.

“As a family we have had occasion to spend time at the Palliative Care Unit in St. Paul’s Hospital,” said donor Jim Yuel during the online event. “The service there is fantastic, and the attention to the patients is unbelievable. However, for patients who might need a longer time in care at end-of-life, a facility like the Hospice at Glengarda would be wonderful. We are very pleased to help contribute to that success.”

Other speakers included SPH Foundation Board Chair Neil Weber, Honourary Campaign Co-Chairs Gene and Adele Dupuis, Campaign Co-Chairs Todd Rosenberg and Dr. Vivian Walker, St. Paul’s Hospital Executive Director Tracy Muggli, and Jean Morrison, President and CEO of Emmanuel Health and St. Paul’s Hospital.

“I am thrilled, I am grateful, and frankly, I am humbled by our community’s remarkable support of our mission,” said Morrison.

Two community advocates who came forward to personally share their stories during the campaign were also recognized during the online event: Gord Engel (who died of cancer in April 2019) and Celine Schlosser (whose husband Carl journeyed through end of life at the palliative care unit at St. Paul’s Hospital). “Gord and Celine helped us to foster a critical appreciation for accessible and compassionate end of life care, highlighting the idea that care for those facing end of life extends to family and friends,” said Hicke.

Jean Morrison, President and CEO of Emmanuel Health (which owns 12 Catholic health facilities spread across Saskatchewan) reflected on how the Close to Home campaign priorities continue the Catholic health care mission to meet the needs of the most vulnerable in society.

“St. Paul’s Hospital continues to be the bearer of the legacy of its founders, the Grey Nuns, under the leadership of St. Marguerite d’Youville some 100 years ago,” she said. “St. Paul’s Hospital has been pursuing the dream of a hospice since we opened the palliative care unit in 1990.”

She continued: “Throughout this journey we have been listening to our health care providers, stakeholders, community organizations, patients, families and loved ones, and through these conversations, we designed a thoughtful, comfortable and soothing hospice and we will provide compassionate care to all those who enter our doors.”

Emmanuel Health President and CEO Jean Morrison provided an update about the four items to be funded by the Close to Home campaign. (Screen capture image from the video, SPH Foundation)

Morrison also reported on progress and plans for the four elements of the Close to Home campaign to enhance end-of-life care in the community.

Construction is well underway at the Hospice at Glengarda, the former Ursuline residence in the 300 block of Hilliard Street in south east Saskatoon, across the street from St. Francis Xavier parish. “We are currently on target to complete the project later this fall,” Morrison reported.

“Our second priority (was) undertaking crucial renovations to the palliative care unit at St. Paul’s Hospital, a unit that will continue to play an important role in quality end-of-life care in Saskatchewan. I am happy to report that this construction has actually been completed,” she said.

“Priority three (is) the development of a palliative care education fund to ensure our health care personnel have access to excellent training and education in end-of-life care,” Morrison continued.

“Finally, our fourth priority is to set up endowments that will set up support for the ongoing delivery of holistic care services. with the help of St. Paul’s Hospital Foundation’s fundraising efforts, we can build on the funding from the government of Saskatchewan and offer important holistic services such as spiritual care and bereavement support, as well as healing arts therapies. These programs and practitioners are critical components in a comprehensive, integrative palliative care service, providing holistic care, allowing us to live up to our practise of caring for the mental, the physical, and the spiritual well being of individuals and their families.”

As a leader in palliative care, St. Paul’s Hospital has worked for years to build a hospice, Morrison noted, as she announced that Samaritan Place, a Catholic care home organization in the Stonebridge neighbourhood of Saskatoon under Emmanuel Health, will be the operators of the new Hospice at Glengarda.

She then thanked all who have played a role in the Close to Home campaign and the development of the Hospice at Glengarda.

Read more or view the announcement video at

“Construction underway for Hospice at Glengarda” – ARTICLE



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Online classes pose real ‘learning curve’ for special needs students, say B.C. educators and parents

Tue, 05/12/2020 - 08:23

By Agnieszka Ruck, The B.C. Catholic

[Vancouver – Canadian Catholic News] – With schools closed and classes being taught online, families have a tough enough time adapting to new routines and technologies during the ongoing pandemic. But for families of students with special needs, distance learning can be an even bigger hurdle.

“There’s quite a learning curve for them,” said Antonella MacGillivray, a learning support teacher at Star of the Sea Catholic School in Surrey, B.C.

Parents tell her it has been difficult for children who face autism, behavioural issues, learning disabilities, or other challenges to complete assignments online.

“First, there’s navigating the technology, and then the fact that they are completely out of the routine. Their learning environment is completely different. They don’t have the social connections, which is a huge part, especially in the younger grades.”

One-on-one, in-person learning is the cornerstone of education plans for children with special needs at Star of the Sea and other Catholic schools. But MacGillivray said her team of educational assistants is not about to let children with special needs feel left behind in the digital world.

“Right now, we’re seeing online face-to-face over Google Meet. If that doesn’t work, my job is to figure out: how do I get them to learn this time? If they are a paper and pencil kind of person, I might have to adjust that to make it work for them,” she said.

Some students have a difficult time paying attention to a small screen; others struggle with dyslexia or reading disabilities; still others are hypersensitive to noise and things happening around them. “We have to change our ways for what works for them.”

Nicole Regush oversees 550 educational assistants and hundreds of other professionals as the acting director of the learning support department for the Catholic Independent Schools of the Vancouver Archdiocese (CISVA).

She said in the last few weeks she’s seen efforts “bordering on heroic” when it comes to teaching children with diverse needs over long distances.

“There’s a real focus on making sure the vulnerable, isolated, and overwhelmed are prioritized,” she said. That goes for students and parents.

“Society puts a lot on parents,” and some parents and caregivers are juggling unemployment or working from home along with the educational needs of several children. For some, English is not their first language. She asks teachers to “be sensitive that what we ask is reasonable and appropriate” in unprecedented times.

Michelle, a parent who requested we only use her first name, said she was both excited and nervous when she found out her son with complex needs would have to continue his learning online while schools were closed during the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Nothing beats in-person learning, especially with his situation,” she said. “I didn’t know how they would go about it.” As the family adapted to virtual classes, Michelle said online learning helped her son cope with the isolation of staying home and continue learning how to socialize with his peers.

“Seeing him interacting with his teachers and classmates is such a pleasure to watch,” she said. “Although not all programs can be done on online learning, it is still definitely an important and breakthrough instrument.”

One instrument in the toolbox of local schools is RISE at Home, a new online program by the Vancouver-based non-profit Learning Disabilities Society (LDS). Our Lady of Sorrows, St. Joseph,, St. Edmund, St. Andrew, and St. Francis of Assisi schools currently use the program, along with several public schools.

“I don’t think anything can 100 per cent replace in-person learning,” said executive director Rachel Forbes. She sees their virtual program as filling in gaps “of service and routine” and offering the structured learning that “a lot of kids who are challenged with learning disabilities do really need to thrive and succeed.”

RISE at Home uses video calls and an interactive online whiteboard Forbes said seems to be working quite well for many students, though “there’s a huge diversity of learning needs, styles, and challenges we have to accommodate.”

The LDS also offers workshops for parents with tips and tricks to working with children who have learning disabilities and how to apply for disability tax credits.

When schools closed, so did Vanspec. This one-on-one religious education program is the only way some children with special needs are able to prepare to receive the sacraments.

Director Laura Levera said though classes are cancelled until further notice, some of the five Vanspec centres are coordinating video calls, phone calls, and emails to stay in touch with families and encourage children to keep learning about their Catholic faith in some way.

“We’re not putting the pressure on parents right now,” said Levera. “For Holy Week, I shared some Holy Week activities but I said, ‘please, this is not an assignment, but rather an activity that the kids can do with you.’”

While Vanspec waits for classes to resume, Levera said staying in touch with families to hear their unique challenges and encourage them to keep up regular faith activities, like prayer at meal times, is doing a lot of good.

“We thrive on our sense of community. Vanspec is like a big family.”

In the complex virtual world facing children with special needs and their families, CISVA associate superintendent Sandra Marshall sees a silver lining.

“Sometimes it’s been easy to revert to those traditional methods. Now that people can’t rely on those anymore, there’s more a personalized approach to education and meeting the learners where they are at,” she said. “It’s re-prioritizing what we’re doing as educators.”

Regush said it’s also been a time of great creativity for teachers.

“We get used to doing things a certain way and we go about our business and it becomes rote,” she said. Now, “creativity is required by necessity because we can’t do things the way we always do.”



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The remarkable power of a smile

Tue, 05/12/2020 - 08:07

By Peter Oliver, Olive Branch Marriage and Family Ministry

The remarkable power of a smile is like Jesus hanging naked on the cross. If you are wrapped in darkness, your life shattered, apparently beyond repair, this will make sense to you. Granted it is a strange language, a language you could not grasp when you were strong, vital, sure of yourself – blind.

Have you ever seen God’s smile? The remarkable power of Jesus hanging naked on the cross is a smile.

I know a beautiful woman named Sue and a wonderful man named Jim. Their marriage is a smile that shows in their eyes and the kindness of their words as they speak with each other. I invited them to come to the prison where I was a chaplain. They came in great simplicity and gentleness. Imagine them speaking with a deeply disturbed man, perhaps a man who has lashed out in a psychotic rage, harming another person, murdering her. The smile of their marriage is real. It is not diminished in the presence of the man; instead, it becomes more radiant. The man speaks of his regret; his hope is uncertain. He reveals his wounds and the wounds he has inflicted. Jim and Sue’s presence is Jesus naked on the cross. “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke. 23.34).

Jesus’ nakedness, his smile, is disarmingly honest. Not all smiles are so honest. I met a man in prison. He was a pimp and he used his smile to seduce young girls. Then he groomed them until they were hooked on drugs. This became leverage that he could use to pressured them into prostituting themselves. When this man sees his smile in a mirror, he sees the nakedness of prostitution, the nakedness of seduction – charm infected with purulent self-loathing. Jesus does not use his nakedness to manipulate; his nakedness is fidelity, marital intimacy. “Come, my love, let us go to the field; let us spend the night among the henna blossoms” (Song of Songs 7.11).

I recently had an operation that left an imperious scar across my abdomen. When my brother visited, he asked to see my scars. One senses the intimacy of this request. I was reluctant. My wounds are personal.  The artist Caravaggio beautifully conveys an intimacy of this kind in his painting, The Incredulity of St. Thomas (above).  In it, Jesus’ hand invites Thomas into His wounded side.  This is Jesus nakedness on the cross, His tenderness, His smile.

A smile such as this is born in a cauldron of pain, real nails ripping holes in real flesh. Real thorns crowned his head. Helplessness. Rejection. Abandonment. Such is the redeeming smile of God. Not just on Calvary but in the swollen and disfigured bodies of His little ones who starve to death today. Not just 2,000 years ago but here in all the beautiful ones writhing in pain as their life slowly ebbs away; their elegance stolen by diseases that leisurely, mercilessly, rob them of their dignity.

This is the meaning of Jesus’ cross, His smile. God is not an attendant at their side; God is wounded in their woundedness. God is not abstractly present; God bears in each one of us the agony we endure. It costs God everything – loneliness, grief, doubt, horror, fear, insult, monstrous revulsion, hatred – everything. Not a long time ago, but here and now. That is God’s love redeeming us, God’s naked smile in Jesus’ death on the cross.

We want there to be more. There is more! Behold His mother crushed at the foot of the cross. See in her face the reflection of Jesus’ smile. This love of God is a communion of life that overpowers death.

Though the swirling dust of the tomb seems to obliterate everything, the words of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ Golden Echo are truer, “See; not a hair is, not an eyelash, not the least lash lost” and all of this is kept with “Fonder a care…. than we could have kept it… Far with fonder a care.”

In Mary, who knew better than any of us the love that Jesus’ smile ignites, we encounter “togetherness,” and it is in this “togetherness” that no good, no grace, no fleeting caress, nor lovely morning ease is lost. Faith is a “we” not an “I.” Not Jesus the superhero on a rescue mission, but Jesus, all his not-so-sure disciples, those who know-not-Him but love nonetheless, the rag-tag lot of those who barely show up – in short, all of us – invited into an extraordinary self-forgetting nakedness, an unending gladness, a mirth much-more-serene than the Mona Lisa’s countenance.

It is an Exsultet discovered in the here and now, an Easter song sung in every being throughout the entire universe.  It is the remarkable power of His smile!


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St. Peter’s College holds online information event May 13

Tue, 05/12/2020 - 07:20

By Krystal Shutko, Student Services Officer, St. Peter’s College

St. Peter’s College at Muenster, SK, is hosting an advising month all through the month of May.

We are always available for student advising; however, we are making it top priority in May. We know that students are undecided and unsure what fall will hold for them during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, and although we do not have all the answers yet, we can advise about classes, student loans, scholarships, programs and so much more.

Appointments with one of our advisors can be by phone, or through video conferencing, please email us ( or go to our website and click on “make an appointment with an advisor.” There are a few simple questions and then we will receive your request for an appointment immediately.

On Wednesday May 13 at 1:00 p.m. St. Peter’s College advisors are also hosting an information event through WebEx. We invite all Grade 12 students and parents to join in to watch our quick presentation and discuss starting university in the fall. Maybe you are undecided if you want to attend university or have questions about classes and programs, or have student loan concerns – this is a perfect online event for helping to find these answers and so much more. Please visit our website and click on “register now” – we will need a valid email address to send the invite. If you cannot make the event, or have questions about the event, email or visit our website

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In Exile: A column by Fr. Ron Rolheiser, OMI: “Leaving Peace Behind as our Farewell Gift”

Tue, 05/12/2020 - 06:31
Leaving Peace Behind as our Farewell Gift

By Fr. Ron Rolheiser, OMI

There is such a thing as a good death, a clean one, a death that, however sad, leaves behind a sense of peace. I have been witness to it many times. Sometimes this is recognized explicitly when someone dies, sometimes unconsciously. It is known by its fruit.

I remember sitting with a man dying of cancer in his mid-fifties, leaving behind a young family, who said to me: “I don’t believe I have an enemy in the world, at least I don’t know if I do. I’ve no unfinished business.” I heard something similar from a young woman also dying of cancer and also leaving behind a young family. Her words: “I thought that I’d cried all the tears I had, but then yesterday when I saw my youngest daughter I found out that I had a lot more tears still to cry. But I’m at peace. It’s hard, but I’ve nothing left that I haven’t given.” And I’ve been at deathbeds other times when none of this was articulated in words, but all of it was clearly spoken in that loving awkwardness and silence you often witness around deathbeds. There is a way of dying that leaves peace behind.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus gives a long farewell speech at the Last Supper on the night before he dies. His disciples, understandably, are shaken, afraid, and not prepared to accept the brutal reality of his impending death. He tries to calm them, reassure them, give them things to cling to, and he ends with these words: I am going away, but I will leave you a final gift, the gift of my peace.

I suspect that almost everyone reading this will have had an experience of grieving the death of a loved one, a parent, spouse, child, or friend, and finding, at least after a time, beneath the grief a warm sense of peace whenever the memory of the loved one surfaces or is evoked.  I lost both of my parents when I was in my early twenties and, sad as were their farewells, every memory of them now evokes a warmth. Their farewell gift was the gift of peace.

In trying to understanding this, it is important to distinguish between being wanted and being needed. When I lost my parents at a young age, I still desperately wanted them (and believed that I still needed them), but I came to realize in the peace that eventually settled upon our family after their deaths that our pain was in still wanting them and not in any longer needing them. In their living and their dying they had already given us what we needed. There was nothing else we needed from them. Now we just missed them and, irrespective of the sadness of their departure, our relationship was complete. We were at peace.

The challenge for all of us now, of course, is on the other side of this equation, namely, the challenge to live in such a way that peace will be our final farewell gift to our families, our loved ones, our faith community, and our world. How do we do that? How do we leave the gift of peace to those we leave behind?

Peace, as we know, is a whole lot more than the simple absence of war and strife. Peace is constituted by two things: harmony and completeness. To be at peace something has to have an inner consistency so that all of its movements are in harmony with each other and it must also have a completeness so that it is not still aching for something it is missing. Peace is the opposite of internal discord or of longing for something we lack. When we are not at peace it is because we are experiencing chaos or sensing some unfinished business inside us.

Positively then, what constitutes peace? When Jesus promises peace as his farewell gift, he identifies it with the Holy Spirit; and, as we know, that is the spirit of charity, joy, peace, patience, goodness, longsuffering, fidelity, mildness, and chastity.

How do we leave these behind when we leave? Well, death is no different than life. When some people leave anything, a job, a marriage, a family, or a community, they leave chaos behind, a legacy of disharmony, unfinished business, anger, bitterness, jealousy, and division. Their memory is felt always as a cold pain. They are not missed, even as their memory haunts. Some people on the other hand leave behind a legacy of harmony and completeness, a spirit of understanding, compassion, affirmation, and unity. These people are missed but the ache is a warm one, a nurturing one, one of happy memory.

Going away in death has exactly the same dynamic. By the way we live and die we will leave behind either a spirit that perennially haunts the peace of our loved ones, or we will leave behind a spirit that brings a warmth every time our memory is evoked.


Oblate Father Ron Rolheiser, theologian, teacher, and award-winning author, is President of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, TX. He can be contacted through his website

Now on Facebook

Find Fr. Rolheiser’s past columns online, along with an explanation for the column’s title “In Exile”:

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Knights of Columbus Associate Chaplain message: spiritual resistance needed during difficult times

Tue, 05/12/2020 - 06:24

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

(This message was originally published in an online newsletter from the Saskatchewan State Council of the Knights of Columbus, May 8: website)

As we continue addressing the difficulties of the COVID-19 pandemic and the isolation that has, for almost two months, become part of our lives, it is very important to keep in mind our need to constantly build up our spiritual resistance to things like laziness, frustration, irritability and even depression. These are just some of the ways that the devil will be using, during these difficult times, to weaken our faith, damage our families, and cause us to do things that may endanger us and others through the spread of this virus.

Our lives have been turned upside down. Through this past, long winter we have all fostered plans; things that we were going to do once the snow was gone. Business people have projects to finish. Graduating students have new beginnings in their lives. The farmers wish to be in the fields. Others have holidays arranged. But our current situation is restricting those activities or making us cancel them altogether. These moments of frustration and discouragement can make us worry and become anxious, and that is why, at this time, we need to nurture our faith and grow ever closer to God through Scripture.

I offer the guidance of Matthew 5, verse 16. In these difficult times, all Catholics, but particularly we as Knights can find ‘purpose’ in our lives in these words of Jesus, said in the Sermon on the Mount. He said, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Jesus was telling his disciples, and us, that, in times of darkness, how we live our lives must be a beacon, a good example to others, to give glory, not to ourselves, but God.

In our isolation, we are not seen as doing ‘good works,’ as much as we used to,  but that does not stop us from being positive examples to others in how we deal with these difficulties. Keeping our distance from others does not prohibit greeting people we pass in the street or waving to our neighbours. If we can do it safely, we can help our seniors and the needy with grocery shopping and the like. And with the opening up of some restrictions, here in Saskatchewan, being a beacon to others can be accomplished by continuing to respect those distancing rules and encouraging others to do the same. The opening of our Churches for Masses is not going to happen until this virus is truly controlled, and the more we limit the virus’ spread today, the sooner that may be.


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Listening and Waiting

Fri, 05/08/2020 - 13:44

By Sr. Maggie Beaudette, CSJ

It is spring in the north and in Hay River we are awaiting the breakup of our river. As I sit on my front deck, just metres away from the river bank, I watch the ice begin to move. It is an amazing sight, not without its possible danger. Emergency crews with the town and residents in the flood zone have been on alert and preparing to move. They have been listening and waiting.

As I sit watching the river my senses are alive! I hear the beautiful songs of many spring birds that have returned. I see and hear the ice move, jam, clear and move again. I feel the warmth of the sun on my face and smell the wet earth which reminds me that new life will begin to grow in a few weeks. I too, am listening and waiting.

It is at times like these, that I remember past experiences and encounters. I have been gifted with a memory for wonderful detail. I recall a time when I lived in the fly-in community of Lutsel K’e, NT.

Lutsel K’e is situated on the east arm of Great Slave Lake. It is a Dene community of approximately 300 people whose main language is Chipewyan. I went to Lutsel K’e as a teacher in 1994. I worked for five years in the community. By the time I moved to Hay River in August 1999, the experiences I lived and the relationships I made taught many lessons for my life.

During the summer following my first year in the community, an experience of culture and traditional life had been organised by the leadership. Four sets of elders and 20 children, aged five to 12 years, would be spending a week on Eagle Island. I was invited to join the experience.

We left the community on a Sunday afternoon. You can imagine my surprise and somewhat apprehension, as a large box of potatoes was placed in our boat! Would we stay afloat? No problem! The boat ride took about 45 minutes. We arrived at the beautiful island with a sheltered cove. The immediate task was to find poles for our bush tents and evergreen boughs to line the floor. I camped beside Pierre and Judith Cathlique since they had the youngest children in their tent. Then it was time to eat and off to bed with five camps set up around the cove. Each one consisting of a pair of elders and five children and myself. As the week progressed I listened and waited and learned much. Only what was needed at the time was provided, hence a table was made the second day and the “bathroom” advanced in its construction from a pail behind a tree to eventually a tarp around the area. I smiled the day the toilet paper was on a holder made of sticks!

Judith brought two caribou hides, bleached pure white by the winter sun. She had planned to tan them and waited each day.  It was not until Thursday that the day came to tan the hides. The weather was perfect, dry and no wind. I was intrigued with the preparation and it was a team effort between her and Pierre. Judith asked me to get a bucket of water to have beside her. Once the hides were in place and the smoke rising, Judith and I sat, waited and listened. She listened for the slightest breeze that might fan the flame and potentially damage the hide. Waiting and listening. What a transformation as the pure white hide took on the most beautiful, soft to dark brown!

During these days between Easter and Pentecost I wait and listen.

Awaiting the feast of Pentecost is a time of anticipation, expectation and hope for me. During these days of physical distancing, I have responded to the invitation to join a centering prayer group by Zoom once a week: something I never dreamed I would be doing! The daily practice has given me a certain grounding in these days of not knowing.

And so I listen and wait in anticipation of a renewed outpouring of the generous gifts of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Will I be open to the on-going transformation that being attentive to the Spirit is sure to bring? I listen and wait.


Sr. Maggie Beaudette, CSJ, has lived and served in the north for some 32 years, including the past 22 years in Hay River, NT, on the south shore of the Great Slave Lake in the Catholic Diocese of Mackenzie-Fort Smith. She is a member of the Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Joseph in Canada.

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Bishop Hagemoen will provide COVID-19 update about phasing-in plan for parishes during provincial re-opening

Fri, 05/08/2020 - 12:54

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

Bishop Mark Hagemoen will meet with the diocesan priests’ council and College of Consultors on May 12 to discuss a phased-in plan for parish re-openings as COVID-19 restrictions are relaxed.

May 8, 2020 update from Bishop Mark Hagemoen: PDF

Find more COVID-19 information at: diocesan website

In a message to clergy, Parish Life Directors and parishes in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon May 8, Bishop Hagemoen said the plan fulfills the “Re-Open Saskatchewan” criteria set out by the Saskatchewan government in consultation with provincial health officials. Precise timing of the gradual phase-in has yet to be determined.

“The plan features a gradual resumption of activities and emphasizes small gatherings and appropriate personal distancing,” the bishop said in his May 8 letter. “It also features a carefully laid out plan for clergy to distribute Holy Communion to the limited numbers that would be permitted for the celebration of Mass.”

Decline in parish income

The May 12 meeting will also address features of the federal government wage subsidy program, which was originally slated to end June 6, 2020. On May 8, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced an extension of the wage subsidy program, with additional details forthcoming from the government in the weeks ahead.

“This is good news for our parishes, as several were beginning to tackle the difficult issue of  temporary layoffs of parish employees, given the downturn in income,” said Bishop Hagemoen.

Online parish giving:

The long-term ramifications of the COVID-19 crisis on parish collections and financial viability will continue to be discussed at the upcoming May 12 meeting, he added.

Faith leaders working together

On May 7, the Catholic bishops of Saskatchewan joined with other religious leaders in the province in an “extraordinary meeting” about how faith organizations can best work with the provincial government on issues such as the COVID-19 response. “The lack of recognition of faith organizations in the government’s ‘Re-Open Saskatchewan’ plan has been the basis for this initiative,” the bishop said. “I look forward to seeing how this develops.”

The bishop also reminded leaders and parishes of the diocesan initiative to declare Fridays a day of fasting and of prayer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus for the end of the pandemic, for the healing of the sick, and for the protection of health care workers and other service providers. (Find more information and resources at:





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Dashed wedding plans force couples to focus on what’s important

Fri, 05/08/2020 - 09:28

By Kyle Greenham, Grandin Media

[Edmonton – Canadian Catholic News] – Like many brides-to-be, Kristina Roxas often dreamed about a perfect fairytale wedding.

However, when she does marry her fiancé Rodale Mendoza on May 23, a celebration full of flowers, music, and lots of friends and family will be far from the reality.

Roxas and Mendoza will still marry at St. Joachim’s – Edmonton’s oldest Catholic Church – but their 230-person guest list has been shelved due to COVID-19 restrictions. Only their parents, three siblings and the priest will be present, and that’s all that matters.

“The most important thing is for us to come together, participate in the sacrament and begin our new adventure as husband and wife,” said Roxas. “It’s so easy to get caught up in the details and wanting everything to be perfect. But ultimately it’s not about the decorations, the food or all the partying afterwards.

“Seeing other couples still going through with their weddings really gave us the hope to pursue this. Even in the midst of a pandemic and all of this uncertainty, God shows His love through these situations.”

Roxas and Mendoza are one of only a handful of couples in the Edmonton Archdiocese who will still get married this summer in spite of the restrictions. St. Joseph’s Basilica hosts most weddings in the archdiocese, and more than 20 have been postponed.

Under current government guidelines in Alberta, gatherings are limited to 15 people, guests must maintain a distance of at least six feet, and no one over the age of 60 can attend.

It was a different story at the beginning of the year. Roxas and Mendoza had everything in place for a big wedding with a reception to follow at the Foundry Room in Fort Saskatchewan. The locations were booked. Invitations were sent. The florists, caterers and DJ were about to be hired. Many of their friends had already bought tuxedos, dresses and plane tickets for the big day.

By late March, as the COVID-19 pandemic shut down businesses, schools and religious services across Canada, Roxas and Mendoza realized their plans had to change.

“Once Mass was suspended, we we’re starting to feel really uncertain,” said Roxas. “We waited a few more weeks, but as the restrictions only got worse we soon realized that 200-person wedding we had planned was not going ahead.”

The couple is set on May 23 as the wedding date, since it’s the anniversary of their engagement.

Along with their immediate families, a videographer will also attend and livestream the wedding for the couple’s grandparents. Mendoza and Roxas hope to still host a reception at a later date.

“Our friends and family have been really supportive and told us they’re praying for us and wishing us the best. Everyone recognizes the situation cannot be helped,” said Mendoza.

“We’re sad because of the all of the effort and planning going into this, but there’s blessings in disguise too. We’re saving a lot of money and have one less thing to worry about. We were expecting to pay close to $30,000 for everything, and our estimated cost has now been cut in half.”

Fr. Marc Cramer (Grandin Media file photo – CCN)

Fr. Marc Cramer, pastor of St. Charles ̶ Mendoza’s home parish ̶ will officiate at their wedding. He was scheduled to celebrate four weddings in May and June. Those and three others later in the year have been postponed.

Despite the circumstances, Fr. Cramer believes smaller weddings symbolize the true meaning of marriage.

“They’re a sign of how important this sacrament is,” he said. “So many people today are already sleeping together, living together, and marriage never crosses their mind. This couple, wanting to do it right, shows that celebrating their relationship before God is the most important thing.”

The couple’s wedding planner, Ann-Maria Au, agrees.

“It’s very beautiful to see that. Despite this pandemic and the craziness and negativity going on, they’re still deciding to fulfill their vocation,” said Au, who started the year preparing seven weddings.

Wedding planner Ann-Maria Au has been planning seven weddings — only one stuck to the original date during the COVID-19 shutdown. (Photo submitted to Grandin Media/CCN)

Mendoza and Roxas are the only clients who have confirmed they’re sticking to their original date.

“They’re still pursuing what God’s calling them to,” Au said. “It’s not about the big celebration, the fancy flowers, who you invited and didn’t invite; it’s literally just between them and God.”

It has been a long journey for the couple since they met at a CFC Youth for Christ retreat in 2015.

Their wedding wasn’t the only challenge the couple has faced together due to COVID-19. Roxas is temporarily laid off from her job as a dental assistant, and they’ve had to rely on online virtual tours as they look for a home in Edmonton.
Nevertheless, the couple says the experience has only brought them closer together.

“We’ve learned to make light and joke about the whole situation. It’s a way to remind each other of what’s most important,” said Mendoza. “God led us to serve together and to know each other, so I know this was all a part of God’s plan.”

“And it’ll definitely be a great story to tell the kids.”



Kristina Roxas and Rodale Mendoza will still marry at St. Joachim’s – Edmonton’s oldest Catholic Church – but their 230-person guest list has been shelved due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Courtesy of Kristina Roxas

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Reforms a “new beginning” for Development and Peace

Fri, 05/08/2020 - 09:12

By Michael Swan, The Catholic Register

[Toronto – Canadian Catholic News] – Canada’s bishops and Development and Peace hope to end years of accusations, suspicions and investigations with a new governance structure that is transparent, streamlined and gives bishops closer oversight of Canada’s development agency.

“It is a beginning, a new beginning,” Development and Peace deputy executive director Romain Duguay told The Catholic Register.

“What a joy to feel there is greater solidarity than ever in this endeavour that is so essential to the mission of the Church,” said CCCB vice president Bishop Raymond Poisson of Saint-Jerome, Que., in a May 5 press release.

Joint statement from CCCB and Development and Peace

The reforms come as Development and Peace faced ongoing scrutiny and declining revenue. Proceeds from its ShareLent fundraising campaign fell from $8.3 million in 2016-17 to $6.7 million in 2017-18. In its just published 2018-19 annual report ShareLent revenues rebounded slightly to $7.6 million. In an interview with Canada’s French-language Catholic news service Presence, former Development and Peace national council president Jean-Denis Lampron said the controversy had cost the organization approximately $10 million over the past three years.

The new governing structure will reduce the number of elected members on the Development and Peace national council almost in half, from 21 to 11. Those 11 members now will be joined by four bishops to be appointed by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The new, leaner national council will be responsible for fixing four key problems that have plunged one of Canada’s largest Catholic movements into a state of repeated crisis since Development and Peace was accused in 2009 of funding some projects by partner organizations that supported abortion.

An investigation of 248 agencies that followed the 2009 accusations concluded that 15 partnerships were problematic, including two cited as being particularly egregious. Those findings prompted changes intended to ensure that money from the Catholic charity went exclusively to organizations that were aligned with Church teaching.

A second review came after similar questions emerged in 2017 concerning 52 Development and Peace partner agencies. Twelve bishops subsequently suspended their financial support, although it was eventually reinstated provided no money went to agencies under review. That was followed in 2019 by the CCCB hiring Deloitte Canada to recommend how Development and Peace could be reformed to meet the expectations of the bishops.

“In 50 years there has not been any scandal with D&P,” said Duguay. “Our projects are still being said to be extraordinary.

“You should talk to the partners and even the bishops in the South. They will say the same thing.”

The four areas targeted for reform are crisis management, partnership criteria, organizational culture and communications. In the end, the organization’s new policy should include a clearly defined method for choosing its partners in poor countries, Duguay told The Catholic Register. The current partnership policy was issued in 2014.

“So five years later, it makes sense that we sit down and make sure it’s relevant,” Duguay said. “It’s a realignment of certain processes, criteria and behaviours which makes sense.”

Development and Peace will no longer treat the names and locations of its partner organizations and projects as secret.

“There was a culture of saying, because we have some partners who are in a situation of life and death we are not going to name the partner. So the culture was then let’s not (name partners),” Duguay said. “Today, everybody wants to know where the money is going. They want to know also what we are doing.”

Adding four bishops to the national council should mean that bishops know and understand what Development and Peace is doing and how it works, Duguay said.

“It’s to make sure that the bishops of Canada are much more aware of what we’re doing so they are much more capable of telling the Catholics of Canada that there’s no problem, no issue with Development and Peace,” he said.

“The fact that the bishops are coming back to the table will help us to be more present (in the Church), because the bishops will be able to carry the message.”

The changes are being introduced to Development and Peace members in a series of regional online meetings across Canada in French and English. The CCCB will name it’s four representatives at a later date.

Since its founding in 1967, Development and Peace has provided over $500 million to improve living and working conditions in 28 countries in Africa, Asia and Central America, completing over 15,000 projects worldwide.

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Dutch court ruling on euthanasia for dementia patients ignites Bill C-7 fears in Canada

Thu, 05/07/2020 - 13:25

By Mickey Conlon, The Catholic Register

[Toronto – Canadian Catholic News] – A Dutch court ruling that green lights the killing of dementia patients incapable of giving consent is a prelude to what Canada could face under a proposed new law, fear euthanasia opponents.

They are concerned that Bill C-7, which will expand so-called “medical assistance in dying”, will take the approach of Dutch courts, which found a doctor innocent of murder after he euthanized a dementia patient who had to be sedated and held down by family members after refusing to submit to a lethal injection.

Canada’s pending Bill C-7, which was introduced in February, provides protection for doctors should a patient who is deemed incompetent attempt to withdraw the signed consent that was given before dementia set in.

“The legislation that’s proposed actually expects that and allows that,” said Nicole Scheidl, executive director of Canadian Physicians for Life. “If the doctor presumes the refusal to take the drug (to kill the patient) is just a reaction to touch they can go ahead and give the drug without the person’s consent.”

The Dutch case saw the Netherlands’ highest court rule April 22 that doctors could euthanize a patient with severe dementia even if the patient no longer wished to die or became incapable of expressing their wishes, provided the patient had left an advance request in writing to be killed. The ruling followed the acquittal of a doctor in 2016 who had drugged a 74-year-old woman with Alzheimer’s disease as she resisted a lethal injection.

The woman had earlier instructed her family she wanted to die by euthanasia but at a time of her choosing. After her illness reached a point where she wasn’t able to choose a time to die, her family interceded. The woman fought the injection and was given sedatives before her family held her down for the injection.

There’s no case on record of a similar incident in Canada, and that leaves Alex Schadenberg wondering if a Canadian court might be guided by the Dutch ruling. “Will a future court decision in Canada consider this a precedent?” asked the executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition of Canada based in London, Ont.

One way or the other, Canada is on the path to expanded euthanasia, said Schadenberg. “You have not a pressure to contain it but a pressure to expand it.”

Scheidl agrees. She believes the federal Liberal government opted not to appeal a 2019 Quebec court ruling that paved the way to expand euthanasia access “because they wanted ideologically to go down this road anyway … and then they can say it’s not us, it’s the courts,” said Scheidl.

While the Liberal government is a minority, support for expanded assisted dying crosses party lines, as the Liberals, NDP, Bloc Quebecois and Greens are all proponents of expanded access to the procedure.

“There’s a certain mindset that thinks that anyone should be able to have euthanasia for any reason at any time,” said Scheidl. “They’re pushing to get rid of all the safeguards because they see that as an impediment to that kind of access.”

As for the Netherlands, Schadenberg expects the ruling will increase the numbers of medical deaths there.

Cardinal Willem Eijk, president of the Bishops’ Conference of the Netherlands, believes the Supreme Court decision will increase pressure on doctors to perform euthanasia.

The pro-euthanasia group Dying With Dignity Canada said it is looking forward to the federal government’s review of assisted suicide and euthanasia legislation, including advanced requests.
CEO Helen Long said in an e-mail people “diagnosed with a grievous and irremediable medical condition, including those with dementia … should also be able to have an advance request for (assisted death) at a later time,” and noted strong support for this in surveys of Canadians.

“It is critical to engage experts in the field, as well as people whose rights are at stake, to develop a system for advance requests that ensures fair access while implementing safeguards,” said Long.


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Good shepherds lay down their lives for the sheep

Tue, 05/05/2020 - 12:53

By Fr. Ken Forster, OMI, St. Philip Neri Parish, Saskatoon

Fourth Sunday of Easter – Commentary on Acts 2.14a.36b-41; 1 Peter 2.20b-25; John 10:1-10

Religion is a two-sided coin. On the one hand, it comforts us with the security of God’s love and protection. On the other hand, it makes demands of us that are frightening in their consequences.

Jesus, the Good Shepherd, represents a combination of the two aspects of religion. The Shepherd who cares for and comforts his sheep. The Shepherd who knows each by name. But he is the shepherd and the sacrificial victim. “The good shepherd is one who lays down his life for his sheep.”

The hired man thinks primarily of his own welfare and, if he sees a wolf coming, he takes off, leaving the sheep to be attacked and scattered in fear and terror. He cares about his salary and only his salary. Jesus, on the other hand, will not be like a hired person: “I lay down my life for my sheep.” He offers Himself up completely for His people.  He does not count the cost.

The Good Shepherd is close to the sheep. He spends time with them in the field and he feeds them. As Pope Francis says, “He has the smell of the sheep on him.” That love is compared to the deep mutual relationship that exists between Jesus and his Father. “My own know me just as the Father knows me.” The Good Shepherd knows his sheep. He calls them each by name. They listen. They wait for the timbre of his voice. The shepherd goes ahead of the sheep and calls them. He does not push or herd them.

The Fourth Sunday of Easter, May 3, 2020, was “Vocations Sunday”. On this day we are especially asked to pray that the Church may be provided with the leaders needed to do its work of spreading the Gospel. While we may earnestly pray that our Church be supplied with the leaders it needs, there can be a tendency among us to pray that others may answer that call. We do not see ourselves as included. We may pray earnestly for more young people to offer themselves as priests and religious but clearly exclude our own children.

Vocation means that God is calling me and has a plan for my life.  It is his plan for my life that will allow me to bless the world with my life and find meaning for myself. I can’t just float through life. I must choose the goal and purpose of my life. Secondly, my goal must respond to my Vocation.

We may have chosen many different paths, but we find ourselves today living as spouses, parents, teachers, doctors, civil servants, running a business, salespersons… or whatever. But can we transform what is perhaps now merely a job, the act of a hireling, into a life of service? Tertullian is credited as saying, “The blood of martyrs is the seed of the church.”

I believe the deaths and everyday danger to our front line workers must be the seed that transforms our Canadian society.

We have come to a new understanding of the service of frontline workers through this pandemic. We recognize that truly theirs is a vocation, an answer to the call of God. Why? Because we see them laying down their lives for others. They are held as heroes. People clap and bang pots and pans, put on live concerts of appreciation. Why? Front line workers are placing their lives at risk, risk of contracting the illness themselves, risk of spreading it to their families and those they love, risk of death. We lift them up because we see them as beautiful human beings living life as it should be lived for others.

We have been brought to gratitude for their ministry of service, but what of all other labor? Have we not also found a depth of compassion and decisive action on the part of some of our politicians, as we try to save lives? Have you been surprised, as I have, by the depth of care of some? Have we come to appreciate the daily service of care-givers who treat our parents with respect and dignity before and during the pandemic? Have we now understood, in their absence, the role of teachers as not just sharing knowledge with our children but helping our children to learn socializing skills and blossoming as confident individuals? I know we look anew at our tellers at supermarkets, as really those who with a kind word and smile are assisting us to have what we need to live.

Surely we have our basic vocation to live as married, single, or celibate priests or religious, but firstly every human being, Christian or not, has a vocation to follow the one who shepherds our conscience, teaching us that our life is at the service of one another. “I have come to serve, not to be served.” A call from God is a call to serve, to lay down one life for the other.

Where is God calling me to make my own unique contribution based on the particular talents God has given me? If every single person were to answer that question sincerely and to act upon it, I am confident that our Church would have all the leadership it needs, for we would be fishing from a pool of selfless servants.

What is so strange about giving your life for something? We all do. Each of us will spend our life, give it away. Every day our lives are being drained from us. The question we all need to answer at the end is, “Did I give my life for something that really mattered?” Or am I merely a hireling chasing after material things and personal comforts? Whatever our skills or employment, that is our site of joyful, generous service.

To the question, “Who are you?”, it is not enough to say “I am a doctor,” “I am a teacher,” “I am stewardess,” “I am a priest,” “I am a home-maker,” “I am a construction worker.” Rather, I must be able to say that “I am joyful and fulfilled in my service as I see this as a way I can help others and bring joy to their lives, speak truth, love, justice, freedom and bless with respect  everyone touched by me.”

Love says, “The real value in life is to receive, not to grab and possess.” All that you have and all that you are is a gift from the good God. You can open your hands and let God pour into them whatever you really need, and if you keep them open, you can easily let what you have pass to others, others who are in need. Can I say, “I have come that ‘you’ may have life and have it more abundantly?”

Don’t be anxious about your vocation. Rather give your life in generous service. Be patient. Don’t grab life. If you have a generous martyr’s heart you will have the ears to hear the voice of the shepherd who leads you.


Video Message prepared for the Vocation Sunday 2020 from OMI Lacombe Canada province:  


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Going online may have a lasting impact on the Catholic Church in Canada

Tue, 05/05/2020 - 12:31

By Brian Dryden, Canadian Catholic News

[Ottawa – CCN] – The Catholic Church in Canada has had no choice but to go online to maintain a connection to the faithful ever since the COVID-19 pandemic prompted health authorities to enact strict guidelines that banned all large public gatherings across the country in an effort to stop the spread of the deadly virus

With Catholic churches closed to the public across the country, the Church has become a virtual experience in recent weeks. As provincial governments and health authorities start the long and slow process of easing some of those restrictions on the everyday life of Canadians, the need of the Catholic Church to go online may prove to have a positive long-term impact on spiritual life in in the country.

“Whenever you have a disruption to everyday life you have innovation happening that adjusts to the situation and faith communities are no different,” said Ray Pennings, executive vice-president of the Ottawa-based religious think tank Cardus.

“Some of that fades away after the crisis passes and things go back to how they were always done before, but some of that innovation stays and becomes how things are going forward,” he said.

“Some of those changes, for businesses and I’m sure for faith communities as well, can open up new ways of doing things that have a long-term impact,” Pennings said. “It is forcing a rethink of what do they do put online and what they don’t and it will result in innovations that continue.”

The BC Catholic newspaper recently quoted the vocations director for the Archdiocese of Vancouver Father Paul Goo as saying he would never have thought of holding Mass online before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s something I would not have considered before this crisis,” said Father Goo, adding that the COVID-19 outbreak “is forcing people to think creatively and come up with new ways we haven’t really considered before.”

Winnipeg Archbishop Richard Gagnon, who is president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), said that face-to-face interaction with parishioners is vital to how the Catholic Church operates, but he can see how some of the innovations within the Church across the country can augment how individual dioceses engage with parishioners in the future.

“I think using technology will always be secondary to the face-to-face aspect of gathering together as a spiritual community,” Archbishop Gagnon told the Canadian Catholic News. “But I think we are going to see that some of the creative ways that some of our churches are adopting and using technology is a positive and will be useful in the future.”

The CEO of an American-based faith consulting organization posted on the Covergence website that the COVID-19 pandemic will have a lasting impact on how faith communities function in the future. “Church leaders across the nation have discovered the power of technology to connect with people through worship services, small group studies, pastoral care conversations, council meetings, and meditation groups,” Rev. Cameron Trimble, CEO of Convergence, posted on a blog. “The gift of COVID-19 is that it has catapulted the Church into the technological era, awakening us to ways that we can offer good, wise theology into a world that needs it.”

When churches will be able reopen in the Catholic Archdiocese of Ottawa remains an open question, the diocese’s communications director Robert Du Broy said. When asked if some of the “virtual church” additions to the diocese’s website could become ongoing features of the Church’s outreach in Ottawa in the future, he said “absolutely.”



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Bishop Mark Hagemoen consecrates diocese to Mary, Mother of the Church

Tue, 05/05/2020 - 12:04

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

Bishop Mark Hagemoen re-consecrated the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon to the Blessed Virgin Mary during the celebration of the Eucharist Friday, May 1, 2020, live-streamed from the Cathedral of the Holy Family in Saskatoon.

The conferences of Catholic bishops in both Canada and the United States invited dioceses across the continent to participate in the May 1 re-consecration of their dioceses and countries to the Blessed Virgin Mary, during this time of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. Traditionally, the month of May is a “Marian month” when the Catholic Church focuses on honouring Mary, Mother of God.

In his homily May 1 before the consecration prayers, Bishop Mark Hagemoen focused on perseverance and prayerful hope during this unusual and uncertain time (LINK to video of homily live-streamed).

“Resurrection hope is our destiny because of Jesus Christ. That is not just a positive attitude, it is real hope,” the bishop said.

“Each day we are to hear and allow the Lord to take care of us, and not get worried in dread and fear about what may happen,” Hagemoen said. “The alternative is expectancy and hope. The Lord will do great things even in the worst situation.”

He continued: “God is able to bless even the evil that happens with his grace and blessing…. his grace will build on absolutely anything and everything. Let us be awake and watchful as we wait in joyful hope for the blessing of the Lord, today and always.”

Bishop Hagemoen noted that in addition to the re-consecration of the diocese to Mary the Mother of the Church, the May 1 celebration included a special focus on the Sacred Heart of Jesus, part of a weekly Friday focus in the diocese of Saskatoon, using adapted materials originally developed and shared by the Catholic Diocese of Calgary.

“We also pray and we hold up the Sacred Heat of Jesus in a way in which we deepen our trust in God and we also pray for those that strive to imitate that Sacred Heart in these times — especially the health care workers, the caregivers, the service providers,” he said, adding as well the chaplains and spiritual care providers visiting those in hospital.

In addition, the bishop noted that the  Feast of St. Joseph the Worker on May 1 prompts a reflection on the faithfulness of St. Joseph and of the value of our work in the world — even the small, mundane things — which is an invitation to work alongside the Creator and Saviour of the world. “Maybe this COVID time is precisely a time to say a ‘yes’ we have held off on saying, and to walk with the Lord in our life and work.”

Prayer of Consecration (from CCCB)

Most Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church,
in this time of pandemic, we turn our gaze to you,
and in Christ consecrate to you the faithful of our diocese/eparchy, together with all the people of Canada.

At the Annunciation, fear gave way to trust as you embraced the mysterious and loving plan of God, who through his providence, care and concern brought about newness of life in you and through you.
Intercede, we pray, on our behalf as your children, Virgin most faithful. Grant us faith, hope and perseverance, as we strive to serve and bear witness to all persons, responding to the needs of those affected by this virus.

Standing at the foot of the Cross at Calvary, you united yourself with the sufferings of Christ and so uniquely contributed to the mystery of our redemption. We beseech you as Health of the sick, draw to yourself in maternal compassion the brothers and sisters of your Son Jesus and all those who are grieved by this pandemic. Strengthen the dying and comfort those who weep so that all may experience the healing grace of Christ our Divine Physician.

At the Cenacle, after the Resurrection, you accompanied the Apostles with prayer for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. In your maternal care as Consoler of the afflicted, accompany healthcare professionals, all who minister to the sick and those who seek a cure to end this pandemic, that the Holy Spirit may renew the face of the earth.

To all of us, dearest Mary, Mother of all the living, be present and show forth your tenderness, as we raise our eyes to you who shines forth before the entire community as a merciful and compassionate companion on our journey. Time and time again, with burdens weighing heavily on their hearts and in their many necessities, the Christian faithful have sought refuge under your mantle of protection.

Come quickly to our aid at this time, Mother of Mercy, and deliver us from the dangers that surround us in our hour of need; watch over especially the elderly, the weak and the infirm, our children and the unity of our families, and all those who give of themselves selflessly in pastoral care to those in need until in your arms and in your gentle embrace we all find safety and solace.  AMEN



The celebration in the diocese of Saskatoon was one of many similar prayer events held across the continent and around the world.

“The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), in fraternal communion with the leadership of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), has agreed that this Marian consecration be held on the same day in both countries, making this a most meaningful and powerful intercession throughout North America to the Blessed Mother,” according to a media release from the CCCB.

In addition to the consecration to Mary held in dioceses and parches across Canada and the USA on May 1, the bishops of Mexico, as well as the other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, consecrated their dioceses and eparchies to Mary on Easter Sunday. The bishops of Italy said on April 20 that they would consecrate their own country to Mary after receiving hundreds of letters requesting the consecration.

Canada was first consecrated to Mary at a National Marian Congress in Ottawa in 1947, then again in 1954 at the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Cape near Trois-Rivieres. Prayers of re-consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary were also held across the country — including in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon — on Canada Day 2017 to mark the 150th anniversary of Confederation.

The title “Mary, Mother of the Church” was given to the Blessed Mother by Pope St. Paul VI at the Second Vatican Council, and a memorial under the title was added to the Church’s liturgical calendar in 2018. Pope Francis declared that the Monday after Pentecost (which falls on June 1 this year) should be celebrated as the memorial of “Mary, Mother of the Church.”

Pope Francis has offered up a  Prayer to the Virgin Mary for protection in light of COVID-19

“Traditionally, the Marian Month of May is when we honour Christ’s mother who is our mother and the mother of the Church, and at this particular time with all the challenges we are facing spiritually as well as social and economic challenges, it is a special time in the way the church can honour Mary,” said Archbishop Gagnon, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) in a recent interview with Canadian Catholic News.

Resources for Marian Consecration:

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Pope Francis prays for coronavirus victims dying without their loved ones

Tue, 05/05/2020 - 10:50

By Catholic News Agency staff

[Vatican City – CNA] – Pope Francis prayed for those who have died alone during the coronavirus pandemic at his morning Mass Tuesday, May 5, 2020.

At the start of Mass in the chapel at Casa Santa Marta, his Vatican residence, he said: “Today we pray for the deceased who have died because of the pandemic. They have died alone, without the caresses of their loved ones. So many did not even have a funeral. May the Lord welcome them in His glory.”

More than 250,000 people have died of COVID-19 worldwide as of May 5, according to Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center.

In his homily, the pope reflected on the day’s Gospel reading (John 10:22-30), in which Jesus is asked to declare openly whether he is the Christ. Jesus replies that he has already told his listeners, but they have not believed him because they are not among his sheep.

Pope Francis urged Catholics to ask themselves: “What makes me stop outside the door that is Jesus?”

One major obstacle is wealth, the pope said.

“There are many of us who have entered the door of the Lord but then fail to continue because we are imprisoned by wealth,” he said, according to a transcript by Vatican News.

“Jesus takes a hard line regarding wealth… Wealth keeps us from going ahead. Do we need to fall into poverty? No, but, we must not become slaves to wealth. Wealth is the lord of this world, and we cannot serve two masters.”

The pope added that another barrier to progress towards Jesus is rigidity of heart.

He said: “Jesus reproached the doctors of the law for their rigidity in interpreting the law, which is not faithfulness. Faithfulness is always a gift of God; rigidity is only security for oneself.”

As an example of rigidity, the pope recalled that once when he visited a parish a woman asked him whether attending a Saturday afternoon nuptial Mass fulfilled her Sunday obligation. The readings were different to those on Sunday so she worried that she might have committed a mortal sin.

Rigidity leads us away from the wisdom of Jesus and robs us of our freedom, he said.

The pope named two further obstacles: acedia, which he defined as a tiredness that “takes away our desire to strive forward” and makes us lukewarm, and clericalism, which he described as a disease that takes away the freedom of the faithful.

He identified worldliness as the final obstacle to approaching Jesus.

“We can think of how some sacraments are celebrated in some parishes: how much worldliness there is there,” he said.

“These are some of the things that stop us from becoming members of Jesus’s flock. We are ‘sheep’ of all these things — wealth, apathy, rigidity, worldliness, clericalism, ideologies. But freedom is lacking and we cannot follow Jesus without freedom. ‘At times freedom might go too far, and we might slip and fall.’ Yes, that’s true. But this is slipping before becoming free.”

After Mass, the pope presided at adoration and benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, before leading those watching via livestream in an act of spiritual communion.

The congregation then sang the Easter Marian antiphon “Regina caeli.”

At the end of his homily, the pope prayed: “May the Lord enlighten us to see within ourselves if we have the freedom required to go through the door which is Jesus, to go beyond it with Jesus in order to become sheep of His flock.”


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