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

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Diocese joins country in preparing to mark first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation Sept 30

Thu, 09/16/2021 - 11:06

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

“Let’s walk and talk.”

It is a simple action that the Diocesan Council for Truth and Reconciliation (DCTR) is hoping will help parishes and individuals reflect together on the hurt and damage of the residential school system and Canada’s colonial history, as Canada marks the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation Sept. 30.

The new federal holiday builds upon “Orange Shirt Day,” which has been marked on Sept. 30 in recent years, as a way to honour those who attended residential schools and to raise awareness about what was suffered and lost. Wearing orange was prompted by the experience of Phyllis (Jack) Webstad, who as a six-year-old arriving at residential school in 1973 had her beloved orange shirt immediately taken away.

“On Sept. 30, orange is worn to show that no child should have their culture and faith stripped from them,” summarizes Myron Rogal, coordinator of Justice and Peace in the diocese of Saskatoon and a member of the DCTR.

With that history in mind, the DCTR is suggesting to parishes and individuals that people find a partner or friend and go for a walk on that day, taking some time to reflect on three questions:

  • Were you ever rejected when going to school and how did that change you?
  • In what ways have you seen Indigenous people rejected in your life?
  • The next time you are tempted to judge instead of listening, what action will you take?

Myron Rogal and Carol Zubiak take time to walk together and talk about truth and reconciliation. (Photo by Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)

It is a simple action that reflects the DCTR’s own mandate in the diocese of Saskatoon:  “to provide a forum for listening and sharing, through stories and prayer” and “to raise awareness throughout the diocese about injustice issues, and barriers to reconciliation, and to discern a way to walk together on a path of understanding, education and action, fostering relationships in the light of the Gospel.”

Established in 2012 as a result of a promise made by the Catholic diocese at the national Truth and Reconciliation event held in Saskatoon, the DCTR is a “sharing and consultative circle” of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people providing guidance to the bishop and the diocese.

 Related:Bishop embarks on personal 50-km trek in support of Catholic TRC Healing Response

Related: Saskatchewan bishops launch fund-raising appeal to support residential school survivors and their communities

In a Sept. 10 message, Bishop Mark Hagemoen encourages the diocese to prepare to observe the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation Sept. 30, and to pray for residential school survivors and their communities. “I encourage all of our parishes and Catholic communities in our diocese to observe this day with prayer and solemnity.”

Bishop Hagemoen adds: “I again pledge that I and our diocese will continue to walk a path of reconciliation and healing. The Gospel inspires us to walk in love and friendship as sisters and brothers of our One Creator, in His Son, Jesus Christ our common Saviour and Redeemer. I again ask us all to renew our ongoing commitment to building relationships of honour and respect, and to continue to take concrete steps on this journey of healing that must involve all of us. “

The bishop will celebrate Mass at 9 a.m. on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, Thursday, Sept. 30 at the Cathedral of the Holy Family, 123 Nelson Road Saskatoon, with the Mass also live-streamed at saskatoonmass.com

Following Mass, priests from across the diocese will gather for a “Day of Recollection” with presentations by Fr. Ron Rolheiser, OMI.

“I hope that other parishes will plan to celebrate Mass or other form of devotion or prayer service for the intention of this day,” says Hagemoen in his message to the diocese.

“I encourage our parishes, deaneries, and other Catholic communities to be creative about other ways to honour this day, either through education and/or service opportunities, or by joining with other larger civil ceremonies being planned by the City of Saskatoon and various townships, and with the Saskatoon Tribal Council.”

The Saskatoon Tribal Council has organized a concert to coincide with the first National Truth and Reconciliation Day, to be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 30 at Sasktel Centre, in honour of residential school survivors. The Every Child Matters Community Concert will include musical performances by Gord Bamford, Charlie Major and George Canyon as well as speakers, fiddle music and drum groups. Tickets are $35: https://sasktelcentre.com/events/ECM2021

Meanwhile, fund-raising efforts continue for the Catholic TRC Healing Response, launched earlier this summer by the five Catholic bishops of Saskatchewan in support of residential school survivors and their communities. Online giving can be directed to individual diocese or eparchy efforts at:  dscf.ca/catholic-trc-healing-response/Funds raised will go to support residential school survivors and their communities, in light of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action, and in consultation with Indigenous leaders, elders and groups.

Bishop Mark Hagemoen of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon is also embarking on a 50-km run to raise funds and awareness about the Catholic TRC Healing Response: The 50-km Trek. 

PRAYER for RECONCILIATION and HEALING

O God, Creator and Father of all, with humility we your children acknowledge the relationship of all living things. For this we thank You, we praise You and we worship You.

We call on you, Great Mystery, the Word made Flesh – our Teacher, Prophet and Brother – to open our hearts to all our brothers and sisters, and with them to grow in the wisdom, honesty, courage and respectfulness shown in the Sacred Teachings.

Give us the vision and honesty to recognize that the we are all brothers and sisters of one human family, created and sustained by the One Creator.

As we deal with many challenges, may we never give way to fear and anger, which can be the source of division and threat amongst peoples.

We look to how God always gives to us a remedy for sins of prejudice and intolerance.

We see in God the Creator of all things, One who always provides and is generous – even given the abuses we have heaped on one another and on the earth.

We see in the Son, Jesus Christ – the innocent Victim who pours His life blood out from the Cross for all peoples.

We see how the Holy Spirit is God’s gift, alive in our world today – inspiring vision and hope that we can have the same mind and heart of God!

O Creator, show us the way to healing, forgiveness and reconciliation, and a renewed fellowship. +Amen

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 Bishop embarks on personal 50-km trek in support of Catholic TRC Healing Response

Thu, 09/16/2021 - 11:02

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

Bishop Mark Hagemoen of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon is embarking on a 50-km run to raise funds and awareness about the Catholic TRC Healing Response.

Those sponsoring the bishop’s 50km Trek are able to direct their donations to their particular diocese or eparchial efforts in support of the Catholic TRC Healing Response, notes Hagemoen. Funds raised will go to support residential school survivors and their communities, in light of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action, and in consultation with Indigenous leaders, elders and groups.

Dubbed “The 50km Trek,” the bishop’s run on Sept. 18 is part of the Beaver Flat 50 marathon held at Saskatchewan Landing Provincial Park on a rough course that features “2300 meters/7500 feet of vertical gain.”

“I have always liked running, trekking and trail running, and was used to doing it more in BC and in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta,” says Hagemoen. “It was strongly suggested to me that I consider a race like this in Saskatchewan.”

The suggestion was intriguing, he says. “And then I thought, well, if I could do this for a worthy cause or effort, maybe I would consider it. Then it hit me: we are launching the TRC Healing Response fund, and we are trying to support that and bring awareness to that.”

The image of a trek seems an apt metaphor for the ongoing journey of truth and reconciliation, he notes. “We are on a journey to a hoped-for future, but that journey is kind of uncertain and not always easy, and requires effort.”

Related: Diocese joins country in preparing to celebrate National Day for Truth and Reconciliation

Related: Saskatchewan bishops launch fund-raising appeal to support residential school survivors and their communities

He adds: “Let’s face it: our lives are one big trek. Sometimes the trek goes fine and you have all sorts of energy, and other days there are aches and pains, and it can be a little tougher – but the trek continues.”

Running and hiking have been formative experiences from the bishop throughout his life. “There are a lot of things that happen when you are running or hiking,” he says. “I pray. I pray a lot when I run. I usually do one rosary, and sometimes more. But I also do a lot of creative thinking and sometimes problem solving with God.”

He adds that he doesn’t listen to music when he runs, but instead strives to be present to nature and to creation, to the environment and to prayer. “I like the silence,” he says.

“The fact that this is a very long run, 50 km – and it is not just a run, but it is a trek, which will take a lot of time, endurance, patience, and some pain – that kind of fits where we are at with reconciliation right now,” he concludes.

“Maybe it’s prophetic that this is a long journey, not a short one. That seems like a good metaphor for what we need to expect and to do right now.”

 

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Abuse victims who often go unheard gain voice

Tue, 09/14/2021 - 09:46
Male survivors of sexual violence get rare chance to speak up in documentary supported by Archdiocese of Vancouver

By Agnieszka Ruck, The B. C. Catholic 

In a better world, Jeremy J.* would be making documentaries about pets.

But the planet we live on has far more urgent and pressing stories to tell than those of cute animals. Children and adults are being sexually abused, and far too little is being done to hear their stories, protect them, and prevent abuse, says Jeremy.

That’s why the first-time filmmaker has created a 13 1/2-hour documentary, The Cost of Silence, featuring victims/survivors who open up about abuse they have endured. The educational film includes conversation with experts weighing in on preventative justice, as well as an interview with a self-professed pedophile.

Unlike other public offerings on the subject, Jeremy’s project focuses on male victims of sexual abuse.

Listening to all abuse victims

“I want to push us to a point to having a meaningful discussion,” he told The B.C. Catholic in a recent interview. “We can never have the meaningful conversations we need to have if we’re not listening to all the victims.”

First-time filmmaker Jeremy J. is aiming to “turn the Titanic” by shifting the conversation around sexual abuse in his documentary and studying better ways to prevent abuse and protect minors. 
(Photo courtesy of Jeremy J – The B.C. Catholic – CCN)

Jeremy J. says that he wants to shed light on stories that are often forgotten in public discourse about sexual abuse. In The Cost of Silence, he interviews nine victims/survivors of sexual abuse, all of them male. One was abused by a Catholic priest. Three were abused by women, including one by the victim’s own mother.

“Society sees male victims as nobody. They don’t believe us,” said Calvin, who is featured in the documentary. He was sexually abused by his father at age 5.

“I used to consider myself a victim because I felt that no one loved me and that I was the only one. But then as I came to talk to people, I realized I was not the only one and I could now become a survivor through talking and getting over my abuse.”

In his research, Jeremy discovered perpetrators were often abuse victims themselves.

“We have to acknowledge this is, to some degree, a learned behaviour,” Jeremy said.

He believes society needs to re-examine how it sees gender and abuse to actually make a difference for child victims. “Men are seen as saviours or perpetrators. All the prevention stuff is only aimed at men.”

But men can be victims of abuse, women can be perpetrators, and most abuse is perpetuated by family members, not priests, he said.

“For some odd reason (pedophiles) are the only hopeless people in our society. These are the only people we vilify as monsters. We don’t even vilify murderers as badly as we do these people,” he said.

But demonizing perpetrators often serves to further isolate them and push them from getting help to stop destructive behaviours.

“Pedophilia usually sets in around 13, so what are you going to do? I want to push us to a point to having a meaningful discussion.”

Surprising support

The project has been a trying experience for Jeremy, a survivor of child sexual abuse.

“It was mild as far as the actual interaction, but the effects that it had on my life were profound,” he said. “When you’re sexualized at an early age all of a sudden you’re different from the other kids. You’ve experienced something they don’t even know about. I would have parents that wouldn’t let their kids hang out with me afterwards.”

Jeremy feels most media “inflate and enflame” people rather than inform them on the issue of sexual abuse. When he approached six large abuse victim organizations asking them to help fund the completion of The Cost of Silence, not one returned his calls.

“No broadcaster wanted to hear about male survivors. I couldn’t get the basic grant given to most first-time filmmakers. My project was considered too ambitious,” he said. “It hurts as a survivor. It only reinforces what every survivor said that I interviewed: ‘society doesn’t want to see us because we go against the narrative.’”

Jeremy did eventually garner support from a surprising source: he received a one-time grant of $10,000 from the Archdiocese of Vancouver.

Victim organizations “didn’t have the time of day for me. But here’s an organization that’s largely vilified within the field, but stepped up.”

Not a Catholic, Jeremy was thrilled with the unexpected support and has stayed in communication with the archdiocese to explore ways to raise awareness and provide programs for abuse victims and perpetrators locally.

“Jeremy has been inspiring in this area” and has “stirred up a lot of desire to be proactive,” said James Borkowski, archbishop’s delegate for operations. “We are hoping to collaborate more with Jeremy in the future as we build a more active aspect.”

The head of the archdiocese’s prison ministry, Bob Buckham, sees a great need for abuse prevention and education. “We know a lot of guys, and women, in jail who are in there for assaulting minors or possession or viewing of child pornography.”

After they do their time, released sex offenders can voluntarily participate in Circles of Support and Accountability, a local archdiocese-supported program that helps them find employment, housing, and stay out of trouble.

“All the stuff that we do with prison ministry and COSA is after the horses have left the barn so to speak. It’s all after the crime has happened. How do we be preventative and stop crimes from happening and stop lives from being ruined?”

In Germany, a pilot project called Dunkelfeld (German for “dark field”) invites people sexually attracted to minors to admit themselves to free, confidential counselling in the spirit of abuse prevention. Thanks to Jeremy’s connections, Buckham is in touch with the people behind

Dunkelfeld and with a psychologist in Toronto who runs a self-referral program and hotline, Talking for Change, for people with troubling sexual urges.

Buckham said any sort of prevention program in B.C. would face several hurdles, not the least of which are Canada’s mandatory reporting laws. If a person admits to watching or possessing child pornography, police have to be notified. That could be a significant barrier for someone to seek counselling.

Plans to run local abuse prevention programs are in the brainstorming stages, said Buckham.

More information: costofsilence.org

Promotional image for The Cost of Silence. (The B.C. Catholic – CCN)

Turning the Titanic

Statistics show one in four girls are abused as minors. For boys the number is one in six, and Michael, featured in Jeremy’s documentary, was one of them. He was four years old when he was first sexually assaulted by a 14-year-old female babysitter.

After his mother found out, that babysitter never appeared again. But at age 12, Michael entered the foster care system and there was abused again. “I bounced from foster home to foster home. I ended up in a group home and eventually the social worker who was supposed to be there to look after us moved into the group home and was systematically raping my foster brothers.”

For more than two years, the social worker abused Michael in every way but sexually. “He made my life very difficult mentally, physically, spiritually, saying things to me and making it very hard on me.”

Then, after he wore down all of Michael’s self-worth, he took his dignity, too.

“I never gave permission. My words of ‘no’ went unheeded. My hands pushing away went unheeded. He was a very strong man. He was bigger than me. He was very well versed in what to do and how to do it. So no matter how much you twisted and turned and fought back, in the end it happened.”

After Michael left foster care, married, and had children, that dark part of his life was locked in a “glass case” in his mind. When asked if he’d been abused in the group home, he always denied it. It was only during a healing retreat many years later that he realized he had to open the glass case and deal with its contents.

“When people find out I was raped, what will my wife say? How am I going to tell my children? Will my co-workers find out? What kind of bad words are going to be said to me now?”

Jeremy hopes all victims can, like Michael, move from “victim” to “survivor” and that every person can unite in preventing abuse from occurring to anyone in the first place.

“We can still disagree on what gods we pray to, who we vote for, and what drinks we get at the soda stand, but we can agree on the stuff we all share. I can’t believe there’s a reasonable, good person that wants to see childhood sexual abuse occur at the rate it is,” Jeremy said.

“We’re all on the Titanic heading toward the iceberg, but we’re still at the time we can turn away.”

The Cost of Silence is a multi-part series distributed by Films Media Group. It comes with a three-disc Healer’s Edition, which includes testimonies from abuse survivors (including on the autistic spectrum), a session between a therapist and a survivor, and ways survivors can seek healing. There is also a single-disc Preventative Justice edition, which interviews a “non-offending pedophile” and the people behind Dunkelfeld discussing ways to prevent child sexual abuse.

Jeremy is also releasing a two-hour condensed version and is raising funds to send 111 sponsored copies to non-profits across the globe.

“Really, if we lived in a world where I could do puppies and kitten documentaries, I would be really happy to. But that’s not going to give me the fulfilment I want professionally, which is to turn the Titanic away from the iceberg, even if it’s just a degree or two.”

 

*Jeremy J.’s artist name is used in this article to allow his family to remain anonymous.

 

RESOURCES / CRISIS HELP

Saskatchewan provincial 24-hour sexual assault line 1-844-952-0434

Saskatoon Sexual Assault and Info Centre 24-hour crisis line 306.244.2224 / Men’s group of support: 306.244.2294, intake@ssaic.ca.

Micah Mission Circles of Support for former and current incarcerated individuals with sex related offences: themichamision.org, 306.653.3099

Hope Restored Canada: women and men entrapped in sexual violence: www.ho

B.C. Society for Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse is a non-profit society that provides therapeutic services for men who have been sexually abused and is based in Vancouver.

When Males Have Been Sexually Abused as Children is a booklet published by the National Clearinghouse on Family Violence Public Health Agency of Canada.

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health runs a Sexual Behaviours Clinic in Toronto for people with sexual behaviours or urges that could result in personal and/or legal difficulties.

Reporting sexual abuse by clergy in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon: Contact Info

 

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New model of Adult Faith formation and enrichment launched in diocese of Saskatoon

Tue, 09/14/2021 - 09:07

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

A flexible program of varied offerings focused on evangelization and mission characterizes the new Adult Faith formation and enrichment initiative released this fall in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon.

It marks a new direction for the diocese, evolving after a long discernment about the necessity of focusing on evangelization and mission, and finding new ways to meet the evolving needs of adult Catholics expressing a need and a desire to grow in their faith. The new model of formation takes the place of earlier programs that required longer-term commitment from participants, including the Adult Faith Enrichment program that concluded in June, and the Lay Formation program that it replaced.

Identified by three elements of “Proclaim – Awaken – Encounter, ” the new Adult Faith program in the diocese includes initiatives to help parishes and individuals evangelize (“Proclaim”), four-session modules of formation related this year to prayer, to liturgy and sacrament, and to ministry (“Awaken”) and a number of larger group events designed to equip and inspire Catholics as missionary disciples (“Encounter”).

Bishop Mark Hagemoen holds up a summary of the three-year Pastoral Plan, part of the inspiration for the new model of Adult Faith formation. (Photo by Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)

Adult Faith initiative in the diocese: rcdos.ca/Adult-Faith

Brochure about the new Adult Faith initiative: Proclaim-Awaken-Encounter (Link to PDF)

“The proclamation of the Lord Jesus Christ – His word and life – awakens in each of us our hunger and thirst for abundant life, which is nurtured and strengthened by prayer, community, ongoing catechesis and formation, and service to others,” said Bishop Mark Hagemoen in a message for the launch of the new Adult Faith initiative, with its focus on mission.

“I am excited and eager to continue to support our clergy and laity as this Gospel mission calls each of us to a renewal of heart and life, that both deepens our union with the Lord, and inspires us to bring to bear the Good News on our world of today,” said Hagemoen.

Marilyn Jackson, Director of Ministry Services

Marilyn Jackson, Director of Ministry Services for the diocese, recently described the evolution of the new vision for Adult Faith formation and enrichment in the diocese. “A discussion group was created earlier this year, made up of representatives from parishes of all sizes from across the diocese, including clergy, religious and parish leadership,” she said.

“This group was tasked with reviewing the current model of adult faith formation and assessing the needs of adults in both rural and urban parishes. What we heard over and over was that the faithful of our diocese value good catechesis and building community,” Jackson said.

“Catholics across the diocese are telling us that they want to move beyond talking about evangelization and are ready to embrace the practical ‘how to.'”

The “Proclaim” portion of the new Adult Faith format is a movement in which Evangelization and Mission Leader John Hickey will accompany both parishes and individuals in “discipleship making” in a process of evangelizing and “multiplying missionary disciples,” through the development and nurturing of small faith communities, she described. (For more information about the Proclaim movement, contact John Hickey at jhickey@rcdos.ca or 306-659-5847.)

Four-session “Awaken” events offered three times a year will provide instruction grounded in Scripture and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, with participants able to choose to take part in one or all of the modules, Jackson said.

The upcoming “Awaken” events include a “School of the Word” prayer formation series to be presented by the Verbum Dei Sisters from 7-9 p.m. on the four Tuesdays in October on Zoom or in-person at the Cathedral of the Holy Family in Saskatoon.

Described as a “School of Prayer Formation for all who wish to learn how to pray with the Word of God in a meditative-contemplative way,” the four-part series Oct. 5, 12, 19 and 26 includes one-hour of formation/instruction on the four basic steps of praying based on Sacred Scripture (adapted Lectio Divina), followed by personal time with guided mediation and/or contemplation of a specific Scripture passage and small group sharing. (Registration: LINK)

“Awaken” also includes a four-session Ministry Series module running four Tuesdays from Nov. 16 to Dec. 7 ( in-person only; registration: LINK). The Ministry Series features:

  • Nov 16: You Got Booked! with Dianne Anderson, coordinator of Restorative (prison) Ministry –  a tool to teach about the criminal justice system and how it impacts people in different ways. Participants travel around a live-sized game board trying to build resources and avoid prison. The goal is to inform and to provide ideas and tools to advocate for change.
  • Nov. 23: Evangelization and the Mission of the Church with John Hickey from the Office of Evangelization and Catechesis – which will explore how Catholics are called to participate in the Church’s mission of evangelization, offering practical insights into sharing faith, reaching people “where they are at” to assist in encountering Jesus and creating missionary disciples.
  • Nov. 30: Palliative Care & End-of-Life Issues  with Jacqueline Saretsky, coordinator of  Hospital Chaplaincy , will offer information and education around end-of-life issues and caring for others. The goal of this session is to raise awareness about what some experience at the end-of-life and how the power of human presence can make a difference.
  • Dec. 7: Kairos Blanket Exercise with Myron Rogal, coordinator of Justice and Peace – The Kairos Blanket Exercise was developed in collaboration with Indigenous Elders, Knowledge Keepers and educators. It is an interactive and experiential teaching tool that explores the historic and contemporary relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples in the land we now know as Canada.

After Christmas, the “Awaken” element of the Adult Faith program will include four sessions on Catholic Liturgical and Sacramental Life presented by Fr. Geoffrey Young weekly from Jan. 11 to Feb. 1 on Zoom or in-person, addressing topics of “Why worship?”; the Church: model and mission; “A Sacramental People”; and the call to holiness. (Registration: LINK)

Finally, the Adult Faith program’s “Encounter” element features larger group events “to help create an environment for growth in discipleship and holiness,” says Jackson. This year, the “Encounter” offerings will include a Transform Conference held Oct. 22-23 at St. Anne Parish in Saskatoon. Speakers include Eric Chow of the Archdiocese of Vancouver and Eric Myatt, Canadian regional coordinator at Divine Renovation. (Registration: LINK)

“Encounter” events scheduled for the New Year include a diocesan-wide Lenten Retreat March 20 at Queen’s House in Saskatoon, and a speaker/dessert night April 28 entitled “Flourish.”

The new vision for Adult Faith offerings in the diocese was developed in light of the goals of the diocesan Pastoral Plan and its vision to “Proclaim Christ and the Kingdom of God Today,” stressed Jackson.

“The Pastoral Plan is the lens through which we should view everything that we do in the diocese. Our formation is not about programming, process or strategy but about striving to be holy and holiness is more about perseverance than perfection,” she said.

“The Church exists to evangelize and every one of us has a unique role to carry out.”

 

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Fall reconciliation efforts ramping up

Mon, 09/13/2021 - 16:57

By Bryan Dryden, Canadian Catholic News

(with files from The B.C. Catholic and Catholic Saskatoon News)

[Ottawa – CCN] – The arrival of September is putting some distance between a summer of tension and the ramping up of Catholic and Indigenous reconciliation efforts, with two major initiatives taking place before year-end.

Raising funds for truth and reconciliation

The first includes a number of fund-raising efforts in Catholic dioceses across the nation, in support of healing for  residential school survivors and their communities.

These efforts to further truth and reconciliation and the TRC Commission Calls to Action include a Catholic TRC Healing Response fund-raising campaign launched this summer by Saskatchewan’s Catholic bishops.

“We have heard the strong request, from Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in various quarters, to initiate a new fundraising campaign to support survivors and engage more deeply in our own ongoing commitment and response to the Truth and Reconciliation process,” the bishops reported when first announcing plans to launch a fund-raising appeal on July 3.

As of Sept. 10, the total of the Saskatchewan diocesan and eparchial effort for the Catholic TRC Healing Response fund stood at $178,423.

A number of Catholic leaders in other provinces have also promised to raise funds for reconciliation efforts as Canadians grapple with the effects of residential schools and seek answers about unmarked graves identified on former school sites.

In the Archdiocese of Vancouver the collection for the B.C. Bishops’ Campaign in Support of Healing and Reconciliation took place in all churches Sept. 11 and 12. Advance giving started in July, with all contributions going to local reconciliation efforts.

“The bishops of British Columbia sincerely hope that this Campaign will help to restore trust and further the ongoing journey to truth and reconciliation,” said the B.C. bishops..

Dozens of arson and vandalism attacks on churches across the country took place after the identification of long-lost gravesites at former residential schools.

In a statement calling on Catholics to be generous, Vancouver Archbishop J. Michael Miller said, “It is my hope that this campaign will help to restore trust and further our ongoing journey together to truth and reconciliation.”

The collection will help fund healing and reconciliation initiatives with First Nations. The B.C. bishops said that they will consult with local Indigenous leaders, elders, and residential school survivors to decide where the funds will go.

Meeting with Pope Francis

Meanwhile, the Catholic bishops of Canada remain hopeful that December’s scheduled meeting between Indigenous leaders and Pope Francis will lead to further reconciliation, despite the leader of the largest Indigenous organization in Canada saying she will not attend.

Assembly of First Nations National Chief RoseAnne Archibald told Canadian Catholic News Aug. 31 that she won’t be taking part in December’s meetings, which were announced with great fanfare by her predecessor.

In a statement, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops said despite Archibald’s decision they hope the meetings in the Vatican scheduled for Dec. 17-20 “will be a meaningful step” in reconciliation for the Catholic Church’s role in Canada’s residential school system.

“The CCCB respects the decision of AFN National Chief RoseAnne Archibald and acknowledge her advocacy on behalf of First Nations people,” the CCCB statement said.

“Healing and reconciliation are of fundamental importance in the ongoing dialogue with our local and national Catholic communities and for all Canadians.”

Archibald said, “I will not go to the Vatican myself as national chief” when asked by CCN about demands for a papal apology for the Catholic Church’s role in Canada’s residential school system.

Archibald, who was elected to her post in July, said the assembly is still deciding on the best way to formally ask the Pope to make such an apology on Canadian soil, which was one of the key recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Canada.

“I know we need to press the Pope to come to Canada,” Archibald said. “The process of inviting him – I would say we are working on.

“We have been very public,” she said. “We want the Pope here in Canada.”

For the CCCB, the meetings that have been arranged with the Pope in the Vatican are part of an ongoing process towards reconciliation.

“The bishops of Canada hope that the upcoming meeting between Pope Francis and First Nations, Métis and Inuit survivors, knowledge keepers, and youth will be a meaningful step in the long journey towards reconciliation. This journey requires Indigenous and non-Indigenous people being committed to walk together,” according to the CCCB statement about the meeting.

“In that spirit of mutual commitment, we have been in regular conversation with Indigenous leaders – both at the local and national levels, and bilaterally with the First Nations, Métis, and Inuit national organizations – to ensure that this delegation gives residential school survivors the chance to be heard and to move towards healing and a future that is founded on hope.”

The previous AFN leader, Chief Perry Bellegarde, announced June 30 that a delegation of Indigenous leaders would be going to the Vatican for a year-end meeting with the Pope.

“There are no guarantees of any apology or that he will even come back to Canada, but we have to make the attempt and we have to seize the opportunity,” Bellegarde said at the time. “I believe the spirit will move and things will happen in a good way. That is my hope and that is my prayer.”

One of the key recommendations of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission report in 2015 was a demand for a formal apology be made by the Pope in Canada on behalf of the Catholic Church for its role in the residential school system.

Calls for a papal apology have been made before, including by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The CCCB has not formally invited the Pope to Canada to make such an apology.

Pressure for an apology has intensified since unmarked graves of children were found on the site of a former Catholic-run school in Kamloops in May.

The CCCB will hold its annual plenary assembly online Sept. 20-24, 2021. A growing chorus of prominent Catholics want the bishops to address the issue and formally invite the Pope to Canada.

“The CCCB can make a statement as a conference to apologize for the Catholic role,” said Joe Gunn, executive director of A Voice for Justice, a project of the Canadian Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.

He said tens of thousands of Canadians, many of them Catholic, “have directly communicated their unease with the bishops’ handling of this issue.”

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Tough calls: Discerning your vote as a Catholic

Mon, 09/13/2021 - 16:17

By Catholic Conscience and The B.C. Catholic

(As published in The B.C. Catholic – Canadian Catholic News)

A Catholic Conscience comparison of the major political parties’ platforms in relation to the social teachings of the Church can be found at catholicconscience.org/canada/platform or download a printable pdf version HERE.

It is rare at this point that Catholic voters are offered truly Catholic alternatives in elections.

Seldom do the positions taken by any one candidate or by any one party map perfectly onto Catholic social teaching. More often, each candidate and each party has adopted some positions that are reassuringly consistent with our thought, and others that are disappointingly contrary. And in an increasingly polarized world, our choices seem to be growing worse.

 

How to choose?

For Catholics the voting process should always be basically the same, whether our choices are good or bad. Really, it’s only a variation of the process we should use in making all life decisions. We should always:

  1. Inform ourselves responsibly concerning (a) the teachings of the Church and (b) issues relevant to the election;
  2. Reflect prayerfully;
  3. Choose confidently; and
  4. Once the election is over, stay actively and respectfully engaged with those who have been elected – whether they are our own preferred candidates or not. This is important if we hope to improve the system.

Even when choices seem clear, we should neither ignore the process nor skip steps: we Catholics have both a civic duty to stay informed and a calling to seek God’s help in choosing. Nor can we responsibly abstain, except in extreme and very clear-cut circumstances. If we don’t vote, and don’t stay engaged, how can we hope to improve things?

And how, when we face judgment, will we explain the fact that we failed to do what we could to help build a world pleasing to God?

Informing ourselves

We Catholics should inform ourselves not only about those issues that affect us personally, but also those around us – including the poor and the marginalized, and those in distant parts of the world. It’s a part of our Catholic call to charity, a part of what we will all be judged on, both as individuals and as nations (see for example Chapter 25 of the Gospel of Matthew.)

The first, indispensable step is to familiarize ourselves with Catholic Social Teachings. Not just one or two pet issues, but the full range of teachings. Among other things, familiarity with the full range of teachings helps prevent us from acting selfishly, in accordance with our own personal biases.

In making civic decisions, the Church teaches that we should consider each of four permanent principles of Catholic social teaching:

  • the sanctity of life and human dignity;
  • the common good, including the health of our planet and our environment;
  • solidarity, or the principle that what happens to others affects us as well; and
  • subsidiarity – the principle that individuals should be left to make decisions for themselves, whenever it’s responsible for them to do so. A number of guides are available.

The most authoritative include The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church and various Papal encyclicals and exhortations, such as The Joy of the Gospel, Rerum Novarum, and Laudato Si’, all of which are available at vatican.va.

The other half is to inform ourselves responsibly concerning issues that are prominent (or which should be prominent) in the election. Among other things, this means that we must learn about the positions taken by each candidate, and by each party offering candidates in the election, as well as parties’ leaders and governing structures. The parties’ platforms and other published documents are typically found on their websites; and comparisons of stated positions of the registered parties to the Church’s teachings are available on the Catholic Conscience website at catholicconscience.org/canada/platform.

Getting to know the candidates seeking to represent our own ridings is an effective way of not only coming to understand their positions on the issues, but also of letting them know that we care and are engaged. Among other things, in the very common event that the parties’ platforms and public statements omit issues that should be important to us as Catholics, meeting with candidates personally presents an excellent opportunity to ask them where they and their parties stand.

It is also vital to keep up with the news at all times – before, during, and after elections. In this age of pervasive electronic media, keeping up with headline news is not difficult, but doing so responsibly requires a bit of effort. Relying on our friends’ social media posts is not responsible.

The best practical approach is to identify two or three primary news sources, preferably of alternative political leanings, and to follow them daily. Doing so does not require a great amount of time, if a daily habit is developed – 15-20 minutes over your morning coffee can suffice, once one is generally current. It’s also desirable to identify two or three monthly magazines or journals – again, of diverse points of view – to keep up with. Remember that forming your conscience is of infinite importance – particularly doing so based on facts and principles of the common good, rather than relying on personal inclinations – which can lead to errors born of pride and selfishness.

Another important way of informing ourselves is to converse regularly with those around us – especially with those of differing views. Our friends, neighbours, co-workers, and others have as many ideas as we have – exploring them as alternatives and new ideas – always respectfully, always in an attractive spirit of joy flowing from love of the Gospel and confidence in the love and power of Christ, is a great practice. Our goal is to seek truth.

Reflecting prayerfully

Prayer is a highly personal practice and can be approached in a wide variety of ways. We should all be conversing daily – preferably, moment by moment – with God, our guardian angels, and our patron saints. And we should not be shy about sharing our difficulties and our misgivings with them. Over time, this will lead to an awareness of oneself, and the feelings associated with various spiritual movements that can be associated with prayers for guidance. The writings of St Ignatius Loyola (available at Ignatius.com) and St Alphonsus Liguori (Liguori.org) on the discernment of spirits can be helpful in making difficult decisions, including voting choices.

A recommended process is to focus the mind on God and the issues faced in the election, and the problems we are having in deciding our vote. This should be done continually during the information-gathering process. Invoke the Holy Spirit, lay the issues before God, and ask for guidance. Then, in that moment and throughout the day, watch and listen for answers: answers come in many forms, often in unexpected ways.

Asking the intersession of Mary, Seat of Wisdom and Queen of Heaven, is also a good idea. The Rosary is probably the best means at our disposal for contemplating problems in the context of the life of Christ.

A prayer for elections by Archbishop Donald Bolen of Regina. (Image courtesy of Catholic Conscience)

Voting confidently

Having prayed sincerely and reflected devoutly throughout the process of informing ourselves, we are entitled to choose and vote with confidence, even if it seems our vote might be wasted. It’s important to remember that:

God moves in ways we don’t always understand, sometimes even in ways that may seem bad to us at the time. Remember that God can make use of very bad events to bring about great good, sometimes many years later. For example:

  • Joseph, son of Jacob, was able to save his family and all Israel by behaving devoutly and appropriately for many years, even after his brothers sold him into slavery and he was wrongfully imprisoned.
  • Joseph, foster-father of Christ, discovered that his betrothed was with child before their marriage had been consummated. Yet she bore for Joseph, and for all of us, the Son of the living God.
  • Judas, one of Christ’s twelve chosen, betrayed Christ to the Sanhedrin, resulting in his crucifixion – which, in turn, caused the apostles to be sent forth to make disciples of all nations.
  • Christ is the great multiplier. Remember, for example, the miracles of the loaves, the fishes, and we can never know what use God might make of a single conversation, or a single, properly discerned vote, now or many years from now.

And remember that prayer – voting is a form of prayer, when approached properly – is to be done with confidence. By voting confidently, according to our best lights, with the realization that we cannot control everything ourselves, we assist God in his continuing act of Creation.

Staying involved

We are blessed to live in a democracy, with its privilege of self government. But we must maintain constant vigilance, and stay constantly involved, if we don’t want to lose it. Voting is the bare minimum we can do: we must act – always in humility, and always seeking the wise and gentle path; leading, and never coercing or browbeating.

We must act, each of us in accordance with the gifts, including freedom, that have been entrusted to us, in all spheres of life: home, work, neighbourhood, city, region, national, and international. We are called to consider even direct participation in politics, by following up with candidates after they have been elected, or by offering ourselves as candidates and party members, and in writing to party leaders and editors; and we are called to involve ourselves with good causes, including organizations seeking to create positive change, giving our time and, where possible, money to support them.

And we should try to be a positive force in the lives of those God has placed in our immediate circles: our families, co- workers, fellow parishioners, those we pass on the street… and when we meet candidates or elected officials who have done good things, we should thank and encourage them.

Party platforms at your fingertips

At catholicconscience.org/canada/platform is an opportunity to familiarize yourself with the major political parties’ platforms and positions, and their relation to the social teachings of the Church. The platform comparisons are based on official publications of the registered parties, and any communications provided by the parties directly to Catholic Conscience as of Sept. 2. Materials will be updated where possible as the election approaches. Voters are in all cases encouraged to review the websites, platforms, and other materials published by the parties, and to speak directly to the parties and their candidates. Parties having questions or suggestions for the improvement of these comparisons are invited to email info@CatholicConscience.org.

Click here or below for a printable version of the complete platform comparison set out in easy-to-browse form and covering the complete substance of each party’s platform in the party’s own words.

 

Additional resources:

Learn how to vote like a Catholic: This video interview with Catholic author and theologian Dr. Brett Salkeld will help you discern your conscience and address common myths about Church teaching on voting. https://bit.ly/votingcatholic2021

Webinar – Catholic Conscience adviser John Milloy, a former politician and political adviser, has a new book Politics and Faith in a Polarized World that takes a look at Catholic engagement in federal politics. In a Sept. 15 webinar,  Milloy will discuss the book and get his analysis of the election campaign. The Eventbrite link for the webinar is at catholicpolitics.eventbrite.ca.

Virtual all-party forum – In a virtual video forum, Catholic representatives from Canada’s major parties offer their perspectives on issues facing our country through the lens of Gospel values and Catholic social teaching. You can view the forum here.

 

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In Exile – A column by Fr. Ron Rolheiser, OMI: “September 11th – Twenty Years Later”

Mon, 09/13/2021 - 06:59
September 11th – Twenty Years Later

By Fr. Ron Rolheiser, OMI 

Twenty years ago today, struggling to digest the events of Sept. 11, 2001, I wrote this column. Two decades later, my reaction is the same. Here is the column.

Iris Murdoch once said that the whole world can change in 15 seconds. She was talking about falling in love. Hatred can do the same thing: On Sept. 11 (2001), the world changed. Two huge passenger planes, hijacked by terrorists, crashed into, and collapsed the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in New York, killing thousands of people, as television cameras recorded the event live, showing horrific, graphic scenes over and over again. Shortly afterwards, a third hijacked plane slammed into the Pentagon, even as a fourth crashed in an open field. Inside of what is supposed to be the most secure place on earth, thousands of innocent people were killed within the space of an hour.

Stunned, muted, we nonetheless tried to speak to the situation. Many of the voices we heard were hard, angry, calling for retaliation and vengeance. Most voices though were gentle, looking only for a safe, intimate place to cry, for someone to hang onto. One Internet media site simply had a blank screen, a silent gesture that spoke eloquently. What, after all, can be said?

The opening lines from the Book of Lamentations offer this haunting description: How deserted she sits, the city once thronged with people! Once the greatest of nations, she is now like a widow.

Later, this same book tells us that there are times when all you can do is to put your face to the dust and wait. Rainer Marie Rilke would agree. Here’s his advice for times like these: O you lovers that are so gentle, step occasionally into the breath of the sufferers not meant for you. … Do not be afraid to suffer, give the heaviness back to the weight of the earth; mountains are heavy, seas are heavy.

The earth knows our pain. Sometimes silence is best.

Yet a few things need to be said even in the raw immediacy of this thing. What?

First, that each life lost was unique, sacred, precious, irreplaceable. None of these persons had ever died before and none of them should have his or her name lost in the anonymity of dying with so many others. Their lives and deaths must be honored individually. This is true too for the suffering of their families and loved ones.

Second, clear voices must call us, especially our governments, towards restraint. Many see this as an attack on civilization itself. They are right. Accordingly, our task is to respond in a civilized way, holding fast always to our belief that violence is wrong, whether it be theirs or ours. The air we breathe out is the air we eventually inhale. Violence begets violence. Terrorism will not be stopped by bitter vengeance. Catharsis doesn’t bring about closure. We shouldn’t be naive about that. Nor, indeed, should we be naive in reverse. These terrorist acts with their utter disregard for life, offer a very clear picture of the world these people would create were they ever given scope and license to do so. They must be stopped and brought to justice. They pose a threat to the world; but in bringing them to justice we must never stoop to their means and, like them, be driven by a hatred that blinds one to justice and the sacredness of life.

No emergency ever allows one to bracket the fundamentals of charity and respect for life. Indeed, horrific tragedies of this sort, call us to just the opposite, namely, to fiercely re-root ourselves in all that is good and Godly – to drive with more courtesy, to take more time for what is important, and to tell those close to us that we love them. Yes, too, it calls us to seek justice and it asks for real courage and self-sacrifice in that quest. We are no longer in ordinary time.

Most of all, this calls us to prayer. What we learned again on September 11th (2001) is that all on our own, we are neither invulnerable nor immortal. We can only continue to live, and to live in joy and peace, by placing our faith in something beyond ourselves. We can never guarantee our own safety and future. We need to acknowledge that in prayer – on our knees, in our churches, to our loved ones, to God, and to everyone whose sincerity makes him or her a brother or sister inside the family of humanity.

Moreover, we are called to hope. We are a resilient people, with faith in the resurrection. Everything that is crucified eventually rises. There is always a morning after. The sun never fails to rise. We need to live our lives in the face of that, even in times of great tragedy.

I end with Rilke’s words: Even those trees you planted as children became too heavy long ago – you couldn’t carry them now. But you can carry the winds … and the open spaces.

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________________________________________________

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  www.ronrolheiser.com.

Now on Facebook www.facebook.com/ronrolheiser

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

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Pope Francis at International Eucharistic Congress: ‘Let’s make time for Adoration’

Mon, 09/13/2021 - 05:21

By Courtney Mares, Catholic News Agency

“Dear brothers and sisters, let us allow our encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist to transform us, just as it transformed the great and courageous saints you venerate,” Pope Francis said in his homily in Hungary on Sept. 12.

“We do well to spend time in adoration before the Eucharist in order to contemplate God’s weakness. Let’s make time for adoration,” the pope said.

Pope Francis is the first pope to attend an International Eucharistic Congress since the year 2000. He offered the live-streamed closing Mass for a crowd of tens of thousands gathered in Heroes’ Square in Budapest.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y9pzJjr7uPA

“The Eucharist is here to remind us who God is. It does not do so just in words, but in a concrete way, showing us God as bread broken, as love crucified and bestowed,” the pope said.

“Today, as in the past, the cross is not fashionable or attractive,” he said. “Yet it heals us from within. Standing before the crucified Lord, we experience a fruitful interior struggle, a bitter conflict between ‘thinking as God does’ and ‘thinking as humans do.’”

The pope said that God’s way of humble love is different from “the wisdom of the world,” which is attached to self-importance and power, “grasping for prestige and success.”

“There is God’s side and the world’s side. The difference is not between who is religious or not, but ultimately between the true God and the ‘god of self,’” he said.

“How different is Christ, who presents himself with love alone, from all the powerful and winning messiahs worshiped by the world. Jesus unsettles us; he is not satisfied with declarations of faith, but asks us to purify our religiosity before his cross, before the Eucharist.”

Pope Francis said that prayer in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament can be transformative.

“Let us allow Jesus the Living Bread to heal us of our self-absorption, open our hearts to self-giving, liberate us from our rigidity and self-concern, free us from the paralyzing slavery of defending our image, and inspire us to follow him wherever he would lead us,” he said.

The Holy Father arrived at the closing Mass in a popemobile. He kissed babies and waved to the crowd, which cheered enthusiastically as he passed.

Local authorities reported that around 100,000 people were in attendance at the papal Mass, in addition to the people gathered along the streets to wave as Pope Francis made his way to Heroes’ Square in the popemobile.

“The Christian journey is not a race towards ‘success;’ it begins by stepping back, finding freedom by not needing to be at the center of everything,” Francis said.

“It is to step out each day … to an encounter with our brothers and sisters. The Eucharist impels us to this encounter, to the realization that we are one Body, to the willingness to let ourselves be broken for others,” he said.

Vatican Media

 

After the Mass, Pope Francis prayed the Marian Angelus prayer with the crowd in Budapest.

In his Angelus address, the pope commended the example of Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński and Mother Elżbieta Róża Czacka, who were beatified on Sunday in Warsaw, Poland.

“May the example of these new Blesseds encourage us to transform darkness into light with the power of love,” he said.

The Mass in Budapest concluded the pope’s seven-hour trip to Hungary. After a brief farewell ceremony at the Budapest International Airport, the pope departed for Slovakia, where he will visit four cities on Sept. 12-15.

“I want to say köszönöm, thank you, thank you to you, the people of Hungary,” he said in his Angelus address.

“This is what I wish for you: that the cross be your bridge between the past and the future. Religious sentiment has been the lifeblood of this nation, so attached to its roots. Yet the cross, planted in the ground, not only invites us to be well-rooted, it also raises and extends its arms towards everyone,” he said.

“The cross urges us to keep our roots firm, but without defensiveness; to draw from the wellsprings, opening ourselves to the thirst of the men and women of our time.”

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Scriptural music provides a welcome route to Lectio Divina prayer

Tue, 09/07/2021 - 16:44

By Peter Oliver, Olive Branch Marriage and Family Ministry

There is a quote from Teresa of Avila the tenor of which is, “If the way you pray is making you a more loving person, it’s the right way for you to pray.” Behind this thought is a wealth of experience that is rooted in a multitude of prayer experiments. Her wisdom spoke to me in a wrestling match I’ve been having (and losing) with Lectio Divina.

From what I can recall, I was introduced to Lectio Divina at the junior seminary in the early eighties.  Those were heady days, filled with philosophy, moral discussions, and a heck of a lot of youthful angst.  The four movements of Lectio Divina (‘read’); Meditatio (‘meditate’); Oratio (‘pray’); Contemplatio (‘contemplate’) were attractive but I couldn’t bring them to life.  Over the years I revisited the process, but the trail looked a bit like this: tried it; dropped it, tried it; dropped it, tried it; dropped it, etc.

We are all built special. My “special” is an overdeveloped appetite for analysis that fuels a wheel spinning gerbil that lives in my mind. The psychological term used to describe this reality is rumination. Facebook, the news and pretty much anything that triggers “Mr. Opinion” gets the ruminative thinking going. Unfortunately, so does the process proposed by Lectio Divina. I can do without Facebook and the news but, as Mother Teresa once said, “Prayer is as necessary as air to breathe, as blood in our bodies”. So, what to do?

Experiment!

Lectio Divina is an ancient prayer form that goes back to Saint Benedict and the beginning of monasticism, and I was confident that the process had much to offer.

What I needed was a way to enter its store of treasures. A step in that direction came when I noticed the similarity and difference between Taizé chant and ruminative thinking. The hallmark of both Taizé music and rumination is repetition. The difference is that rumination is a never-ending and self-perpetuating loop of thoughts and Taizé chant does the opposite. It stills my mind. YouTube makes it easy to access the songs from that wonderful ecumenical community and I started to use it to pacify the unruly rodent.

That breakthrough helped me to connect some dots. Behind the music of people like Bernadette Ferrell and Paul Inwood is a rich tradition of liturgical theology that is rooted in the scriptures. What if I incorporated their music into my prayer life? So, instead of trying to meditate on the written scripture passage, I used music to inform the four steps of Lectio Divina. It worked.

I chose a song and listened to it once.  Then I gave voice to a word or phrase that stood out.  Attending to it a second time, brought awareness to nuances and utterances that I had missed the first time. Listening to the song a third time invited dialogue.

For instance, the line “Your Word alone has power to save us,” from the song “Christ Be Our Light” by Bernadette Ferrell, jolted me. I offered the Lord this thought, “I’m shocked by the definitiveness of this statement.  I take it as truth, but more than that I cannot say.”  A statement such as this is characteristic of what began to happen. The tendency to analysis had stopped.

Having named my response to the words in the song, Lectio Divina invited me into contemplation.  I find the word contemplation intimidating but really it just means listen.  Sometimes “listening” is helped by hearing the song again but most of the time that is not necessary. Once I have heard the song three times and said a few words about what touched me, I am open to spending a few minutes with the Lord in silence.

What matters mightily in all this is the breakthrough. Replacing reading with listening to liturgical music has created a point of entry into an ancient prayer form that was previously inaccessible. As my days unfold these prayer times are encouraging me to live more deeply a loving response to the people in my life and that is a good indicator that the experiment has been fruitful.

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Peter Oliver and his wife Madeline work with Olive Branch Marriage and Family Ministry at Queen’s House of Retreat and Renewal, providing programming and support for people going through separation and divorce.

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Cardinal Lacroix: The Eucharist is the sacrament of peace

Tue, 09/07/2021 - 16:30

By Christine Rousselle, Catholic News Agency

Related article: International Eucharistic Congress begins in Budapest, Hungary

“The global pandemic has for months deprived countless people and communities of Eucharistic Bread and the fraternity of gatherings in places of worship,” said Cardinal Lacroix in a talk Sept. 7 entitled “The Eucharist: An Inexhaustible Source of Peace and Reconciliation.”

This “Eucharistic fasting” during the pandemic  “was felt most harshly by the ones who had never before experienced such a situation and couldn’t forecast its length,” he said.

And while “sorrowful spirits could have evoked Moses’ admonitions” to remind people that they do not live on bread alone, Cardinal Lacroix said it this “wasn’t the case in most countries,” including his own archdiocese.

“I can witness that the pandemic is helping us understand the overwhelming power and the infallible presence of the Holy Spirit,” he said.

“TheWord of God resounds with reassuring force in this time of trials. The Spirit of the risen Christ dwells and acts unceasingly with us, through us and in us. He nourishes us with his grace as he guides our steps, suggests new ways of gathering his people into the Church.”

The Eucharist, Cardinal Lacroix explained, is “the sacrament of peace and reconciliation” and reception of the Eucharist is an encounter of the source of peace.

“The kind of peace offered by the Eucharist isn’t simply an absence of conflict, but rather an active process, one that works towards the reconciliation and healing of persons, families and communities,” he said.

The communal nature of the Eucharist creates “a better world in which peace and reconciliation of all the differences that divide individuals and nations” can come together.

“Living our faith in communion with God is the foundation to a healthy Christian life,” he said. “But learning to live in communion with our brothers and sisters is unavoidable, indispensable, and let’s face it, quite a challenge!”

By participating in the Eucharist, a person not only encounters the Lord, but is exposed to “a school where we learn to love others, to be open to them.”

Without this love for others, he said, true Christianity does not exist.

Cardinal Lacroix drew from his nine years as a missionary in Colombia to illustrate how he was sustained by the Eucharist. In Colombia, Cardinal Lacroix said that it was very dangerous and he was “overwhelmed by the situation.”

“Praying with the faithful, listening together to the Word of God, receiving holy communion renewed me, renewed us every day and gave us the strength and courage to continue with our journey,” he said. “Without a personal and community relationship with Jesus, I could not have survived and would most probably have given up and ran away.”

Cardinal Lacroix said that the Lord knew that people would experience hardships, and left humanity the Eucharist in order to “sustain our long walk in this world that leads us to ‘eternal life.’” The Eucharist, he said, “prepares us for the mission we are called to carry out.”

“To give us strength and courage on the path of our life, the Lord has left us the sacrament of his Eucharist,” he said.

The cardinal said it was “the greatest prize of recognition” that one could confer upon the Eucharist is to let Christ “guide us in all the regions where we expect in need of his peace,” both in one’s personal life and in “the peripheries of the environments we know.”

“May you all go in the Peace of Christ the Eucharist! You can continue to count on Him, He is an inexhaustible source of peace and reconciliation,” said Cardinal Lacroix.

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Catholic, Orthodox, and Anglican leaders call climate crisis a ‘devastating injustice’

Tue, 09/07/2021 - 16:24

By Courtney Mares, Catholic News Agency

The three Christian leaders said that there would be “catastrophic consequences” for future generations unless the world took responsibility for environmental damage.

“The current climate crisis speaks volumes about who we are and how we view and treat God’s creation. We stand before a harsh justice: biodiversity loss, environmental degradation, and climate change are the inevitable consequences of our actions, since we have greedily consumed more of the earth’s resources than the planet can endure,” their statement, issued on Sept. 7, said.

“But we also face a profound injustice: the people bearing the most catastrophic consequences of these abuses are the poorest on the planet and have been the least responsible for causing them.”

“We serve a God of justice, who delights in creation and creates every person in God’s image, but also hears the cry of people who are poor. Accordingly, there is an innate call within us to respond with anguish when we see such devastating injustice.”

The pope, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, and the Archbishop of Canterbury signed the joint text on Sept. 1. The message brought together the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Anglican Communion, respectively the world’s largest, second-largest, and third-largest Christian communions.

“As leaders of our Churches, we call on everyone, whatever their belief or worldview, to endeavor to listen to the cry of the earth and of people who are poor, examining their behavior and pledging meaningful sacrifices for the sake of the earth which God has given us,” the three men wrote.

The joint statement highlighted the U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP26) taking place in Glasgow, Scotland, on Nov. 1-12.

“As world leaders prepare to meet in November at Glasgow to deliberate on the future of our planet, we pray for them and consider what the choices [sic] we must all make,” it said.

Pope Francis noted in an interview aired on Sept. 1 that he hoped to travel to Scotland to take part in the conference.

“It all depends on how I feel at the time. But in fact, my speech is already being prepared, and the plan is to be there,” he said.

In their joint message, the pope, the patriarch, and the archbishop said: “In our common Christian tradition, the Scriptures and the saints provide illuminating perspectives for comprehending both the realities of the present and the promise of something larger than what we see in the moment.”

“The concept of stewardship — of individual and collective responsibility for our God-given endowment — presents a vital starting point for social, economic, and environmental sustainability.”

They concluded: “All of us — whoever and wherever we are — can play a part in changing our collective response to the unprecedented threat of climate change and environmental degradation. Caring for God’s creation is a spiritual commission requiring a response of commitment.”

“This is a critical moment. Our children’s future and the future of our common home depend on it.”

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Vatican releases “synod on synodality” preparatory documents

Tue, 09/07/2021 - 16:00

By Courtney Mares, Catholic News Agency

[Vatican City – CNA] – On Sept. 7, 2021, the Vatican released a preparatory document and handbook for the 2023 synod on synodality to be reviewed by all Catholic dioceses in the world over the next six months.

“It is precisely this path of synodality which God expects of the Church of the third millennium,” the new document states, quoting Pope Francis.

“This journey, which follows in the wake of the Church’s ‘renewal’ proposed by the Second Vatican Council, is both a gift and a task.”

The Vatican published on Sept. 7 the 22-page preparatory document, “For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission,” and the 42-page vademecum, or handbook, for the diocesan phase of the synod.

The handbook includes prayers, a description of synodality, the objectives of the synodal process, and the main questions to which the local Catholic communities are asked to give feedback. It underlines that dioceses should focus on “maximum inclusion and participation” among baptized Catholics in the diocesan synod process.

The preparatory document has been released for a period of “pre-synodal discernment” that will influence a second draft of the text to be published before June 2023.

According to the Vatican, the preparatory document is “a tool to facilitate the first phase of listening to and consulting the People of God in the particular Churches” for the diocesan phase of the synod.

The diocesan phase

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

The handbook says that dioceses should organize local gatherings for “synodal consultation,” and also enable individuals to give their feedback directly to the diocese.

It recommends that multiple parishes come together for these “synodal consultation meetings” so that “a range of people from different socio-economic backgrounds, ethnicities, age groups” take part.

The preparatory document, handbook, and questionnaire are to be reviewed by dioceses, as well as superior generals, unions, and federations of consecrated life, international lay movements, and Catholic universities during this phase.

The diocesan synod process should “tap into the richness of the lived experience of the Church in their local context,” the handbook says.

Main questions to be considered

Questions are included at the end of handbook, which says that the “fundamental question” to be considered by the dioceses and the bishops over this multi-year process is as follows:

“A synodal Church, in announcing the Gospel, ‘journeys together.’ How is this ‘journeying together’ happening today in your local Church? What steps does the Spirit invite us to take in order to grow in our ‘journeying together?’”

In considering this, dioceses will receive and report feedback on the following:

  • What are difficulties, obstacles, and wounds in the local Church?
  • What is the Holy Spirit asking of us?
  • In our local Church, who are those who “walk together”? Who are those who seem further apart?
  • How is God speaking to us through voices we sometimes ignore? How are the laity listened to, especially women and young people? What facilitates or inhibits our listening?
  • How does the relationship with the local media work (not only Catholic media)? Who speaks on behalf of the Christian community, and how are they chosen?
  • How do prayer and liturgical celebrations actually inspire and guide our common life and mission in our community?
  • What hinders the baptized from being active in mission? What areas of mission are we neglecting?
  • To what extent do diverse peoples in our community come together for dialogue? What are the places and means of dialogue within our local Church?
  • How are divergences of vision, or conflicts and difficulties addressed? What particular issues in the Church and society do we need to pay more attention to?
  • What relationships does our Church community have with members of other Christian traditions and denominations?
  • How does our Church community identify the goals to be pursued, the way to reach them, and the steps to be taken? How is authority or governance exercised within our local Church?
  • How do we promote participation in decision-making within hierarchical structures? Do our decision-making methods help us to listen to the whole People of God?
What is synodality?

The preparatory document describes synodality as “the form, the style, and the structure of the Church.”

“The Synodal Process is first and foremost a spiritual process. It is not a mechanical data-gathering exercise or a series of meetings and debates. Synodal listening is oriented towards discernment,” the handbook says.

The handbook describes the synodal journey as an experience of “authentic listening and discernment on the path of becoming the Church that God calls us to be.”

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

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

One objective of the synod on synodality, according to the preparatory document, is to examine “how responsibility and power are lived in the Church as well as the structures by which they are managed, bringing to light and trying to convert prejudices and distorted practices that are not rooted in the Gospel.”

“The purpose of the first phase of the synodal journey is to foster a broad consultation process in order to gather the wealth of the experiences of lived synodality, in its different articulations and facets, involving the pastors and the faithful of the particular Churches at all the different levels,” the preparatory document says.

“We recall that the purpose of the synod, and therefore of this consultation, is not to produce documents, but ‘to plant dreams, draw forth prophecies and visions, allow hope to flourish, inspire trust, bind up wounds, weave together relationships, awaken a dawn of hope, learn from one another and create a bright resourcefulness that will enlighten minds, warm hearts, give strength to our hands,’” it says, quoting from Pope Francis’ address at the opening of the youth synod in October 2018.

The Vatican held a press conference on Sept. 7 to discuss the newly released documents.

Cardinal Mario Grech, the secretary general of Synod of Bishops, spoke on a panel, along with undersecretaries Sr. Nathalie Becquart and Bishop Luis Marín de San Martín. Myriam Wijlens and Fr. Dario Vitali, consultors for the synod, also answered questions as part of the panel.

At the press conference, Grech said that synodality is “the mature fruit” of the Second Vatican Council.

“The synod is not a parliament,” the cardinal said.

“A synod is an experience of everyone listening to the Holy Spirit,” he added.

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Opening Mass begins academic year for diocese’s new formation program

Mon, 09/06/2021 - 14:55

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

A new vocation formation program in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon began the academic and ministry year with an opening Mass at the Sts. Benedict and Scholastica residence Sept. 1, followed by a day of orientation and reflection for the first two program participants.

The new program combines diocesan-led faith formation and vocation discernment with an academic path at St. Thomas More College.

The Sts. Benedict and Scholastica Formation Program is designed for candidates who are pursuing “an academic and vocational pathway” – which includes men discerning ordained priesthood, as well as men or women discerning religious life or professional lay ecclesial ministry in the Church. Program participants will live in community and study while discerning their life’s vocation, obtaining spiritual formation while they obtain a degree.

In addition to moving into the residence established for the program and launching into “spiritual and human formation” led by the Verbum Dei Sisters, inaugural participants Jerome Montpetit of Bruno and Huy Le of Saskatoon will also shortly begin their academic year at St. Thomas More College.

Bishop Mark Hagemoen celebrated Mass and blessed the altar and chapel of the residence on Temperance Street in Saskatoon Sept. 1, before joining two Verbum Dei sisters in leading the orientation day.

Sr. Malou Tibayan is coordinating the diocesan side of the program, along with another soon-to-arrive member of the Verbum Dei Missionary Community, Sr. Claudia Vázquez Díaz and Fr Daniel Yasinski, vocation director and pastor at Our Lady of the Assumption-Kerrobert, with input and planning also provided by Sr. Marta Piano of Verbum Dei, and Fr. Matthew Ramsay, pastor at St. Anne Parish in Saskatoon.

“I am very excited,” said Tibayan. “And I am looking forward to journeying with Jerome and Huy. We are making history, because they are the pioneers, the first candidates of this formation program. This is also the start of this work in the diocese – so everything is ‘in the making.’ And  everything is in the hands of the Holy Spirit.”

Originally from Vietnam, program participant Huy Le has lived in Saskatoon for the past 10 years and has a degree from the U of S. “When I decided to pursue priesthood, I came to meet the bishop and he introduced me to this program,” he says. “I am excited to begin.”

“I am grateful to the bishop for his support and for this program,” says Jerome Montpetit, who previously completed the formation program at St. Therese Institute of Faith and Mission at Bruno, SK.

The new diocesan formation program has the potential to be a “next step” for young Catholics who have completed formation through St. Therese, suggests Bishop Mark Hagemoen. And as a federated Catholic College at the University of Saskatchewan, St. Thomas More College (STM) provides a top-notch academic path for those enrolled in the Sts. Benedict and Scholastica program, he adds.

“ STM has the ability to offer classical philosophy, which is the fundamental feature and academic basis for a Masters of Divinity or other Theology program,” says the bishop. “Participants will get a University of Saskatchewan Bachelors’ degree that is recognized across the country.”

The common thread for all who will participate in the Sts. Benedict and Scholastica Formation Program is that it is “for people who have discerned that God is calling them to a kind of formation that tracks towards pursuing ordained priesthood, religious life or lay professional ministry in the Church,” says Hagemoen.

He notes that “human and spiritual formation” is an even greater emphasis of the Church when it comes to preparing men for ordained priesthood. “That curriculum, which has been adopted by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, is informing the human and spiritual program that is being overseen by the Verbum Dei Sisters and several of our own qualified clergy.”

The vision for the Sts. Benedict and Scholastica program is to eventually have a women’s community alongside the men’s community.

“I see this as more than the first step,” says Sr. Marta Piano of this year’s opening of a first residence for men. “I see this as a sprout of life, that is just beginning. It is a spring, coming out and then we will see it opening wide, and growing.”

For the Verbum Dei sisters, the Sts. Benedict and Scholastica Formation Program fits with the charism of their religious community, which is to pray, live and proclaim the Word of God.

Working with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon on evangelization and faith formation also constitutes the first Verbum Dei presence in Canada. “We are hoping to found a community in Canada, depending on this apostolic experience,” says Tibayan.

“I want to express gratitude in the name of our community, the Verbum Dei, to Bishop Mark for inviting us. It is a huge trust,” says Tibayan.

During his homily at the opening Mass Sept. 1, the bishop reflected on the Church’s primary mission to “proclaim the Good News – to proclaim Christ.” Discernment, formation and mission are life-long pursuits, he added. “It is not just the task of an academic term, a year or eight years. It’s a trajectory of a lifetime.”

Related article: Sts Benedict & Scholastica Formation Program introduced

 

 

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International Eucharistic Congress begins in Budapest, Hungary

Mon, 09/06/2021 - 14:33

By Courtney Mares, Catholic News Agency

[Hungary – CNA] – The International Eucharistic Congress kicks off Sunday with an opening Mass with a 1,000-strong choir and First Communions in the centre of Budapest.

The congress is a celebration of the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist with participants from across the world.

The tradition began in France in 1881 and has grown into an international Catholic event, alternating host countries nearly every four years for the past 140 years.

The 52nd International Eucharistic Congress is taking place on Sept. 5-12 in the capital of Hungary. Here are some of the highlights:

Opening Mass in Heroes’ Square

The congress began Sunday, Sept. 5, in Heroes’ Square with an opening ceremony including a performance by a choir of 1,000 singers. Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco presided at the opening Mass attended by students from Hungary’s Catholic schools, some of whom received First Communion.

Exhibition on the persecution of Christians

An exhibition on the persecution of Christians around the world will also open in cooperation with the Hungarian National Museum and Hungary Helps, the country’s humanitarian assistance program for persecuted Christians.

Speaking ahead of the congress, Regina Lynch, director of projects for the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, said: “In many countries, the faithful have a genuine longing to receive the Eucharist and feel its presence, and together with others, they face many problems — the lack of religious freedom, insecurity as a result of civil and military conflicts, long distances combined with a lack of transport, and also poverty — many communities lack the resources to build a place of worship or even to support their priests.”

Cardinal speakers from five continents

More than 25 cardinals and bishops will take part in the week of events at the main congress venue, the Hungexpo Budapest Congress and Exhibition Centre. The event’s program lists cardinals from five continents as leaders of the congress’ morning prayers, catechesis, testimonies, and workshops.

Cardinal Robert Sarah will offer a Mass at the Church of the Holy Angels in Gazdagrét on Sept. 8 and Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich of Luxembourg will celebrate Mass on Sept. 10.

The program also includes lay Catholic speakers such as Mary Healy, a professor of Scripture at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, and Barbara Heil, an American mother of eight who converted to Catholicism after serving as an Evangelical missionary in 55 countries.

New Mass setting in Romani language

Among its daily liturgies, the congress will also feature a Mass setting in Lovari, a language spoken by the Romani people in Hungary.  The new Mass setting, known as “Le Devleske,” will be heard at a Mass offered on Sept. 9 at the Hungexpo center.

Candlelight Procession

On Saturday, Sept. 11, Cardinal Péter Erdő of Esztergom-Budapest will offer Mass in Kossuth Square, home to the spectacular Hungarian Parliament Building, followed by a candlelight procession to Heroes’ Square.

The cardinal told CNA in February that he was convinced that the congress would be “a great sign of hope for the Catholics all around the world” following the pandemic.

Closing Mass with Pope Francis

The event will culminate on Sept. 12 with a closing Mass offered by Pope Francis in Heroes’ Square at 11:30 a.m local time. Pope Francis will be the first pope to take part in an International Eucharistic Congress since the year 2000.

The 52nd International Eucharistic Congress was originally scheduled to take place in 2020 but was postponed to 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The ongoing pandemic has also had an effect on the number of Catholics who are able to travel to the international gathering.

A hymn from the 1938 congress will be used again as the official anthem of this year’s event, according to Cardinal Péter Erdő, the archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest.

He noted that the hymn gave “devout Catholics, Hungarians, strength during the war, as well as later in the decades of communism and oppression.”

“The Catholic community is waiting for the arrival of the Holy Father in great joy and love. We are praying for his visit to be the sign of hope and a new beginning after the abatement of the pandemic,” Erdő said.

The International Eucharistic Congress in Budapest will be broadcast by EWTN: https://www.ewtn.com/tv/spotlight/52nd-international-eucharistic-congress

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B.C. Bishops launch fund-raising campaign in support of healing and reconciliation

Mon, 09/06/2021 - 14:18

By Agnieszka Ruck, The B.C, Catholic

Hopes are high for a generous response to the B.C. Bishops’ Campaign in Support of Healing and Reconciliation this month.

Advance giving started in July but the fundraising campaign’s official launch was Sept. 1, with a second collection toward the cause taking place Sept. 11 and 12 in all churches within the Archdiocese of Vancouver. All contributions are destined for local reconciliation efforts.

“We have an obligation to do something, to extend a hand,” said Archbishop J. Michael Miller in an interview Aug. 10. The collection “will help to fund initiatives that will go exclusively to healing and reconciliation with First Nations. We are going to take our cues from what their leadership wants.”

Chris Ufford, director of the archdiocese’s Development Office, said proceeds from the campaign will be focused on a variety of needs including assistance in determining who died at residential schools and what caused their deaths; mental health supports for those affected by the findings; expanded community outreach programs including emergency shelter, food, art therapy, counselling, and social work; and preserving Indigenous language, art, and culture.

The Archdiocese of Vancouver is joining with the dioceses of Kamloops, Nelson, Prince George, and Victoria in the campaign. In a joint statement released July 26, the five bishops of B.C. said they “recognize the need for a province-wide initiative to raise funds to support healing and reconciliation among Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.”

The bishops, who will consult with local Indigenous leaders, elders, and residential school survivors to decide where the funds will go, said they hope the campaign will “help restore trust and further the ongoing journey to truth and reconciliation.”

The bishops of Saskatchewan have launched a fundraising appeal of their own – Catholic TRC Healing Response (LINK) . The Diocese of Calgary and the Archdiocese of Toronto have made similar pledges to provide or raise funds.

Meanwhile, a lay-led national group called Catholics for Truth and Reconciliation hopes to raise $50,000 for three organizations: Returning to Spirit, the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, and Reconciliation Canada. So far they have raised half of this goal. They are also encouraging Catholics to consider donating to the bishop-led campaigns.

The Vancouver-based group Catholic Street Missionaries is encouraging young adults aged 19-39 to participate in reconciliation efforts through 24 hours of fasting and prayer Sept. 10-11. Held at St. Mary’s Church in Vancouver and Westminster Abbey in Mission, the event gives young adults an option to donate or raise funds through pledges if they choose.

The Catholic Church in Canada has received heavy criticism for not doing enough to support reconciliation efforts financially. In a 2006 Settlement Agreement, the federal government was to cover the “compensation” portion, while Catholic entities were tasked with providing “programs of healing and reconciliation.”

The Church made a three-part commitment: $29 million to support healing and reconciliation programs; $25 million of “services in kind”; and $25 million in a national “best efforts” fundraising campaign.

The Church met the first and exceeded the second, but fell dramatically short for the third. Only $3.7 million was raised in the “best efforts” campaign, with the Archdiocese of Vancouver contributing just under $1 million of that.

Church leaders are hoping the new national collections will help close the gap.

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New CWL national president sets sites on return to normal

Mon, 09/06/2021 - 13:49

By Michael Swan, The Catholic Register

Newly elected Catholic Women’s League president Fran Lucas has a long list of hopes and dreams for Canada’s largest women’s organization, but the most immediate item on her wish list is “to come back to something as close as possible to the normal we once knew.”

“You don’t know what you’ve lost until it’s gone,” said Lucas. “I think of attending Mass, visiting with friends, attending a funeral. We’ve missed all that.”

Lucas officially moved up the ladder from president-elect to president on Aug. 10, 2021 in a virtual meeting of members of the CWL national executive. It was a bit subdued, as online meetings tend to be. Her president’s pin arrived in the mail a few days later. “I haven’t worn it yet,” Lucas said.

She’ll get that chance at the first live, in-person meeting of CWL executive members in Winnipeg, Oct. 1. If all goes according to plan, the drive to post-COVID normal will culminate in an Aug. 13-17, 2022 national convention open to all 70,000 members in Kelowna, B.C., next year.

The 2022 CWL theme, “Catholic and Living It,” reflects a desire by CWL members from coast to coast to bring life to their local parish councils and to their parishes, Lucas said.

“I want the CWL impact to be felt in parish communities and beyond,” she said.

Lucas is aware of the hill her organization has to climb. The League has gotten smaller and older over the past two generations.

“Our numbers are going down and we won’t be able to sustain ourselves,” she said. “The executive positions just aren’t filled and it gets harder on our members.”

s the former manager of volunteer services for Edmonton Northlands, a not-for-profit that supports agriculture and small town life in northern Alberta, Lucas knows revitalizing the CWL means supporting women in their roles on parish councils.
“I hope we attract more women and give them the appropriate training, to give them the confidence and skills to say yes when a (CWL) election rolls around,” she said.

Lucas is also certain that a revitalization of the League will have to be based on a solid base of spiritual maturity.

“One thing we want to do when we meet in October is, I’ve asked for a retreat with the women,” she said. “So that we can get off to a really strong start.”

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Haiti caught in grip of chaos

Mon, 09/06/2021 - 13:08

By Michael Swan, The Catholic Register

When the 2010 earthquake hit Haiti, Jesuit Fr. Jean Frankcy went with his brother novices out onto the streets of Dumay, on the outskirts of Port au Prince. That night, the young religious men began digging through rubble with their bare hands. More than a decade later, Frankcy finds himself in Toronto, newly ordained, praying fervently for his nation, his family and his brother Jesuits back home.

“I woke up and I saw the images. I was really sad,” Frankcy told The Catholic Register days after a magnitude 7.2 earthquake devastated the Tiburon Peninsula in Haiti’s southwest on Aug. 14, 2021. “I called some friends. I really pray for Haiti. Haiti is my home.”

Haiti faces chaos on all sides.

In July the Caribbean nation’s controversial president Moise Juvenal was murdered in his home, sparking another political crisis. Before the earthquake hit, critical roads were controlled by criminal gangs demanding cash for passage. The country’s agriculture has been pushed to the edge by drought and climate change.

Now, as more than 500 aftershocks rumbled through the countryside, tropical depression Grace showed up to dump over 25 cm of rain on a population sleeping outside for fear that their houses would collapse on them. Nor has the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere been spared COVID-19. The nation of more than 11 million has vaccinated fewer than 20,000 people — less than one per cent of the population.

The earthquake killed over 2,200 people, damaged at least 136,000 buildings and left thousands of injured desperate for medical help. Water, tents and medical supplies are in short supply. Roads are fissured and flooded.

Frankcy remembers the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake as a time of paradoxical hope, when Haitians worked together and spoke of refounding the nation — building back better. But the billions that poured into a broken nation following the 2010 disaster were spent by foreign aid agencies on whatever priorities they set. The moment of hope passed and the politics of Haiti again descended into division, corruption and dependence on aid.

“The division in Haiti, I can’t really understand,” said Frankcy. “The only time we were united as people, as a nation, was to get independence against the colonizers.” (Haiti claimed independence from Napoleon in 1804).

Frankcy’s first assignment from his provincial superior in the Jesuit province of Canada and Haiti is to raise funds on behalf of about 70 young Jesuits who make up the Haitian Jesuit community. Right now, the money Frankcy collects will go to buying water and other essential supplies for desperate Haitians.

Where governments and aid agencies often fail in Haiti, the Church feeds, educates and cares for the poor. Near the epicentre of the quake the Jesuits run three “Faith and Hope” schools and are about to assume leadership of one of the parishes. Many Jesuits come from the region and know the needs of the local people. Canadian Jesuits International has begun raising money to support their work.

Like Canadian Jesuits International, Development and Peace/Caritas Canada has a long history in Haiti and has begun lining up aid for its partners in the country.

“Caritas Haiti is mobilizing,” said Latin America program officer Mary Durran.

While Caritas Haiti concentrates on the immediate, disaster relief side of the operation, Development and Peace is working on medium- and longer-term solutions for the people who have been left homeless. Since the last earthquake hit, and again after Hurricane Matthew swept away entire communities in catastrophic mudslides in 2016, long-term Development and Peace Partner ITECA (Institut de Technologie et D’Animation) has built hundreds of homes across the country.

A quick check of ITECA houses in the new earthquake zone found 13 of 14 undamaged.

Each house costs about $9,000 and are built to survive the frequent hurricanes and earthquakes of the region. But most of all, the ITECA houses represent an effort of the Haitian people for themselves and not a handout from a foreign NGO, said Durran.

“Our strategy is to reinforce the people’s own dignity and independence, rather than reinforcing dependency,” Durran said. “The response is co-ordinated with Haitians. It’s directed by Haitians. It takes a while to consult people, to find out exactly what the situation is and what their precise needs are. We involve people.”

Development and Peace maintains no office in Haiti, despite a half-century of work in the country. They trust and support their partners.

Durran understands that many people throw up their hands when they hear about another disaster in Haiti, but she’s convinced the slow, small-scale, community building work of Development and Peace’s partners is making a difference.

“There’s always hope that things can get better,” she said.

Canadian Catholic adopt-a-child agency Chalice has also ramped up a fund to help the communities of Latiboliére and Prévilé, where Chalice supports more than 480 children.

Chalice’s Haitian partner, Missionaries de l’Annonciation – Semeurs d’Espoir, is co-ordinating disaster relief.

The pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need has already sent an emergency aid package of $750,000 on to the dioceses of Les Cayes, Anse-á-Veau and Jeremie and is calling on donors to step up on behalf of the Haitian Church.

“At this difficult time, we cannot abandon this Church, which is fighting to support its people,” said Aid to the Church in Need executive president Dr. Thomas Heine-Geldern in a release.

“The Church in Haiti, in this specific moment, will need the support of the universal Church to really respond,” explained Frankcy. “We can’t really do that just on our own. As Pope Francis has said, we have to work as one body in good times and in difficult times so that we can respond to the needs of the people. We are one Church.”

Frankcy still believes in that hope that followed the 2010 earthquake. “Haiti is a place we build together. It’s not about our individuality in that sense. It’s about using our energies and our strength together, so that we can hope together,” he said.

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Climate change an election ballot issue for many Canadians, including some faith groups

Fri, 09/03/2021 - 13:24

By Brian Dryden, Canadian Catholic News

[Ottawa – CCN] – A coalition of faith groups that have been warning for years that unless climate change is addressed the future enjoyment of God’s creation by humanity is bleak are encouraged that most of Canada’s mainstream political parties address the issue in their campaign platforms as Canadians get set to vote in a national election on Sept. 20.

Just before the Canadian federal election was called, a United Nations report released on Aug. 9 stated that “earth’s climate in every region and across the whole climate system” has been severely impacted.

The report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said that some of that climate change may already be “irreversible over hundreds to thousands of years” but added that “strong and sustained reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide … and other greenhouse gases would limit climate change.”

“While benefits for air quality would come quickly, it could take 20-30 years to see global temperatures stabilize,” the UN report claimed.

As Catholic-related faith based organizations such as the Centre Oblate: A Voice for Justice, which has its offices within the Catholic St. Paul University in Ottawa, Development and Peace and the Canadian Religious Conference, continue to advocate on behalf of the faith-based For the Love of Creation coalition, the Angus Reid Institute said on Aug. 27 that “the top issue identified by voters in driving their ballot choice is climate change.”

According to Angus Reid Institute, there are other issues that are almost as important as a ballot issue to Canadians such as access to health care and tax rates (both 13 per cent), but the public survey organization said one-in-five Canadians (18 per cent) put climate change as the most important issue facing voters.

That climate change has become an important issue for Canadian voters does not surprise faith-based organization such as Kairos Canada, which plans to take part in a one-day “climate strike” just a few days after the federal election.

“With a federal election underway and extreme weather events abound, this is a historic opportunity to usher in the change that youth and marginalized communities have been calling for,” said Kairos on its website about the upcoming post-election event on Sept. 24 event.

Kairos Canada added that “by striking together, united by common struggles, we demand a rapid and fair decarbonization of our economy, for a safer, greener, more just future.”

Kairos Canada, which is overseen by the United Church in Canada also includes as member organizations the Catholic international aid organization Development and Peace and the Canadian Religious Conference, which since 1954 has been an outlet for more than 250 Catholic congregations.

According to the Angus Reid poll, voters who put a premium on climate change as an urgent issue are much more likely to support the governing Liberals or NDP when they vote, while Canadians who focus on traditional economic issues such as national debt and taxation levels are more likely to support the Conservatives despite O’Toole’s efforts to make the party more environmentally-friendly than it has been perceived as in past elections.

For the Ottawa-based Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ), a faith-based public policy advocacy organization, addressing climate change in a meaningful way is one of the key issues that Canadians face in the coming years.

“It is critical that (greenhouse gas) emission reductions are accelerated across the Canadian economy — especially the highest emitting sectors — and signficiant investments are made in a just transition to a new green, decarbonized economy,” said CPJ senior policy analyst Karri Munn-Venn.

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Pope Francis says pandemic is a wake-up call about caring for creation

Thu, 09/02/2021 - 14:45
The Season of Creation runs from Sept. 1 to Oct. 4

By Courtney Mares, Catholic News Agency

[Vatican City – CNA] – Pope Francis released a message Sept. 1, 2021 for the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation in which he called for repentance for humanity’s broken bonds with God’s creation and with others.

“Today we hear the voice of creation admonishing us to return to our rightful place in the natural created order — to remember that we are part of this interconnected web of life, not its masters. The disintegration of biodiversity, spiralling climate disasters, and unjust impact of the current pandemic on the poor and vulnerable: all these are a wake-up call in the face of our rampant greed and consumption,” Pope Francis wrote in the message. published Sept, 1.

“For the world was made to communicate the glory of God, to help us to discover in its beauty the Lord of all, and to return to him,” said the Holy Father.

Pope Francis suggested that the coronavirus pandemic presented a “decisive moment” for people to examine their habits of energy usage, consumption, transportation, and diet, to eliminate the superfluous and destruction aspects of our economies in favor of “life-giving ways” to trade, produce, and transport goods.

“In some ways, the current pandemic has led us to rediscover simpler and sustainable lifestyles. The crisis, in a sense, has given us a chance to develop new ways of living. Already we can see how the earth can recover if we allow it to rest: the air becomes cleaner, the waters clearer, and animals have returned to many places from where they had previously disappeared,” he said.

“Today we need to find just and sustainable ways of living that can give the Earth the rest it requires, ways that satisfy everyone with a sufficiency, without destroying the ecosystems that sustain us.”

The World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation was established following the publication of the encyclical Laudato si’ in 2015. Pope Francis said in his 2020 message that the period from Sept. 1 to Oct. 4 — the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi — is being celebrated as a “Season of Creation.”

As part of the Season of Creation, online webinar discussions will be held throughout September focused on sustainable development in different regions of the world. Live translation will be provided.

Pope Francis added that he was pleased to learn that the theme for this year’s Season of Creation is “Jubilee for the Earth,” because a jubilee is a time to “remember, return, rest, restore, and rejoice.”

“A Jubilee is a time to return to God our loving Creator. We cannot live in harmony with creation if we are not at peace with the Creator who is the source and origin of all things. As Pope Benedict observed, ‘the brutal consumption of creation begins where God is missing, where matter has become simply material for us, where we ourselves are the ultimate measure, where everything is simply our property,'” he said.

Pope Francis pointed to specific steps that countries can take to care for creation. These included biodiversity restoration, protection of indigenous communities, and reducing emissions.

“Climate restoration is of utmost importance, since we are in the midst of a climate emergency. We are running out of time, as our children and young people have reminded us. We need to do everything in our capacity to limit global average temperature rise under the threshold of 1.5°C enshrined in the Paris Climate Agreement, for going beyond that will prove catastrophic, especially for poor communities around the world,” he said.

“We need to stand up for intra-generational and inter-generational solidarity at this critical moment. I invite all nations to adopt more ambitious national targets to reduce emissions, in preparation for the important Climate Summit (COP 26) in Glasgow in the United Kingdom.”

He also appealed for support of the United Nations’ call to safeguard 30% of the earth as protected habitats by 2030 to counter biodiversity loss, stating that the Summit on Biodiversity (COP 15) in Kunming, China could become “a turning point in restoring the earth to be a home of life in abundance, as willed by the Creator.”

The pope hailed initiatives of the Laudato si’ encyclical’anniversary year, which began May 24. He said that this year should lead to “long-term action plans to practice integral ecology in our families, parishes and dioceses, religious orders, our schools and universities.”

“Let us all rejoice that our loving Creator sustains our humble efforts to care for the earth, which is also God’s home where his Word ‘became flesh and lived among us’ and which is constantly being renewed by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit,” he said. “Send forth your Spirit, O Lord, and renew the face of the earth.”

 

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Catholics challenged to take politics seriously

Wed, 09/01/2021 - 13:09
Too many are content to merely cast a ballot, says author John Milloy

By Michael Swan, The Catholic Register

Canadians have a lot to think about before the Sept. 20 election. But for Catholics, it’s getting harder to be political and to contribute to public debate, says the author of a brand-new book about faith and politics in Canada.

From reconciliation with Indigenous Canadians to family and life issues, Catholics carry a special burden, John Milloy, former Ontario cabinet minister and advisor to Jean Chretien, told The Catholic Register days after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dissolved Parliament.

Milloy’s new book, Politics and Faith in a Polarized World, A Challenge for Catholics, amounts to a 114-page plea with Catholics to take politics seriously. The Novalis book launches Sept. 1.

A free Catholic Action Webinar featuring John Milloy will be hosted by the national organization Catholic Conscience online on Wednesday, Sept. 15 at 5 p.m. (SK time). Find more details and/or register for the Sept. 15 event at: http://www.catholicpolitics.eventbrite.ca/

Milloy laments that too many Catholics have reduced politics to the minimal, perfunctory act of casting a ballot.

“The fact is that we should be, particularly as Catholics, interested in public policy,” Milloy said. “We should be interested in what’s going on at Queen’s Park and on Parliament Hill and at City Hall all the time. That’s part of our calling. It doesn’t mean that you vote and forget about it and sort of be proud of yourself.”

Milloy regrets that Canadian Catholics who want to contribute to national debates aren’t getting a lot of help from their leaders right now. Canada’s bishops seem unable to publicly explain what they’re doing or why they’re doing it when it comes to the legacy of Indian residential schools, among other things, he said.

“There are some wonderful bishops out there and some incredible priests. But as a whole, I think they have to get their act together,” Milloy said. “Obviously in terms of reconciliation, but on a host of other issues.

He compares what comes out of the contemporary bishops’ conference with the bold statements of Pope Francis.

“You read Fratelli Tutti. You read some of what Pope Francis is saying. Good grief, he knows his stuff. The world needs change. He’s addressing the big picture and we’re not doing that in Canada,” he said.

Catholics should not feel overwhelmed by the complexity or breadth of the issues Canada is facing in the upcoming election, said Catholic Conscience executive director Brendan Steven. The Catholic faith and politics organization is gearing up with a variety of tools to help Catholic voters, he said.

From online, one-on-one interviews with party representatives to summaries of party platforms, Catholic Conscience is striving “to make it really easy for Catholics to think about and to discern their vote in light of their faith,” Steven said. “They can go (to the website https://catholicconscience.org) and they can look at the parties’ various policies in light of Catholic social teaching, and do so in a holistic way.”

Steven wants to abolish the image of Catholics as single-issue voters. Instead, he believes Catholic voters need to be discerning voters.

“The less important thing is the outcome of the discernment,” he said. “It’s actually recognizing the shared starting point that we all have as Catholics. … Two faithful Catholics who are thinking about their politics and what they believe about culture can start from that same position of Catholic social teaching and faithful Catholicism and they can discern their way to two very different outcomes, supporting two very different political parties.”

Catholic Conscience will sponsor a novena for nine days of rosaries praying for Canada going into the Sept. 20 vote.

“We want to create a prayerful space in this election where Catholics can come together,” Steven said. “At the very least, we could unite around prayer. We can pray together and share that. Hopefully, that creates a bit of a more charitable starting point for Catholics engaged in politics.”

In Milloy’s view, there’s nothing more Catholic than politics.

“We have a call to build a common life together with those we like, those we don’t like and those we can’t stand. That’s the call of Christianity,” he said. “The whole idea of seeing the image of God in someone else, that’s powerful. That’s unbelievably powerful.”

Even if no party is going to try to put abortion back in the criminal code — “there’s not a single political party that would touch it with a 1,000-foot pole,” Milloy said — there is a lot of scope for Catholics to be pro-life in their politics, said the former Liberal political operative.

“When you start to worry about the environment, when you start to worry about poverty, when you start to worry about women in crisis who are pregnant, when you start to worry about not just being pro-birth but being clearly pro-life, you start to create the type of society that we’re called to build. Then we’re answering that pro-life call,” he said.

 

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