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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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Canadian Catholic bishops provide resources to celebrate the Year of St. Joseph

Mon, 03/22/2021 - 11:45

By Lisa Gall, CCCB Communications

On the occasion of the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, Husband of The Blessed Virgin Mary on March 19, 2021, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) announced the launch of a webpage and corresponding resources dedicated to this special memorial year entitled Celebrating the Year of St. Joseph.

This follows the Dec. 8, 2020 declaration of a Year of St. Joseph by Pope Francis, to mark the 150th anniversary of the proclamation by Pope Pius IX of St. Joseph as the Patron of the Universal Church.

CCCB Prayer Card (PDF): Prayer to St. Joseph

CCCB Guided Video Reflections (LINK)

A joint initiative of the CCCB’s Office for Evangelization and Catechesis, the Office for Family and Life, the National Liturgy Office and the Office national de liturgie, the new CCCB webpage will offer visitors several resources for use in parishes, religious communities, families and in schools, such as: prayers, litanies, and devotions; Consecration to Saint Joseph; Church documents; and catechetical resources for children, youth and adults.

A series of seven short video reflections based on the recent Apostolic Letter Patris Corde (With a Father’s Heart) are offered in both English and French. This resource for adult faith formation highlights each of the seven attributes of St. Joseph.

The webpage and its resources will be updated periodically throughout the Year of Saint Joseph.



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Safeguarding commitments in diocese of Saskatoon include prevention and response to sexual abuse and serious misconduct

Thu, 03/18/2021 - 12:49

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

Since launching a Safeguarding Action Plan last year, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon has continued to move forward with commitments related to protecting the vulnerable and responding to allegations of abuse by clergy or lay employees.

Advancing the “Safer Church, Stronger Communities” plan announced in March 2020 is a priority for Bishop Mark Hagemoen, and for the 10-member diocesan Safeguarding Committee,  chaired by Brenda FitzGerald.

“It is my goal to hold the bar very high in working to ensure that all our churches are safe and respectful communities,” says Bishop Hagemoen.

The 20 commitments in the diocesan Safeguarding Action Plan ( ) include items related to outreach and healing, to processes of reporting and addressing allegations of serious misconduct and sexual abuse, to policies and training in the diocese, and to expanding safeguarding culture.

Safeguarding Action Plan

Since the plan was announced, one particular commitment (#8) to undertake a Historical Case Review has moved forward in spite of challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, says the bishop.

“The Historical Case Review process has been underway, independent of the bishop’s office,” says Hagemoen. “I will not have any details to share until the process is complete and a report is provided – hopefully later this spring.”

This Historical Case Review process includes a review of any historical cases involving the abuse of minors and vulnerable adults by clergy or lay employees in the diocese since the diocese was formed in 1933, notes Brenda FitzGerald, Safeguarding Committee chair.

“The goal is to evaluate if past historical decisions were appropriate, and also what we can learn for future situations if and when they arise. Because this process has not yet concluded, we do not yet know what the content of the report will be, including whether or not there will be names reported,” says FitzGerald.

In another Safeguarding Action Plan commitment (#12), the diocese has stated: “We commit to publicly identifying the names of clergy and church employees who have been found guilty of sexual abuse or other serious misconduct in a court of law or through the diocese’s own safeguarding investigative process, subject to privacy laws.”

“This particular action plan item reflects the diocese’s strong commitment to transparency,” says FitzGerald, noting media interest around the question of releasing names of any clergy or church employees found guilty of sexual abuse or other serious misconduct – not just in a court of law, but through the diocese’s own internal investigation process.

“At the same time, like any organization, the diocese is subject to privacy and defamation laws in our province.”

Safeguarding commitments related to policies and training have also moved forward in the past year, FitzGerald notes.

Continuing education and orientation

Ongoing training efforts include a new one-day “continuing education and orientation day” developed for clergy, staff and volunteers that will be offered with a choice of day – either April 7 or April 8 — available either online or in-person with COVID-19 rules in place.

“Ongoing safeguarding training is part of our commitment in terms of our Safer Church Stronger Communities action plan. Under those commitments, clergy, employees and volunteers who interact with children and vulnerable adults will receive regular and up-to-date training regarding safeguarding and the features of our diocesan Covenant of Care safeguarding policies,” FitzGerald describes.

The latest session will incorporate an up-to-date video program that reviews the basics of safeguarding, strategies to identify potential abuse, steps for ensuring safety for those who are vulnerable, and establishing boundaries. “What is exciting is that everyone will be receiving the same type of education, and that it will be both a re-affirmation or a renewal for people who have seen similar kind of material before, and an orientation for those who are new.”

Such training must be continually reinforced and offered, FitzGerald says, stressing that education on safeguarding cannot be a “one-time event.”

Outreach and healing

Another major “pillar” of the diocesan Safeguarding Action Plan is outreach and healing, notes FitzGerald.

“We are firmly committed to a safe and respectful and compassionate intake process,” she says. “When victims come forward, it is really important to have a quality intake process and to journey compassionately with that person through the process.”

The diocese now has two Intake Officers who respond to anyone coming forward with an allegation of misconduct or serious abuse – a lay woman with a background in counselling and support and a member of the clergy. (Find their contact information at )

“We commit to really listening to those who identify as victims of serious abuse or serious misconduct by others in the Church. We will act in a timely manner on allegations, and it will not be with judgment, but rather with empathy and integrity. It will include providing support through competent and trustworthy caregivers,” describes FitzGerald. “We want a process that treats a person with the utmost carer and compassion as they come forward. That is a very important commitment.”

“We commit to cooperation in prosecuting those committing crimes of sexual abuse, while also committing to a strategy of treatment for perpetrators,” she says.

FitzGerald added that if a member of clergy is found guilty by a court of law or through the diocese’s own investigations, they do not continue to work in ministry and are not transferred to other parishes or dioceses. “We are concerned about safeguarding of our faith community not only in our diocese, but everywhere.”

FitzGerald’s personal commitment to safeguarding people from sexual abuse and misconduct in the Church stems from her own background.

“I grew up a street away from Mount Cashel (in Newfoundland), which was the ‘ground zero’ of child sexual abuse in North America,” she says.

“This issue is important to me because I grew up in the church in a province and at a time when there was not openness and transparency with respect to dealing with allegations of child sexual abuse, where things were kept hidden, where actions taken were not appropriate. I decided that I was going to put my head where my heart was and to work to make things different,” she says of her involvement in the Safeguarding Committee.

“To me what is really important is that we are working to make sure that what happened in the past – across too many places – does not continue to happen.”

FitzGerald concludes: “The work we are doing in this diocese is most importantly about being victim-centred in our approach to dealing with allegations of misconduct or abuse.”



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‘We’re praying for human rights and civil liberties’ in nationwide Zoom liturgy March 21

Thu, 03/18/2021 - 07:54

By Michael Swan, The Catholic Register

The power of prayer is being marshalled across Canada to call out abuse of power by China’s Communist Party in a national, ecumenical Zoom liturgy scheduled for March 21.

“We’re praying for human rights and civil liberties,” Jesuit Fr. Richard Soo told The Catholic Register. “You can include democracy in that, if you want. We’re certainly praying for the pro-democracy activists.”

The evening prayer event from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. SK time (7-8 p.m. Eastern) on Zoom is being sponsored by the Canadian Council of Churches.

Heavy-handed crackdowns on activists demanding democratic rights promised in the 1997 Sino-British Joint Declaration on Hong Kong, government interference and repression of Church activities on the mainland and the genocidal imprisonment of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang Province are all reasons to pray, Soo said.

“As Catholics we are very aware of the persecution of the Catholic Church. We are very aware of clergy and lay people in prison,” the Byzantine-rite Ukrainian Catholic priest said. “We’re very aware of icons and crosses being removed from church buildings. We’re very aware that we’re not allowed to give catechism to anyone under the age of 18 — it’s illegal.”

Detention of approximately three million Uyghers in re-education camps, used as a pool of forced, cheap labour throughout China, is only one indication of what Christians and others will face under Beijing’s direct control of Hong Kong, said Soo.

In a non-binding vote in February, the Canadian Parliament voted 266-0 to declare treatment of Uyghers in China a genocide (Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his cabinet abstained from the vote).

Last year Beijing imposed a new national security law for Hong Kong, giving the Communist Party in Beijing control over who is allowed to run for municipal office, what kind of protest will be tolerated and extending state surveillance of both online and offline activism.

“They’ve totally reneged on democracy and they’ve totally reneged on any kind of civil rights since last July 1, since the imposition — not passing — the imposition by Beijing of the national security law,” said Soo. “People now wipe their Facebook posts for fear. Everyone daily lives under threat. This is why we pray for Hong Kong.”

The prayer event isn’t a protest for or against Beijing’s government or any party in Hong Kong, said Sr. Donna Geernaert, Canadian Council of Churches chair of the Commission on Justice and Peace.

“It’s not a prayer that tries to take sides. It’s a prayer that recognizes a situation which is challenging for everybody involved and tries to really just pray for everybody — to recognize that violence is not a good solution to any problem,” Geernaert said. “If there’s something we can do, prayer seemed to be the most effective thing… You could certainly be supportive of democracy without necessarily choosing any particular party.”

Canadian born and bred, Soo finds himself in the crosshairs of Beijing.

“I can’t go and visit Hong Kong anymore, because I have come out publicly in support of human rights activists. My parishioners can’t go back and visit their families because they would be looking at a life in prison, a life sentence, possibly in prison in China and then torture,” he said. “That’s why we’re praying. That’s why we’re asking other people to pray with us.”

The Catholic Register reached out to China’s embassy in Ottawa. There was no response.


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Hundreds gather online to share losses and hope after a year of COVID-19

Thu, 03/18/2021 - 07:20

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

Hundreds from across Saskatchewan and beyond tuned in for an online vigil March 11, led by a diverse group of community and faith leaders marking one year of the global COVID-19 pandemic with reflection, music, poetry, and prayer – some live on the broadcast, and others via pre-recorded video.

“Together in Remembrance, Together in Hope” was the theme of the virtual vigil that also included participants sharing losses of the pandemic before lighting a candle, and describing hopes and dreams for life after the pandemic.

“While the pandemic has threatened to isolate us, we are determined to come together across our differences, honouring the gifts of each one, recognizing those who have put themselves at risk to keep others safe and well, acknowledging those who have been disproportionately impacted and need more support, and remembering the precious ones who have died. … we are here as one body to share each other’s grief, sorrow and suffering and to look together for the hope that lies ahead.” – Rev. Amanda Currrie

“If nothing else, the coronavirus pandemic has stopped us in our tracks and served as a wake-up call. It has reminded us of a fundamental truth, one that we sometimes forget: that we need each other,” said Karla Combres, a Life Cycle Celebrant from Saskatoon and one of three co-hosts for the online event, along with Blake Sittler of Catholic Health Association of Saskatchewan, and Lyndon Linklater of Thunderchild First Nation, a knowledge keeper and story teller from the Office of the Treaty Commisioner speakers bureau.

Saskatchewan has been referred to as the province of a million neighbours, noted Lyndon Linklater, adding “tonight we do come together as neighbours.”

Métis Elder Allan Morin and Cree Nation Elder Maria Linklater spoke at the start of the program, followed by representatives of various faith communities, including a call to prayer by Imam Ilyas Sidyot of the Islamic Association of Saskatchewan; blowing of the shofar and praying of Psalm 23 by Rabbi Jeremy Parnes and Barry Braitman of Beth Jacob Synagogue in Regina; prayer by members of the Hindu Samaj of Southern Saskatchewan, as well as by Rev. Amanda Currie of First Presbyterian Church in Regina and moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Canada.

“While the pandemic has threatened to isolate us, we are determined to come together across our differences, honouring the gifts of each one, recognizing those who have put themselves at risk to keep others safe and well, acknowledging those who have been disproportionately impacted and need more support, and remembering the precious ones who have died. … we are here as one body to share each other’s grief, sorrow and suffering and to look together for the hope that lies ahead,” said Rev. Currie.

Front-line health workers also spoke briefly: Registered Nurse Maj Banatao urged participants to get vaccinated as the “only chance of getting back to normal again,” and Dr. Hassan Masri noted that the pandemic has shown what is essential.

“COVID has taught us not to take anything for granted…. to always be thankful and grateful for what we have,” said Dr. Masri.

“When this is over, may we never again take for granted a handshake with a stranger, conversation with neighbours, a crowded theatre, Friday night out, the taste of communion, a routine check-up, the school rush each morning, the coffee with a friend, the stadium roaring,  each deep breath, a boring Tuesday, life itself. When this ends, may we find we have become more like the people we want to be, we were called to be, we hoped to be and may we stay that way: better for each other, because of the worst.”  – Jim Hopson

Sarah Donnelly, Queen’s House of Retreat and Renewal, read “Blessed are you who bear fruit” by Jan Richardson from her book of blessings A Circle of Grace: “Blessed are you who bear the light in unbearable times, who testify to its endurance amid the unendurable, who bear witness to its persistence when everything seems in shadow and grief. Blessed are you in whom the light lives, in whom the brightness blazes – your heart a chapel, an altar where in the deepest night can be seen the fire that shines forth in you in unaccountable faith, in stubborn hope, in love that illumines every broken thing it finds.”

Participants were then invited to share in the chat some of the losses and grief experienced during the pandemic – the long list included deaths from COVID, as well as missed hugs, funerals, family gatherings, hospital and home care visits, loss of jobs, travel, concerts, sports, worship services, and choir practices.

Those watching were invited to light candles. Musical performances included a song by Munirih Sparrow of the Saskatoon Bahá’í community, pieces by renowned pianist Thomas Yu, and a drum song by Allan Bonaise of Little Pine Cree Nation.

As the vigil turned toward hopes for the future, Rev. Karen Fraser Gitlitz of the Saskatoon Unitarian community reflected: “It is our role to hold the longing and take the next step. Listen to each other’s longings. They are the seeds of tomorrow, the seeds of springs to come. Together we are enough.”

The list of things that participants were looking forward to included everything from “hugs, hugs, hugs” to seeing family, dinner parties, attending events (movies, concerts, theatre, sports), going to church, shaking people’s hands, celebrating graduations in person, having freedom to move about without masks and separation, and being able to provide face-to-face support those in hospital, in need, or grieving.

Jim Hopson, former president and ceo of the Saskatchewan Roughriders also spoke, looking ahead:  “When this is over, may we never again take for granted a handshake with a stranger, conversation with neighbours, a crowded theatre, Friday night out, the taste of communion, a routine check-up, the school rush each morning, the coffee with a friend, the stadium roaring,  each deep breath, a boring Tuesday, life itself. When this ends, may we find we have become more like the people we want to be, we were called to be, we hoped to be and may we stay that way: better for each other, because of the worst.”

A video montage of submitted photos of hopes and dreams for after the pandemic was also featured, with music by Coco Love Alcorn, with the refrain:  “We are tiny lights, shining so bright, In a world we know is gonna be alright.”

As candles were extinguished near the vigil’s conclusion, Peace Atinkade, Saskatchewan’s Youth Poet Laureate for 2020-21, read her poem “Table of Hope.”

Comments in the chat included words of thanksgiving for the event from participants:

  • “I didn’t realize how much I needed this. Such a blessing to have great leaders and neighbours like all of you!”
  • “Thanks be to God for this graced opportunity to join together in prayers and remembrance and to go forward in hope.”
  • “Thank you to everyone who organized and presented tonight. I didn’t realize how much I needed this.  Such a blessing to have great leaders and neighbours like all of you!”
  • “When this is over, I will remember comforting connections like this one tonight. Thank you everyone.”




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MPs open door to the mentally ill being able to use medically-assisted suicide in the future

Wed, 03/17/2021 - 12:26
Critics call decision ‘shameful’

By Brian Dryden, Canadian Catholic News

[Ottawa – CCN] – Critics of euthanasia in Canada say it is shameful that the federal Liberal government with the help of the Bloc Quebecois decided to put a time limit on debate on a matter of life and death that opens the door to the mentally ill in Canada being allowed to kill themselves with the help of a doctor.

Allowing the mentally ill access Canada’s medically-assisted euthanasia system was not originally supported by the federal Liberal government, but after that was a made a requirement for support by the Senate, the federal government used closure to force a vote in the House of Commons March 12.

MPs in the House of Commons voted 180-149 on March 12 to accept the mentally ill being eligible for what is called “Medical Assistance in Dying” (MAiD) in the future, in order to secure the Senate’s support for Bill C-7.

The bill was supported in the House of Commons by most Liberal and Bloc Quebecois MPs who want the law changed so that it complies with a 2019 Quebec Superior Court ruling that said limiting euthanasia to only Canadians whose death was already “reasonably foreseeable” was too restrictive.

Senators wanted the federal government to eliminate a blanket ban on the mentally ill being unable to receive medically-assisted death. The federal government, with the support of the Bloc, agreed to allow the mentally ill access to euthanasia/assisted-suicide in two years — after further study and safeguards can be reviewed.

The changes that make it easier for Canadians to legally commit suicide with the help of a doctor has been slammed by most organizations that advocate on behalf of disabled Canadians and groups that advocate on behalf of the mentally ill as well.

“While the federal government was noting the 11th anniversary of Canada’s signing of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the House of Commons passed Bill C-7 thereby making MAiD available to healthy people with disabilities,” a statement released by the Council of Canadians with Disabilities said.

“In the case of mental illness, MAiD is a permanent lethal solution for a temporary situation,” said Jewelles Smith, a spokesperson for the Council.

According to a statement released by the Council on March 15, “the MAiD regime that will be authorized by the bill will put vulnerable people with disabilities in harm’s way by making it easier to access medical aid in dying.”

“While many people with disabilities cannot access the disability-related supports that they need to live dignified lives in the community, they will be able to get MAiD. Even people experiencing a mental health crisis will have access to MAID,” the Council’s statement continued.

“We are extremely concerned that people with disabilities experiencing a temporary crisis will accept MAiD and die needlessly,” said Smith.

An organization that works with the mentally ill and presented a position paper to Parliament regarding medically-assisted suicide/euthanasia, said that opening up MAiD to the mentally ill is a mistake without more evidence of what exactly constitutes mental illness.

The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), a psychiatric teaching hospital in Ontario, said in its position paper that the “CAMH came to the decision that the federal government should not make an amendment to MAiD legislation for people with mental illness as their sole underlying medical condition at this time due to a lack of evidence that mental illness is an irremediable medical condition.”

“This was not an easy decision for CAMH to come to,” the CAMH statement to Parliament said. “As psychiatrists, we cannot stay out of it. We cannot ignore, avoid, or just rubber stamp our patients’ requests for MAiD. This is not only because of the ‘medical’ in MAiD but also because of our duty to advocate for the best evidence-informed care for our clients.”

The Euthanasia Prevention Coalition’s Alex Schadenberg said opening the door to the mentally ill being able to access medically-assisted death is “shameful,” but it does expose what opponents of MAiD have been saying all along — once you open the door to legal euthanasia it will continue to expand to cover more and more Canadians.

“The damage has been done but there is good news,” said Schadenberg.

“Almost universally, people with disabilities recognized that Bill C-7 directly affects them. Many medical professionals responded to Bill C-7, especially since the law is out-of-control without even providing them with effective conscience protections,” he said.

The fact is that the Liberal government, the BQ and the euthanasia lobby have clearly told Canadians where they stand. They are not concerned about the lives of people with disabilities or those who live with chronic conditions. They are not concerned about people who struggle with mental illness or other psychological conditions. They are not concerned about people who are at a vulnerable time of their life.”


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100 Words – Fifth Sunday in Lent “Emotional Tombs”

Wed, 03/17/2021 - 09:34

Emotional Tombs

By Peter Oliver, Olive Branch Marriage and Family Ministry

So Jesus, perturbed again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay across it.
Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” – John 11:38-39

Can it be true?!?

It would be nice if this question concerned the extraordinary event in this Sunday’s readings (RCIA Scrutiny #3) – Lazarus raised from the dead!

Unfortunately, it’s an expression of surprise at the discovery that in 2021 Catholics still fear reprisal if they speak publicly about their experience of divorce and remarriage.

Can it be true? Yes, it’s true.

The stone rolled in front of these entombed thoughts and feelings is called “you did something wrong”.  We have lots of good reasons for keeping it in place (including fear and control) but Jesus’ message is clear:  “Take away the stone.”


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

Discernment Mediationhelping you talk

ReStartBuilding Separation & Divorce Resilience


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Vatican’s doctrinal office: Catholic Church cannot give blessings to same-sex unions

Tue, 03/16/2021 - 10:53

By Catholic News Agency staff

[Vatican City, Mar 15, 2021 – CNA]– The Vatican’s doctrinal office March 15 clarified that the Catholic Church does not have the power to give liturgical blessings of homosexual unions.

Answering the question, “does the Church have the power to give the blessing to unions of persons of the same sex,” the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) responded, “negative.”

In an accompanying note, the doctrine office explained that blessings are sacramentals, and “consequently, in order to conform with the nature of sacramentals, when a blessing is invoked on particular human relationships, in addition to the right intention of those who participate, it is necessary that what is blessed be objectively and positively ordered to receive and express grace, according to the designs of God inscribed in creation, and fully revealed by Christ the Lord.”

“Therefore, only those realities which are in themselves ordered to serve those ends are congruent with the essence of the blessing imparted by the Church,” the CDF said.

“For this reason, it is not licit to impart a blessing on relationships, or partnerships, even stable, that involve sexual activity outside of marriage (i.e., outside the indissoluble union of a man and a woman open in itself to the transmission of life), as is the case of the unions between persons of the same sex.”

The ruling and note were approved for publication by Pope Francis and signed by CDF prefect Cardinal Luis Ladaria and secretary Archbishop Giacomo Morandi.

The CDF’s note did not state the origin of the dubium submitted to the doctrinal office, but noted that “in some ecclesial contexts, plans and proposals for blessings of unions of persons of the same sex are being advanced.”

In recent years, German bishops in particular have been increasingly outspoken in requesting “discussions about an opening” towards acceptance of practiced homosexuality and the blessing of homosexual unions in the Church.

The CDF explained in 2003 that “the Church teaches that respect for homosexual persons cannot lead in any way to approval of homosexual behavior or to legal recognition of homosexual unions.”


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COVID-19: One year in and counting

Mon, 03/15/2021 - 14:16

[This article is re-printed with permission from the GSCS website – Artwork by Gisele Bauche, used with permission]

By Derrick Kunz, Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools

“With the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” – 2 Peter 3:8

Has it been one year or a thousand years since the World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared the spread of SARS-CoV-2 (you might recognize it as COVID-19) a pandemic?

Much ink has been spilled—or maybe computer keys have been punched—reviewing, analyzing and critiquing the events of the past year. Since it is the Year of St. Joseph, and the Solemn Feast of St. Joseph, Husband of Mary is celebrated on March 19, it is an opportune time to take a brief look at the past year for our school division with a bit of a St. Joseph slant.

Taking a few lines of prayer from the Litany of St. Joseph, here’s a brief reflection.

Joseph, most patient. Pray for us.

Remember when we thought public health restrictions would come and go and this whole COVID thing would blow over by the summer? Summer turned to fall. Then, well, we collectively wrapped our mind around the fact we were in this for the long haul.

Uncertainty can stretch our patience. And we have had more than our fair share of uncertainty as things have changed quickly and frequently over the past year. St. Joseph faced a fair degree of uncertainty himself. He was uncertain about Mary’s pregnancy. Just think about the uncertainty he faced when the Holy Family left everything at the drop of a hat and fled to Egypt. He had patient trust in God’s goodness, providence and love. We can learn from St. Joseph as a model of patience.

Joseph most prudent. Pray for us.

One of the cardinal virtues, prudence “…disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it…” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1806).

With the health and safety of students, staff and families in mind, a series of prudent measures have been examined, implemented, changed, and changed again over the past year.

Social scientists will have decades of material for research on the effectiveness and efficacy of public health measures, and it’s likely there will not be a consensus.

As a school division, a few prudent decisions made last spring come to mind. Division staff worked hard to ensure all students had access to technology after all learning shifted online. Buses were used to send nutrition kits to families who relied on breakfasts, lunches and snacks at school. A Support Line was established to support student mental health and wellness.

Read Supporting more than learning for more details.

We can all turn to St. Joseph as a model of prudence to assist us as we continue to navigate our way through the pandemic.

Head of the Holy Family, Pillar of families and Glory of domestic life. Pray for us.

These are three separate lines in the litany, but share many attributes.

We suddenly found ourselves at home, with every other member of our family and household, for long periods of time. What an opportunity to focus on building relationships within our families! There was a resurgence of games, puzzles, baking, cooking, and many other activities at home. Maybe it was a time to reconnect for some, as our calendars abruptly changed from full to blank slates. Sure, domestic life can be challenging. We are fortunate to have St. Joseph and the Holy Family to be our models and guides. Also, see above regarding patience.

Model of workers. Pray for us.

As a humble carpenter, St. Joseph knew the value of an honest day’s work. Unfortunately, he also knew what it was like to lose work and have to start over again. When fleeing to Egypt, he left all of his work behind. As a foreigner in Egypt, it is easy to imagine that he may have had a hard time finding work. Assuming he did find work during the Holy Family’s years in exile, he would once again leave it all behind when the angel let him know it was safe to return to Nazareth.

For those who have lost work, have had their work change dramatically, and for those who struggle to enter the workforce, we have a patron who understands and can teach us once again about faithful trust in a loving God.

Hope of the sick. Pray for us.

Yeah, this one’s kinda obvious. The human body and systems are fantastic, intricate things. Our immune systems have evolved to fight infections, and modern medicine has done wonders in keeping us healthy. Unfortunately, a new virus for which there is no immunity and medicine could not possibly anticipate has taken hold.

St. Joseph reminds us we have a hope that is greater than our immune system or modern medicine. Not to presume God will miraculously heal us all (although that would be nice). We are more than our body, and St. Joseph can help our spirits and souls.

Protector of the Church. Pray for us

It’s not part of the litany, but we’ll throw in Patron of Canada here, too.

If God, in his infinite wisdom, trusted humble St. Joseph to be protector of the Holy Family, of the incarnate Son who would forgive our sins and redeem humanity, it only makes sense we should place our trust in St. Joseph to look after our Church and our country—even through a  pandemic.

Patron of the dying. Pray for us

The end of an ancient prayer for St. Joseph’s intercession reads:

I never weary contemplating you and Jesus asleep in your arms.
I dare not approach while he reposes near your heart.
Press him in my name, and kiss his fine head for me.
Ask him to return the kiss when I draw my dying breath.

We have faced death during the pandemic. Adding to the pain is the fact we are not able to mourn as we should. May we find hope and consolation in St. Joseph’s intercession. May Jesus return the kiss as He welcomes those who have died into His kingdom.

Litany of St. Joseph
Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. 
Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

Christ, hear us. Christ, graciously hear us. 
God, the Father of Heaven, have mercy on us. 
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us. 
God the Holy Spirit, have mercy on us. 
Holy Trinity, One God, have mercy on us. 

Holy Mary, pray for us (after each line)
Saint Joseph,
Noble offspring of David,
Light of Patriarchs,
Spouse of the Mother of God,
Chaste guardian of the Virgin,
Foster-father of the Son of God,
Zealous defender of Christ,
Head of the Holy Family,

Joseph most just,
Joseph most chaste,
Joseph most prudent,
Joseph most courageous,
Joseph most obedient,
Joseph most faithful,

Mirror of patience,
Lover of poverty,
Model of workers,
Glory of domestic life,
Guardian of virgins,
Pillar of families,
Comfort of the afflicted,
Hope of the sick,
Patron of the dying,
Terror of demons,
Protector of the Holy Church,

Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world, Spare us, O Lord. 
Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world, Graciously hear us, O Lord. 
Lamb of God, who take away the sins of the world, Have mercy on us. 

V. He has made him lord of his household:
R. And prince over all his possessions.

Let us pray. O God, who in your loving providence, chose Blessed Joseph to be the spouse of your most Holy Mother, grant us the favour of having him for our intercessor in Heaven whom on Earth we venerate as our protector. You who live and reign forever and ever. Amen.

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STM’s Centre for Faith, Reason, Peace and Justice hosts online discussion of papal encyclical Fratelli Tutti

Mon, 03/15/2021 - 14:02

[This article is re-printed with permission from St. Thomas More College]

By Paul Sinkewicz, St. Thomas More College

The newly established Centre for Faith, Reason, Peace, and Justice (CFRPJ) hosted an online event recently in collaboration with the Western Conference for Social Justice (a Western Canadian gathering of Catholics involved in social justice promotion and action).

Imagining a More Just World After Covid-19: An Evening in Conversation with Fratelli Tutti attracted more than 70 participants to take up an examination of the third encyclical letter from Pope Francis.

Dr. Chris Hyrnkow, Director of the CFRPJ at St. Thomas More College, hosted the meeting, while Tashia Toupin, Social Justice Coordinator for the Archdiocese of Regina, served as facilitator.

The event, held March 2, consisted of a moderated, interdisciplinary panel that included Dr. Peter Baltutis, Dr. Susanna Barnes, Georgina Jolibois and Dr. David McGrane.

View the entire event on the STM YouTube Channel: LINK

Read Fratelli Tutti: LINK

Dr. Baltutis is an associate professor of History and Religious Studies at St. Mary’s University in Calgary. His research focuses on the historical and theological development of Catholic social thought and action in Canada.

He gave an overview of Fratelli Tutti – Pope Francis’ third papal encyclical – to help frame the discussion of the document, the title of which means “All Brothers.” Baltutis explained that St. Francis of Assisi was being held up as an exemplar of how to live a life of fraternity and social friendship.

“Specifically, he points out that St. Francis lived a life in right relationship not only with all people, but also right relationship with all creation. So that’s the model we are called to aspire to,” said Baltutis.

“So, the hallmark of this new Christian society that we are all called to build, is we are called to live in a way that transcends boundaries: geographic boundaries; economic boundaries; racial boundaries; religious boundaries. All boundaries are to be transcended.”

Baltutis said the very event at which he was speaking was an example of the work being called for by the encyclical.

“This panel is what Pope Francis wants — for religion to not be speaking in a silo to other theologians, but religion in dialogue with social scientists, with politicians, and with the people on the ground. So, tonight is a great model of what Fratelli Tutti is all about.”

The second panelist was Dr. Susanna Barnes, an anthropologist and the USask representative on the advisory committees for Peace Studies and Catholic Studies.

She reflected on Chapters 4 and 5 of the encyclical from an anthropological viewpoint, and explored what Fratelli Tutti asks of us in envisioning and enacting a more just post-pandemic world.

She said there are many critical lessons to be drawn from Fratelli Tutti.

“For me the most important one is that we are all inter-connected,” said Barnes. “And we must understand that collectively, we make the world. Understanding this helps us understand that collectively we can also make the world differently, and we can work on opening our hearts and our minds towards a flourishing of all people in creation.”

STM professor Dr. David McGrane spoke next from the perspective of a political scientist and read Fratelli Tutti as a work of political philosophy.

He identified two main recurring themes in Fratelli Tutti: “What I think he’s saying … is that a post-Covid world needs more collectivism and less free market liberalism, and that a post-Covid world needs more cosmopolitanism and less xenophobic nationalism.”

Georgina Jolibois is a Denesuline woman and the mayor of La Loche, SK, as well as a former Member of Parliament. She spoke of the need to commit to public service and to follow the guidance of Pope Francis to think outside of one’s self.

She related how the examples set by the Oblate priests and Grey Nuns in her past played a critical role through their modelling in shaping her perception of public service.

“It’s about the human connection,” she said. “Here in this time and age we are challenged because of Covid. Covid has broken many things for us: the connections that we would make with our friends and families and communities.”

Jolibois said she is hoping the pandemic crisis will be a catalyst for improvements in the experiences of Indigenous people in the future, as new connections are forged and that society can start afresh and really focus on the meaning of reconciliation. She said building relationships is building hope.

In his response to the panelists, Archbishop Murray Chatlain, of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Keewatin – Le Pas, said that one of the lines in Fratelli Tutti that most resonated with him is the call by Pope Francis that we need to do better.

“I think all of us are on this call because we share that (feeling),” he said.

After breaking up into smaller groups to discuss the presentations and the keys questions that arose from them, the group reconvened to further discuss the encyclical and the challenges of the post-Covid world a better place.

Related article: “Centre for Faith, Reason, Peace and Justice launched”


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How is your Lent going? Reflecting upon the “Ah Ha” moments in life

Mon, 03/15/2021 - 13:30

[This article is part of a “Fuel-Up Friday” series in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon]

By Marilyn Jackson, Director of Ministry Services

I was fortunate at the beginning of Lent this year to participate in a retreat led by the Verbum Dei Missionaries, Sr. Marta Piano and Sr. Malou Tibayan . The theme of the retreat was “Come back to me with all your heart.” I was challenged to think about the areas in my life that need restoration, healing, re-strengthening, re-ordering or decluttering.

In my parish, after communion on Sundays, we say the following prayer together: “Jesus I love you; all I have is yours – yours I am and yours I want to be, do with me whatever you will.”

“Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning: rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.” – Joel 2:12-13

Marilyn Jackson is the Director of Ministry Services in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon. (Submitted photo)

When I read Joel 2:12-13, what jumped out at me was “rend your hearts.” What had to change in my heart so that I can completely surrender myself to Jesus? What had to be broken in my heart so that I can live out the prayer I pray every Sunday in my faith community? That started me down the path of contemplating significant turning points in my life.

Growing up Catholic, my generation didn’t talk about having a personal relationship with Christ, My faith journey was all about earning my way to heaven. I was more concerned about what I was doing for God, not so much about what he had done for me.

I got married in the Church, my husband became a Catholic, we had four beautiful children and we never missed Sunday Mass. We were active parishioners, the perfect Catholic family. I often thought that God must be pretty pleased with us.

When we experienced a teen pregnancy in our family, I felt like my perfect world had been broken. I learned that it wasn’t actually my heart that was broken, but the arrogance that lived there had been shattered. That experience helped to make me more humble for a few years. If I hadn’t surrendered to God, I wouldn’t have been able to care for the abortion-vulnerable women I met through the pregnancy care ministry.

Fifteen years later, we got another big dose of humility when my husband got laid off after 35 years in the mining industry. We were scared and I felt completely helpless. I surrendered to God, trusting that he would take care of us. He not only took care of us, but showed me that he has a sense of humour! I was so worried about not being able to stay in my beautiful house. God answered my prayers for a job by putting me to work at a homeless shelter– no credentials, just a broken heart, to raise money for the homeless.

So, what does this all mean for me today? Sometimes when we find ourselves in leadership roles, it’s too easy to let the arrogance creep back in. Sometimes we just get too busy to see the need right in front of us. That is what I was reminded of in the retreat – how to restore my heart back to a place of humility.

God helps me “do better” by just putting people in my path that I can’t ignore.

I got seven phone calls in one day from people who didn’t have any groceries. Coincidence? It was a huge:   “Hey, you desire a better Lent? Here are your brothers and sisters, now do something!”

The opportunity was before me to declutter, to stop what I was doing and feed those who were hungry. God’s invitation to come back to him is always open – everyday!


Marilyn Jackson is the Director of Ministry Services for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon – subscribe to her weekly “Fuel-Up Friday” mailout of updates and inspiration by e-mailing


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Toy story – donated toys welcomed with joy by recently-arrived family

Fri, 03/12/2021 - 12:03

By Jan Bigland-Pritchard, Office of Migration

The first toy Mesmer chose was a wooden fire engine.  “Milkias loves anything with wheels!”

My living room looked like Santa’s grotto, the whole sofa covered in toy cars, toy people, stuffed animals, zoo and garage sets, baby toys, pen sets, card games, a working electric train set and a beautiful baby stroller as well.

My friend, a doting grandmother, had a playroom full of new and lightly used toys that her grandson had outgrown.  She washed, sanitized the toys, reunited games with all their pieces, made small repairs to some, bagged them up and then gave me a call.  Did I have any refugee families that could use them?

Mesmer and Hajer, a couple who came to Canada as refugees about 10 years ago, sprang to my mind at once.

They had been waiting for nearly three years for two sponsored families to arrive – Mesmer’s sister Nazret and her small family, and Hajer’s sister Selamawit and her family.  The families had fled their own repressive country and lived precariously in a neighbouring land.  After delays due to COVID, both families arrived within three months of each other.

“I am so relieved!” said Mesmer. “Now my stress is gone!”

Nazret had a baby soon after her arrival, so in their busy joint household I knew there was a new baby and at least two children under six.  I called them, prepared the toys, and, socially distanced, invited Mesmer to take his pick for the kids.  The stroller and many toys flew out of the door.

Now Milkias and his cousins are joyfully using the toys, which otherwise would have sat unloved and gathering dust.  They were provided in love to my friend’s grandchild, and now they are given in love again. Win-win!

Extra toys will find new homes through Diane Anderson’s prison ministry through the diocesan Office of Migration, brightening the day for some inmates’ families.

The electric train set will go to a large and poor newcomer family with older children – but not before my husband and I have laid it out on our living room floor and played with it first.  Who says childhood has to stop?


(Rev. Dr. Jan Bigland-Pritchard is the coordinator of the Office of Migration in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon. For more information about the Office and refugee sponsorship visit the website: LINK or e-mail

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Archdiocese of Toronto to hold inaugural Mass for the 500th year of Christianity in the Philippines

Thu, 03/11/2021 - 16:54

Media release from Archdiocese of Toronto

The Archdiocese of Toronto, in unity with the Filipino faith community, will hold a virtual Inaugural Mass to mark the 500th year anniversary of Christianity in the Philippines.

The Eucharistic Celebration will air online from Our Lady of the Assumption Parish on Tuesday, March 16 at 11:00 a.m., via; and YouTube: Gifted to Give – Toronto 2021. The parish, located near Toronto’s “Little Manila”, has a large Filipino congregation coming from all over the GTA. It is also home to the Filipino Catholic mission of the diocese.

Fr. Lorenzo Salandanan, Pastor of the parish, and Chair of the Organizing Committee for the diocese’s celebration of the Quincentennial event, will preside over the Inaugural Mass. Concelebrants will be Fr. Ben Ebcas, Pastor of St. Therese’s Parish, and Msgr. Edgardo Pan, Pastor of St. Rose Lima Parish. Both parishes, located in Scarborough, also host a significant number of Filipino parishioners.

Cardinal Thomas Collins and Archbishop Romulo Valles, President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, will deliver pre-recorded inspirational remarks.

It was in March 16, 1521 when Christianity first came to the Philippines and from then on, spread throughout the archipelago, making it the only predominantly Catholic nation in Asia. In the past 500 years, Filipinos shared fervently in the good news of evangelization. Filipino Catholics make their faith communities stronger and vibrant places through their joyful willingness to serve.

Fr. Salandanan encourages the Filipino faithful in the diocese to support the activities planned for the celebration. Following the multi-parish Simbang Gabi last Christmas and the Family Day talk done by Fr. Carlos Macatangga, SVD in February, other Filipino clergy and religious are also scheduled to give several talks for the Youth, for Families and for Holy Week. Renowned priest, Fr. Jerry Orbos, SVD, will celebrate the Easter Mass and deliver an inspirational message of hope.


For more details, please visit or email

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Numbers gathering for worship in Saskatchewan shift to percentage of building capacity as of March 19

Thu, 03/11/2021 - 16:11

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

As of March 19, 2021, numbers permitted to gather for worship under COVID-19 public health orders in Saskatchewan will increase to 30 per cent of building capacity or 150 persons – whichever is lower – as opposed to a 30-person limit no matter what size the building.

The change announced by Premier Scott Moe and Saskatchewan’s Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab on March 9 is a welcome increase for parishes living with a 30-person limit on worship gatherings put in place Nov. 27.

It comes after a multi-faith leaders group met with the premier to request the change, and a call by Saskatoon’s bishop to write government representatives asking for a building-capacity percentage rate for worship services.

“I am very grateful for the enlargement of numbers,” said Bishop Mark Hagemoen. “It comes as we are anticipating our Holy Week and Easter celebrations.”

The adjustment to a percentage of building capacity means that numbers allowed for worship services will be consistent with percentage amounts being permitted in retail spaces and other locations, the bishop noted.

“As a faith community we want to carry our weight during COVID — we certainly share in the difficulties that the government and the health authority are dealing with on this — but we just need a little bit of consistency,” Hagemoen said.

Updated directives for worship in diocese of Saskatoon: LINK

COVID-19 Updates and Resources in the Diocese of Saskatoon: LINK

Current Public Health Orders in the Province of Saskatchewan: LINK

Live-stream video of Mass and faith events in the Diocese of Saskatoon: LINK

On March 11, Bishop Hagemoen announced updated directives for celebration of sacraments in the diocese of Saskatoon, incorporating the recent government announcement related to numbers permitted to gather for worship.

Since the start of the pandemic, the diocese and its parishes have been diligent in following public health directives related to numbers, distancing, cleaning, etc, notes the bishop. Over the past year, pastors and ministry leaders have strived to stay in touch with parishioners, providing outreach, sacraments and pastoral care in the face of the challenges, often in new and creative ways.

“Profound gratitude is expressed to all who persevered in faith and charity during these times of challenge, offering the Sacraments, ministry and support in the many creative ways you have reached out to your people,” said Bishop Hagemoen in his March 11 update.




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100 Words – Fourth Sunday of Lent: “Disillusionment”

Wed, 03/10/2021 - 16:10

By Peter Oliver, Olive Branch Marriage and Family Ministry

By the rivers of Babylon – there we sat down and wept when we remembered Zion.  On the willows there we hung up our harps. – Psalm 137: 1

We sometimes confuse God’s unconditional love with our desire for uninterrupted bliss.   We experience profound losses and harm, and we want God to fix our lives, but God’s offer is one of salvation.

The God of this Sunday’s readings wants to enter our shattered dreams and transform them from the inside but that can be very unattractive because the human side of salvation is surrender.

A way through our resistance can be found in the lamentation of the psalmist.  Sometimes we need to let feelings of grief and injustice overwhelm us before we can experience the reassurance of God’s love.


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

Discernment Mediationhelping you talk

ReStartBuilding Separation & Divorce Resilience



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Catholic Women’s League holds national winter meeting via video conference

Tue, 03/09/2021 - 18:45

By Doreen Gowans, CWL National Chairperson of Communications

[Winnipeg, Manitoba] – The board of The Catholic Women’s League of Canada, with more than 70,000 members across the country, met by videoconference March 4-6, 2021, for its annual winter meeting. Every province and territory was represented as board members met to discuss matters important to Catholic women and their families.

Technology and virtual meetings, and their implications, were a theme that ran throughout the meeting.

The League has seen the need to update how it communicates with current and potential members, parishioners and communities in which it serves.

To keep within the scope of today’s digital world, the League has approved Clark Marketing Communications to make three videos comprised of interviews with young Catholic women, a 30-second video commercial, a digital affirmation campaign for members and a digital map. These are exciting times as members do their part to reach out to Catholic women in the pews to invite and welcome them into the organization. Watch for these new ventures to become available on the national website,

The implementation committee is seeking members interested in helping to roll out the strategic plan. The deadline to apply is March 15, 2021. The various working groups are looking for 36 dedicated women. Interested members may find more information on (Further details can also be found on pages 18 and 19 of The Canadian League magazine’s winter issue.

The continuing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has magnified the risk and uncertainty of gathering voting and accredited delegates for the 2020 and 2021 annual meeting of members in Toronto, August 8-10, 2021. The board weighed the risks and the uncertainty and has determined in-person attendance would be limited to board members and support persons. There will be an opportunity to view the meeting online for those who pre-register. More information will be shared in the coming weeks.

As members will not be meeting in person, resolutions will not be presented. To keep members informed on the League’s position on issues such as abortion, human trafficking, water and more, the current position papers will be posted to the national website. They will be reviewed and updated or affirmed as the League moves forward.

Board members expressed thanks to outgoing provincial presidents Glenda Carson (Nova Scotia), Gisela Montague (B.C. & Yukon), Shirley Pierce (Prince Edward Island) and Tawnya Stringer (Military Ordinariate) for their devoted service to the League over the past three years.

About The Catholic Women’s League of Canada

The Catholic Women’s League of Canada, founded in 1920, is one of the largest organizations of women in Canada with more than 70,000 members represented in every province, territory and the military. The League is organized and pledged to serve all citizens and has often received the commendation and keen appreciation of federal, provincial and municipal authorities for the voluntary services ably performed by its nationwide membership.


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If possible, Catholics should choose COVID-19 vaccines ‘least connected’ to abortion: Canadian bishops

Tue, 03/09/2021 - 18:15

Editor’s note: On March 11, the CCCB added a clarification to their March 9 statement on vaccines (referred to in the article below), noting that their statement did not relate to or question the efficacy of vaccines, further clarifying:

  1. Catholics are invited to be vaccinated, both in keeping with the dictates of their conscience and in contributing to the common good by promoting the health and safety of others.
  2. The CCCB Note of 9 March 2021 simply restates the position outlined by the Holy See in its Note of December 21, 2020 regarding the use of vaccines.
  3. All COVID-19 vaccines that are medically approved by the relevant health authorities may be licitly received by Catholics.
  4. Since there is currently no choice of vaccine being offered, Catholics in good conscience, may receive the vaccine that is available and offered to them.
CCCB releases statement about vaccines 

By B.C. Catholic staff

[Vancouver – Canadian Catholic News] – Catholics who get vaccinated for COVID-19 should choose vaccines with “the least connection to abortion-derived cell lines,” Canada’s bishops said March 9, but that when choice is unavailable or difficult, alternatives “can be used in good conscience with the certain knowledge that the use of such vaccines does not constitute formal cooperation with abortion.”

In a March 9 statement titled Note on Ethical Concerns Related to Currently Approved COVID-19 Vaccines the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops said the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines approved in Canada “do not use abortion-derived cell lines in their development and production of the vaccine.”

Although the vaccines have used “unethically-derived cell lines,” they “can be morally acceptable for Catholics to receive since the connection to abortion is extremely remote.”

The AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are more problematic because they “utilized abortion-derived cell lines in their development, production, and confirmatory testing,” the CCCB said.

“Therefore, when provided with a choice between receiving different vaccines, the vaccine with the least connection to abortion-derived cell lines should always be preferred and chosen when possible.”

When no choice is available or it is “quite difficult to have recourse” to the preferred vaccines, the bishops said, “given the health urgency at hand and other considerations, nothing morally prevents anyone from receiving in good conscience the AstraZeneca or Johnson & Johnson vaccines or others that may eventually be approved which will have been developed, tested and produced in a similar fashion.”

  • How to Vaccinate Like a Catholic: A Guide Through the Prickly COVID-19 Issues by Brett Salkeld – LINK to Article
  • Letter from Bishops of Alberta and NWT re: morality of vaccine: LINK to Letter
  • Canadian Catholiic Bioethics Institute – resources concerning COVID-19 and vaccine – LINK to CCBI website
  • Interview with Dr Moira McQueen: Explaining why Catholics should get the COVID-19 vaccine: LINK to video

As for the question of whether to get vaccinated, the decision is “one of individual conscience in consultation with one’s physician or health-care provider,” said the bishops, and “can be an act of charity which recognizes the need to care for others.”

The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has distinguished “differing moral obligations for those who develop such vaccines and those who receive them,” said the CCCB. Echoing the position of the Vatican, the bishops appealed to governments to “ensure that COVID-19 vaccines that become available do not create an ethical dilemma for Canadians,” thus discouraging vaccinations among the Canadian population.

Vancouver Archbishop J. Michael Miller told The B.C. Catholic March 5 that he expects to roll up his sleeve and get vaccinated when his age category comes up and that, given a choice, he would avoid the Johnson & Johnson vaccine because of its closer connection with abortion. But he conceded it’s unlikely Canadians will have a choice of vaccines.



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Anniversary of Christian politician’s murder prompts calls to reopen Office of Religious Freedom in Canada

Tue, 03/09/2021 - 17:26

By Brian Dryden, Canadian Catholic News

[Ottawa – CCN] – Calls by some Conservative MPs for the federal government to reopen an office dedicated to advocating for religious freedom around the globe come as this year marks the 10th anniversary of the murder of a Pakistani politician whose death continues to be mourned by Catholics, Christians and religious freedom advocates around the world.

Pakistani Minister for Minority Affairs Clement Shahbaz Bhatti _. who was the only Christian in the Pakistani cabinet at the time _ was murdered on March 2, 2011, after numerous threats to his life had been made. He was killed by an organization that claimed that he had committed blasphemy. After his death Bhatti was put forward for beatification within the Catholic Church in Pakistan and he became a Servant of God within the Roman Catholic Church.

Conservative MPs Garnett Genuis and Candice Bergen have both called on the federal government to reopen an Office of Religious Freedom, a short-lived office that was created by the previous Stephen Harper government but which was shuttered and replaced by a more general human rights office by the Liberals soon after they formed government in 2015.

In a special video remembrance by Genuis, the Alberta MP said during a March 3 video prepared for the Religious Freedom Institute that Bhatti’s legacy is a shining example of someone who lived by his principles and sacrificed his life for the good of others by insisting that religious freedom and religious minority rights are fundamental core values that must be protected.

“As a politician, I often reflect on the legacy of Shahbaz and others for the example they set of being willing to sacrifice for fundamental principles in defense of human dignity, pluralism and human rights,” Genuis said, adding it was a visit by Bhatti to Canada that was one of the inspirations that originally led the previous Harper federal government to create the short-lived Office of Religious Freedom.

Genuis, who named one of his sons after Bhatti, said the Pakistani lawmaker stayed true to his principles even though he knew he was putting himself in danger.

“That is an example that all of us in public life should reflect on,” Genuis said.

Bergen, who is the Conservative party’s deputy leader, told the National Post newspaper in a statement that “reports coming out of Pakistan of Christian and Hindu girls being abducted, raped, forced into marriages and coerced to convert from their faith are deeply concerning and need to be addressed,” adding that she calls on “the Prime Minister to re-establish the Office of Religious Freedoms and resolve to work with our allies to end these religious persecutions.”


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Reflecting on 15 years of ministry to men in prison

Tue, 03/09/2021 - 17:10

By Dianne Anderson, Restorative (Prison) Ministry

My name is Dianne Anderson and I have been working as the Coordinator of Restorative Ministry in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon since January 6, 2006.

This position did not exist before then, so it was my role in the beginning to build this ministry. I went to the prison and observed the everyday operations of the institution and listened to the stories of the inmates. The ministry began when I started to talk with the inmates to find out what they needed in terms of spiritual care.

“…I was in prison and you came to visit me.” – Matthew 25:36

I knew from the beginning that I could not “preach” at the men, and that they needed to discover their own spirituality. I offered sharing circles once a week, which became a safe place for them to release their anger, anxieties and tears. During prayer time, and we prayed the Rosary together. I also offered to them the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel and the Divine Mercy Chaplet. We celebrated Mass at the Correctional Centre on Saturdays and it was an opportunity for the incarcerated men to come back to their faith or to join the faith.

Through many one-to-one conversations with the inmates, I recognized that so many of them had a deep need for healing in their lives. With the help of volunteers, I am able to offer a program called Return to the Spirit, as well as a Grief Workshop.

Other aspects of prison ministry involve walking with the men and their families through court appearances and offering support during this process. I will also bring a smudge upon request from families. I make sure that the men who are in prison are able to take part in the Easter Triduum and Christmas Mass. The COVID-19 pandemic restrictions have placed a hold on many such in-person activities.

A man venerates the cross during a pre-pandemic Good Friday celebration organized by Dianne Anderson of the diocesan Office of Restorative Ministry. (Photo by Dianne Anderson)

One of the challenges we have faced in the Correctional Centre over the years is a shortage of space to conduct programs and faith services. All spaces must be booked in advance and we want to make sure that we always take advantage of the times we have booked. Sometimes when a volunteer is unable to make it, I have to fill in order to ensure we are making use of the space and time.

I work closely with the Aboriginal coordinator and the Elders at the Correctional Centre, always incorporating the Catholic faith and Indigenous spirituality.

From the time I started going into the Correctional Centre, my hope was that if I could help one person see a different way, I would be pleased.

Years later, I can say that I have seen many young lads walk a different path. We call that the Red Road. I always tell them, “We all walk this path, we all fall – it’s all about how long we fall for.” I have seen many men leave their anger and resentment behind.

So many times, all they needed was to have courage and for someone to care enough about them and support them in their journey towards change. I believe that this ministry has made a difference in the lives of many. I get to see that difference when I meet the men on the street, when they are no longer incarcerated.

Easter outreach at the prison. – The diocesan Restorative Ministry Office is again seeking monetary donations in order to purchase chocolate bunnies for those in prison, as part of Easter outreach at the Saskatoon Correctional Centre. This project lets the men know they are not forgotten at this most holy season marking the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Monetary donations can be dropped off or mailed to Restorative Ministry, Catholic Pastoral Centre, 123 Nelson Road, Saskatoon, SK. S7S 1H1. (A donation of money rather than chocolate ensures that identical treats can be purchased). You can also give online by going to and choosing “Restorative Ministry Fund (Prison)” in the designation drop-down box, and then typing “Easter Chocolates” into the optional Comments Box.


Dianne Anderson has coordinated the diocesan Office of Restorative Ministry since 2006, providing spiritual care and outreach at the prison. (Submitted photo)





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Catholic women’s Arise: Armour of Light retreat goes online, offering hope and inspiration during global pandemic

Mon, 03/08/2021 - 20:08

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

[Saskatoon – CCN] – After the success of a 2019 Catholic women’s retreat in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon, a group of Saskatchewan women knew there was a desire for more – but then came the global pandemic.

“It became clear to us there was a need, and our work had only just begun. As Covid-19 put plans on hold for a second retreat, we could not ignore that now, more than ever, women were longing for renewal, nourishment, support and community,” explains Sharon Leyne, one of the Catholic women who have pulled together to create an “Arise Catholic Movement.”

“As our team prayed and discussed what the next Arise event should be, we discovered that our entire team of women had experienced the same struggles, frustrations, anger, confusion, isolation, loneliness, fear, anxiety, numbness in one way or another, in varying degrees throughout the year of the pandemic,” says Leyne.

“If this was true for the eight of us – a diverse group of women from all different phases of life, married with children, some grandmothers, some single, others students – then it would be fair to say that this could be a reflection of the state of women in the greater Catholic/Christian community.”

Related: Reflection on how women’s desire for community and faith renewal sparks Arise Catholic Movement

Register for Arise: Put on the Armour of Light women’s retreat – LINK

Given the impact of the pandemic, the team began to reflect on what was needed, and what they could provide. Their response includes the creation of a new Arise Catholic Movement to pursue a mission of “Encountering Jesus together, fostering authentic Catholic community,” and plans for another retreat experience for Catholic women – this time online via video.

“The Arise Catholic Movement hopes to bring light to all women who, like our team, need to finally take a breath after a year of holding it in with clenched fists, through this year’s retreat,” says Leyne. She adds that the message the Arise group has for women is “You are not alone, we see you, we hear you.”

Partnering with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon and Saint Anne Parish, Saskatoon, the Arise team will launch the online retreat on Saturday, May 1. Entitled “Arise: Put On the Amour of Light,” the video retreat has been inspired by a scripture passage from Romans 13:11-12: “You know what hour it is, how it is full time now for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed; the night is far gone, the day is at hand. Let us then cast off the works of darkness and put on the armour of light.”

Speakers include Heather Khym, Debbie Herbeck, Mary Bielski, Rachel Herbeck, and Bishop Scott McCaig, bishop to the Canadian military ordinariate.  Saskatoon Bishop Mark Hagemoen of the diocese of Saskatoon will also bring a message to participants..

“Through the gift of technology our team is able to offer this one-day retreat, to be launched May 1 across Canada and the United States,” says Leyne. “As a pre-recorded retreat, women will have the flexibility to take part in the retreat at any time that is convenient to them.”

Although participants are able to journey through the retreat day on their own, organizers are encouraging women to gather in small groups, in accordance with COVID-19 precautions, to experience the “Arise: Put on the Armour of Light” retreat in a community context.

“Our Arise team is encouraging women to reintroduce community back into their life by experiencing this year’s retreat as a small group hosted in a home, or as a parish event, following all Covid regulations,” Leyne describes. “Through special Zoom calls our team will encourage and equip all hosts with some tools and guidance,” she adds.

“We also felt that one day – after a year of isolation – was not enough.” Therefore the team is also offering a five-week Arise Armour Series to dive deeper into the theme of the retreat “so that you may continue your conversations, and strengthen not just your armour but your community as well.”

Leyne and the rest of the team are eager to offer the retreat to women across the province and beyond. “Having just filmed the retreat with the help of the incredible On Reel Media team from Regina, Saskatchewan, our Arise Catholic Movement team cannot wait to get this retreat into the hands of every woman. Now is the time for us to cast off the darkness and put on the armour of light.”

To learn more or to register for Arise: Put On the Armour of Light visit:



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Vancouver archbishop prepared to take religious service ban to B.C. Supreme Court if necessary

Mon, 03/08/2021 - 16:00

By Agnieszka Ruck, The B.C. Catholic

British Columbia’s health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has turned down Vancouver Archbishop J. Michael Miller’s request to let churches open to 10 per cent capacity.

In a seven-page document sent to the archbishop March 4, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said “it is not possible to grant your request … right now.”

Henry was responding to a 19-page submission Vancouver Archbishop Miller sent to B.C. health officials Feb. 19 asking that Catholic churches be permitted to celebrate Mass in-person with COVID-19 safety measures in place and an attendance limit of 10 per cent of capacity. He had asked officials to respond by Feb. 24.

On Feb. 26, after receiving no response, the archbishop filed a petition in B.C. Supreme Court asking for an exemption from the government’s ban on public worship.

In an interview with archdiocesan communications director Makani Marquis, Archbishop Miller said a legal petition has been filed, but he’s still hoping to work out a solution outside the courts.

“We chose to work really directly with the public health authorities, with Dr. Henry and Minister Dix. We did file. If it becomes necessary in the future, I sure hope it doesn’t, we might have to use formal legal recourse through the courts, but we are certainly not at that stage at this point.”

Archbishop Miller told The B.C. Catholic that although he was disappointed by Henry’s decision, he was “gratified” that she “acknowledged that ‘the Roman Catholic Church was exemplary in supporting their congregations during this critical time, including through Easter of 2020 and indeed since.’”

Related: Saskatoon’s bishop encourages parishioners to write MLAs about limits on public worship

Related: Canadian bishops call out governments over unfair treatment in COVID regulations

Related: Archdiocese of Toronto urging Catholics to call on MPPs for equitable approach to return to worship

In his Feb. 19 letter to Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix, he asked for an exemption to a pandemic health order prohibiting in-person religious services that has been in place since Nov. 19.

With Easter, the Church’s most treasured celebration, coming up, he wrote in his submission, it’s important for Catholics to gather and indicated willingness to ensure they do so safely, including by capping participation at 10 per cent of church capacity and frequent sanitization.

In her response, Henry said the request to open churches at 10 per cent would, in some cases, amount to gatherings of 100 people or more who do not usually interact in person, coming together indoors and creating “risky settings.”

She added “clusters” of positive cases “stemming from religious gatherings and religious activities have been noted since the onset of the pandemic globally, nationally, and in British Columbia.”

It’s not laid out in her letter how many COVID-19 cases have been linked to religious gatherings, but elsewhere it has been reported 180 positive cases in B.C. (out of a total of more than 82,400) are linked to religious services. That data does not specify the type of religious service or which health regulations were being followed.

Archbishop Miller has maintained that there have been no known outbreaks in churches in the Archdiocese of Vancouver, but in her letter Henry said for confidentiality reasons there may have been cases linked to churches unknown to church officials.

She added she expects a return to larger gatherings and easing up on restrictions by this summer.

Henry did offer Archbishop Miller a chance to work with Dr. Robert Daum of Simon Fraser University’s Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue in a “process” to consider how to provide “small, safe indoor services for your parishes for the important Easter services.”

Archbishop Miller said he is looking forward to that consultation.

“Let’s hope that this process will come to a fruitful conclusion in time for the celebration of Easter.”

Under current health orders, churches are allowed to open their doors for weddings, funerals, and private prayer at a maximum of 10 total participants.

The archbishop told Marquis he plans to return to conversations with health authorities with a modified request: for indoor services at 10 per cent of church capacity with a maximum of 50 participants starting on Holy Thursday, April 1.

He said this basically amounts to a return to where churches stood in November, before health orders completely banned indoor religious gatherings.


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