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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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Vatican’s communications head urges Catholic journalists to build unity

Sat, 07/04/2020 - 12:27

By Catholic News Agency Staff

[Catholic Media Virtual Conference – CNA] – The head of the Vatican’s communications office told Catholic journalists June 30, 2020, that Catholic media should focus on promoting unity within the Church, especially amid the global coronavirus pandemic.

“Catholic communication is not only providing information about the Church…it is the capacity of building communion,” Paolo Ruffini, the prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Communications, said during the opening session of a virtual conference conducted by the Catholic Press Association.

The virtual conference aims to bring together Catholic journalists and communications professionals, and featured seminars and workshops conducted June 30 through July 2.

Because Catholics are “united in one body,” Ruffini said during his remarks, Catholic communication should be different from the approach of secular media outlets, because Catholic media should focus on “the possibility of redemption,” and aim to “keep alive our togetherness.”

“Linking is our job. Linking memories. Linking facts. Linking people,” Ruffini said.

The prefect urged journalists to “show witnesses” of the Gospel, and to “build bridges to overcome conflicts.” He noted that the pandemic has become for many an isolating experience, noting that “even in the Church we experience the risk of an individualistic approach” that undermines Christian communion.

To overcome that tendency, Ruffini said that as the Church is build upon “the humility of St. Peter,” the work of Catholic journalists should also aim for humility, mutual aid, and Christian discipleship.

Speaking on a panel with Ruffini were Natasa Goveka, an official of the Vatican’s communications secretariat, and Bishop Paul Tighe, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture. Goveka noted initiatives of the Vatican’s communications apparatus, while Tighe discussed the efforts at cultural dialogue undertaken by his office.

Panelists were asked about how dioceses can engage in communications efforts amid severe financial cuts in many dioceses. Tighe urged collaboration among dioceses, and investment in social media initiatives.

“If we have faith, we will find resources,” Ruffini added.

More than 250 people tuned into the session, which was offered for free.

Pope Francis sent a message Tuesday to members of the Catholic Press Association, appealing to Catholic journalists to help break down barriers of misunderstanding between people.

“We need media capable of building bridges, defending life and breaking down the walls, visible and invisible, that prevent sincere dialogue and truthful communication between individuals and communities,” he wrote.

“We need media that can help people, especially the young, to distinguish good from evil, to develop sound judgments based on a clear and unbiased presentation of the facts, and to understand the importance of working for justice, social concord and respect for our common home.”

He continued: “We need men and women of conviction who protect communication from all that would distort it or bend it to other purposes.”





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A call to action for long-term care after COVID-19 tragedies

Sat, 07/04/2020 - 12:10

By Michael Swan, The Catholic Register

Catholics are getting ready to play a role in the post-COVID look at what went wrong in long-term care, but that response is divided between a walk-softly approach and others demanding radical change.

Canada has had more than 5,800 long-term care homes hit with COVID-19 outbreaks and long-term care has accounted for 79 per cent of all COVID-19 deaths in the country (6,763 out of 8,552 total deaths), according to the National Institute on Aging’s online tracker as of June 29.

The numbers are appalling and a call to action, according to a joint submission from the Sisters of St. Joseph’s Office for Systemic Justice and the Centre Oblat – A Voice for Justice. For these religious-order based advocates, it goes far beyond a crisis in long-term care.

“The pandemic has shone a spotlight on inequality, the inadequacies of our social protections, particularly in response to gender-based violence and homelessness and the precarity of the labour market,” according to the joint submission. “We have seen starkly divergent impacts. We may be weathering the same storm, but we travel in vastly different boats.”

The problem in long-term care is that Canadians have tried to care for the elderly on the cheap, according to the joint submission prepared by Centre Oblat executive director Joe Gunn and Office for Systemic Justice director Sr. Sue Wilson.

“Care work has been undervalued in Canada for too long. Now is the time to set care work on a better trajectory,” they said.

In Ontario, where there have been 2,040 deaths in long-term care, the Catholic bishops and the Catholic Health Association of Ontario (CHAO) are sticking more strictly to just the situation in the long-term care homes.

“The CHAO wants to make a contribution to the conversation,” said Hamilton Bishop Doug Crosby, who sits on the CHAO board. “It doesn’t want to be critical, but it wants to share its experience and wants to provide wisdom — the wisdom of the shared experience for the well-being of seniors and of the whole system.”

Crosby isn’t ready yet to decide whether private ownership ought to be abolished or long-term care brought under the Canada Health Act, as the Canadian bishops had suggested 20 years ago to the Romanow Commission, the Royal Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada.

In May, the Ontario Health Coalition found the death rate related to COVID-19 in for-profit homes was nine per cent, compared to 5.25 per cent in non-profit homes and 3.62 per cent in municipally-owned homes.

Catholics are not bystanders in long-term care. The Catholic Health Sponsors of Ontario collectively operate 1,872 long-term care beds. Some of those Catholic facilities have weathered COVID extraordinarily well, said Crosby.

“There were long-term care centres that did things right. I think that’s the kind of learning that we’re going to discover,” Crosby said. “The Catholic community will have something to offer.”

In advance of a promised independent commission, the Catholic Health Association has submitted a “lessons learned” brief to the Ontario Ministry of Health, said CHAO executive director Ron Noble. The organization has agreed to keep that memo under wraps for now, but Noble did say the CHAO highlighted the advantages of not-for-profit homes.

At the ecumenical, conservative think tank Cardus, its analysis has come down heavily on the side of radical, systemic change.

“COVID-related deaths highlight the pre-existing crisis in Ontario long-term care homes,” said a Cardus release announcing a fresh study into the system.

For Cardus, the problems stem from what we pay and how we train personal support workers.

“A PSW working full-time equivalent hours made almost $2,800 less per year in 2018 than she did in 2009,” said the Cardus report.

In its 2020 budget, Ontario renewed a promise to create 15,000 new long-term care beds — the first significant addition since 20,000 beds were added 20 years ago. At issue will be who owns those beds — big companies like Extendicare and Chartwell, churches and foundations or cities and towns?

Saint Elizabeth Health Care, one of the largest providers of home health care in the country, thinks the best solution may be keeping people out of institutions.

“The home-care sector has evolved significantly in the past 25 years and has the potential to keep people out of more costly institutional settings like hospitals and long-term care facilities,” SE Health CEO Shirley Sharkey said at hearings into Bill 175 to establish “Ontario Health Teams.”


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Court grants extension to federal government for revising euthanasia legislation

Sat, 07/04/2020 - 11:51

By Brian Dryden, Canadian Catholic News

A Quebec court has agreed to allow the federal government to put off making changes to Canada’s medically-assisted suicide / euthanasia law until mid-December.

The extension granted by Justice Quebec Superior Court Justice Frederic Bachand on June 29, 2020 now means that the federal government has until Dec. 18 to bring the country’s euthanasia rules into compliance with a 2019 ruling by Quebec Superior Court Justice Christine Baudouin that had stripped the federal law of one of its key restrictions.

Justice Baudouin ruled that the 2016 requirement that a Canadian’s death must be “reasonably foreseeable” to qualify for a medically-assisted suicide was an unconstitutional restriction and she gave the government six months to bring federal law in compliance with her ruling.

Although critics of expanding who qualifies for euthanasia in Canada have slammed the federal government’s decision not to appeal that original Quebec court decision, the federal government claims that a two-week online survey of the government’s proposed changes to the existing-legislation shows that the public supports the assisted death system and the changes proposed.

The federal government’s proposed changes to euthanasia rules as put forward in Bill C-7 would set up a two-tier system for those whose death is reasonably foreseeable and those whose death is not. It would also allow a waiver of final consent for those whose death is reasonably foreseeable but “who may lose capacity to consent before MAiD (“medical assistance in death”) can be provided.” And it specifically states that it excludes “eligibility for individuals suffering solely from mental illness.”

The government’s proposed Bill C-7 went through First Reading in the House of Commons on Feb. 24, 2020. However, the federal government asked for and was granted a four-month extension of the timeline to comply with the Quebec court ruling soon after that. Justice Baudouin agreed to an extension request on March 2, giving the federal government until July 11 to make changes to the national euthanasia system. But that was before the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered the House of Commons for five weeks starting in March and Parliament has been functioning on a limited basis since then.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has led to unprecedented challenges, including the disruption of the current parliamentary session,” a federal statement said when the government asked for a second extension. “A five-month extension of the ruling’s suspension period is needed to provide sufficient time for Parliament to properly consider and enact this proposed legislation, which is of importance to many Canadians and families across the country.”

The federal government conducted an online survey open to all Canadians to express their views on changes to medically-assisted suicide / euthanasia in January and has said the proposed changes enjoyed overwhelming support through that the process. Public opinion polls have also consistently shown that a large majority of Canadians support the euthanasia system.

But opponents of euthanasia such as the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops dismiss the government’s online survey as being biased and argue that issues of life and death should not be determined by public opinion polls.

“It is very troubling that the introduction of Bill C-7 was justified on the basis of a highly questionable, biased and rushed online survey, which took place over just two weeks,” a statement from the CCCB released Feb. 26 said, adding that “the questions in this survey were framed in a manner which presupposed agreement with euthanasia and assisted suicide, including its broadening, without giving Canadians who are opposed an equal voice.”

“The Catholic Bishops of Canada with Catholic faithful as well as innumerable other Canadians – religious or otherwise – remain opposed to euthanasia and assisted suicide in any form because of their interest in protecting and promoting human life, because it is always wrong to take the life of an innocent person, and because medical science and compassionate care have provided effective ways of easing pain and suffering without having to resort to direct killing,” the CCCB statement said.


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Pope Francis urges Catholic media to help young tell good from evil

Sat, 07/04/2020 - 11:48

By Catholic News Agency staff

[Vatican City – CNA] – The world needs media that can help young people to distinguish between good and evil, presenting the facts in a “clear and unbiased” way, Pope Francis said June 30, 2020.

In a message to members of the Catholic Press Association, the pope appealed to Catholic journalists to help break down barriers of misunderstanding between people.

“We need media capable of building bridges, defending life and breaking down the walls, visible and invisible, that prevent sincere dialogue and truthful communication between individuals and communities,” he wrote.

“We need media that can help people, especially the young, to distinguish good from evil, to develop sound judgments based on a clear and unbiased presentation of the facts, and to understand the importance of working for justice, social concord and respect for our common home.”

He continued: “We need men and women of conviction who protect communication from all that would distort it or bend it to other purposes.”

The Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada (CPA) describes itself on its website as the “most active and vibrant group of Catholic communicators in the world.” Each year it hosts a gathering, known as the Catholic Media Conference, for its almost 225 publication members and 600 individual members.

The CPA held its first convention in Columbus, Ohio, in 1911. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the event was held virtually this year for the first time in its history.

The pope’s message marked the start of this year’s conference, June 30 to July 2, on the theme “Together While Apart.”

Pope Francis said the chosen theme “eloquently expresses the sense of togetherness that emerged, paradoxically, from the experience of social distancing imposed by the pandemic.”

He wrote: “Because of the pandemic, all of us have come to appreciate this truth more fully. Indeed, the experience of these past months has shown how essential is the mission of the communications media for bringing people together, shortening distances, providing necessary information, and opening minds and hearts to truth.”

The pope said the same impulse inspired the creation of Catholic publications in the 19th century.

“It was precisely this realization that led to the establishment of the first Catholic newspapers in your country and the constant encouragement given them by the Church’s pastors,” he said.

“We see this in the case of the Charleston Catholic Miscellany, launched in 1822 by Bishop John England and followed by so many other newspapers and journals.”

“Today, as much as ever, our communities count on newspapers, radio, TV and social media to share, to communicate, to inform and to unite.”

E pluribus unum – the ideal of unity amid diversity, reflected in the motto of the United States, must also inspire the service you offer to the common good. How urgently is this needed today, in an age marked by conflicts and polarization from which the Catholic community itself is not immune.”

Referring to St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians, the pope urged Catholic journalists to be united.

“Media can be large or small, but in the Church these are not the categories that count. In the Church we have all been baptized in the one Spirit and made members of the one body,” he said.

“As in every body, it is often the members who are smallest who, in the end, are those most necessary. So it is with the body of Christ. Each of us, wherever we find ourselves, is called to contribute, through our profession of truth in love, to the Church’s growth to full maturity in Christ.”

Pope Francis underlined that true communication requires more than mere professional competence.

“A true communicator dedicates himself or herself completely to the welfare of the others, at every level, from the life of each individual to the life of the entire human family,” he wrote.

“We cannot truly communicate unless we become personally involved, unless we can personally attest to the truth of the message we convey. All communication has its ultimate source in the life of the triune God, who shares with us the richness of his divine life and calls us in turn to communicate that treasure to others by our unity in the service of his truth.”

Noting that the Church had recently celebrated the Solemnity of the Apostles Peter and Paul June 29, he concluded: “May the spirit of communion with the Bishop of Rome, which has always been a hallmark of the Catholic press in your countries, keep all of you united in faith and resistant to fleeting cultural fads that lack the fragrance of evangelical truth.”

“Let us continue to pray together for reconciliation and peace in our world.”


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PM urged to take spiritual approach to reconcilation

Fri, 07/03/2020 - 11:59

By Michael Swan, The Catholic Register

Two weeks after crown prosecutors in British Columbia dropped civil and criminal charges against 22 protesters arrested in February for defying a court injunction against blocking pipeline construction crews on Wet’suwet’en territory, the Catholic bishops and Indigenous elders in the Our Lady of Guadalupe Circle are telling Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to get on with the job of reconciliation by employing a more spiritual approach to dialogue.

“More progress needs to be made across the country in practical implementations of First Nations’ rights and title over their lands and traditional territories,” said a June 21 letter to Prime Minister Trudeau from the Guadalupe Circle.

Throughout February Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, supported by protesters across the country, were locked in a legal and political struggle against the federal and British Columbia governments and Coastal GasLink Pipeline Ltd. over whether Coastal GasLink had a legitimate right to push through a pipeline on Wet’suwet’en territory. The protests brought much of Canada’s economic activity to a standstill through blockades of rail transport after Coastal GasLink had negotiated a deal with the elected band councils along the pipeline route and on that basis began construction.

By May 14, 2020, Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs had signed a memorandum of understanding with provincial and federal government representatives that defines Wet’suwet’en sovereignty over land and shared jurisdiction over land use planning, resources, water, wildlife, fish and child and family wellness, among other issues.

If governments want to avoid confrontations, legal battles and blockades, they need to take a more spiritual approach to dialogue, said Wikwemikong First Nation elder and Guadalupe Circle co-chair Rosella Kinoshameg.

“It’s having that respectful dialogue — like the attitude of respecting each other’s thoughts and views,” said Kinoshameg.

For Indigenous people, dialogue can only take place in a spiritual context, she said.

“God is always part of our conversation,” said Kinoshameg. “We’re not going to be doing things on our own. We always pray… So it may take a little longer, because we don’t want to rush into things and then not have it go right.”

“Such a spiritual approach, with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a framework, will also help to build a common public understanding of Indigenous and treaty rights,” said the letter co-signed by Keewatin-Le Pas Archbishop Murray Chatlain.

How Canada’s government conducts dialogue with treaty partners should matter to all Canadians, Kinoshameg said.

“Everybody should be aware and have that respect, even if they have no part of it or they’re not in contact (with Indigenous people),” she said. “But to be respectful of those things, not just in words but by actions, I think it’s good that we take these things up.”


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Commentary – Ordination amid COVID-19: A call for humility and courage

Wed, 07/01/2020 - 11:38

By Cardinal Michael Czerny, SJ

[Vatican City – CNA] – On June 27, many churches witnessed the ordinations of dozens of priests and deacons, in ceremonies that were far from typical. Even while some parts of the world “reopen” after the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, social distancing was required, and cameras provided live streaming so that family, friends and loved ones could participate by TV, tablet or smartphone.

On this occasion, I had the joy and honour of ordaining, in the Gesù Church in Rome, two Jesuit priests and eighteen deacons from all over the world—from Italy, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Ukraine, and Austria to Rwanda-Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Madagascar, Sri Lanka, China, Bangladesh and India—wearing masks and connecting online with parents, relatives, friends and fellow Jesuits.

Physical presence was not possible, as Italy slowly recovers from this health crisis; the borders are still closed and travel restrictions are still in place.

The following reflections expand upon the homily I pronounced just before the ordination of these 20 candidates for the priesthood and the diaconate.

Breath of life

As a priest or deacon “to be,” you may feel a bit incomplete because you cannot share this very important moment with your loved ones. You might feel anxious, too: we’re living in the unknown and in unchartered territories for the Church, for all of us. And as you prepare yourself for ordination, you might ask: what does this mean for me, right now and right here?

Perhaps the answer can be found on Easter evening, when the apostles had locked themselves into the upper room for fear of what was happening “outside”. (Even nowadays, our Church sometimes feels fearful and closed in on itself.) Suddenly Jesus becomes visible, audible, tangible among them. “Shalom!” is his first word, “Peace be with you!” He shows them his wounded hands and pierced side. These permanent signs of his Passion proclaim and prove God’s tenacious love. And then, amazingly, Jesus sends them out into the same world they were so afraid of.

How does he do this? With this tremendous gesture: he breathes on them. Just like in the beginning: God breathed his breath of life into Adam. By breathing on his disciples and giving them his Spirit, Jesus lifts them to a new order. That is, he ordains them as heralds of the Gospel “to the ends of the earth”, as it says in the book of Acts.

You are about to receive this deep and generous and transforming breath of life, the Spirit of the Father and the Son. You will be able to say, repeating Isaiah, “the spirit of the Lord is upon me”, to heal and to comfort, to liberate and to reconcile, to raise up and make glad. And to be a herald of the Gospel, a minister of reconciliation and of liberation, in the world of today and tomorrow, where everything seems to be constantly and rapidly new.

With your ordination just moments away, let me remind you that we are all witnessing a bigger moment now, where the whole Church and your family and friends, are encouraging you to choose the uphill path of the “new” rather than the downhill path of the “safe”.

Renewal is nothing new

Our Church has a long history and, from the beginning, it has coped with new conditions, for instance through its Councils. Vatican II proclaimed that the Church must consciously embrace the world. We must discern and “scrutinize the signs of the times”. But while discernment is part of the Jesuit life, style and training, it is not exclusively Jesuit property, nor is it a prerogative of the ordained.

Why is this so? Because of baptism.

According to Vatican II, every member of the Church enjoys the dignity of having been baptized and therefore shares in the mission and ministry of the Church. Ordained ministry does not exhaust or monopolize this ministry, for it is the Church as a whole that is “ministerial” and “missionary”. All its members share in that responsibility. This expands the role of the laity — a work in progress, according to many engaged Christians. Today’s ministers are ordained to foster the active inclusion of God’s people in the life, mission and responsibilities of the Church.

Vatican II embraces the world as the privileged place of announcing the Good News. In doing so, it restores its priests to the world, inviting them to leave the comfort zones called “sacristies” where, like the disciples on the first Easter evening, they had been shut in for fear of what was happening “outside”. Now the world, with its problems and struggles, with its contradictions and its values, with its opportunities and obstacles, is essential to the service of those who will be ordained today.

The courage of witness

Do not expect a map of the unknown land ahead to which you are being sent. It is a daunting prospect to enter uncharted territories. As I said earlier, ministers of the Church need to have the courage of witness, to choose the uphill path of the “new” and not to take the downhill path of the “safe”. May you always have friends and family and companions in the Church to constantly ‘en-courage’ you, even if they can only be with you in spirit.

Keep in mind that discerning the meaning of Christ’s call to us today is a task of the whole Church, not of a chosen few. Don’t try to dominate or own this discernment; instead, accompany others and put yourselves at the service of the discernment of the whole Church.

In doing so, you will be participating in the synodal practice that is gradually growing in the Church. Let us try to walk together with ever greater enthusiasm. Your huge contribution depends on looking honestly and listening sincerely, without thinking that you already have the best answer or all the answers. Try to draw on many people and listen to many voices. However small or large your network is, you will find that it requires both humility and courage to recognize that one cannot do everything on one’s own.

Don’t expect it to be easy, don’t expect it to be without controversy, don’t expect to be rewarded, don’t expect to be liked by others, don’t expect that the critics will acknowledge your difficult struggles, don’t expect quick success. But be confident that you won’t be alone if you let others walk with you.

This is something to pray for, today and always. Ask God to help us see the world as Jesus does, especially in this very difficult time.

The Covid-19 pandemic is showing us the complexity and contradictions of our social and economic systems, where the gap between wealth and poverty is growing out of all proportion, and where so many feel abandoned and thrown away, excluded and unwanted.

Would Jesus not weep for the refugees and migrants who do not receive medical attention because they are “foreigners”, many of them crowded into irregular settlements, who have lost what little they already had and live today in despair? Would Jesus not see the indigenous peoples who are discriminated against for food aid, the prisoners who have been abandoned to the mercies of the virus, and the more than 3 billion poor people worldwide?

I cannot imagine Jesus waiting in an upper room or a sacristy; he would urge us to join him in the margins of the margins, where the courage of life and hope is most needed.

May we enlighten the world with the truth of the Gospel, and propose effective and genial solutions, not just to the present emergency, but to the enormous sufferings of God’s people and of our common home.

Pope Francis speaks often of joy: “The Joy of the Gospel” (Evangelii gaudium) and “Rejoice and be Glad” (Gaudete et exsultate) and “The Joy of Love” (Amoris laetitia). May you experience abundant grace, consolation and joy in carrying out the charge that you are about to accept in your ordination. Peace be with you!




Cardinal Michael Czerny, as a member of the Jesuit community, has worked in Canada, Latin America, Africa, and Rome, in the service of faith and the promotion of justice. Since 2017, he has been Under-Secretary of the Vatican’s Migrants and Refugees Section. In 2019 Pope Francis elevated him to cardinal. Cardinal Czerny is also a member of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.

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CCCB will hold first-ever virtual Plenary Assembly in September because of ongoing COVID-19 restrictions

Tue, 06/30/2020 - 11:54

By Brian Dryden, Canadian Catholic News

[Ottawa – CCN]  – One of the most important annual gatherings of the Catholic Church’s leadership in Canada will become an online event this year as the 2020 Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) Plenary Assembly will not be held in Cornwall this September as originally planned, but instead will be the first ever  “virtual Plenary Assembly.”

The decision to make the annual Plenary Assembly an online event this year is because of ongoing COVID-19 pandemic health and safety concerns that have until recently closed most Catholic churches across the country.

“In consideration of the measures in place surrounding COVID-19, the uncertainty of the current times, and for the health and safety of all involved, the Permanent Council of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops decided to adapt how this year’s gathering would be held,” CCCB communications coordinator Lisa Gall told the Canadian Catholic News.

“This year’s Plenary will be held in September as planned, but it will be held virtually by videoconference much like a number of other episcopal conferences have elected to do in recent months,” she said of the assembly that is planned for Sept. 21-25, 2020.

CCCB president and Winnipeg Archbishop Richard Gagnon told the Canadian Catholic News in a statement that as the Catholic Church has had to move much of its operations online in recent months because of the pandemic the church has become more at ease using technology for church matters and it also became clear that holding a virtual Plenary Assembly was possible as a way to protect the health and safety of assembly participants.

“Of course, such a conference is no complete substitute for the in-person Plenary as the personal contact between bishops is very important,” Archbishop Gagnon said. ”But under these circumstances we are fortunate to at least have this technology available to us.”

“The agenda, of course, will need to be greatly simplified under these current conditions so that we will be able to deal with the most important matters and avoid the kind of ‘screen fatigue’ that many are speaking about lately,” he said.

Gall said that details of the virtual Plenary Assembly agenda will be made public after planning for the September assembly are finalized.


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Pope Francis on feast of Saints Peter and Paul: ‘Only prayer unlocks chains’

Mon, 06/29/2020 - 10:40

By Courtney Mares, Catholic News Agency

[Vatican City – CNA] – On the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul June 29, 2020, Pope Francis urged Christians to pray for one another and for unity, saying “only prayer unlocks chains.”

“What would happen if we prayed more and complained less?” Pope Francis asked in his homily in St. Peter’s Basilica.

“The same thing that happened to Peter in prison: now as then, so many closed doors would be opened, so many chains that bind would be broken. … Let us ask for the grace to be able to pray for one another,” he said.

Pope Francis said that Peter and Paul were two very different people, yet God gave them the grace to be closely united in Christ.

“We celebrate together two very different individuals: Peter, a fisherman who spent his days amid boats and nets, and Paul, a learned Pharisee who taught in synagogues. When they went forth on mission, Peter spoke to Jews, and Paul to pagans. And when their paths crossed, they could argue heatedly, as Paul is unashamed to admit in one of his letters,” he said.

“The closeness that joined Peter and Paul did not come from natural inclinations, but from the Lord,” the pope said.

The Lord “did not command us to like one another, but to love one another,” he said. “He is the one who unites us, without making us all alike.”

St. Paul urged Christians to pray for everyone, Pope Francis said, “especially those who govern.” The pope underlined that this is “a task that the Lord has entrusted to us.”

“Are we carrying it out? Or do we simply talk … and do nothing?” he asked.

Pointing to the account of St. Peter’s imprisonment in the Acts of the Apostles, Pope Francis said that the early Church responded to persecution by joining in prayer. Chapter 12 of the Book of Acts describes Peter as imprisoned “by double chains” when an angel appeared to him to facilitate his escape.

“The text says that, ‘while Peter was kept in prison, the Church prayed fervently to God for him,’” Pope Francis said. “Unity is the fruit of prayer, for prayer allows the Holy Spirit to intervene, opening our hearts to hope, shortening distances and holding us together at times of difficulty.”

The pope said that none of the early Christians described in Acts “complained about Herod’s evil and his persecution” as they faced martyrdom.

“It is pointless, even tedious, for Christians to waste their time complaining about the world, about society, about everything that is not right. Complaints change nothing,” he said. “Those Christians did not cast blame; they prayed.”

“Only prayer unlocks chains, only prayer paves the way to unity,” the pope said.

Pope Francis said that both St. Peter and St. Paul were prophets who looked to the future.

He said: “Peter is the first to proclaim that Jesus is ‘the Christ, the Son of the living God’. Paul, who considers his impending death, said, ‘From now on there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord will award to me.”

“Peter and Paul preached Jesus, as men in love with God,” he said. “At his crucifixion, Peter did not think about himself but about his Lord, and, considering himself unworthy of dying like Jesus, asked to be crucified upside down. Before his beheading, Paul thought only of offering his life; he wrote that he wanted to be ‘poured out like a libation.’”

Pope Francis offered Mass at the Altar of the Chair, which is located behind the main altar that is built upon St. Peter’s tomb. The pope also prayed before the basilica’s bronze statue of St. Peter, which was adorned for the feast with a papal tiara and a red cope.

During this Mass, the pope blessed the “pallium,” the white woolen vestments to be given to each new metropolitan archbishop. These were made with wool woven by the Benedictine Sisters of St. Cecilia in Trastevere, and are adorned with six black silk crosses.

The tradition of the pallium dates back to at least the fifth century. Metropolitan archbishops wear the pallium as a symbol of authority and of unity with the Holy See. It serves as a sign of the metropolitan archbishop’s jurisdiction in his own diocese, as well as the other particular dioceses within his ecclesiastical province.

“Today we bless the pallia to be bestowed on the dean of the College of Cardinals and the metropolitan archbishops named in the last year. The pallium is a sign of the unity between the sheep and the Shepherd who, like Jesus, carries the sheep on his shoulders, so as never to be separated from it,” Pope Francis said.

The pope, who himself was also wearing a pallium during the Mass, bestowed a pallium on Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, who was elected as the dean of the College of Cardinals in January.

The recently appointed metropolitan archbishops will receive their blessed pallia from their local apostolic nuncio.

After the Mass, Pope Francis prayed the Angelus from the window of the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace with a small crowd spread throughout St. Peter’s Square for the feast.

“It is a gift to find ourselves praying here, near the place where Peter died a martyr and is buried,” the pope said.

“Visiting the tombs of the Apostles will strengthen your faith and testimony.”

Pope Francis said that only in giving can one become great, and said that God desires to help each Christian grow in their capacity to give life.

“The most important thing in life is to make life a gift,” he said, saying this is true for parents as well as consecrated.

“Let us look to Saint Peter: he did not become a hero because he was freed from prison, but because he gave his life here. His gift transformed a place of execution into the beautiful place of hope in which we find ourselves,” he said.

“Today, before the Apostles, we can ask ourselves: ‘And I, how do I arrange my life? Do I think only of the needs of the moment or do I believe that my real need is Jesus, who makes me a gift? And how do I build life, on my capacities or on the living God?,’” he said. “May Our Lady, who entrusted everything to God, help us to put Him at the foundation of every day.”


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Class of 2020 celebrates with virtual graduation ceremonies during COVID-19 restrictions

Fri, 06/26/2020 - 13:15

By Derrick Kunz, Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools

Close to 1,000 Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools students celebrated graduations in front of a screen on June 25, 2020, instead of in front of a crowd of family and friends.

Restrictions on the size of gatherings because of the COVID-19 pandemic made traditional graduation ceremonies all but impossible.

“It takes months to plan an event like a graduation. Given the information we had in early May, we made the decision to focus our efforts on a virtual celebration for our graduates,” said Scott Gay, superintendent of learning at Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools (GSCS).

Restrictions on outdoor graduation gatherings have since been loosened, but Gay said planning was too far advanced to change course.

“Graduation is one of life’s moments that everyone looks forward too,” said Diane Boyko, Board of Education chair for the GSCS division.

“Over a decade of work is supposed to be marked with a grand celebration, and not being able to do that in a traditional way was an emotional loss for everyone. We heard from parents, staff and students how important doing something special is to them, so a lot of people put in a lot of extra work to try and make students feel like they weren’t missing out on this important celebration.”

Virtual celebrations include a pre-recorded graduation Mass celebrated by Bishop Mark Hagemoen, speeches from the division’s Board of Education Chair Diane Boyko, Director of Education Greg Chatlain, and the schools’ valedictorian and salutatorian.

“Giving each student the opportunity to walk across a stage to receive their diploma is one thing we were are quite proud we were able to include in the virtual celebration,” said Gay.

Following strict protocols and schedules, students were recorded and photographed in their cap and gown as they were presented their diploma. “That’s a key moment of graduation, and replicating that in some way was special for everyone.”

Each of the seven high schools in the division will also have a giant banner hanging from the school as a visual sign of students’ accomplishments.

Individual schools and parent groups also went out of their way to make the occasion special for grads. Some examples are porch-front photographs in formal attire and lawn signs for students.

Related LINK: Front step photos of Holy Cross graduates


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Many pilgrimages this summer cancelled because of COVID-19; Reward pilgrimage to go ahead July 12 with restrictions

Fri, 06/26/2020 - 12:15

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

The ongoing impact of COVID-19 restrictions on summer events includes the cancellation of a number of historic Prairie pilgrimages to Marian shrines throughout Saskatchewan.

In the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon, the Blumenfeld and Carmel pilgrimages have been cancelled, with only the Reward pilgrimage going ahead this year.

In the Archdiocese of Regina to date the cancelled pilgrimages include those at Rama, File Hills, Forget, Lestock and Candiac, SK.

The July 15-16 pilgrimage to the St. Laurent shrine near Duck Lake in the Diocese of Prince Albert has also been cancelled.

Registration required for Reward pilgrimage

Although it is going ahead, the annual Reward pilgrimage in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon will not be quite the same in 2020 – the event will feature a reduced program and restricted numbers for the 4 p.m. Mass on Sunday, July 12 at the site of the historic Holy Rosary Church and shrine south of Reward, SK.

Registration is required to ensure the number attending remains within COVID-19 guidelines, stress the Reward pilgrimage organizers. Those who wish to attend must call to register with shrine committee chair Leanne Clark at (306) 228-2117.

Food will not be served as usual at the pilgrimage, although those attending are welcome to bring a picnic supper. In addition, the tent that traditionally has provided a shaded seating area for pilgrims will not be set up this year — instead, participants are asked to bring their own umbrellas or awnings, as well as chairs, beverages, blankets, etc.

Related LINK: Lac Ste. Anne pilgrimage moves online as in-person gathering cancelled

Related LINK: 2019 Reward Pilgrimage article and photos

The historic Holy Rosary Church at Reward, SK is the site of an annual pilgrimage for parishes of the surrounding “St. Joseph’s Colony” area and beyond. The 2020 event on Sunday July 12 is being adapted to ensure restrictions are in place to prevent transmission of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Registration is required for those who wish to attend. (Photo: Tim Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)

Blumenfeld and Carmel events cancelled

An annual pilgrimage to Sts. Peter and Paul Church and Our Lady of Sorrows Grotto at Blumenfeld, SK, which was to have been held June 7, was cancelled this year because of the limits on public gatherings.

Our Lady of Sorrow Grotto at St. Peter and Paul Church site, Blumenfeld, SK, is the site of an annual June pilgrimage. This year’s event was cancelled. (Photo by Tim Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)

The pilgrimage to Mount Carmel shrine in the St. Peter’s Colony area around Muenster / Humboldt has also been cancelled.

The statue of Our Lady of Carmel which stands at the top of the hill where the Mount Carmel shrine was established nearly 100 years ago in St. Peter’s Colony. The 2020 event has been cancelled because of COVID-19.  (Photo by Tim Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News)

Pilgrimages across the province

Other Saskatoon-area pilgrimages outside of the diocese of Saskatoon have also been affected by COVID-19 restrictions.

The historic pilgrimage to Our Lady of Lourdes shrine at St. Laurent, near Duck Lake, SK,  July 15-16 is cancelled, but the status of events Aug. 15 and Sept. 8 have not yet been determined, according to a message from Bishop Albert Thévenot, M. Afr. of the Catholic Diocese of Prince Albert and parish/pilgrimage leaders on the St. Laurent shrine website.

However, there will be a prayer novena at the St. Laurent shrine site from July 6-14, featuring praying of the Rosary, followed by Mass, celebrated according to the government of Saskatchewan guidelines for public worship, which presently restrict attendance to 150, with physical distancing in place. During the novena, a video of each day’s event will be posted later every evening on the Diocese of Prince Albert Facebook page and on the website.

In the Archdiocese of Regina, the 2020 annual pilgrimage at Our Lady of Auvergne Church in Ponteix, SK, will go ahead in a simplified form, with a talk, prayer and Mass, beginning at 6 p.m. July 16, with special guest Archbishop (Emeritus) James Weisgerber.








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Mixed reviews for Canada’s anti-slavery bill

Thu, 06/25/2020 - 06:57

By Michael Swan, The Catholic Register

[Toronto – Canadian Catholic News] – Everybody agrees modern slavery must end, but Canadian Catholics can’t quite agree on how best to accomplish that objective.

The International Labour Organization estimates there are 40 million modern-day slaves in the world when you count 24.9 million in forced labour and 15.4 million in forced marriages. That translates into 5.4 victims of modern slavery for every 1,000 people in the world.

Canada’s Senate has responded to this grim reality with a bill (the second on this topic) that would force publicly traded companies and other large corporations to disclose the possibility that child labour or forced labour may have been used at any stage in the production process — whether by the company itself, or by a contractor or subcontractor.

Called the Modern Slavery Act, or Bill S-211, the legislation is modelled after similar laws in the United Kingdom, Australia and California. Although backed by several Catholic organizations, others are disappointed that the bill fails to propose large fines and even jail time for offenders.

The Archdiocese of Toronto is a supporter. Requiring corporations to produce and publish a report that outlines how, when and where forced or child labour might have been used is significant, said Archdiocese of Toronto chancellor of temporal affairs Jim Milway.

“We do think reputational risks are meaningful,” he said.

Threatening corporate directors and executives with jail time might seem more substantial, but Milway is willing to give the law as written a chance.

“I will celebrate that law. It’s never enough, but we’ll take it,” he said. “It’s a good law. We’re happy we supported the law.”

Pressure from shareholders at corporate annual general meetings played a big role in getting Bill S-211 to first reading in February. The activist investors include the Loretto Sisters, Our Lady’s Missionaries, the Sisters of St. Ann, the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, the Missionary Society of St. Paul the Apostle and the Archdiocese of Toronto.

But Canada’s Catholic international development agency, Development and Peace / Caritas Canada wishes the proposed law did more than merely compel corporations to file an annual report on child or forced labour being used in their supply chains. Without substantial fines and the threat of jail time, corporate Canada will not change how it does business, said  Elana Wright, advocacy and research chief at Development and Peace.

points to a 2015 law passed in the U.K., similar to the proposed Canadian legislation, that “has proven to be ineffective at preventing the forced labour that it was intended to stop.”

“Canada needs a law that ensures that no Canadian company is able to make profit at the expense of people and the planet,” she said.

Milway’s approach to ethical investing is to talk with corporate boards and management, ask questions and guide them towards better behaviour.

“Our tack, our strategy, is that we use our influence to engage managers or executives of these companies to watch their supply chains. It’s in their own interest and it’s in our interest that they do that,” he said.

“What we’re saying as Catholic investors is that we do care how companies are managing their supply chains.”

But the restrained approach has failed in the past, said Wright.

“Experience around the world has shown that neither voluntary measures, nor bills that simply require public reporting, are enough to prevent abuse,” she said. “We are working to ensure that new, stronger legislation based on mandatory due diligence requirements that hold companies liable, is introduced in Parliament as soon as possible.”

The Senate bill is really an update of one introduced in the House of Commons in 2018 by Liberal MP John McKay. That bill got to first reading, but died on the order paper when the 2019 election was called.


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Cardinal calls attention to Canada’s “tragic” migrant worker problem

Thu, 06/25/2020 - 06:42

By Michael Swan, The Catholic Register

[Toronto – Canadian Catholic News] – Canada’s migrant worker problem matters to Pope Francis and the universal Church because it’s a global problem and a moral problem, said Canadian Cardinal Michael Czerny.

“It is tragic that this is coming to public attention in Canada because some migrant farm workers have died from COVID-19,” wrote Czerny in an e-mail.

The Jesuit cardinal co-leads the Vatican’s Migrants and Refugees Section, part of the Dicastery for Integral Human Development. Responding to questions from The Catholic Register, Czerny said Canadian face a moral choice.

“We should ask, what will guide our actions in the future? Will it be the values of our best selves or the meanness of our selfish wallets?” he wrote.

In response to a May 1 video sent to him by migrant farm workers in Italy, Pope Francis urged that forgotten, invisible and abused farm labourers should become the “centre of our concern,” Czerny pointed out.

“It is true that the current crisis affects everyone, but people’s dignity must always be respected,” the Pope said May 6 in reply to the video. “That is why I add my voice to the appeal of these workers and of all exploited workers. May the (COVID-19) crisis give us the opportunity to make the dignity of the person and work of the centre of our concern.”

“Centre of our concern? Most of us don’t even see them,” Czerny told The Catholic Register.

“If they are responsible for our fruits and vegetables and the prosperity of our agriculture, then we’re responsible for their health, dignity and hope. And if it is uneconomical to treat them according to minimal Canadian standards of labour, health and safety, then it is the economy that has to change.”

The problems migrant farm workers face in Canada are repeated in countries around the world, Czerny said.

“Cultivation and harvesting can be very labour-intensive. Everyone needs food, but also wants to have money for lots of other things,” he said.

“So societies and corporations meet their farm labour needs as cheaply as possible.

“At worst, workers who are desperate can be manipulated into slave-like conditions — conditions that ignore ‘the dignity of the person and of work,’ as Pope Francis put it.”

Conditions migrant workers face in Canada are parallel to those faced by mafia-controlled immigrant farm labourers in Italy, including overcrowded bunkhouses, pressure to work while sick and the absence of personal protective equipment in the midst of a pandemic, Czerny said.


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Vatican releases new Directory for Catechesis

Thu, 06/25/2020 - 06:18

By Hannah Brockhaus, Catholic News Agency

[Vatican City – CNA] – The Vatican published a new directory for catechesis June 25, 2020, emphasizing both its continuity with two previous directories and its new content on contemporary issues such as sex and gender and medical advancements.

“The new Directory for Catechesis offers the fundamental theological-pastoral principles and some general orientations which are relevant for the practice of catechesis in our time,” Archbishop Rino Fisichella wrote in the introduction to the directory.

The directory was released in Italian June 25. It will be published in the major global languages.

LINK: Press Conference event including full statement

LINK: Vatican News site article about release of new directory

Archbishop Fisichella is president of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, which is responsible for the new edition of the directory, a 300-page book intended as a guide to bishops, priests, religious, and lay Catholics involved in teaching the Catholic faith.

The new directory follows editions published in 1971 and 1997. The 1971 General Catechetical Directory was created in an effort to systematize the teachings of the Second Vatican Council for catechesis.

“This Directory for Catechesis places itself in a dynamic continuity with the two which preceded it,” Fisichella wrote in the introduction.

According to the archbishop, the guiding criterion for the writing of the new edition was deepening the Church’s understanding of the role of catechesis in the area of evangelization.

Catechesis “needs to take on the very characteristics of evangelization,” but without substituting it, Fisichella said at a press conference June 25. “In this relationship, the primacy belongs to evangelization not to catechesis.”

The directory’s introduction states that each directory is in continuity with the Church’s teachings, especially the documents of Vatican II, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, papal encyclicals, and synods of bishops.

Among the new issues tackled by the 2020 directory are bioethics, sex and gender, care for creation, and the death penalty.

On bioethics, the directory emphasizes the difference between “therapeutic intervention and manipulation,” especially when it leads to the risk of practicing eugenics.

The document also affirms God’s creation of the human person as “male and female.” It notes that while the Church is aware of the personal complexity some people experience in the realm of gender and sexuality, “however, she is aware that, in a perspective of faith, sexuality is not only a physical datum, but is a personal reality, a value entrusted to the responsibility of the person.”

In the face of modern challenges in the areas of bioethics and gender, the directory says that catechists should promote education rooted in the faith and Christian morality, all in light of the Magisterium of the Church.

The book provides some fundamental elements for catechists to highlight, which are that “God is the initial and final reference of life, from his conception to natural death; the person is always unity of spirit and body; science is at the service of the person; life must be accepted in any condition, because it is redeemed by the paschal mystery of Jesus Christ.”

About the death penalty, the directory emphasizes the “intrinsic and inalienable dignity” of every human person, and references the teaching of recent popes, especially Pope Francis’ 2018 change to the Catechism of the Catholic Church which declared the death penalty “inadmissiable.”

“Catechesis, therefore, will have to make every effort to make the Church’s teaching understood and to help to create a new culture,” the document states.

On care for the common home, the directory references the need for “ecological conversion” in the face of accelerating and complex ecological problems.

“A catechesis sensitive to the protection of creation promotes a culture of attention paid both to the environment and to the people who live there,” it states, adding that part of environmental responsibility is responsibility and respect for other people by living a life of virtue free of consumerism.

The document also addresses the new challenges of the digital culture and the culture of globalization.

The directory highlighted the need for training in these areas, since both issues “are so interconnected that they determine each other and produce phenomena that highlight a radical change in the existence of people.”


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Advocates in Saskatoon mark World Refugee Day

Tue, 06/23/2020 - 09:32

The World Refugee event June 20 began at City Hall in Saskatoon. (Submitted photo)

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

COVID-19 restrictions did not stop advocates from marking World Refugee Day in Saskatoon — an annual event that has always had a local dimension, through sunshine, rain, or pandemic.

Carrying signs reading “We Are All in This Together,” “My Door is Open For Refugees,”  and “We Are Safe When Refugees are Safe,” participants gathered at Saskatoon City Hall before fanning out on a walk to River Landing.

Related: Work of the diocesan Migration Office continues in midst of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic is causing suffering for refugees around the world, who are always among the most vulnerable as they flee violence and persecution in an effort to find a place of safety. Travel restrictions are also impacting the arrival of refugees who are being sponsored by Canadians, including those connected to Sponsorship Agreement Holder (SAH) organizations, such as the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon.

The UNHCR (United Nations refugee agency)  recently released its annual Global Trends Report, reporting that the number of displaced people – including refugees who have fled their homeland as well as those who are internally displaced within their own countries – has increased from 70.8 million in 2018 to 79.5 million at the end of 2019. Some 26 million of those displaced persons are refugees. Only 0.5 per cent of the world’s refugees were offered resettlement in 2019, although the UNHCR estimates that more than 1.4 million refugees need to be resettled. Canadian continues to be a world leader in resettlement, welcoming 30,100 refugees in 2019 (p. 52 of the Global Trends Report for 2019). Some 58 percent of re-settlement arrivals during the last decade were conducted through private sponsorship. View Video from UNHCR: LINK

Participants carried signs, while wearing masks and observing physical distancing in response to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions, which are also affecting the arrival of refugees to Canada. (Submitted photo)

Participants in the Saskatoon World Refugee Day event walked from City Hall to River Landing June 20. (Submitted photo)


Participants in the World Refugee Day event gathered at River Landing in Saskatoon. (Photo submitted)



Group photo of participants at River Landing, Saskatoon. (Submitted photo)



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Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools (GSCS) Board of Education passes balanced 2020-21 budget

Mon, 06/22/2020 - 18:00

By Derrick Kunz, Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools

Stable but unpredictable is how the financial outlook for the 2020-21 fiscal year was described during debate and discussion of the 2020-21 operating budget for Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools (GSCS).

GSCS Board of Education unanimously passed the balanced operating and capital budget of $206.71 million that administration presented at their regular meeting on June 22, 2020.

“Funding for pre-kindergarten to Grade 12 education in Saskatchewan has stabilized, and increases to cover enrolment growth and inflation are appreciated,” said Board of Education Chair Diane Boyko.

Referring to the COVID-19 pandemic, she added, “We all have this cloud of unpredictability hanging over us that makes it incredibly hard to plan. We know there will more expenses as we adapt to the realities of physical distancing, increased cleaning and sanitizing, and physical protective measures.”

The division projects enrolment growth of 674 more students (3.4 per cent). That, and inflationary costs for things like utilities and negotiated salary increases for staff, will consume the increase in operating budget.

On the capital side, design and planning funding will be provided by the government for a new St. Frances Cree Bilingual School. Boyko said, “Years of work by a multitude of people dedicated to culturally responsive education is paying off. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and we are thankful for all of the preparation work done to this point so we can get shovels in the ground faster.”

The school division’s fiscal year runs from September 1 to August 31 each year.

A detailed look at the budget can be found on our website at

2020-21 Operating and Capital Budget “By the Numbers”:

  • $186.91 million operating grant from the Government of Saskatchewan
  • $206.71 million operating and capital budget
  • $7.12 million operating grant increase (3.96%)
  • 674 more students expected (3.4%)
  • 44 FTE new teachers
  • 14 FTE new educational assistants
  • $1.3 million for detailed  design of a new St. Frances Cree Bilingual School
  • $100,000 to determine future needs of high school in Saskatoon

– 30 –


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Archdiocese of Regina COVID-19 news update: As parishes re-open, communication is key

Mon, 06/22/2020 - 15:06

By Alison Bradish, Archdiocese of Regina News

[Moose Jaw, SK] – They wanted no one left behind in their communications. Phases, questions, changes, and new directives are what all organizations faced in the last three months due to Covd-19.  For parishes around the Archdiocese June brought the faithful back to churches empty since Mid-March.

Now upon entering, there is no holy water, cordoned off pews, questions about your health at the door and names being recorded, direction of what aisles to take and what seat is marked off as safe.

Related: Public celebrations gradually begin in Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon (LINK)

For St. Joseph parishioner Gilles L’Heureux in Moose Jaw, the pandemic was a personal call for him to help ensure fellow parishioners would not grow apart because of physical distancing.

L’Heureux headed up the St. Joseph Faith in Action Pandemic Response Committee established within days of the announcement that gatherings over 10 people were prohibited due to a provincial state of emergency with the onset of Covid-19 March 18, 2020.  With the help of a core group of volunteers and the blessing of the Parish Pastoral Council, the team set out make sure every one of its parishioners were contacted either by email or phone.

“I was afraid that many people in our parish community would be left in the dark in terms of what was going on.  I was concerned some people might fall by the wayside because they have needs our parish can meet and we wanted to do what we could to meet those needs,” says L’Heureux.

To do this a Facebook page for the parish was set up and emails were sent out to those parishioners who had left that information with the parish during the Stewardship weekend.  St. Joseph’s CWL helped with a phone tree to contact parishioners not on the email list.

The fruits of the effort were tangible.  Two hundred people joined the Facebook page, volunteers made themselves available to reach out and the sense of community remained as the parish entered Holy Week.

“It was an affirmation that it is crucial for us to connect with parishioners.  In a sense I felt it was something that was lacking in our church outside of people attending Mass,” says L’Heureux acknowledging the difficulties large parishes can face when people often only go to one Mass and therefore miss others who participate at a different time.

“There is a need for us to solidify that connection, and also it opens up that notion that there are a lot of people out there who are willing to help,” says L’Heureux.

His next challenge was reopening parishes for Mass June 8, 2020.  He coordinated attendance at Masses when places of worship were first limited to 30 people, not an easy task for a parish that serves roughly 600 families. For L’Heureux it is a relief the amount of people the government is allowing to gather has increased. Going forward Mass will be a first-come first-serve basis.

“I’m chomping at the bit in terms of getting  back to normal and I hate and I do not use the word ‘new normal’ because I want to go back to normal,  because it is possible and I think if we increase our faith and trust in the Lord to be with us in these concerns.  Yes, we need to be prudent, cautious but I am hopeful we can get back to normal,” says L’Heureux.

Rose Mary Hartney a member of Church of Our Lady (COOL) Pastoral Parish Council in Moose Jaw and head of the liturgy committee.

As many parishes did, COOL did their best to reach out by phone and email.  Hartney says a good thing coming out of that effort is an updated contact list since many people have given up landlines and registering more people officially with the parish.

“I’m under no illusion that I’m sure we missed people but I think we have made some good connections with people and reconnections and I think there has to be some onus on people themselves to reach out if they need information or are looking for information. But I think the visiting and connecting people have done on the phone and online has been a good thing,” says Hartney.

For her the pandemic brought to light the conundrum of having most of their volunteer base categorized as the vulnerable sector. Many who were bringing communion to the sick and shuts ins before the pandemic are age 65 and older.

“We are going to need some additional volunteers if we are going to maintain some of those programs,” remarks Hartney.

Despite the challenges Hartney says the past few month have helped confirm her faith more.

“I think it’s the whole nature of faith that you persevere. That you carry on and you believe there is a purpose to all of this. It will be resolved,” says Hartney commenting on the value of praying for those who are sick, those who are caring for them and the scientists and researchers who are working to figure it out.

The Saskatchewan Government’s recent guidelines for places of worship requires that social distancing of two metres be maintained and allows for religious gatherings of up to 30 per cent of a building’s capacity or 150 people, whichever is less. (Within that total amount, groups of 30, with social distancing of two metres between households/individuals, must also be separated by at least five metres.)




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Prayer: “Resisting Racism – Celebrating Oneness”

Sun, 06/21/2020 - 11:49


By Roma De Robertis, SCIC, St John, NB


Praise to You, God of the Universe!

Generously, You created all people in your image and likeness.


Together with many other species,

we delight to express your beauty and wisdom.


Graciously, your Spirit energizes all of us to enjoy life in You,

living together in harmony,

while uniquely contributing to the common good.


Forgive our bigotry, narrowness and violence.

Help us hear voices raised in pained protest –

with hope of transformation.


Awaken us to see You in peoples of all races and cultures,

and to honour rich diversity enlivening the church,

and our entire Earth community.


We pray in the name of Jesus, who is One with all creation.


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Pope Francis adds three titles to Catholic litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Sat, 06/20/2020 - 10:19

By Hannah Brockhaus, Catholic News Agency

[Vatican City – CNA] – Pope Francis has approved the inclusion of three additional invocations in the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary, also called the Litany of Loreto.

In a June 20 letter to the presidents of bishops’ conferences, Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Congregation for the Divine Liturgy and the Discipline of the Sacraments, said the invocations “Mater misericordiae” (Mother of mercy), “Mater spei” (Mother of hope), and “Solacium migrantium” (Comfort of migrants) should be inserted in the Marian litany.

“The titles and invocations which Christian piety has reserved for the Virgin Mary over the course of the centuries, as the privileged and sure way to an encounter with Christ, are innumerable,” Sarah wrote.

“Even in this present moment which is marked by feelings of uncertainty and trepidation, devout recourse to her, which is full of affection and trust, is deeply felt by the People of God,” the cardinal continued.

Sarah said Pope Francis welcomed people’s desire to include these invocations in the formulary of the litany.

The Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary, also known as the Litany of Loreto, has been an approved prayer for the intercession of Mary by the Church since the late 16th century, with its usage recorded even prior.

It consists of the recitation of formal and informal titles of Mary, followed by the request to Mary to “pray for us.”

The litany can be prayed in Latin or the vernacular.

In his letter, Cardinal Sarah noted where each invocation should be added, using the Latin formulations:

  • “Mater misericordiae,” which means, “Mother of mercy,” should be placed after “Mater Ecclesiae.”
  • “Mater spei,” which means “Mother of hope,” should follow “Mater divinae gratiae.”
  • “Solacium migrantium,” which means “Comfort of migrants,” should follow “Refugium peccatorum.”

“With every good wish and kind regard, we wish to entrust this notification to you for your information and application,” Sarah wrote to the bishops’ conferences. The letter is dated June 20, the day the Church celebrates the Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Sarah said: “The Church which walks along the pathways of history as a pilgrim towards the heavenly Jerusalem and enjoys inseparable communion with Christ her Spouse and Saviour, entrusts herself to her who believed in the word of the Lord.”

“We know from the Gospel that the disciples of Jesus had in fact learned from the very beginning to praise her as ‘blessed amongst women’ and to count on her maternal intercession,” he wrote.


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Work of the diocesan Migration office continues in the midst of the ongoing impact of COVID-19

Fri, 06/19/2020 - 13:35

(Note: Some refugee names have been changed for privacy reasons)

By Jan Bigland-Pritchard, Coordinator, Office of Migration

Despite COVID-19, Canada and our diocese remain committed to refugee ministry.

There is no clear timeline for when overseas Canadian visa offices and international airlines will make new arrivals possible, but the Canadian government has reassured us that arrivals will resume, and they have also encouraged us to submit new applications for sponsorship.

Impact of COVID-19 restrictions

All refugee arrivals in Canada ground to a halt on March 18, 2020.

This was bad news for Abraham, who was due to fly from his country of refuge to a new home in Saskatoon on March 25. The impact on individuals and families who were just ready to fly has been huge. Possessions were already sold or given away, some had already left homes in the camps or small towns to travel to the big city to get the flight, when they got the bad news. So after sometimes years of waiting, they are starting over, and waiting again.

Others, like Grandma Collette, who is raising her three little grandchildren single-handed, are in places where COVID-19 panic and lockdowns have seen food costs triple. Her daughter in Saskatoon, who had been sending money for them to live on, had her work hours reduced due to COVID-19, so finding extra for Collette was a struggle. The daughter turned to her parish refugee committee, who did some rapid fundraising, and found donors willing to provide the extra $365 per month Collette needs to keep her little brood fed and healthy.

The shutdown of international travel has been agony for young Zack, who arrived in the fall and had expected by now to be reunited with and married to his fiancée of several years, who is living for now in Europe. Normally by now he would have had a Canadian travel document and could have gone to see her, but due to COVID-19 he finds that his future is once again on hold, with no clear end in sight.

Newcomers settling in

One benefit of COVID-19 is that we are in closer touch with the 28 refugee newcomers who have arrived and are still within their sponsorship year, and we find that most are doing very well.

Congratulations also to Wintana and Johannes, newcomers sponsored through Holy Spirit parish, who ‘graduated’ from sponsorship June 18. Wintana and Yohannes are both employed and also taking classes to improve their English – well done to them and to their co-sponsor Hiriti.

Related: World Refugee Day marked in Saskatoon on June 20, 2020

Moving forward

At a time of financial insecurity, there is an increased note of caution among parishes when they consider taking on new refugee sponsorships. This comes as no surprise, and is just common sense and good stewardship at the moment.

I am so glad that prior to COVID-19 the diocese had already made the difficult decision to require that the full costs for a sponsorship must be deposited with the parish or diocese prior to a new application being submitted. This means that we can have confidence that the work to which we are already committed is also already funded.

However, the worldwide need for refugee re-settlement continues to grow, and the love of Christ challenges us to continue to step up, in bad times as well as good.

How to help

What can people do to support refugee ministry in our diocese? Here are a few suggestions for how you can help:

• Spread good news stories about refugees.  Most refugee newcomers, especially those brought through private sponsors like our diocese, settle rapidly, commit to language learning, and go into full time employment very quickly. Many get involved in volunteer work in Saskatoon right away, like Naza, who has been going daily to make and distribute lunches through the Salvation Army.

• Pray for newcomer friends and acquaintances in your parish or town. They may be carrying extra burdens because of COVID-19.

• Pray for the 88 people still overseas that our diocese has applied for and who are waiting, waiting, waiting.  Pray for protection for them where they are, for provision, and for patience.

• Donate to the settlement funds for the two families of persecuted Christians from Pakistan that our diocese is bringing to Canada – the Sharoon family of four through Holy Spirit parish, Saskatoon, and the Masih family of four through St. Philip Neri parish, Saskatoon.

• Consider whether you or your parish can prepare to be a settlement team for a newcomer family.

The diocesan Migration Office has several cases at present where a family member already in Saskatoon has the necessary funds for a sponsorship, but needs a church group to walk with them through the 12-month settlement period. If you would like to explore what is involved, you can do so without any obligation on your part.

For more information about refugee sponsorship, contact Jan Bigland-Pritchard, Coordinator of the Office of Migration for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon, by e-mailing:

To designate a financial gift to refugee aid via the diocesan Migration Office, go to the online giving page at: Catholic Foundation website


More information for World Refugee Day: The UNHCR (United Nations refugee agency)  recently released its annual Global Trends Report. View Video from UNHCR: LINK Tragically, the trends in 2019 are even more sobering than the year before.
  • The number of displaced people (refugees and internally displaced) in the world increased from 70.8 million in 2018 to 79.5 million people at the end of 2019. This is 1% of the world’s population.
  • The increase from 25.9 million refugees in 2018 to 26 million refugees in 2019 was not large, but we are still talking 26 million people.
  • What this year’s report emphasizes is that fewer displaced people will find durable solutions. Many more people will live in limbo for longer.
 Resettlement – LINK
  • Roughly 0.5 per cent of the world’s refugees were offered resettlement in 2019.
  • UNHCR estimates that more than 1.4 million refugees need to be resettled, an 80 per cent increase since 2011. (p. 51 of the Global Trends Report for 2019).
  • At the end of the decade, there was only one resettlement spot available for every 20 vulnerable refugees in need. (p. 51 of the Global Trends Report for 2019.
Canada and Resettlement:
  • Article from UNHCR Canada: Canada continues to be the world leader in the resettlement of refugees: LINK
  • Canada resettled 30,100 refugees in 2019. (p. 52 of the Global Trends Report for 2019).
  • The full global trends report underlines the key role the PSR program has played in Canada’s resettlement efforts: Resettlement is primarily facilitated by UNHCR in most countries around the world. However, in Canada, almost 3 in 5 (58%) resettlement arrivals during the decade were conducted through private sponsorship resettlement schemes. (p. 52)
  • The full report goes on, on page 52, to highlight research UNHCR Canada conducted about the positive contributions resettled refugees make to Canada.





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Priests blessed by their dads: A Father’s Day tribute to the “Fathers of Fathers”

Fri, 06/19/2020 - 11:42

By Agnieszka Ruck, The B.C. Catholic

[Vancouver – Canadian Catholic News] – When Brian McGuckin first suggested to his son that he consider becoming a priest, Mark laughed it off, telling him “not in a million years!”

But, thanks in part to the faithful and selfless example of his dad, Mark McGuckin ended up leaving his career in the film industry and pursuing a vocation as a priest in the Archdiocese of Vancouver. He was ordained in 2016.

The B.C. Catholic reached out to two priests to hear about the good influences of these “Fathers of Fathers” just ahead of Father’s Day, June 21.

“Good fathers make good families, and families make good vocations.” – Fr. Pablo Santa Maria

“[My dad] is by far the biggest male influence in my entire life, and has been from day one,” said Fr. McGuckin, assistant pastor at St. Mary’s Parish in Chilliwack.

“It’s hard to encapsulate in words the influence people have on you, and his is so all-encompassing. Certain words come to mind: self-giving, hard-working.”

Before he became a dad, Brian McGuckin spent a few years discerning a vocation with the Trappist Monks at Our Lady of the Prairies near Winnipeg. Though he would eventually become a teacher and father instead of a monk, that experience would have a profound influence.

“It was good for me, as it was good for anyone who goes into religious life and spends a couple years,” Brian said. “You have a tremendous resource to draw on… it was a foundational period of time for me.”

Fr. McGuckin said his dad always seemed to have a monastic side to him. The man went to daily Mass, prayed the Rosary, and seemed to have a deep trust in the Lord. As a child and a young man, Mark didn’t fail to notice his dad’s passion for his faith.

Mark remembers the Friday nights he would invite his friends for sleepovers in his parents’ living room. They would lie in sleeping bags watching one movie after another into the wee hours of the morning. “Inevitably, my dad would wake up, because he was waking up to shave, brush his teeth, and open up the church. I knew this, and my friends kind of knew it,” said Fr. Mark.

“He wouldn’t be imposing, telling us we should go to sleep, or go to Mass with him, but he was just this influence. There was something that gave him life. He was pursuing something good, and it just rubbed off on me. Moments like that, at the time experiences we would label insignificant, were anything but in the long run.”

Other moments might have been the Rosaries his dad prayed as he drove Mark to and from visits at home and his studies at the University of British Columbia, or when his dad would call on weekends to check if his son had been to Mass on Sunday.

Mark graduated with a degree in film production in 2004 and threw himself into his career with little thought for his faith.

It wasn’t until he was in his late 20s when Mark experienced a dark period in his life and a dramatic “reawakening” of his faith. He became suddenly interested in the faith of his father and spent six months at Madonna House in Ontario, a Catholic community of lay men and women and priests, before entering Seminary of Christ the King.

“He surprised me one night,” said Brian, recalling the moment he learned his son was considering a vocation as a priest. “I was flabbergasted, to tell you the truth, but I wasn’t surprised.”

Little did Mark know, his father had consecrated him to Mary many years earlier and made it a daily petition that God guide his son. “It became a constant prayer every day, allowing him to live the life God gave him to live, and for me not to interfere but only ask for God’s grace in everything he did.”

Fr. McGuckin said his father’s influence has inspired him as well as the many young men he has taught at the Seminary of Christ the King.

“For my dad, our Lord is so central. When we describe our Lord as a rock and our firm foundation, we can say it with words and it can be an intellectual thing and we keep it in our minds, but to really own it, to really learn it, there comes this stability and self-assuredness from our Lord. It’s something that my dad just carries with him,” he said.

“It comes with his athletic sensibility, too; he grew up playing football and he has that fighter’s spirit of engaging in the battle and not backing down. To do so in life in general, trusting in our Lord, and taking those steps forward – that has greatly influenced me.”

Another Vancouver priest, Fr. Pablo Santa Maria Watson, says his father and grandfather also had great influences on his life and faith.

Fr. Pablo Santa Maria with his grandfather Emilio Watson, and his father Pablo Santa Maria Sr. in 2012. (Photo courtesy of the family – The B.C. Catholic – CCN)


“I was very close to my grandpa,” said Fr. Santa Maria on the phone from Spain, where he is studying at the University of Navarra.

Emilio Watson “was a man of very deep spiritual life,” a daily Mass-goer, and the man who taught young Pablo how to drive, use tools, and develop an appreciation for Gregorian chant and classical music.

Pablo loved staying overnight at the home of his grandparents, which they allowed under one condition: he would have to attend Mass with one of them in the morning. His grandmother would go early in the morning, so he would sleep in and go to Mass later in the day with Emilio.

“My grandpa had an immense love for the Eucharist. When he was 90 years old, he could not contemplate the idea of not kneeling at the consecration,” said Fr. Santa Maria. “I remember hearing him pray, how deeply he would pray. I was almost moved to tears with his deep love for Jesus.”

Though Emilio was not the kind of man to talk about his feelings or urge his oldest grandson to become a priest, Fr. Santa Maria could tell he was moved at his ordination in 2012.

Emilio passed away not long afterward, but he left an indelible mark on the family.

“He was hugely influential, his way of being, he was a huge influence. A good man. He worked hard, loved his family. A man of integrity.”

What Emilio did not say in the form of encouraging words, Fr. Pablo Santa Maria Sr., did. The priest said his father “was the one who affirmed me when I needed to be affirmed, who would challenge me. How to make a man; that’s what I learned from my dad.”

One day, while Pablo was away at boarding school, struggling to keep his grades up and getting in trouble, his father called and told him he was meeting him for lunch.

“I was nervous. But rather than get angry, he said: ‘What’s going on?’ I was very good at sciences and I was close to failing the class … He taught me to seek excellence.”

Dates with his sons were common occurrences. Pablo Sr. would go on drives with one son at a time to the beaches of Acapulco to talk about life and “have pizza for dessert.”

“He did it with my brother, my mom did it with my sister. My dad was very much involved in our relationship. He affirmed me when I needed it, challenged me when I needed it, and had the virtue of knowing when and how.”

Some studies have found that the greatest indicator of whether or not a child will regularly attend church later in life is whether or not their fathers did.

Fr. Pablo puts it this way: “Good fathers make good families, and families make good vocations.”


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