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Women’s desire for community and faith renewal during COVID-19 sparks Arise Catholic Movement

Mon, 03/08/2021 - 15:47

By Sharon Leyne, Arise Catholic Movement team member

Saskatoon’s new Arise Catholic Movement will present an online Arise: Put On the Armour of Light retreat May 1, hoping to bring light to all women who need to finally take a breath after a year of holding it with clenched fists. You are not alone, we see you, we hear you.

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

It was October 2019 when the first Arise: My Beloved retreat took place at St. Therese School of Faith and Mission in Bruno SK. At that event, women from across the prairies were gifted with immense hope and a renewed love for the Lord and our faith, which made the events that followed, with a global pandemic declared a mere four and a half months later, so devastating.

With COVID-19 restrictions we were cut off from our families, friends, support networks, and to make matters worse, the place we found solace, the place we could go to seek peace, strength and comfort – our faith communities, our churches – were also not available.

“Maybe next week, next month things will get back to normal”… “I just have to get through this”…“I just have to survive”… “Once this is over things will get better” – many of us have been saying these sorts of phrases over and over this past year.

At the beginning of the global pandemic,  I found myself fearful of even leaving the house, scrubbing groceries down with disinfectant wipes before they entered my home, hoping my bagels wouldn’t taste like Lysol. As a mother, I felt the need to bottle my emotions up, and explain germs to my kids with a smile on my face, assuring them everything was going to be alright, but all the while wondering “How dangerous is this? Are my kids safe? Are my parents safe? I just had a baby, how do I protect a newborn? What is God’s plan in this? Where is He?” I recall the first time I left the house with my newborn for a check-up, and my heart was racing.

As the weeks went on, it became harder and harder to mask my fear from my children: it was written all over my face as the world, especially social media, seemed to be collectively losing their minds with anger and hostility. Every news article was grim; doctors and religious leaders had conflicting opinions: who could I trust?

The fire I had, the trust I had built, the faith I had strengthened at that retreat in October 2019 was now not only gone, but I had lost all hope it would return.

It was only on the day I was called with a request to join the Arise team that I felt a stirring that I had not felt since the last retreat. It was a stirring of the Holy Spirit that gave me no doubt that my answer had to be yes.

It was the first time I saw how much I needed to step outside, not just my home, but outside of myself. It was a realization that I had nothing to give anymore, except for my yes, much like the widow in the Bible, and at that moment it was all God needed. Since that day, because of that small yes, God has breathed life back into me – He has transformed me. My children see it, my husband sees it, I see it. God has restored my hope because it has been placed in Him, the One who strengthens me and I am so grateful.

As our team prayed and discussed what the next Arise retreat should be, we discovered that our entire team of women had experienced similar feelings and struggles, in one way or another, in varying degrees. If this was true for the eight of us – a diverse group of women from all different phases of life, some married with children, some grandmothers, some single, others students – then it would be fair to say that this was a reflection of the state of women in the greater Catholic/Christian community. If this were true, what was it that we needed? What was it that we could provide?

Pre-recorded recently at Saint Anne Parish in Saskatoon, the online Arise retreat will be launched May 1. (Photos by Hannah Berry)

The answer, we could feel, was much bigger than any of us had anticipated. Through discernment and prayer, God led us to a greater call, it was here that the Arise Catholic Movement was born and our mission “Encountering Jesus Together, Fostering Authentic Catholic Community” became clear.

We knew we were being called to provide an opportunity for renewal, support, and a strengthening of spirit to all women, but we could not wait for “this to be over” or “for things to get better.” We could not wait until it was safe to gather in large groups. The need was and still is urgent. Women were already reaching out for something – anything – that would help them reconnect with their faith, and give them the strength to continue: to not just survive through the rest of the pandemic but to thrive. Women are crying out to be restored.

It was no coincidence that as we prayed, St. Joan of Arc revealed herself as a model of perseverance, strength, faith, hope and trust in the Lord. The image of St. Joan riding into battle, surrounded by light, an army behind her looking for guidance, captured our hearts. So did the scripture 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.”

It was not St. Joan’s will or strength that gave her the courage, trust and fortitude to continue to fight, it was the Lord’s will. It is His light and His armour that we need if we are to fight boldly through our struggle and pain, in order to come out stronger, not just for this year, but for the rest of our lives.

The Arise team, in partnership with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon and Saint Anne Parish in Saskatoon, is inviting all women to this year’s online retreat, Arise: Put On the Amour of Light.

Speakers include Heather Khym, Debbie Herbeck, Mary Bielski, Rachel Herbeck, Bishop Scott McCaig and a special message from Bishop Mark Hagemoen of the Diocese of Saskatoon.

Through the gift of technology we are able to offer this one day retreat, to be launched May 1, 2021, across Canada and the United States. As a pre-recorded retreat, it sill give women the flexibility to take part at any time that is convenient to them.

We know community is vital, not just for our faith life, but for our mental health. This has been one of the biggest lessons I have learned this year. So although you may journey through the retreat day on your own, we are encouraging women to re-introduce community back into their lives.

We have a special invitation to experience this retreat with other women as a small group, or as a parish event (following all Covid-19 regulations in your area at that time). Through special Zoom calls, our team will encourage, support and equip all hosts with some tools and guidance.

We also felt that a retreat of one day, after a year of isolation, was not enough. When you register for the Arise: Put On the Armour of Light retreat, you will also be gifted with our 5-week Arise Armour Series, which dives deeper into the theme of our retreat so that you may continue your conversations, and strengthen not just your armour but your community as well.

The online Arise retreat was pre-recorded by On Reel Media. (Photos by Hannah Berry)

Having recently filmed the retreat with the help of the incredible On Reel Media team from Regina, the 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.

If you would like to learn more or register for Arise: Put On the Armour of Light visit the website:



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Papal visit offers hope to Iraqi people, says Fr. Sabah Kamora

Fri, 03/05/2021 - 15:37

By Agnieszka Ruck, The B.C. Catholic

Iraqi Christians have waited for a papal visit for decades, and on Friday, March 5 the historic event was finally happening.

“It is a great occasion for them,” said Fr. Sabah Kamora, pastor of St. Paul’s Chaldean Parish in Surrey, B.C. who previously served the Chaldean Catholic community in Saskatoon. He said Pope John Paul II had originally planned a trip to Iraq in 2000, but due to instability and fears for his safety was unable to make the trek.

Twenty-one years later, Pope Francis’ visit scheduled March 5-8 had the potential to bring a much-needed message of hope to Iraqis.

“I think just his visit is a great hope,” said Fr. Kamora March 4. “His message is, ‘I am with you.’ Like Jesus, when the disciple was afraid … He said, ‘I will be with you at all time.’ That’s the message of Pope Francis.”

Fr. Sabah Kamora (File photo – The B.C. Catholic – CCN)

Though some have voiced fears for Francis’ health and safety as he travels to a conflicted country in the midst of a pandemic, Kamora trusts God will protect the Pontiff.

“By the will of God everything was arranged,” he said. “Maybe God will protect him and the Iraqi people, and protect all the people that are gathering there.”

Born in Mosul, but serving Catholics in Surrey for the last few years, Fr. Kamora said there is no doubt he and many of his Iraqi parishioners will tune into live television coverage as Pope Francis tours their war-torn homeland, views destroyed churches, meets with government and religious leaders, and prays for victims of war and for peace.

“Thank God and thank Pope Francis, because he is a person who protects the weak people and the needy people and all the people that are in terrible situations.”


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Bishops prepare response to Bill C-15, which would enshrine UNDRIP in law

Fri, 03/05/2021 - 15:19

By Michael Swan, The Catholic Register

Canada’s bishops are continuing to study federal legislation that provides legal protections for Indigenous communities in the form of internationally recognized rights.

Bill C-15, which would incorporate the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indegenous Peoples (UNDRIP) into Canadian law, passed second reading Feb. 17, 2021.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), which has urged the government to pass UNDRIP legislation, “is taking the time needed to perform an in-depth analysis of its content prior to providing any commentary,” CCCB spokesperson Lisa Gall told The Catholic Register in an e-mail.

UNDRIP was adopted by the United Nations in 2007. For most of the decade after the declaration passed at the UN, Canada refused to sign for fear that endorsing the right to free, prior and informed consent for any new development on historically Indigenous lands might re-open settled land claims or grant individual Indigenous communities a veto over otherwise thoroughly vetted infrastructure projects from pipelines to highways.

“We echo Pope Francis’ statements, especially from the Amazon synod and his report from there, that some of the people who are most helpful in land questions and issues are going to be the people living on the land in a particular area and who are planning to stay there …that is our Indigenous people in many areas.” – Archbishop Murray Chatlain

In 2015 the Truth and Reconciliation Commission issued its Calls to Action, demanding that the UN declaration be seen as part of the framework for reconciliation. That same year Cree Member of Parliament Romeo Saganash introduced a private member’s bill that would align Canadian law with UNDRIP.

On their election in October of 2015, the Liberals promised a new relationship between government and Indigenous Canadians. In 2016 Canada officially adopted and promised to implement UNDRIP. It took until Dec. 3, 2020 for a government bill to be introduced.

The CCCB’s primary dialogue with Indigenous Catholics, the Guadalupe Circle, has wanted to make a statement in support of Bill C-15 but the issue is delicate, Keewatin-Le Pas Archbishop Murray Chatlain, a Guadalupe Circle member, said.

“We are very much trying to encourage the adoption of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. That’s the right direction,” Chatlain said.

The full legal meaning and implications of free, prior and informed consent is still unclear, said the archbishop.

Chatlain hopes the Guadalupe Circle can fashion a statement at its next full meeting, March 26. He concedes it’s cutting it close and the legislation could be passed by then.

Guadalupe Circle member Graydon Nicholas, former Lieutenant Governor of New Brunswick and member of the Maliseet nation, declined comment on the C-15 issue, referring questions to the CCCB.

Both the Oblates and Jesuits have endorsed an ecumenical letter in support of C-15.

“Can anyone seriously ask Indigenous people to have confidence in our sincerity to reconcile if we stymie this framework from acceptance once again?” asked Centre Oblat – A Voice For Justice executive director Joe Gunn. “It is time to take up our responsibility to build, not block, reconciliation. This bill is a necessary step forward.”

“We feel that our own reconciliation with Indigenous people is part of our own seeking right relations with God,” said Jesuit Fr. Peter Bisson. “UNDRIP is quite consistent with Catholic social teaching.”

Chatlain said the Guadalupe Circle is in full agreement on the principles of UNDRIP.

“We echo Pope Francis’ statements, especially from the Amazon synod and his report from there, that some of the people who are most helpful in land questions and issues are going to be the people living on the land in a particular area and who are planning to stay there,” Chatlain said. “That is our Indigenous people in many areas.”

In opposition, the Conservative Party of Canada still worries that passing the bill will stop resource development and infrastructure projects.

“We support many of UNDRIP’s articles, but what we oppose is the government’s lack of due diligence in putting forward legislation without reaching a common understanding of how free, prior and informed consent will be interpreted,” said Conservative MP Jamie Schmale from Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock. “We also do not think that enough consultation has been done with Indigenous communities.”

Some conservative religious groups have opposed the legislation because of a line in the preamble which says adopting UNDRIP “must include concrete measures to address injustices, combat prejudice and eliminate all forms of violence and discrimination, including systemic discrimination, against Indigenous peoples and Indigenous elders, youth, children, women, men, persons with disabilities and gender-diverse persons and two-spirit persons.”

The CCCB did not answer questions from The Catholic Register about whether it is concerned by the reference to gender-diverse and two-spirit persons.

Chatlain doesn’t think this should be a major focus.

“There is a little bit of concern that that becomes part of this very important issue of UNDRIP,” he said. “It would not be, to us (the Guadalupe Circle), a huge stumbling block in that the focus is the Indigenous respect that’s reflected in the United Nations declaration. I wouldn’t put that as a huge stumbling block.”

Supporting the legislation has to be part of doing the right thing for all Canadians, said Chatlain.

“All of us realize that it’s going to be a process to find the way for it (Bill C-15) to be a healthy and authentic, effective way to be part of Canadian legislation, especially around clear and informed consent in land issues,” he said.


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Pope Francis in Iraq: ‘The name of God cannot be used to justify acts of murder’

Fri, 03/05/2021 - 12:40
By Courtney Mares, Catholic News Agency

[Rome Newsroom – CNA]- In his first speech in Iraq, Pope Francis called for an end to violence and extremism so that ordinary Iraqis can live, work, and pray in peace.

Speaking to Iraqi government authorities from the hall of the Presidential Palace in Baghdad, the pope said that “religion, by its very nature, must be at the service of peace and fraternity.”

“The name of God cannot be used to justify acts of murder, exile, terrorism and oppression,” Pope Francis said in Baghdad on March 5.

“On the contrary, God, who created human beings equal in dignity and rights, calls us to spread the values of love, goodwill and concord.”

Pope Francis told the President of Iraq, Barham Ahmed Salih Qassim, and other local politicians and diplomats, that the Catholic Church in Iraq desires to be “a friend to all and, through interreligious dialogue, to cooperate constructively with other religions in serving the cause of peace.”

“I come as a penitent, asking forgiveness of  heaven and my brothers and sisters for so much destruction and cruelty,” the pope said.

“I come as a pilgrim of peace in the name of Christ, the Prince of Peace. How much we have prayed in these years for peace in Iraq. St. John Paul II spared no initiatives and above all offered his prayers and sufferings for this intention.”

The Holy Father called for an end to “partisan interests” and “those outside interests uninterested in the local population.”

“Give a voice to the builders and to the artisans of peace. The voice of the humble, the poor, the ordinary men and women who want to live, work and pray in peace.”

“May there be an end to acts of violence and extremism, factions and intolerance,” Pope Francis said.

Security continues to be a major challenge facing Iraq, where the Islamic State continues to operate — albeit without any territory. Iran-backed militias also contribute to the current unstable security situation.
The Islamic State claimed twin suicide bombings in Baghdad in January that killed 32 people. There are some 10,000 Islamic State fighters in the world, mostly in Iraq, UN counter-terrorism chief Vladimir Voronkov said in February.

The pope’s meetings with Iraqi authorities come at a time when the country is also facing severe political and socioeconomic challenges, including a protest movement calling for an end to government corruption, high levels of unemployment, and the sectarian divisions within the political system established after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Pope Francis declared in his speech to Iraqi government leaders that it is “necessary, but not sufficient, to combat the scourge of corruption, misuse of power and disregard for law.”

“At the same time, it is necessary to build justice, increase honesty, transparency and strengthen the institutions responsible for this,” the pope said.

“In this way, stability within society grows and  a healthy politics arises, able to offer to all, especially the young of whom there are so many in this  country, sure hope for a better future.”

About 60% of Iraqi’s population is under the age of 25. The unemployment rate for young people in Iraq is estimated to be 36%, according to a report published by the Atlantic Council in February.

Low oil prices, government waste and corruption, and a poor security situation further hinder the country’s potential for economic growth.

There were about 150 people present for the pope’s speech at the presidential palace, according to the Vatican. This palace was spared during the 2003 bombing of Baghdad by the United States and later became the headquarters of the coalition forces during the occupation of Iraq.

“Over the past several decades, Iraq has suffered the disastrous effects of wars, the scourge of  terrorism and sectarian conflicts often grounded in a fundamentalism incapable of accepting the peaceful  coexistence of different ethnic and religious groups, different ideas and cultures,” Pope Francis said.

“All this has brought in its wake death, destruction and ruin, not only materially: the damage is so much deeper if we think of the heartbreak endured by so many individuals and communities, and wounds that will take years to heal.”

The Holy Father highlighted the “age-old presence of Christians” in Iraq and said that “their participation in public life, as citizens with full rights, freedoms and responsibilities” will testify to healthy pluralism and “contribute to the nation’s prosperity and harmony.”

Pope Francis also pointed to the suffering endured by the Yazidis, who he said were “innocent victims of senseless and brutal atrocities, persecuted and killed for their religion, and whose very identity and survival was put at risk.”

“Only if we learn to look beyond our differences and see each other as members of the same  human family, will we be able to begin an effective process of rebuilding and leave to future generations  a better, more just and more humane world,” he said.

“In this regard, the religious, cultural and ethnic diversity that  has been a hallmark of Iraqi society for millennia is a precious resource on which to draw, not an obstacle  to be eliminated.”

“Iraq today is called to show everyone, especially in the Middle East, that diversity, instead of giving rise to conflict, should lead to harmonious cooperation in the life of society.”

The Holy Father also expressed gratitude to all humanitarian organizations who have worked to provide assistance to refugees, internally displaced persons, and worked to meet the basic needs of the poor.

“It is my prayerful hope that the international community will not withdraw from the Iraqi people the outstretched hand of friendship and constructive engagement, but will continue to act in a spirit of shared  responsibility with the local authorities, without imposing political or ideological interests,” the pope said.


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New faith centre at St. Thomas More College just right for its time

Thu, 03/04/2021 - 16:16

By Wendy-Ann Clarke,  The Catholic Register

Roughly a decade in development, the new Centre for Faith, Reason, Peace and Justice at St. Thomas More College couldn’t be more timely.

In a polarized social and political climate grappling with ways to find common ground, the centre at the Catholic college on the University of Saskatchewan campus aims to create spaces to foster relevant discourse to enable students to contribute to a more just society.

“There are skills that need to be developed to be able to engage in respectful dialogue, across difference in different histories, different experiences, different worldviews,” said Dr. Gertrude Rompré, director of Mission and Ministry at the Saskatoon college. “I think the role of a Catholic liberal arts college and certainly the role of the centre is to foster in our students those basic skills of dialogue — respectful dialogue — across difference.”

The centre will serve as an academic home for the college’s three founding programs: Catholic Studies focused on the ongoing dialogue between faith and reason and its significance for our culture; Critical Perspectives on Social Justice and the Common Good, which explores justice and solidarity across cultures; and Peace Studies, which will analyze and address conflict and its resolution.

The storming of the U.S. Capitol took place in the lead up to the centre’s launch on Jan. 28, an event that underscores the reason the centre’s newly named director Chris Hrynkow believes these intersections are important to explore. Political divisions and various longstanding social injustices have left many in North America and across the world feeling cynical about the prospect of building bridges, but for Hrynkow hope is not lost.

“One of the things that I think links the three (programs) is hope for a better world,” said Hrynkow. “Part of Catholic tradition and Catholic study is this idea of having an imagination and faith-driven energy that’s related to hope. To that feeling of despair that’s quite natural amidst lockdown and this contraction of community that we’re experiencing right now. I think each of these areas has something to offer that is healing.”

Ideals of compassion, equality and justice for all are preached from pulpits and idealized in Catholic academic institutions, leaving many confused as to how that messaging in some cases becomes disconnected from the ideologies of everyday people within faith communities.

In the age of fake news, conspiracy theories, controversies over mask wearing, social distancing, vaccinations, xenophobia and racism among many other divisions, for Hrynkow, understanding the interplay between faith and reason within Catholic tradition becomes even more critical. For example, counter-intuitive actions that help communities, such as social distancing, can be supported in Catholic social teaching principles based on community participation, solidarity, social justice and health.

“One of the characterizations is that people of faith are not reasonable, not dialogue partners, not partners for peace and social justice,” said Hrynkow. “The folks that are associated with the centre, our community partners, and the people excited about it, provide counterexamples to that. I think bringing that all together is beneficial to both Catholic traditions, peace and social justice traditions.”

A large part of the program will also involve learning from community partners, including the Diocese of Saskatoon, Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools and the Catholic Health Association of Saskatchewan. The centre looks to build on existing relationships and growing partnerships in diverse communities both within and outside of Catholic tradition to nurture mutually beneficial learning spaces and relationship building.

The centre is engaging in discussions reflecting on the 2019 synod on the Amazon and works to strengthen partnerships in Indigenous communities in Saskatchewan. It is currently working on a panel discussion on Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis’ October 2020 encyclical which speaks to how the pandemic has revealed cracks in the system. The centre looks to consider ways the Catholic faith community can help society to build back better coming out of the pandemic.

College officials hope the centre will be a living organism and continue to grow and evolve, placing value on the feedback and contributions of community partners and the student body.

“I think it’s a great moment to start to think that we can do things differently,” said St. Thomas More president Carl Still. “We can invite new voices in and be a little more courageous about making sure everyone has a chance to speak and to be heard and then we try to act on what we’re hearing.”


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Share Lent 2021 campaign and gratitude

Thu, 03/04/2021 - 08:27

By Bernice Daratha, Development and Peace/Caritas Canada Saskatoon Diocesan Council Chair

When I ventured out for a walk on a Sunday past, the theme of ‘gratitude’ came to mind:

Thanks to all the members of the parish staffs and parish Development and Peace reps who are taking various initiatives in order to bring the good news of the 2021 Share Lent campaign to their parishioners.

Thanks to Archbishop Richard Gagnon, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), for his excellent letter about the inspiration behind the 2021 Share Lent campaign – Fratelli Tutti – and the renewal of D&P.

Thanks to Bishop Mark Hagemoen whose letter of support will come out soon.

Thanks to the diocesan staff for their support and assistance in rolling out this virtual Share Lent campaign. The information is being shared on numerous platforms, such as parish and diocesan websites, bulletins, announcements, Facebook, etc.

Thanks to Priva Hang’andu, our Regional Development and Peace animator (dioceses of Keewatin-LePas, Prince Albert, Saskatoon, Regina) for his initial campaign presentation and ongoing leadership.

Thanks to the Development and Peace staff for their creativity in planning an online campaign during COVID-19 times, including organizing weekly webinars in English and French with some of our global partners; planning a national Thinkfast,  Stations of the Cross and many other wonderful activities!

Because of my participation in some of the events, i.e. webinars, the solidarity for my sisters and brothers in the Global South has deepened. This also influences my desire to donate. Thanks for your donations too.

Let us continue to Share Love – Share Lent!


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100 Words – Third Sunday of Lent: “That’s impossible”

Tue, 03/02/2021 - 15:38

That’s Impossible

By Peter Oliver, Olive Branch Marriage and Family Ministry

Making a whip out of cords,  he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.  He told those who were selling the doves,
“Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!” – John 2:15-16

“If you don’t, then…”

That’s the mentality of money changers.

If you don’t __________________, then God won’t love you.

Lots of words fill the empty blank. If you don’t behave, say your prayers, stay married, reject racism, love your neighbour, then God won’t love you.

Jesus rejects this mentality.  God’s love is unconditional: no conditions!

That’s impossible for us to believe.

Only Jesus’ death and resurrection have the power to overturn our, “If you don’t, then…”, mentality. That’s how ridiculously difficult it is to understand God’s love.

So “self”, let’s go over it again.  You can’t buy 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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Conservative MP demands conscience rights be protected in criminal law surrounding assisted suicide

Tue, 03/02/2021 - 15:23

By Brian Dryden, Canadian Catholic News

[Ottawa – CCN] – A federal Conservative MP has put forward a new private members bill in the House of Commons that would protect health care workers from having to help kill someone if they don’t want to participate in Canada’s medically-assisted euthanasia system.

Conservative MP Kelly Block’s proposed Bill C-268, which had its first reading in the House of Commons on Feb. 18, comes as the federal government moves closer to getting its changes to Canada’s euthanasia / assisted suicide system that would make it easier for Canadians to kill themselves with the help of a doctor finalized in the House of Commons and Senate by the end of March.

“Freedom of conscience is one of the first fundamental rights laid out in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and it is at the core of our Canadian identity,” Block said. “This private members bill is a response to calls from physicians and patients to ensure conscience rights for medical professionals.”

A statement released by the Saskatchewan MP’s office said the proposed bill would “extend protections for medical professionals who have chosen to not take part, directly or indirectly, in medical assistance in dying or euthanasia.”

“It would make it a punishable offense to use violence, threats, coercion, or intimidation in order to force a medical professional to take part in or refer a patient for medical assistance in dying or assisted suicide. It also prohibits the firing or refusal to hire medical professionals if the sole reason is their refusal to take part in medical assistance in dying,” the statement explained of the goal of the bill

Conscience rights have been a key issue for many religious and and civil groups who are against legally-sanctioned suicide and any effort to expand who qualifies for medically-provided euthanasia / assisted suicide in Canada.

“Medical associations, medical professional groups, and other concerned organizations across Canada have called for conscience protection for medical professions including the Ontario Medical Association and First Nation leaders in recent letters to the federal Minister of Justice,” a news release from Block’s office said.

Block, the Conservative MP for Saskatchewan’s Carlton Trail-Eagle Creek riding, added that “this Bill protects the doctor-patient relationship by ensuring doctors and other medical professionals are always able to recommend and provide the care they believe is best for their patient.”

“I have introduced this legislation to ensure in plain language those rights guaranteed to all Canadians in the Charter,” Block said in the House on Feb. 18.

“This bill seeks to enshrine in law a minimum national standard of protections for the freedom of conscience of medical professionals, while respecting the jurisdiction of my provincial colleagues to expand on this bill. It would ensure that medical professionals who choose to not take part in, or refer a patient for, euthanasia or medical assistance in dying would never be forced by violence, threats, coercion or loss of employment to violate the sovereign rights we all enjoy by virtue of our citizenship in this nation,” Block added.

“I encourage all my colleagues in this place to ratify my bill, thereby stating unequivocally that the right to free conscience expressed in the Charter applies equally to all Canadians, regardless of their chosen profession,” she said.

Call to oppose Bill C-7 and the expansion of euthanasia: resource page LINK

Related article from The B.C. Catholic: “Patients offered euthanasia contrary to health policy”

Related: “Indigenous leaders fear expanded euthanasia decision”

Block’s private members bill was put forward just days before the federal government was granted yet another extension by a Quebec court to make changes to the medically-assisted death (MAiD) system so that the rules surrounding euthanasia are compatible with a 2019 court decision that said the existing rule that a person’s death already be foreseeable is too restrictive.

Quebec Superior Court Justice Martin Sheehan agreed to give the government a fourth and final extension until March 26. Sheehan said “it is appropriate to grant a final extension.”

The federal government sought the extension to pass its assisted-dying bill as it deals with stiff opposition from the Opposition Conservatives over amendments to Bill C-7 brought forth by the Senate.

One such amendment would open the door to mentally-ill Canadians being able to seek a legally-sanctioned suicide within 18 months. The government has agreed to allow this, but not before two years from now.

“It has been a year since the Liberal Justice Minister tabled Bill C-7, the government’s medical assistance in dying (MAiD) legislation. Now, at the last minute, the Liberals are accepting an amendment that would start a reckless countdown to expand MAiD to those with mental illness,” said Conservative Justice Critic Rob Moore.

“Instead of recklessly expanding MAiD to those with mental illness with parliamentary review, the Liberals should focus on providing additional mental support,” he said.

The government rejected another Senate amendment that would have allowed advance requests for an assisted death from people who feared being diagnosed with dementia or other competence-eroding conditions.

The fact the Senate wants the medically-assisted euthanasia system to be available to the mentally-ill has stunned some opponents, who had hoped the Senate would block any changes to Bill C-7.

Canada’s Catholic Bishops have joined with other organizations in taking a stand against legally-sanctioned suicide in Canada in all its forms and has also spoken out in favour of conscience rights for health care providers to not participate in the medically-assisted euthanasia / assisted suicide system if that goes against their personal or religious beliefs.

A statement from the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (EFC) said it is “very troubled by Bill C-7 and the impact it will have on people who may be vulnerable due to medical, economic or social circumstances.”

“While we remain firmly opposed to hastened death, we advocate for the strongest possible protection and safeguards to minimize the harm and risk to vulnerable Canadians,” the EFC said, adding “with the sweeping changes being proposed to the MAiD regime, it becomes even more critical to establish strong, clear conscience protection in the Criminal Code.”

“No one should be compelled to participate in practices to bring about the death of another person, against their deeply held beliefs,” an EFC letter to the federal government stated. “This essential protection is missing from Bill C-7.”

– With files from the Canadian Catholic News


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Where is Pope Francis going in Iraq and why?

Tue, 03/02/2021 - 10:59

By Courtney Mares, Catholic News Agency

[Rome Newsroom – CNA]. – Pope Francis is expected to make history as the first pope to travel to Iraq March 3-8, 2021. The trip will take him from excavations of historical biblical sites dating back thousands of years to churches where Catholics suffered horrific terrorist attacks only a few years ago.

With meetings planned with Iraqi political leaders and prominent Muslim clerics, the pope is scheduled to travel 900 miles within Iraq in a little over three days.

Here is a breakdown of the places where Pope Francis is scheduled to visit in Iraq.


Friday, March 5: Baghdad

Speech at Presidential Palace 

Upon arrival at Baghdad International Airport, Pope Francis is scheduled to meet with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi at the airport before visiting Iraqi President Barham Salih at the presidential palace, where the pope will give a speech to a gathering of civil authorities.

The Holy Father’s meetings with Iraqi authorities come at a time when the country is facing severe political, socioeconomic, and security challenges, including a protest movement calling for an end to government corruption, high levels of unemployment, and the sectarian divisions within the political system established after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation

The Syriac Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Salvation, also known as Sayidat al-Nejat, was the site of a suicide attack by the Islamic State during Sunday Mass in 2010 in which more than 50 people were killed.

The terrorists killed two priests and took more than 100 hostages before Iraqi security forces stormed the church with the support of U.S. forces. The beatification process of the 48 Catholics who died inside the church advanced from the diocesan phase to the Vatican in October 2019.

The cathedral was also one of six churches bombed in August 2004 when five car bombs in Baghdad and one in Mosul were detonated in cars parked outside churches, killing a total of 12 people and injuring more than 70.

Pope Francis will visit the cathedral and give a speech to local bishops, priests, religious, and other Iraqi Catholics.

A mural of the pope with Vatican and Iraqi flags has been painted on a wall outside of the cathedral in anticipation of the pope’s visit, according to photos posted on social media.

Saturday, March 6: Najaf and the Plain of Ur

Meeting with Shiite Cleric in Najaf

On his second day in Iraq, Pope Francis will travel on Iraqi Airways to Najaf to meet with Ali al-Sistani, an influential leader of Shiite Muslims in Iraq.

Najaf is considered one of the most sacred pilgrimage sites in Shiite Islam, after only Mecca and Medina. It is the burial place of Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib, the son-in-law of Muhammad and the first Shiite imam. The question of Ali’s right to the caliphate resulted in the major schism between Sunni and Shiite Muslims.

Not far from Najaf is the tomb of the prophet Ezekiel in Al Kifl, where the historic Jewish synagogue at the site is now contained within a newly built Shiite mosque.

Inter-religious Meeting in the Plain of Ur

Pope Francis will then travel to the plain of Ur in southern Iraq, which the Bible records as the birthplace of Abraham. The archaeological site at Ur, excavated in the 20th century, includes a Mesopotamian ziggurat and ancient complex of houses.

The pope plans to give a speech at an interreligious gathering in Ur because of the importance of Abraham for all three major monotheistic religions. In Judaism, Abraham is revered as the first patriarch of the Jewish people. Muslims believe that Muhammad is a descendent of Abraham’s son Ishmael.

Chaldean Cathedral of St. Joseph in Baghdad

Pope Francis will end the day with Mass at the Chaldean Catholic Cathedral of St. Joseph, upon his return to Baghdad. The cathedral, called Mar Yousef, was built in the 1950s. It was recently restored by Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphaël Sako.

The Chaldeans are one of several Eastern Catholic communities found in Iraq. Tracing back their history to the early Christians through their connection with the Church of the East, Chaldeans made up two-thirds of Iraqi Christians before the population was diminished by Islamic State violence. Other Eastern Rite communities in Iraq include Syriac Catholics, Armenian Catholics, and Melkite Greek Catholics.

Sunday, March 7: Mosul and the Nineveh Plains Memorial in Mosul

Pope Francis will spend his final full day in Iraq in the northern Nineveh Plains, where the Islamic State carried out a genocidal campaign against Christians, Yazidis, and other minority groups after taking Mosul in the summer of 2014.

The pope will be welcomed at the Erbil Airport by the religious and civil authorities of Iraqi Kurdistan before traveling by helicopter to Mosul, where he will pray for the victims of war at Hosh al-Bieaa square.

Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Bakhdida

Pope Francis will then travel by helicopter to visit the local Christian community in Bakhdida, also known as Qaraqosh, at the Syriac Catholic Immaculate Conception Cathedral, where he will pray the Angelus.

The cathedral, also known as Al-Tahira Cathedral, was desecrated and its interior was charred after the Islamic State set it aflame after taking control of the town in 2014. Restoration of the cathedral was recently completed by Aid to the Church in Need. A new Marian statue sculpted by a local Christian artist was placed atop the bell tower in January.

Stadium Mass in Erbil

On his last evening in Iraq, Pope Francis will celebrate Mass at the Franso Hariri International Stadium in Erbil on March 7. This Mass is expected to be the largest gathering of Iraqi Catholics with the pope during his trip.

Local authorities in Kurdistan have said that 4,500 people have registered for the Mass. A special identification card issued by Erbil’s Catholic University will be required to enter the stadium for the Mass.

Monday, March 8: Travel back from Baghdad to Rome

After a farewell ceremony on Monday morning at the Baghdad International Airport, Pope Francis will fly back to Rome on Alitalia, traveling 1,800 miles in just over five hours. The pope will answer journalists’ questions during a press conference on his return flight.

Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Bashar Warda told CNA that Pope Francis’ upcoming visit to the region could be a turning point for the country’s diminished Christian population.

“It has the potential to change the trajectory of the Christian presence in Iraq from one of a disappearing people to one of a surviving and thriving people,” the Archbishop of Erbil said.


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Going deeper into a simple question

Tue, 03/02/2021 - 10:23

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

How are you today?

You could be all sorts of things.

Some of us today are feeling, and thinking, and living positively – we are calm, groovy, excited, passionate, happy, joyful.

Some of us today are feeling, and thinking, and living less positively – we are tired, overwhelmed, anxious, sad, frustrated, angry.

Whatever you are today, Jesus says it’s okay. It’s good for you to be here, however you are. And even if you think it’s too much, it’s not too much for Jesus.

I ask the people around me, and I answer them – How are you?

There’s always at least three levels of answer to the question.

The first is the quick answer, the reflex response: “I’m fine.” or “I’m terrible.” or “Living the dream.”

This is a real and true answer, but it never conveys the whole picture. It can’t.

If I wait for a few minutes with a person, one of us might get to the second level of answer – a little bit of the “what.”

What’s awesome? Temperatures above freezing. What’s terrible? I have all this work to do. What’s the dream? It’s been a year and I still have moments when I can’t believe the pandemic is happening.

This level has more truth. It has specifics. It’s honest. But it, too, is not a complete answer to the question How are you?

It’s really important, and really helpful, to get to the next level of answer, but it takes a lot of energy, and it takes a lot of trust. I’m grateful to live among family and friends and colleagues and students who sometimes allow themselves to get to this level with me. I think we all need someone to help us with it.

If there’s trust, and time, and energy (even a little), one of us in conversation will get to the third level of answer. Even if it’s not complete, it can become a “whole” answer.

How am I? I’m deeply hurt that I cannot be together with my loved ones. I’m deeply grateful for protection from COVID, so far. I’m deeply tired of being worried and on high alert. Because of this person, or that experience, or my own tendencies.

This is the whole answer. This is How we are today.

Jesus says your whole answer is more than okay, it’s good. It is a blessing, and it is an invitation to ask for more blessing and more strength. Jesus made you for this day, and made himself available to be a part of it, to be with you, however you are.

Let us pray. 

Lord Jesus, Son of Creator, You look upon us with love and compassion. Receive our thanks for every blessing You give, and when we don’t even know the whole answer, we open ourselves to Your presence, to comfort and strengthen us in what we need, and how we are. We pray in Your Spirit, Amen.

St. Kateri Tekakwitha, pray for us.


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

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Finding concrete ways to proclaim Christ and God’s Kingdom today: Evangelization and Mission

Tue, 03/02/2021 - 09:19

By John Hickey, Evangelization and Mission Leader

My name is John Hickey, and I’m serving as the Evangelization and Mission Leader for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon. I also serve as the Chairperson for the Evangelization Commission for the Saskatoon diocese.

I grew up in Saskatoon, and I am proud to raise my family here. I’m married to Heather, and we have four children, Abby (13), Zachary (10), Matthew (8), and Charlotte (6). Currently, I’m working in evangelization through a movement called Catholic Christian Outreach (CCO) at the University of Saskatchewan, and have been for the past 15 years.

Through my involvement with the diocesan Evangelization Commission, one of our tasks is to evaluate and discern ways in which to implement the Diocesan Pastoral Plan – “To Proclaim Christ and God’s Kingdom Today.” As we examine the plan’s goals and objectives, we discover a real opportunity to engage the people of the diocese to be active in their missionary call, which has been conferred in their baptism.

One of my main objectives as Evangelization and Mission Leader is to promote and assist parishes, individuals and small groups in using platforms of outreach, such as the Alpha program or the CCO Discovery faith study. These platforms are tools that can assist us in sharing our faith in a clear and simple way, particularly with those who are either disengaged or on the peripheries of the Church.

Pope Francis continually invites us to reach out to the peripheries of the Church – that is the people in our life who are far from Christ and His Church. The periphery is all around us. It includes the people who we work with, the people we sit beside during our kids’ hockey practice, and the neighbours we live beside. The periphery is proximate, and we can ask Jesus, to point us to who we are called to build a foundation of trust in order to intentionally accompany others to Jesus.

This past November, the diocese hosted a conference called Transform, where we encouraged participants to consider their personal call to mission, and to ask the Lord who they might be called to share their faith. I’ve since been coaching a number of individuals and couples, as well as some parish communities to reach out to the approximate periphery in their life, through leading a Discovery study. Despite the fact that the majority of these faith studies have taken place over Zoom, I’ve been encouraged to hear stories of lives changed through these studies.

I want to encourage anyone reading this to consider whether there are people in your approximate periphery, that you might be called to share your faith with. If you would like to someone to discern and discuss how to reach out to them and share the gospel in a clear and simple way, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me.


Contact Evangelization and Mission Leader John Hickey at or (306) 659-5847.




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Papal visit to Iraq will encourage Christians and build bridges

Tue, 03/02/2021 - 09:05

By Carl Hétu, Director of Catholic Near East Welfare Association – Canada

It’s on the minds of many.  Why is Pope Francis going to Iraq, March 5 to 8, in these tough times of pandemic, political instability and rumours of threats to his life?

One reason stands out: to show solidarity with the Christians of that country.

Seemingly not worthy enough to make it on the evening news, Christians in Iraq have found themselves unprotected and mistreated – threats, kidnappings, torture, assassinations – over the past 17 years. It’s no exaggeration to say most have been forced to flee. The numbers speak for themselves – 1.5 million Christians in Iraq in 2003 and today, barely 180,000 remain.

The rise of ISIS in the summer of 2014 was the last blow that forced more than 100,000 of them to flee to save their lives, leaving Mosul and the Nineveh Plains to find refuge in northern Iraqi Kurdistan. It’s no wonder that the pope will stop at these three locations. Local Christians have lived a real nightmare and many bishops, nuns, priests and ordinary faithful have been martyred – because of their faith.

Known for bridge building, Pope Francis will be meeting with a wide swath of Christian groups  in the country, including, Syriac Catholics and Orthodox Christians, Chaldean Catholics and Assyrians of the East and Armenian Christians (both from the Catholic and Apostolic Churches). Here again, the pope knows that their survival depends on this important unity among Christians.

Unity among the world’s Christians has been at the heart of Pope Francis’ papacy, as he made clear in his first trip to Israel and Palestine. There, he not only prayed with, but began a long-lasting working relationship with the Ecumenical Patriarch of the Constantinople, Bartholomew I, after 1000 years of broken relations.

However, Pope Francis also knows this isn’t enough.

Christians in the Middle East have had to learn to work with a Muslim majority for at least the last 1400 years. If they are still in the region today, and largely wanted, it is because they were able to take their place and develop strong ties with Muslim leaders despite some dark moments in history.

Today, Christians do face one of their darkest moments as the numbers reveal – a total of more than 2.5 million forced to leave not only their country but all the Middle East in only 17 years – many leaving from Iraq and Syria. This is the worst decline of Christians since the Armenian genocide of 1915.

Developing strong relations with Muslim leaders is clearly a key priority of any papal visit. Thus, as Pope Francis has done on trips to Palestine, Egypt, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, he will meet with leaders such as Grand Ayatollah Sistani in Najaf, the leading spiritual leader of Iraqi Shia Muslims.

Still, many experts believe it is too late for Iraqi Christians. It is true that Iraq’s Christians were once recognized for nurturing excellent relations with other ethnic and religious groups within their country. Entrepreneurially driven, they have been important contributors to the country’s socio-economic development, creating jobs and establishing effective social services and health care institutions that provide assistance to the most disadvantaged, regardless of religion.

Regardless of whether commentators are right or wrong, if we look southwest of Baghdad near the Mediterranean Sea, we can see what contributions even a small number of Christians can still offer to a fledgling society. Despite 73 years of conflicts and war between Palestine and Israel, and now, an illegal occupation of Palestine by Israel, Christians play an undeniably important social role. Even with only 1% (51,000) of the population in the Palestinian Territories, Christians account for 45% of all local social services. But the Christians too are in a rough spot and many wonder how long it will take to have most of them gone from their home and the Holy Land.

For Catholic Near East Welfare Association, an agency of the Holy Father that has worked tirelessly in the region since 1926, endless conflicts are destroying our chances for a new tomorrow. For Christians who remain, the pope’s visit is a concrete reminder that they aren’t alone and it is a boost for them to continue their mission of offering a variety of services to youth, seniors, victims of violence and others in need – regardless of creed. These are the programs we will continue to support.

By his actions and words, Pope Francis is demonstrating that religion can lead the way to peace through dialogue and reconciliation. He’s also reminding onlookers as well as power brokers in the region that peace – locally, regionally and worldwide – can only be achieved if all people of different ethnicities, religions and nationalities develop friendships and trust by taking the time to meet and look past their differences together, recognizing their common goals and humanity.




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Supreme Court halts Mary Wagner’s appeal, marking end of a journey

Mon, 03/01/2021 - 10:09

By Agnieszka Ruck, The B.C. Catholic

[Vancouver – Canadian Catholic News] – Mary Wagner’s long road toward achieving legal recognition of the humanity of the unborn has come to an end as the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed her leave to appeal Feb. 18.

In a statement to her supporters, Wagner wrote, “We are saddened and disturbed by the scandal of this refusal to hear our plea for the most vulnerable members of our human family, whose own pleas are too weak to be heard.”

Wagner had hoped to take a constitutional challenge of the Criminal Code to the country’s top court to address what her lawyer Charles Lugosi described as a “once-in-a-century question” – whether Parliament has unlimited authority to define who is and who isn’t a human being.

“The moment a child is born alive, everyone recognizes the baby as a human being,” Lugosi told The B.C. Catholic while preparing to file the leave to appeal in November.

“It’s a pure fiction to pretend that one second before that baby is born it is not a human being. It defies logic, common sense, biology. The law should live in a world of truth, not in the world of fiction.”

However, that’s precisely what Section 223 of the Criminal Code states, that a child becomes a human being when it has “completely proceeded, in a living state, from the body of its mother.”

Lugosi said their case was not trying to re-hash the concept of “personhood,” something the Supreme Court has ruled does not apply to unborn children many times over, but on the fundamental concept of who is human.

“You can remove personhood from a human being, I suppose, but they are still human beings,” said Lugosi, pointing out that this was historically done to slaves.

“To pretend an unborn child is not a human being is a fantasy.”

The Supreme Court of Canada dismissed the appeal without providing reasons or the names of the judges involved, as is customary.

In response, Lugosi said he remains “confident that our application had great merit and amply met the legal test for leave … one can only speculate why leave was refused.”

“Parliament retains the power to decide who is and who is not a human being,” said Lugosi. “Parliament’s definition is based upon a political value judgment instead of biological and scientific reality.”

This case goes back to 2012 for Wagner, when she was arrested and charged with mischief for entering an abortion clinic in Toronto to speak to women about alternatives to terminating their pregnancies.

Related: “Mary Wagner and a mother’s influence”

Mary Wagner is considering writing about her journey and what she attempted to achieve in the courts, she told The B.C. Catholic by email.

“Ultimately it is not perfection in law that we seek, but perfection of heart, which can only come through the Love that is not of this world,” she told supporters.

“It is this Love that can change hearts even to the point where the law is no longer needed to influence our actions.”


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Development and Peace cuts ties with 24 organizations

Mon, 03/01/2021 - 09:31

[Ottawa – Canadian Catholic News] – The Canadian Catholic bishops’ conference and its international development agency will discontinue funding for 24 partners following the completion of a joint subcommittee’s review of international partner organizations that receive funding from Canadian Catholics.

The 24 Development and Peace partners were not named in the final report released Feb. 25, 2021, because of sensitive information contained in the report and “in fairness to the reputations and, in some cases the safety, of all partners,” said a Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) media release.

Since November 2017, the subcommittee has been investigating concerns that some of the activities and positions of Development and Peace partner organizations might be in conflict with the Church’s social and moral teachings. Clarifications were sought by the committee from the partners themselves and from bishops of the dioceses in which they are based.

In total, 63 organizations were identified for study. The review found no objections to the continuation of 20 of the partnerships, and no recommendations were made for 19 others where the partnership had already concluded or was about to end.

The 24 partnerships that were severed were based on “a lack of clarification to resolve serious questions regarding support for positions or actions in conflict with the Church’s social and moral teachings,” the report said.

Going forward, the Development and Peace partnering policy is being revised, new criteria for partner selection and review are being developed and an International Partnerships Committee, with bishops’ conference representation, is being established to review, approve and monitor partnerships.

A nearly three-year process of investigation and review resulted in a slimmed-down national council with four bishops appointed to the development agency’s governing body.

Calgary Bishop William McGrattan, Pembroke Bishop Guy Desrochers, Ste.-Anne-de-la-Pocatiére Bishop Pierre Goudreault and St. John’s, Nfld., Archbishop Peter Hundt  represent the CCCB on a new national council. The remaining 11 representatives will be elected by D&P’s 10,000 members.


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Court grants final extension to pass Bill C-7, which is set to expand access to medically-assisted death

Fri, 02/26/2021 - 17:10

From Canadian Catholic News

[Ottawa – CCN] — On Feb. 26, 2021, the federal government was granted one more month to expand access to medically-assisted suicide and euthanasia in Canada, even as its efforts to do so stalled in the House of Commons.

Quebec Superior Court Justice Martin Sheehan agreed to give the government a fourth extension — until March 26 — to bring the law into compliance with a 2019 court ruling.

But he suggested this will be the last one.

Given that the government is close to finally reforming Canada’s assisted-dying law, Sheehan said “it is appropriate to grant a final extension to allow it to end.”

The government had a court-imposed deadline of Feb. 26 to have the new legislation in place.

The federal government sought the extension to pass Bill C-7 as it deals with stiff opposition from the Conservatives over amendments to the legislation brought forth by the Senate.

One such amendment would open the door to mentally-ill Canadians being able to seek a legally-sanctioned suicide within 18 months. The government has agreed to allow this, but not for two years from now.

“It has been a year since the Liberal Justice Minister tabled Bill C-7, the government’s medical assistance in dying (MAiD) legislation. Now, at the last minute, the Liberals are accepting an amendment that would start a reckless countdown to expand MAiD (medical assistance in dying) to those with mental illness,” said Rob Moore, the Conservative Justice critic, in a statement.

“Instead of recklessly expanding MAiD to those with mental illness with parliamentary review, the Liberals should focus on providing additional mental support.”

The government rejected another Senate amendment that would have allowed advance requests for an assisted death from people who feared being diagnosed with dementia or other competence-eroding conditions.

Call to oppose Bill C-7 and the expansion of euthanasia: diocesan resource page LINK

Related article from The B.C. Catholic: “Patients offered euthanasia contrary to health policy”

Related article: “Conservative MP demands conscience rights be protected”

The fact the Senate wants the euthanasia-assisted death system to be available to the mentally-ill has stunned some opponents, who had hoped the Senate would block any changes to Bill C-7.

“As bad as Bill C-7 was, the Senate expanded the bill to include people with mental illness,” said Alex Schadenberg of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.

Moore noted that the Conservatives introduced a motion to remove expansion of medically-provided euthanasia to those with mental illness “so that a proper review can happen — one that should have happened last year. Canadians should know the impacts of expanding MAiD even further before it becomes law.”

The minority Liberal government has had the support of the NDP and the Bloc Quebecois for the changes it originally proposed.


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Bishop Hagemoen provides an update on COVID-19 directives, encouraging parishioners to write MLAs about 30-person limit

Fri, 02/26/2021 - 16:46

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

In an update of COVID-19 directives for worship released Feb, 25, Bishop Mark Hagemoen of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon calls on parishioners to lobby provincial leaders to expand the current 30-person limit on worship services in Saskatchewan.

Update of directives for celebration of the Sacraments in the diocese of Saskatoon during COVID-19 – PDF

Opinion: Churches are working to help in COVID-19 fight, but need common sense from government

Diocesan COVID-19 resource page – LINK

In the introduction to the compiled directives updated on Feb. 25, Bishop Hagemoen begins by again referring pastors, parish leaders and the faithful of the diocese to both the Government of Saskatchewan Public Health Orders and the Re-Open Saskatchewan Plan for information. Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the diocese and its parishes have cooperated with public health orders, under the bishop’s ongoing directives.

The present 30-person restriction on worship services – rather than a percentage of seating capacity – has been an ongoing frustration for parishioners and their pastors, with even large church buildings only permitted to have 30 people in attendance. In the Feb. 25 update, Bishop Hagemoen notes that this is an ongoing concern for the multi-faith leaders’ group formed to dialogue with government about the COVID-19 response.

“The Faith Leaders’ working group continues to strongly advocate for a change of the 30-person capacity rule to establish a percentage of seating capacity and persists with the request to meet with the Premier to resolve this matter,” wrote the bishop. “We encourage you and your parishioners to write your Member of the Legislative Assembly… and Premier Moe.”

The bishop added: “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.”

The directives from the bishop include the fact that the faithful continue to be dispensed from the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays. “Those who are at risk because of an underlying health issue or who are 65 or older are strongly encouraged, for their own health, to avoid the risk of attending public celebrations of the Mass,” state the directives.

“We encourage parishes to continue to live-stream Mass as they have been doing so those unable to attend in person can maintain a spiritual connection with their local parish.” Live-stream celebrations of Mass by a number of priests in the diocese can be found at

The directives set out how liturgy is to be celebrated under the government guidelines, including the numbers permitted to gather. “The total number of people participating in the Liturgy or service in the Church proper cannot exceed 30 individuals, including wedding, funeral and baptismal services. Clergy and the basic necessary ministry support for the liturgy are not included in this count. We ask that this be the presiding priest and up to a maximum of five individuals who are necessary to facilitate… Concurrent services in other rooms within the facility area not allowed.”

The directives encourage parishes to establish a system of registration for gatherings, mandating that parishes keep a list of those in attendance at any gathering to permit “contact tracing” if that becomes necessarily.

A range of other issues, including churches being open for prayer, celebration of initiation sacraments, physical distancing, cleaning, and a range of procedures before, during and after Mass are also part of the compiled directives.





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Verbum Dei community comes to Canada, with sisters now offering ministry in the diocese of Saskatoon

Thu, 02/25/2021 - 12:12

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

Recently-arrived members of the Verbum Dei Missionary community are now providing ministry in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon, beginning with Lenten retreats focused on the Word of God.

“Come Back To Me” is the theme of the Verbum Dei retreat which several parishes are hosting during Lent.

Lenten Retreats with the Verbum Dei sisters are scheduled at the following parishes (contact the parish for information about attendance): St. Paul Co-Cathedral: Saturday, Feb. 27 from 1:15pm to 4:00pm. (306-652-0033); St. Philip Neri, Saskatoon: Monday, March 1, 2021 from 9:00am to 12:00 pm (306-343-0325); St. Augustine, Saskatoon: Thursday, March 11 (repeated Friday, March 12) from 9.30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. with adoration; Cathedral Holy Family, Saskatoon: Saturday, March 13 from 1:15 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. (306-659-5800); and St. Mary Parish, Saskatoon:  Saturday, March 20 from 9:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. after morning Mass (306-244-2983)

Sr. Marta Piano and Sr. Malou Tibayan arrived in Saskatoon late in 2020, as part of the first Verbum Dei community to be established in Canada.

“Our name Verbum Dei (Latin for “Word of God”) expresses our total and exclusive dedication to praying, living, and proclaiming the Word of God, allowing it to transform our life on a daily basis, and teaching others to do the same,” states a description they have prepared about their community.

The Verbum Dei Missionary Fraternity was founded by Fr. Jaime Bonet in Mallorca, Spain in 1963 and received pontifical approval as a new form of consecrated life on April 15, 2000. Verbum Dei includes consecrated religious women (sisters), consecrated religious men (brothers and priests), and associated married couples. Rooted in prayer and grounded in scripture and theological training, the community is both contemplative and active.

The work of Verbum Dei in 32 other countries around the world includes offering retreat ministry for all ages and levels, scripture-based prayer groups, Verbum Dei spiritual exercises, lay leadership formation, lay preaching formation and workshops, pastoral care for individuals and families, spiritual accompaniment, theological teaching, and university campus ministry.

After encountering Verbum Dei missionaries on a visit to Rome several years ago, Bishop Mark Hagemoen invited the missionary fraternity to Saskatoon, and after visits, discernment and discussions, the decision was made to send three missionaries to provide ministry in the diocese of Saskatoon.

Sr. Marta Piano has a Canadian-Italian background. She was born in Rome where she met the Verbum Dei community in 1997. She describes how the thirst to make God’s love known through the Word of God led her to enter the novitiate in Mexico in 2004. She graduated with a BA in Sacred Theology at Pontifica Universitas Urbaniana in Rome. Marta speaks Italian, English, Spanish, and some French.

“My father is Italian, and my mother is Canadian, so I always had the dream that our community could be in Canada,” says Sr. Marta, expressing appreciation for the welcome she has experienced in the diocese.

Sr. Malou Tibayan is originally from the Philippines. She says that experiencing the transforming power of God’s Word through prayer led her to join the community in 1987. She completed her B.A. in Sacred Theology at Instituto Teologico de San Pablo, Madrid, Spain, in 1996, and her Masters Degree in Spirituality & Licentiate in Theology of Consecrated Life at the Institute of Consecrated Life (ICLA), Philippines in 2007. Malou speaks Tagalog, English and Spanish

“I met the Verbum Dei missionaries in the Philippines when I was 17 years old, and I entered the next year when I was 18. It’s been 33 years now that I have been a missionary, and I thank God for the gift of his faithfulness,” says Sr. Malou, who has served in the Philippines, in Australia, and in Spain.

Still to arrive in Saskatoon is Sr. Claudia Vazquez, who is from Guadalajara Jalisco, Mexico where she met the Verbum Dei missionaries. She consecrated her life to God by joining the Verbum Dei community in San Francisco, USA in 2000. She completed her B.A. in Philosophy at Guadalajara University, Mexico, and her Masters degree in Theology and in Pastoral Ministry at Santa Clara University in California, USA. Claudia speaks Spanish and English.

Offering the Lenten retreats in local parishes is a start for ministry in the diocese of Saskatoon that is still being discerned and defined, says Sr. Marta Piano. “Really, right now everything is under construction,” she says.  “But I think that good things cook slowly  — and. we are really happy be here to share the Word of God.”

Sr. Malou Tibayan describes the Verbum Dei focus as “teaching people to pray with the Word of God.” This could include retreat ministry, organizing prayer groups, or spiritual accompaniment, she lists. “We are here at the service of the Word, we are here at the service of the diocese.”

The Verbum Dei sisters have been living with the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary and are adjusting to life in Saskatoon, even in the midst of a global pandemic.

“We are looking forward to being part of the different ministries, whatever is needed in the diocese. We are here at your service and we are very happy to be here,” says Sr. Malou.

Verbum Dei brochure


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Supreme Court of Canada will not hear appeal of Theodore Case, which threatened funding for non-Catholic students attending Catholic schools

Thu, 02/25/2021 - 11:39

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

A court challenge threatening the ability of Catholic schools in Saskatchewan to accept non-Catholic students has ended.

The Supreme Court of Canada has dismissed the Good Spirit (Public) School Division’s bid to appeal the Theodore case to the Supreme Court.

The Feb. 25, 2021 decision confirms the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal’s unanimous decision that overturned a 2017 ruling that sought to limit public funding for students who choose to attend Catholic schools in Saskatchewan but lack a Catholic baptismal certificate.

“We are relieved and reassured by this decision, and we believe it can be considered a victory for both religious and parental rights and freedoms,” said Tom Fortosky, Executive Director of the Saskatchewan Catholic School Boards Association in a Feb. 25 statement.

“This decision definitively confirms what we have said and believed all along: parents know what is best for their children and they should be able to choose Catholic, faith- based education if that is what they want—no matter their reasons, faith backgrounds or traditions,” Fortosky said.

In a message to parents published on the Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools website, GSCS Board Chair Diane Boyko said: “I speak for our entire Board of Education when I say thank you for entrusting us with your child’s education. Despite some uncertainty for some of you, you made a choice. We are both humbled and encouraged that so many of you continue to want Catholic education for your family.”

Boyko added: “I also thank all of the donors who generously gave to fund the appeal. Because of you, all eight Catholic boards in the province were able to keep education funds in the classroom and not divert them to cover costly courtroom expenses.”

Related: “Saskatchewan Court sides with catholic school division in funding dispute

Background information on the Theodore case can be found at:

The court case dates back to 2005 when the York School Division (now Good Spirit) filed a complaint against what is now Christ the Teacher School Division. The Catholic division was created after the public school was closed in the town of Theodore in central Saskatchewan. due to a lack of enrolment. Its 42 students were to be bused 17 kilometres to a school in Springside until local parents rallied to save the school by making it part of the Catholic system, renaming it St. Theodore Roman Catholic School.

Saskatchewan is one of only three provinces where Catholic education rights are enshrined in the constitution, along with Ontario and Alberta.

“A significant amount of time and money has been spent on this court case, and we are pleased that we can all refocus our energy and resources on our students and families to build upon the exemplary model of education we have in this province,” said SCSBA Executive Director Tom Fortosky.




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Virtual vigil March 11 will mark one-year anniversary of global COVID-19 pandemic

Tue, 02/23/2021 - 16:29

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

A multi-faith, inclusive online vigil to mark the first anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic will be held March 11, organized by a diverse group of Saskatchewan citizens.

It was on March 11, 2020 that the World Health Organization designated the COVID-19 virus a global pandemic, explained committee chair Blake Sittler, Executive Director of the Catholic Health Association of Saskatchewan.

Entitled “Together in Remembrance, Together in Hope,” the virtual vigil to mark this anniversary will be held at 7 p.m. CST,  Thursday, March 11, available via Zoom and live-streamed to YouTube, with links and registration accessible at:

“This vigil is an opportunity for us in Saskatchewan to virtually participate in an event that reminds us we are not alone and we’re going to make it,” said Sittler.

The idea for the vigil began with a conversation Sittler had with a friend several months ago. “She said that at the one-year mark she hoped the province or someone would mark the occasion somehow. We sent out an invitation through an ecumenical and inter-faith contact list and were pleasantly surprised to receive responses from about 20 individuals who were interested.”

The event will include prayers from various religions, songs from Metis, First Nations and local musicians, and a candle-lighting ceremony, as well as a video about what people from Saskatchewan are looking forward to again.

Marking this particular anniversary will fulfill a human need, said Sitttler. “Human beings are meaning-making machines – we desire rituals – and this isn’t just for people of a particular religion,” he said. “People need to do things together to mark major events so they can make sense of their role in it and hear from other people. It is healthy and necessary to mourn together and to celebrate together. This is such an occasion.”

Other members of the planning group also reflected on the importance of marking the pandemic anniversary in some way.

“Over the past year, each of us has experienced varying degrees of loss and isolation,” noted Karla Combres, a Life-Cycle celebrant. “As much as this pandemic has kept us all physically apart, it has also shown us how connected we are — to each other, to our wider communities, and the world.”

“Covid-19 has hit our Indigenous communities very hard,” added Indigenous knowledge-keeper Lyndon Linklater in a media statement about the event. “We have lost friends, leaders, acquaintances and family and it is so true that we are all in this together. On March 11, we will join the Vigil to remember and to foster hope. Let’s all do this! Hai, hai, Meegwetch!”

Krishan Kapila, a member of the Hindu community, shared in this hope: “For this event, we are gathered here in solidarity to bereave, pray and promote people to live in harmony as a family.”

Robert White of the Saskatoon Baha’i Community grounded the idea of connection to the provincial motto: “The diverse program aims to bolster our strength at this one-year mark and is in keeping with Saskatchewan’s motto, ‘From Many Peoples Strength’.”

Sittler noted that the planning committee is striving to make it as easy as possible for people to tune in to the virtual vigil online: “Just go to our website at and click on the Zoom registration link and within a minute the person should receive a link to click on March 11.”

Sittler said he wished there had been more time to plan in order to make the event even more inclusive. “I know there will be people and groups who will have been open to help organize this,  but we simply had to work with who we had. The blessing is that so far the committee members have been very generous with their time and very understanding that no one group will be front and centre. We wanted this event to be something that everyone in Saskatchewan could attend and feel they were a part of it.”

Given the impact and the losses associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, the virtual vigil is “a very modest offering,” acknowledged Sittler.

“So many people have lost so much—whether a family member or friend or a business–and sacrificed so much, like the many front-line workers. This vigil is a small moment when people can gather, light a candle, hear from a few different people and just remind themselves that they are not alone and there is hope for the near future.”



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Call to justice springs from our baptism

Tue, 02/23/2021 - 13:30

By Myron Rogal, Office of Justice and Peace

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

My name is Myron Rogal. I am the coordinator of the Office of Justice and Peace for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon and the staff representative on the Diocesan Council for Truth and Reconciliation.

For me, Catholic Social Teaching is a way of life extending from our baptismal calling.

I live in Vonda, SK,  enjoying country life with my wife, Chantale and our four precious children, two girls and two boys. I enjoy volunteering, especially with L’Arche and in the community of Vonda. I am an avid reader, endlessly indulging in biographies, fascinated by the irreplaceable nature of each person and what each life can teach us. I also have a love for music, art and nature, and hold most dear the moments of dancing, playing and being silly with my kids.

A privilege of the ministry of Justice and Peace is to be able to gather with gifted people representing front-line efforts for the various pillars of Catholic Social Teaching. Seeing, judging and acting on relevant challenges from a variety of angles gives confidence that the ministry is really driven by the Holy Spirit and not our own ideas.

These strange times have gifted new opportunities to make the work of the office more accessible to many. From an increase in Grow Hope participation to raise awareness on food security, to seeing many rally against the expansion of physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia in Canada, to being able to build solidarity through events that aim to apply revelations of the Amazon Synod, the Church continues to grow and God is good!

On the challenging side, reconciliation efforts with Indigenous people have suffered during the pandemic, and the increasing poverty that exists in every neighbourhood is something that each Catholic must address as they best can.

I close with words of hope from the founder of the Western Conference of Social Justice, Bishop Emeritus Fred Henry who stated: “the Church is here to make everything new-persons, cultures, social structures, laws and customs.”



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