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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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Hong Kong auxiliary bishop calls for ‘Friday fasting’ and asks for prayer amid ongoing protests

Thu, 09/05/2019 - 10:30

By Jonah McKeown, Catholic News Agency

[Hong Kong, China – CNA] – As widespread protests continue in Hong Kong, a local bishop is urging people to pray and fast for peace, while speaking up against injustice and corruption.

The auxiliary bishop of Hong Kong, who has been a vocal supporter of the protests, told CNA that he hopes prayer will help transform the area into “a channel of God’s peace.”

“We’re urging fellow parishioners to join our ‘Friday fasting’ movement,” Bishop Joseph Ha Chi-shing told CNA on Aug. 30.

“It’s been a tradition for us to fast on Fridays. However, this tradition somehow was abolished. With fasting and prayers, we hope that we can help ourselves to strengthen our mind and soul to fight evil thoughts. Then, we would be in a better position to help fellow Hongkongers.”

Bishop Ha, who has taken part in ecumenical prayer rallies with protesters in the past, urged an increase in prayer and said he is concerned for the safety of the many young people involved in the protests.

“I do worry about the safety of the protesters, especially the young ones,” he said. “Youth is not just our future, they are also our present as Pope Francis said. Feeling sad, helpless and sometimes even furious is not unusual. However, we must prevent sadness developing into hopelessness, prevent anger turning into hatred.”

Large-scale demonstrations have rocked the territory of Hong Kong since early June, when an estimated 1 million marchers took to the streets, chanting and singing.

The protests began as a response to a controversial bill, put forth in February by the government of chief executive Carrie Lam, which would have allowed the Chinese government to extradite alleged criminals from Hong Kong to stand trial on the mainland.

Hong Kong has total freedom of worship and evangelization, while in mainland China, by contrast, there is a long history of persecution for Christians who run afoul of the government.

Protesters vehemently opposed the bill, sparking the first major protest on June 6.

Though Lam suspended the bill June 15 and even apologized, protesters feared that the proposal could be reintroduced. The next day, an estimated 2 million marchers were out on the streets.

Though the protests have been largely peaceful, participants on both sides have periodically resorted to violence. Police have used rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannon on protesters repeatedly. Thousands of high school and college students staged a strike on the first day of classes Sept. 2, with many wearing gas masks and helmets.

Protesters are demanding that Lam resign. Lam said this morning that she has no intention of stepping down. The New York Times reports that mainland China’s leaders will not allow her to resign even if she decides that she wants to do so, and Beijing officials have said that they strongly support her.

The protests have morphed to focus on actions by police that many have denounced as police brutality, including allegations of sexual assault by police officers.

Bishop Ha is among many Catholic clergy who have spoken out in support of the protesters. Ha stressed that “we’re Catholics and we’re part of our community. According to [the] Catechism of the Catholic Church and Social Teachings, we’re obliged to participate in improving our community and [speak] out when there’s injustice.”

“As Catholics, we have our daily prayers, holy Mass, holy communion and so on to nurture our conscience so that others would recognize we’re followers of Christ,” he told CNA. “I do not mean that we, Catholics, are better than the others. On [the] contrary, we’re all sinners and we have to pay special attention to our mind and soul.”

The apostolic administrator of Hong Kong, Cardinal John Tong, has asked the government to eliminate the extradition law completely, and for an independent inquiry into the excessive use of force by the Hong Kong police.

Cardinal Joseph Zen, bishop emeritus of Hong Kong and a sharp critic of the Sept. 2018 Vatican-China deal on the appointment of bishops, celebrated Mass on June 16 at the invitation of the Hong Kong Federation of Catholic Students in front of the government headquarters.

Edwin Chow, acting president of the Federation, told CNA in August that he would like to see Catholics and other Christians take on a larger role in ongoing protests against the government.

“For this movement, it’s a great chance for the Catholics and [Protestant] Christians to cooperate with each other,” Chow told CNA on Aug. 16.

“It’s a good chance for us to become united. Because I think for most of the Catholics and Christians, we have the same values, the same goal…so that’s why we cooperate, and I think after Christians and Catholics cooperate, or strengths, our power becomes stronger.”

While Chow said that Christians, among them Catholics, had a more major role when the protests began— leading the singing of hymns such as “Sing Hallelujah to the Lord” in the streets during the protests, for example— their role has since diminished.

“For the Catholic groups, for the Christian groups, we have the responsibility and we have the power to calm our friends down,” he said. “Because I think singing hymns, just in the beginning, it creates a peaceful atmosphere, and it has a power to keep everyone very calm. So I think we can use this when we do this again.”




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Health Canada’s Action Plan on Palliative Care gets mixed reviews

Wed, 09/04/2019 - 08:28

By Deborah Gyapong, Canadian Catholic News

[OTTAWA – CCN] — Health Canada’s five-year Action Plan on Palliative Care  announced Aug. 20, 2019 is a “lackluster” effort that fails to commit enough resources says the Ontario Member of Parliament whose private member’s Bill C-277 led to the Action Plan.

“There was such a big opportunity to do more for palliative care and they’ve really missed the boat,” said Conservative Marilyn Gladu, MP for Sarnia-Lambton, ON.  “Seventy-per cent of Canadians have zero access to palliative care.”

“We need to see more hospice facilities; more home care; expansion of existing programs for paramedics to deliver palliative care and work to address the gap in palliative care physicians, nurses and personal support workers across the county,” she said.

Gladu’s private members’ Bill C-277 An Act to Establish a Palliative Care Framework, which passed with all-party support in late 2017, called for the federal government to develop the Action Plan in consultation with the provinces, territories and stakeholders.

One of those stakeholders, Pallium Canada – a national non-profit organization promoting palliative care – welcomed the Action Plan as a “step in the right direction.”  

“The Action Plan outlines best practices that Pallium has championed for many years such as a focus on supporting both the health care system and the communities in which we live in order to provide better palliative care to Canadians” said Pallium’s Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Moat in an Aug. 28 news release.

“Pallium is a critical partner to bringing the Action Plan to life in a number of ways, including building the capacity of health care professionals to be able to provide a palliative care approach, especially for underserved populations and accelerating the uptake of the Compassionate Communities model across Canada.”

Pallium Canada’s release noted the key role it played in consultations when Bill C-277 went before committees in the House of Commons and in the Senate, and in later consultation with Health Canada.

“The Action Plan is certainly a step in the right direction, but like any blueprint, the implementation—with measurable outcomes for Canadians—is the bottom line,” said Moat. “Funding the Action Plan is key going forward, and we want to help ensure that the government succeeds in playing a strong leadership role promoting palliative care innovation across the country through its stakeholder groups.”

Pallium applauds Health Canada for the public awareness components of the Action Plan.

“Public education will help deepen a national understanding of what a palliative care approach has to offer Canadians,” said Moat. “We look forward to the government’s next steps which recognize the value of implementing a Compassionate Community approach.”

“Pallium takes pride in being among the first to adopt and promote the Compassionate Community theory of practice here in Canada,” he said. “It is a powerful model and one we hope to continue to formalize with community partners across the country moving forward.”

The Action Plan calls for: raising awareness of how palliative care can improve quality of life until end of life: supporting improvement of palliative care skills for health care providers, families and caregivers; increasing data collection and research; improving access to palliative care for underserved populations; and improving access to “culturally sensitive” palliative care for Indigenous Canadians.

“The Action Plan is certainly a step in the right direction, but like any blueprint, the implementation—with measurable outcomes for Canadians—is the bottom line,” said Moat. “Funding the Action Plan is key going forward, and we want to help ensure that the government succeeds in playing a strong leadership role promoting palliative care innovation across the country through its stakeholder groups.”

The Health Canada announcement pointed out the federal government has committed $6 billion over 10 years to provincial and territorial governments for palliative and home care services and another $184.6 million over five years for palliative care for Indigenous communities.

“What we need is to put the resources in place to address the gaps in partnership with the provinces and territories,” Gladu said. “Nobody needs to raise awareness on palliative care. Everyone has a family member or friend who’s been touched by the need for palliative care.”


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Do not act with tyranny towards God’s creation, Pope Francis says

Wed, 09/04/2019 - 06:45

By Hannah Brockhaus, Catholic News Agency

[Vatican City – CNA] – In a message for the World Day of Prayer for Care of Creation, Pope Francis encouraged Catholics to make simple changes to their lives so that God’s creation is treated with respect.

“Too many of us act like tyrants with regard to creation. Let us make an effort to change and to adopt more simple and respectful lifestyles,” he said in the Sept. 1 message.

“Let us say ‘no’ to consumerist greed and to the illusion of omnipotence, for these are the ways of death,” he said. “Let us inaugurate farsighted processes involving responsible sacrifices today for the sake of sure prospects for life tomorrow.”

“Let us not give in to the perverse logic of quick profit, but look instead to our common future.”

This is a time, the pope’s message continued, “to reflect on our lifestyles, and how our daily decisions about food, consumption, transportation, use of water, energy and many other material goods, can often be thoughtless and harmful.”

He encouraged, for example, replacing fossil fuels with forms of clean energy, and said indigenous people have “age-old” wisdom that can teach people to live in better relationship with the environment.

“Now is the time,” he said, “to rediscover our vocation as children of God, brothers and sisters, and stewards of creation. Now is the time to repent, to be converted and to return to our roots. We are beloved creatures of God, who in his goodness calls us to love life and live it in communion with the rest of creation.”

Pope Francis established the World Day of Prayer for Care of Creation in 2015, to be celebrated every year on Sept. 1.

The day of prayer is in keeping with the theme of the pope’s environmental encyclical Laudato Si and is seen as a sign of unity with the Orthodox Church, which established Sept. 1 as a day to celebrate creation in 1989.

Season of Creation event will be held in Saskatoon at 7 p.m. Sept. 19: Eparchy’s Invitation

Pope Francis said in his 2019 message that the period from Sept. 1 to Oct. 4 – the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi – is being celebrated as a “Season of Creation.”

He strongly encouraged Catholics to pray during this “season of increased prayer and effort on behalf of our common home.”

“In the silence of prayer, we can hear the symphony of creation calling us to abandon our self-centeredness in order to feel embraced by the tender love of the Father and to share with joy the gifts we have received,” he said.

He urged letting one’s prayers be inspired by closeness to nature, noting that St. Bonaventure called creation the first “book” God opens before one’s eyes, “so that, marveling at its order, its variety and its beauty, we can come to love and praise its Creator.”

Pope Francis also recalled the dedication of many young people to the environmental cause. “The young remind us that the earth is not a possession to be squandered, but an inheritance to be handed down. They remind us that hope for tomorrow is not a noble sentiment, but a task calling for concrete actions here and now,” he stated. “We owe them real answers…”

May Christians assume, “with prayer and commitment, our responsibility for the care of creation,” he said.


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Euthanasia is utilitarianism, not freedom: Pope Francis

Wed, 09/04/2019 - 06:39

By Hannah Brockhaus, Catholic News Agency

[Vatican City – CNA] – Euthanasia is a way of treating the human person as an object; while it may appear to give freedom, it is really a rejection of hope, Pope Francis told an oncology association.

“The practice of euthanasia, which has already been legalized in several countries, only apparently aims to encourage personal freedom,” he said Sept. 2, 2019.

“In reality,” he continued, “it is based on a utilitarian view of the person, who becomes useless or can be equated to a cost, if from the medical point of view, he has no hope of improvement or can no longer avoid pain.”

“If one chooses death, the problems are solved in a sense; but how much bitterness behind this reasoning, and what rejection of hope involves the choice of giving up everything and breaking all ties,” he declared.

Pope Francis stated that medical technology is not being used for its right purpose, the service of the human person, when it “reduces him to a thing,” or makes distinctions between who is not deserving of treatment because of supposedly being “a burden” or “a waste.”

The contrary approach is a commitment to accompany a patient and his loved ones at all stages, trying to alleviate suffering through palliative care, or the family environment of hospice, he argued. This “contributes to creating a culture and practice more attentive to the value of each person.”

The countries with legal euthanasia are the Netherlands, Belgium, Colombia, Luxembourg, and Canada. Assisted suicide is legal in the Netherlands, Switzerland and Germany, and in the U.S. states of Washington, Oregon, Colorado, Hawaii, Vermont, Montana, Washington, D.C., New Jersey, California, and Maine (starting January 1, 2020).

Pope Francis spoke about euthanasia to a group of about 150 members of the Italian Association of Medical Oncology, in an audience at the Vatican.

He encouraged the medical personnel to “never lose heart for the misunderstanding you might encounter, or before the insistent proposal of more radical and hasty roads,” adding that their work includes raising awareness in a society “which is not very aware and is sometimes distracted.”

Francis described a sort of “Pandora’s box,” in which everything is explained except hope. “And we have to go look for this,” he said. “How to explain hope, indeed, how to give it in the most limited cases.”

In the audience, the Pope praised the association’s focus on providing the best care for each individual patient, according to his or her unique biology, calling it “an oncology of mercy,” because personalizing care puts one’s attention on the individual, not only the illness, he argued.

He encouraged the medical workers to take Jesus as their example, also stressing the importance of Christ for those who are sick. Jesus, he said, “helps them to find the strength not to interrupt the bonds of love, to offer their suffering for brothers, to keep friendship with God.”

“Inspire everyone to be close to those who suffer, to the little ones above all, and to put the weak in the first place, so that they can grow a more human society and relationships marked by gratuitousness, rather than opportunity,” he urged.


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Bishop Mark Hagemoen Blog – Summer 2019 Trip to the West Coast

Mon, 09/02/2019 - 23:30
Trip to Garibaldi Highlands and Black Tusk with graduates from St. Therese Institute of Faith and Mission Apostolic Year

By Bishop Mark Hagemoen, Bishop of Saskatoon

Six graduates from St. Therese, Bruno joined myself and several others from the Archdiocese of Vancouver on a spectacular one-day 27-kilometre hike through Garibaldi Park and Black Tusk mountain this summer. The area is utterly spectacular and beautiful. It is also a great introduction to prairie people of the mountainous playground of British Columbia and specifically, the southwest coast mountains.

The six graduates from St. Therese were: Rheal Chartier (St. Boniface Archdiocese, Manitoba); Veronica and Dominique Skuban (St. Paul Diocese, Alberta); Alison Fox (Calgary Diocese, Alberta); Kaitlyn Deck (Saskatoon Diocese, Saskatchewan); Peter Van Leeuwen (Archdiocese of Vancouver, British Columbia). Joining us were: Douglas Pham and his fiancé, Julia Rumpel; Beverly Ng of Vancouver; Josh Dupuis (just moved from Saskatoon to Vancouver); and Rev. Gary Franken of the Archdiocese of Vancouver.

The area features vast and majestic topography of meadow highlands, as well as spectacular ridges and peaks – many which fall off into seemingly empty abysses.


Josh Dupuis, Fr. Gary Franken, Rheal Chartier, Alison Fox, and +Mark Hagemoen on ascent toward Black Tusk Peak, in the distance.

Peter Van Leeuwen, Rheal Chartier, and Fr. Gary Franken take a needed break in the scree as they ascend the ridge.

Rheal Chartier is thinking: “Gee, there’s nothing this high in Manitoba! What am I doing up here?!!

A quick selfie looking backwards on the ridge approaching the Black Tusk.

The views get increasingly spectacular of the glacial meadows and highlands around Garibaldi Lake as we ascend the ridge.

Peter Van Leauwan carefully watches his next step!! Black Tusk Peak, in the distance.

The group celebrates at the top of the Tusk!

Working our way back down the chimneys.

Josh Dupuis, Fr. Gary Franken, Peter Van Leeuwen, and myself climbing up and down the final ‘chimney accesses’ up the cinder cone of Black Tusk.

The Tusk is both alluring and daunting as its viewed against the sky.

Getting ready to celebrate the Holy Eucharist in the upper meadows following the descent.

A truly epic day with a great group!

Visit to Our Lady Queen of Peace Dominican Monastery in Upper Squamish Valley

The following day we had the opportunity to visit the Dominican religious community of cloister religions women at Our Lady Queen of Peace. The community was formerly established at their home in Upper Squamish Valley in August 2012, having arrived 12 years earlier and working to establish their new community in the Archdiocese of Vancouver in 1999.

The current Dominican community of religious women at Our Lady Queen of Peace.

The spectacular view of the Tantalus Range from the Chapel at the Monastery.

For further information about the community, please visit:

Other hiking in the area during the trip to the West Coast

It was great to continue to experience other wilderness hiking during the visit to the West Coast. All of these places I have spent much time at during my previous years living in the region, both during my youth and my 23 years as a priest in the Archdiocese of Vancouver.

View of the Howe Sound Crest Ridge as viewed looking east from Gambier Island.

Gambier Lake, Gambier Island

Views approaching Brunswick Mountain, Cypress Provincial Park overlooking Howe Sound.

The approach and climb,  and the views from Brunswick Mountain are spectacular. Amazing to still see snow on the back slopes in late August – indicating that the west coast had a more moderate summer than previous years.

The meadow slopes in the upper ridge between Brunswick and Harvey Mountains.

Peaks to the south include Mount Harvey and The Lions – the most famous mountains viewed from Vancouver overlooking the North Shore Mountains.

View towards Mount Harvey – the next destination to the south of Brunswick Mountain.

View from Mount Harvey to The Lions.

Looking up from the base of Mount Harvey at the end of the hike.

Eagle Ridge over Buntzen and Coquitlam Lakes.

Another opportunity to enjoy a great – although hot – day with my nephew, Matthew Hagemoen. Here we have just had a feed of mountain blueberries. They are quite abundant this time of year.

Views from Mount Beautifullooking along Eagle Ridge.

View from “The Pulpit” overlooking Coquitlam Lake.

View up Swan Falls Creekalong the trail descending the ridge.

Dinner with my father, Eric Hagemoenat his cabin at Shuswap Lake.

Rainbow over the Shuswap – a great sign during a wonderful respite.




I have been very blessed to have this time in the mountains in the south-west region of British Columbia, my home for many years. I return refreshed and renewed to the Diocese of Saskatoon, ready to receive further the blessings of the great Prairies and its peoples!

                                                            In Christ,      

+Mark Hagemoen

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Grow Hope partnerships are helping to feed hungry people around the world

Sat, 08/31/2019 - 07:35

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

With harvest just around the corner, partners who are pulling together to address hunger around the world gathered for a Grow Hope Field Day in Rosthern.

The Aug. 24 event provided updates about the crops that have been planted to raise funds for Canadian Foodgrains Bank, and highlighted issues of food production and food security at several stations throughout the community – including a Grow Hope Saskatchewan wheat field.

Grow Hope Saskatchewan – 2019 Field Day showcased the project, farmers, donors, the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, and issues related to food and hunger. (Photo by Kiply Yaworski)

There is still time to sponsor an acre, a part acre, or multiple acres through Grow Hope, which involves three Saskatchewan farm families growing crops on a total of 180 acres this year, partnering with donors – urban and rural – who contribute funds to pay for the seed and other input costs. When the sponsored acres are harvested, proceeds from the sale of the crops will go to Canadian Foodgrains Bank to address hunger and food security for vulnerable people in crisis around the world. The amount raised and donated to Canadian Foodgrains Bank is also matched four-to-one by the Canadian government, multiplying the impact of the project.

This year, three farm families are involved in Grow Hope Saskatchewan, with a total of 180 acres seeded for the project and available for sponsorship.

Catholic farm families involved in Grow Hope this year are Michelle and Brian Hergott, who farm near Bruno (planting 40 acres of canola for the project), and Ian, Patrick and Reg Sonntag who farm near Goodsoil (growing 50 acres of oats). The Rosthern-area Mennonite farm family of Nathan and Jeanette Janzen have seeded 90 acres of wheat.

Checking out the crop during the Grow Hope Field Day. (Photo by Kiply Yaworski)

The project’s many partnerships were highlighted during presentations at the 2019 Grow Hope Field Day. Joining together to address hunger are urban and rural residents, volunteers and businesses, and faith-based organizations including the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (Caritas Canada), the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon, and the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC).

In a tent adjacent to the local Food Bank garden in Rosthern, with a nearby combine on display, Field Day speakers provided information related to the various partner groups.

Diocesan Development and Peace / Caritas Canada chair Bernice Daratha described that Catholic organization’s commitment to addressing hunger. She noted the recent launch of a Development and Peace partnership with the Canadian Foodgrains Bank to address the food crisis facing vulnerable women and children in Venezuela.

MCC executive director Eileen Klassen-Hamm spoke about the involvement of the Mennonite community and its long-time support of the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, a faith-based partnership of 15 church and church-based organizations representing some 30 denominations, which includes both MCC and Development and Peace.

Michelle Hergott and her husband Brian have seeded 40 acres of Canola for the project. (Photo by Kiply Yaworski)

Farmer Michelle Hergott gave an update on the Grow Hope acres on which she and her husband are growing canola – which had a rough start because of the dry spring.

“It has been just as bad as 1988 – the year we worked under our crop,” she said, describing how things looked bleak at the beginning of this season. During the dry May and early June, when people asked the Hergotts about the Grow Hope crop, the answer was “it’s not up yet,” she described. “But I think because people kept coming up and asking us, and we said “please pray” that we are now heading into harvest right away, and our crop is looking really, really good. We are very excited with how it has turned around… but keep praying, it is not in the bin yet!

Michelle described how her husband has long wanted to do more to help feed the hungry in our world, something he sees as part of his calling as a farmer. “We are excited to be part of Grow Hope,” she said. “We are global community, and Grow Hope is bridging gaps – not only to somebody who is super far away from us, but also across the street, as people come up and ask us about it.” She concluded: “May God continue to bless us – We are one tribe under one beautiful sky.”

Ted Janzen of Rosthern spoke on behalf of donors, describing how he and his wife Beverley have farming in their backgrounds, and have always had farming connections through family, even when they moved off the land and pursued a non-farming career.

“Grow Hope is a way of participating in raising a crop – it lets us pretend to be farmers,” Ted said. “The multiplying effect of course drives a good portion of the amount of food and money that can be produced to help people around the world. The project makes a real difference.”

Rick Block, who along with his wife Jacqueline serves as regional representative of the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, spoke about the organization’s impact, as it brings food, training, and hope to people around the world who are threatened by hunger and food insecurity.

“As regional reps of Canadian Foodgrains Bank we meet with folks on the ground who see the world is larger than simply Saskatchewan. They understand and feel the suffering from the lack of a physical need, or some other injustice,” he said. “These are urban and rural residents who share a common concern for those impacted by hunger, who are committed to sharing their financial resources and their food resources for those in need.”

Block added: “Hope germinates and hope ripens.”

The Grow Hope Field Day is a day of shared learning – “the best kind of learning” – said Block, who also reflected on the importance of stewardship. “We often think about stewardship – especially in Saskatchewan – in terms of managing land well, caring for the land, and also managing resources… but it is more than that. It includes even the small spaces such as Boulevard Gardens (an urban garden in Rosthern)  – and it is broader than simply land.”

Grow Hope participants stopped at stations in Rosthern to eat and to learn more about food security and hunger issues during Grow Hope Field Day 2019. (Photo by Kiply Yaworski)

“Good stewardship manages these gifts and indeed recognizes that gifts are from the Creator, from God – and we manage these gifts indefinitely for our well-being. They are bestowed to us and they are entrusted to us.”

Canadian Foodgrains Bank has a network of relationships all around the world – working with local partners, said Block. In addition, it is a great benefit that Global Affairs Canada will match funds raised for Foodgrains Bank up to four-to-one.

“We help to meet immediate food needs and to support the work that helps to build sustainable livelihoods for small-scale farm families,” he said, stressing that “displacement and hunger essentially go hand-in-hand.”

Block described the impact of food assistance to a displaced family in Yemen, and to Syrian refugees in Lebanon, and the benefits of soil conservation projects for some 60,000 farm families in Africa, promoting “practices that improve soil quality to help families grow more food and more nutrient-dense food.”

Link to Grow Hope 2019 video

Rick Guenther of MCC gave an overview of how Grow Hope works, and noted there is still a need for more sponsors for acres that have been seeded this year. “Each acre is $300 to sponsor – you can sponsor full acre, part acre, multiple acres,” he said. Sponsorship covers input costs, and donors get a charitable donation receipt for donations over $20. When crops from sponsored acres are sold, the proceeds go to Canadian Foodgrains Bank, with the hope that the return will average about $500 an acre. Last year, some of the crop sold for as high as $700 an acre, he noted. “That won’t happen every year – probably not this year.”

The project is set up so that donations can either be made to the Development and Peace account at the Canadian Foodgrains Bank (via the Diocese of Saskatoon Catholic Foundation website at  or to the MCC account.

The government’s matching formula has the potential to multiply the original $300 donation to $2,500 an acre, Guenther said. “It really is like spinning straw into gold from this unique partnership.”

The Field Day program concluded with a prayer of thanksgiving led by Myron Rogal, coordinator of Justice and Peace for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon.

The event continued into the afternoon, with participants visiting a number of stations featuring information and locally-produced food – including food prepared by Chef Jenni at the Good Neighbours Food Centre. Other stops a food bank garden, as well as Boulevard Garden – an urban vegetable garden grown to benefit Canadian Foodgrains Bank with the sale of produce and/or homemade soupb – and a Grow Hope wheat field planted by local farmers Nathan and Jeanette Janzen.




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Lay Formation will now be known as Adult Faith Enrichment Program

Thu, 08/29/2019 - 21:37

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

Bishop Mark Hagemoen recently announced a name change for the long-standing diocesan Lay Formation program. It will now be knows as the Adult Faith Enrichment Program.

In a letter to the diocese Aug. 13, the bishop explained that the change is the result of a discernment over the past year with many clergy and lay faithful. Bishop Hagemoen said that the change of name for the program was deemed to be “the best way to continue to build on its important legacy and service in our diocese.”

Changing the program name to Adult Faith Enrichment corresponds with the upcoming release of a Diocesan Pastoral Plan in September, said Bishop Hagemoen. “We as a diocese will be addressing the importance of evangelization and catechesis in the life of the parishes and diocesan services.”

A review of the program curriculum has also been underway, he added, saying this “will help elucidate and guide the various topics and issues throughout the program, and achieve key learning outcomes.”

In his letter to pastors, parishes and the faithful across the diocese, the bishop also thanked the many coordinators, teachers, facilitators and participants in the Lay Formation program over the past 32 years. “I look forward to building on such a legacy, as we continue to hear the Holy Spirit’s call to the People of God of this particular church to continue to proclaim the Good News of Christ and the Kingdom of God which our world so greatly needs to hear and see today.”

Participants in the program learn more about the Catholic faith and deepen their relationship with Jesus Christ.

The Lay Formation program was originally launched in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon in the fall of 1987 under the leadership of the late Bishop James Mahoney, as a response to Saint Pope John Paul’s request that the formation of lay people should be among the priorities of every diocese.

The program’s focus is threefold:  to provide adult Catholics with an opportunity to deepen their learning and understanding of the faith through presentations about scripture, theology, sacraments, etc.; to provide opportunities to deepen a relationship with God through prayer; and to experience Christian community.

Since the program started, it has evolved and changed in a number of ways (see: Lay Formation History), including the introduction of an Indigenous Catholic formation stream (now known as Indigenous Faith Enrichment), as well as an Eparchial Ukrainian Catholic stream (now known as the two-year Eparchial Byzantine Faith Enrichment Program). Format and schedule have also changed over the years — for instance, at one time the Year 1 and Year 2 groups of the two-year program were running concurrently, but now there is only one group at a time running for each of the three streams.

The Byzantine Ukrainian Catholic celebration of the Great Water Blessing unites program participants from three faith enrichment streams: Eparchial, Indigenous, and Diocesan.

In the upcoming year, the schedule for the program will also change slightly, say diocesan Adult Faith Enrichment coordinators Jennifer and Blair Carruthers. The program will now run one weekend a month from September to May, rather than until June. This year, the weekend schedule will see diocesan participants attending from Friday night to Sunday afternoon each month (in the last session of the program, diocesan participants did not attend on Sundays.)

Applications are now being accepted for the Adult Faith Enrichment two-year program that runs one weekend a month from September to May at Queen’s House in Saskatoon. “This is a time of learning, a time for friendship, a time of discernment and a time of growing ever closer to Jesus Christ,” says co-ordinator Blair Carruthers.

For more information or to apply for September 2019, please contact the diocesan coordinators of the Adult Faith Enrichment Program: Jennifer and Blair Carruthers, phone: (306) 659-5846 or e-mail








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Sacred Music Symposium held in Vancouver area delves into beauty of tradition

Thu, 08/29/2019 - 15:58

By Sheena Devota, B.C. Catholic

[Aldergrove, BC – Canadian Catholic News] – A conference on liturgical music was “the answer to all my questions and my prayers,” said Jongkyung Kim, director of the young adult choir for the Vancouver mission parish of St. Paul Chong.

The B.C. Sacred Music Symposium, held Aug. 2-4 at Sts. Joachim and Ann Church in Aldergrove, featured high-level speakers and interactive workshops focused on making Mass music more beautiful. Kim, a choir director for five years, said she also discovered community and a shared connection over love for sacred music.

Prior to the symposium, her education and training in sacred music were lacking, she said. Despite years of training in classical music and serving the Church since her childhood, monophonic music and sacred polyphony were short chapters in Kim’s extensive education.

When she learned about the symposium, Kim signed up for a professional choral workshop by Mark Donnelly, a Catholic best known as “Mr. O Canada” for singing the national anthem at Vancouver Canucks games.

She also got a chance to sing in a performance on the final day of the symposium. Those experiences, and others, provided opportunities for her to reflect on worship and the aim of music in the liturgy. “It was a true retreat for me.”

Kim’s assistant choir director, Paul Kim, also found himself deeply changed by the conference. Mass at their parish is held in Korean, with young adult choirs singing contemporary and traditional polyphonic hymns from their culture.

“The symposium actually changed my opinion on sacred music,” he said. “Prior to attending it, I had been leaning toward contemporary songs composed in modern times, but I have grown a strong appreciation toward antiphons and 16th-century songs sung in Latin since.”

A highlight for Paul was singing during Sunday Mass on the closing day of the conference. “It was a unique experience that has changed me and will be with (me) until the end.”

Other young adults also discovered beauty, connection, and a welcome challenge at the second annual sacred music symposium.

Samuel Stagliano, a member of St. Clare of Assisi Parish in Coquitlam, signed up for the workshops as a beginner. “Learning to chant and going through the do-re-mi (“solfège”) method was challenging, and that is something that I really enjoyed. I had to work hard, and there is something good about that.”

St. Helen’s parishioner Daniel Ma attended the inaugural symposium last year and returned to it again this year, finding it a fruitful experience a second time.

“Sacred music is integral to the liturgy, not incidental,” he said.

While the advanced workshop allowed him to practise polyphonic motets, he acknowledged not every parish choir has the capacity to work on complex choral hymns. However, “Gregorian Chant is definitely something that choirs of any size can sing. The melodies are relatively simple and beautiful and it helps to create a meditative and holy environment where the faithful can meditate on the mysteries of our faith.”

Some young adults, like Ramon Trigo and John Ray Catingub, were thrilled to practise music that the Catholic Church has been singing for a very long time. Sacred music “uplifts my soul in an ethereal way,” said Catingub.

It “comforts me to know that these are the chants that my ancestors would have heard, whether in a simple parish church or a towering cathedral.”

The classes, workshops, and Masses involved several generations of participants, including children already familiar with sacred music.

Katherine Pelletier, a new member of the choir at Sts. Joachim and Ann parish, observed that while each person was on their own journey toward learning more about liturgical music, “everyone possessed the spark of attention and the desire to be part of the great movement towards beauty in the liturgy through music.”

More than 130 people attended the symposium at Sts. Joachim and Ann Parish this year. A high point for Kim was keynote speaker Msgr. Andrew Wadsworth, the head of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy, thanking the musicians whose hard work to provide excellent music for liturgy often goes unnoticed.

Carolyn Smillie, a member of St. Helen’s, said she has noticed a local revival of interest in sacred music.  “The resurgence in interest in liturgy is because sacred music offers a much-needed respite from the ugliness often found in the world. It’s hard not to be uplifted when listening to and participating in sacred music. It’s good for the soul!”

“Make Every Sunday Matter” is one of Archbishop J. Michael Miller’s four current priorities for the Archdiocese of Vancouver. It includes improving music in the liturgy, and the symposium for the last two years has aimed to address just that.

In his opening address, symposium executive director Ryan Bjorgaard said music chosen for the conference was “uniquely Catholic” to give choir directors, singers, and musicians “a chance to experience the music in its proper context, how it’s supposed to be used – not just something you listen to as a piece of art, but as prayer.”

Father Lawrence Donnelly, the pastor of Sts. Joachim and Ann, offered those at the conference an introduction to Gregorian Chant as well as texts and resources for participants to use back at home.

“Music can turn a barn into a cathedral, or a cathedral into a barn,” he quipped.

New this year was a panel discussion on common obstacles faced by parish musicians. Several panellists and participants agreed the support of a pastor is fundamental in improving the quality of music in a parish.

Mass was celebrated both in the Ordinary Form on Saturday evening, and Extraordinary Form (also known as the Traditional Latin Mass) on Sunday morning of the symposium.

Pieces sung at each Mass included Gregorian chant as well as polyphonic compositions from Palestrina, Orlando di Lasso, William Byrd, Vaughan Williams, Theodore Dubois, and Mark E. Donnelly. Choral groups of all levels – from beginner to advanced – took turns participating in the Masses with songs they learned over the weekend.

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Catholic leaders voice concern over Amazon fires

Thu, 08/29/2019 - 15:44

SAO PAULO, Brazil (CNA)—Catholic groups in the Amazon have expressed concern over the wave of forest fires that have been ravaging the region.

The Non-Government Organization (NGO) Manos Unidas decried the “risks and assaults the Amazon is suffering, which bring with them an accelerated deforestation, toward the increasingly closer point of ‘no return,’ at which time the disappearance of this ‘green lung’ of humanity will already be irreversible.”

In a statement on their webpage, the group reported that the situation is especially serious in Brazil, where in 2019 alone the number of wildfires has increased 82 per cent for a total of 71,497 fires, 54 per cent of which are in the Amazon region.

The NGO considers this especially serious within the context of climate change since “the variations in the rainfall cycles and temperatures are already seriously altering the ecosystems.”

The fires that have occurred in recent weeks add to other “threats to the Amazon” and that have a special impact “in the most deforested areas, where economic interests meet the most weakened natural environments,” they said.

Manos Unidas warned that the area is also threatened by “the uncontrolled exploitation of natural resources to obtain minerals or fuels and the extension of the agricultural frontier for single crop farming or extensive livestock production.”

The Secretary General of the Mexican Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Alonso Miranda, expressed the Church’s concern and called for support with prayers and material aid.

On Twitter, Bishop Miranda said that the forest fires “are not just a regional emergency, it’s a catastrophe that urgently requires international aid.”

“Please, let us lend our support with prayer, national and international material and technological aid,” he said.

In addition to natural causes, many of the blazes begin when farmers start fires to clear or maintain farmland and pastures.

On the afternoon of Aug. 21, black clouds produced by multiple fires reached Sao Paulo, the largest city in Brazil, darkening the sky around 2:00 p.m. local time.

Fires have also been recorded in the forested areas of Bolivia and Paraguay, and it is feared they may occur in Peru.

According to NASA, “it is not unusual to see fires in Brazil at this time of year due to high temperatures and low humidity. Time will tell if this year is a record breaking or just within normal limits.”

“In the Amazon region, fires are rare for much of the year because wet weather prevents them from starting and spreading. However, in July and August, activity typically increases due to the arrival of the dry season.”

The Archbishop of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, Sergio Gualberti Calandrina, called on the parishes in the archdiocese of hold a day of prayer Sunday, Aug. 25, for the victims of the Amazon fires, asking God for rain and to “raise awareness for the care of our Common Home, everyone’s task.”

Archbishop Gualberti said that “as Christians we cannot remain indifferent.” The timing of the fire coincides with current discussions about the Synod on the Amazon called by Pope Francis, which will be held at the Vatican in October.

The Archbishop of Santa Cruz asked that the ecological disaster “awaken a greater awareness that the destiny of present and future generations is closely linked to the destiny of nature, a creation of God and that we decisively assume the care of creation.”

So far in Brazil, the fire has devastated more than 1.2 million acres of forests, crops and grasslands, generating carbon monoxide contamination in nearby areas. The states of Acre and Amazonas have been declared to be in an environmental emergency.

In Bolivia, Vice President Álvaro García Linera said the fires have affected some 1.48 million acres in Chiquitanía, in the Santa Cruz administrative district.

This article was originally published by our sister agency, ACI Prensa. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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Another round of pastoral appointments and updates announced by Bishop Mark Hagemoen

Fri, 08/23/2019 - 17:44

[Catholic Saskatoon News] – Bishop Mark Hagemoen announced a number of updates regarding clergy appointments in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon in a memo circulated to parishes and diocesan leadership Aug. 23, 2019. It was a follow-up to an earlier, more extensive announcement in early June.

“Please offer a warm welcome to the priests joining our diocese as you have an opportunity to meet them,” wrote Bishop Hagemoen.

“We also pray for those clergy departing our diocese for other assignments, and let us commit to remembering them in our prayers.”

Among the priests leaving the diocese of Saskatoon are Fr. Emmanuel Banahene, who was serving parishes in the Wadena region, who is pursuing studies elsewhere, and Fr. Douglas Jefrey, OMI, who has been assigned to parish ministry in the Prince Albert diocese.

Bishop Hagemoen’s Aug. 23 memo:  UPDATE

First round of appointments were announced June 5: PASTORAL APPOINTMENTS



Fr. Santhosh Thekkekulam, VC

Fr. Santhosh Thekkekulam, VC, will serve as Pastor at St. James, Wilkie, SK; Our Lady of the Assumption (St. Mary), Handel, SK; and St. Paschal, Leipzig, SK. Fr. Santhosh is from Marymatha Provincial House in India. Fr. Santhosh has been ordained for 11 years.  Fr. Santhosh arrived on Aug. 16 and began his ministry in our diocese on Aug. 18.   (Please note that in an earlier announcement, his given name and surname were inadvertently reversed, therefore the correction is Fr. Santhosh Thekkekulam, VC.)


Fr. Francis Appiah-Kubi

Fr. Francis Appiah-Kubi will serve as Pastor at St. Mary, Fox Valley, SK; St. Michael, Burstall, SK; and St. Mary, Richmound, SK. Fr. Francis is from the diocese of Kumasi, Ghana. Fr. Francis arrived on July 17 and his appointment was effective Aug. 1, 2019.


Fr. Jerome Ogunleye

Fr. Jerome Ogunleye will serve as pastor at St. Mary, Wadena, SK; St. Joseph, Kelvington, SK;  St. Theresa, Lintlaw, SK; St. Athanasius, Perigord, SK; and Mary Queen of Poland, Fosston. Fr. Ogunleye is from Oyo, Nigeria and has been ordained for 19 years. Fr. Ogunleye arrived on July 28 with his appointment effective Sept. 2, 2019.

Associate Pastors:


Fr. Paul Oshin

Fr. Paul Oshin will serve as Associate Pastor at St. Paul’s Co-Cathedral, Saskatoon, where he joins Pastor Fr. Stefano Penna. He will also serve part-time in Hospital Chaplaincy. Fr. Oshin is from Oyo, Nigeria and has been ordained for 14 years.  Fr. Oshin arrived on July 28, with his appointment effective immediately.


Fr. Prosper Abotsi

Fr. Prosper Abotsi has started serving as Associate Pastor at St. Augustine, Humboldt, SK; St. Scholastica, Burr, SK; Holy Trinity, Pilger, SK; and Assumption of our Lady, Marysburg, SK, joining Pastor Fr. Joseph Salihu.  Fr. Prosper is from the diocese of Jasikan, Ghana and his appointment is effective Aug. 1, 2019.


Fr. Peter Mulomole will serve as part time Chaplain at St. Thomas More on the University of Saskatchewan campus in Saskatoon, and will assist at St. Anne’s Parish in Saskatoon.  Fr. Mulomole is from the diocese of Zomba, Malawi, on a one year sabbatical; he has been ordained for 35 years.  (Fr. Mulomole’s arrival and start date is to be confirmed.)

Clergy Updates:

Fr. Greg Smith-Windsor  is undertaking studies towards a Master’s degree in Philosophy at St. Thomas More College. He will carry out his studies while continuing as Pastor at St. Mary Parish, Lanigan, and Holy Rosary Parish, LeRoy.

Fr. Matthew Ramsay is undertaking studies towards a Master’s degree in Psychology through the Divine Mercy University. He will carry out his studies while continuing as Pastor at St. Anne Parish in Saskatoon.

Fr. Emmanuel Banahene, who was serving in the parishes at Wadena, Kelvington, Fosston, Perigord and Lintlaw, is departing our Diocese to pursue further studies.

Fr. Douglas Jeffrey, OMI, has been in the diocese for the last few years – living in Wilkie and doing retreat and parish replacement work.  As of the end of July, he has been assigned to parish ministry in the Prince Albert diocese.






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Catholics rally in prayer as satanic mass takes place in Ottawa

Tue, 08/20/2019 - 11:23

By Deborah Gyapong, Canadian Catholic News

[Ottawa – CCN] – About 200 people, most clutching a rosary, held a prayer vigil as a black satanic mass occurred Aug. 17, 2019 at a heavy metal club in downtown Ottawa.

Other Catholics attended adoration at Notre Dame Cathedral a few blocks away or circled the block where the widely publicized event sponsored by the Satanic Temple of Ottawa took place. The day began with Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast celebrating a Mass of Reparation.

“Though Christ has won the definitive battle against sin and evil, we are still involved in mopping up operations,” said Prendergast. “There are still skirmishes and outbreaks of violence against Christ’s Bride, the Church.

“It is just such a skirmish that is going on in our City of Ottawa these days, symbolized by this evening’s satanic inversion of the truths of our faith, as some 50 individuals renounce God and choose Satan as the symbol to guide their unbelief and rebellious spirits.

“We pray for them and make reparation today for the blasphemies uttered against God in our midst.”

The archbishop was flanked by Auxiliary Bishop Christian Riesbeck and several priests from the Companions of the Cross, all wearing purple, penitential robes.

Nicholas Marc, national co-ordinator for the Satanic Temple in Canada and organizer of the event, told Global News he believed the event was “the first organized public black mass in Canadian history.”

“Essentially, it involves using traditional symbols and inverting them to create a ritual that is meant to be the opposite of traditional Mass,” Marc said.

Prendergast called it hateful to mock the Mass.

“It will say loudly that the central belief of Christians should be shown respect, as we would expect respect to be shown to the Jewish Torah, to the Muslim Koran and to the sacred objects of other faiths,” he said.

“Such a ritual sends the wrong message that we’re tolerant of what is in effect hate speech, which this has become by the widespread publicity being given to it.”

Prendergast said he had been counselled to say nothing about the black mass because the organizers are “merely seeking publicity.”

“But I need to be concerned for my own people, who would be shocked to think this matter was publicized and we did nothing about it.”

About 50 people paid to participate in the event held at The Koven nightclub. The satanic ritual included an un-baptism ceremony. Prendergast said that organizers, when asked, said they were not using a consecrated host at the ritual.

Several Ottawa parishes also held Masses and adoration in reparation for the event.

Fr. John Pacheco, who helped rally people to pray outside The Koven, reported on the Catholic blog that he approached the prayer vigil with a mixture of trepidation and skepticism the satanic mass might prove to be a “nothing burger.” He arrived to find a “a loud and mildly obnoxious” fundamentalist preacher denouncing devil worshippers.

“I must admit that my heart sank a bit,” Pacheo said. “I did not want this event to be taken over completely by fundamentalists and portrayed by the media in that way, just because they are the loudest kid on the block who opposed the event.

“I had envisioned this to be something quite classy and beautiful,” he said. “This was, after all, principally a Catholic fight against a black mass. Fundamentalist anti-Catholics do not believe in the Mass and many of the other sacraments. Even Hollywood knows that when the devil comes out, you don’t call a preacher. You call a Catholic exorcist.”

While most of the Catholics stayed on the opposite side of the street or circled the block, Pacheco said he prayed the rosary in front of The Koven and eventually spoke with club owner Mehdi Galedhar and the Ottawa Satanic Temple co-ordinator and organizer of the event, Nicholas Marc.

Galedhar told him he viewed the event as an exercise in religious freedom, something that had been missing in his home country Iran.

Marc told Pacheco he had grown up in a traditional Latin Mass household, but had been “abused,” though he did not describe the nature of the abuse.

Michael Dopp, an Ottawa father and evangelist, said the event turned into “an occasion of grace.”

“The sense in my soul and in those I spoke with was one of peace,” Dopp said in a letter. “It was as if grace simply overwhelmed the evil.”

Dopp described those involved in the black mass as seemingly “ordinary folks with ordinary jobs” who were “useful fools for the evil one.”

“But it seemed to me that there must be a deep wound and lie that would bring them to this. They were playing with fire (and being burned) and they did not know it.”

Pacheco described the satanic mass as anticlimactic and in a sense “old news.”

“Our culture is essentially already living satanic lies,” Pacheco said. “It’s not like Nicholas is announcing something that does not already exist in our culture. The supremacy of human will and complete license (masquerading as freedom), and an atheistic mindset already dominate our public discourse and institutions.”


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Catholic Women’s League members gather in Calgary for 99th annual convention

Mon, 08/19/2019 - 12:19

By Lorraine Turchansky, Grandin Media

[Canadian Catholic News, CCN] – The blue and white flag of the Catholic Women’s League is flying over downtown Calgary this week as some 900 women from across Canada gather for the league’s 99th annual national convention.

National President Anne-Marie Gorman, who is chairing the convention for the first time, says it will be a time of celebration, prayer, learning and debate. The national theme is Caring for Our Common Home, which Gorman chose after being inspired by the writings of Pope Francis in the 2015 encyclical Laudato Si’ and others with a biblical perspective on ecology.

Although they are meeting in the heart of the Canadian energy industry, delegates won’t be arguing the merits of oilsands development or the science behind climate change. But they will hear from a number of speakers who will address the theme through the lens of faith and offer practical suggestions for action.

“The whole point behind the theme is that we only have one earth, and it behooves us to look after it the best way we can,” Gorman said as she prepared to welcome members to the Aug. 18-21 gathering at the Hyatt Regency.

“We’re taking it strictly from a spiritual perspective. The theme is simply to ask all our members, the 78,000 of them, to think about things they can do to look after the planet that we’ve been given. It’s a gift from God.”


However, there will likely be debate on the convention floor when members consider a list of resolutions. Gorman won’t say what the topics will be, just that the resolutions are varied and come from different parts of the country. Once passed at the convention, resolutions become part of national policy and may form part of the league’s advocacy work with federal politicians and officials on Parliament Hill.

Following last year’s convention, Gorman was part of a CWL delegation that lobbied politicians to remove a controversial clause in the Canada Summer Jobs grant programwhich required applicants to attest that the mandate of their organization supported Charter rights, including a “right” to abortion. The government eventually did make changes to the attestation clause, and Gorman says “I can’t help but believe that we were listened to.”

The delegation also presented a resolution urging the federal government to exclude Medical Assistance in Dying from hospice and palliative care services.

“I’ve been privileged to go to Ottawa and meet with federal ministries, the prime minister, the people who work in different bureaucratic seats,” she said. “We prepare really well, and we’re always well received. We don’t always get what we ask for, but we have a respectful dialogue.”

“A lot of organizations don’t get that privilege of meeting with the federal government, so we take it very seriously and prepare very well. It’s one of the reasons that I think all Catholic women would want to be part of the organization  ̶  that we can influence what’s happening at the federal level.”

Raising awareness about CWL

Raising awareness of just what the league does is one of the aims of a five-year strategic plan the CWL adopted last year. The plan aims to renew the league in every aspect, from organizational structure to marketing to affirming and supporting each individual member.

Gorman herself, a member of St. Patrick’s Parish in Stanley, N.B., joined the league in 1977 following the death of her mother, who had been an active member of the local council. Today the league looks pretty much the same as it did back then, she said, but that’s about to change as the strategic plan unfolds.

She hopes the renewal will help attract new members by letting Catholic women know that membership means more than preparing funeral lunches and hosting bake sale fundraisers at the parish.

“I think a lot of people in the pews in the church have misconceptions about what the Catholic Women’s League is. We do all those things at the parish level, assist in so many different ways, but we’re more than that,” Gorman said.

“We’re hoping that future members who are interested in social justice and what is happening in our country will be excited and want to join us because we have this ability to write resolutions that will possibly form policy, that will have an influence on government.”

Over the years, membership in the league has declined with attrition and the change in culture, where most women now work outside the home.

Gorman hopes the league’s renewal comes with more flexibility, so that a woman who doesn’t have time to bake pies for the sale might see that she can serve in other ways, such as addressing specific issues in her community and developing resolutions, or just volunteering for a project with a limited time frame.

CWL centennial

The Catholic Women’s League will be celebrating its 100th anniversary at next year’s convention in Montreal. The league originated in 1912 in Edmonton, where local women under the leadership of Catherine Hughes saw a need to assist the large numbers of immigrant women who were arriving with few supports in their new country. The league became a national organization in 1920 and held its first convention in Montreal in 1921.

A century later, Gorman says the strategic planning process has convinced members that the league is still very much needed by the Church, the parish, and women themselves.

“We keep saying, ‘If you just knew what we were all about, you’d want to be with us, you really would.’”


CCN Article by Grandin Media: LINK

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Tour planned with relic of St. Brother André during 10th anniversary of canonization

Mon, 08/19/2019 - 11:49

By Mickey Conlon, The Catholic Register

Canadian Catholic News

[Toronto – CCN] – A major relic of St. Brother André Bessette is making its first appearance outside Quebec later this month as a precursor to a major tour planned for the 10th anniversary of the canonization of the Canadian saint.

A fragment of bone and a vial with small blood particles from Brother André’s heart, sitting on a piece of rock from Mount Royal in Montreal atop a piece of mahogany, is coming to three Toronto parishes in the Riverdale area, as well as the Divine Retreat Centre in Toronto’s northwest and St. Kevin’s Parish in Welland, Ont. The relic will be at Holy Name Parish on the Danforth Aug. 21 and in the morning of Aug. 25 at St. Joseph’s Parish on Leslie Street, moving to St. Ann’s near Broadview and Gerrard Street that afternoon.

All parishes on this mini-tour are staffed by priests from the Congregation of Holy Cross, the order in which St. André was a lay brother.

“We are just going to our own Holy Cross parishes and then we will make a bigger tour” taking in the whole country next year, said Fr. Jomon Kalladanthiyill, who is co-ordinating the relic’s tour.

Born André Bessette in Mont Saint-Gregoire southeast of Montreal, Br. André was a humble Holy Cross brother who was instrumental in the construction of St. Joseph’s Oratory in Montreal. He has been credited with many miraculous healings through his prayers for the sick and in the six days following his death in 1937 at age 91, up to a million people filed past his coffin which was surrounded by hundreds of crutches and canes from pilgrims who attested to his healing gifts. Those crutches and canes remain on display at St. Joseph’s Oratory. Pope Benedict canonized Brother André on Oct. 17, 2010.

The relic has toured the Montreal archdiocese and elsewhere in Quebec in the past, but will expand its reach in the year leading up to the 10th anniversary of Br. André’s canonization.

Kalladanthiyill said the time is right to start sharing the man and his legacy to people outside of Montreal and St. Joseph’s Oratory, where the relic is housed.

“It’s mainly getting the figure of Br. André known Canada-wide (and then) worldwide. He’s a beautiful saint of our time,” said Kalladanthiyill. “Simple people can associate with Brother André and get to know God more, praise and worship God more through Brother André.”

Fr. Francis Noronha, pastor at St. Joseph’s, didn’t take long to say yes when Kalladanthiyill asked if he would like the relic to visit his parish. Since word has spread, Noronha has seen a growing excitement among parishioners.

“I always feel moved to see what Brother André has done in his lifetime in Montreal at the Oratory and the number of people he was instrumental in healing through the intercession of St. Joseph,” said Noronha, who usually visits the Oratory at least once a year to celebrate Mass and pray at the saint’s tomb.

Plans are already underway for next year’s tour, which tentatively includes up to nine Toronto parishes, among them the new St. André Bessette Parish in Maple, north of the city.


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Religious freedom advocates shocked suicide/euthanasia doctor cleared

Mon, 08/19/2019 - 11:39

By Agnieszka Ruck, B.C. Catholic

With files from Deborah Gyapong, Ottawa, Canadian Catholic News

[Vancouver – CCN] – Religious freedom and anti-euthanasia advocates are alarmed that there will apparently be no negative consequences for a doctor who sneaked into a Vancouver Jewish nursing home to euthanize a resident, despite the care home’s Orthodox Jewish beliefs.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C. has dismissed an official complaint against Dr. Ellen Wiebe, who in 2017 delivered a lethal injection on the premises of Louis Brier Home and Hospital, in contravention of its rules against assisted suicide.

In its ruling, the college said “the patient had consented” and “Dr. Wiebe had met all the requirements for provision of MAID [Medical Aid in Dying.]”

Louis Brier resident Barry Hyman, 83, was suffering the effects of lung cancer and a stroke when he asked for his life to be medically ended in 2017. His family asked the home for permission, but staff refused to allow the procedure on site.

Wiebe and an assistant entered the home, carrying lethal drugs and other equipment concealed in bags, and ended Hyman’s life with family present and behind closed doors.

Wiebe told media she expected the decision to be in her favour. “I had done the right thing and I trust our College of Physicians to recognize that.”

But the care home is disappointed with the decision. David Keselman, Louis Brier’s chief executive officer, told media the college “disregarded many of the elements that were in the complaint.”

“We have quite a number of Holocaust survivors in the building. This is a huge concern… as this came out, it created a very significant level of anxiety and chaos, especially for those individuals.”

Bob Breen, executive director of B.C.’s Denominational Health Association (of which Louis Brier is part), told The B.C. Catholic societies have a right to bar people who violate their policies.

“Physicians like Dr. Wiebe who ignore the policies related to MAID in faith-based homes and sneak in to perform them anyway seem to be devoid of any understanding of the moral trauma that is caused to staff and residents,” he said.

“I find this incredulous behaviour in a physician who has an oath to ‘do no harm.’ Do no harm does not mean you can do whatever you want to everyone else as long as your patient gets what they want. While Dr. Wiebe has the legal right to perform MAID on any patients who meet the criteria, she should have been censured for her unethical behaviour of violating Louis Brier’s rights.”

Breen was unable to obtain the college’s confidential report on Wiebe’s case, so he said it’s difficult to comment on it.

“As far as I can see, they did not examine the ethical issue of Dr. Wiebe entering Louis Brier secretly to perform the procedure, with full knowledge that it was against the policies of the society.”

He added that the decision does not necessarily mean the college condoned her behaviour, but only found it not illegal.

Dr. Will Johnston, a family physician and president of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition-BC, said, “There needs to be some kind of pushback.”

“The medical regulatory community in general is having trouble balancing the interests of the community against aggressive, radical autonomy, a doctrine followed by people like Ellen Wiebe,” said Johnston.  “It should be obvious that when someone wants to be killed by the state and this has been allowed by law, that they should not have the right to specify the exact location.”

“Euthanasia is such a serious affront to medical ethics that the legislations which allows it does so by making exceptions to the usual murder charges,” he said. “It does not have anything to say about the rights of a suicidal person to be killed in a specific location.”

Alex Schadenberg of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition said Wiebe’s actions were clearly unethical.

“She broke the trust of other people living their Jewish faith in that institution,” he told Convivium. He worries about the implications of the college’s decision for other faith-based institutions.

“Say you’re running a Catholic institution now, where you’ve said, ‘We don’t want this on the premises; this is a euthanasia-free zone.’ Well, Dr. Wiebe has basically told people: ‘too bad, we’re going to do it anyway,’” he said. “One of my fears is that all this is going to be leading to forced change.”

Schadenberg said people with religious beliefs or traumatic memories are not the only ones that should worry about the effects of assisted suicide on a community.

“It’s not about being religious or not religious. It’s about living my life as a human being. It’s about answering the question of how I help and protect other human beings,” he said. “You don’t have to believe in God. You can believe whatever you want. But you have to look at the real nature of the human person, how we live our lives creating interdependent community with others.”

When news first broke of Hyman’s death in January of 2018, Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB, called the situation “disturbing.”

“Faith-based institutions, whether schools or health-care facilities, represent communities which have the right to determine the values that govern their mission,” he said.

“Physician-assisted suicide, in the words of Pope Francis, is ‘false compassion,’ and any attempt to coerce facilities into practising euthanasia is an assault on freedom of conscience and religion.”

Barry Bussey, director, legal affairs for the Canadian Council of Christian Charities, said the college’s decision has implications for other denominations, calling it “a dagger at the heart of the Catholic hospital system as well.”

The decision is a “further indication of the absolute disregard for the rights of religious organizations to be able to determine for themselves their own religious culture, faith tradition and practices.”

“When you have a physician who knows the policy of the nursing home, as well as the family knowing the policies, to have this physician surreptitiously bring these drugs into the nursing home, in violation of the policies, and then she goes ahead and commits the act … shows an absolute disregard and lack of respect for the greater religious community,” Bussey said.

While Bussey agreed with Keselman a judicial review may not have a different outcome, he thinks it would have value in the wake of the Supreme Court of Canada’s Trinity Western decision, which upheld the rights of provincial law societies, as well as provincial regulatory agencies regulating a profession, to make decisions in the public interest on the basis of vague “Charter values” even when those values clash with rights enumerated in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms such as religious freedom and conscience rights.

“[A judicial review] would help society as a whole to see and hear just how far the thinking of the Supreme Court in its Trinity Western decision would go,” Bussey said.


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‘Remember Me’ – Should Catholics talk to their dead loved ones?

Mon, 08/19/2019 - 06:36

By Mary Farrow, Catholic News Agency

[Denver, Colorado – CNA] – In the 2017 Disney-Pixar movie “Coco,” the main character, Miguel, accidentally passes over into the land of the dead on Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead). While in the land of the dead, Miguel bumps into his own deceased family members, and learns his true family history.

Though Miguel’s experience is fictional, it is not uncommon for grieving loved ones to experience what psychologists call “After Death Communication,” in which the bereaved believe that they see, hear the voices of, or even smell their dead loved ones.

These experiences, sometimes called “bereavement hallucinations,” can be healing and comforting for those who grieve, multiple studies have found.

But Catholics should proceed with caution when “communicating” with the dead, two Catholic psychologists told CNA, and they should ground their communications in prayer.

Dana Nygaard is a Catholic and a licensed professional counselor who speaks to grief groups and counsels clients through loss. Nygaard told CNA that because many Catholics misunderstand what happens to souls after death, she urges caution when talking about what it means to talk to dead loved ones.

“If they’re speaking to a loved one, how are they doing that? Is it through saying, ‘Hey grandma, I think you’re up there in heaven with God. I really hope you pray and look over me.’ Okay, well that sounds fine,” she said.

“Or…are they going to a psychic or a medium? Is this necromancy? How were they doing this?  I think that’s an important question,” Nygaard said.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “all forms of divination are to be rejected” which includes the “conjuring up the dead.”

However, the Church encourages Catholics to pray for the dead as one of the spiritual works of mercy.

“From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God. The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead,” the Catechism states.

“Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them.”

“Prayer, prayer, prayer,” Nygaard said, noting that because Catholics do not know the state of the souls of their loved ones when they die, it is important to pray for them after their death, as prayers can help the souls in purgatory get to heaven faster.

The Liturgy of the Hours, a set of prayers said periodically throughout the day by priests, religious and some lay Catholics, includes a special Office of the Dead, a set of prayers said specifically for those who have died.

Nygaard told CNA that she often encourages Catholics who are grieving a loss to ask for the intercessory prayers of saints already canonized by the Church, which means that they are assured to be with God in heaven.

“Maybe it was that my great-grandmother was really close to St. Anne. I’m going to ask St. Anne, ‘Would you please look after my sweet great grandmother? I pray she’s there with you in heaven.’ I’ve known people also to pray, ‘God, I’m asking you, do I need to keep praying for my father?’” she said.

Nygaard said that those she counsels through grief will sometimes, after a period of prayer, feel a deep sense of peace that their loved one is in heaven.

Dr. Chris Stravitsch is a licensed professional counselor and marriage and family therapist, as well as the president and founder of Rejoice Counseling Apostolate, a group of Catholic counselors. Stravitsch told CNA that in addition to prayer, he counsels his clients to prepare for their first year of grief, which can often be the most difficult.

“There are a lot of ‘firsts’ to pass through: the first Christmas without him or her; their first birthday without them present; the first wedding anniversary alone; etc. I counsel people to prepare for these occasions in advance because we know it will be painful and difficult,” he said.

He said he tells his clients to plan in advance how and with whom they will spend these difficult days, and how they will remember their loved ones at those times.

“It’s helpful to surround yourself with other loved ones who understand your loss, while also setting aside a little time to be alone in prayer and reminiscing,” he said.

“These are meaningful days to attend Mass, so that you can cling to Christ and receive His consolation. Visiting the gravesite or a place where you have a special memory can also be meaningful, whether that is done alone or with the support of others,” he said.

“Furthermore, be sure to tell stories and talk about your deceased loved ones,” he added. “We need to continue coming together at various times to remember them in a spirit of love and prayer. This is a balm for the brokenhearted.”

Stravitsch said it is important for Catholics to remember that death and grief are painful things to experience, and that Jesus himself wept at the death of his friend Lazarus.

“(Jesus) wants to be with us and share our grief,” he said. This means Catholics should be sensitive towards those who are grieving, and avoid well-intentioned but unhelpful comments such as: “It was God’s will”; “It was their time to go”; “They’re in a better place now”; or “There’s a reason for everything”; Stravitsch said.

“Simply saying, ‘I’m sorry’, giving a warm embrace, sharing a tear, and remaining at their side as long as needed can be far more consoling,” he said.

Checking back in after the funeral has passed, and continuing to talk about the deceased with those who are grieving are other ways Catholics can show compassion, he said.

Both Nygaard and Stravitsch said that they have found that clients are usually deeply comforted by the Church’s teaching on the communion of saints and the promise of everlasting life for all souls who are united with God.

“In the Catholic Church, like we have the mystical body of Christ. And we know that the souls in heaven are surrounding the altar during communion,” she said.

“What I have found is that normally brings a great sense of peace,” to the bereaved, she said. “It’s not just me sitting there when I go up for communion…we’re mystically connected and that we can ask for the intercession of the saints,” which means any soul that is in heaven with God.

In his Letter to the Hebrews, St. Paul recalls those already in heaven, and says that the faithful are surrounded “by so great a cloud of witnesses.”

“When the Lord comes in glory, and all his angels with him, death will be no more and all things will be subject to him. But at the present time some of his disciples are pilgrims on earth. Others have died and are being purified, while still others are in glory, contemplating ‘in full light, God himself triune and one, exactly as he is.’ All of us, however, in varying degrees and in different ways share in the same charity towards God and our neighbors, and we all sing the one hymn of glory to our God. All, indeed, who are of Christ and who have his Spirit form one Church and in Christ cleave together,’” the Catechism states.

These teachings are a “great consolation for the bereaved,” Stravitsch said.

“Not only is there the hope of being reunited with our loved ones after death, but there is the reality of remaining mysteriously connected with them even today. Whether we are interceding for them as we pray for the repose of their soul or we are asking for their prayers, there is a sense that we are within reach of one another,” he added.

“The bonds of true love are not destroyed in death but are made ever stronger. The Church recognizes this in a unique way when we celebrate All Souls Day and we call to mind our deceased loved ones. We are united in Christ.”


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Living in the shadows, families hide and find hope

Mon, 08/12/2019 - 18:23
A special report from The Catholic Register about persecuted Christians from Pakistan who have fled to Thailand

Joshua is the youngest in a family of seven living in a 400-square-foot apartment in Bangkok, where about 1,500 Pakistani Christians are living illegally and seeking asylum.   (CCN Photo by Michael Swan, The Catholic Register)

By Michael Swan, The Catholic Register

[BANGKOK, THAILAND – Canadian Catholic News] –  It’s not Joshua’s fault. He was born into statelessness more than three years ago in Bangkok and immediately suffered a stroke that left him seriously brain damaged. But Joshua scares the rest of his family daily.

The problem is, Joshua wants to go outside. Sometimes he panics when he can’t see his father. Sometimes he gets frustrated with his mother, or scared by a noise outside. Then he cries. He screams. He demands attention.

Attention is the one thing Joshua’s family never wants. There are seven of them living in a one-room apartment with two beds, a desk and two chairs — where they cook chicken biryani for a guest on an electric ring on the floor and use the big bed as their dining room table.

They don’t go outside any more than they have to. It’s seven of them all day, every day occupying less than 400 square feet, including the tiny balcony where they air out their bed sheets. They know they are living in Thailand illegally, but returning home to Pakistan is not an option with a possible death sentence hanging over them under the country’s blasphemy laws. They know Royal Thai Immigration police are sweeping through neighbourhoods, throwing illegals into jail cells. They know the head of Thai Immigration, Lt. Gen. Sompong Chingduang, again warned landlords July 20 to report any foreigners living in their buildings or face stiff fines.

It takes just one scared landlord, one phone call, for Joshua’s family to end up in jail cells at the Immigration Detention Centre in downtown Bangkok.

So they don’t want to be noticed.

They may be illegal migrants in Thailand, but in Canada and most other countries Joshua’s family would be considered refugees. Thailand never signed the 1951 Convention on Refugees, so about 1,500 Pakistani Christians who are in Bangkok and seeking asylum are simply lumped in with anybody else who has overstayed their tourist visa. From the perspective of Thai law, they are a criminal nuisance.

“Every single day I fear being arrested. I am living in darkness, without hope,” Joshua’s grandfather told The Catholic Register.

Joshua’s family is one of 63 who were interviewed in Bangkok the week of July 14 by the Office for Refugees, Archdiocese of Toronto (ORAT) — giving the families a chance to be privately sponsored for resettlement in Canada. It will require a parish, a diocese or some other configuration of Catholics to raise money and make the volunteer commitment, but Canada is perhaps their best and possibly their only hope of creating a normal life and future.


Pakistan’s blasphemy laws— meant to combat any show of contempt toward religion — have grown increasingly harsh since they were inherited from British colonial rule. Beginning with constitutional amendments of 1974 and a program of “Islamicization” of the legal code, Pakistan’s laws became more severe through the 1980s, acquiring the death penalty in 1986.

According to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom’s 2019 annual report, there have been 62 documented cases of murder at the hands of vigilante mobs inspired by Pakistan’s blasphemy laws since 1990.

Many of the Pakistani Christian refugee families in Thailand would face the death penalty under Pakistan’s blasphemy law if they were ever returned home. Many of them have been hunted by vigilante, jihadi assassins.

The Register was not permitted to use real names or take identifying photos of most people interviewed for this story out of safety concerns. Individuals have family still living in Pakistan who would suffer at the hands of mobs in the streets if their pictures or names were to circulate on the Internet.

So we will call Joshua’s grandfather Jonas Saman. He was a community leader in Pakistan who founded and led a local development NGO. He is obsessed with the potential for technical education and training in the trades to lift young people out of poverty. He was an activist in Pakistan from the age of 18, when he led a Catholic youth group.

His daughter Hannah followed in his footsteps, helping women working as domestic servants.

“I grew up watching my father as a social activist,” she said. “I raised my voice with my father.”

There are people who don’t want her or her father back in Pakistan. The turning point for the Saman family was a mob attack on the Christian neighbourhood of Lahore’s Joseph Colony in March of 2013. The attack was sparked by an unsubstantiated accusation of blasphemy against a single resident of the neighbourhood.

The mob torched 178 houses in the Christian neighbourhood. Pakistan’s courts never found anyone criminally responsible.

In the days after the attack, Saman led a protest against the blasphemy law. For that he and his family were threatened with death by the “Guardians of the Prophet’s Companions,” a group Pakistan’s government has officially listed under it’s Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997, but which remains connected to powerful politicians.

“You are now entitled to be slaughtered. We will not spare you,” the Guardians told Saman.

He spent months moving from house to house in Pakistan. Eventually, his relatives and even his parish priest said he ought to take his family out of the country. At 55 he now works illegally and irregularly for Bangkok hotels and restaurants, encouraging customers from the street, handing out flyers, whatever they need him for.

The Samans have moved three times in their five years in Bangkok, trying to keep clear of the immigration police. There was another round-up on July 9, with 51 Pakistani Christians jailed.

George Naz was one of the Christians caught up in that sweep. Naz was also a protest leader back in 2013. He was hit with a fatwa calling for his death, broadcast from the mosque speakers to a crowd of over 1,000 people. Then 150 swore out a charge of blasphemy against him at the police station. “It’s a miracle I’m alive,” Naz told visitors from ORAT.

But Naz now faces the prospect of Thai authorities putting him on a plane back to Pakistan despite his United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees identity card recognizing his legitimate claim to refugee status.

“I have a strong belief that as soon as I arrive in the airport, they will kill me,” he said.

Naz isn’t paranoid.

Archbishop Lawrence Saldana (Photo by Michael Swan, Catholic Register, CCN.)

“The blasphemy law has wide implications,” explained retired Archbishop of Lahore Lawrence Saldanha, who now lives in Toronto. “Many have died. Many have suffered. Many have left their properties, have been looted and so on. They have suffered in many ways. There’s always the threat of blasphemy which hangs over them.”

Pakistan’s blasphemy law and its attendant death penalty is matched up with a dysfunctional legal system that allows mullahs to preside as judges and gangs to threaten police who try to enforce the law.

The refugee-volunteers with Jesuit priest Fr. Mick Kelly’s refugee ministry in Bangkok estimate 20 Pakistani Christians have died in the Immigration Detention Centre over the past five years. Hijaz Pares was one of them. He suffered two heart attacks while in immigration detention in 2016 and 2017. The second one killed him.

“On the day he died, he told authorities he was sick — asked to go to the hospital,” said his wife Shahida, who is left to care for her three children, aged three to 13, along with her in-laws and, most of all, her disabled, wheelchair- bound brother-in-law Noman, 25.

Her husband wasn’t sent to hospital because the family hadn’t been able to pay the bill from his first heart attack. Instead he was sent to a dark room with a few other inmates.

“We never knew this would happen in Thailand, that we would be considered illegal immigrants,” she said. “Now I can’t sleep.”

She patrols her building at night, watching for police. Her children haven’t gone to school for four years. Thirteen-year-old Joel has shouldered the responsibility for helping his mother, including carrying Noman four floors up and down the stairs of their building when they have to go out.

The single women heading households in Bangkok have almost universally been diagnosed with depression. Peace Samuel occupies her tiny apartment with her three children and the memory of a mob that came after her for talking to women about their rights. The former Catholic school accountant volunteered on weekends with her parish, teaching poor women in villages — Christian and Muslim — about women’s rights. The wife of a village mullah attended the program and afterward spoke to Peace about the abuse she suffered at the hands of her husband.

When Peace sought protection for the mullah’s wife, word got back to the man. He came after Peace with a gang of his friends and followers.

Outside the local hospital, the mullah’s gang grabbed Peace and began to tear her clothes.

“I was so scared. I cried. My clothes are torn and I was not able to cover myself,” she said.

Some bystanders protected her. She survived and the mullah’s threats eventually receded. But when the Joseph Colony riot took place, she was interviewed by a TV reporter. One of the mullah’s friends recognized her and began shouting threats as she was being interviewed. At her husband’s urging she fled the country with her two daughters and teenaged son. Her husband was to follow later, but then Thailand stopped issuing tourist visas to Pakistanis.

The Samuels have been apart for five years.

Like most of the Christian refugees in Bangkok, the UNHCR denied Peace refugee status. She admits she confused details in recalling the traumatic events. The team from the ORAT office still found the UNHCR decision on her case shocking and unconscionable.

The UNHCR tells The Catholic Register each case is assessed individually. It would not comment on stories circulating in the Christian refugee community about a Muslim Urdu interpreter who minimized or mistranslated testimony about blasphemy charges and mob violence.

While Canada usually relies on the UNHCR for a first assessment, ORAT can present cases to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada for a separate assessment for private sponsorship.

“Two out of three (Christian refugees haven’t received UNHCR recognition) in the most dubious circumstances,” said Kelly, who has been working with the Pakistani Christian refugees for five years. “Which reflects the cultural pre-suppositions of the UNHCR that blinker it to human need, because they put these rigid expectations on people in terms of fluency in English, understanding the documentary process that’s required for refugee status — unappreciative of the fact that most of them are traumatized and that they are constantly looking backwards, whereas the UNHCR wants them to look forward and say why they can’t go home.”


Samuels and her three children have lived in five or six different apartments in Bangkok. The worst was a shelter where they had to wash dishes inside the bathroom, said Jass.

In their current apartment, 46-year-old Peace sleeps with her 20-year-old daughter Charlotte and 15-year-old Jass in the bed. Her son Nabeel, 22, sleeps on the floor beside them. The women spend long stretches sitting on the bed weaving strips of plastic made from sliced up water bottles into bracelets and purses. Jass volunteers to teach catechism to children at their church. Nabeel picks up work on construction sites.

Jass sees how the stress has worn her mother down.

“I can just pray, pray to God that He will help her,” she said.

Jass dreams of becoming a fashion designer and making elegant dresses for her mother.

Peace is proud of her children, who have grown up in crowded little apartments and without school.

“In every situation they are with me. They stand with me,” she said. “Sometimes we have not enough food, but they didn’t say anything.”

In Joshua’s apartment, a statue of Our Lady of Fatima and another of the Sacred Heart of Jesus sit on a high shelf, with a rosary hung between them. After his stroke, and the craniotomy that followed, Joshua’s parents went every day to the hospital to pray the rosary at their son’s bedside. Hannah, his mother, trusts everything to Mary.

“Why I love Mary is because she is the holiest woman in the world,” she said. “Because her son, our God, cannot refuse prayers to her.”

She now prays that kind Canadians will sponsor her and her family out of limbo and into a new life.

Peace Samuel holds a crucifix given as a gift from the Office of Refugees, Archdiocese of Toronto. (ORAT).  (Photo by Michael Swan, Catholic Register, CCN)

Archdiocese of Toronto reaches out

By Michael Swan,The Catholic Register

[Bangkok, Thailand – Canadian Catholic News] – For 63 families, the strangers from Toronto represented something they’ve lived without for years:  hope.

Staff from the Office for Refugees, Archdiocese of Toronto (ORAT) made the 19-hour flight across 13 time zones in mid-July on a mission to rescue Pakistani Christians stuck in a legal limbo after they fled persecution to arrive in a country that treats them as illegals.

The ORAT team spent a week conducting detailed interviews and came away confident they could rescue a significant number of these otherwise helpless refugees.

“Now what would make it even more successful, obviously, is if we can garner the support of other dioceses, other churches, across Canada to support the families that we are unable to support,” said ORAT executive director Deacon Rudy Ovcjak.

Ovcjak recognizes that in a world with over 70 million displaced people, more than 25 million of them refugees, it’s difficult for refugee advocates to know where to begin.

ORAT has in the past helped resettle people from much bigger refugee populations in the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa. When he looks at the situation of Pakistani Christians in Thailand and Malaysia, however, he sees a refugee population that’s not getting much attention.

“It seems like very little has been done to address this problem,” he said. “So we felt the need to come out here and play the little part that we can.”

Pakistan’s blasphemy laws and its culture of violent, fundamentalist politics won’t disappear because a few dozen families are in Canada. However, Ovcjak believes resettlement makes all the difference for people prevented from actually living their lives. In the case of Bangkok’s 1,500 Pakistani Christians, “It’s a very contained problem that is easily solvable,” he said.

“It just requires will to do it on the part of Canadians, on the part of Canadian churches.”

As an official Sponsorship Agreement Holder (SAH) with Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, ORAT is granted a set number of private refugee sponsorship opportunities each year. They have 16 slots available for Pakistani Christian refugees currently stranded in Bangkok.

All ORAT has to do is find 16 Toronto parishes — or schools, or universities, or religious communities — willing to raise $40,000 to $60,000 and dedicate the volunteer hours to support a refugee family two years from now. For parishes in the archdiocese sponsoring a family just got easier thanks to an anonymous donor and Cardinal Thomas Collins’ solidarity with refugee Christians. Up to $500,000 has been made available via the donor and Project Hope funds controlled by Collins to subsidize parishes need ing financial help with sponsorship.

For the remaining 47 families, Ovcjak will have to persuade other Sponsorship Agreement Holders, primarily other Catholic dioceses, to make their slots available and find parishes to raise money and volunteer.

Ovcjack describes it as “heartbreaking” to sit with these families, hear their stories of persecution in Pakistan, knowing ORAT can’t sponsor them all.

“We get to hear the tragic stories of the persecution and the suffering that they faced in Pakistan, the dilemma they face here in Thailand with no protection offered to them by the Thai government,” he said. “So we hear them; we see the anguish on their faces. We hear their stories all the while knowing that for some of them there’s not even the path forward to go through the private sponsorship program. That’s very difficult.”

Over the week of interviews, ORAT documented the stories, filled out the forms, cleared the way for the 63 families to be interviewed by Government of Canada staff from the refugee visa post in Singapore.

For Jesuit Fr. Mick Kelly, just getting to the point of presenting cases to Canadian authorities represents a huge triumph for him and his team of refugee volunteers in Bangkok. Kelly and the Christian refugee community has come to see that they are in fact dependent on the kindness of strangers.

“The only way out of it that I’ve had is things like this — get in touch with those parts of the Church that are alert to the needs of migrants and start working with them,” he said.

All week long, pre-selected refugee families showed up at the sort of hotel business centre for interviews with ORAT. They wore their best clothes and carried thick binders full of newspaper clippings, government documents, letters from pastors and friends to back up stories of imminent danger they faced before fleeing Pakistan. They kept their heads down as they walked through the hotel lobby, fearful of being pointed out to Thai police. Many found the back way into the hotel from the alley.

“When you’re desperate and have nothing going for you — as the vast majority of these people do — what keeps you going is the prospect that it may come to an end,” said Kelly. “What this week in Bangkok is doing is giving people an indication that it may come to an end.”


Cooking chicken biryani on the floor of their one-room apartment, above, the Saman family of seven spends most of their days indoors. (Photo by Michael Swan, The Catholic Register – CCN)

Hannah (above) fills the time making mosaic mirror frames from pieces of broken tile. (Photo by Michael Swan, The Catholic Register – CCN)

Noman Pares and his family have been without a breadwinner since Noman’s brother Hijaz died in Bangkok’s Immigration Detention Centre in 2017. (Photo by Michael Swan, The Catholic Register – CCN)

Peace Samuels (above) crafts bracelets from recycled plastic bottles to try to earn a little money for her family. (Photo by Michael Swan, The Catholic Register – CCN)

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100th anniversary of Our Lady Queen of Peace Church celebrated Aug. 11

Mon, 08/12/2019 - 15:55

Catholic Saskatoon News 

Photos by Teresa Bodnar-Hiebert

On a Sunday afternoon in August 2019, Bishop Mark Hagemoen presided at the celebration of Eucharist with Msgr. Stan Urbanoski, Fr. Denis Phaneuf, and Fr. Colin Roy, to mark the 100th anniversary of the construction of Our Lady Queen of Peace Church.

It was the first parish that Msgr. Urbanoski served in after his ordination in 1954.

The first church was built of logs and mud in 1904 to serve Polish settlers in the area. As the pioneers settled on their homesteads, this little church was no longer big enough. In 1918 construction of the present church building was started, and was finished in 1919.

Now closed, Our Lady Queen of Peace is located 7.5 miles (12 km) east of Smuts, SK, or nine miles (14.5 km) north of Prud’homme.

The 100th anniversary celebration on Sunday, Aug. 11, 2019 was a homecoming for many, and included Mass, the blessing of graves in the cemetery, a group photo, and a potluck meal.

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How did I hear the call to the Permanent Diaconate?

Mon, 08/12/2019 - 13:35

By Ryan LeBlanc

This fall, three men from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon and three from the Archdiocese of Regina will together begin formal preparation for ordination to the Permanent Diaconate. I am one of these men.

How did I hear the call to the Permanent Diaconate?

My baptism involved me in Christ’s mission as Priest, King and Prophet, the same as all Christians. The particular ways in which I have experienced my baptismal call unfolding in liturgy, charity and teaching have led me to consider ordained life. While my life as a lay Catholic has been blessedly fruitful – as a husband, father, Catholic teacher, parishioner and Canadian citizen – I have discerned charisms in myself which I believe would best advance my salvation and my neighbours’, if they were expressed through the lifelong commitment of the Permanent Diaconate. I believe I was created with a diaconal spirituality, for a diaconal ministry. In entering formation towards the Permanent Diaconate this fall, I surrender myself to Jesus, and ask him to take care of everything.

Love for liturgy

I became aware of my love for liturgy in high school, while serving as an acolyte at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Saskatoon, with Monsignor Len Morand. Quite unexpectedly, the word and gesture, music and silence, vestment and vessels, clicked in my mind as I realized this was the stuff that could bring people together and open up for them an interiority that could transform their lives. I served as best I could, and one person one time said that they appreciated how I did so. With that feedback, I realized that through the service of the liturgy, my interior experience of God could become manifest in the world outside myself, and thus convey the same grace and peace I had received from the Holy Spirit. All of a sudden, those private moments when the Church’s public worship of God had consoled, inspired and nourished me came to the forefront of my awareness. In God’s own mystery, I had received grace through the faithful gift of liturgical ministers who were unaware of my specific need; that same mystery, if I were humble enough not to stand in the way, might transmit to those God only knows that same grace and presence. I’ve served the liturgy ever since. As a deacon, I believe God has given me the capacity to confidently and selflessly gather his people to give God the glory our hearts burn to give him and to call down the transforming love he aches to give us.

“I see the purpose of the ordained ministry of the diaconate as to invite all people to a greater wholeness and deeper communion that the Gospel makes possible.”

Call to service

My earliest memory of what I now recognize as God’s special concern for the poor and marginalized is my mother welcoming and nourishing another boy my age whose family was hurting really badly. Since that experience, I have harboured an attraction in my heart to serving those in need. My lack of understanding and trust, however, left me thinking that this attraction was in tension with what benefitted me. It wasn’t until I discerned and participated in the Justice and Outreach Year of Formation (diocesan JOY program) that God was able to transform my thinking on this.

Until JOY, I noticed that I was unhappy and my prayer life was filled with anguish: worry about my own concerns, my own insecurities, my own frustrated desires. As I began to encounter the men in the correctional system, supported by the JOY community, I found my own happiness unfolding, and a sense of peace taking up residence within my heart. Somehow, as I carried Christ into a dehumanizing environment, and journeyed with men struggling in violence, addiction, trauma and incarceration, our mutual brokenness was recognized and accepted. I brought to prison things that I had received but didn’t deserve: education, stability, faith, respect, attention. But I received even more: healing, friendship, courage, inspiration.

I believe this is such a profound paradox of the service of charity, what I also call mercy: On the one hand, the poor, hungry, imprisoned, and sorrowing need the mercy of those with strength, privilege and wealth – this is a great gift, but also an obligation of true faith. On the other hand, especially in the time and place we live, it is the strong, privileged and wealthy who are in dire need of mercy:  the mercy of forgiveness and acceptance after participating in and tolerating such profound injustice which benefits some and dispossesses others; the mercy of freedom from the inordinate attachments that enslave us to perpetuate social sin; the mercy to be opened up to a communion of love and unlocked from the isolation of obsessive self-interest.

Whose need for mercy is greater? Whose suffering crushes the soul with greater weight? Those aren’t the questions that matter. The important question is: when and where can the flow of mercy start in this world? And the answer from a God who humbled himself to become a servant, to die on a cross, is that mercy starts with acknowledging our deep need for God. I see the purpose of the ordained ministry of the diaconate as to invite all people to a greater wholeness and deeper communion that the Gospel makes possible.

Prophetic ministry of the Word

The prophetic ministry of the Word brings all people the life-giving message of the Gospel, the unconditional love and mercy God pours out for his beloved children. In some ways, announcing the Good News comes first, but I wish to see teaching as necessarily rising from the prayer and service of the priestly and kingly roles serving liturgy and charity. In spite of myself, I have come to realize God has created me to be a teacher, and I have found life in sharing and growing knowledge with my students and my colleagues. I feel that the ministry of the Word, such a ‘teacherly’ ministry, will use the natural gifts I have received and developed through the generosity of the Holy Spirit.

My experience in a classroom, both as a student and a teacher, will enable me to preach competently and confidently. My formation, in some ways begun already, will be to realize and accept that any preaching in sacred liturgy is effective if and only if the sacred minister has laid down his ego to invite the ever-mysterious Spirit of Christ to inspire. The ministry of the Word, like the profession of teaching, is not a matter of one person speaking the fullness of wisdom while others sit passively receptive.

Beyond preaching in liturgy, I believe the ministry of the Word involves teaching and exploring God’s definitive revelation of himself in the midst of his people. As a classroom teacher, I sometimes act as facilitator, mediator, motivational speaker, evaluator, counselor, coach, devil’s advocate, questioner, content strategist, resource consultant and creator, and on occasion direct instructor. Certainly in catechetics, but not limited to that endeavor, I delight in participating with the faithful to explore and unfold the full meaning of Christ present in our midst, bringing understanding into alignment with Truth and into integrity with our experience and will. As a deacon, I would look and ask for those graces to activate a thinking faith in God’s people.

Pray for those in formation

The men being formed for the Permanent Diaconate are both blessed and broken – we are in need of many prayers and much mercy. With God’s grace, though, the life-giving communions of our Diocese and Archdiocese can receive from and give to the Permanent Diaconate the loving gaze of the Father, the healing hands of Christ, and the ardent zeal of the Holy Spirit.

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

To find more information about the Permanent Diaconate: Click HERE



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Pope Francis prays for monsoon victims in India

Mon, 08/12/2019 - 08:19

By Courtney Grogan, Catholic New Agency

[Vatican City – CNA] – Pope Francis offered prayers and condolences Monday for the victims of monsoon flooding in southern India that has left more than 150 people dead.

“Deeply saddened to learn of the tragic loss of life in the monsoons of recent days in Kerala, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Gujarat … His Holiness Pope Francis sends his heartfelt condolences to the relatives of the deceased and injured,” Cardinal Pietro Parolin wrote in a telegram on the pope’s behalf Aug.12.

According to local government reports, 152 people are confirmed dead and another 17 missing in India after days of heavy rains.

The Vatican Secretary of State said Pope Francis is praying for the relief efforts underway, mindful of all those who have lost homes and livelihood.

More than 400,000 people were displaced by the floods and mudslides, according to the Associated Press. Many have taken refuge in relief camps set up in the Indian states of Kerala and Karnataka.

“Upon the nation he [Pope Francis] willingly invokes the divine blessings of strength and perseverance,” Parolin said.

Myanmar, Pakistan, Nepal, and Bangladesh also experienced heavy rainfall in recent weeks. Landslides in Myanmar killed 53 people and damaged more than 4,000 homes since Aug. 9, according to their government.

The monsoon season in Southeast Asia typically stretches from June until September. Last summer, flooding in India left nearly 400 people dead and 1 million displaced.

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