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The national March for Life is set to go online with virtual pro-life message

Tue, 05/05/2020 - 10:30

By Brian Dryden, Canadian Catholic News

[Ottawa – CCN] – Ottawa’s Catholic Archbishop Terrence Prendergast has been a key figure and participant at every National March for Life since he took on the mantle of leadership of the Catholic Church in the nation’s capital.
And this year will be no exception, even though almost everything else about the National March for Life in 2020 will be different than it has been in the past.

The annual pilgrimage to Ottawa by pro-life Canadians, which would normally culminate with thousands gathering in a rally and march on Parliament Hill in the nation’s capital, will instead be a shared experience across the country over the Internet.

Archbishop Prendergast will oversee the National March for Life Mass on Thursday, May 14 from noon to 1 p.m. eastern time (10 a.m. to 11 a.m. in Saskatchewan), but this year the Mass will take place in an empty church since all Catholic churches in Ottawa are closed to the public because of the COVID-19 pandemic, as is the case for most other places of worship across Canada.

“A ‘virtual Mass’ from Ottawa’s Notre Dame Cathedral is being prepared. Year in and year out, this Mass and others have been a springtime highlight of Catholic life in the capital,” Prendergast said.

The Campaign Life Coalition, which has organized the largest annual pro-life event held in Canada each year since 1998, starts a week-long online program Sunday, May 10, 2020 that will continue through the day of the 23rd National March for Life, which marks the passing of the omnibus bill on May 14, 1969, which opened the floodgates to abortion on demand in Canada.

“This initiative will also bring awareness to the killing occurring at the other end of the spectrum, near the end of life, with a focus on the proposed expansions to Canada’s euthanasia law,” according to a statement from the National March for Life organizing committee.

The online activities will all be available through, starting May 10 with a pro-life film festival running May 10-12 at 8 p.m. ET (6 p.m. in Saskatchewan) each night, including the film “Fatal Flaws: Legalizing Assisted Death” that on May 12 will feature a conversation with the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition’s executive director Alex Schadenberg.

The film festival will be followed by a virtual candlelight vigil at 8 p.m. ET on Wednesday, May 13 and online Masses and religious services on Thursday, May 14 that will include a live-streamed virtual rally with guests from Canada and around the world from 2:30-4:30 p.m. ET (12:30-2:30 p.m. in Saskatchewan).

There will also be pro-life special titled “Be Not Afraid” broadcast May 14 from 1-2:30 p.m. ET (11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in Saskatchewan) that will be available on the Eternal Word Television Network. It will be hosted by international pro-life speakers Kevin Dunn and Stephanie Gray and will focus on the most important life issues facing Canadians at this time and what can be done to rebuild a culture of life in Canada.

The online events will conclude on Friday, May 15 with a virtual pro-life webinar geared towards youth from 12:30-3 p.m. ET (10:30 a.m. – 1 p.m. in Saskatchewan) that is being touted as “an educational seminar run by youth for youth, with fellowship and practical steps to getting more involved in the pro-life movement.”

One of the main organizers of the online version of the National March for Life this year told the Canadian Catholic News that this year’s event may offer a template on how the March for Life can maintain an online presence in the future. But for now, by going online this year, the event may be able to reach even more people than it has in the past.

“For all those who have always wanted to attend in the past but couldn’t, now they can participate,” said Debbie Duval, national capital organizer for the Campaign Life Coalition. “And for those who were going to attend, they can still participate this year.”

The National March for Life may be different this year, but for supporters of the event the pro-life message it shares it has become even more important as Canada becomes an increasingly secular country in the public sphere.

Archbishop Prendergast recently tweeted out a column that ran in the United States-based National Catholic Register entitled “A Letter from Canada” that extolled the need for pro-life Canadians to keep speaking out.

“Although it’s easy to feel discouraged by the hostility of what passes for the great and the good in a now deeply secular Canada, the pro-life community is remarkably resilient, even in the face of the added challenges posed by this season of pandemic. Perhaps they know something that others don’t,” wrote David Mulroney, former president and vice-chancellor of the University of St. Michael’s College from 2015-2018 and Canada’s ambassador to China 2009-12. “In the 17th century, French Recollet missionaries named St. Joseph the patron saint of Canada. As I prepare to participate, even if only virtually, in this year’s March for Life, I am struck by how apt this is, and of how much my beloved but increasingly hard-hearted country needs the patronage of the quiet, humble and ever-faithful protector of the infant Jesus,” he said.


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‘Catholic health care was in my blood from the very beginning,’ says newly-appointed president of Catholic Health Alliance of Canada

Tue, 05/05/2020 - 09:43

By Brian Dryden, Canadian Catholic News

[Ottawa – CCN] – At a time when the world is facing a global health crisis because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the underlying principles of Catholic social teaching are helping inform the way that health authorities in Canada are addressing the crisis, says the new leader of the Catholic Health Alliance of Canada.

“It has been interesting during the COVID-19 worldwide emergency to see Catholic social teaching coming to the forefront,” said John Ruetz, who will take over as the new president and CEO of the Catholic Health Alliance of Canada (CHAC) on July 1.

“Principles such as the common good, sanctity of life and respect for workers have prominently factored into our Canadian response,” he said.

Ruetz, who has served as president and CEO of the Catholic Health Sponsors of Ontario (CHSO) for the past six years, will take up his new position on July 1 with a long-standing appreciation of Catholic health care that dates back to the very day that he was born.

“I was born at St. Mary’s Hospital in Kitchener. The administrator of the hospital was my great Aunt, Sister Paula Schnurr, a Sister of St. Joseph of Hamilton,” he told the Canadian Catholic News. “I like to think that Catholic health care was in my blood from the very beginning.”

Since being appointed as the incoming president and CEO of CHAC, Ruetz has been working with Michael Shea, CHAC’s current president who is retiring, for a “smooth transition” at the organization that is an alliance of 14 sponsors/owners representing 124 Catholic health institutions across Canada.

Catholic health care institutions have an historic and large footprint across the country and have been a vital aspect of health care in Canada where 88,000 staff serve more than five million people each year and oversee an annual budget of more than $6 billion annually.

And it is that historic role of Catholic health care in Canada that Ruetz hopes to build upon in the coming years.

“While we are very proud of our history and our current organizations, a priority for the Catholic Health Alliance of Canada is to encourage a deepening and expanding role for the Catholic health ministry within the public health care and social services system in Canada,” said Ruetz.

“We know that access to affordable housing, care for those with mental health and addictions, high quality palliative care to support people at the end of life, and care for our vulnerable elderly are priorities in many communities,” Ruetz said. “We are encouraging all Catholic health organizations to work with partners in their community to identify and respond to these needs.”

While CHAC looks to expand Catholic health options and services in public health and social services across the country, health care providers of faith, be they Catholic or not, are facing new challenges when trying to observe and follow what their faith dictates while working in the health care system.

The decision by the provincial government in B.C. to pull its funding by 2021 of a hospice that refused to provide assistance for those who want to commit legally-sanctioned suicide under Canada’s medically-assisted death system has become a rallying point for those who are vehemently opposed to legal euthanasia in Canada.

The issue of conscience rights for health care providers has become one of the big issues that health services offered by faith communities have to deal with going forward, especially since the federal government is in the process of expanding the number of people in Canada who would qualify for euthanasia following a Quebec court decision that struck down the original federal law’s requirement that a person’s death must already be imminent before they could seek medically-assisted death.

Considering that “many Catholic health organizations offer palliative care as one of their flagship programs,” Ruetz said conscience rights for health care workers is a vital issue for the CHAC.

“It is critically important that no health care organization be compelled to provide a service that is contrary to its religious beliefs,” Ruetz said. “The Catholic Health Alliance of Canada advocates for legislative and policy options that provide conscience rights for Catholic organizations and our staff.”

Ruetz said he is looking forward to taking up his new role as CHAC president and CEO on July 1 and will continue to follow his lifetime path as a champion of Catholic health care.

“Catholic health care is known for its willingness to go where the need is the greatest, identifying and responding to unmet need in our communities, with particular attention to people who are vulnerable and marginalized.” he said.

“This continues to be the core of our ministry today.”


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COVID-19: This is the disruption we have been waiting for

Tue, 05/05/2020 - 05:05

By Brett Powell, Archdiocese of Vancouver 

[Originally published in The B.C. Catholic – used with permission]

A couple of weeks ago, Carey Nieuwhof, a popular Christian blogger, wrote, “By now you’ve realized that the coronavirus pandemic is not an interruption, nearly as much as it’s a disruption.”

He never explained the difference, but his words echo in my mind.

We are in a season of suffering no one could have predicted two months ago. God is not the author of human suffering, but the lockdown must be within his permissible will. The Lord Jesus “learned obedience through what he suffered” (Heb. 5:8). If God is allowing this, what does he want us to learn? What is the Spirit saying to the Church in this moment? Where are we as a Church in responding to the coronavirus?

One of the big lessons to learn right now is the difference between interruption and disruption. Interruptions are mostly an inconvenience, whereas a disruption is more significant.

A child asking a question interrupts a conversation, but a child gone missing disrupts everything until being found.

Interruptions are accidental; a tree falls across our usual path through the woods, so we are momentarily diverted. Disruptions are intentional; they have a protagonist, a catalyst creating the disruption for a specific reason.

The coronavirus has been an interruption to the celebration of Mass, but it has been a disruption to the missionary dimension of the Church.

Many Catholics think, and feel, that the biggest impact of the pandemic is the interruption in celebrating public Mass, but I don’t think that’s true.

Our participation in the Mass has been significantly impacted, but that’s only temporary. It’s painful, as our souls ache to receive Communion and our hearts long to be with our communities, but the fasting is temporary. Mass itself has not changed, nor will it in the months and years to come. Livestreaming will not become an acceptable means of fulfilling one’s Sunday obligation. Even in the case of shut-ins who have no possibility of participating in Sunday Mass, livestreaming doesn’t fulfill their obligation. Rather, they are under no obligation when through no fault of their own they can’t participate. In short, the temporary pain we feel not attending public Mass won’t become status quo. It will go back to normal.

What cannot return to normal is the unintentional approach we have had toward missionary activity. The pandemic has caused our parishes to become quite innovative in their approach to connecting with their people. Livestreaming Mass is only part of the picture. Parking lot confessions, drive-up adoration, prayer groups meeting on Zoom, pastors creating YouTube channels and sending bite-sized messages to their congregations, youth taking groceries to elders …

Some parishes have started a telephone tree through which every parishioner gets a phone call from a volunteer who just checks in every two weeks. That is beautiful, even heroic.

What is animating that creativity? Love … love for Christ and zeal for souls.

Love motivates a pastor to figure out how to download a video from his phone onto YouTube. Love drives him from the comfort of his rectory to hear confessions in the parking lot even when it’s raining. Love animates all kinds of creativity to stay connected to the 99 sheep.

That same innovation and zeal to reach parishioners during the pandemic needs to animate our missionary outreach after the pandemic is over. We need to shift our energy and zeal from those we are trying to keep (parishioners in the pews) to those we are trying to reach (non-church goers).

This is where the real disruption is taking place. This is where the Spirit is speaking. This is where I see his permissible will, his protagonism, his catalytic and prophetic presence. The Lord is allowing us to learn how to “outreach” effectively with our own people so we become passionate and capable of reaching those not yet in our parish communities.

When Winston Churchill said, “Never waste a good crisis,” he wasn’t speaking about temporary adaptations to get through a tough time. It’s about leveraging the momentary crisis as a burning platform to bring about deep, transformational, organizational change. The coronavirus has created this kind of crisis for the Church. The lockdown has been an interruption to the celebration of public Mass, but a disruption to the missionary dimension of the Church.

Opportunities like this are rare. The crisis is forcing us to innovate and adapt our strategies and tactics in a way that is aligned to the spirit of what was envisioned when St. John Paul II called for a new evangelization – “one that is new in its ardor, new in its methods, and new in its expression.”

Come Holy Spirit and fill us with a renewed commitment to the mission of Christ, which is still very far from completion.


Brett Powell is the Archbishop’s Delegate for Development and Ministries in the Archdiocese of Vancouver.

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Pandemic does not end grieving process

Wed, 04/29/2020 - 15:30

By Mickey Conlon, The Catholic Register

[Toronto – Canadian Catholic News] – Health restrictions preventing anything beyond small gatherings should not keep people from grieving a loss, particularly for an event as terrible as the mass slaughter of 22 innocents in Nova Scotia, say grief counsellors.

It’s become the norm for complete strangers to express their condolences publicly for victims of incidents like the April 18-19 rampage that saw a crazed gunman take the lives of 22 in the Portapique, N.S., area north of Halifax before he himself was gunned down by police in the nearby town of Enfield. But in a time of pandemic, when even funerals are among restricted activities, public memorials are near impossible with regulations in place to keep the general populace safe from the coronavirus.

However, it doesn’t mean grieving is restricted, said Florence Loh, manager of programs and services with Catholic Family Services Toronto.

“It’s really important that people recognize their own sense of loss and find rituals that are comforting,” said Loh.

Within a week of the shootings, a province still reeling from the tragedy began coming together to pay its respect to the victims. The funeral for Lisa McCully was live-streamed on April 26 and other families are also holding online funerals.

The local community on its Colchester – Supporting our Communities Facebook page has been sharing photos of hearts, candles, blue lights, Nova Scotia flags, poetry and songs, while a final route tribute was held April 26 along the roads slain nurses Heather O’Brien and Kristen Beaton were travelling to work that day.

For the vast majority of Canadians, the dead are unknown to them, yet the senselessness of the crime touches all. Tragedy has a way of uniting people, said Loh. And at a time when everyone is already united by the coronavirus threat and subsequent lockdown, people are experiencing a “tragic on tragic” situation.

“These kind of shocking, traumatic, out-of-the-blue kind of loss is very, very close to home. It really brings out people’s own sense of previous losses and there’s a universality in understanding the sense of loss,” she said.

It’s been a tough time for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, which lost Cst. Heidi Stevenson who was killed by the gunman and saw Cst. Chad Morrison injured.

Fr. Jim Mockler, rector at St. Peter’s Cathedral Basilica in London, Ont., is a chaplain for Canada’s national police force and said he’s had only limited contact with officers affected by the shootings.

“If times were ‘normal’ I would be visiting our local detachment and headquarters offices in person,” he said.

Mockler expects there to be a “backlog of grief” around the country for those who have died during the pandemic, including the Nova Scotia victims. He sees people not having visitations or any kind of gathering, and they may not when the pandemic restrictions are lifted.

“Some are rethinking this and realizing getting together to mourn at the time of death — not weeks later — provides a wave of support that can’t be minimized,” he said. “It seems we have been robbed of our final contact with our loved ones.”

It’s been difficult for priests “to not be able to do what we normally are called to do, be present for people,” said Mockler. But he and others have found alternatives.

“I assure them that all the supports available from me, our pastoral team or bereavement groups along with our ongoing prayer are still intact. They may just have to be assessed differently,” he said.

Patricia Cosgrove is the founder of Channel of Peace, a Christ-centred counselling service in Halifax. People are feeling pain and need to be allowed to “get in touch with that pain” and then to let it go. It will be a process, she said, but bit by bit they need to let it out.

“If there isn’t any channel to do that then it just eats you up and stays inside of you and turns you into something that isn’t going to be a pretty site,” said Cosgrove.

She’s been happy to see people are speaking about their pain, glad they are sharing it with other Canadians, who in turn have been showing their sorrow through events like the Nova Scotia Remembers vigil for the victims that was broadcast and live-streamed nationally on April 24.

“This is bringing out a sense of community and caring,” said Cosgrove. “People do care what happens to me.”

Even with churches closed and no memorial Masses, there has been much prayer.

Cosgrove said many may not want to hear anything about God in these circumstances, and that’s okay. But she believes there needs to be a spiritual component in all this. People need something to draw upon and the pain they’re feeling can then be turned over to a greater power.

“That pain you are suffering… it’s God who is holding it,” she said.



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School divisions encouraging students to #TakeBackYourYear

Wed, 04/29/2020 - 15:14

By Derrick Kunz, Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools

Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools and school divisions across the province are launching a campaign this week to keep students engaged with learning while physical classrooms remain closed. The campaign will promote graphics, information, and encouragement for students and families to continue with their learning through school division supplemental learning plans.

#TakeBackYourYear invites teachers, staff, students, families, and community members to share the hashtag on social media along with their own stories of success and encouragement for one another through this challenging situation.

Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools has been offering teacher-directed supplemental learning for students since the government of Saskatchewan indefinitely suspended in-person classes in mid-March in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Staff have been connecting with families and students to determine each individual’s learning needs, and developing course work to support them.

Supplemental learning offers students a chance to improve their mark, but there is no risk of their mark going down. The learning schedule, lessons, and course work are flexible to accommodate the needs of each family and student.

Teachers are ready and able to provide support. Staying engaged with teacher-directed learning right now will help with a smooth transition to a student’s future—whether that’s a return to the classroom, post-secondary learning, or the workforce after high school.

Supplemental learning is also a positive way for students to stay in contact with classmates and friends.

Students and families who originally opted out of supplemental learning are encouraged to reach out to their teacher or school if they have further questions and/or choose to participate.

Follow GSCS on Twitter and Facebook.

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Pakistan COVID-19 quarantine: Inequalities and resilience

Wed, 04/29/2020 - 12:21

By Nadeem Bhatti, Canadian Aid To Persecuted Christians

The deadly COVID 19 pandemic has shaken the world badly, affecting 205 countries around the globe, including Pakistan.

The rapid growth in the number of people infected with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, is overburdening health systems, causing large-scale loss of life and severe human suffering. It is posing a significant threat to the global economy, particularly affecting the most vulnerable and further stretching a social fabric challenged by high levels of inequalities.

Pakistan borders with two hubs of the corona outbreak, China and Iran. At the beginning, officials were somewhat casual about people entering Pakistan from overseas. In particular, lack of proper quarantine facilities and inappropriate screening procedures resulted in several infected people reaching the community from various international borders especially at the Tafton border (Pakistan-Iran border).

The first case was reported in Pakistan on Feb 26, 2020. The cases have multiplied since then. The transmission of the virus has now turned from international (travel) to local (community spread).

Current Confirmed Cases and Deaths in Pakistan as of April 20, 2020:
  • Total cases – 8,348
  • New cases – 710
  • Total deaths / New deaths – 168 /25
  • Total recovered – 1, 868
  • Active cases – 6, 312
  • Serious / critical – 46
  • Total cases per 1-million population – 38
  • Total deaths per 1-million population – 0.8
  • Total tested – 98,522
  • Total tests per 1 million population – 446

The sample size of population screened so far for the COVID-19 in a country of 207.8 million (Census 2017) inhabitants is too little and there may be potentially more undetected cases, which may multiply and appear in the next few weeks.

The world learned that restricting mobility and minimizing person-to-person contact is extremely crucial to control the epidemic. Physical distancing and quarantine is taken as a precautionary measure. Pakistan has been slow in response, but seems to be catching up as coronavirus spreads in the country. The decision to close western borders, ban public gatherings, close educational institutions and limit the international flights operation came on March 12, when already 28 COVID-19 positive cases were confirmed and many as-yet-unknown were anticipated.

The government initially imposed nationwide lockdown on March 24 for two weeks, which later was extended until April 30. Physical distancing, frequent hand washing and sanitizing, and wearing of face masks is advertised and recommended.

COVID -19 and urban inequalities

Pakistan’s 45.5-percent urban population lives in informal settlements. Thus, an estimated 34 million people live in kachi abadies – informal settlements with cramped housing and limited access to water and sanitation.

Likewise, nearly 73 percent of Pakistani workers make their living by working in the informal sector, where workers have only a limited access to social welfare.  This already-struggling working class and urban population is having a hard time escaping the infection and starvation at the same time.

Physical distancing, therefore, is a privilege. One must have a fairly large, fully-provisioned house to practice physical-distancing without any fear of privation and interference.

Frequent hand-washing is a privilege too. It means you have access to an exclusive water connection.

Hand sanitizers are a privilege. You need money to buy them at exorbitant prices.

Living through a lock-down is a privilege. It means you can afford to be home without being constantly haunted by the fear of losing your livelihood.

Strict lockdown in a country where about one quarter of its population earns only 300 rupees (roughly $2 CAD) per day is challenging. Although precautionary, a lockdown is yet disastrous for millions, hits hard the poor daily wagers (laborers, scrape dealers, food stall vendors, sales persons, domestic workers, tailors, barbers, public transport drivers or conductors, etc), who live day-to-day with nothing as savings to practice self-isolation and feed the family. The stress of losing income, jobs and the ability to feed their families is high. Due to the likely economic recession and vulnerability of the employed in the country, the COVID-19 may lead to significant increase in poverty and unemployment.

Initially the country was short of surgical masks, gloves and didn’t have Personal Protection Equipment for the front-line care-givers. The front-line fighters were not provided with all what was needed for their own safety. There have been reports of medics and paramedics being infected in the line of duty, serving without proper PPEs. Two doctors are reported dead and others have been put in isolation.

Gender inequalities

Women’s participation in the labor market is often in the form of temporary employment. As the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic roll through economies, reducing employment opportunities and triggering layoffs, temporary workers – the majority of whom are women – are expected to bear the heaviest brunt of job losses. It also adds to the unpaid and unappreciated work at home.

Most of the women living in slums domestic workers. With the spread of coronavirus, the fear has increased and these women were told not to come to work by their employers. They had already worked for almost one month but the majority did not receive their salaries, while others were laid them off for the upcoming few months.

In order to keep hospitals and the medical staff available for emergency situations, hospitals have closed their Out Patient Departments (OPDs) to decrease number of patients other than those affected by COVID -19. Only emergencies are dealt with. Approaching the hospital is an issue, either due to un-operational OPDs or the fear of catching the infection from hospital. Most births are now unattended.

In cases of shortage of food in the family, this affects the women most, as they choose to feed their children first and go to bed hungry themselves.

COVID-19 public service messages, lockdown and closure of educational institutions has psychologically affected the children. Parents having to keep them indoors mostly in cramped houses is creating a deep-down fear within them which they may not be able to get rid of in their life time. All educational institution are closed until May 31. So children are also losing out on education, missing their schools, teachers and classmates. The curtailed social mingling even within extended family is frustrating for children. The government has started “tele school,” but how many can study without resources or face-to-face and peer support?

Faith-based discrimination and inequalities

COVID-19 is a crisis for all human beings. The emergency needs to be addressed on humanitarian grounds. Yet, unfortunately, denials of rations to religious minorities by NGOs in different areas have been reported. It was very disturbing to learn that Saylani International Trust denied ration to the Christians and Hindu families. Someone present at the scene made a video and it went viral on social media and later in couple of print media.

Unconfirmed sources also reported that the health staff appointed to care for the COVID-19 patients in isolation wards mostly belong to the religious minorities.

Most of the sanitary workers cleaning the city and COVID-19 patients’ waste also belong religious minorities. They are not provided with occupational safety equipment or any hardship allowance. They are highly prone to catching the infection. However, they continue their services so that they don’t lose their jobs or income.

The worship places and religious festivals have not been dealt with equally. During Lent, Holy Week and Easter, churches stayed closed and gatherings banned. Law enforcing agencies patrolled to ensure the orders were followed. People attended the prayer services either online or at home within their families and showed that they are responsible citizens. Now prior to Ramadan, consultations between government and mullahs have taken place and it has been mutually decided that mosques will remain open under the Standing Operation Procedures.

There is a fear that the number of patients will increase significantly, further putting other people at risk and burdening the health system. The World Health Organization has warned that Pakistan’s COVID-19 cases could surge to 200,000 by mid-July.


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Long, slow road to churches re-opening

Wed, 04/29/2020 - 12:01

By Mickey Conlon, The Catholic Register

[Canadian Catholic News] – As provinces phase in plans to restart economies by gradually reopening some businesses and public spaces, re-opening churches will be no walk in the park.

“It’s certainly a good sign,” said Regina Archbishop Donald Bolen about an easing of restrictions in Saskatchewan. “We wouldn’t want to guess at a timeline for ‘normalcy,’ but it is encouraging.”

Prince Edward Island, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick indicated April 22-24 that they would gradually ease restrictions surrounding coronavirus lockdowns, but do so in stages. Some businesses that entail small gatherings of people will be reopened, but large gatherings such as church services will not be among these.

Gerald Gabriel, chancellor of the Diocese of Charlottetown, expects it to be at least phase three in the PEI plan before churches can expect to hold Sunday Mass again. That means well into June or longer.

“Entering a new normal is going to be a slow, gradual process,” said Gabriel.

Dioceses in Saskatchewan have welcomed the plan but understand it is going to be several weeks before their churches will be welcoming Catholics back to the pews. Premier Scott Moe indicated in a five-stage plan that by phase three the province will allow gatherings of up to 15 people, and increasing to 30 in phase four. The final phase would likely see a total lifting of restrictions. No dates have been set for when these would be implemented.

“As such, there are no immediate plans to return to larger public Mass celebrations of any kind,” Bolen told The Catholic Register via e-mail. “But as restrictions ease, our consultative bodies will meet and we will discern what is possible and responsible at each step of the way.”

That means continued rigorous adherence to health directives and “hard sacrifices” that are evidence “it is possible to keep people safe.”

Adapting to restrictions that have closed churches and temporarily suspended all services, from the Sunday liturgy to funerals, weddings and baptisms, has been difficult, said Saskatoon Bishop Mark Hagemoen. But the diocese has kept in touch with parishioners with live-streamed services and devotions, through electronic communication and social media, even “offering such things as the Sacrament of Reconciliation in a way that fully abides by the limit on gathering size and the required physical distancing,” said Hagemoen.

PEI, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan have been hit relatively lightly by the coronavirus that has killed more than 2,700 Canadians. By the time PEI made its announcement, the island with a population of 158,000 had only recorded 26 cases with no deaths, and all were travel related, said Gabriel. New Brunswick had only recorded 118 cases, with no deaths and 107 recoveries by April 27, while Saskatchewan had 353 confirmed cases, with four deaths and 288 recovered.

Those numbers pale in comparison to Quebec and Ontario, which account for about 60 per cent of Canadian cases. Quebec had by far the most cases at more than 24,000, compared to about 15,000 in Ontario.

These numbers have left dioceses realistic that churches will not be opening soon, despite both provinces announcing plans April 27 to gradually reopen society. In Quebec, schools outside Montreal are to be up and running by May 11, May 19 for Montreal. Ontario schools will be closed until at least the end of May. No one expects Ontario churches to open before then.

“We recognize that there will likely be restrictions on large gatherings in the initial stages of reopening so we will need to be mindful of direction in that regard,” said Neil MacCarthy, director of public relations and communications with the Archdiocese of Toronto.

A number of working groups have been established to formulate a reopening plan, and the archdiocese is working with local public health officials, priests, senior team members and the bishops “as we discern the path forward,” said MacCarthy.

“While we are all anxious to open churches as soon as possible, we also must be prudent recognizing the many challenges that will come with the ‘new normal’ that we are all anticipating,” he said.

The London diocese has committed to keeping churches closed until at least the end of May, but is keeping its options open should there be any change in provincial directives, said Bishop Ron Fabbro.

“If the lockdown is lifted sooner, we will adjust our diocesan directives as we are able,” he said. “We are aware, however, that there will likely be a gradual lifting of the lockdown.”

No one expects a quick process, judging from comments Premier Doug Ford made in announcing Ontario’s phased-in reopening. Ford called the plan “a road map, not a calendar,” and said the province wants to see a steady decline in COVID-19 cases before rushing back to how things were before the province was essentially shut down in mid-March.

Meantime, diocesan officials are working behind the scenes in preparation for days religious communities can gather once more for public worship. Key among these are plans for celebrating the sacraments of initiation, “especially for those young people and adults who anticipated receiving these sacraments during the Easter season,” said Fabbro.

The Ottawa archdiocese has discussed modified, small, private church weddings and funerals to conform with current regulations, said Bob DuBroy, who handles communications for the archdiocese.


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“Making Lemonade” during a pandemic – Pure Witness Ministries continues mission during COVID-19

Tue, 04/28/2020 - 12:53

By Jim and Carmen Marcoux, Pure Witness Ministries

Yes, we at Pure Witness are stuck at home, and we can’t get out into the 25 more schools across Western Canada where we had planned to put on school retreats this year or put on our last YEP or run our local Anchor and Reach programs.  But, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade!

With so many people now turning to look for online support in their faith, we realize that we have an opportunity to reach out to many more people than we have ever reached before.

We’re super excited to dedicate time like we’ve never had in the past to develop this aspect of our ministry: free, dynamic video resources for the new evangelization.  So, yes, we are very busy these days … planning, building and creating a new online presence for Pure Witness to invite youth and families to set Christ at the heart of their lives.

And while Matthew Marcoux is developing the video resources, Christine Pashula is busy working toward an updated website that will meet the needs of a web resource-based ministry.  We’re excited to be working together as a team to make many new resources available for you to share with family and friends in the near future.

Please keep this work of evangelization in your prayers, and know that we remember you and your families in our daily prayers and offerings!

Fundraising event cancelled –

Sunday April 26 was to have been the day of the Annual Pure Witness Theatre Fundraiser. Instead, Pure Witness ministries is focusing on an email fund-raising campaign. To donate directly online go to: or call 639-998-1145 or 306-715-1571.


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Pope Francis urges Catholics to unite through praying the rosary in May

Tue, 04/28/2020 - 11:56

By Hannah Brockhaus, Catholic News Agency

[Vatican City – CNA] – Pope Francis sent a letter April 25, 2020 encouraging Catholics to pray the rosary throughout May. He also shared two new prayers to implore the help of the Virgin Mary during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Contemplating the face of Christ with the heart of Mary our Mother will make us even more united as a spiritual family and will help us overcome this time of trial,” Pope Francis said in a letter to the faithful.

He urged families and individuals to “rediscover the beauty of praying the rosary at home in the month of May,” which is traditionally a time of increased devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

With his letter, the pope included two prayers to Our Lady to recite at the end of the rosary, which he said he would also pray throughout May “in spiritual union with all of you.”

In the first prayer, Mary’s help is invoked “to conform ourselves to the will of the Father and to do what Jesus tells us.”

In the second, longer prayer, the Virgin Mary is asked to “turn your merciful eyes towards us amid this coronavirus pandemic,” and her intercession is asked “that this great suffering may end and that hope and peace may dawn anew.”

The prayer asks for Mary’s comfort for those who mourn and for those who are anxious about the future, and prays for health care workers, scientists, and national leaders.

The prayer also asks Mary to “be close to those who assist the sick night and day, and to priests who, in their pastoral concern and fidelity to the Gospel, are trying to help and support everyone.”

“Mary, Consolation of the afflicted, embrace all your children in distress and pray that God will stretch out his all-powerful hand and free us from this terrible pandemic, so that life can serenely resume its normal course,” the prayer says.

In his letter, Francis said people can pray the rosary as a group or individually, whatever fits their situation best. “The key to doing this is always simplicity,” he underlined, adding that the internet is a good resource for finding prayers to follow.

During May, it is a tradition to pray the rosary “at home within the family,” he said, noting that the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic “have made us come to appreciate all the more this ‘family’ aspect, also from a spiritual point of view.”

Pope Francis concluded his letter by saying “I keep all of you in my prayers, especially those suffering most greatly, and I ask you, please, to pray for me.”

“I thank you, and with great affection I send you my blessing.”

Text of the prayers shared by Pope Francis:

First Prayer:

O Mary, You shine continuously on our journey as a sign of salvation and hope. We entrust ourselves to you, Health of the Sick, who, at the foot of the cross, were united with Jesus’ suffering, and persevered in your faith.

“Protectress of the Roman people”, you know our needs, and we know that you will provide, so that, as at Cana in Galilee, joy and celebration may return after this time of trial.

Help us, Mother of Divine Love, to conform ourselves to the will of the Father and to do what Jesus tells us. For he took upon himself our suffering, and burdened himself with our sorrows to bring us, through the cross, to the joy of the Resurrection. Amen.

We fly to your protection, O Holy Mother of God; Do not despise our petitions in our necessities, but deliver us always from every danger, O Glorious and Blessed Virgin.

Second Prayer:

“We fly to your protection, O Holy Mother of God.” In the present tragic situation, when the whole world is prey to suffering and anxiety, we fly to you, Mother of God and our Mother, and seek refuge under your protection.

Virgin Mary, turn your merciful eyes towards us amid this coronavirus pandemic. Comfort those who are distraught and mourn their loved ones who have died, and at times are buried in a way that grieves them deeply. Be close to those who are concerned for their loved ones who are sick and who, in order to prevent the spread of the disease, cannot be close to them. Fill with hope those who are troubled by the uncertainty of the future and the consequences for the economy and employment.

Mother of God and our Mother, pray for us to God, the Father of mercies, that this great suffering may end and that hope and peace may dawn anew. Plead with your divine Son, as you did at Cana, so that the families of the sick and the victims be comforted, and their hearts be opened to confidence and trust.

Protect those doctors, nurses, health workers and volunteers who are on the frontline of this emergency, and are risking their lives to save others. Support their heroic effort and grant them strength, generosity and continued health.

Be close to those who assist the sick night and day, and to priests who, in their pastoral concern and fidelity to the Gospel, are trying to help and support everyone.

Blessed Virgin, illumine the minds of men and women engaged in scientific research, that they may find effective solutions to overcome this virus.

Support national leaders, that with wisdom, solicitude and generosity they may come to the aid of those lacking the basic necessities of life and may devise social and economic solutions inspired by farsightedness and solidarity.

Mary Most Holy, stir our consciences, so that the enormous funds invested in developing and stockpiling arms will instead be spent on promoting effective research on how to prevent similar tragedies from occurring in the future.

Beloved Mother, help us realize that we are all members of one great family and to recognize the bond that unites us, so that, in a spirit of fraternity and solidarity, we can help to alleviate countless situations of poverty and need. Make us strong in faith, persevering in service, constant in prayer.

Mary, Consolation of the afflicted, embrace all your children in distress and pray that God will stretch out his all-powerful hand and free us from this terrible pandemic, so that life can serenely resume its normal course.

To you, who shine on our journey as a sign of salvation and hope, do we entrust ourselves, O Clement, O Loving, O Sweet Virgin Mary. Amen.


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Pope prays that “prudence and obedience” will prevent return of pandemic

Tue, 04/28/2020 - 11:50

By Catholic News Agency

[Vatican City – CNA] – Pope Francis prayed April 28 that Christians would respond to the lifting of lockdown restrictions with “prudence and obedience” as he celebrated Mass Tuesday.

Speaking from the chapel of the Casa Santa Marta, his Vatican residence, the Holy Father said: “At this time, when indications have been given to exit out of quarantine, we pray the Lord will grant to His people, all of us, the grace of prudence and obedience to these indications, so that the pandemic does not return.”

The pope was speaking two days after Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte unveiled plans for a gradual easing of lockdown measures. The Italian bishops strongly criticized Conte for not setting a date for the resumption of public Masses.

In his homily, Pope Francis reflected on the martyrdom of St. Stephen, described in the Acts of the Apostles (Act 7:51-8:1). He noted that, like Jesus, Stephen was falsely accused of blasphemy as a pretext for his execution.

There is a pattern, he said, seen in the Bible and down to our present age, which begins with false testimony in order to arrive at “doing justice.”

He recalled the case of Asia Bibi, a Catholic mother of five who was sentenced to death for blasphemy before the Supreme Court of Pakistan acquitted her in 2018.

“Let’s think of Asia Bibi, for example, that we have seen: 10 years in prison because she was judged by a slander and a people who want her death,” the pope said. “Faced with this avalanche of false news that creates opinion, many times nothing can be done: nothing can be done.”

He offered the Shoah, the Hebrew term for the Holocaust, as another instance of the same pattern.

“Opinion was created against a people and then it was normal: ‘Yes, yes: they must be killed, they must be killed’,” he said.

It is easy to recognize that this is wrong, the pope observed. But we overlook the “small daily lynchings” that take place when we gossip about others.

“Let’s think about our tongues: many times with our comments we start such lynching. Even in our Christian institutions we have seen so many daily lynchings born out of gossip,” he said.

“May the Lord help us to be righteous in our judgments, not to begin to follow this mass condemnation that provokes gossip.”

After Mass, the pope presided at adoration and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, before leading those watching via livestream in an act of spiritual communion.

Reciting the words of Spanish Cardinal Rafael Merry del Val (1865-1930), he said: “At Thy feet, O my Jesus, I prostrate myself and I offer Thee repentance of my contrite heart, which is humbled in its nothingness and in Thy holy presence. I adore Thee in the Sacrament of Thy love, the ineffable Eucharist. I desire to receive Thee into the poor dwelling that my heart offers Thee.”

“While waiting for the happiness of sacramental communion, I wish to possess Thee in spirit. Come to me, O my Jesus, since I, for my part, am coming to Thee! May Thy love embrace my whole being in life and in death. I believe in Thee, I hope in Thee, I love Thee.”

Finally, the congregation sang the Easter Marian antiphon “Regina caeli.”


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Bishop calls for prayer and fasting every Friday in ongoing response to COVID-19 pandemic

Tue, 04/28/2020 - 11:11

By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News

Bishop Mark Hagemoen is calling for special moments of prayer and fasting every Friday in response to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

In an update to parishes and the faithful April 24, 2020, the bishop called for the day of prayer.

“Given the inspiration and suggestion of many of our priests and dioceses, I am inviting the people of our diocese to share on Fridays a day of prayer and fasting to the Sacred Heart of Jesus during the Easter season and perhaps beyond, to pray for healing and for the end of the pandemic,” Bishop Hagemoen described in his homily during celebration of the Eucharist on the Third Sunday of Easter, live-streamed from the Cathedral of the Holy Family April 26 in Saskatoon.

“But there is also another reason to implore the Sacred Heart of Jesus,” he said – namely to connect the Sacred Heart to those living out the compassion of Christ in the world.

“We have depended on – and will continue to depend on – that heart, expressed through many health care givers, many service providers, and many others who are caring for the sick and taking care of us as we deal with these extraordinary times. These people imitate the heart of Jesus Christ. And there are all sorts of stories of how that heart of Jesus is made especially manifest in many heroic ways – in our seniors’ homes for example.”

Therefore, in addition to prayers for healing and an end to the pandemic, a focus on the Sacred Heart of Jesus will also involve expressing thanksgiving to all those who are demonstrating the loving heart of Jesus in their service, compassion, diligence and sacrifice during the crisis, he said.

Thank You For Having the Heart of Jesus” is the theme of the initiative, which includes the use of materials shared by the Diocese of Calgary, which recently launched the campaign under the leadership of Bishop William McGrattan.

Announcement and resources for “Heart of Jesus” initiative

The initiative includes a prayer to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, asking for healing and protection during the COVID-19 pandemic.

O SACRED HEART OF JESUS, Fountain of eternal life, Your Heart is a furnace of love. You are my refuge and my sanctuary. O my adorable and loving Saviour, consume my heart with the burning fire with which Yours is inflamed. Pour down on my soul those graces which flow from Your love. Let my heart be united with Yours. Let my will be conformed to Yours in all things. May Your Heart bring healing for the world of the COVID 19 pandemic. May your Heart especially bring healing to the sick and protection and care of the many health-care workers and service providers in our communities. May Your will be the rule of all my desires and actions.  AMEN

Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon • (With thanks to the Diocese of Calgary •

The Friday time of prayer was launched April 24 at both the Cathedral of the Holy Family and at St. Paul’s Co-Cathedral in Saskatoon. It is envisioned that parishes across the diocese will undertake special prayers as best fits their circumstances under the COVID-19 emergency measures, which continue to restrict the size of gatherings, and the need for physical distancing.

Consecration to Mary, Mother of the Church

Saskatoon’s Bishop Mark Hagemoen will also join other bishops across Canada and the United States in consecrating their dioceses — and both countries —  to “Mary, the Mother of the Church,” seeking the Blessed Mother’s prayers and protection during the coronavirus crisis.

In Saskatoon, the consecration to Mary will be held at 7:00 p.m. Friday, May 1 live-streamed on both the diocesan website at and at with Bishop Hagemoen presiding.

Related article: Bishops in Canada and USA call for consecration of countries to Blessed Virgin Mary

LINK: Prayer to Mary for Month of May 2020 from Pope Francis

Resources for Marian Consecration: Further updates regarding COVID-19  forthcoming In his update to the diocese, Bishop Hagemoen also addressed the gradual lessening of COVID-19 restrictions in the province of Saskatchewan recently announced by Premier Scott Moe. “While nothing explicitly has been announced regarding religious organizations and gatherings, I will be meeting with the Liturgy Commission next week to explore how we can as a diocese apply the criteria that we have to date to our liturgical and sacramental practices in the diocese, and a proposed timeline to implement changes. I hope to report back about this in the near future,” stated the bishop in his letter to the faithful. . Bishop Hagemoen said that the diocese welcomes the plan to gradually reduce some restrictions, in full accordance with recommendations by the health authorities. That announcement indicated that large gatherings such as the public celebration of Mass will be in the final phase of the plan, with no projected date at this time as to when that will be permitted. . “In the meantime, the diocese and our parishes continue to connect with the faithful and to pray together in other ways, including live-streaming of Mass and devotions, electronic communication, social media, websites, mail-outs, phone calls and offering such things as the Sacrament of Reconciliation in a way that fully abides by the limit on gathering size and the required physical distancing,” said the bishop in a statement to Catholic media. . “The restrictions implemented to stop the spread of COVID-19 have certainly been extremely difficult for the faithful, especially with the suspension of public celebration of the Eucharist, and we very much look forward to the time when we can again gather. We are also profoundly grateful to all those who are making sacrifices during this time of COVID-19 to protect the lives and the health of others, especially the elderly. We also pray that God will grant healing to all those who are ill and eternal rest to those who have died, and we ask our Lord to bless our medical professionals and civic authorities, who continue to strive with enormous effort and expertise to keep all of us safe.” Find other updates, directives and resources in response to the COVID-19 crisisLINK to UPDATES During COVID-19, your Parish Offertory can be given online at



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St. Peter’s College students are eligible for over $80,000 in scholarships

Tue, 04/28/2020 - 00:15
Applications open May 1, 2020

By Krystal Shutko, Student Services Officer, St. Peter’s College

St. Peter’s College students can apply to be considered for over $80,000 in scholarships & bursaries. This is in addition to their University of Saskatchewan scholarships and bursaries, and other external scholarships and bursaries.

There are a variety of scholarships that recognize excellence in school, and athletics, some review students’ work in & commitment to their community and some are based on financial need.

St. Peter’s College in Muenster annually hosts an awards luncheon where we present all the recipients with their scholarships and in most cases donors are there to shake hands with the recipients in early September. This is always a glamourous event that provides an opportunity for recipients, parents and family to meet the donors and offer their gratitude.

The college is grateful to all our scholarship donors who provide these awards to our students. Most of the scholarships are for students starting at St. Peter’s College, but there are a few that are for those students exiting and moving on to the main University of Saskatchewan campus in Saskatoon. Students can find all the specific details, conditions, requirements and applications on the website

Deadline for SPC scholarship applications is June 21, 2020. If a student has any questions or concerns, contact student services for more information: 306-682-7857 or




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Annual Saskatchewan State Convention of the Knights of Columbus held via teleconference

Mon, 04/27/2020 - 15:48

By the Knights of Columbus Saskatchewan State Council

The 98th Annual State Council Meeting of the Knights of Columbus of Saskatchewan was held by teleconference on April 25, 2020, due to the restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The meeting was a call for Knights to hold fast to the Catholic principles around which the Order was founded 138 years ago.

Under the theme “Knights of Fraternity United in Charity” State Deputy Chris Bencharski, the State Executive, and the delegates from around the Province celebrated the past year’s successes and deliberated on how to better serve the Church and the community.

Delegates to the convention passed several resolutions at the 98th Annual Convention:

  • That councils conduct “Into the Breach” Videos and Study Guides at their monthly meetings. “Into the Breach” is a video series produced by Supreme Council, which calls upon Knights to step into the breach to be the men that God is calling them to be.
  • That Knights of Columbus members oppose Bill C-7, Extending legalized euthanasia and medically-assisted suicide. Saskatchewan Knights of Columbus urge the Government of Canada to proceed cautiously and slow down to ensure that the watershed changes proposed in Bill C-7 should receive the time and attention needed for careful study.

Also, the delegates adopted resolutions concerning:

  • The Saskatchewan State Council encouraging all councils and its more than 10,600 Brother Knights within the State and their families to use the suggestions in the guidebook ‘Leave No Neighbor Behind’ provided by Supreme Council to offer all types of assistance to Knights of Columbus members, to our parishes, seniors and youth, to our pastors, and our communities.

The State Council elected the following executive effective July 1, 2020: State Deputy Joe Riffel of Saskatoon; State Secretary  Larry Packet of Davidson; State Treasurer Marte Clemente Nogot of Saskatoon, State Advocate Greg Dezorec of Regina, State Warden Agnel George of Regina. Chris Bencharski of Meadow Lake will continue on the executive as Immediate Past State Deputy.

Newly elected State Deputy Joseph Riffel announced the following appointments: State Chaplain Father Ed Gibney and Associate State Chaplain Bishop Bryan Bayda.

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Queen’s House status update and COVID-19 information

Mon, 04/27/2020 - 15:29

By Brendan Bitz, Director of Queen’s House of Retreat and Renewal

Queen’s House has been closed to the public for the last month. It is difficult to believe, but this is our collective, new, temporary normal and we join the commitment of our community to get to the other side of this COVID-19 challenge safely and in a position to again be of practical service to and with our community. .

During this time, we have undertaken the following steps to ensure the safety and well-being of our immediate community

  • The majority of our staff are enrolled in the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) program which has allowed them to stay safe at home and to maintain their homes and families in the short term. We are most grateful for this support and pray often for the members of our medical and civic agencies .
  • We are operating with a skeleton staff focused on completing upgrading, repair and maintenance projects already underway, managing the needs and requirements of local Oblate personnel and ministries, and engaging in the community coordination efforts required to respond the the challenges of C-19. That Queen’s House has not yet been required in some practical way to assist with this challenge is seen as a definite positive sign – to be prepared but not needed is much better that the alternative. .
  • Because we were already knee deep in our Spring Fling Raffle when COVID-19 reminded us of our vulnerabilities, we have elected to continue with this initiative. We did not have the manpower to unwind, and have very much appreciated those who are participating and thereby supporting the ministry of Queen’s House. We judge by the number of calls that we receive requesting care and support that the ministry of Queen’s House will be even more important to our community on the other side of this crisis. There is still time to participate and support Queen’s House from your home – ticket sales end April 30, midnight, and draws begin May 1. Visit Spring Fling Raffle for further details or call 306-242-1916 to purchase your tickets over the phone.

.Upon the reopening of Queen’s House the following prayer opportunities will resume: Centering Prayer Monday evenings, 7:00 – 8:30 p.m.; Taizé Prayer on the second Wednesday of the month, 7:00 p.m.; Weekly Eucharist Wednesdays, 2:30 p.m.; and 24 hours of Eucharistic Adoration on the fourth Monday/Tuesday of the month, noon to noon.

. Women in Ministry monthly gatherings are now being held online, with the next sessions on Friday, May 1 and Friday, June 5. Contact Rev. Marie-Louise Ternier at, for further information. -30-

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CNEWA launches COVID campaign in partnership with Holy See’s Congregation for the Eastern Churches

Mon, 04/27/2020 - 14:51

By Catholic Near East Welfare Association

[Ottawa, April 24, 2020] – In response to the plea of Pope Francis to remember the vulnerable and the poor during the COVID-19 pandemic, Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) has launched a campaign that invites Canadians to help those most in need who are cared for by the Eastern churches in the Middle East, Northeast Africa, India and Eastern Europe.

As the Holy Father said in his “Urbi et Orbi” message this Easter: “This is not a time for indifference, because the whole world is suffering and needs to be united in facing the pandemic. May the risen Jesus grant hope to all the poor, to those living on the peripheries, to refugees and the homeless.”

CNEWA president Msgr. John E. Kozar noted that CNEWA’s on-the-ground directors and program coordinators are working with a number of partners — the Holy See’s Congregation for the Eastern Churches, delegates and nuncios of the Holy See, local church superiors and religious and lay leaders — to rush help to those most in need. This includes families living in poverty, children and the elderly, people with special needs, refugees and internally displaced persons. For many, the care offered by the peoples and services of the Eastern churches is their only source of solace and healing.

“No place has gone untouched by this pandemic — and that includes the places we serve where people were already living in harsh poverty,” says Carl Hétu, national director of CNEWA Canada.

“Unfortunately, the instructions to ‘wash hands’ or ‘self-isolate’ do not work well in places where there is no running water or multiple families to a room. More than ever, the Church is needed to bring hope and the light of Christ to the furthest corners of the world.  I understand that this is a difficult time for Canadians, and so it is not lightly that I ask people to join our effort, if they can.”

As a registered charity with well established and rigorous donation policies and programs in countries such as Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Ethiopia, Ukraine and India, CNEWA Canada is able to send money right to the ground – fast. Donations can be made online at; by phone 1-866-322-4441 or by mail with cheques made payable to CNEWA Canada at 1247 Kilborn Place, Ottawa, ON K1H 6K9.  Donations should be marked “COVID-19 fund.” Tax receipts will be issued for donations of $10 or more.


An agency of the Holy See, CNEWA works for, through and with the Eastern churches throughout the Middle East, Northeast Africa, India and Eastern Europe. Founded by Pope Pius XI in 1926, CNEWA provides pastoral and humanitarian support to the churches and people of the East.


– 30 –


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Holocaust memorial marked by monastic community

Mon, 04/27/2020 - 12:51

By Abbot Peter Novecosky, St. Peter’s Abbey

Catholic Saskatoon News

Catholic churches in Canada joined their Jewish brothers and sisters in remembering victims of the Holocaust on Sunday, April 26.

While most communities were only able to celebrate online because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the monastic community of St. Peter’s Abbey in Muenster used the symbol of the menorah and candelabra to highlight the prayers for the various victims of the Holocaust. A candle was lit for each petition at the prayers of the faithful.

RELATED: “Never again – Pope Francis calls for prayer on Holocaust Memorial Day”

During the Second World War, the Nazis murdered six million Jews and many others. The Jewish community calls this disaster the Shoah and commemorate it every year.




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‘Where is God right now?’ How imagination can aid our faith during COVID-19 isolation

Thu, 04/23/2020 - 13:28

By Hannah Brockhaus, Catholic News Agency

[Rome, Italy – CNA) – Living under coronavirus-caused quarantines and stay-at-home orders, many Catholics may find themselves unable to practice the faith in the ways to which they are accustomed.

When you can’t attend Mass, receive the Eucharist, or even go to church, where do you find God?

The first thing to remember is that “God wants to save me at every given moment, so he doesn’t want to save me less now than he did when Mass was available, when we could avail ourselves of all the sacraments,” Fr. Nicolas Steeves, SJ, told CNA.

“When we’re deprived of the sacraments, we really have to wonder: where is God right now?”

A theology professor at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University, he said this question is not only relevant in the present time of coronavirus, but also during Eastertide.

Between Jesus’ resurrection and his ascension into heaven, “where were the disciples, where was Mary Magdalene, where were the apostles going to find Jesus?” Steeves said. “It was on Jesus’ terms and conditions that he would be visible to him, that he would appear.”

“So, we’ve got to figure out during this Eastertide too: Where is Jesus present, where can I find him in my life right now?”


Steeves recalled an image from the Old Testament, when the temple was destroyed, and God followed his people into exile and remained with them.

He drew a comparison to the coronavirus quarantine as “an exile away from the churches where we usually find [God].”

The theologian said we might think, “Where is God in me, around me, right now, so I can get in touch with him?”

And that is where the imagination can be useful in a very real way, he explained.

Though imagination is difficult to define, “Aristotle would say our imagination and our memory too are like a treasure trove of images that our senses and our imagination have invented from what we see around us,” Steeves said.

Our bodily senses can only experience the surface of things, he said, but “the specific task of the Christian imagination is to imagine the real.”

He pointed to a fundamental concept in Christian theology: revelation, which “literally means taking away the veil.”

“Our Christian faith recognizes that even during ordinary time, there’s always some kind of hurdle about us discovering God, and so revelation ordinarily comes through tradition, scripture, and the magisterium of the Church.”

One example of this is the Church’s teaching on the Eucharist.

During the Mass, Steeves said, Catholics use the imagination “to realize that beyond the veil of the bread and wine, God is present in the Blessed Sacrament in his body, blood, soul, and divinity.”

“The faith teaches me that Christ is really present in the Eucharist and using the imagination doesn’t mean that it is fake or made up – it’s very real – but I’ve got to go beyond appearances to realize that.”

According to Steeves, “the whole point of using the imagination in our faith is not to make up fanciful things, it’s how we can figure out where this invisible, un-hearable God is hiding so that our seeking for him, our search for him is going to actually be that which saves us and brings us to eternal life.”

Christians do this through using their imagination in prayer, in reading Scripture, in the liturgy, and in the sacraments, he said. “Also, in the way we can be imaginative in our charity on an everyday basis.”

Faith during a pandemic

The theologian acknowledged that just as it is not the same thing to speak with a loved one over the phone or through an app as it is to hug them in real life, neither is watching a livestreamed Mass the same as being physically present.

But he said there are still ways people can use their imagination to get more out of Mass through a screen.

For example, while listening to the Scripture readings: “How do the metaphors in some of those readings, the Pauline analogies, the poetry from the Psalms, the biblical stories from the Old Testament, Jesus’ parables, how do those strike my imagination and help me increase my faith, increase my hope, increase my charity?”

Imagination, he continued, can also help us grow in virtue both during the Mass and throughout the week that follows, when we might make a special effort to pray for a particular intention from the prayers of the faithful or to help someone who is sick or suffering through a visit or phone call.

In thinking about how to encounter God and feel a part of the Church – even when attendance at Mass is impossible – Steeves encouraged asking: “What is going to be the most helpful thing for me?”

“Is watching Mass [through a livestream] helping me, or is it making me more frustrated?” he said.

He also gave ideas of other concrete ways to find God during this time, such as praying with Sacred Scripture, reading theological writings, reading the stories and writings of the saints, and praying traditional prayers like the rosary and litanies.

He also suggested things which incorporate your senses, like burning incense, listening to hymns or sacred music, and meditating on a piece of art.

“Whatever would help your bodily senses bring back happy memories of being a church together, of encountering God, of increasing hope and charity, I think those are wonderful things to incorporate now,” he said.

Memory can also be a useful tool during this time, he noted, whether it is personal memories and experiences of encountering God in liturgy and prayer or the Church’s communal memory.

“If we know the history of the Church then we will discover that the Church has always found ways, during a plague or another sickness, to foster the faith of the clergy and of the faithful and to go on being a Church though the circumstances are not usual.”

Though it is a difficult moment, Steeves encouraged people to be faithful in seeking God.

“I think we have a better feeling right now of revelation, of who God truly is – the Creator – and who we are,” he said. “We’re just poor creatures, but we’re still loved by him, [and] he’s inviting us to walk out of our ordinary ways and try to find him right now.”


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On Earth Day, Pope Francis urges solidarity with most vulnerable

Thu, 04/23/2020 - 13:23

By Hannah Brockhaus, Catholic News Agency

[Vatican City – CNA) – Commenting on the celebration of Earth Day during his general audience Wednesday, April 22, Pope Francis urged people to show solidarity with the weak and vulnerable and to protect humanity’s common home.

According to Pope Francis, Earth Day “is an occasion for renewing our commitment to love and care for our common home and for the weaker members of our human family.”

“As the tragic coronavirus pandemic has taught us, we can overcome global challenges only by showing solidarity with one another and embracing the most vulnerable in our midst,” the pope said April 22, 2020.

The Holy Father called for a renewed sense “of sacred respect for the earth, for it is not just our home but also God’s home,” adding that “this should make us all the more aware that we stand on holy ground.”

“In this Easter season of renewal, let us pledge to love and esteem the beautiful gift of the earth, our common home, and to care for all members of our human family,” Pope Francis urged.

“Like the brothers and sisters that we are, let us together implore our heavenly Father: ‘Send forth your Spirit, O Lord, and renew the face of the earth.’”

Pope Francis delivered his weekly catechesis via livestream from the Vatican’s apostolic library, saying selfishness had led people to fail in their responsibility “to be guardians and stewards of the earth.”

“We have sinned against the earth, against our neighbours, and ultimately against the Creator, the benevolent Father who provides for everyone, and desires us to live in communion and flourish together,” he stated.

Being made in the image of God, he said, means “we are called to have care and respect for all creatures, and to offer love and compassion to our brothers and sisters, especially the most vulnerable among us, in imitation of God’s love for us, manifested in his Son Jesus, who made Himself man to share this situation with us and to save us.”

Francis said there was a Spanish saying that “God forgives always; we men forgive sometimes; the earth never forgives.”

“The earth never forgives: if we have despoiled the earth, the response will be very bad,” the pope commented.

Pope Francis also noted his appreciation for national and local environmental movements which “appeal to our consciences,” though he said it will still “be necessary for our children to take to the streets to teach us the obvious: we have no future if we destroy the very environment that sustains us.”

“We can each contribute in our own small way,” he encouraged.

The pope also urged awareness and cooperation on the international level, calling on leaders to guide preparations for the upcoming conferences COP15 on Biodiversity in Kunming, China, and COP26 on Climate Change in Glasgow, Scotland.

“These two meetings are very important,” he said.


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Canada and USA to be consecrated to ‘Mary, Mother of the Church’ with special prayers May 1, in the midst of COVID-19 pandemic

Thu, 04/23/2020 - 13:07

UPDATE: Bishop Mark Hagemoen will re-consecrate the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon to the Blessed Virgin Mary at 7:00 p.m. Friday, May 1, 2020, with the celebration live-streamed from the Cathedral of the Holy Family, and posted on the diocesan website: and at

By Catholic News Agency and Catholic Saskatoon News staff

[CNA – Apr 23; CSN update – Apr. 24] – The conferences of Catholic bishops in Canada and the United States are inviting dioceses across the continent to participate in a May 1, 2020 re-consecration of their dioceses and countries to the Blessed Virgin Mary, during this time of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.

Pastors, families, groups, individuals and other faith communities may likewise choose to join the consecration prayers May 1, as part of the global effort to unite in faith and prayer in this most difficult time, suggests the Canadian bishops’ conference

“The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), in fraternal communion with the leadership of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), has agreed that this Marian consecration be held on the same day in both countries, making this a most meaningful and powerful intercession throughout North America to the Blessed Mother,” according to a media release from the CCCB..  “The Bishops of Mexico, as well as the other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, consecrated their dioceses and eparchies to Mother Mary this past Easter Sunday. Pope Francis has already offered up a moving Prayer to the Virgin Mary for protection in light of COVID-19 last 11 March 2020.”

Archbishop Jose Gomez, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), is inviting all American bishops to join him on May 1, 2020 in re-consecrating the United States to”Mary, the Mother of the Church” in response to the pandemic. The re-consecration is timed to coincide with the bishops of Canada consecrating Canada to Mary at the same time.

Archbishop Gomez, who is the Archbishop of Los Angeles, said in a letter sent to all American bishops April 22, that the Marian reconsecration would be done under the title of “Mary, Mother of the Church.” He invited all the bishops of the country to join him in prayer on May 1 at 1:00 p.m. (SK time).

“Every year, the Church seeks the special intercession of the Mother of God during the month of May. This year, we seek the assistance of Our Lady all the more earnestly as we face together the effects of the global pandemic,” he said in his letter.

The USCCB announcement followed similar plans made by the bishops of Canada, who will consecrate the nation to Mary under the same title on the same day.

As with the Marian consecration held on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation in 2017, bishops across Canada may choose to invite pastors to consecrate their specific parish or mission, as well as families, groups, individuals and other faith communities to join in. A short ritual and the prayer of consecration for the May 1, 2020 re-consecration will be sent out in the days ahead to dioceses across the country by the Canadian Catholic Conference of Bishops (CCCB).

“Based on discussion with the leadership of the Canadian Catholic Conference of Bishops, the Executive Committee of the USCCB met and affirmed the fitness of May 1, 2020, as an opportunity for the bishops of the United States to reconsecrate our nation to Our Lady and to do so under the title, Mary, Mother of the Church,” Gomez said, adding that they would be doing so “on the same day that our brother bishops to the north consecrate Canada under the same title.”

Gomez said that in the days ahead, the appropriate offices of the bishops’ conference will provide liturgical direction and logistical information for the re-consecration on May 1..

The bishops of Italy said on April 20 that they would consecrate their own country to Mary after receiving more than 300 letters requesting the consecration. Canada was first consecrated to Mary at a National Marian Congress in Ottawa in 1947, then again in 1954 at the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Cape near Trois-Rivieres. Prayers of re-consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary were also held across the country — including in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon — on Canada Day 2017 to mark the 150th anniversary of Confederation.

The title “Mary, Mother of the Church” was given to the Blessed Mother by Pope St. Paul VI at the Second Vatican Council, and a memorial under the title was added to the Church’s liturgical calendar in 2018.

Pope Francis declared that the Monday after Pentecost should be celebrated as the memorial of “Mary, Mother of the Church.” Cardinal Robert Sarah, head of the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship, said that the addition of the memorial aimed to encourage growth in “genuine Marian piety.”

Celebrating the memorial in 2018, Archbishop Gomez said that “when Jesus rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, Mary became the maternal heart of his Church.”

Archbishop Gomez also said the May 1 re-consecration will be timely in asking for the intercession of Mary during the pandemic. There are more than 2.6 million confirmed COVID-19 cases in the world and almost 185,000 deaths due to the virus, according to Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center on Thursday morning.

“This will give the Church the occasion to pray for Our Lady’s continued protection of the vulnerable, healing of the unwell, and wisdom for those who work to cure this terrible virus,” Gomez said. “In this Easter season we continue to journey with our Risen Lord that among the graces of this time may be healing and strength, especially for all who are burdened by the many effects of the COVID pandemic,” he said in his letter to bishops.


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Searching for answers and healing in Nova Scotia

Thu, 04/23/2020 - 12:52

By Michael Swan, The Catholic Register

[Canadian Catholic News – April 22, 2022] – With at least 22 victims dead in the largest mass shooting in Canadian history, the people of Nova Scotia are looking for answers, for hope and for healing.

“People are just in a muddle. They don’t know what to think,” said Frank Campbell, a veteran Halifax Chronicle-Herald journalist and Catholic Register columnist. “Everybody seems to be connected to someone who was involved. “It’s hard to get to sleep. This is all you think about.”

One of those killed April 18-19 by a 51-year-old man on a killing spree formerly attended St. Bernard Parish in Enfield, N.S., where Campbell is a parishioner.

“He and his wife used to sit about four seats behind us,” Campbell said. “He was a Knights of Columbus member. They had a summer home that they converted into a retirement home and moved to the area fairly near where the carnage began Saturday night.”

Canada’s deadliest-ever mass shooting began late on April 18 in the beachside village of Portapique, N.S., about an hour-and-a-half north of Halifax. It ended the next morning at an Enfield gas station in a police shootout in which Gabriel Wortman, the RCMP’s suspect, was killed.

Related: Archbishop Mancini offers prayers

In an April 21 video message, Halifax-Yarmouth Archbishop Anthony Mancini noted how the grief Nova Scotians face over the mass shooting comes on top of COVID-19 deaths.

“In this time of mourning we ought to be able to come together to experience the comfort of community care and support,” Mancini said. “Yet here we are in isolation.”

He acknowledged “a great sense of loss, frustration and even anger.”

“And in the face of this nonsense, we are trying to cope.”

Alluding to the hope of Easter, he urged courage.

“As a bishop and a Christian, the best that I can hope to share with you is my conviction that love is greater than tragedy and death,” he said. “In this time, when we celebrate the Resurrection, it is good that we recall that death is not the last word.”

Halifax co-adjutor Archbishop Brian Dunn said that despite the lockdown the Church is providing pastoral care in both virtual and traditional ways.

“There’s a real sense of broken hearts,” Dunn told The Catholic Register.

At the nearby Truro, N.S., parish of Immaculate Conception, Fr. Dariusz Miskowicz has already scheduled one funeral.  “People are receiving pastoral care,” Dunn said.

But with churches locked and Masses cancelled to limit the spread of COVID-19, Nova Scotians will be challenged to find hope and healing. Campbell believes there is no option but to keep trying.

“When something like this happens, what can you do? You can pray or you can just dwell on it. Prayer seems to be more productive,” he said.

The morning after the shootings, Mancini offered condolences, particularly to the family of RCMP Constable Heidi Stevenson.

“Her death in the line of duty indicates the highest sacrifice that one can make on behalf of the citizens she served,” Mancini said in a letter issued April 20.

“Our prayers go out to all the members of her family, particularly her children, and to the fellow officers of her RCMP family, who mourn the loss of her life.”

Stevenson was a 23-year veteran with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the mother of two and wife of teacher Dean Stevenson.

The archbishop sought to extend a word of hope to all Nova Scotians.

“Such a tragic event, involving the meaningless death of so many of our fellow citizens, has shocked us all,” he said.

“Adding more collective suffering to an already tragic time in our province, our country and our personal lives.”

The challenge for both the Church and local media is to try to connect people rather than leaving Nova Scotians isolated in grief and fear, said Campbell.

“That is exactly what newspapers and Church traditionally did. The question is, do we still do it?” he said. “We give our best efforts — in Church and in media.”

By the time Wortman was killed he had travelled over 92 kilometres, many of them in a car painted to resemble an RCMP cruiser, on a 12-hour shooting spree during which he set fire to at least five buildings. No motive has been established.
The death count rose to 22 on April 21, not including the shooter, but the total was still not definitive as police continued to investigate.


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