Pope Francis. Your Holiness,
I am an eighty-three-year-old woman, born and raised Roman Catholic Christian from the Swampy Cree Nation. I want to thank you for being with us in our homeland of Canada, to share our pain and our sorrow during this time of finding
unmarked graves and reliving the era of the residential school system. You have taken responsibility and humbled yourself by professing shame for the Catholic Church’s treatment of the First Nations in our land. How moving it was to hear you say, “I am deeply sorry. I humbly beg for your forgiveness for the evil committed by many Christians.”
There is no other gesture, no other humbler words, nor more sacred than these words, “I am deeply sorry”. Forgiveness is the way to freedom and peace as Jesus, our Lord and Saviour taught us in the “Our Father”, a prayer which says,
“...Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us...” Luke 11:1
Thank you for your powerful words and example of humility and compassion. Dear Pope Francis, you have graced us with your presence.
I want to give tribute to the priests and sisters of the past and present who have remained true to their vocation to teach about God’s love for us. We remain grateful for their prayers in sustaining us through the good and difficult times. Their names and deeds remain within our hearts. Many people recall and remember favourite nuns and priests. Stories and memories of them bring loneliness and joy. Many faithful religious have died on our land evangelizing and teaching the Bible. We are blessed to have our own patron saint, St. Kateri Tekakwitha. We have quiet saints around us - grandparents, parents, our wise and faith-filled elders, our relentless leaders who speak and work for our people in Truth and Reconciliation. God bless their enormous work. This historic visit was made possible by their dedication and persistence in seeking the Truth and Reconciliation. Thank you to the Bishops and Priests who organized the liturgical part of the celebration. Thank you for all who supported the Indigenous endeavour in hosting this sacred event.
This is the beginning of a new chapter in our story. “I am the way, the truth and the life.” John 14:6. This is also a renewed and continued relationship with the Catholic Church. The crowning of you with the headdress was a significant sign of acceptance of our cultural beliefs and a better understanding of inculturation of our Catholic and native traditions.
Your powerful penitential pilgrim speech will remain in my heart, and in all our hearts, in the spirit of mercy, compassion and love. Each person, guided by the Holy Spirit, will find a way to heal.
On this first step of my journey, I have wanted to make space for memory. Here, today, I am with you to recall the past, to grieve with you, to bow our heads together in silence and to pray before the graves. Let us allow these moments of silence to help us interiorize our pain. Silence. And prayer. In the face of evil, we pray to the Lord of goodness; in the face of death, we pray to the God of life. Our Lord Jesus Christ took a grave, which seemed the burial place of every hope and dream, leaving behind only sorrow, pain and resignation, and made it a place of rebirth and resurrection, the beginning of a history of new life and universal reconciliation. Our own efforts are not enough to achieve healing and reconciliation: we need God’s grace. We need the quiet and powerful wisdom of the Spirit, the tender love of the Comforter. May he bring to fulfilment the deepest expectations of our hearts. May he guide our steps and enable us to advance together on our journey."
With sincere gratitude,
From your lofty abode you water the mountains; the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work (Psalm 104:13).
The Israelites speak about Mount Zion with great reverence. The temple in Jerusalem might not have been the highest point in the known world at the time, but it was very significant for the people of God. In this line from the psalms, we see God reflecting back this reverence: he waters the mountains and they bear fruit. But this simple depiction of the water cycle takes on a deeper spiritual meaning: the fruit of God’s work is similar.
I remember Fr. Keith Sorge telling a story of his friends who came to visit Calgary for the first time. They were awed when he took them to see the mountains: “How can you not be out here every weekend; and they’re so close.”
We have a great gift to live where we do, and experience our Rockies whenever we want. The Angel’s on High weekend is a chance to experience this wonder of God’s creation within our community and to build it up.
With our two hikes this year to Troll Falls and going up to the Orphan above Canmore, we saw a world “charged with the grandeur of God” (Gerard Manley Hopkins). For some, it was a chance to relax in nature. For others, it was a challenge that pushed us to know ourselves better. For still others, it was a chance to visit and build community. Through it all, we became more subtle instruments of God to bear his fruit. Too often, we get caught up in everything moving and being pulled from one thing to the next. Our Angel’s on High weekend gives us, as a parish, a chance to draw on the waters of God and be refreshed and replenished.
Next year has begun its planning too, and we think a trip down to Waterton in late July is perfect. So if you would like to experience God in nature with St. Gabriel the Archangel Parish next year, please join us!
Submitted by Fr. James Hagel, Pastor of St. Gabriel the Archangel Parish in Chestermere, AB
It all started with a ghostly face peering through the melting permafrost of an exhumed grave located in the Canadian arctic, the face of John Torrington. I saw his picture for the first time while reading, Frozen in Time: The Fate of the Franklin Expedition by Owen Beattie and John Gieger when I was studying in university. John was a member of the doomed Franklin Expedition, sent by the Royal Navy in 1845 to find a passage through Canada’s arctic to the Far East, bringing glory and riches to the British Empire. The expedition ended in catastrophe, all 129 men dying due to a mix of disease, malnutrition, scurvy, starvation, and accidental poisoning. The human drama of the Franklin Expedition has fascinated me for most of my life, and as I’ve gotten older the thought of these men, and the suffering they must have endured has only tugged at my heart more fully.
I’ve been a consumer of Catholic literature for years, both fiction and non-fiction, so when I decided to challenge myself to write a novel it was clear to me that Catholic themes would be at the heart of the story that I would tell. I just needed to come up with the story! As a husband and father of five kids, I thought about sharing my family experiences, to write about what I know most intimately, but the pull of writing a story, a novel, was more powerful. Then I thought of that face!
Writing a novel was a “bucket list” thing for me. I wanted to discover if I had what it takes to write a full book, one good enough to get published. I also dreamed of looking at my bookshelf and seeing a spine looking back at me with my name on it! I’ve always loved reading, I consume books constantly, both novels, mostly historical fiction, but also every new Stephen King creation that is released, as well as non-fiction works of history. As the aforementioned Mr. King calls his fans, I am definitely a constant reader!
So, I would write a novel about the Franklin Expedition, but it would have Catholic themes embedded throughout it. In planning the book, I decided to focus on characters, because that is where much of the mystery of the event lies. Most of the expedition’s sailors are little known to history, so I could create backstories for them and imagine plausible events during their time stuck in the ice. I picked four names off the crew list and attached them to four basic personalities of fellow teachers I work with at St. Joseph Collegiate and worship with at St. Mary’s here in Brooks. Then, I imagined they were the last four survivors, living their last eight days at Starvation Cove, the most southerly point the crew advanced during their desperate death march south in search of deliverance, hence the name of the novel. I imagined their physical decline and what they must have had to endure as they slowly succumbed to the harsh arctic elements. I also thought about the spiritual reckoning they inevitably faced, and that is where our Catholic faith would become part of the story.
So many people, even my own teenaged children, ask me questions about God and His Church. They ask why bad things happen to good people. Why evil can exist in a world created by God. Why Christians can seem so indifferent to suffering, or even worse, be the cause of suffering. In the novel, the main character struggles with these questions his entire life. This character is Joseph Andrews, a real crew member of the expedition, a name I took off the actual crew list. It is also the name of my oldest son, Joseph Andrew. The character is a good man, honest, forthright, charitable, but disturbed at the hypocrisy he sees in the world. Disturbed by people who say one thing but do another. Before he dies, he finds some heavenly answers to these questions, allowing him to be at peace with his past and hopeful for eternity.
Catholic fiction can be a powerful tool for evangelization. It has been for me. A story written that can inspire the reader in their faith is a gift indeed. I have been blessed to read all the novels of Michael O’Brien over the years, arguably Canada’s greatest Catholic novelist and author of Father Elijah: An Apocalypse, among other great works. Every time I read one of his books, my faith deepens. The publisher of Starvation Cove, Ottawa’s Justin Press, is closely associated with Michael O’Brien and has published several of his works. I could not be more honoured to be associated with such authentically faithful people, people who have impacted my own Catholic faith so fundamentally.
I was speaking to a friend the other day who has read Starvation Cove. She is fellow teacher at St. Joseph’s and parishioner at St. Mary’s. I had asked her a few weeks ago what her favorite part of the book was, and she had a difficult time answering the question. She said she had indeed enjoyed the book, had read it quickly, but there was something about it that she needed to think about and would get back to me when she could more clearly articulate what she wanted to share. She approached me and recounted that it had finally come to her. She shared that what she most liked about Starvation Cove is that the character of Joseph Andrews reminded her of her husband. A good man, a great man actually, who struggles with his faith. Her husband is looking forward to reading the novel. With God’s grace, I pray that Starvation Cove may inspire this man as works of Catholic fiction have inspired me throughout my life. I’m looking forward to listening to what he has to say when he’s done.
Prayer for the happy repose of Her Majesty The Queen
Almighty God, You are the author and sustainer of all human life;
grant that your servant, Elizabeth our Queen,
whom you granted a long and happy reign as Monarch
of these lands may be forgiven her sins
and rewarded with that eternal life
promised to all those born again in the water of baptism
and power of your Spirit.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
Who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit God, forever and ever, Amen.
Eternal rest, grant to her O Lord, And let Perpetual light shine upon her.
May she rest in peace. Amen. May her soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed,
Through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
Psalm 121 (A Song of Ascents)
I lift up my eyes to the mountains;
from where shall come my help?
My help shall come from the Lord
who made heaven and earth.
May he never allow you to stumble!
Let him sleep not your guard.
No, he sleeps not nor slumbers,
The Lord your guard and your shade; at your right side he stands.
By day the sun shall not smite you, nor the moon in the night.
The Lord will guard you from evil;
he will guard your soul.
The Lord will guard your going and coming,
both now and forever.
Canticle of Simeon (Luke 2:29-32)
At last, all-powerful Master,
you give leave to your servant to go in peace,
according to your promise.
For my eyes have seen your salvation which you have prepared for all nations,
the light to enlighten the Gentiles and give glory to Israel, your people.
Prayer for the Royal Family
Almighty God, source of all consolation,
we pray for the members of the Royal Family who mourn the loss
of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth.
Uphold them in your love and pour out on them the consolation of your healing Spirit.
Let them find in your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ
comfort in their sadness, certainty in their doubt
and courage to live through this hour.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Prayer for the King
O God, to whom every human power is subject,
Grant to your servant His Majesty the King
success in the exercise of his high office,
so that, always revering to you and striving to please you,
he may constantly secure and preserve for the people entrusted to his care
the freedom that comes from civil peace.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit
God, forever and ever, Amen.
A message from Bishop Raymond Poisson, President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) on the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
Prayer for the happy repose of HM The Queen and Prayer for the Royal Family: from the website of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales.
Men from the God Squad and several Catholic churches in the Calgary Diocese recently came together to give an old church a facelift in Brocket, Alberta, located on the Piikani Nation between Fort Macleod and Pincher Creek.
The work done at St. Paul’s was more than just some exterior painting and repairs. It was also symbolic.
Deacon Tom O’Toole, who is assigned to St. Paul’s, said the parish is a community of elders and it doesn’t have all the resources within the Nation to handle some of these bigger projects.
“We think it’s an opportunity in the spirit of truth and reconciliation to show the universality of the Church in its beauty and diversity,” said O’Toole, who has been at the parish for about six or seven years. “They did some of the harder work that we were not able to accomplish on our own but we gave them something too.
“We paid them with our affection. We fed them. They brought their own food. But we participated in that. And our elders were here. It wasn’t just a simple act of splashing paint on a building. It rolled up into a bigger purpose which is to bring all God’s people together and show the beauty. These people who came from St. Peter’s, I’ve known them for a long time. So I’m not surprised how fantastic they are and a few of them have come to help before so they’re not a stranger here either. That to me is how relationship is built and how truth and reconciliation makes its way around the bases so to speak.”
During his ministry as a Deacon, O’Toole has also been assigned in the past to St. Peter’s.
Sean Lynn, who spearheads the God Squad organization, said about a dozen volunteers came out in late August to do some work on the aging St. Paul’s building.
“It was a great opportunity for us to put into action a love for the Church and reach out to the First Nations’ community showing that we want to work with them, we want to start those conversations, we want to be present in their community. And the Church, it’s a way of reopening the dialogue with them,” explained Lynn.
Lynn also wanted to give a big shout out to Dan Lebsack of Cougar Painting, who joined the work crew for the St. Paul’s initiative, offering his professional experience, advice and expertise as well as his painting skills.
“They did great work. A great service that we all appreciate. I announced it in the church,” said Rev. Roy Jayamaha, of St. Paul’s. “We really appreciated their great efforts. It was a wonderful thing. They put their heart and soul and work for our community. It was a great thing.
“We believe that the door to salvation is always open and so are the doors to our church. Our mission is to be fully devoted to Jesus by opening our arms to those in search of the truth. We show God’s love and concern for our fellow humanity at every opportunity. Through works of charity and opening our doors to listen and love, we feel that we are walking in the footsteps of Jesus Christ.”
The God Squad, a Catholic men’s organization, whose vision through the guidance of St. Joseph, is to form and strengthen men, inspiring them to embrace God’s vocation in their lives.
Other volunteers included people from St. Peter’s, Holy Spirit and St. James churches in Calgary as well as St. Mary’s in Brooks.
Father Roy was originally from Sri Lanka and arrived in the Calgary Diocese in 2014 after having worked as a missionary in Pakistan for 38 years. Bishop Frederick Henry appointed him pastor of St. Paul’s in January 2016.
“My prayer for this community is that together we will rediscover the joy of the Gospel, bringing many people back to church by our personal witness. The youth and children are our future and together we must strive to find new ways and means to share God’s love for creation. My faith tells me, it is the work of the Lord we are doing and He will guide our steps forward,” said Father Roy.
On September 25, the Church will mark the 108th World Day of Migrants and Refugees. It is an occasion to express our concern for the many vulnerable people on the move, to pray for them as they face many challenges, and to increase awareness about the opportunities that migration offers. The Holy Father has chosen “Building the Future with Migrants and Refugees” as the theme for his message this year.
Since 1979, private sponsors have resettled over 350k refugees to Canada. This is a remarkable accomplishment for Canadians. Eighteen Catholic organizations (Dioceses, Religious congregations, and other groups) across Canada currently work as Sponsorship Agreement Holders (SAHs).
It is estimated that there are currently over 89 million people who have been forced from their homes, of which over 36 million have fled their homelands. This terrible situation is made even worse in recent months with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, forcing millions of Ukrainians to flee their home country.
As Pope Francis has said, “In turbulent times we are to re-commit to the journey of building the kingdom”. The Holy Father has chosen “Building the Future with Migrants and Refugees” as the theme for his message this year.
The Paradoxical Commandments
On this 25th anniversary of Mother Teresa’s death, Bishop McGrattan highlights the words of “The Paradoxical Commandments,” embraced by this saint of the poor.
When Mother Teresa first heard these words, written by Dr. Kent M. Keith, an American lawyer, writer and leader in higher education, she was moved to put them on the wall of one of her homes for children in Kolkata. They are a sure guideline for finding personal meaning in the face of adversity and transcend all creeds and cultures. They very aptly describe Mother Teresa’s way of dealing with such a huge number of people throughout her lifetime.
Feeling socially anxious? This video may help.
Learn about the spotlight effect and see if this applies to you and your thoughts. If it does, calm down, walk into the room, and be yourself.
A note from Solomon Ip, writer and compiler of the 2022 Jubilarians stories:
Once again, it seems that there is a very large class of priests this year celebrating their jubilees, and it is a joy to be able to get to know them a little better, and to learn from them all. It is an absolute privilege to be asked to write these articles again, and to sit at the feet of the masters.
As this is being published, I will be in my first full day at St. Joseph's Seminary in Edmonton, studying to follow in the footsteps of these nine fathers I may one day call brothers. I am grateful to each of them that they have let me spend a little time learning how they live out the priesthood of Jesus Christ in their lives, and I hope to carry these lessons forward with me. My deepest gratitude to Lia O'Hara and Deacon Michael Soentgerath for their support in this endeavour.
Interview conducted by Solomon Ip for Faithfully
Interview conducted by Solomon Ip for Faithfully
Submitted by Fr. Shibu Kallarakkal, Pastor of Mother of the Redeemer Parish, Calgary
Our parish, Mary Mother of the Redeemer in Calgary, held the annual Feast of Nations on August 7, 2022 this year. The event is known throughout Calgary with people from all over coming out to celebrate the diversity of cultures in our community. The Feast of Nations provides an opportunity to come together in faith as one family, and to keep us grounded in our own culture while adapting to new ones. To support cross-cultural understanding, this event also honours various cultural and spiritual celebrations which are important to the people in our parish coming to celebrate the Eucharist together. Together they enjoyed international artistic performances and delicious food from different parts of the world. This event helped bring together our English, Spanish and Italian communities while raising funds for our church activities.
This well attended event took place in various Parish facilities like the church, parking lot and lower hall. Our preparation began a few weeks earlier, involving a multidisciplinary team comprised of the general manager, liturgy coordinators, accountants, volunteers, the food handling coordinator, sound equipment and multimedia technicians, maintenance and stage crew, as well as those performing different acts and presentations. Our food stand representatives put their best efforts to showcase their national cuisine, gathering ingredients, and decorating their stands. This year our food stands featured cuisines from Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, India, Italia, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Venezuela.
The event started after the 11 am Mass with dances followed by the celebration of Cultures Mass at 1 pm by Fr. Shibu Kallarakkal, Fr. Shaiju Ponmalakunnel, and Fr. Pydayya Yajjala, representing a variety of ministry groups and nationalities through a variety of songs and dances. The Introductory Rite for the Mass began with African dance, with their powerful drumming and energetic melodies. Prayers and readings were read in different languages throughout the liturgy as well as a special African rite for the entrance of the Gospel. Representatives from several nations also carried their national flag in the inaugural parade. This Mass highlighted the importance of our Catholic faith, and the faithful's connection to their heritage and religion. Representatives of different ethnic ministry groups offered songs and dances to highglight the importance of their Catholic faith, personal connections to their heritage, and the inescapable link between their roots and religion.
The cultural activities followed the 1 pm Mass with live music, dancing in cultural outfits, food stands from the participating countries (following the Alberta food handling guidelines) and other groups, such as the Catechesis group, Los Montianos (consecrated laity), youth groups such as the Jubilee group who provided face painting and a bouncy castle for kids, Ephphatha and Guardians of Jesus who provided water & pop, and candies, and several sponsors’ stands.
During the Feast of Nations event, various performing arts were performed at the main stage, which encompassed a wide range of acts including dancing, singing, playing traditional music, etc. Throughout the festival area, food vendors from different countries, served by volunteers of the community, were providing a variety of food and drinks for all event participants to enjoy. There were activities for everyone, and it all came together thanks to all the community members who volunteered for this event and generously donated their time, talents, and materials to make the Feast of Nations a success.
Sisters in religious life celebrate jubilee years as consecrated members in their community to commemorate their vows of chastity, poverty and obedience. Grateful for God's blessing in religious vocation, we invite you to read these wonderful and inspiring stories from some of the 2022 jubilarian sisters in our Diocese. May our life be inspired by their deep relationship with God and service for God's people.
Below are stories from 4 Faithful Companions of Jesus Sisters, submitted by FCJ Calgary:
Sr. Marjorie Perkins, FCJ
Sr. Patricia (Pat) Halpin, FCJ
Sr. Mary Rose Rawlinson, FCJ
Sr. Donna Marie, FCJ
Submitted by FCJ Sisters, Calgary
Our lifestyle and choices affect other people and the environment. We do not live in isolation even when we think that we are making private, personal, and individual acts or decisions that do not involve others. Our action and inaction have consequences on others and the world around us.
As consumers in today’s world, it can be overwhelming to make purchasing decisions that have less of a negative impact on others and the environment, as it is not as simple as it seems. For example, not all recyclables are the same. Not everything labeled as “made from recyclable materials” is actually 100% made from recyclable materials as these materials degrade in quality over time. And just because it’s recyclable doesn’t mean it’s actually being recycled especially when these products do not make their way to the recycling facilities. Recycling materials also require so much energy to process that reusing might be a better alternative to recycling. Our heads spin… we can easily burn out and give up.
In order to make good and responsible choices that support our lifestyle, it is beneficial to understand the concept of circular economy. Watch this six-minute video and learn to see beyond the products as you understand their life cycle and their impact on people and the environment.
Five o’clock. First light was beginning to peek through the blinds of our fifth wheel camper. I pushed past the temptation to remain snuggled under the blanket and forced myself out of bed. I was going to do it - I was going to climb a mountain (okay, a hill) to watch a sunrise and sit in the presence of my Heavenly Father.
My family was spending the first week of August at Dinosaur Provincial Park, joining my in-laws for a four-day adventure in the hoodoos. Our first evening at Dinosaur Park, we’d trekked to the highest point to get a full 360 of the oddly picturesque World Heritage Site. It’s an incredible anomaly among the flattest of prairie, and it’s one of the most breathtaking landscapes I’ve ever experienced. Anybody who’s been to Dinosaur Provincial Park, 43 kilometers northeast of Brooks, knows exactly what I’m talking about: after driving through miles of prairie, the world suddenly opens up. Sandstone-striped hills, hiding who knows how many millions of fossils, seem to go on forever. Standing at the top of the mountain (okay, again, hill) and breathing in the majesty of God’s creation, I had the bright idea to climb again one morning during our trip to take in a prairie sunrise over the hoodoos and hills.
Our first night camping was fraught with high winds, deafening thunder, and sheet lightning, which encouraged me to sleep in snugly that first morning (cozied up to my nine-year-old daughter, who tucked in with us at the first roll of thunder.) The following day, however, my internal alarm went off three times before I finally arose to first light at 5 am, pulled on a hoodie, and quietly slipped out of our camper while the rest of my family snoozed away.
It was quiet and dark enough that I felt a little bit disconcerted (I’ve seen a rattlesnake or two at the park), but as I began my ascent, my desire to be with God on a mountaintop (hoo-doo top?) outweighed my fear. The climb was steep and slippery in running shoes, and I laughed at myself as I huffed and puffed towards the top, bolstered by Al McGuire’s quote: “There’s no one who’s dropped on top of the mountain. You’ve got to work your way to the top.” After slips and slides and gratitude that I had no witnesses, I arrived at the apex, took a deep breath, looked around, and prayed:
Lord Jesus Christ,
Take all my freedom,
And my will.
All that I have and cherish
You have given me.
I surrender it all to be guided by Your will.
Your grace and love and wealth enough for me.
Give me these, Lord Jesus,
And I ask for nothing more. Amen.
I’d never heard Saint Ignatius of Loyola’s prayer until Father Raul Hernandez, former pastor of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Brooks, introduced me to it. It’s a prayer that I hold dear to my heart; it’s the prayer that I turn to most often, especially when I’m experiencing something uncomfortable or discouraging.
I’m writing about a mountaintop experience, which juxtaposes quite jarringly with the valleys my soul had been experiencing as of late. I’d been suffering from bouts of crippling anxiety since school let out. When I’m not teaching, my mental health tends to take a dip - I slug through the valleys of dark days, sustained prayer and platitudes (as well as adherence to exercise and diet.) God has given me many tools to help me keep my head above water when anxiety sets in.
When I’d finally made it to the top of the hill, I realized that I wasn’t alone: having neglected a good dose of Deet, I was joined by mosquitos, happy to keep me company as I attempted to pray and settle quietly into God’s presence. It was almost laughable - I’d stolen a moment to myself to be still, and I was busily swatting away the most loathesome of insects. It was tempting to sink into defeat, something that anxiety preys on greedily, but my repeated dedication to Jesus kept me mountaintop for over an hour. Praying… and swatting.
I watched the sandstone ground warm from grey to brown as the slow light began spreading its way westward over the hills, painting everything the colour of morning. I listened to coyotes howl from the south, answered by packs from the north. I watched a flock of Canada geese in their V formation, and listened to birds honk along the shores of the Red Deer River. I sank into the majesty of God’s kingdom here on Earth. Mosquitoes and all, it was a literal mountaintop (okay, hilltop) experience.
On August 6, we celebrated the Feast of the Transfiguration. After I shared that I was writing about my mountaintop morning, a dear friend of mine noted how, when prompted by Peter to set up camp at the top of the mountain, Jesus and His disciples came back down shortly after. They didn’t even stick around much longer after God acknowledged His Son. “We can’t stay in the mountaintop experiences. Even the disciples didn’t,” she noted sagely. She then asked, “what kind of transfiguration did you experience that morning?”
My mountain morning allowed for a transfiguration of my hurting heart. Anxiety doesn’t just slip away at will, but God always brings me back to His love, despite the temptation to despair. Climbing the mountain may not have entirely quelled my anxiety, but I was reminded of God’s great love for me as He painted the skies, and I returned to my family with an assuaged soul (and a million mosquito bites.) His grace and his love were in abundance that morning. Give me these, Lord Jesus, and I ask for nothing more. Amen.
I remember the day a girl about my height with jet black hair bounded up my driveway asking to play. I was about five years old and shy. Lori was a high energy, outgoing six-year-old and we quickly became friends. For the next three years we had adventures, playing hide and seek and other childhood pastimes, sometimes getting into mischief together.
In upper elementary, I remember finding out that the reason Lori acted differently is because she had fetal alcohol syndrome. But as young children that difference never factored in, in fact, in my eyes she was exciting and fun to be around.
Knowing Lori was a gift I received early in my life. I’ve carried the memories we made together with me ever since. And I carried her in my heart as I made the pilgrimage from my home in Calgary to Edmonton for the Papal Mass on July 26, 2022.
I prayed for Lori, one of my first best friends, an Indigenous girl who was innocently sentenced to a life clouded by the effects of a preventable syndrome. Lori was adopted and while she never attended residential school, it’s likely someone from her family tree had spent time at one of these schools. To me, her situation is an example from my own lived experience of the repercussions of residential schools felt through the generations.
When we arrived at Commonwealth Stadium, the first thing we did was take a family photo to remember our family pilgrimage as we will continue to unpack its significance in the years to come.
Next we found our seats, and while waiting for the Papal Mass to begin I noticed four middle-aged women sitting behind me wearing Every Child Matters orange and black t-shirts. Among them was Kelly Spooner who was not herself Indigenous, but came to honour the memory of her uncle (through marriage) who died in 2019 and attended residential school for six years.
“I came for strength and to renew my spirit. It’s a part of history today,” said Kelly Spooner.
Not long after, the Pope rode around the stadium greeting the crowd. Kelly ran down to the front gate to get a closer look. After he passed by she came back in tears, saying “I’m so happy he’s here.”
As the pre-Mass program was wrapping up, emcee Janelle Reinhardt asked the crowd to keep a prayerful silence.
“The stadium truly became silent, it was powerful and profound, you could only hear the humming of the buildings. It was impressive in a crowd so large,” said Amber Franco, reflecting on this poignant moment. She drove from Calgary to Edmonton with her husband Mike and seven children.
Calgary Bishop William McGrattan also took note of the prayerful atmosphere as he looked up into the crowd from ground level.
“When we entered in the procession for Mass and I saw the number of people on the field and in the stands you had this sense of the presence of Christ in those who had gathered to be with the Holy Father,” said Bishop McGrattan.
The Papal Mass was celebrated on the feast of St. Joachim and St. Anne – the grandparents of Jesus. Pope Francis used this opportunity to speak about the importance of grandparents and family cohesion during his homily.
“This message was simple, but one that everyone could receive and appreciate,” said Bishop McGrattan. “The message of a pastor who himself was advanced in age and not afraid to show the signs of declining mobility, and the need for assistance, which is experienced in every family.”
Like any good pilgrimage, there are challenging moments and as we sat in the bleachers listening to Pope Francis our children began to get a bit restless in the blistering heat. I turned my own discomfort into a small offering toward reconciliation, all the while my heart growing in gratitude for the heroic effort of our 85-year-old pontiff.
I thought this was a generous gesture toward reconciliation simply by showing up and “taking the heat” with us in every sense of the phrase. But I was also humbled by the elders some 80 years and up who had made the pilgrimage from various parts of the country also suffering their own discomforts in an attempt to heal and move forward.
My own father Deacon Richard Loftson accompanied a group of Indigenous pilgrims from Manitoba on behalf of the Archdiocese of St. Boniface. He ministers to the St. Kateri Tekakwitha Indigenous Parish in Winnipeg.
“They were thankful for the apology. They were emotional, in tears many of them. They had been waiting for so long,” said Deacon Loftson.
Bishop McGrattan also sought feedback as he encountered people affected by residential schools.
“In talking to some survivors at the various events, it was difficult for some to hear and relive these memories. For others, there was a sense of recognition that they were listened to by Pope Francis and that his words and actions were genuine in their eyes,” said Bishop McGrattan.
Like many things, the future lies with the children in hopes they will learn from history and build a more just and merciful society where no child will ever again suffer the consequences of being forced to leave their family and lose their culture and heritage.
This is why our friends Alissa and Konrad Paley of Calgary also made the pilgrimage with their three young daughters (six years and under) to the Papal Mass with the same intention as our family: to build a culture of goodwill and reconciliation in their home.
“Participating in this particular Papal Mass was really important as a Catholic and a Canadian,” said Alissa Paley. “The Church is made up of the people, we are the people of the Church. In order for the Church to work towards reconciliation we must show up.”
“I was honoured to bring my daughters with me. I know that they currently don’t understand the gravity of this event, but I hope as they grow up they may continue to pray for the journey toward reconciliation in this country.”
My thoughts have turned toward the child during this pilgrimage. Just like my friend Lori who did nothing to deserve the circumstances she inherited as a child, neither did I deserve the family and opportunities I have been afforded. Everything is a gift. In gratitude, I left Edmonton pondering how I can use the time I have left to seek holiness by laying down my life for my friends.
== More photos from our Diocesan families during the Papal Mass (click "all comments")
Let us minister together to ensure no one lives in isolation and loneliness. This Sunday, July 24, we invite you to take a step forward in co-creating compassionate communities that see relationship and accompaniment with the elderly and grandparents as a normal part of family, neighbourhood, parish, and communal life.
Catholic Pastoral Centre Staff and Guest Writers