September 22, 2021
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 being reported each day has significantly increased in our province. This brings to the forefront of our consciousness the need to safeguard the common good, and in charity to promote the safety of others by protecting our individual health and that of society. In some provinces, the sectors of healthcare, education and social services, public agencies and corporations have begun to announce mandatory vaccination as requirement for their employees and the public. This has resulted in the Diocese and the parishes receiving from members of the faithful the request for letters of exemption from the mandatory vaccination based on the grounds of religious belief.
While the Diocese respects the freedom of a person’s individual conscience as the Church teaches, the Church and her ministers cannot objectively attest to or endorse a person’s process of discernment in coming to their decision of conscience. Therefore, the Diocese and the parishes will not be issuing any letters of exemption from vaccination.
The clergy has been strongly encouraged instead to accompany and assist those requesting such letters to know and understand the teachings of the Church on vaccination during this pandemic through statements released by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), and the pastoral letter provided by the Bishops of Alberta and the Northwest Territories.
As stated by my brother Bishops and in communion with the Holy Father, it is morally permissible to receive a vaccine approved for use in Canada against COVID-19, and while there are many possible reasons for one to struggle in their conscience with such a vaccine being mandatory, the Diocese will not take the position or role of endorsing an individual’s conscience and decision.
If vaccination will be mandated, there must also be on the part of legitimate authorities, the necessary provisions of reasonable accommodation which respects and promotes the dignity of the individual conscience and the decision of conscientious objection. However, those who choose not to be vaccinated for whatever reason must do their utmost to ensure that they take all precautionary measures possible to avoid places and circumstances where they and others would be most vulnerable. They must also follow the health and safety measures not only to prevent contracting the virus for themselves but also preventing others from becoming sick. This is everyone’s moral responsibility.
Much prayer is needed in this time, in this polarized society, for those who have suffered so much and for those who continue to suffer from the reality of the pandemic. As Christians and people of goodwill, we must grow in our love and concern for others and use the gift of our freedom responsibly to help others especially those who are in most need.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
+William T. McGrattan
Bishop of Calgary
“Pray, hope, and don’t worry” seems like a cheesy home decor slogan, but his life reveals the riches of this attitude of trust in God. He was a Capuchin friar who worked tirelessly for the salvation of souls. People flocked to him as they saw how his unique relationship with God was manifested in all sorts of spiritual gifts, from bilocation to reading souls. His feast day on September 23rd is an opportunity for each of us to experience his witness and intercession in our own lives.
Our diocese’s own Fr. Cristino Bouvette, who has loved St. Padre Pio since childhood, experienced his intercession in a crucial way. On June 16th, 2002, he was helping out with a contracting project. He was balancing on a sawhorse, holding a heavy garage door operator, when he took a wrong step that could have ended in calamity: “I was about to pull this very heavy operator down onto my head and land on concrete... I saw the whole thing happen before my eyes and I just said, ‘Padre Pio!’” The sawhorse fell forward instead of backward, and Fr. Cristino was unharmed. Since it was the day of Padre Pio’s canonization, Father always thought that maybe his beloved saint had given him a special blessing on that day. Apart from the lesson that one should not stand on a sawhorse, Fr. Cristino’s story teaches us how powerful and life-changing a simple, trusting prayer can be.
Padre Pio’s powerful intercession continues in Heaven. For the numerous intentions people would bring to him, Padre Pio prayed the Efficacious Novena to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It is a prayer characterized by deep trust in Jesus’ promise that the Father will give us whatever we ask with faith. He called prayer “the key that opens the heart of God.” Many of his prayers were answered in miraculous ways. Some prayers were not answered in the exact way the hopeful pilgrims expected, but he asked his spiritual children to abandon themselves to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and let Him take care of everything. He reminded people that God wants to give us many good things and that the best thing He wants to give us is the gift of Himself: “It seems that Jesus has no interest outside of sanctifying your soul.”
Rather than on things that pass away, Padre Pio’s prayer was set on eternity: “I feel powerfully the need for a true, sincere and intimate conversion to God... This is what I assiduously ask of Jesus: my conversion.” His radiant sanctity attests to the claim he made that "God has never refused me anything and indeed I must say He has given me more than I asked.” Nor did this saint refuse anything to God: he offered his life as a sacrifice in order to bring souls closer to Him. Fr. Cristino remarks, “I wish everyone knew that he was a saint not because of his stigmata but because he loved Jesus with his whole life. That’s why he was a saint.”
By embracing his relationship with God so completely, Padre Pio also embraced the Cross, including all the suffering that Jesus allowed for his purification. His daily choices had eternal consequences on countless souls, as do ours. Padre Pio has taught Fr. Cristino that “we need to be prepared to suffer for the Church... when we abandon ourselves to God, when we detach ourselves from our preferences, and give ourselves over to Him, we will live for the Church, we will become completely at her disposal, as He wants us. This gives us a lot of peace, this gives us a lot of hope, even when we are challenged.”
Padre Pio’s loving, interior assent to participation in the suffering and death of Jesus was exteriorly manifested in his Stigmata. These miraculous bodily wounds corresponded to those of Jesus. His relationship with Jesus strengthens our hope that daily intimacy with our Crucified Saviour will give way to a share in His victorious Resurrection, on earth and in Heaven. He gives practical advice: “Kneel down and render the tribute of your presence and devotion to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament... Speak to him with filial abandonment, give free rein to your heart, and give him complete freedom to work in you as he thinks best.”
Padre Pio’s glorious life testifies that God still works miracles. St. Padre Pio, pray for the most beautiful and important miracle we could desire, that each of us would become a saint.
As a young mom with a daughter ready to attend kindergarten, I was not sure which school I could trust my young and impressionable daughter to. Who would be good enough to teach her? I worked in the public division, yet my heart was being called to the Catholic school. I knew no one who worked there, so I decided to make an appointment to have a tour of Holy Family Academy in Brooks.
When I walked in, I felt something different. There was a sense of peace and calm. A welcoming presence washed over me. The Bible verse, “Let the children come to me” was exactly what I saw myself doing; letting my child go to these teachers. I wanted my daughter’s faith formation to begin with authentic relationships where prayer was spoken and open, and honest conversations were had on a daily basis. When I reflected on who would be good enough to teach my child, it was God. He had to be placed first as an educator and in my daughter’s life. I was grateful to know that I had a choice where my daughter could attend school. I know God led me to Holy Family Academy.
It has been wonderful to watch her grow and to see the amazing woman she has become, mostly due to the teachers who shaped and molded her and taught her of God’s love, mercy and forgiveness. This was where the seeds were planted. When our second daughter was born, we knew that she would attend Holy Family Academy as well. No questions asked. The decision was easy to make!
My work at the public school division made it tough for me to share in celebrations and events with her. I remember at a church event on Pentecost Sunday I walked up to the principal of Holy Family Academy and I told her that I was going to work for her one day. Unbelievably, that next year I was hired and I have been with Christ the Redeemer ever since. I have not looked back. Here I can openly pray for a student and make the sign of my faith. I am so grateful to work where my daughters went to school and be a part of their learning. I feel so blessed.
I have learned that God stretches you when you least expect it. I am not the same person I was twenty years ago. He has been at work leading and guiding me, as I walk and pray in ways I had never done before. The opportunities the school has offered me have been such a gift. Face to Face and NET retreats, listening to musicians and guest speakers, school masses, adoration, the Martha Retreat Centre, Faith Days, and Mission trips…all of these experiences have such a special place in my heart. When Mother Mary called me to go to Medjugorje and Knock Ireland, Christ the Redeemer allowed me to go. World Youth Day and the Holy Land were only dreams in my eyes, yet God made it a reality. It is all by the grace of God!
God has stretched me in my classes at work. When teachers have encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone and try teaching a new class, their words, “I believe you could do this”, made a huge difference. Their encouragement was a gift. My students have been my everything. They are the reason I am called to my vocation. I have joy when I wake up and know I get to do what I love. This is not a job, it is my calling and I am so glad God chose me to be a part of the Brooks Catholic Schools and Catholic Education. God is so good, all the time!
Called - The Founders (1992-1999)
The formation and foundation of a Catholic School in Brooks began in the early 1990s and rested in the hands of a small group of advocates from St Mary’s parish. They organized and conducted a census of the entire Brooks community. Then they hosted three separate votes in 1992, 1993 and 1995. Yes, three votes! It took those three votes, countless conversations, endless prayers, times of challenge, moments of deep reflection and, without doubt, movement of the Holy Spirit to bring Catholic Education to the community of Brooks.
Change is difficult and for the many Catholics and non-Catholics in the town of Brooks in the early 90s the idea of opening a Catholic school where none had existed before was not only daunting but divisive. The public school system in Brooks was excellent and had always been the only school system, and so, perhaps at the heart of the controversy was the question, “Why do they need a Catholic school? Isn’t the education in Brooks good enough for all our kids?”
Public schools are our neighbour's, our colleagues and our friends. Catholic education is not against public education. Catholic education is for Jesus. It is for Christ-centred, faith based, fully permeated learning that calls every person involved to know God, to love God, and to serve Him.
Finally, in November 1995 the Catholic community voted in favour of Catholic education. A decision was made to join Christ the Redeemer Catholic School Division. A trustee was elected and a name for the new school was chosen: Holy Family Academy. Those early founders were resolute and faithful advocates. They were prayerful visionaries. Their sacrifices ensured that children in Brooks had access to Catholic education.
Entrusted - The Builders (1999-2002)
By 1999 Holy Family Academy had +300 students in grade K-9 and a decision was made to form St Joseph’s Collegiate that September. The need for space was crucial and a rally attended by 650 people demonstrated to the government that Catholic Education in Brooks was on the move and growing. Portables were added and the government announced that they would approve an expansion and modernization of the existing buildings.
When you are growing a school, every decision is foundational. Faith events and prayer experiences became the norm. Staff gathered daily for prayer; school masses were held at the church, monthly adoration was embraced, the liturgical year was celebrated, the school décor reflected faith and classroom prayer corners were central to each classroom’s prayer rituals. Teacher faith days, Living Rosary, Stations of the Cross and parent prayer groups created a community of faith. St Joseph’s Grad Retreat became an essential faith experience for all graduates. A two day, overnight retreat became a transformational experience for students and one that would affect them in life changing ways. 26 students crossed the stage June 2002 to become St Joseph's first graduating class.
Gathered - The Leaders (2002-2014)
Over the next dozen years excellent, faith-filled teachers continued to deepen student learning and shape student faith. St Jude’s chapel was built and the furniture from St Jude’s Church in Tilley brought a legacy and possibilities for intimate worship to the Catholic Schools. Bishop Henry blessed and approved the chapel as a sacred space to house Jesus in the Eucharist. Morning staff prayer, daily student and classroom prayer, adoration and special services could take place with this additional space.
St Luke’s Outreach, a CTR Catholic Outreach School based in Okotoks, recognized the need for such programming in the Brooks’ community and in 2008 opened a campus in Brooks and became a living testament to its motto to “leave not one heart behind”.
In the course of these years new students arrived from around the world including Sudan, Nigeria and other African nations. Many students and families were refugees, often bringing a history of trauma and refugee camps with them.
Brooks’ meat packing plant continued to hire skilled workers from around the globe and our school enrolment rose dramatically. Students from Latin America, Philippines and Eastern Europe arrived, many of them speaking no or very little English. The student population was changing rapidly. Investment was made in resources and professional development. The ELL population in Brooks’ schools has been a gift to our community and has enriched all aspects of our community.
Inspired - The Witnesses (2014-2021+)
In 2014, Brooks’ fourth Catholic school opened. Christ the King Academy became a 5-8 Middle School. St Joseph’s Collegiate was modified to a 9-12 school and Holy Family Academy served K-4. The old 1960s portion of the schools was demolished and In 2015 Christ the King opened in a brand new two-story facility.
Brooks’ Catholic Schools serve students from around the world. With a total population of just under 1,100, Brooks’ Catholic Schools continue to witness faith in their schools, parish and larger community. Teachers from across Canada continue to be hired in Brooks. They bring their love of God and their vocational call to teach, with them.
Catholic education has been instrumental in the new evangelization of our Church. Brooks RCIA and RCIC classes have been thriving. Strong links between St Mary’s parish and Brooks’ Catholic schools have drawn many children and adults to seek baptism and confirmation in the Catholic Church. Many cite their involvement with Catholic education as the reason for their desire to join the Church. Teachers and staff lead Catholic formation classes and serve as Godparents and Sponsors. They are witnesses and role models.
Catholic education in Brooks was started by a small group of courageous advocates. More than 25 years later, much has changed yet the essentials have stayed the same. A deep, committed and unwavering faith in God is the reason for our schools. Each child who has passed through our doors or crossed our graduation stage has been steeped in a culture of God’s love. Each teacher and staff member who has served as an educator these past 25 years has grown on their own journey of faith and learning.
God does not call the qualified, he qualifies the called and He has called all stakeholders in Catholic education to know Him, to serve Him and to love Him. He has called each one of us in the Brooks’ Catholic School community to grow stronger, grow deeper and reach higher for His sake and the sake of our children.
Despite some tough health issues and challenges in recent years, Deacon Larry Driver has survived through the power of prayer.
In the fall of 2008, he went in to get an annual physical for his driver’s licence and the doctor noticed he had a large lump on the left side of his throat. It turned out to be Stage 4 melanoma cancer in his lymph nodes on his neck. But that was the primary. After an appointment in the cancer clinic, it was discovered cancer on his left tonsil. After surgery, he had both chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
Today, he describes himself as being “pretty healthy.” Although he’s a Type 2 Diabetic and taking some medication, but from a cancer point of view he’s clear.
Faith is what he carried him through the ordeal.
“I learned what prayer is all about at that point. Over the time, I had people praying all over the world for me to get better and to know that if you need help you ask people to pray for you . . . You need people to pray - to speak to the good Lord. The more people you’ve got praying for you the better your chances are of getting help. Not that He doesn’t help you but it’s the intercessions that we go to Mary and Joseph and the saints for. The more people you’ve got working for you the better it is,” says Driver.
Driver, who turns 70 in October, started the program in 2001 to become a Deacon in the Calgary Diocese. He was ordained on June 14, 2004.
Driver was attending St. Mark’s in Calgary where he saw Deacon Amadeo served as a deacon. ”It struck me as interesting that he was able to work there.” Closer to 2000, Larry asked Bishop Henry about the permanent diaconate.
Bishop Henry recalled this particular conversation with Driver. “Shortly after my arrival in the diocese, and upon meeting Larry, his first question to me was “What do you think about the permanent diaconate?” My reply was “I’m definitely in favour of it.” He was the first to raise the issue with me in the diocese. His question was actually repeated by others many times in the first six months.”
Driver has been a Deacon from the beginning at St. Francis de Sales in High River.
“I’ve been fortunate enough that the Bishops have left me in this parish so far for my Diaconate service,” he says.
Driver is originally from the Grande Prairie area. After graduating from the Grande Prairie Composite High School, he had jobs in labour, trucking and warehousing until 1975 then he was hired on by the City of Calgary’s Emergency Medical Services Department and moved to Calgary in July 1975.
“The City trained me as a paramedic at SAIT and I graduated as a paramedic with honours from the class and then I worked for the City until 1978. I moved back to Grande Prairie but that didn’t work out. So I came back to Calgary, was rehired and finished up my 32-year career with the City of Calgary,” says Driver, who retired in July 2007.
Being a Deacon fits in with his career being a paramedic.
“You’re there. You’re helping people. I could see that. But I also saw it as a faith journey to increase my faith and help others through that journey of faith,” says Driver, who has had an interesting personal journey of faith.
He was raised Anglican but over time he found the Roman Catholic faith more to his liking and he became a Catholic in the late 1980s with the help of Father Cooney, who eventually became a Bishop.
Driver has two daughters who both have two children - three boys and a girl. The family has played an important role in his success in becoming a Deacon as well as in his battle against cancer.
“My wife has been a super support through all of this and as much as she’s not on the altar she’s definitely been the one that has supported me the most in this,” says Driver.
Therese says it was only natural for her to support her husband on his journey to becoming a Deacon.
“If that’s what they want and feel called to do, who am I to stop them and if I don’t support them they can’t go on,” she says. “He felt the calling and was prepared to do what had to be done. It certainly didn’t harm me at all. It certainly gives me an understanding of what’s expected, of what the ministry is and it affects the family. You have to know that ahead of time. It does have an impact on the family and everything you do.”
Through Larry’s health challenges, the power of prayer became very important, adds Therese.
“To trust in God. If it’s meant to be it will happen, if it’s not then that will happen too. We trust in God and do the best we can and let God work the way He works. It’s God’s work one way or the other and we were prepared either way. If you’re going to survive this, great, if not then we’ll deal with it. So were our kids. They were all on board and you do what you have to. I grew up in hard times and you just do what you have to. That’s all there is to it.”
“Infinitely wiser would it be to urge young people to give to the Lord, in a legionary membership, the first fruits of [their] free time. Those first fruits will inspire the whole life and keep the heart, and face too, serene and young. And there is still left an abundance of time for recreation, doubly enjoyed because doubly earned.” (The Official Handbook of the Legion of Mary, pg. 186)
These words, taken from the Legion of Mary handbook, were the words of the first spiritual reading that the new members of the St. Francis Xavier Chaplaincy (SFXC) Mater Misericordiae praesidium heard at their first meeting, in mid-November of 2020.
The Legion of Mary is a lay apostolic organization founded in 1921 in Dublin, Ireland, by the Servant of God Frank Duff. The Legion apostolate focuses on bringing souls to Christ through His Mother Mary, by means of evangelization and the spiritual works of mercy. Taking its name and structure from the Roman Legion, the Legion of Mary seeks to emulate its discipline, loyalty, and sense of duty. Since its inception, the Legion has spread to over 170 countries, with over a million members serving souls all over the world. In our diocese of Calgary, there are about 24 praesidia (the name for groups of the Legion, normally attached to a parish) under the Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Curia (the higher body of the Legion overseeing all praesidia in our diocese).
The praesidium of the St. Francis Xavier Chaplaincy, formally established in April 2021, is the newest among these praesidia, taking the name of Mater Misericordiae (Latin for Mother of Mercy). A Legion of Mary praesidium for young adults and university students was in the works prior to the pandemic and, after much work, online meetings began in November 2020 with the help of two experienced legionaries from the Curia. For nearly eight months, the faithful
members of Mater Misericordiae praesidium met over Zoom every Saturday morning until mid-July, when they were finally able to meet in person.
The weekly meeting of the praesidium consists of praying the Legion prayers (known as the Tessera) together, giving reports on the work members have been assigned, and discussing sections of the Legion of Mary handbook. Members also hear an allocutio, an address given by our Spiritual Director, Fr. Cristino Bouvette, to help motivate the members in their apostolic work and help them better understand the Legion handbook.
The assignments that members receive each week are geared towards evangelization and outreach, with the ultimate goal of bringing souls closer to Christ through the Blessed Virgin Mary. Due to the pandemic, assignments were primarily virtual and limited to helping family and friends grow in the faith, or speaking to someone who was lonely or isolated. Members report on their assignments each week, enabling members to help each other with their works and keep them accountable. This special bond between members is seen through the use of the terms “brother” and “sister” to refer to each other, indicative of the Legion as a family.
The legionaries of Mater Misericordiae praesidium have experienced a great deal of spiritual a growth as a result of Legion involvement. Among many things, members have expressed growth in their relationship with Our Lady, and a deeper realization of Christ’s call to holiness and mission. Above all, being able to grow in these things alongside others has been one of the greatest blessings for them.
Under the auspices of Mary and the spiritual guidance of Fr. Cristino Bouvette, the SFXC Mater Misericordiae praesidium continues to grow, with about eleven active members and a growing number of auxiliary members (members who pray for the Legion). The legionaries of Mater Misericordiae hope to continue to spread devotion to the Blessed Mother, especially amongst young people, and inspire them to serve others in complete union with her.
“So, what do you want to be when you grow up?”
If you had any kind of typical childhood, you’ve heard this question more times than you can count.
For me, I normally had an answer. Princess, chef, interior designer, and – when asked in my university years – an investment banker or finance prof.
The last thing I could have imagined I’d answer some day is, “Religious sister.”
The Catholic faith that I was raised with became my own while I was a student at Mount Royal University. An organization called Catholic Christian Outreach (CCO) re-introduced me to the person of Jesus and proposed that the faith was something relevant for me as I moved into adulthood. The CCO students I met had genuine joy which flowed from their relationship with Jesus, and I knew that I wanted what they had. I made a decision that I would centre my life around Him going forward.
I was still excited to focus on what I “wanted to be,” but this time, I saw my career as an opportunity to witness in the secular world and bring others to God. Sounds pretty good, right? I didn’t think I had any reason to question my plans. There was only one thing: I never thought to ask Him about them.
When I was in my third year of university, I did something I’d never done before. I asked the Lord in prayer, “How do You see me?”
His response? “Sister of Life.”
My first reaction went something like, “Uh oh.” I knew that consecrated religious were a “thing” in the Church, but it was something that other people did – never something I imagined or thought of for myself! I did what seemed to be the smartest move in that situation…I tried my very hardest to push the idea out of my mind.
Thankfully, God plays the long game with us. He didn’t let me get off the hook and sometimes reminded me of that time of prayer, but He respected my freedom and waited while I continued to plug ahead at my plans.
It took going on a mission trip to New York City in 2019 to get my attention. While staying and working with the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal (CFRs), I recognized true joy. The men of this community had renounced everything the world places on a pedestal – success, money, the ability to do whatever they wanted – and yet, they were free.
I thought to myself for the first time, “Maybe, just maybe, what God wants for me could make me happy.”
If I’m being honest, though, I needed some help to figure this out. Just like kids go to their parents for guidance as they decide what to do with their lives, I turned to my Mother, the Church.
The Church has guided me the last couple years in almost every way possible. Through the sacraments, amazing spiritual parents, and an awesome community of other young Catholics, I’ve been able to draw closer to the Lord and gain more confidence in His call.
I’ve also had the opportunity to live at the inaugural St. Francis Xavier Chaplaincy (SFXC) Women’s House. Here, several young women and I stayed with the Seeds of the Word Sisters at their home in SW Calgary and had the gift of being able to participate in elements of their prayer and community life. These experiences helped to debunk some of the misconceptions I had about religious life and filled me with joy at the possibility of being totally His.
All of these things have led me to my next step in following the Lord’s call…entrance to the Sisters of Life in New York this September!
In responding to God’s plan for my life, I have recognized the truth of these words from Thomas Merton:
Vocation does not come from a voice out there calling me to be something I am not. It comes from a voice in here calling me to be the person I was born to be, to fulfill the original selfhood given me at birth by God."
I am thankful to the Church for being a good Mother to me. In an age where we’re told we can do and be whatever we want, She has helped me to discover not merely “what I want to be,” but far more importantly, who God made me to be.
These are words that come to mind when I reflect on my experience of Catholic Education in Brooks. My husband and I didn’t know what to expect coming here with two young children in tow 20 years ago, but this place has a way of grabbing hold, seeping into your heart and not letting go; it has a way of becoming home.
There are many people who have influenced my development as a Catholic educator: administrators who recognized my potential and encouraged me to have faith in my ability; colleagues who were, and are, my greatest role models; and students, who taught me more about life and faith than I could ever teach them and whose experiences showed me what courage really is. What I value most about St Joseph’s Collegiate. is threefold. It’s the people. It’s the presence of the Holy Spirit working on hearts and changing people. It’s a true desire to be “a community, rooted in faith, seeking excellence for all”. It’s a family.
I’d like to share story of a young man I’ll call Cas* who came to St. Joseph's for only one year. He had a great smile, and he loved basketball. He was respectful and attentive but wasn’t achieving very well. One day, Cas approached me and asked for help. He described his life at home with no rules; he could do what he wanted, when he wanted - and he did. Although this might sound great, Cas wasn’t happy. He needed parameters. Together, that day, we created some expectations: he would work in my classroom every day after school, and most importantly, he would call me every night at 10 pm to let me know that he was home. That’s all he needed - someone to care enough to set some boundaries. Cas’ grades and self-esteem improved drastically, and somewhere along the line, he started calling me “mom”. This young man left an indelible mark on my heart and this experience, to me, encapsulates how I feel about Catholic education. We don’t know the impact we have on students - a kind word, a listening ear, an open door. What an incredible responsibility and an incredible privilege!
I feel deep gratitude for my time in Brooks - to be part of all the amazing graduation celebrations and to witness the growth of our school into a vibrant and diverse community. God calls people here for a reason, and I know I was called to be in this place at this time. Leading a school during a pandemic is one of the most difficult things I have ever done, and it has challenged me to the core. But I am able to appreciate my freedom, my family, my upbringing, and my faith even more. I am thankful that God trusted me to do His work. What an incredible blessing!
As I move on from this amazing community, I know that the Holy Spirit will continue to be present here, and with that knowledge, there will be many more blessings, more challenges, more gratitude, and more growth. Thank you, Lord, for this incredible gift.
*not his real name
I was born into a faithful farm family who attended church regularly. My sister and I were among the little people who flocked to Sunday School and ran around the church basement while our parents served coffee and visited with other members of the congregation. It was with sincere devotion that I was baptized as an infant and confirmed by my own choice as an adult in the United Church.
My journey continued in the United Church when I was married, and my husband and I welcomed two beautiful children into our family. We were living in Edmonton and I was teaching at a public school when my husband received the news that he was being transferred to work in Calgary. Shortly after arriving there, we needed to look at schools for the children. As a teacher, I started to research the schools in the area and found myself drawn to the Calgary Catholic Board. My husband was baptized Catholic and so we enrolled in the neighbourhood Catholic School.
I was thrilled with the education my children received and even more excited about the learning they were doing in regard to faith. They came home with stories about their lessons and asked questions about what they were learning. The more they asked, the more I thought about my responses and I was not satisfied. I attended liturgies at school and asked questions of my husband but felt like I needed more in order to support my children on this path that I had chosen for them.
Soon, I found myself in the office at St. Albert the Great Parish and enrolled in the RCIA program. “Information is what I need”. “It is for the children”. “I am happy with my faith and the United Church”. These were the lines that I was telling myself and they were what got me started; my feet in the door I guess you could say. As we hear so often, “God works in mysterious ways”. The more I learned at RCIA, and the more I volunteered at the school, the more invested I became.
Wednesday nights became the best night of the week as I joined my sponsor and delved deeper into the faith. RCIA allowed me to grow and expand on the faith that had been fostered in me as a child. As an adult, I am acutely aware of the fact that I had an opportunity to look at faith in a new way and to choose it for myself (with the guidance of the Holy Spirit and many other faithful companions). Now, as a Catholic school teacher, I am blessed daily to learn and grow in faith alongside my students. It is with humble appreciation that I embrace each day of learning that will last a lifetime and beyond.
Interview and transcription: Solomon Ip.
Photos courtesy of L. O'Hara & Solomon Ip.
“We’re not Bible thumpers. Our job is to love, not judge,” said Denis Grady about Franciscan and Friends, a southern-Alberta mission team founded by Grady in 2002 who are currently working to support initiatives for Indigenous people within and outside of the church in southern Alberta.
When I caught up with Grady, he and a photographer friend were in Lethbridge, shooting promotional photos for their friend’s Indian Relay. He talked about how this was something that wanted to help with. The plan is to take photos of the young men on horseback, dressed in regalia to make promotional materials. The Indian Relay is to give young aboriginal men something athletic to do that also connects them to their culture, which is just one of the things Grady and his team have lent support to in recent years.
“Francisan and Friends is part of imparting the love of Christ to a hurting world,” said Grady. It is taking the words attributed to St. Francis, “preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words,” and building on them with actions, he said.
After spending time on missions to the Caribbean, where they were invited for many years to visit prisons, schools and churches, Calgary-based Grady and his team have turned their attention closer to home.
Many of us are now more familiar with the issues that Indigenous people are facing because of the uncovering of unmarked graves at former residential school sites across Canada.
It filled my heart with sorrow to read and learn more about Residential Schools these past few months, but as my older children began to ask questions about what they heard on the news, I felt it was my duty to educate myself and them as soon as possible.
“It is on all of us to educate ourselves and learn the history of indigenous people in our country,” said Grady, who has heard from his indigenous friends firsthand what their experiences were at residential school.
Now that we have the knowledge, the question of what to do is on many of our minds. “I want to help,” I recently wrote to a friend, “If there was something I could get behind, I’d do it in a heartbeat.”
This is why I was happy to be connected with Franciscan and Friends. Someone has to do the actual work of reconciliation, and organizations like this might just be a tangible way we can continue that work.
Grady was invited in 2015 by Sr. Rita Kim, Coordinator of the Diocesan Mission Council to liaise with Indigenous people and parishes in the Diocese of Calgary. He connected with Fr. Long Vu, parish priest at Holy Trinity on the Siksika First Nation in Cluny, and Fr. Roy Jayamaha, parish priest on the Piikani First Nation in Brocket, Alberta. For the past year, he and several of his team have been part of the St. Kateri Fellowship, a celebration of art, live music, and recovery.
“It is made up of people who’ve found sobriety through faith,” he said.
This month, Grady and a network of 30 to 40 volunteers will hold a First Nations Music camp, which last year was a great success.
“We had a woman come with crafts for kids, and it was amazing – they were putting their phones down and doing art work,” he said, noting that engaging people in doing things, whether it is making music or creating art is part of the ministry along with simply fostering community. It is through community and connection that Franciscan and Friends does its work.
I grew up in a community adjacent to a Reserve. I attended a Catholic school side-by-side with Indigenous students. At school we learned about their traditions, with beautiful jingle dancers, drums, dance, their traditional foods, beadwork and legends. We became friends. During that time though, I did not learn anything about residential schools. I was enthralled for a time with these beautiful girls in my class and their funny and interesting ways. But as I grew up, there was a separation that occurred. I couldn’t say it was blatant racism, but I can identify the thoughts and actions of people around me as a barrier. It was like being stuck on one side of a fence, while indigenous friends and neighbours were on the other. I don’t feel entirely innocent in this matter, and the more I read and learn, the more I realize how ignorant I have allowed myself to be.
When I grew up, I had several sad encounters – in one instance, being directly accused of racism that I never felt, but perhaps because I was unaware of my privilege as a non-minority, fell into the trap of being desensitized to the struggle that exists for Indigenous friends today. I eventually learned about residential schools and the involvement of the Church I called home. I will admit though that I filed it away as “a long time ago.”
Now I feel like I’ve awakened to a nightmare. I regret my willful ignorance. I regret the times that I could have held out my hands in friendship but did not. All of these memories resurfaced while in conversation with Grady, who said, “if you want to keep being at war, keep your distance,” adding that at first, he had a bit of anxiety about visiting the reserves, but now he looks forward to it because of relationships.
“I’m going there to see my friends, and know we’re going to make music and laugh together.”
Growing up, I remember a few well-meaning people complaining that it was impossible to work on the reserve because “the people don’t trust us.” Now that I am an adult, I know why a person might be met with distrust. I wouldn’t have trusted my past self with the attitudes and beliefs that I held. This history of well-meaning people trying to offer help is stained by a history of oppression of Indigenous people.
I asked Grady if building trust is something he struggled with. When he first began trying to lend support, he said that there was a question of sincerity.
“One person at a time,” Grady said, they have made friends and have simply supported people in doing good.
From what I have gathered in talking with Grady, it is about being authentic, and not having an agenda.
“It’s time to mix,” he said, referring to the separation and the “us and them” mentality, “and to not sabotage (efforts to do good).”
“When we began, it was basically about setting the stage and hoping people would come. And people came,” he said, referring to all of their partnerships; the St. Kateri Fellowship groups on the Siksika and Piikani nations, the First Nations Music Camps at Rafter Six ranch in Cowley, AB; to an upcoming art show; and to Friday Nights at the Bovies in the Bullhead Hall, Tsuut'ina.
For one event, “we brought down a bunch of harmonicas and gave lessons, and discovered some talented people to make music with.”
In Brocket, a Catholic Indigenous friend pointed out to Grady that there is a shrine to Our Lady built by the Oblates over 75 years ago, which the community has devoted time and energy to restoring “with the vision and inspiration to restore processions and the Rosary.”
“The faith of Indigenous people is varied,” said Grady, meaning that “there are devout Catholics who love the Eucharist and the Rosary, and those who practice in traditional ways, calling on the Creator and using the medicine wheel,” but for Franciscan and Friends, that doesn’t present a problem.
“It’s about being open,” he said.
He’s not just talking about being open to people, but being open to the Holy Spirit. For him, a big part of that is providence and seeing God work through their efforts. The core group of Franciscan and Friends prays the Rosary together and “lives a sacramental life.”
Living by providence means that they don’t worry about some things, “we allow God to take care of it,” he said, giving an example of when they were to put on a Christmas dinner for single mothers in the Siksika.
“We had someone donate twenty turkeys, but then were faced with how we would cook them. Then along comes someone who had a bakery and it turns out that they could cook forty turkeys.”
Grady is humble when he talks about the work of his ministry. He attributes the good things to the Holy Spirit, and to the people of the First Nations within our Church and outside of it. Helping hands, community, music and initiatives that uplift indigenous communities will continue to grow if we can leave agendas at home, admit our ignorance, educate ourselves and just hold out our hands in friendship.
As we were adjusting to the difficulties of the past eighteen months something more ominous and seemingly out of nowhere, punched us in the gut as members of the Canadian Catholic Church. Ground penetrating radar studies around abandoned Indian Residential Schools had found grave sites, first at Kamloops. Common immediate responses I heard among my fellow parishioners were feelings of puzzlement, shock, and anger and expressions of general ignorance of the issue. Here was our Church, standing shamed before the Canadian public and the world, as the continuing pain and suffering of indigenous people stood revealed.
We are now challenged by these events to examine our own, and our Church’s, position in society. We might be ‘settlers’ of recent or many generations’ standing. Some of us are indigenous, and for many, perhaps most, our backgrounds are complicated. Whatever our situation we can no longer ignore questions this poses about our faith, Church, and our pasts.
I had attended the Calgary hearings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in November 2013. I had witnessed the grueling and painful testimonies of those affected by the Residential Schools and its related intergenerational trauma, and I had stood in the lunch line listening to Commission Chair Murray Sinclair, whom I greatly admired. I have done post-graduate studies in the fields of imperial and colonial history and I had read some of the final reports published by the TRC. Still, the news out of Kamloops, and the eruption of emotion that followed came as a shock. Partly it was the way the reports came out. I had understood the events to be historical and not as enduring injustices needing resolution.
My first visit to the church of Holy Trinity on the Siksika Nation was in July when I met with the pastor, Fr. Long Vu, to discuss what historical records Holy Trinity had that were related to the community, and to let him know what was held by the Diocese. We have no Residential School records as the Diocese was not involved in operating the schools, but we were keen to know if there was anything which we could share that would fill in gaps in the existing information. Seeing the Nation for the first time reveals the stark beauty of the grasslands and the dramatic sweep of the Bow River valley as it meanders through its wide plain. I was pleased to be back again this week to attend a meeting of Bishop McGrattan and Chief Ouray Crowfoot with Council members and a diocesan team to see if we could establish some concrete ways of moving forward together. It was a good meeting. What struck me most was the graciousness and patience of the Siksika representatives, their quiet humour and commitment to get things done on the journey towards healing.
Looking out over the river valley where Treaty Seven was signed almost 150 years ago it is easy to imagine the gatherings that occurred there, and to feel the tangible presence of history. A mile or so distant, Crowfoot Residential School site, which is overlooked now by Holy Trinity Church, was demolished some years ago though its outline and footprint can still be seen. It has its own historical presence which asks to be acknowledged.
Inside the Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park there is so much to see and I would recommend you visit. What seemed to me most poignant was the space being created for the historical artifacts that once belonged to Chief Crowfoot (1930-1890), an original signatory of the Treaty, which are currently awaiting repatriation from a museum in Exeter in the United Kingdom. This is a sign of hope for the Nation – and of the erosion of the old power of colonialism.
Over these places, and in all of us who met together, I felt the spirit of God asking us to stay with the suffering and to work hard together and attempt to mitigate the ill effects of the Residential Schools. We cannot change history but here is an invitation we cannot ignore. We can seek the truths and lessons of our history by studying reliable authorities, records, the oral testimonies of elders and through honest, prayerful reflection. We are obliged by our God to do so. The past is not past – it is with us. But God is with us too.
July 16, 2021
Re: The Commitment and Contribution of the Diocese of Calgary to Reconciliation and Healing
Bishop William McGrattan has been in consultation with other bishops and diocesan collaborators to be in solidarity with the Indigenous Peoples and their leaders on the next steps in supporting survivors and in addressing the intergenerational harm caused by the Residential Schools.
The Diocese of Calgary is committed to providing a monetary contribution to a forthcoming local/regional financial appeal. This expresses the commitment of the Diocese to the ongoing work of justice and healing in our country with the Indigenous Peoples and their communities.
The amount of this monetary contribution and the details of the diocesan pastoral plans related to this initiative will be announced in September 2021.
There were 25 residential schools in the Province of Alberta. Four of these operated by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) were within the boundaries of the Diocese. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Calgary did not operate any of the residential schools.
Download statement in PDF
Pastoral Letters of the Most Rev. William T. McGrattan, Bishop of Calgary
Shareable and delicious, pizza is a dish for friends. Parishioners and staff at St. Joseph’s in northwest Calgary know this from experience. This year their priest, new to the parish since August 2020, served them up over one hundred of his own homemade pizzas, spread over several occasions.
Fr. Marek Paczka described himself as “not a cook,” but nonetheless decided he might be able to learn to make something as simple as pizza.
The story behind the pizzas is both sad and hopeful. Fr. Marek spoke about an Italian couple who befriended him when he was a parish priest in Port Alberni, BC.
“They invited me to dinner and we became friends. I would dine at their house at least once a week for 15 years, even when I moved parishes and had to drive 110 kilometers.”
Having fallen in love with Italian culture while spending 2 years in Rome, Fr. Marek found it easy to spend time with this special couple and their friends around the dinner table, and was even included on special occasions like Christmas and Easter
“There is something about sitting down together and just facing each other,” he said, adding that in Italian culture it is common for families and friends to spend thousands of hours together at the table.
He spent many hours with his friends eating wonderful meals at dinner parties, and mentioned mushroom picking and enjoying produce from their vegetable garden.
This past year, the husband half of this couple passed away fairly suddenly from cancer. Fr. Marek was shocked.
“I didn’t make it to see him before he died,” he said, “but I did make it to his funeral.”
Because he wanted to preserve something of the friendship he had with this man and his wife and guided by his feelings for Italian cooking, Fr. Marek said he asked another mutual friend, Elvia Orli, how to make pizza.
“I could never cook the wonderful Italian meals that my friends made,” he explained, “but I thought I could try to make pizza,” he said.
“I tried and tried and tried and it never worked. I gave up when my dough didn’t rise. I had done something wrong. But this year I thought I’d try again, so I phoned Elvia and asked her again for the recipe and had her tell me what to do.
“I realized it was simple, and this time I was successful. I was shocked because I’m not a cook. It’s just flour and water, yeast and salt and a little bit of oil.
“I made four pizzas with ham and veggies and some chives from the garden here (at St. Joseph’s) and I tested it first myself, secretly. Then I shared with my secretary and eventually a few of the other staff.
“Then one Sunday after Mass I shared pizzas with the parish.”
Thus far, Fr. Marek has made over one-hundred-and-ten pizzas for various people in his parish. “I thought that once I’d made one-hundred, I could be comfortable with it.”
“I was just fascinated by the fact that I was making pizza. I have used over 30 kilograms of flour, not to mention the meat and other ingredients.”
Inspired by a friendship and helping his relationship to his parish, pizza making has become a hobby, though Fr. Marek said that cooking has never been his passion.
He also cites the attitudes that bring communities together as another inspiration for the pizza.
“I learned this growing up and also from my time building houses in Zambia, that material things are not as important as people. The poor appreciate things, and they have a culture of making things themselves, and sharing, contributing to community life.”
“My mother grew up in a poor family and we were poor, but she shared what she had, and I suppose I wanted to share what I can do with the people around me. There is a joy in helping someone with the essentials, and I guess I am feeding people.”
A few parishioners had great things to say about Fr. Marek’s pizzas,
“The pizza is delicious, writes Susan Couture, “but what makes it so special is the love that goes into it. “The topping is always a nice surprise. We had one that had leek on it which I’ve never seen on a pizza before but it was delish.” Mia Drewniak writes, “I love the crust and the healthy toppings. Lots of garden herbs and even leeks made it on to the pizza. Inspiring!”
Out of a desire to honour dear friends, to honour a mother’s example and to serve his parishioners, Fr. Marek has in a unique way brought together tradition and connection.
Sam works for one of Calgary’s top coffee roasters and Caiti is an interior designer with a leading architecture and design company in the city. Both are faithful Catholics working in their secular fields.
“We can't underestimate the power of trying to set an example,” said Caiti. “If you can bring peace into a meeting, or a project, or the way you handle setbacks or stress, I think those things stand out. It plants little seeds and over time people start to wonder what’s different about this person.”
For five years Caiti has worked in a close knit mainly female firm. Relationships between clients, coworkers and management are essential. One way that Caiti builds trust and rapport in her relationships is by having a good attitude, working hard, being helpful, laughing and joking and trying to bring joy and calm into her office. She stresses that she is a "work in progress" in this regard, but that it is the striving that counts.
“There are a lot of reasons not to have a good attitude in my work with deadlines, pressure and stress and that can be really toxic and people can feed off each other,” said Caiti. “My hope is that people just know that they can come to me and I’ll help them.
“I think because of the stress at my work, it can be a pressure cooker for relationships sometimes. So I think in that sense there is a big opportunity to connect with them.”
Caiti has also found connection in the professional realm through shared values around family life. She’s been able to witness to her faith by sharing personally that she and Sam did not live together before getting married, for example.
“It always strikes me that I see families everywhere. A lot of my clients have families. I just see how prevalent the family still is,” said Caiti.
Caiti is grateful that when she is faced with tough situations she can go home and discuss the matter with her husband Sam and their circle of faithful friends. And for now, Caiti’s focus has turned toward her daughter Lucy while she’s currently on maternity leave this year.
For Sam, his work environment and his approach have allowed him to have lots of direct conversations about faith with his boss and co-workers. In the six years Sam has worked in management for his coffee company, his boss has initiated a lot of religious conversations with him and he asks for Sam’s opinion about Catholic matters.
“I often come away hoping I was a good representation (of Catholicism),” said Sam. “Like many conversations in life, you don’t feel you have the time to really suss things out and that’s why I come away hoping I said things properly. I guess that’s where prayer and trusting the Holy Spirit comes in.
“Coming in I expected a Catholic versus secular battle, like the secularism would be hitting me in the face everywhere, but I think I had maybe the wrong idea of what it’s like to work in the world. Most people are kind because everyone is made in the image of Christ and most people’s base setting is kindness or openness,” said Sam, a wholesale manager.
Sam tries to keep a plan of life that grounds him throughout the day, like praying the Angelus at noon, trying to get to Mass at least one other time besides Sunday, going to confession regularly and spending time with other Catholics who are also trying to live their faith in their careers.
Sam has had discussions where Catholicism is not understood and he’s faced situations where people will try to push his buttons because they know he’s Catholic, but it’s not the norm. And while there is a significant Christian presence in the coffee industry, Sam has not always felt on the same page with his fellow Christians in terms of shared values and morals.
“That’s why community is so important and to have confession and spiritual direction because without those things it’s so easy to not be able to start again when maybe you do have a compromise or you didn’t speak up,” said Sam.
But these challenges remind Sam all the more that it’s imperative that Catholics not retreat, but rather remain present in the secular world.
“I think it’s important that we Catholics go into the workplace and out into the world and try to be present, to be good examples of virtues and hope for those conversations. I think it’s important that we do that because think of a world where we have Catholics in all the trades, and boardrooms, and the legislatures, and malls. If we have Catholics in all those environments we will bring back the true understanding of what Catholicism is and we won’t have as many misconceptions and caricatures of people.”
Mathieu Couture, a devout Acadian Catholic from Bathurst, New Brunswick, met Susan Penna, an Indonesian-born ethnic Chinese lukewarm Catholic who grew up in Australia, through a secular online dating site.
Their relationship is a Catholic online dating success story.
They talked by computer and phone for a few weeks before deciding to meet up for lunch at a restaurant in Calgary. To Mathieu’s delight, everything about meeting Susan in person matched up with the woman he had met online.
“She looked how I expected her to look. She acted how I expected her to act. I think that’s rare in online dating. You’ll hear about a lot of people being fake, but this person was being honest with me and she wasn’t trying to be someone she wasn’t,” said Mathieu.
Alternatively, Susan was initially put off by Mathieu who kept checking his watch. Mathieu explained that he was interested in Susan, but he just didn’t want to return to work late.
“I guess we didn’t hit it off right away,” said Mathieu. “Susan will tell you that she thought I was stuck up.”
One date would have been enough for Susan, but Mathieu kept pursuing her. When he suggested they go for a hike, Susan’s interest was renewed by the promise of fun and adventure.
“I guess in Matty’s case, first impressions aren’t everything. I’m happy I gave him a second chance to get to know him better,” said Susan.
Back in 2014 at age 29, Susan had decided to travel the world for a year. After a few months, her travels landed her in Calgary to visit her cousin, Lia. While in Calgary, Susan hoped to find a companion to show her around while she was passing through.
Meeting Mathieu changed her travel plans and in turn her life plans.
Susan extended her stay in Calgary from one month to six months before returning to Australia. The couple continued dating long distance for another year. Mathieu visited her in Australia and once again they met up in Japan, before Susan made the decision to move to Calgary.
After a year, the couple got engaged and 12 months later they exchanged vows in the Sacrament of Marriage at St. Joseph’s Parish in Calgary. Since then, God has blessed the couple with a toddler and the recent birth of their newborn baby.
When they first met, dating a Catholic was not a prerequisite for Susan, so she didn’t mention it in her online profile. On the other hand, faith in a prospective spouse was important to Mathieu, so he stated his religious beliefs upfront on his profile. And it was this detail that caught Susan’s attention.
“I don’t normally make the first move, but he was just one of those special ones that made me think, who is this guy, and I had to ask,” said Susan. She asked him where he went to church and a connection was instantly made.
During their courtship Mathieu began going to St. Joseph’s 5 pm Mass to hear Susan sing in the choir. The pair would go out after for a bite to eat.
They soon found out that Mathieu’s faith was firm, while Susan considered herself lukewarm. Growing up Susan practiced Chinese Buddhism for the first 10 years of her life, until someone introduced Catholicism to her family and one by one they all converted. While Susan said she’s always kept a prayer life, she did not have a strong sacramental life. But as her relationship with Mathieu matured, so did her faith. Now as a family, they go to Mass every Sunday.
Mathieu thanks his grandfather for bringing him to Mass as a child. In his early-20s Mathieu’s grandfather died. At his funeral Mass in a state of grief, Mathieu experienced a profound experience of the Holy Spirit reassuring him that everything would be okay. That was the beginning of Mathieu’s reawakening of his faith and shortly after he regularly began going to Mass on his own.
Mathieu said he had been using online sites for a couple years to look for a wife, but there is a stigma that people are disingenuous and use these platforms just to hook up for one night stands.
“Online dating started to work when I started to be genuine and more honest with myself, for example when I clearly stated my faith on the online sites,” said Mathieu.
“You want that person to like you for who you truly are. It’s important to share your faith, share your beliefs. I think if you do that the people who reach out to you will be people who genuinely want to get to know you.”
This is a story of how a chance meeting changed the trajectory of my faith journey. We are all on a faith journey, whether you believe you are or not. I had always felt ‘Catholic’ because I had attended Catholic elementary and high school in Saskatchewan but going through RCIA as a 19-year-old confirmed me in my faith and invited me to participate in a formalized way.
When I became a teacher with the Calgary Catholic School District, my faith practices were supported by the district’s expectation that teachers attend church regularly. Later, when I became an administrator, I felt a keen responsibility to be the faith leader in my building. I was in a groove with my faith journey (maybe the groove was actually a rut!); I was comfortable where I was. I attended church regularly and served in a variety of roles in my parish. I was not looking for or expecting a faith trajectory change. Then I met Sister Madeleine Gregg, FCJ.
I met Sr. Madeleine within the first week that she moved to Calgary in 2015 to work at the FCJ Retreat Centre. Sr. Madeleine is a Faithful Companion of Jesus and had moved from Tuscaloosa, Alabama where she had lived and worked for the previous 22 years. Dr. Gregg, as she was known to her students at the University of Alabama (Roll Tide!), taught in the Multiple Abilities Program where she guided pre-service teachers to reach their full potential in working with diverse learners. Sister Madeleine had a fulfilling career in higher education. She published more than 40 scholarly articles, many of which won awards from various organizations. Her latest (and greatest) publication is a children’s picture book. It tells about the youthful experience of the foundress of her congregation, Marie Madeleine d’Houet and what she learned by being sent to time-out when she was naughty.
In the past five years, the people working at the FCJ Centre have reinvigorated it and are working hard to make known what they offer. Sessions aimed at spiritual growth, themed retreats and prayer experiences, on-line work, Spiritual Directors training, opportunities to make a retreat based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, and many other initiatives keep the place hopping. My faith journey continued on an upward path, greatly aided by Sr. Madeleine, who suggested I make a specially designed retreat, called ‘Jumpstart Your Prayer Life’ silent retreat. I was really nervous about doing a silent retreat and was sure I wouldn’t be able to keep from talking for an entire weekend. But I did keep quiet except when I was sharing the results of my prayer with Sr. Madeleine. I loved it! At a different time, the ‘Take a Break’ silent retreat was an enlightening experience, filled with Sr. Madeleine’s suggestions for scripture reading. Recently, I made another silent weekend retreat, under the direction of Sr. Ann Marie Walsh, also an FCJ Sister who works at the Centre.
Retreats are special times. In between, additional work in spiritual direction has also been a source of knowledge and growth in faith. In these sessions, I can explore my actual beliefs and really think about how I am integrating my faith with my life. Spiritual direction is another regular practice that helps me unravel the word of God. It is hard work to stay in my inner world and sort out what I really believe from what I think I believe.
From my chance meeting with Sr. Madeleine in an elevator as we traveled one story of the Telus Convention Centre at the District Opening Mass, to now where a cherished friendship exists, it has been a pleasure to learn and work with her. As a principal in the Calgary Catholic School District, I have had opportunities to be shaped by her teaching at school as she visited and taught students about a variety of faith-formation topics. Special times have also been shared at my cabin in Invermere, sometimes on retreat and sometimes filled with jelly making and flower-bed transplanting.
To say that Sr. Madeleine has changed my life is an understatement. She is faith-filled, inspiring, and energetic. As a convert to Catholicism herself, her personal testimony is awe-inspiring and her faith in God is unwavering. Being in her presence has ignited a spark in me to develop a faith more like hers and to share it with others.
Thanks be to God!
Some of my fondest memories attending a catholic school were walking the 2 blocks or so to St. Mary’s Parish for school mass. Along with the holy mass itself, I enjoyed the brief reprieve from school work, a chance to visit with my classmates while walking, and singing in the school choir. I had learned harmonies from my mom singing at mass on Sundays, (and to Celine Dion at home) and loved to create music alongside my peers. Welcoming people at the door, reading Scripture, playing an instrument, and intercessory prayer; school mass gave us the opportunity to practice using our gifts for the glory of the Lord.
When I was 16, our school sent a bus-load of students to Prud’Homme Saskatchewan to attend a Face to Face Retreat. I later learned that Prud’Homme was also the first retreat my now husband attended, although neither of us remember meeting. At the retreat there were talks about God’s love and the saints, praise and worship sessions, time to attend the Sacrament of Reconciliation, one on one prayer ministry, and musical Adoration. I was moved by the love these young people had for our Lord.
During one of the worship songs, I vividly remember looking at the worship leaders thinking how lucky they were to witness this fire at each retreat. In that moment I whispered under my breath, “Lord, it would be so cool to do that.” The Lord answered that little prayer and 3 years later I was given the privilege of singing and serving with Face to Face Ministries for what would become 4 incredibly faith formative years. During these years, the seeds of service, self-sacrifice, prayer, and faith that my Catholic education had rooted in me, blossomed into an undeviating love for our Lord that continues to grow today.
Now raising our own 4 children, I am so grateful to pass along the good, the true, and beautiful to them through the gift of Catholic education. I am grateful to be able to root their identity in Jesus, our firm foundation, especially as our world faces such confusion of identity today. I am grateful to introduce to them the Sacraments that bring true life and peace to their souls. I am grateful to read to them the lives of the Saints so that they have role-models of virtue, and someone to relate to in times when they fail. I am grateful to teach them the rosary, so that one day they would recognize the importance of prayer and Our Lady’s intercession. I am grateful to bring them to Mass and Adoration so that they know our Lord deserves their time, and so that they know where to go when facing a difficult decision.
In a word, I am grateful for Catholic education because it was an extension of my domestic church; it cultivated the virtues my parents instilled in us at home while preparing me for a life of docility to the Spirit.
St. John the Baptist is one of my favorite saints. I even gave our eldest son the name John for his second name. And I chose St. John the Baptist as his patron saint.
I consider St. John the Baptist as the First Evangelizer who proclaimed Jesus as the Messiah. He directed everyone to Jesus. In one painting he is seen looking at others while pointing his finger to Jesus. What an apt depiction of this great saint!
I dreamt that one day I can be like John the Baptist who would point others to Jesus. And lo, and behold, that time came in 2020 when after a week of training in the Philippines I returned to Calgary to take on my service role as Live Christ, Share Christ Mission Coordinator.
The Live Christ, Share Christ (LCSC) Mission provides opportunities for the Catholic lay faithful to MEET Christ, LIVE Christ, SHARE Christ. Through their formation programs, LCSC makes the Gospel narration of the visit of the Virgin Mary to her cousin, Elizabeth come to life: When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. (Lk 1:41)
Just as God had been faithful and kept His promises to Mary, Elizabeth, and John, we are reminded that God likewise reveals His wondrous works to each of us as well.
Even in the midst of lockdown and quarantine, hand washing and masking, self-isolation and social distancing during this pandemic, God constantly draws us to Himself and shows us that He is, indeed, our Father.
MEET Christ through the Word of God
I leap for joy because despite the pandemic through God’s grace we launched the Liturgical Bible Study (LBS) in the Calgary Catholic School District using virtual technology. Through zoom meetings, we guided high school students in finding the connections between the Sunday liturgical readings. They discovered that the first, the second, and the Gospel readings are interrelated and have a common message that gives it unity.
Through LBS the students realized that the Bible is not a mere historical document. They soon realized that the stories of our faith ancestors in the Bible shed light to present life situations. From the insights they gathered throughout the session, the students were able to understand the pandemic in the context of the scripture readings.
SHARE Christ to The Ends of the Earth
I leap for joy because despite the pandemic through God’s grace us we will be fully engaged in the new evangelization, beyond borders and across boundaries. In our first LCS alone we had participants from New Zealand, USA, Canada and the Philippines. Life in Christ means we should let Jesus continue His work of salvation through us, with us, and in us. The Catholic lay faithful are called to be missionaries through the power of the Holy Spirit. We are all called to be workers in God’s vineyard. Through virtual technology the opportunities to share Christ are boundless.
Together, let us leap for joy as we MEET Christ, LIVE Christ, and SHARE Christ.
Elizabeth House will again be participating as a partner charity in the Ride for Refuge ending on October 2, 2021. Our goal is to support the great work that Elizabeth House accomplishes, in offering young pregnant women and young women with babies a safe and loving home, while empowering their journey to independent living. This year our ambition is larger and with your help we hope to reach our lofty goal!
#NOBIKESREQUIRED to participate at 2021 Ride for Refuge! Register yourself, gather your friends, and select a fundraising activity you love. Do whatever you can, wherever you can, and sky is the limit. Of course you can still do the 5km,10km cycling, or the 5 km walks, but you don’t have to!
So what's next?
When Fr. Kevin Tumback (Pastor, All Saints Parish in Lethbridge) speaks about his past, it’s clear that a pivotal figure is his father, Andrew Clement Tumback, known to all as Tiny.
Tiny was the second youngest of twelve children and spent most of his life farming in Eston, SK. He was married to Audrey for 61 years, had seven children (living) and died at the age of 93, having witnessed the ordination of two sons and the arrival of eight grandchildren. Yet these many achievements do not begin to capture the essence of a man who, according to Fr. Kevin, was introverted, reflective and well-read. “My father was liked and respected,” Fr. Kevin said, “his funeral was packed.” Tiny’s influence was perhaps felt most keenly by his children, whom he formed in faith, mostly by setting a good example.
Fr. Kevin shared a seminal incident from his youth which speaks volumes. After an infraction, young Kevin was punished by having to clean out the chicken coop, not the Tumback coop but the neighbour’s. “It was hot and stinky work,” Fr. Kevin recalled. “It was my punishment but Dad was working right there beside me the whole time.” Tiny was instinctively demonstrating the way God the Father never leaves us, even as we face the consequences of our own sins. Though a cradle Catholic, Tiny didn’t take his faith for granted. He had a firm devotion to the Rosary, the Sacred Heart and especially the Eucharist. He was an altar server well into his senior years to demonstrate one’s duty to participate at the Holy Mass. He also helped out neighbouring farmers and delivered eggs and milk from the Tumback animals to needy families.
Tiny Tumback wasn’t a demonstrative person. He practiced what Fr. Kevin refers to as the “ruffled hair” form of affection. “Dad treated each of us differently… but we all understood it. You need to acknowledge (each child’s) strengths and weaknesses and Dad was good for that… One of my father’s nicest compliments, the day after I was ordained was, ‘Well son, if you’d gone straight from high school into the seminary you would have made a really lousy priest. But with your years of experience you’ll make a good priest.’” Tiny was referring to Fr. Kevin having worked 15 years in the corporate sector before joining the seminary.
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Catholic Pastoral Centre Staff and Guest Writers