On Sunday, Feb. 26, 2023 the whole community gathered to witness something truly special: a joyous Rite of Election that welcomed 170 catechumens into St Mary's Cathedral as members of the Elect! This event marked the culmination of their profound spiritual journey and preparation for receiving Initiation Sacraments at Easter Vigil.
The Bishop also calls to the Godparents, urging them to accept the responsibility entrusted to them in the Lord. He asks them to show their support and love for the chosen individuals by providing guidance and instruction so that they may partake in God's sacraments.
Let us pray to the Lord for all the Elect and for ourselves, that we may be renewed by one another’s efforts and together come to share the joys of Easter.
Glory be to Jesus Christ!
Dearly Beloved in Christ!
Today, on our calendars we mark a year since a new stage of the Russian-Ukrainian war began with brutal cruelty and destruction, cynicism and falsehood. Every day of the past year has been a repetition of February 24, adding to the bitter statistics of losses and multiplying the grief experienced by many. Thousands of innocent men, women and children have lost their lives; many have been tortured, held in prisons and camps, and forcibly deported. Millions are forced to wander around the world, having lost everything, seeking refuge far from their homes. Many cities and villages have been erased from the face of the earth, leaving only traces in the history and memory of those who lived there. Countless are the deep emotional wounds from the losses, tragic memories, and longing for relatives, inflicted by the war on those who survive and are suffering - especially the children!
This war is not limited to the context of armed battles, but also occurs in the struggle for consciences, spiritual values and ideals with all the evils that war entails. Most importantly, it requires from everyone a clear choice for good or evil. The war challenges us to demonstrate our love for Ukraine, for its God-given freedom, political and human rights. War challenges the very sincerity of our love for our neighbor and the Lord God. Every Ukrainian in and outside of
Ukraine is called to discover a deeper awareness of his or her national, political and ethnic identity. The enemy are those who want to stop this process and plant other values which contradict the truths of the Christian faith, the foundations of our spirituality and our Ukrainian identity. And they are looking for all kinds of insidious ways to achieve their goals.
We, the Ukrainian Catholics in Canada, call upon all people of good will to steadfastly resist the spread of the evils of war, the killing of innocent people, and the destruction of the nation of Ukraine. Let us draw our strength from the Lord at all times in our struggle (cf. Ps. 26:1). As the Apostle Paul says , let us gird ourselves with the belt of faith and take the armor of justice, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the spiritual sword to "resist the wiles of the devil" and "against the principalities, against the authorities, against the rulers of this world of darkness, against the spirits of malice in the heavenly spaces" (Eph. 6:11-12). Fervent and constant prayer to the Lord is our weapon against which enemy forces are powerless, and with it we draw the grace of God. We pray not to succumb to feelings of hopelessness and oppression, excessive worries and cares (cf. Ps. 137:7).
Let us take the psalmist's words, "Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path" (Ps. 118:105) closer to heart and listen to God's voice in our lives. The word of God teaches us goodness, truth, love, understanding and ability to make right decisions that are sometimes very difficult, especially during times of deep tragedy and loss. In His word, we will find God who is near to us in solidarity, offering us comfort and healing.
Let us continue our works of mercy for the needy in Ukraine and those who seek refuge here in Canada, as a humble manifestation of our sincere faith and for the greater glory of God. In doing so, we share the time and talents with which the Lord has blessed us, knowing that everything will return a hundredfold. By giving temporal goods now, we will receive eternal goods in the future.
In solidarity and compassion with our brothers and sisters in Ukraine, who continue to suffer from the lack of food, water and other basic necessities of life due to the ongoing war, let us renew our practice of fasting and abstinence to remind ourselves of the many blessings we enjoy in our peaceful, daily lives here in Canada.
More than ever, we need to support each other through prayer, kind words and good deeds. A person who receives something through you will thank the Lord and praise Him always. "Let your light so shine before others that they may see your good works and glorify your Heavenly Father" (Mt. 5:16).
The outcome of this war is crucial and will have global significance and consequences. We pray for victory, which will be realized only when we put all our efforts together. Let us unite, pray, and work for the common good! Let this Lenten season be an opportunity to reach new spiritual heights and to better ourselves so that we can carry out our part in bringing to an end the tragedy of war.
May God bless the Ukrainian people both in their homeland and throughout the world. May He grant them the strength of a strong Christian faith, of enduring good health and the support of a multitude of people of good will. May He grant victory over evil and peace to Ukraine!
Sincerely Yours in Christ,
+ Lawrence Huculak, OSBM
Metropolitan Archbishop of Winnipeg
Apostolic Administrator of Saskatoon
+ David Motiuk
Eparchial Bishop of Edmonton
Apostolic Administrator of New Westminster
+ Bryan Bayda, CSsR
Eparchial Bishop of Toronto
+ Andriy Rabiy
Auxiliary Bishop of Winnipeg
This year’s Lenten reflections from CCCB are delivered by His Eminence Gérald Cyprien Cardinal Lacroix, Archbishop of Quebec and Primate of Canada, and the Most Reverend Brian Joseph Dunn, Archbishop of Halifax-Yarmouth.
As we begin our journey of Lent, may we all walk the path of renewal that is ahead of us. May each and every one of us be blessed with the grace to grow closer to Christ with renewed purpose and spiritual insight as we journey through these 40 days.
“It started when a friend of mine told me about a backpack program for human trafficking survivors in Florida.” shared Kristin Fahlman, a parishioner of St. Michael's in Calgary, “I thought it was interesting, but didn't think about it again for several years.”
It wasn’t until that one fateful evening when she attended a movie screening organized by the Catholic Women’s League at her church. It wasn't just any film; "Over 18" documents society's damage caused by pornography industries across North America and beyond.
“On the way to the screening, God reminded me of the backpack program in Florida. And that I should start a similar program here in Calgary.” shared Kristin. After the movie screening, Kristin tried to speak to Paul Rubner, who had been invited as an expert local speaker at the time, but there were just too many people who wanted to do the same. So she went home, trying to put it out of her mind. But God persisted.
Shortly after, Kristin was invited to a human trafficking workshop and, seemingly by divine intervention, her normally packed schedule was free. At the workshop, she again noticed Paul, who provided a presentation on the issue of human trafficking in the Calgary and Alberta context. She decided then that if he was available at the end of the workshop, this was the person she needed to speak with.
"When I explained my idea, Paul was extremely enthusiastic and, as it turns out, he was the key person in Calgary who would know how to implement a distribution system for the backpacks. He suggested involving the Catholic Women's League, a group I had just recently joined."
What followed was a series of meetings and brainstorming sessions between Kristin, a lawyer with a passion for social justice and deep compassion for a segment of society that very few people were aware of, and Paul, at the time a human trafficking investigator who had spent the last decade working with survivors of human trafficking and exploitation. Paul had an understanding of the needs and issues faced by survivors, along with the social agencies that sought to help them - but he knew there was more that could be done. All that was required was a group, or individuals, that had a realistic understanding of the issue that he could lend his experience and advocacy to.
“God has lined it all up for us every step of the way," said Kristin. Paul added, “We want survivors of human trafficking to recognize the strength inside of them and to realize that they are loved and accepted right in this moment.”
Long story short, IWIN - an acronym for 'I'm Worth It Now' - was born in 2019 with the support of the Catholic Women’s League (CWL). This program's mission is to make an impact on those who are often forgotten: survivors of sexual exploitation and domestic sex trafficking. And over three years later, the need for their ministry has only grown. Their services now extend to non-profit agencies in two provinces - with a vision to expand even further.
“The idea was to provide a tangible way to show trafficking survivors in Calgary, the vast majority of whom were born and raised in Canada, that people care and ‘nice things’ didn’t always have to come with strings attached.” shared Paul, who at the time was actively working with survivors and many of the agencies offering services for them.
“While IWIN doesn’t provide services directly, they provide backpacks containing essential items to the agencies that do. And given that these agencies are not-for-profit, every little bit of help they can receive means more resources they can devote to programming and helping their participants.” said Paul, adding, “One such agency in Calgary has received over $13,000 in ‘backpack support’ from IWIN in the past 2 1/2 years. The contents of the backpacks are items that the agency would have provided anyway, which means that those funds could be re-directed into other areas of the program.”
IWIN also has partnerships with an agency in Edmonton and one in Saskatoon, who also exist to provide services to trafficked and exploited women, although the Calgary program is by far the largest.
Survivors of human trafficking who received IWIN backpacks ware always filled with gratitude and appreciation for the kindness they had been shown.
"This backpack meant more than just a bag full of clothes. It gave me hope there is still good in this world".
"Thank-you so much for helping me to feel a bit more human and a bit more like I matter".
"It was a really nice surprise when I wasn't expecting it and I feel like it's a great act of kindness and I'd love to take part in something like that one day. It's really nice to get something and to feel like you don't have to give anything in return."
"This signifies that if one individual or organization believes in us, perhaps we can begin to contemplate having faith in ourselves."
The success of the IWIN program is largely attributed to the commitment of multiple groups and organizations who are dedicated to helping them achieve their goals, with a large portion coming from the Catholic Women's League in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
“Human trafficking can happen to any family in Canada and is happening mainly to Canadian citizens." Paul added.
This National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, February 22, it's critical that we consider why 95% of the trafficking survivors found in Calgary are Canadian-born. Our sisters and daughters are not exempt from the reality of human trafficking – so, it's essential that our brothers and sons join us in finding a solution. Let us not forget to open up the conversation about human trafficking, despite how uncomfortable it may seem.
This St. Valentine’s Day, Jessica and Joseph Cyr celebrate a champagne wedding anniversary of sorts, with 14 years of marriage on the 14th. In that time, just as their family has grown to include five children, so has their extended family of faith.
The ceremonial ‘passing of the beaver pelt’ from one newlywed couple to another is a seemingly silly tradition that the Cyrs started in their Calgary Catholic community shortly after they were married, and never imagined would still be going strong today.
“I thought it would be fun to start a tradition within the Catholic community,” said Joseph Cyr. “I had the beaver hanging on my wall. It was unique to me, no one else had a homemade beaver pelt. I thought, ‘hey we can use that, and it’s something very Canadian, something that represents our heritage.’”
At the time of publication, 48 couples, with more than 100 children combined, have written their names and wedding dates on the back of this storied beaver pelt.
History of the Pelt
Back when Joseph was in high school, he earned his trapping license and trapped a beaver in a creek near his hometown of Pincher Creek, Alberta. He proceeded to prepare the beaver’s pelt for mounting onto plywood. While he had hoped to continue pursuing this hobby, the beaver was the only animal he ever trapped.
Shortly after he and Jessica married, Joseph hung the pelt in the living room of their first home, but as it happened Jessica did not exactly share Joseph’s taste in home decor. Joseph then had the idea to gift the pelt to another young couple; Jessica was very receptive to the notion and thus a tradition was born.
The Cyrs presented it to Jared and Natalie Fehr at their wedding reception with the stipulation that they must display the pelt prominently in their home until the next Catholic couple involved with their young adult community married, at which point the ceremonial bestowing of the beaver pelt would continue.
The beaver’s lodge
Currently, the pelt is in the possession of Brian and Jennifer Toner. Per the directive, it is displayed above their living-room television in Cupertino, California – one hour South of San Francisco.
Adam Pittman presented the pelt on behalf of the Catholic community at their wedding reception in November in Saskatoon.
“For us, receiving the beaver pelt was a huge honour,” said Jennfier Toner.
“It felt like our marriage was being uplifted by the prayers and thoughts of the whole group, whether we knew each couple or not. We also felt excited, because it is a delightfully ridiculous ‘gift and re-gift ' process that we now get to partake in,” Toner added.
A silly or serious tradition?
In his own way, Fr. Cristino Bouvette feels very much part of the beaver pelt tradition. He has celebrated the weddings of at least half of the couples associated with the beaver pelt, and witnessed time and again the passing on of the pelt at wedding receptions.
“It is clearly a silly tradition, but not merely a silly tradition. It is also a sign of married life being one of openness to the wider community. People marry for the sake of expanding the community of believers, expanding the community of the world,” said Fr. Bouvette.
“In receiving this memento, albeit tacky, it’s a sign of belonging to a wider community outside of your married life, which is a very important testament to the mystery of marriage. You give yourself to the other for the sake of the other, and then in that one flesh union that opens up to all others,” Fr. Bouvette added.
“It’s such a great sign to me of our ever-expanding faith community.”
Take a half hour break and watch Salt & Light Media’s documentary on Madonna House, a community of about 200 lay men, women, and priests who have dedicated themselves to Christ by living out promises of poverty, chastity, and obedience.
Witness their joy and be inspired to find that same joy in Christ where you have been called to serve Christ in your ordinary life.
>> Watch video now
On 8 February 2023, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops issued the following four pastoral letters on reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples. Intended as a framework for local engagement with Indigenous Peoples, the letters are the fruit of many months of listening, encounter, and dialogue with them, including through Listening Circles, the Indigenous Delegation to the Vatican in April 2022, and Pope Francis’ Apostolic Voyage to Canada in July of the same year.
Canadian Catholics who want a more fulsome public discussion of the law regarding medically-assisted death are being called to use their faith to move a legislative mountain. But take heart. The first item on the change agenda involves something as simple–and important–as writing letters to your Member of Parliament and key government ministers, says Dr. Peggy Thomson-Gibson.
The catch? With people’s lives at stake, there’s no time to lose.
A Catholic and Calgary physician, Dr. Thomson-Gibson recently addressed MAiD (Medical Assistance in Dying) at a special meeting held at St. Peter’s parish. There, the medical doctor encouraged Catholics to learn how “we can defend our faith without raising our voices.” To do that, Catholics need solid information about their faith–and about what’s at stake, especially with proposed changes to MAiD law, says Thomson-Gibson.
The problem with MAID
Approved in 2016, existing MAiD law allows Canadians to choose a medically-assisted death when their death is “reasonably foreseeable.” Health Canada recorded 7,595 MAiD deaths in 2020, up from 1,108 in 2016. For information about why the Church rejects euthanasia or assisted suicide, visit this page.
Looking ahead, the number of MAiD deaths to date are a fraction of what was expected had proposed amendments come into effect this March. The now-delayed changes expanded MAiD’s accessibility while simultaneously decreasing oversight, says Dr. Thomson-Gibson.
Of primary concern was a change that allowed people with mental illness as their sole criterion to choose a medically-assisted death. People with a severe long-term condition or disability could also access MAiD, opening the door for medically-assisted death to be offered instead of treatment. Opponents say this confuses the notion of a “right” to die with a “duty” to choose death over treatment. This is especially troublesome in a public health system where disabled or mentally-unwell individuals could be made to think they are a financial burden on their families or society.
Information released in 2022 shows the proposed changes also cut a mandated reflection period for those whose death is “reasonably foreseeable” under current law. Instead of a 10-day period, the changes required a single day. Another change drops the legal requirement for two witnesses to one and the sole witness could be a paid health professional.
These amendments were scheduled to come into effect in March 2023. They were delayed in late 2022, and again last week. This provides more time for study and input.
That timeline underscores the opportunity for faith-based outreach, like letters to the Prime Minister and individual Members of Parliament, says Thomson-Gibson. She suggests letter writers model respect in their letters and conversations about MAiD. Catholics looking for more guidance about how “to shed light, not heat” on hot-button topics should check out information from Catholic Voices Canada (https://catholicvoices.ca), adds the doctor.
On February 2nd, 2023, religious from eight different communities gathered to celebrate the World Day of Consecrated Life on the Feast of Presentation of the Lord. It was a joy-filled day with the celebration of the Eucharist, meaningful conversations that deepened connections, and a delightful meal shared between those present.
Catholic Pastoral Centre Staff and Guest Writers