It is June and the time of year when our young people complete their studies and gather for the celebration of their graduation. But this year is different. The COVID-19 Coronavirus restrictions have curtailed the in-person gatherings and reshaped them into “virtual graduations.” This is new for all of us but it should not diminish in any way the joy we feel at seeing young people succeed whether it be the milestone of a graduation from kindergarten or the graduation from Grade 8, Grade 12, College or University.
I add my voice to the good wishes and encouragement which our graduates of 2020 are receiving. You are a graduating class with unique stories to tell and we anticipate the wisdom of your insights and leadership in the future. The following are for your reflection as you celebrate the completion of studies and look toward the next steps – be it further studies, a career, a religious vocation or some time to chart your future path in life.
The impact of a Catholic education was recently highlighted by Dr. Anthony Fauci, MD who has had a critical role in the pandemic leadership for the United States. Dr. Fauci graduated from Regis High School and in his own words he stated the “tenets of the Jesuit tradition sustained him throughout his life and career.” The imprint of a Catholic Education shapes the character of a person in striving to live a life of goodness but also in assuming roles of responsibility in promoting the common good in both ordinary and extraordinary forms of service.
As graduates of 2020 it seems to me that you are being offered three important lessons during this pandemic.
In a recent video message to young people commemorating the 100th anniversary of St. John Paul II's birth, Pope Francis spoke about the challenges and obstacles faced by St. John Paul II as a young man and how his deep faith enabled him to overcome them. Pope Francis expressed the hope that the life and faith of St. John Paull II would “inspire within you the desire to walk courageously with Jesus, who is “the Lord of risk, he is the Lord of the eternal ‘more.’" (Pope Francis, May 18, 2020)
Graduates of 2020, persevere in prayer, follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit and know that the Lord who calls you to embrace His Love will accomplish good works in and through you. Seek the “eternal more” as you celebrate your graduation in 2020.
Congratulations to the Catholic School Districts Graduating Class of 2020! Thank you to all who have made graduation celebration meaningful and memorable amidst the pandemic challenges. We invite you to take the time and pray this little prayer for our graduates:
God our Father,
we give you thanks for bringing these young people
to this special moment in their lives.
We ask you to accompany them
as they face new adventures and challenges.
May the paths they take always lead to you
and to the eternal joy that is their inheritance through Baptism.
We make this prayer to you in the name of Jesus your Son.
Below are some celebratory photos and links shared by the five Catholic School Districts in the Diocese of Calgary:
Calgary Catholic School District
Graduation events range from drive-and-walk-through celebrations, where students can collect their diploma, walk a stage or red carpet and have their photo taken, to student awards on social media. All schools will have a unique online grad program featuring well wishes, student speeches and tributes to the graduating class.
Medicine Hat Catholic Board of Education
Monsignor McCoy High School is planning to still have a graduation ceremony for the class of 2020 in the fall or winter depending on AHS guidelines. Their graduation celebration happened earlier this month already.
Christ the Redeemer
Holy Spirit Catholic School Division, Lethbridge & Area
I am weak. I can’t do life on my own. I am in need of a Saviour. This is what the Covid-19 pandemic has taught me.
My eyes welled up with tears as I knelt to pray after receiving the Eucharistic Jesus for the first time since public celebration of Holy Mass was suspended in the Diocese of Calgary. Staring transfixed at the crucifix, I prayed: Jesus, I need you. I’m helpless without you. I surrender.
This is not how my Covid-19 experience began.
Energy and even some excitement characterized the initial weeks of cancellations. To keep calm, I adopted a laid back attitude, got outside for walks and practised gratitude. My husband Ben and I head up a domestic church with five children ranging from 8 months to nine years old. I loved trading in my hectic chauffeur duties, for a simpler, slower lifestyle at home together. I experienced what it’s like to truly be the primary educator of my children and to boot, there were countless free resources and professionals offering virtual help.
I appreciated the empathy and compassion that society showed with the ‘we will get through this together’ mentality. I actually believed, at least on the surface, that: ‘I’ve got this.’ I experienced a vision for our domestic church that I had never dared to dream before.
But then, panic set in. What is going to happen once things open up again? Will it all seem like a dream? I noticed myself getting agitated, anxious and angry. I started to lose my peace because there were many aspects of this new life I wanted to retain, but I feared it might not be possible.
Being confined to household isolation 24/7 for months felt like a monastic existence. I could not run, nor could I hide from my own weaknesses that were barriers to fully loving my family as myself. I finally had to confront them and it was like a lightning bolt struck my heart waking me from my slumber.
I knew I was made for more. My unease felt so contrary to the holy woman I was striving to become. So I prayed for humility and courage to vulnerably peel off my camouflage. I desired to see myself the way God sees me. And through His grace, I discerned a call to a new radical self-acceptance; to become even more myself because God has even bigger plans for my life!
What I discovered through prayer and conversation is that while I possess many creative talents, I score lower in the practical skills to keep a home running smoothly. I had been holding myself to a very high standard for which I didn’t have the natural skill to peacefully pull off.
Early one morning, I walked to St. Pius X Church in Calgary and knelt outside looking through the window in adoration of Our Lord. I no longer felt trapped in silence and shame over my shortcomings, but rather felt freedom to address my challenges head on with compassion and mercy both for myself and others. Little did I know that only a couple weeks later, I would finally be reunited sacramentally with the healing, life-giving presence of Our Lord.
My greatest desire is to become a saint and for those with eyes of faith, Covid-19 continues to be a holy time where both our challenges and blessings can be used to become like Christ. While we are collectively undergoing this pandemic together, our experience is uniquely ours. Following this article are six reflections from a new university graduate, a mother, a teacher, a single person, a senior and a pastor –– each made in the likeness and image of God, each giving God glory with their lives.
Written by Sara Francis for Faithfully
I have been called to Catholic education and this vocational call has blessed and enriched my life in profound ways. As a teacher, principal and superintendent I have had varied and rich opportunities to experience the 5 Marks of Catholic Education first hand. In particular, I have found myself surrounded by colleagues who are authentic witnesses to the Gospel. I have worked with teachers who share their testimonies at staff retreats and liturgies. I have seen the sacrifices made by educators who are absolutely committed to going above and beyond for their students. I have experienced the prayers and actions of my colleagues in times of crisis and tragedy. I have seen extreme generosity and service. I have been surrounded by Gospel witnesses.
One such example that deeply affected me took place during a school administrator’s retreat at Mount St Francis in Cochrane. As one of the four superintendents responsible for creating the retreat, I would often build a time of adoration into our two days away. A few years ago we spent an hour with Jesus in adoration and administrators were invited to come and pray. Some stayed for ten minutes; some for much longer.
As often happens to me in adoration, I lost all track of time. I heard the quiet rustle of people leaving and I knew our hour was coming to a close. I opened my eyes and raised my head. I looked across the empty chapel and saw that only my three superintendent colleagues were still present and deep in prayer. One was on his knees in adoration. The second was focused intently on the front monstrance. The third was in the pew alongside me; his head bowed, hands clasped, immersed in his dialogue with God. I felt the Holy Spirit at that moment and I knew that I was in worship with men of faith and colleagues of integrity. While the chapel had emptied, our leaders remained in prayer, in service, in faith. Their witness to me and the administrators they served went beyond words to lived action---a true mark of Catholic leadership.
Written by Bonnie Annicchiarico, PhD, Director of Grateful Advocate of Catholic Education (GrACE)
My 27 years as an educator and administrator with the Calgary Catholic School District has afforded me a myriad of gifts in the countless number of students and families I have served and the inspiring colleagues I have worked alongside. It has also given me much to reflect on in terms of my vocation. At the center of this calling is my faith. It has become that intrinsic piece of my identity as an educational leader in my school community and in the school district.
I am blessed to work in a rich faith-filled environment at St. Clare elementary school with colleagues that have a similar desire for the intentional permeation of our Catholicity. After arriving at this location five years ago, I launched a weekly staff prayer initiative which faithfully continues years after its beginning.
From its inception, colleagues would voluntarily sign-up on a morning to sharing a prayer and a short meaningful reflection of their choice. Many also include a song or a video to highlight theme or topic of prayer. Most importantly, intentions are offered for various individuals in need. This initiative has been well-received by staff with several faithfully attending on a regular basis since its beginning a few years ago. With many present, the venue has seen a pilgrimage from the office to the staffroom and now the Learning Commons library. I then make it a priority to share these stories, reflections and prayers out to inspire and inform others on staff who were not able to attend. Also included on this Faith Formation “fan-out” are special friends of St. Clare school in the school district, diocese and local parish community.
I am so grateful that my colleagues have embraced this Faith Formation initiative in the way they do as well as the faith-based measures which allow us to ensure our Catholicism permeates throughout all that we do. Many have commented that gathering as a school “family” in this meaningful manner is a great way to start the day, end of the week and build community with colleagues. Further, we have learned a lot about each other through the disclosing of personal stories which have driven the prayer and reflection shared by staff members. Personally, I always look forward to these moments as times to pause, take a step back, “exhale” as I head into my “inner chapel” to escape the busy-ness of our daily lives – even if it’s for a few minutes. I am truly inspired by my colleagues to continue to share and come together to pray and celebrate our faith.
In closing, as Catholics, our faith is meant to be lived and celebrated. As members of a school community, we are involved in a vocation that is about people and the forging of relationships and bonds. We are all social and relational beings who have an inherent desire for relationships and connections. This wonderful initiative of weekly staff prayer has blended both ideals together as it has built and supported a strong sense of community and as members are afforded opportunities to share their faith, lives and our stories. Most important, it has allowed us to grow spiritually and walk with each other along our respective faith journeys.
Written by: Mark Hickie, Vice Principal of St. Clare School, Calgary
Online formation opportunities (courses or conferences) available this Summer:
Looking for a last minute gift? How about the gift of spiritually edifying commute time? Give your loved ones the podcast list below or load these podcasts in his mobile phone, all ready to go. There are tons of great podcasts out there, but here are some podcasts that you might really enjoy:
Through the visions St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, devotion to the Sacred Heart became formalized and the feast day extended to the whole Church by Pope Pius IX in 1856. This Friday, celebrate this beautiful feast at home, and receive the blessings and mercy Jesus promised St. Margaret Mary to souls who honour the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Devotions to the Sacred Heart of Jesus are numerous and here are some ways we may be able to observe it this year:
God created humankind in his image and likeness, respect for the other is a must.
Statement of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops
It has been with great distress and sorrow that the world witnessed the tragic events that took place in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on 25 May 2020. The death of Mr. George Floyd at the hands of law enforcement officers is profoundly troubling and entirely unacceptable. The utter disregard for his human rights and dignity has justifiably raised numerous disturbing questions about the ongoing presence of racism and discrimination in our societies, as well as about how peace and good government can both avoid and deter self-destructive and self-defeating violence.
The denigration of humankind, the denial of God-given rights and of human responsibilities that flow from them, lack of love for one’s neighbour, and the failure to show respect toward others are wholly intolerable; these must always be condemned in the strongest of terms. Racism and discrimination remain an appalling reality for a civilized society. The Bishops and Catholic faithful of Canada join with Pope Francis in lamenting all who have lost their lives and suffered because of exclusion, racism and violence which are antithetical to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As the Holy Father himself stated at the occasion of this tragedy: “We cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life.”1
Every human being is created in the image and likeness of God and is precious in His eyes according to the first chapter of Genesis. This truth is for us the bedrock and foundation of all human dignity. To violate it is an offence against God Himself and against the sacredness of life. Our faith teaches us that: “Respect for the human person proceeds by way of respect for the principle that ‘everyone should look upon his neighbor (without any exception) as “another self,” above all bearing in mind his life and the means necessary for living it with dignity.”2
In communion and solidarity with the Holy Father and the Catholic Bishops of the United States, we invite all Canadians to pray for all those who have lost their lives as a result of the sin of racism, to work for reconciliation and healing, as well as for peace and justice in our land and throughout the world.
Catholic Pastoral Centre Staff and Guest Writers