The commitment and contribution of the Diocese of Calgary to reconciliation and healing
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.
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Pastoral Letters of the Most Rev. William T. McGrattan, Bishop of Calgary
Love is sharing a pizza
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.
Living faith in the secular world
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.
I leap for joy
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?
Catholic Pastoral Centre Staff and Guest Writers