Daniel Tang confesses, “I have never left the continent before, nor have I ever camped outside; I have not flown across the ocean, and I am usually uncomfortable in large crowds.” Yet in this monumental leap, Tang is prepared to step beyond his comfort zone. He is one of the 40 pilgrims from St. Francis Xavier Chaplaincy (SFXC) leaving for Lisbon, Portugal for World Youth Day (WYD) 2023, accompanied by Fr. Cristino Bouvette and Fr. Santiago Torres.
He further shares, “This theme that Mary arose and went with haste (Luke 1:39) reminds me to trust in God's providence on every step of the way - to have no fear of the unknown, and to have peace and know that He will provide.”
A special visit to Our Lady of Fatima
While many are keen to explore Portuguese culture, encompassing its food, architecture, music, and history, a significant part of the excitement surrounds visiting the Fatima apparition site and understanding the miracles of Our Lady of Fatima during World Youth Day 2023.
Group leader Catarina Avila, a native Portuguese, is especially excited to share her culture with fellow pilgrims. “As a Portuguese citizen who grew up in a faithful Portuguese family and vibrant Portuguese culture, I am thrilled that I am able to share my culture with my fellow pilgrims going to World Youth Day!” she exclaims. She adds, “Above all, I am honoured to be able to have the opportunity to delve more deeply into the message of Fatima with the pilgrims.” Her anticipation for visiting the Fatima site resonates with many, including Kathleen Brul who says, “I've never visited a Marian apparition site before, and Our Lady of Fatima holds such a vital place in Portuguese history.”
Kathleen also reveals that a pivotal moment occurred during a Mass at the Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton last year, when she was navigating a difficult period in her life. This experience ignited her journey of faith. “Pope Francis' papal visit set my heart on fire for Jesus … I finally felt free from all the things that had kept me away from true joy and fulfilment,” she says. “I decided to go to World Youth Day to celebrate the joy and peace God has blessed me with throughout this past year…”
Mary Arose and went with haste (Luke 1:39)
The theme for World Youth Day 2023, "Mary arose and went with haste," has sparked various interpretations among participants. Some view it as a motivational call to disseminate the Gospel promptly, while others perceive it as an encouragement to trust in God's divine plan.
This theme truly encompasses Mary's faith and obedience, inspiring participants to leave their comfort zones and welcome the unknown with joy. Cameron Bluekens reflects on this, saying, “Mary didn't delay in spreading the Gospel. It was the presence of God in her that moved her to share the Good News with zeal and generosity - I would like to be blessed with the same virtues.”
For pilgrim Jonathan Dobek, the theme for WYD 2023 speaks into a specific action. He says, “After WYD, with Mary’s help, I will get up and in haste go to seminary to discern and learn what God has in store for me.” Jonathan has been accepted by Bishop McGrattan to enter St. Joseph Seminary in Edmonton as a seminarian for our Diocese, beginning the last week of August.
Our young adults have also shared a variety of hopes for their attendance at World Youth Day. Some express a desire to strengthen their faith, charity, and zeal, while others aim to better incorporate their faith into daily life.
Elizabeth Spiess and Mark Oswald look forward to forging new friendships during the World Youth Day 2023 pilgrimage. "I also hope to deepen my connections with old friends," adds Mark. Simultaneously, Elizabeth envisions contributing to the growth of youth ministry in her parish.
Andrew Min concluded his thoughts by sharing that he aims to inspire other young adults with his experiences from this spiritual journey. He hopes that his stories might encourage them to consider embarking on this pilgrimage themselves in the future.
Despite their individual aspirations, there is a shared openness to the spiritual journey that this pilgrimage may offer. Daniel Tang wraps it up by saying, “I truly believe that witnessing the Living Universal Body of Christ would bear much fruit to be shared back in our respective Dioceses.”
CCCB press release: More than 5,000 Canadian Youth are making their way to Lisbon, Portugal to be with Pope Francis, from 1 to 6 August 2023. The Holy Father will join more than one million young people for World Youth Day (WYD). The first international World Youth Day was held in 1986, and the event was hosted by Canada in 2002, with Pope Saint John Paul II making the pilgrimage to Toronto. Read more
Statements & Resources
Residential Schools within the boundaries of the Diocese of Calgary
There were 25 residential schools in the Province of Alberta. See: Residential Schools in Canada Map. Four of them operated by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) were within the boundaries of the Diocese. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Calgary did not run any residential schools. Below are links to the four residential schools:
Learn about Residential Schools
Truth & Reconciliation Commission
A brief guide about Treaty & Alberta Treaty Map (Alberta Teachers Association)
Crisis line for Indian Residential School survivors and family: 1-866-925-4419
On a beautiful Tuesday morning, I sat at a picnic table by the shore of Lake Chaparral, southeast of Calgary, engaging in conversation with our Diocese's newest deacon from Argentina. My hosts on this warm gorgeous summer day were Deacon Carlos Lozano and his lovely wife, Christina Rieter.
The warmth emanating from the two of them carried us through a two-hour heartfelt bilingual Spanish–English conversation centred on Christ, family, and service. As Deacon Carlos awaits his new mission in Holy Spirit Parish beginning August 1st, he speaks with delightful excitement about his ministry in Argentina and his hopes and dreams for the future.
In May 1996, Deacon Carlos and his fellow deacons chose these words of Jeremiah for their ordination in Buenos Aires, Argentina: “Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you a prophet to the nations.” (Jer 1:4-5). Long before that, in 1951, Deacon Carlos revealed that his mother, while he was still in her womb, had dedicated him to our Blessed Virgin Mary. With this profound offering and our Blessed Mother's intercession, Deacon Lozano serves the Lord not only in his marital and family life but also through his permanent diaconate ministry, which now extends beyond Argentina due to his his recent move to Calgary, Alberta.
My 95 year old mother did not know a grandparent, a cousin, an aunt or an uncle growing up. But it is like the Lord is making up for what she did not have, as now there are close to 90 of us with our families and children and grandchildren and great grandchildren. Truly, the blessings of abundance are bountiful!
Celebrating the third World Day for Grandparents and the elderly is especially heartwarming for me this year. First, to be a grandparent to 11 on earth, and to have my own mother still with us as a grandmother and great grandmother is truly a blessing.
The alignment of the World Youth Day preparations with the celebration of this day serves as a reminder for young adults to appreciate the gift of their grandparents. As they participate in the festivities in Lisbon, Portugal, this year's World Day for Grandparents and Elderly theme, "His Mercy is from age to age" (Luke 1:15), echoes a message that God’s eyes are always on us. Taken from the Visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth, this verse speaks volumes of the generations who celebrate in this Mercy.
The connection between the young and the old is vitally important. Whether it is being there as a grandparent to offer support and wisdom, or whether it is accepting the outstretched hand of the young offering help, both are so very necessary. Even if your grandparents are no longer with you, there are many elderly waiting to receive the touch of a grandchild figure, or for them to be a grandparent to a child.
During the pandemic when care facilities, and other living accommodations were closed off to visitors, our family came up with an idea to be able to see mom everyday by using FaceTime. This allows us to pray the daily rosary with her, to bring to prayer those who had special needs, and to remain connected. For over 2.5 years we have continued the practice as a family, and those who are able to join in can do so on any given day.
There are countless ways to maintain strong connections with our elderly loved ones, and each small effort can make a significant difference. Looking for ideas?
As grandparents we experience the joys and sufferings of each of our children and grandchildren. There are special needs, and there are many ways that we can be a blessing to our grown children and our grandchildren. I always recall with great gratitude the many times my own parents took our children, and the mercy shown to us when we were young parents. It is this boundless mercy shown to us that I desire to pass on to our own children and grandchildren. Those blessings that we received as young parents are still felt today, as I reach out to, and try to provide a place of secure welcome to our own grandchildren.
To witness to, and to be there for our grandchildren, as our presence is required, allows our grandchildren to receive so many benefits of family living united in the hope and the promise of the gospel message.
We are called to be there, and to especially be there for our aging parents / grandparents. To be a sign of hope in a culture that wants to cancel people is so very important. It means taking a stand and to pray through our current culture, while keeping our focus on what brings life. To be people of hope, when all hope seems diminished stands as a beacon for the world. God’s plan is so much bigger than what we can imagine, and we can be that sign of hope for others. It is not about a “perfect” life, it is about allowing God’s will and His plan to unfold for our lives, having the cross at the centre. It is about caring for those that God puts in our path. The love and respect given to and from grandparents can never be diminished.
When cultures are cancelling the weak and the vulnerable, it is time to stand up, and be counter cultural. Let us be the “voice of one crying out in the wilderness” (Isaiah 40:3). Do not be afraid to be the one to show His Mercy, and to respect the life we have been given from conception to natural death.
My grandfather, when asked how to raise children, simply said, “teach them their faith, and use good common sense.” Today this is still sound advice, so simple and yet so true. His words of wisdom have stood the test of time.
As we navigate through this complex and unforgiving world, let’s revisit this advice, and may we proclaim with boldness the message of mercy to our grandchildren.
Everlasting joy: Serving & Listening in the Spirit
Over the past year or so, I have been working as a waitstaff member at a retirement home in the northwest Calgary. It is a quaint place for independent seniors who do not require extensive care.
My most treasured part about this job are the interactions I have with the residents at the retirement home. This, I believe to be a twofold interaction as I have noticed that the residents seldom receive family visits. The residents have a wealth of insights and wisdom to share, and what I commit to bring them in return is an infectious joy to hopefully brighten their days.
I would not have chosen this job if I had not recognized the primary commitment to bringing joy. I have my own experiences with my grandparents and my faith to thank for that; because I cannot imagine how isolating it could feel to live here without much social interaction. Interestingly, I learned from a group of residents about a differing approach taken by another waitstaff member. Residents were advised to spend their free time in their suites rather than the all-day café near the dining area, which is typically designated for leisure. This baffled me. What could possibly lead one to believe that people, particularly seniors, would prefer to be cooped up away from everyone for days on end.
These experiences further bolster my efforts to provide the most genuine and respectful service I can give. This primarily comes down to the smaller things. If there’s one thing the elderly desire from a service, is to feel that they are listened to. I cultivate this through a multitude of smaller actions, such as not just remembering and calling residents by their names; but also knowing their drink choices at each mealtime, as well as any allergies or food preferences. I make a point to acknowledge all of these preferences or requests when serving them; and I am always open to conversation.
At the end of the day, I am here at this job to serve the elderly the best I can. I am drawn to this work, feeling motivated by the Holy Spirit to bring joy wherever I go and to whomever I interact.
As we approach 2023's World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly, I aim to continue dedicating my service both to God and to the senior residents in the retirement home. I pray for the Holy Spirit to help me continue to share God’s love and joy with the elderly.
Human trafficking is a highly-organized crime that involves exploiting humans for forced labour, sexual slavery, and commercial sexual exploitation. It is also one of the fastest growing crimes in Canada. 72% of reported human trafficking victim in Canada are under 25 years of age, and 93% of reported victims are Canadians being trafficked domestically. (Source: #NotInMyCity).
Assessing the national and global reach of human trafficking is a challenging task due to the covert nature of these crimes, the unwillingness of victims and witnesses to approach law enforcement, and the practical challenges of identifying victims. While no one is immune to falling victim, some individuals face a higher risk. The key to tackling this issue lies in our collaborative efforts and unity.
To safeguard your children from this crime, we can learn the signs of trafficking and talk openly about the risks with them. Honest discussions can make a big difference. Here's what we can do to help end human trafficking:
Here are several local, national, and international initiatives diligently working towards eradicating sex and child trafficking.
Videos & Courses
Pope Francis begins this Pope Video saying, “If you are the same at the end of Mass as you were at the beginning, something is wrong.” In his new prayer intention, which he entrusts to the entire Catholic Church, the Holy Father invites us to place the Eucharist at the centre of our lives.
He invites us to see this celebration not as an obligatory ritual, but rather as an encounter with the Risen Jesus, for “the Eucharist is the presence of Jesus,” which is “profoundly transforming.” Along this line, Pope Francis insists in this video that “it is Christ who offers Himself, who gives himself for us,” which leads to “our lives being nourished by Him to nourish the lives of our brothers and sisters.”
This is what we see happening to the three protagonists in this month’s video – three members of the faithful who, at the end of Mass, bring the Eucharist to their brothers and sisters in need, outside of the Church, returning that love and the gift of self they themselves received in the Sacrament. The scenes from everyday life are set in the U.S. city of Detroit. In fact, the Pope Video for the month of July was produced thanks to the help of the Archdiocese of Detroit. This collaboration is not accidental, as Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron explains. “We are deeply grateful for this opportunity to support our Holy Father and the Pope Video initiative. In particular, we feel honoured to produce this video on the Eucharist. The timing is providential since our archdiocese, and all of the dioceses, in the United States are engaged in a Eucharistic Revival to restore an awareness and devotion to Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. We pray that this video will serve as a convincing invitation to all of us in the universal Church to encounter Jesus and thank Him for the precious gift of Himself in the Eucharist.”
Going out of ourselves, opening ourselves to others
In this Pope Video, Pope Francis explains “the logic of the Eucharist,” which “gives us the courage to encounter others, to go out of ourselves, and to open ourselves to others with love.” He had already indicated this in an Angelus from June 2021 when he pointed out that Jesus, “at the end of his life, does not distribute an abundance of bread to feed the multitudes, but breaks himself apart at the Passover supper with the disciples.” In some way, Pope Francis continued, Jesus showed us “that the aim of life lies in self-giving, that the greatest thing is to serve.” This is why the Pope encourages us to encounter Jesus in the Eucharist, because that is where we receive the capacity to love others and to allow ourselves to be transformed by Him.
The Eucharist at the centre
Father Frédéric Fornos S.J., International Director of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, commented on this intention: “Once more, Pope Francis reminds us where to focus, and what is truly important in our lives. The Eucharist is an encounter with the Risen Jesus, he tells us. Jesus Christ wants to transform us, to give us his capacity to love, so we can place ourselves at the service of His mission. How many times do we reduce the Mass to a ritual, the priest’s homily, or to receiving communion? Instead, it is a personal and communal encounter with the Risen Lord to which the Eucharistic Youth Movement (EYM), the youth branch of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, invites us. When we allow ourselves to be transformed by Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, we assimilate His way of living and we will want to share in His mission of compassion for the world. Let us accompany the Holy Father this month with this prayer intention so we might draw closer to this transformative experience.”
When my alarm went off at 4am I have to admit that I really didn’t feel like driving 3 ½ hours to attend a retreat. Thank goodness that all I had to do was drive to St. Mary’s Parish in Brooks from Medicine Hat. There, my colleague Juliana would be awaiting, as she graciously volunteered to navigate us through the remaining 2 ½ hours to Mount St. Francis in Cochrane.
Looking back, I now realize that my retreat began the moment I stepped into Juliana’s car.
As we exchanged stories and experiences about our ministries and how we serve our church communities, a scripture verse from Matthew came to me, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” Mt. 18:20.
It’s moments like these, where we can share our faith and particularly how we live our faith, that are both encouraging and comforting to me. Our conversation also reaffirmed in my mind the diversity of each parish is, a reality I am acutely aware of, given my work with both Catholic churches in Medicine Hat.
The trip went quickly and before I knew it, we were pulling into the Mount St. Francis parking lot. I was excited and very eager to see what was in store for us at the retreat.
As everyone congregated in the conference room to find their places, I sensed such a spirit of joy and fellowship. The room buzzed with warm greetings and friendly introductions as we gathered together for the same purpose: to reflect, engage and spend time with the Lord. Once again, Matthew 18:20 echoed in my thoughts.
The retreat began with songs of praise, followed by everyone sharing a little information about themselves and their ministries. We were then asked to reflect on some questions and share our thoughts with those at our individual tables. These were simple questions, yet they urged us to reflect on our beginnings in the faith, who inspired us, and how we are currently inspiring others in their faith. I loved hearing about other people’s journeys and even though we live in different cities, we were pleasantly surprised to discover some shared inspirational mentors.
The retreat progressed with Fr. Kenneth LeBlanc sharing his story about his father’s conversion and the subsequent unfolding of his journey to the priesthood. He was wonderful to listen to and again, so joyful. My heart felt so uplifted after his presentation.
Of course, a retreat would not be complete without Holy Mass and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. As we sang, prayed both aloud as well as in the silence of our hearts, I was deeply moved by the sense of our unity. Even though we did not all know one another, I felt a oneness of heart and mind with Christ being the Center of it all.
Everything about the retreat, from the beautiful songs, group discussions, Fr. Kenneth’s testimony, personal reflection, mass, adoration, and even the tasty lunch where we could once again enjoy fellowship, was so uplifting. If you were to ask me what I enjoyed the most about the retreat, I would respond that I don’t have a favourite part because in all of it Christ was so present.
I thank the staff at the Catholic Pastoral Centre (especially Huy & Anthony) and everyone at Mount St. Francis for allowing us this opportunity to come together. Being part a of a rural church, I sometimes feel isolated and maybe even a bit disconnected, but as the events of this day unfolded, I was reminded that I really am part of a larger family, and I look forward to all of us getting together again in His Name.
Because as we know… “For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.” Matthew 18:20.
Submitted by Sally Myers, Sacramental Prep Coordinator for Holy Family Church and St. Patrick’s Church in Medicine Hat, Alberta.
Catholic Pastoral Centre Staff and Guest Writers