A special thank you from Bishop McGrattan and all Catholic Alberta & NWT Bishops to all parish volunteers!
Please read the Pastoral Statement from the bishops of Alberta and the Northwest Territories, called On the Impact of COVID-19 & the Call to Christian Renewal | Download here
In particular, the bishops are inviting Catholics to review the impact of COVID-19 within their homes, schools, workplaces, and society in general, in light of the gospel and the social teaching of the Church. Which values, attitudes and behaviours will we want to hold on to going forward? Which may be in need of remedy or renewal? Through a process of reflection and discernment, the bishops are using this time as an opportunity to inspire and lead a renewal of Christian life in the Church that will impact society in positive ways.
The goal is for all of us to gain insights into living our faith at home and at work, and in our parishes and communities. “Our Catholic faith has much to contribute with respect to promoting human, social and spiritual values for the common good of society,” the bishops note in their letter. “We trust that you, like us, see the urgency to discern wisely the signs of the times and to “reset” our lives so that our collective experience in moving forward accords with the Gospel.”
WEEK 1: Inherent Dignity of Every Human Life
The situation of this pandemic invites us all to re-discover the inherent dignity of every human life and to re-awaken a sense of gratitude, affection and responsibility towards all people, particularly the most vulnerable in our society. #CatholicYYC
Moderator: Dr. Bonnie Annicchiarico (Director, Grateful Advocates for Catholic Education (GrACE)
Panelists: Patrick Dumelie (CEO, Covenant Health, Edmonton) Dr. Troy Davies (CEO, Catholic Social Services, Edmonton) David & Cathy Ann Bouchard (Magdalene House, Red Deer) Sr. Alinda (Mother Superior, Missionaries of Charity, St. Paul, AB)
Parishioners and all viewers are invited to respond to the prepared reflection questions or otherwise to send thoughts/comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
Weekly reflections (PDF) can be downloaded with the links below:
Download Weekly Reflection en francais
Watch Discussion PanelsParishioners and all viewers will be invited to respond to the prepared reflection questions or otherwise to send thoughts/comments to email@example.com
Wednesday, September 16, 2020 is Mexico's Independence Day!
To celebrate and to help support Mission Mexico, an outreach program of the Diocese of Calgary, from September 14 through to September 20, the following Mexican Restaurants are collecting donations. We encourage everyone to support these great restaurants (even if its just through take out or delivery) and also support Mission Mexico. Through this initiative, you are helping support not only our these local restaurants by eating their fantastic food, but you are also able to support the dignity-affirming projects that Mission Mexico carries out in one of the poorest regions of the world, helping improve the education, health care, human rights, women's rights, and the youth in building a better future in Southern Mexico.
Thank you sponsors!
The baptism of James Rory Penfold at Sacred Heart Parish, Calgary, August 2020
Photo courtesy of Sacred Heart Parish, Calgary
First Communion of Nadine Canarejo from St. Gabriel Parish in Chestermere
Photo submitted by Fr. James Hagel
Baptism of baby Adelaide Hope Wong at St. Joseph's Parish in Calgary, June 2020.
Photo courtesy of Eleanor Wong
First Communion Celebration at Ascension Parish in Calgary, July 2020
Photo courtesy of Ascension Parish
RCIA Celebration at Ascension Parish in Calgary, June 2020
Photos courtesy of Ascension Parish
To send, or not to send? That is the question many families have been faced with during this back-to-school season.
Covid-19 has prompted parents to either stay the course with adjustments or try something new.
The answer is going to look different than usual for our family. My husband and I decided to homeschool instead of sending our three eldest children back to the local Catholic school.
It was a painstakingly difficult decision. I can’t count the sleepless nights or time I’ve spent analyzing all the angles. I finally surrendered my doubts and fears during an hour of Eucharistic Adoration before the Lord in prayer.
My husband works from home and I am a stay-at-home mother. We have been gifted with five children ages 9, 8, 6, 3 and 10 months. Given such unusual times we decided to continue cohorting together, trying to build up our family identity.
Am I worried my children will miss seeing their friends as often? Yes. Or fall behind in school? Yup. Am I hopeful my children will become each other’s best friends? Indeed. Or that the individual attention I can give will meet their individual needs? I pray, yes. Do I worry I am not enough for my children? Big time. Will I ever be enough for my children? No. Only God is enough.
My goal this year is to see just how weak I can be; how dependent on God I am willing to become for my strength; how low can I humbly go so God can raise our family up to give Him glory. I expect this to be a difficult year, and a holy year filled with joys and surprises. I hope we can follow our passions, so we can more clearly see the mission and purpose God has for our lives. I hope we can remain in search of the face of God in one another and together we can each transform into people more fully alive and share this joy with our community.
Angela and Justin Stastook, parishioners with St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Airdrie, thoughtfully discerned another course of action –– to send their two children back to school. When I spoke with Angela it was clear she and her husband had also carefully weighed all their options.
“There is no correct option, no best option, just options and dealing with them as best you can,” said Angela. “We pray things turn out positively. I pray every day that things get back to normal and we can defeat this (pandemic).”
The couple discerned they needed to keep their dual income, and it wasn’t feasible to facilitate online schooling while trying to work from home. They also thought sending their children to school with friends would improve their mental health.
“The hardest part is we are not going to know. In a month we will find out if it was a terrible decision or a good decision. For me, we can’t hide. We have to do our best to prepare our kids,” said Angela.
“My view of the mission was never not to catch Covid. Covid is here, people are going to get it. It’s just not to overwhelm the healthcare system.
Still, Angela worries about how schools are going to practically enforce social distancing to lessen the spread of Covid-19 and the pressure that enforcing all the safety protocols will place on teachers and administrators.
As vice principal of St. John Paul II Collegiate in Okotoks, Ryan Fox is excited to welcome students back to school and has been working every angle to ensure the transition is as smooth as possible.
“The presence of kids in our building is what feeds us as professionals and we've missed it so much.
However, “Teachers are about to become front line workers in an environment that is scary and stressful for a lot of them. Please be kind and understanding.”
As an administrator Fox is happy to field questions and concerns and he also encourages people to remain positive and even offer a bit of cheerleading.
“Offer suggestions if you have some, recognizing we are mentally exhausting ourselves trying to figure this out from every angle. None of us is as smart as all of us!”
One way to reduce the stress on students is to reduce the stress on teachers and school staff.
“We are doing our absolute best based on the guidelines given to us by our health authority to redesign our entire operations to keep kids and staff safe,” said Fox. “Hearing someone say, 'I'm glad you are doing what you are doing for our kids' goes a long way to reduce stress.”
Fox encourages everyone to be loving and compassionate and merciful. “We all need each other’s mercy. God is with all of us through this.”
Written by Sara Francis for Faithfully. Sara is a writer living in Calgary with her husband Ben and their five children. They attend St. Bernard's / Our Lady of the Assumption Parish.
The ecumenical Season of Creation is observed annually from September 1, the World Day of Prayer for Creation, to October 4, the Memorial of Saint Francis of Assisi. Christians and peoples of faith around the world are invited to pray in thanksgiving for God’s gift of creation.
This year, the Season of Creation occurs in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic that is impacting worldwide in ways that are inextricably interconnected to the care of creation and the health of humanity. The Encyclical Letter, Laudato Si, echoes this interconnection.
“Everything is connected. Concern for the environment thus needs to be joined to a sincere love for our fellow human beings and an unwavering commitment to resolving the problems of society.” – Laudato Si, No. 91.
In March of this year Pope Francis asked the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development (“DPIHD”) to collaboratively create a Commission to communicate the Church’s concern for the human family facing the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, to reflect on the emerging socio-economic-cultural dynamics, and to research and propose timely approaches to move forward. In May, I was invited to be one of twenty participants from Canada and the United States to provide feedback to this newly formed Commission.
The Dicastery has now established a Vatican COVID-19 Commission with five Work Groups:
In this time of pandemic, we are admittedly being challenged and yet history reveals that it is often in such times of adversity that the resiliency and determination of the human spirit emerges and through God’s grace, people of faith accomplish good works. In that spirit of confidence and hope, Pope Francis’ message reflects upon the theme for the 2020 Season of Creation, Jubilee for the Earth, as a time to remember, to return, to rest, to restore and to rejoice:
If these initiatives aren’t enough, we also have in this Season of Creation two events in late September and one in early October that call us to action, to conversion and renewal through the understanding and application of our Catholic Social Teaching.
The first is the World Day of Migrants and Refugees. Pope Francis’ message for the 106th World Day of Migrants and Refugees, Forced like Jesus Christ to flee draws attention to the burdens faced by migrants and refugees and the responsibility to provide refuge. He states, “I have decided to devote this Message to the drama of internally displaced persons, an often unseen tragedy that the global crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated. In fact, due to its virulence, severity and geographical extent, this crisis has impacted on many other humanitarian emergencies that affect millions of people, which has relegated to the bottom of national political agendas those urgent international efforts essential to saving lives. But “this is not a time for forgetfulness. The crisis we are facing should not make us forget the many other crises that bring suffering to so many people.”
The second is the release of an Alberta Bishop’s Pastoral Statement on the Impact of COVID-19 and the Call to Christian Renewal on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. It is entitled “Save your people, O Lord, and bless your inheritance”. There are reflections and resources that accompany the statement which are designed to promote dialogue on the social justice issues that have surfaced during the pandemic in light of the principles of our Catholic Social Teaching.
The third event is the publication on the eve of the Memorial of Saint Francis of Assisi of a new encyclical which will reflect upon the Catholic Social Teachings during the pandemic – teachings such as human fraternity, the equal dignity of all people, the preferential option for the poor, the common good, solidarity among all peoples, the responsible care of the environment, and the virtue of striving for justice and peace.
Now more than ever we need to relate to one another as sisters and brothers in one global human family. We are called to recognize the responsibilities we have to each other, and take an active role in helping each person achieve their full potential. And in this Season of Creation, we are being called to live as responsible stewards of creation and thus to see the reflection of God in all of creation.
God of love, show us our place in this world
as channels of your love
for all the creatures of this earth,
for not one of them is forgotten in your sight.
Enlighten those who possess power and money
that they may avoid the sin of indifference,
that they may love the common good, advance the weak,
and care for this world in which we live.
The poor and the earth are crying out.
O Lord, seize us with your power and light,
help us to protect all life,
to prepare for a better future,
for the coming of your Kingdom
of justice, peace, love and beauty.
Praise be to you! Amen.
(Pope Francis, Laudato Si, May 24, 2015)
At the age of 11 was the first time I was exposed to suicide. A young man from our small rural church was reported missing. The men in our community gathered together to search for him, and my father found him. He had taken his life. Almost 5 decades have passed and suicide has continued to be part of my life through various avenues; the attempts of family members, the loss of a family member to suicide, numerous clients who have struggled with despair and suicidal ideation, and the poignant journey of traveling with families who are learning to live with these tragic losses. Fast forward to fall 2020 and suicide is still a grave concern.
A year ago, most of us had not heard the acronym - COVID-19. Today it is the topic of conversations especially as we transition back to school and work places. The landscape of social interaction has been altered. In Canada, we had never experienced a global pandemic and its consequences; we were unable to organize to change in a satisfactory way because change occurred frequently with little warning and minimal personal control. We could only react, and many experienced crisis like job loss.
Two things we know occurs in the aftermath of a disaster - a baby boom (memes suggest the babies born next spring might be referred to as Zoomers or Coronials), and an increase in mental health concerns. The Canadian Poverty Institute has completed a thorough review of the COVID 19’s impact on mental health to date. See report here.
Their research revealed an increase in anxiety from 5-20% and depression from 4-10%. The Distress Centre in Calgary reported a 94% increase in calls in June of 2020 compared to June of 2019. There has also been an increase in suicide related contacts. Research suggests that persons who have experienced reduced income or unemployment, have pre-existing mental health conditions or are front line workers are at a higher risk of suicidal thoughts and attempts. Other psycho-social factors impacting suicidal ideation and attempts are concern for family members, self isolation, family violence, and social media and news exposure. Social media/news, family violence and loss of routine increase concern for children, and the elderly or convalesced persons were also labelled as high risk groups. The events that led to racism awareness superimposed further stress on an already vulnerable society even though racism reduction is also a grave concern.
This information suggests that all of us have been impacted or know someone who may have been negatively impacted by COVID 19. Loving our neighbour at this time involves checking with those we know and asking how they are doing. If you suspect someone may be at risk of harming themselves, it is important to ask specific questions. Emotions deemed concerning are despair, anger and loneliness. If persons seem to be withdrawing, or are quarantining check in to see how they are coping. Connection with another person even if it is electronic can make a significant difference in someone’s experience of isolation.
As for ourselves and family, recognizing and implementing resiliency based practices help maintain our wellness and perseverance.
First, manage our expectations of self and others. The increased stress means most people are probably functioning 5-10% below normal capacity - be charitable - we are all in this together.
Second, balance our activities/work with ones that restore like exercise, play, prayer, or contemplation.
Third, establishing rituals that create routine and predictability such as family game night, attending mass, devotional or reading, or pizza nights. When change is unpredictable without an identifiable end - rituals/routines helps us stay oriented and future focused.
Fourthly, minimize manageable stressors such as reducing social media and news exposure.
Finally, if you notice that yourself or someone close to you seems persistently stressed, please consider connecting with professional resources. These include but are not limited to a spiritual director, your pastor, an agency like Catholic Family Services (Rapid Access Counselling program), The Distress Centre or a therapist in private practice (or you can go to Psychology Today and put in your preferences for a therapist and a list is generated).
Today, on World Suicide Prevention Day, let us pray that through love of neighbour we can continue to interrupt the desire that suicide is a solution to overwhelming change and stress. May God look with mercy on all whose afflictions bring them distress, confusion and isolation, and may God give to them understanding helpers and the willingness to accept help.
The contents of the backpack were easy to take out. A change of clothes, some carefully-chosen toiletries, a hand-written card and a hand-made bracelet. “They were also life-changing”, says one of the first women, a survivor, to receive one of the specially-prepared backpacks assembled by caring members of St. Michael’s council of the Catholic Women’s League.
The woman received the backpack when she arrived at RESET, a Calgary-based agency that helps women ages 16 and older escape sexual exploitation and trafficking. Bringing nothing but the jeans and T-shirt she’d worn for three days, the woman says she, “can’t put into words how much it meant to have something to change into. I cried when I read the card, and wore the bracelet on my ankle for three straight months. It’s now hanging on my wall.”
St. Michael’s CWL, with help from councils at Holy Name, Holy Spirit, St. Peter’s, St. Bonaventure and St. Albert the Great, launched the IWIN – I’m Worth It Now backpack initiative in late 2019. IWIN has already distributed eight of its first 12 packs in partnership with Calgary Police Service and RESET Society of Calgary (formerly Servants Anonymous). Another 18 will be assembled this year, says project lead Kristin Fahlman.
Kristin had previously participated in a project to combat human trafficking overseas and had learned of a similar backpack program operating in Florida, but did not know of the need to help survivors here. After attending a local conference about human trafficking in Canada, she knew God was calling her to take local action to address this issue.
When the conference ended, the Holy Spirit led her to Detective Paul Rubner, a Calgary Police Service officer who works on the front lines of human trafficking in Calgary. “I introduced myself and explained my idea. He was extremely enthusiastic and, as it turns out, he was the key person in Calgary who would know how to implement distribution system for the backpacks.”
Research shows human trafficking is one of the fastest-growing crimes in Canada, affecting people from all walks of life. It is also one of the most lucrative of criminal activities, with traffickers profiting up to $600,000 per victim, per year.
“We chose the name IWIN because we want survivors to know that they are worthy; worthy right at this very moment. It doesn’t matter what their past looks like. It doesn’t matter if they have plans for their future or not. They are worthy of love and respect,” says Kristin.
Each backpack is linked to a “prayer warrior” who receives a bracelet that matches one in a backpack. Survivors are told that someone else has a matching bracelet—and is now linked to them in prayer.
The next group of backpacks will also include hand-made reusable face-masks made by CWL members. “Two masks were added to each of the remaining packs and the plan is to include them in all future backpacks,” explains Kristin.
To learn more about IWIN and how you can assist, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Edited by Joy Gregory for Faithfully, on behalf of the Catholic Women's League.
Photos submitted by Jan Myhre, Calgary Diocesan CWL.
Anyone who knows me well knows I love salty snacks. My appetite for salty snacks is insatiable. In accepting the invitation to write for Faithfully, I would wager that my journey as a Catholic educator is much like my fanaticism of salty snacks; I am always left thirsting for more.
My journey began at home. My parents instilled sound Catholic roots. We were a hybrid family of sorts as my mother’s family practiced in the Ukrainian Catholic tradition; Dad’s family practiced in the Roman Catholic rite. We had well-rounded faith experiences and traditions that I grew to love and yearn for after I left home. My children grew up in a small Northern BC parish. During those years I was teaching in the public school system as the advantage to attend Catholic school for my children was a 90-minute bus ride one way. However, during those years I worked alongside a wonderful vice principal who happened to be the deacon of the local Anglican parish; a drought for theology and learning about faith was non-existent.
Fast forward 20 years later, I have been blessed to teach with STAR Catholic Schools (Leduc) and it’s as if my craving won’t diminish. I am constantly seeking out ways to improve my craft; there is joy in those moments. I love witnessing others, especially students, on their journey toward Christ.
Two years ago when my superintendent came to the school to tell me that the division selected me for the CCSSA Excellence in Catholic Education Award I was so stunned I cried. Receiving recognition for a faith that I boldly and proudly share is one of my greatest treasures. Evangelization comes in many forms. It is touching that the Division claims I am influential in modelling our faith. When Administration say my work is all done in His name, I know I am at home. Catholic Education is meant for me.
In January 2019 our Division set out on our GrACE journey. Since then, I’ve lost track of how often people inquire if I am involved in GrACE because it is “perfect for you!” The legacy we have in free publicly funded Catholic Education in Alberta is undeniably one of the best gifts. Our schools are deeply faith-filled, our teachers are models of the faith; our parishes are the backbone of our faith communities. It takes seconds to share a meaningful message about our Catholic identity. Although a journey in faith requires a daily commitment, one that for me seamlessly occurs, opportunity awaits. Be bold, be brave, share your love for Catholic Education.
Yes, I’m still thirsting for more. I don’t know if it has something to do with the ‘cheezies’ I ate while writing this article, or truly I am ‘salt of the earth’; called by Christ to be salt of the earth and light to the world (Matthew 5: 13). Be influential, be an advocate, and share your story. Be a Grateful Advocate for Catholic Education.
I moved to Edson in the summer of 1997, only days after my wedding, to join the Living Waters Family. I have been a proud member of this family ever since, working at both Vanier and Holy Redeemer. As an educator, I have never known working outside of a Catholic, faith-filled, school environment. Information on working in a non-Catholic school has only come to me from conversations with other teachers, parents, students and my own personal observations. All I can say for certain is that the “feeling” when entering a Catholic School is unique from entering any other school. No matter where the school is, that feeling is unmistakable.
On September 25th, 2014 I experienced one of the darkest days of my life. A close friend, who was also a former staff member and wife to a current staff member, passed away suddenly. I wish I was a gifted enough writer to properly convey the loss that I felt that day for our school community, my family and friends, myself and her husband. I was devastated. When I arrived at work shortly after 8 am that morning I was immediately met by weeping students and staff members. Never before had I felt such sadness and loss.
As I made my way through the foyer, I saw something I will never forget and to this day brings a smile to my face. Our Superintendent and her Deputy Superintendent were there offering condolences to staff and students. They probably didn’t hear the news until 6 am that morning and drove to Edson (an hour drive) before I was even able to make it to the school, to be with us in our time of grief. I honestly can’t remember what they said to me that day but I clearly remember the feeling; the feeling that God is with us and that, eventually, we’d be ok.
We have a chapel in our Catholic school, which was a great source of comfort for me. Over the next days and weeks, I would spend a few minutes at the beginning and end of the day sitting in quiet, sobbing, reflection. As I sat there suffering, Jesus was there too suffering on the cross with me and for a few moments each day, I didn’t feel alone.
Our Principal, who is a deeply religious man, was also a great source of comfort to me. He and I engaged in many conversations about life and death throughout that school year. Listening to him talk about his faith helped me to heal from this great loss. I can really never thank him enough for that time, and since he retired, I miss our theological talks.
Would any of this be possible in a non-Catholic school? Of course. Catholics are not the sole custodians of empathy and compassion. However, the fact that we can bring faith into our grieving process for our staff and students cannot be overstated. It helped me immensely and I cannot imagine what that time would have been like for me without my Living Waters Family.
Pope Francis releases a video message accompanying his prayer intention for September, which this month is for respect for the planet’s resources: that we “take care of Creation responsibly”.
We are squeezing out the planet’s goods. Squeezing them out, as if the earth were an orange. Countries and businesses from the global north have enriched themselves by exploiting the natural resources of the south, creating an “ecological debt.” Who is going to pay this debt?
In addition, this “ecological debt” is increased when multinationals do abroad what they would never be allowed to do in their own countries. It’s outrageous. Today, not tomorrow; today, we have to take care of Creation responsibly.
Let us pray that the planet’s resources will not be plundered, but shared in a just and respectful manner.
No to plundering; yes to sharing.
Each year, the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation is observed on September 1. The international celebration marks the beginning of the Season of Creation, which extends to 4 October, the feast of St Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of ecology.
Catholic Pastoral Centre Staff and Guest Writers