September 22, 2021
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 being reported each day has significantly increased in our province. This brings to the forefront of our consciousness the need to safeguard the common good, and in charity to promote the safety of others by protecting our individual health and that of society. In some provinces, the sectors of healthcare, education and social services, public agencies and corporations have begun to announce mandatory vaccination as requirement for their employees and the public. This has resulted in the Diocese and the parishes receiving from members of the faithful the request for letters of exemption from the mandatory vaccination based on the grounds of religious belief.
While the Diocese respects the freedom of a person’s individual conscience as the Church teaches, the Church and her ministers cannot objectively attest to or endorse a person’s process of discernment in coming to their decision of conscience. Therefore, the Diocese and the parishes will not be issuing any letters of exemption from vaccination.
The clergy has been strongly encouraged instead to accompany and assist those requesting such letters to know and understand the teachings of the Church on vaccination during this pandemic through statements released by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), and the pastoral letter provided by the Bishops of Alberta and the Northwest Territories.
As stated by my brother Bishops and in communion with the Holy Father, it is morally permissible to receive a vaccine approved for use in Canada against COVID-19, and while there are many possible reasons for one to struggle in their conscience with such a vaccine being mandatory, the Diocese will not take the position or role of endorsing an individual’s conscience and decision.
If vaccination will be mandated, there must also be on the part of legitimate authorities, the necessary provisions of reasonable accommodation which respects and promotes the dignity of the individual conscience and the decision of conscientious objection. However, those who choose not to be vaccinated for whatever reason must do their utmost to ensure that they take all precautionary measures possible to avoid places and circumstances where they and others would be most vulnerable. They must also follow the health and safety measures not only to prevent contracting the virus for themselves but also preventing others from becoming sick. This is everyone’s moral responsibility.
Much prayer is needed in this time, in this polarized society, for those who have suffered so much and for those who continue to suffer from the reality of the pandemic. As Christians and people of goodwill, we must grow in our love and concern for others and use the gift of our freedom responsibly to help others especially those who are in most need.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
+William T. McGrattan
Bishop of Calgary
“Pray, hope, and don’t worry” seems like a cheesy home decor slogan, but his life reveals the riches of this attitude of trust in God. He was a Capuchin friar who worked tirelessly for the salvation of souls. People flocked to him as they saw how his unique relationship with God was manifested in all sorts of spiritual gifts, from bilocation to reading souls. His feast day on September 23rd is an opportunity for each of us to experience his witness and intercession in our own lives.
Our diocese’s own Fr. Cristino Bouvette, who has loved St. Padre Pio since childhood, experienced his intercession in a crucial way. On June 16th, 2002, he was helping out with a contracting project. He was balancing on a sawhorse, holding a heavy garage door operator, when he took a wrong step that could have ended in calamity: “I was about to pull this very heavy operator down onto my head and land on concrete... I saw the whole thing happen before my eyes and I just said, ‘Padre Pio!’” The sawhorse fell forward instead of backward, and Fr. Cristino was unharmed. Since it was the day of Padre Pio’s canonization, Father always thought that maybe his beloved saint had given him a special blessing on that day. Apart from the lesson that one should not stand on a sawhorse, Fr. Cristino’s story teaches us how powerful and life-changing a simple, trusting prayer can be.
Padre Pio’s powerful intercession continues in Heaven. For the numerous intentions people would bring to him, Padre Pio prayed the Efficacious Novena to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It is a prayer characterized by deep trust in Jesus’ promise that the Father will give us whatever we ask with faith. He called prayer “the key that opens the heart of God.” Many of his prayers were answered in miraculous ways. Some prayers were not answered in the exact way the hopeful pilgrims expected, but he asked his spiritual children to abandon themselves to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and let Him take care of everything. He reminded people that God wants to give us many good things and that the best thing He wants to give us is the gift of Himself: “It seems that Jesus has no interest outside of sanctifying your soul.”
Rather than on things that pass away, Padre Pio’s prayer was set on eternity: “I feel powerfully the need for a true, sincere and intimate conversion to God... This is what I assiduously ask of Jesus: my conversion.” His radiant sanctity attests to the claim he made that "God has never refused me anything and indeed I must say He has given me more than I asked.” Nor did this saint refuse anything to God: he offered his life as a sacrifice in order to bring souls closer to Him. Fr. Cristino remarks, “I wish everyone knew that he was a saint not because of his stigmata but because he loved Jesus with his whole life. That’s why he was a saint.”
By embracing his relationship with God so completely, Padre Pio also embraced the Cross, including all the suffering that Jesus allowed for his purification. His daily choices had eternal consequences on countless souls, as do ours. Padre Pio has taught Fr. Cristino that “we need to be prepared to suffer for the Church... when we abandon ourselves to God, when we detach ourselves from our preferences, and give ourselves over to Him, we will live for the Church, we will become completely at her disposal, as He wants us. This gives us a lot of peace, this gives us a lot of hope, even when we are challenged.”
Padre Pio’s loving, interior assent to participation in the suffering and death of Jesus was exteriorly manifested in his Stigmata. These miraculous bodily wounds corresponded to those of Jesus. His relationship with Jesus strengthens our hope that daily intimacy with our Crucified Saviour will give way to a share in His victorious Resurrection, on earth and in Heaven. He gives practical advice: “Kneel down and render the tribute of your presence and devotion to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament... Speak to him with filial abandonment, give free rein to your heart, and give him complete freedom to work in you as he thinks best.”
Padre Pio’s glorious life testifies that God still works miracles. St. Padre Pio, pray for the most beautiful and important miracle we could desire, that each of us would become a saint.
As a young mom with a daughter ready to attend kindergarten, I was not sure which school I could trust my young and impressionable daughter to. Who would be good enough to teach her? I worked in the public division, yet my heart was being called to the Catholic school. I knew no one who worked there, so I decided to make an appointment to have a tour of Holy Family Academy in Brooks.
When I walked in, I felt something different. There was a sense of peace and calm. A welcoming presence washed over me. The Bible verse, “Let the children come to me” was exactly what I saw myself doing; letting my child go to these teachers. I wanted my daughter’s faith formation to begin with authentic relationships where prayer was spoken and open, and honest conversations were had on a daily basis. When I reflected on who would be good enough to teach my child, it was God. He had to be placed first as an educator and in my daughter’s life. I was grateful to know that I had a choice where my daughter could attend school. I know God led me to Holy Family Academy.
It has been wonderful to watch her grow and to see the amazing woman she has become, mostly due to the teachers who shaped and molded her and taught her of God’s love, mercy and forgiveness. This was where the seeds were planted. When our second daughter was born, we knew that she would attend Holy Family Academy as well. No questions asked. The decision was easy to make!
My work at the public school division made it tough for me to share in celebrations and events with her. I remember at a church event on Pentecost Sunday I walked up to the principal of Holy Family Academy and I told her that I was going to work for her one day. Unbelievably, that next year I was hired and I have been with Christ the Redeemer ever since. I have not looked back. Here I can openly pray for a student and make the sign of my faith. I am so grateful to work where my daughters went to school and be a part of their learning. I feel so blessed.
I have learned that God stretches you when you least expect it. I am not the same person I was twenty years ago. He has been at work leading and guiding me, as I walk and pray in ways I had never done before. The opportunities the school has offered me have been such a gift. Face to Face and NET retreats, listening to musicians and guest speakers, school masses, adoration, the Martha Retreat Centre, Faith Days, and Mission trips…all of these experiences have such a special place in my heart. When Mother Mary called me to go to Medjugorje and Knock Ireland, Christ the Redeemer allowed me to go. World Youth Day and the Holy Land were only dreams in my eyes, yet God made it a reality. It is all by the grace of God!
God has stretched me in my classes at work. When teachers have encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone and try teaching a new class, their words, “I believe you could do this”, made a huge difference. Their encouragement was a gift. My students have been my everything. They are the reason I am called to my vocation. I have joy when I wake up and know I get to do what I love. This is not a job, it is my calling and I am so glad God chose me to be a part of the Brooks Catholic Schools and Catholic Education. God is so good, all the time!
Called - The Founders (1992-1999)
The formation and foundation of a Catholic School in Brooks began in the early 1990s and rested in the hands of a small group of advocates from St Mary’s parish. They organized and conducted a census of the entire Brooks community. Then they hosted three separate votes in 1992, 1993 and 1995. Yes, three votes! It took those three votes, countless conversations, endless prayers, times of challenge, moments of deep reflection and, without doubt, movement of the Holy Spirit to bring Catholic Education to the community of Brooks.
Change is difficult and for the many Catholics and non-Catholics in the town of Brooks in the early 90s the idea of opening a Catholic school where none had existed before was not only daunting but divisive. The public school system in Brooks was excellent and had always been the only school system, and so, perhaps at the heart of the controversy was the question, “Why do they need a Catholic school? Isn’t the education in Brooks good enough for all our kids?”
Public schools are our neighbour's, our colleagues and our friends. Catholic education is not against public education. Catholic education is for Jesus. It is for Christ-centred, faith based, fully permeated learning that calls every person involved to know God, to love God, and to serve Him.
Finally, in November 1995 the Catholic community voted in favour of Catholic education. A decision was made to join Christ the Redeemer Catholic School Division. A trustee was elected and a name for the new school was chosen: Holy Family Academy. Those early founders were resolute and faithful advocates. They were prayerful visionaries. Their sacrifices ensured that children in Brooks had access to Catholic education.
Entrusted - The Builders (1999-2002)
By 1999 Holy Family Academy had +300 students in grade K-9 and a decision was made to form St Joseph’s Collegiate that September. The need for space was crucial and a rally attended by 650 people demonstrated to the government that Catholic Education in Brooks was on the move and growing. Portables were added and the government announced that they would approve an expansion and modernization of the existing buildings.
When you are growing a school, every decision is foundational. Faith events and prayer experiences became the norm. Staff gathered daily for prayer; school masses were held at the church, monthly adoration was embraced, the liturgical year was celebrated, the school décor reflected faith and classroom prayer corners were central to each classroom’s prayer rituals. Teacher faith days, Living Rosary, Stations of the Cross and parent prayer groups created a community of faith. St Joseph’s Grad Retreat became an essential faith experience for all graduates. A two day, overnight retreat became a transformational experience for students and one that would affect them in life changing ways. 26 students crossed the stage June 2002 to become St Joseph's first graduating class.
Gathered - The Leaders (2002-2014)
Over the next dozen years excellent, faith-filled teachers continued to deepen student learning and shape student faith. St Jude’s chapel was built and the furniture from St Jude’s Church in Tilley brought a legacy and possibilities for intimate worship to the Catholic Schools. Bishop Henry blessed and approved the chapel as a sacred space to house Jesus in the Eucharist. Morning staff prayer, daily student and classroom prayer, adoration and special services could take place with this additional space.
St Luke’s Outreach, a CTR Catholic Outreach School based in Okotoks, recognized the need for such programming in the Brooks’ community and in 2008 opened a campus in Brooks and became a living testament to its motto to “leave not one heart behind”.
In the course of these years new students arrived from around the world including Sudan, Nigeria and other African nations. Many students and families were refugees, often bringing a history of trauma and refugee camps with them.
Brooks’ meat packing plant continued to hire skilled workers from around the globe and our school enrolment rose dramatically. Students from Latin America, Philippines and Eastern Europe arrived, many of them speaking no or very little English. The student population was changing rapidly. Investment was made in resources and professional development. The ELL population in Brooks’ schools has been a gift to our community and has enriched all aspects of our community.
Inspired - The Witnesses (2014-2021+)
In 2014, Brooks’ fourth Catholic school opened. Christ the King Academy became a 5-8 Middle School. St Joseph’s Collegiate was modified to a 9-12 school and Holy Family Academy served K-4. The old 1960s portion of the schools was demolished and In 2015 Christ the King opened in a brand new two-story facility.
Brooks’ Catholic Schools serve students from around the world. With a total population of just under 1,100, Brooks’ Catholic Schools continue to witness faith in their schools, parish and larger community. Teachers from across Canada continue to be hired in Brooks. They bring their love of God and their vocational call to teach, with them.
Catholic education has been instrumental in the new evangelization of our Church. Brooks RCIA and RCIC classes have been thriving. Strong links between St Mary’s parish and Brooks’ Catholic schools have drawn many children and adults to seek baptism and confirmation in the Catholic Church. Many cite their involvement with Catholic education as the reason for their desire to join the Church. Teachers and staff lead Catholic formation classes and serve as Godparents and Sponsors. They are witnesses and role models.
Catholic education in Brooks was started by a small group of courageous advocates. More than 25 years later, much has changed yet the essentials have stayed the same. A deep, committed and unwavering faith in God is the reason for our schools. Each child who has passed through our doors or crossed our graduation stage has been steeped in a culture of God’s love. Each teacher and staff member who has served as an educator these past 25 years has grown on their own journey of faith and learning.
God does not call the qualified, he qualifies the called and He has called all stakeholders in Catholic education to know Him, to serve Him and to love Him. He has called each one of us in the Brooks’ Catholic School community to grow stronger, grow deeper and reach higher for His sake and the sake of our children.
Catholic Pastoral Centre Staff and Guest Writers