Speak out for those who cannot speak
October 29, 2020
Dear Faithful in Christ,
We bring to your attention two important legislative matters currently before the House of Commons. Since they each represent a direct and worrisome challenge to human dignity and freedom, it is necessary that we be aware of them and make our views known to the federal government.
The first is proposed legislation, Bill C-7, that seeks to expand access to assisted suicide and euthanasia in Canada. We know that these practices in themselves are inherently immoral. This particular Bill would remove the eligibility requirement that a person’s death be “reasonably foreseeable”, and thus effectively extend provision of euthanasia and assisted suicide to those who are not dying. This would place vulnerable citizens, such as persons with disabilities and mental illness, at serious risk. In the case of people who are dying, it aims to remove key safeguards set down in 2016, such as a 10-day reflection period and the ability to consent at the time of the provision of assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia to hasten one’s death. The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops is among the signatories to an inter-religious statement expressing opposition to Bill C- 7. The Bishops have, in addition, issued their own statement detailing their concerns with this legislation.
Our ask of you is to contact your Member of Parliament to:
The second piece of legislation, Bill C-6, pertains to what is called “conversion therapy.” The Bill aims to prevent coercive practices contrary to the dignity of the human person, a goal that we support. However, its language and definition are open to interpretations that could lead to unacceptable overreach in application, to the detriment of parental rights and religious beliefs and practices. The Bishops of Canada have issued a statement on Bill C-6.
Our ask of you is to contact your Member of Parliament and insist that Bill C-6 be revised to protect and uphold:
Thank you for your attention and action on these matters of serious concern. May our Lord both inspire and bring to accomplishment our efforts to embrace and protect the suffering and vulnerable, and to honour and uphold our rights and freedoms.
Yours in Christ,
Catholic Bishops of Alberta and NWT
Most Reverend Richard W. Smith
Archbishop of Edmonton
Most Reverend William McGrattan
Bishop of Calgary
Most Reverend Paul Terrio
Bishop of St. Paul
Most Reverend Gerard Pettipas CSsR
Archbishop of Grouard-McLennan
Most Reverend David Motiuk
Bishop of the Ukrainian Eparchy of Edmonton
The little one who’s gone before us
Michelle and Jason Widmeyer will light a candle for their little babe in heaven at the Memorial Liturgy for those mourning the loss of a child through miscarriage or stillbirth, Friday, November 20, 7 pm at Sacred Heart Parish in Calgary.
“I am looking forward to honouring our little one who has passed and gone to heaven and also gathering with others who’ve gone through the same thing,” said Michelle.
The Widmeyers attend St. Joseph Parish in Calgary with their four children ages 5 through 11. They were excited to welcome their fifth child into their fold, until the couple received the difficult news that their baby did not have a heartbeat during an early-stage ultrasound scan this fall.
“Through this experience I’ve really grown in my own faith,” said Michelle. “I’ve realized there is such grace in suffering. Even in the sorrow and the mourning there’s such great consolation from our loving God that He doesn’t leave us empty handed.
“There is the promise of eternal life and knowing He created this soul for Him out of love. Even if we can’t embrace this little one physically and raise them, we have a little one who’s gone before us and can pray for us in heaven.”
The Widmeyers named their child Marion meaning ‘well-wished for child’. In late August, they made a pilgrimage to Our Lady of the Rockies Shrine in Canmore after learning Michelle was pregnant.
“At this time we felt called to consecrate the little baby in my womb to Our Lady,” said Michelle.
As their joy turned to grief, they leaned on trusted friends, their midwife and family doctor for support. They also spoke with Fr. Adrian Martens at Ascension Parish –– nearest church to their house in NW Calgary. He provided comfort, empathy, information and prayer.
“He was wonderfully sympathetic and just gave a listening ear,” said Michelle.
Fr. Martens explained how the Church could support the couple during this time by offering a memorial service or funeral Mass and giving directives for burial if desired.
He encourages anyone who has suffered through a miscarriage or stillbirth (recently or decades ago) to speak with a priest in the Calgary Diocese. They can offer spiritual direction to help families heal.
“We’ll be here for you and support your family’s needs. Do not think you are taking up our time. This is important. In loving these little ones we are loving the face of Christ,” said Fr. Martens.
One way diocesan clergy minister to the bereaved is through the fifth annual Memorial Liturgy for those mourning the loss of a child through miscarriage or stillbirth. This year Bishop William McGrattan will preside over the service which draws people from all walks of life and stages of grief.
As the Widmeyers continue to work through their grief, it is these tangible signs of love and outreach, from their family of faith, that bring them comfort and hope.
“Even just the promise that people are praying for us feels like a big hug from God; that we are going to get through this and we will be okay; that there is joy in the midst of suffering through the loving actions of others.”
Written by Sara Francis for Faithfully
Raising of our children well is probably the most important task of our natural, and supernatural lives – with effects on society and eternity. Yet too few parents experience the confidence and joy that the process can offer. When it comes to dads and their girls, being at different life stages is merely one complication that may cause disruption. Whether socializing or biology or both together, the differing qualities of dads and daughters add another set of factors. But instead of looking at this as a mismatch, we can instead see opportunities to enlist the differing strengths of both the parent and the child.
It is a near universal reality that men tend to lack proficiency and become easily overwhelmed and feel out of their depth in the twists and turns of emotion – whether others’ or our own. Since emotion is an important part of what makes us human and humane, such discomfort really is a weakness, and it is of benefit to men and their relationships to grow in this area. Another fact is that little effort is required for most fathers to quickly become deeply attached to their little girls. The natural care a man has for his daughter can provide the energy to want to go beyond his own limits and meet his daughter in her world. Daughters – especially in their teens – are tremendously adept at riding emotional waves; for best success however they should learn how to accept feelings as part of life, but not as the driver of decisions. And here a father who is in loving connection with his daughter can be a mentor, even while he learns to integrate better his own feelings in service to another.
Confidence is something that usually increases with age and self-understanding. At the same time testosterone probably helps explain why males typically feel more comfortable in themselves and their abilities than do most females. Among young women this disparity can be seen in eating disorders, self-harm, and greater rates of depression. Some research suggests that social media is increasing these numbers much more rapidly for our daughters than for our sons. Even while we may understand reasons for this problem, biology is not destiny and there are good reasons to act with hope. Mothers and fathers are the original authorities for their children (for religious believers it is important to understand that in practical terms, parents actually exist before God in the lives of their children, with the substance of our interactions mediating and introducing our children to God; parents who neglect their responsibilities to their children are likely to disfigure their image of God (cf. Ephesians 3:15)). Through active acceptance and meaningful praise, fathers are especially important in communicating to our daughters (and our wives) that they are valuable far beyond how they look. Through our example of humbled confidence, our girls have a path to walk along as they gain greater insight into their own identities, and avoiding unfavourable comparisons to others.
Issues of sexuality are a final area of great importance. Here again fathers are desperately needed to give stability to their daughters as young women. Perhaps it is because females, rightly, see themselves so much in relationship with others that girls prize highly what they think others think of them. If they have not grown sufficiently in confidence, emotional stability, and self-understanding, they will be much more likely to give undue weight to messages about how to be accepted by a young man – himself often speaking out of weakness if not manipulation. What children see in the way their dads relate to their moms signals a standard to which potential romantic relationships may be later held. And we know that family stability is one of the most important factors in personal success in the short- and the long-term.
In all of this we can see opportunities, or obstacles. Being paternal while not paternalistic, and acting as a patron not patronizing requires hard work. It is my firm belief that being proactive in caring for and serving our children is a challenge to which fathers can commit. They are supremely worth the effort.
The painful truth is that I never knew my grandfather, at least in any way that a grandchild should. My grandfather went overseas to fight in the first world war, full of pride. But he returned, like so many other young men, broken in spirit. In the years after his marriage to my grandmother, life afforded him little opportunity beyond labour as a brick layer. He tried to be a man of faith, but with every bottle he drank, his sense of worth diminished. When his body finally became too tired to work, his waning years disappeared before the television screen, his mind consumed by his addiction. Whatever mercy he asked for in his final days, there is no doubt he carried tremendous pain to the grave.
How many of us carry the memories of those whose stories leave us with no tale of redemption, no dramatic moment of grace to close the curtain of life, no bright ray of hope shining on their horizon. We are left sorting through the broken dreams and fractured relationships to find a goodness we can hold up, something to tell us this life meant something.
During the month of November, the Church encourages the faithful to spend 30 days praying for the dead. Pope Francis has said: “Church tradition has always urged prayer for the dead, in particular by offering the celebration of the Eucharist for them: It is the best spiritual help that we can give to their souls, particularly to the most abandoned ones.”
It is in the words of his predecessor, Benedict XVI, where I find great hope in the gift of purgatory, the time when God purifies those souls who long to know the peace of His eternal presence, but still carry the scars and sin of this life on earth. Benedict XVI offers these words for us:
Purgatory basically means that God can put the pieces back together again. That he can cleanse us in such a way that we are able to be with him and can stand there in the fullness of life. Purgatory strips off from one person what is unbearable and from another the inability to bear certain things, so that in each of them a pure heart is revealed, and we can see that we all belong together in one enormous symphony of being.”
My grandfather lost a part of his soul on the battlefields. In this month to come, I will be praying that God, even now, is putting the pieces back together again, through His holy fire cleansing and making my grandfather whole in spirit, so he can at last rest eternally at peace in the presence of our Holy God. And for my own penance, for the times I have walked by the broken and depressed, and have not thought to share the hope found in Christ’s redemption,
I will give alms this month in support of veterans who are still living through the trauma of war for the sake of my freedom. Have mercy on us all, O Lord, and lead us safely Home.
Written by Lance Dixon, Director of Campus Ministry at St. Mary's University
God is never outdone in generosity
Angela entered the Catholic Church on the Easter Vigil of 1987, after completing the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults at St. Mary's Cathedral in Calgary. It was two years after she and her husband Mario, a cradle Catholic, had married and moved to Calgary from Burlington, Ontario.
“Within weeks of being a Roman Catholic, Fr. William Stephenson (the Rector at St. Mary’s at the time) informed me as I entered to attend Mass one Sunday morning, that I was to be the lector that day. What a shock and a knee-knocking experience it was,” recounts Angela of her first experience as a church volunteer. As she started her young family, Angela began her lifelong ministry. Before long she was serving many vital functions in several churches in Calgary, running workshops and participating in parish councils, committees, and children’s programs.
Eighteen years of volunteering at St. Anthony’s Church has not dimmed Angela Alexandre’s enthusiasm for serving her community. Even as the COVID-19 pandemic poses extreme challenges for people everywhere, Angela is working hard with the pastoral staff led by Fr. Edmund Vargas to keep the church running during these difficult months.
Not only does Angela ensure that the parish website is up to date, she also sends out the weekly newsletter, which is particularly helpful for elderly parishioners and other vulnerable people who cannot attend Holy Mass in person. She takes part in implementing programs to meet Alberta Health protocols so that people who want to physically attend Holy Mass can safely do so.
“In return for my time, I have the privilege of witnessing parishioners, old and new, come to Mass and be reunited with their parish community – helping them to feel safe, welcomed, missed and needed,” says Angela, who ushers in Holy Mass attendees, cleans, coordinates safety protocols, and counts collections as part of a team.
Angela delights in meeting many wonderful people through her ministry, and treasures being a part of their lives even as they enrich her own. Taking part in church life also enabled her to understand and appreciate the workings and traditions of the parish community, which led to an administrative career with St. Anthony’s Church. She retired in 2014 and her family moved to another parish community for a time, but they found their way back to St. Anthony’s on the First Sunday of Advent in 2019, a homecoming that proved a great blessing to the parish at this time.
Fr. Edmund Vargas, pastor at St. Anthony's Parish, is very thankful of Angela's hard work, "She is the epitome of volunteerism. As a convert, she has been devoted to her faith; she attends daily Mass, and an exemplary wife & mother."
Angela believes that being steeped in the Catholic faith provides an irreplaceable grace, nourishment and strength. For her, the greatest rewards of being a volunteer are “to know the people you pray with; to be able to touch the lives of those in need; to pass along the faith to children and walk with the elderly; to be aware of the young mother with postpartum depression and extend a helping hand, a listening ear or a shoulder; to be able to attend funerals for those who have given so much of themselves during their lifetime and to pray them into the hands of the Lord; to know others and to be known by them.”
“I consider myself paid in full for anything I do, and I believe and have experienced that when you work for God, He is never outdone in generosity,” Angela concludes.
Written by Joan Acevedo, St. Anthony's, Calgary
Photo courtesy of Angela Alexandre.
God is with us
If you have ever wondered how Catholic Education is impacting students’ lives, the Lakeland Catholic School Division annual Girls’ Retreat is a great example of how this is taking place in our communities.
Fifty girls in grades 5-12 participated in the sixth annual all girls retreat on January 31, 2020. Students arrived at École Notre Dame High School in Bonnyville at 6:00 pm on Friday and stayed until noon the following day.
We are so proud of our Youth Liturgical Leadership team who led all of the small groups, activities and worship. Organizers engaged the girls in a number of faith-based reflective and group activities designed to bring them closer. During the retreat, girls participated in an obstacle course teaching them that they can overcome their struggles by reaching out to God, others and their family. Using their strength, and the strengths of those around them; they can overcome the challenges they face and then, with their experience, help others in the future. Grade 12 student Keanna Reid gave an inspiring talk about the impact faith has on this aspect of her life and the importance of friendships.
Written by Amanda Wildman, Lakeland Catholic School District
Photos submitted by Amanda Wildman.
The Rosary Sisters
Catholic Education touches the hearts and souls of those we serve and teaches in ways we often don’t get an opportunity to see. I’m blessed; I have seen the impact!
My teaching career started in grade one, my dream grade. I wanted my students to experience what I had when I started school - God’s great love. My own early Catholic education had fixed this on my heart and now God gave me a chance to share. It was a fun year. As a math/science project we made rosaries. Making a rosary is a great way to teach patterning, counting to 50, grouping by 10, colors and most importantly prayer.
It was a joyous project. The rosaries were made with bright wooden beads and sparkly glitter-glue popsicle stick crosses. They took over a month to make. It was great!
I’m now working in a very different capacity for our school division and my office space is upstairs in our local high school. I often run into kids that I’ve taught as I am walking to and from my office. One day, on my way to my office, I heard a student (very loudly) leave a classroom that I had just walked by. I turned around and recognized them. They weren’t happy. They look up at me and stopped in their tracks.
I wondered what I should say as there clearly was a conflict. Before I had a chance to say anything, they looked at me and said, “You’re my grade one teacher. We made that beaded thing that we prayed with all the time.” I was shocked. I hadn’t thought of the rosary project in years. I answered yes and this student told me they still had theirs. I was even more shocked. Of all the things that could have been said or done at that moment, we talked about the rosary! What power the rosary holds.
I can’t tell you how it went between the student and the teacher as they turned and went back into the room. What I can tell you is that the power of the rosary changed the outcome. Our Catholic schools change outcomes for students at the least expected times and for years beyond the moment they are in our care.
This encounter gave me an idea for our local elementary school. We are fortunate to have Missionary of Charity sisters in our town. They love working with children and they love the rosary! For the past three years they have been coming into our elementary school each October to make rosaries. They spend a morning making rosaries and praying with the students. One of the sisters told me how during the summer when they were walking in a nearby community, one of the children they saw said to them, “Hey aren’t you the rosary Sisters?” She smiled as she told me this story and laughed; “The rosary Sisters”! How beautiful that our Catholic schools teach this life changing prayer to our students.
Submitted by Cynthia Martin, St. Paul Education Catholic Education Coordinator
Photo submitted by Cynthia Martin
In this month of October Pope Francis’ prayer intention is for the Laity’s Mission in the World. At the Second Vatican Council one of the most important contributions was the reflection and teaching about the role of the laity both within the Church but also their apostolate or calling in the world.
The Laity’s Mission originates within the Church but is primarily lived out in what we call society or the world. By virtue of Baptism and Confirmation we are all incorporated into the Body of Christ and share in the priestly, prophetic and kingly mission of Christ. This is the vocation that is specific to laity and is one that seeks to promote the Kingdom of God through a witness of life and service which can transform society in accordance with God’s will.
In the ordinary circumstances of society and family life the laity will contribute to the sanctification of the world. They can promote and witness to the reign of God by being a leaven in fulfilling the responsibilities and obligation that are specific to their circumstances and role in the broader society. Within the Church the pastors “are joined by a close relationship” to the laity. In both following the example of Christ, and in developing a close collaboration and co-responsibility, they promote the unity of the Body of Christ and become through the Holy Spirit an authentic witness to the mission of Christ in the world. Despite the diversity of graces (gifts) and ministries (works) within the Body of Christ there is a unity that can be realized both in the Church and in service to the world through the one Spirit.
The apostolate of the laity within the world is first and foremost a sharing in the salvific mission of Christ through the Church. The laity have a special vocation to make the Church present and active in the world where they become the “salt and light” in the midst of society. The laity in this unique witness, through spiritual sacrifices of daily life, prayer, good works, family life and community involvement continually draw strength from the Eucharist and the Sacraments. For Catholics, this must be the source of our evangelization which becomes expressed in the proclamation of Christ as a living Word through the testimony of our lives in the ordinary circumstances of life and in the acts of charity that reflect the sacrificial love celebrated and received in the Eucharist, the Sacrament of his Body.
In the Church although there is a diversity of ministries, there must be a unity of mission. This mission of evangelization for the laity is a life lived in the midst of the world and among secular affairs. The apostolate of the laity in the world must have the following supports or foundations if it is to be vibrant and flourishing.
Lacroix’s interest in church history turned into a mission to restore the cairn, replacing the fencing, enhancing the landscaping and even designing a new highway sign. He navigated government and ecclessial regulations, rallied together benefactors, organized tradespeople, poured over legal documents, befriended local landowners and contributed a substantial personal financial investment. He persevered for seven years to see his vision realized.
“It should be on every tourist map,” said Lacroix. “Once you are up there with the ranchlands all around, you are transported a 100-years back because it’s not much different probably from that period in the 1870s.”
The historical site is located on a small 24-by-24-foot patch of land in Rockyview County, 3 km off The Cowboy Trail, just north of the Hwy 22 and Hwy 8 roundabout, between Bragg Creek and the TransCanada Highway.
Metis layman Alexis Cardinal built a log cabin there in 1872. The following year Fr. Constantine Scollen OMI, established the mission, and Fr. Leon Doucet OMI joined him two years later in 1875, at which point the mission was moved near Fort Calgary.
The 2020 Feed the Hungry Garden at Mount St Francis Retreat, Cochrane wound up on Sept 19th with the harvesting of 2940 lbs of fresh carrots, potatoes, onions, beets, kohlrabi, zucchini and spaghetti squash for the Calgary Interfaith Food Bank. This includes 864 lbs of zucchini and other vegetables picked and delivered to the Food Bank in August and September. Over 230 volunteer hours were invested in growing this year's garden.
Thank you Mount St. Francis, teams and volunteers for all your hard work! We are so appreciative of what you do and may God bless you! Happy Thanksgiving!
Singing the Mass antiphons
The antiphons in the Roman Missal and Graduale Romanum are the texts given by the Church herself for each particular liturgy. You can also find these texts handy through monthly or yearly missals such as Living With Christ.
During this time of pandemic, the singing of the Mass is now permitted by one cantor, under strict conditions. Cantor may sing for the assembly the propers of the Mass: Introit (entrance antiphon), Offertory antiphon and Communion antiphon. Antiphon psalm verses are optional. Please refer to: Liturgical Guideline Update (Sep. 25) - re: liturgical singing
If you are not sure about singing the antiphons and would like to learn more about it - watch this course from Dr. Jenny Donelson (Seminary of New York/Dunwoodie) on How to add Antiphons to your Parish Sunday Mass.
The resources to sing the Mass antiphons are plenty, so please use one that would work best for your congregation and cantors skill.
Online and free resources to sing the antiphons in English
Can we use psalm tones to sing the antiphons?
Yes. Any liturgical texts can be sung with psalm tones.
To sing the Antiphons in Latin, use: Gregorian Missal, Graduale Simplex or Graduale Romanum
Written by Kyle Greenham for Faithfully
A chat with Fr. Tugano
Interview conducted by Anne Marie Brown
Sharing on Priestly Ministry
Written by Rev. Dr. George Madathikunnath
An adventure with the Lord
A chat with Fr. Daniel Stevenot
Interview conducted by Anne Marie Brown, Catholic Pastoral Centre
From the farm to your table
From coast-to-coast, people of faith will give special thanks this weekend for the Canadians whose life’s work produces the food we find on our grocery store shelves and kitchen tables. Bob Bateman appreciates the gratitude and prayers. But the High River grain farmer has a bit of a confession. While he likes to celebrate Thanksgiving with his wife Karen and their four kids, he gives special thanks when harvest is done. “It’s always a big relief to get the harvest off because you work so long and so hard to get that crop in the bin.” This year, his harvest wrapped up in September—and Bateman, who’s already planning next year’s crops—has been thanking God ever since.
In Southern Alberta, the Thanksgiving holiday typically coincides with the harvest of an edible bounty that ranges from potatoes to pumpkins, carrots, cabbages and onions. The region also produces bread wheat, the durum wheat used to make pasta, sugar beets, canola, high-quality barley for brewing beer, and a growing number of pulse crops sold to international markets that want Alberta’s beans, peas, chickpeas and lentils.
Growing wheat, barley, canola and field peas on land that overlooks the majestic Rocky Mountains, Bateman says there were times this harvest season when mechanical problems threatened the operation. “I told Karen, I think the good Lord is teaching us patience.”
Knowing that harvest-time field fires were common in their area due to dry conditions in August and September, he and Karen were profoundly grateful when they discovered and repaired a mechanical issue before it caused a fire. Looking back, “I know we were being watched over and protected,” says Bateman, a parishioner at St. Francis de Sales in High River.
Kyle and Carla Gouw farm near Taber, where they grow onions, fresh peas, sugar beets, silage corn, barley, alfalfa and beef “This year was the exact opposite of last year,” notes Gouw, who attends mass at St. Augustine in Taber. In 2019, early snow ended harvest operations before they were complete. The Gouws harvested some of last year’s crops in the spring of 2020. This year, they were done harvest by early October.
Gouw says it’s tough for him to think about being especially grateful at Thanksgiving. “I feel like its Thanksgiving all year long,” says the father of four. Like Bateman, Gouw converted to Catholicism. Both men attend the parishes where their wives grew up in the faith.
The son of a Dutch immigrant, Gouw says his relationship with the Holy Spirit comes naturally. “Farmers spend a lot of time on their own. And when you’re alone, you’ll often find yourself talking to God.”
Fr. Mariusz Sztuk, parish priest at High River, knows both men and their families. “What I see in both of these guys is they have respect for the field.” Raised on a farm in Poland, the priest feels a kinship with people who share his own appreciation of the land. “Both of these guys have this sense that the land is a gift given to them. They believe they need to take care of what they have.”
“We take pride in the quality of food that comes off our land,” adds Bateman. “Producing a very safe product and improving our land, that’s important to us.”
Written by Joy Gregory for Faithfully
Around the world with Mary
“Tuus totus ego sum, et omnia mea tua sunt” I am all yours, and all that I have is yours, O most loving Jesus, through Mary, your most holy Mother. ~ St. Louis de Montfort
To celebrate the month of our devotion to our Blessed Mother, Sacred Arts Guild of Alberta are taking us on a tour around the world with some universal images of Mary. We hope you find them both beautiful and prayerful, and appreciate the inspiration behind each artwork.
If you are interested in learning more about the Sacred Arts Guild of Alberta please email SacredArtsGuildofAlberta@gmail.com or check their website at SacredArtsGuildofAlberta.com
National Health Care Week 2020
At the heart of Catholic health care is a deep respect for the intrinsic value and dignity of every human being and an unwavering commitment to serving all people, from all backgrounds and faiths – especially society’s most vulnerable.
This week is the National Health Care Week (Oct 4-10) - we invite you to learn more about National Catholic Health Care by visiting Catholic Health Alliance of Canada
This is a time for us to reflect and give thanks for the gift of Catholic health care, and for the thousands of dedicated staff, physicians and volunteers who care for those in need. Like the Sisters who came before us, the Covenant family is united by a shared mission that calls on us to serve people from all backgrounds and society’s most vulnerable, according to our values.
During National Catholic Health Care Week, let us give thanks for the courageous gift of Catholic health care during these challenging times—in hospitals, community health centres, or seniors care homes. We pray:
Totus tuus, totally yours
I have been praying the rosary for years, but it never ever entered my mind to actually make rosaries – that is, not until a visiting priest gave me a hand-made cord rosary at one of our Parish Missions. As soon as I saw it, I had the desire to start making rosaries just like that one!
To make a long story short, I obtained the necessary supplies and tools and started making rosaries, not having the slightest idea of how this ministry would unfold.
As a former teacher I thought it would be a wonderful thing to make rosaries with children in the schools – but I didn’t mention this to anyone, because being retired, I didn’t see how this could possibly happen. Of course, our Lady had a plan. One of our parishioners saw me making rosaries and asked me, out of the blue ☺ if I had ever thought about doing this in the schools!!!
I said, ‘Yes! But I need to be invited!” He said “I’m inviting you – I’m a grade 6 teacher at” – get ready for this – “Our Lady of the Assumption School!” Our Lady had a plan and it was to begin in one of her own schools!
So on February 28th 1998 I made my first school visit. When the kids finished making the rosaries, they were thrilled – they were SO proud of their rosaries that they were showing them off to all the other students - naturally all of them wanted to make their own rosary, too - so the teachers had no choice but to invite me back to make rosaries with all the other classes in the school!
After that, news of the program spread by word of mouth, from teacher to teacher, from school to school – over the years we have visited 103 of our Catholic Schools – not only in Calgary, but also in Airdrie, Chestermere, Okotoks, DeWinton, High River and even as far away as Brooks! Every year we make and pray the rosary with between 2,000 - 3,000 students from Kindergarten to Grade 9. Teachers and students alike consider it a high-point of the year – by the end of September we are booked up for the whole school year.
At the same time, friends and parishioners, devotees of our Lady and the Rosary, were inspired to learn to make rosaries too, so we started having weekly meetings. Our membership has grown to over 60 men, women and children, who meet every Tuesday Morning at Holy Spirit Church to pray and make rosaries. When it becomes possible to resume gatherings, you are most welcome to drop in and learn how to make Rosaries and pray and enjoy the warm fellowship which has developed in this very special group.
Totus tuus is a Latin phrase which means ‘totally yours’ - Pope (Saint) John Paul II took it as his motto – consecrating his Pontificate to the care and guidance of the Blessed Virgin Mary. That was -- and is -- the inspiration for the name of our Association. The work is totally our Lady’s work – the group belongs totally to her. And each one of us, individually, strives to belong totally to her as well -- so that through Mary - we can belong totally to Jesus. For that is Mary’s desire for us. As our Heavenly Mother, her priority is to bring us closer and closer to Jesus, so that one day we can be united with Him forever in Heaven.
Our Apostolate is actually two-fold – the first is our ministry in the schools -- the second is making and distributing rosaries worldwide. It is truly amazing how our Lady works things out – we began by leaving a few rosaries in our chapel, giving them to pastoral care workers and then people started taking rosaries on their travels, giving them as gifts to parishes that they visited.
A few years ago, the daughter of one of our Rosary Makers was going to Malawi, Africa and took a gift of rosaries to a Sister there. The Sister gave a priest one of the rosaries, he in turn told other priests about our rosaries and word spread throughout Malawi, so that today we have over 45 connections in that country alone!!
Our Lady knows ahead of time where the needs are and makes sure they are met. For example, a friend called me, saying she and her husband were going to Hawaii and asked if it would be OK for her to take rosaries, even though Hawaii is not a ‘mission country’. I told her I would be glad to give her some rosaries - there must be a reason why she feels the need to take them. She called again when she got back – “You won’t believe it’ she said “ When I gave the rosaries to the Parish Priest in Maui he was overjoyed. He said the parish was starting a Prison Ministry and he didn’t know where he would get enough rosaries!!” And there are many more similar incidents.
Through our Lady’s inspiration and guidance, our world wide mission has grown to include 83 countries -- and this year alone we have already sent out over 40,000 rosaries!
Needless to say, the most important aspect of our ministry is the praying of the rosary.
Through the rosary we are surrounding the world in prayer – which is the true essence and meaning of our Apostolate.
Our Blessed Mother has made it possible for us to respond to her plea which she made in Fatima:
“Tell everyone to pray the Rosary everyday to obtain peace in the world.”
We know that the world needs peace and the rosary is the perfect prayer for peace, because it is all about Jesus, who is the Prince of Peace.
Written by Marta Toltesi. Marta lives in Calgary with her husband, John. They have two children and two grandchildren and have been parishioners of Holy Spirit Parish for over 40 years. She is a retired teacher and enjoys gardening, photography and volunteering in the schools, teaching about the rosary.
25 years of blessings
To celebrate a nativity is to celebrate the birth of someone or something new. September 8 is the Feast of the Nativity of Mary, also known as her birthday. It was back on September 8, 1995 that Clear Water Academy, a private, Catholic school, first opened its doors in Calgary to a mission that would form Christian leaders for the transformation of society.
On September 8, 2020, Clear Water Academy celebrated its 25th Anniversary since its foundation on the Feast of the Nativity of Mary, Patroness of our school, and the opening of a brand-new Elementary school building dedicated to and called St. Thomas More Hall – a nativity of its own kind.
With hopeful anticipation we watched our new building come to completion over the summer months. St. Thomas More Hall is beautiful; a proper nod to the excellence that takes place within its walls. In addition to our peaceful new chapel, colourful library, Atrium, and outdoor learning areas, it has large classrooms that easily house our small class sizes, and are outfitted with sinks for optimal handwashing, making physical distancing and other safety protocols much more achievable.
Just two days after the Alberta Government announced the cancellation of in-person classes in early March of 2020, faculty at Clear Water Academy pivoted to CWA Interim Home Learning and witnessed the resilience of our entire community over the months of an uncharted learning environment. Our teachers sent home work packages and held classes over Google Meet, and provided hours of one-on-one support over Zoom. Our morning intercom announcements took the form of videos, and our students worked in new ways to stay engaged in their learning. It was a proud display of the tenacity and the unity of parents and faculty working together for the normalcy of a school routine for our students despite the daily-changing news updates, fears, uncertainties, disappointments in cancelled plans, and threatening despair we were all, in our humanity, experiencing at the time.
We believe that these victories in the practical elements of education were the fruits of our Intellectual, Spiritual, Human, and Apostolic educational model. Since God has given and blessed our mission and since we have, by grace, echoed Mary’s “yes” to fulfill the call, when fear tempted us to panic, our faith reminded us to hope and to persevere. It urged us to be thankful, even, for such a clear return to the heart of trust that comes from knowing that we have a Saviour in Jesus when nothing else seems as it should be.
The long-awaited celebration of our 25th anniversary is of unrepeatable significance as we welcomed our students back to campus. What joy we experienced - with masks, washed hands, and physical distance - to see our students and parents again! It’s safe to say that it has required “all sanitized hands on deck” to implement our School Re-entry Plan that has been prepared for the safety of our faculty, students, families, and greater community.
We are grateful to our faculty for their dedication to the mission they’ve been called to - and to our parents for their trust and partnership with us in the ongoing education and formation of their children. And finally, we are grateful that Jesus resides within our school chapels and that He is known more and more by our faculty, families, and students in every heartfelt prayer, learning activity, kind encounter, and friendly encouragement that make up our days.
Here I am, send me
“I will go anywhere you want me to go, I will do anything you want me to do, I will say anything you want me to say.” Those are the words that every missionary with Catholic Christian Outreach (CCO) prays every day signifying the abdonment that we will go, do, and say whatever it is the Lord is asking of us. CCO missionaries live with a radical abandonment, the willingness to say yes to God for the mission like biblical figures like Abraham, Isaiah or Mary and saints like St. Francis Xavier. They reveal a heart on fire for Jesus and for souls to know Him. In CCO, our mission is shaped after the heart of those I mentioned above. Our mission statement is: CCO is a university student movement dedicated to evangelization. We challenge young people to live in the fulness of the Catholic faith with a strong emphasis on becoming leaders in the renewal of the world. When CCO missionaries say yes to a career with us and to live out CCO’s unique mission, we say yes to living a life of being abandoned. Now typically, how that plays out is that we are abandoned to our placements which can be anywhere in the country or being abandoned to how God provides for our ministry though our efforts in support raising. However, CCO lived this out in the past seven months in a very unforeseen way. We have had to be abandoned in everything that we do so that our mission can continue despite this global pandemic.
When we say the words “I will go, I will do, and I will say,” we didn’t expect that going means staying at home, doing means starting a Zoom call, and saying is looking for ways to creatively invite university students to place Jesus at the centre of their lives through a video screen. But that’s exactly what happened. Our mission of proclaiming Jesus clearly and simply continued despite every physical limitation that the pandemic has placed on us. Abandonment is never easy; doing mission this way has been difficult. We miss personal connections, students are harder to get hold of, and our missionaries and students are longing for community. But when Jesus calls us to something, He knows exactly how even if we can’t see it. It’s hard to see, but I trust that the Lord has good plans in all this. He knows exactly what He is doing. He has called us to a mission to bring University students to Him and He is asking us to do this by going, doing, and saying the things he is asking of us while physical distancing.
Despite our mission seeming impossible, we have seen great fruit throughout this pandemic. In the Spring, we were in the middle of our campus programming when campuses were shut down and everything was moved online. It was a very sudden turnaround, but despite that we were able to retain 91% of our students through accompanying them online. Then shortly after, we cancelled all of our missions this summer due to travel restrictions. The Lord asked us to still have a mission and to do it online. There we saw over 120 students hear the Gospel message proclaimed to them because students joined an online mission and invited their friends to a faith study. And now this normally would be the time where we would be seeking out new students on campus and since no students are on campus, we have found new ways to find new students wether that be through personal invitations, social media campaigns, or reaching out through our networks.
This year has not been easy for most of us. But in this time, the Father still calls us individually. In fact, He is calling every single Catholic, through their baptism, to proclaim Jesus’ name. That may seem daunting and we may not know how, but what I have seen through this pandemic is that He will always provide a way as long as we are willing to go anywhere He wants us to go, do anything He wants us to do, and say anything He wants us to say.
The beloved daughters
How often do we make plans, only to have them not go “as we planned”? Perhaps similarly, Mary had an idea of what plans were to unfold for her life. However, when approached by the Archangel Gabriel, her ‘yes’/fiat to God’s will transformed these ideas.
For us, the beginnings of this woman’s ministry, from what we perceived the Holy Spirit’s promptings to be, didn’t even come from a woman. It came from the encouragement of a man. Inspired by his perspective, the three of us gathered over vietnamese cuisine and multiple coffees to iron out our vision of hosting Calgary’s first Diocesan Women’s Conference.
It was the end of January 2020 when what we had was a venue and a date. We had an event before we even had a ministry! We had exactly 4 months to pull everything off and by God’s grace, every door opened for us. We had approval from the Diocese, a theme, amazing speakers, a production team, and tickets were being sold as soon as registration opened. God was very good. Despite the start of COVID-19 precautions, we were optimistic that our event would still occur. That is, until the end of March, where we sadly decided to postpone the event. It was difficult to believe that we were getting all the green-lights in planning over a short period of time, only to have the world literally shut down. Nevertheless,God was still very good. He had and has a plan for us. As a team we perceived this downtime as an opportunity to build a strong foundation for a ministry, that if God so willed, would flourish. We were given this opportune time to create the ministry, reach women locally via social media, create a social media presence and attempt to collaborate with local communities to get the ministry running despite the pandemic.
Reflecting on the Magnificat, I am reminded that we are nothing without the Lord and His grace in our life. As humans, we often lack the practice of gratitude. Mary gave a joyful claim: “all generations shall call me blessed.” She recognized the work of God in her life; that He was to make her the Mother of the Saviour of the world! Her ‘yes’ surely was a sign of gratitude, a quality that many acquire through virtuous practice and prayer. When I realized we were no longer able to proceed with the conference, I was disappointed and my motivation seemed to wane. I did not reflect on what God was conveying to us during the initial quiet months of COVID-19 restrictions. I didn’t “ponder” these things as Mary did. It is possible that Our Lady would have been overwhelmed, yet she never questioned Gabriel. Instead, she prayed and pondered everything interiorly. I can now recognize the generous gift God provided us. Our vision for this ministry is to continue saying ‘yes’ even when feeling discouraged. It is important to me that women in Calgary have a space to rediscover their identity and grow in virtue.
The virtue of humility echoes throughout the Magnificat. St. Teresa of Avila defines humility as: living in the truth. The truth of who we are, and who God is. As we grow in knowledge of this truth, everything and everyone is put into proper order. When one knows the truth of who they are, there is no longer the need to compare, or compete. Instead, secure and confident in the Father, one then forgets themselves and is present to others. In Mary, we see this lived out in full. Confident in her identity as a beloved daughter of God- that had already been rooted within through her practice of prayer and virtue- upon receiving her mission, Mary is able to forget herself, and goes with haste to tend to Elizabeth. Similarly, we hope that the Beloved Daughters Ministry becomes a platform for women. That our contributors, resources, and events, will aid women along the journey of growth in prayer, virtue, and friendship as they lean into their belovedness.
After postponing our conference, we were offered the opportunity to host a live-streamed Virtual Pilgrimage through Canmore’s Shrine. Our website launched on August 22, 2020 - the Queenship of Mary, which also happened to be the Shrine’s patron feast day. It was evident that Our Lady had held our hand through all this and so we dedicate this women’s ministry to her.
Mary is our example of how to magnify the Lord. If there is anything we desire, it is to do the same; that our ministry magnifies the Lord.
At St. Mary’s University we are proud of our Catholic identity. Thanks to the generosity of the Catholic Women’s League (CWL), we are honoured to host a leading Catholic speaker for our CWL Annual Lecture in Catholic Studies. On Friday, October 2 (5:30 – 7:30 pm MST), Sister Nuala Kenny, MD will offer this year’s virtual keynote address on “Healing the Church: Diagnosing and Treating the Clergy Sexual Abuse Crisis”. Due to COVID-19, our lecture will be held online.
Sexual abuse by Catholic clergy is the greatest scandal of the modern Church. It has caused devastating, life-long harm to victim-survivors and their families and communities. It has resulted in the loss of trust in the Church as a place of holiness, care and justice, and has eroded the credibility of its leaders as disciples of a loving and merciful Jesus. For some, it has precipitated a crisis of faith in God as it has wounded bodies and minds and crushed souls. The Catholic Church is wounded and in need of healing.
As a pediatrician who is also a Professor Emeritus at Dalhousie University, Dr. Kenny is very familiar with the devastating harms of the physical and sexual abuse of children and youth. Among her many accolades, she was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1999 for her contributions to child health and medical education and she has received a Queen’s Jubilee Medal. As a Sister of Charity – Halifax for over 50 years, Sister Nuala is deeply committed to helping the Catholic Church heal from this crisis. She has been involved in this work since her 1989 participation in the St. John’s, Newfoundland, Archdiocesan Commission on Clergy and Clergy Sexual Abuse. She has authored two books on this topic, Healing the Church (2012) and Still Unhealed: Treating the Pathology in the Clergy Sexual Abuse Crisis (2019). Sister Nuala also served as an advisor to the CCCB Ad Hoc Committee on Protection of Minors (2014-2018) which produced “Protecting Minors from Sexual Abuse: A Call to the Catholic Faithful in Canada for Healing, Reconciliation and Transformation”.
On Friday evening, October 2nd, Sister Nuala Kenny’s virtual keynote address is titled “Dynamics and Diagnosis: A Call for Personal and Ecclesial Reform”. Using her medical background, Sister Nuala will help us properly diagnose the deeper systemic issues that are at the root of this crisis. With this understanding, she will then draw upon the words and actions of Jesus, the Healer, to provide a holistic prescription for healing the Church. To register for this free online lecture, please visit: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/2020-cwl-annual-lecture-in-catholic-studies-by-sister-nuala-kenny-md-tickets-121260769225
For those who wish to continue this important conversation, on Saturday, October 3rd, Sister Nuala Kenny is facilitating a virtual workshop: “Lessons from Being Church in the Pandemic: Prophetic Possibilities for Pastoral Conversion”. The morning session (10:30 am - 12:00 noon MST) is on “Lessons About Secrecy, Dialogue and Morality”. The afternoon session (1:00 pm - 2:30 pm MST) is on “Lessons About Relationships, Mission and Challenges”. This workshop is a critically constructive reflection on how we, as disciples of Christ, might make sense of what has happened in this crisis and respond both individually and communally. It aims to provide support for laity and clergy who desire repentance and continual conversion to disciples of a loving and merciful God. This workshop is rooted in the “mind of Christ” and in trust in the power of the Holy Spirit to make all things new. The cost of this workshop is $25.00 for both sessions. To register, visit: https://www.stmu.ca/event/cwl-virtual-workshop/
Written by Dr. Peter Baltutis
CWL Chair for Catholic Studies, St. Mary's University.
Catholic Pastoral Centre Staff and Guest Writers