Educating mind, body & spirit
The Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education has estimated that the total number of Catholic higher education institutions around the world is over 1300. In North America there are approximately 300 Catholic post-secondary institutions, with close to 25 of these in Canada alone. These run the gamut of large stand-alone public institutions like Mount Saint Vincent and St. Francis Xavier in Nova Scotia to small independent universities like St. Mary’s University in Alberta. Many Catholic PSIs, such as the University of St. Michael’s College or St. Paul’s College are affiliated with larger secular institutions, such as the University of Toronto or the University of Manitoba respectively. Indeed, affiliated institutions are the norm, with universities and colleges partnering with larger institutions throughout the country, from the Maritimes to British Columbia.
Many of these institutions were founded directly by religious orders and maintain strong ties to these originating partnerships. Campion College, at the University of Regina, for example, is a Jesuit university college started in 1917. Brescia University College, affiliated with Western University, was founded in 1919 by the Ursuline Sisters. St. Thomas University in New Brunswick dates back to 1920 and was originally led by the Basilian Fathers of Toronto. A great many of these institutions began as or remain largely Liberal Arts institutions, though many also deliver professional programs in Education, Nursing and Business, for example, or specialize in Theological offerings.
For all of the variety, a common point of connection is the deep bond with their Catholic heritage. Many mission statements speak specifically of the need to educate students in mind, body and spirit. Most subscribe, in some substantive way, to the Ex corde Ecclesiae, an apostolic constitution that defines the key principles of Catholic universities, as issued by Saint Pope John Paul II in 1990. The Ex corde reminds us that the concept of the university itself owes its existence to the Church, and that the three oldest — Bologna, Oxford and Salamanca — began as religious institutions as far back as the 1000s and 1100s.
The Ex corde identifies four essential characteristics of Catholic post-secondary institutions: that they publicly celebrate their commitment to their Catholicity; that they reflect on the vast field of human knowledge in the light of the Catholic faith; that they are true to the Gospel values; and that they promote social justice and the common good in and for those they serve.
In ‘The Idea of a University,’ Saint John Henry Newman defined exactly this view of a Catholic university’s charter: to provide ‘a comprehensive view of truth in all its branches,’ to nourish a true ‘cultivation of the mind,’ and to prepare graduates to be citizens of the world who could move ‘with comparative ease into any subject of thought,’ in order to make an impact in society. Catholic education is not about an ivory tower — it is about the preparation of ethical, informed citizens ready to influence and change the real world for the better.
For David Malloy, President of King’s University College at Western, it is exactly this ‘dedication to and engagement with the community’ that most impresses him about his university’s mission. ‘This university breeds a culture of social justice and social concern, very consistent with Catholic teaching and its intellectual tradition, that spreads across disciplines.’ Peter Meehan, President of St. Jerome’s University in the University of Waterloo, and Chair of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities in Canada, makes the point that ‘the journey to truth includes both faith and reason’ which is what allows us ‘to explore the questions facing humanity, from biological and business ethics, ecumenism, ageing, death and dying, to the ecology, globalization and issues of responsible citizenship and government.’
For Michael Higgins, President and Vice-Chancellor of Corpus Christi-St. Mark’s at UBC, the very philosophical architecture of Catholic higher education is founded in the Catholic Intellectual Tradition upon which so many of these institutions are based. ‘Catholic institutions of higher learning are defined not by political boundaries nor ethnic histories, but by a history of centuries of fundamental conviction, a spiritual and intellectual commonwealth of perduring consequence for humanity.’
Catholic institutions the world over are open to all — people of faith or no faith — and they attract tens of thousands of students precisely because they offer a skill set that prepares them to ask difficult questions, even about faith itself, in order communicate and design a better framework for a world that cares for its citizens. Dr. Trent Davis, a professor in the Education program at St. Mary’s University in Calgary, explains how the philosophy of Catholic education transforms learners and positions them to be more critical thinkers. ‘The first course they take with me always provokes some trepidation, from both Catholic and non-Catholic students alike. We begin together by considering spirituality, and students are frequently surprised to find how grounded and realistic the topics for discussion are. Rather than a dry and irrelevant otherworldliness, they find themselves confronted with issues like questioning, purpose, and connection. Most classes come to realize that their experience in the course overall speaks to life itself.’
Catholic higher education in Canada is flourishing precisely because it speaks to the needs of the real world. It addresses the heartache of residential schools and the horrors of colonization; it speaks to the darkness of abuse and neglect; to a world of pandemic and unequal citizenry. But it also engages directly in a culture of giving and respect; of analysis and action. Catholic higher education is committed to understanding the critical interchange of faith and reason and of celebrating the common good, dedicated, as Pope Francis puts it, to ensuring that our ‘horizons are open to transcendence.’
The power of storytelling
Recently East Central Alberta Catholic School Division (ECCS) hosted its annual Mission and Ministry Day. The divisional full day faith event is facilitated to help foster and enrich our spiritual journey in loving and serving God. ECCS has developed a four-year faith plan based on the divisional touchstone which reads, “We teach; we share; we learn; we care. Growing in Christ believing that we can make a difference.”
The focus of our year one faith plan is the beginning of the touchstone, “we teach.” During this year, we focus on answering God’s vocational calling to be authentic Catholic educators. The scriptural foundation for the school year’s faith focus is from Romans 8:28, “we know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose.” What a relevant scriptural passage this is in kicking off the four-year faith initiative! We extend to Father Moses of Blessed Sacrament Church in Wainwright, as well as Father Christopher at St. Mary’s Church in Provost, a sincere thank you for wonderfully celebrating our opening liturgy.
Educating within a Catholic school is a God given vocation, a calling, and not just a job. God has given each of us unique abilities, talents, and gifts that we are summoned upon to give freely and to teach the Good News as Jesus Christ did. What a beautiful and tremendously magnificent responsibility this is. Every day we receive the greatest gift, that being the children of God, to which we are called upon to educate, love, care for, and to build God’s kingdom.
Often, the best professional development and faith enrichment comes from those that we work with daily. Every person has a story to tell and we wanted to capture the unique and sometimes challenging faith journeys travelled in answering God’s call to be Catholic educators. With this in mind ECCS along with Dr. Annicchiarico as our guest speaker, facilitated a day centered around the power of story telling. The telling of personal faith stories takes courage. Three administrators and two senior administrators shared their personal testimonials of being called by God. Three story telling topics consisting of being “Called,” “Blessed,” and “Entrusted” were delved into by our presenters. Each testimonial was incredibly personal and each resonated in different ways. All the stories touched upon the truths of humanity, being sinners, facing struggles, enduring hardships, and ultimately finding joy and peace in recognizing and responding to God’s call!
After each testimonial staff members were provided with guiding questions that helped to foster further story telling. The stories told were authentic, sometimes emotional, and there seemed to be a general mood of sincere joy and gratitude. Stories have the power to unite us and they bind us together as witnesses of God’s love and mercy. Heartfelt story telling is a remarkable way of passing on the truth and wisdom gained along our life journey. At the end of the day, we realized that we are all wonderfully created and uniquely gathered to vocationally answer the call of God. We are so very blessed to be a part of His plan.
Catholic Education sticks with them
I left the task of dressing Frank in football equipment until 5 minutes before we had to leave for practice and the pressure was on. My anxiety stemmed from my own football days in which being late for practice was punishable by a variety of creative endurance challenges. When we finally made it to the field 10 minutes late, I was half-relieved that the coach did not demand that I run sprints with one of Frank's 8-year-old teammates on my back.
As our bobble-headed children ran drills in the field, I joined other parents on the sideline, where the typical introductory remarks occurred. Learning that I was a local Catholic school principal, two parents recounted their own Catholic education as they were both alumni of Catholic schools in Alberta.
Obviously, most people do not wish to discuss negative experiences with total strangers, however in my experience, without solicitation, many people enthusiastically share the memories of their Catholic education.
Often it is said of Catholic schools in Alberta that "they feel different" from their public counterparts. This feeling is usually attributed to the obvious religiosity of the building or Holy Spirit's activity in our midst. Since moving further south in Alberta, I have decided that Catholic school alumni also "feel different." Though a bit mysterious and difficult to define, based on many spontaneous conversations, I think that Catholic education in Alberta, at its best, gives students the opportunity to witness Christ's Kingdom being built daily...and it sticks with them.
Most people have some sense of the trappings and routines of catholicity in our schools. While the formalized religious and liturgical programming feeds our spirit and identity, there is an equally important "spiritual osmosis" that occurs to students from the teachers, parents, and priests who model how Catholics think and act in daily life.
The products of Kingdom building are seen in the police officer who still attends school masses and remembers the prayers from his years in Catholic school. The parent who arrived in Canada as a refugee from Bosnia and "prays like a Catholic" because of her schooling, despite being Muslim. A community coach who leads pre-game prayer, because "that's what we always did." The volunteer driver with a van full of teenage boys, who crosses herself when driving by a cemetery or church. The innumerable stories of teenage shenanigans met with merciful responses of both Catholic parents and teachers working to restore peace and justice.
These little conversations are a grace to me knowing that educators, parents, and clergy rarely see the fruits of their work. They are indicators of our students meeting Jesus and being a part of his Kingdom while in our schools. It is an education that sticks with them and reveals God's love.
Giving, not receiving
Do you remember the culture wars over whether stores should be stocking their shelves and playing Christmas music right after Remembrance Day, well before the beginning of Advent?
Or remember when the debates about replacing “Merry Christmas” greetings with “Happy Holidays” salutations raged?
Stores used to be closed every Sunday, keeping the Lord’s Day sacred and holy, whereas now it’s questionable if they will remain closed even one day a year on Christmas day.
How do Christians keep Christ in Christmas in today’s post-Christian age awash in secularized culture?
Gratitude is the interior posture the Calgary Diocese invites us to cultivate this Advent in preparation for Christmas. Rather than largely focusing on gift buying and acquiring, let the focus be on having eyes to see that All Is Gift. How are the ways that I Am Blessed in this Advent and Christmas liturgical season?
The annual diocesan I Am Blessed campaign is an opportunity to reflect on how we can each pray, act and give to become more other-focused during this holy season.
Peter Baltutis shared some of his thoughts on this with Faithfully and he talked through some of his family’s Advent and Christmas traditions. He’s husband to his wife Leanne and father of three children aged 14, 12 and 6, as well as the associate professor of History and Religious Studies at St. Mary’s University in Calgary.
“It is really hard to combat the commercialism and materialism and constant bombardment of ads on TV, ads on the radio. We feel countercultural trying to deemphasize that and focus on spirituality,” said Baltutis.
When he and Leanne first got married they had intentional conversations about how to keep the focus on the birth of Jesus and His Incarnation rather than buying goods.
They begin each year by recognizing that Advent is a time of preparation for the celebration of the birth of Christ on Christmas Day. On the first Sunday in Advent they place their Advent wreath at the centre of their dinner table and light the first candle at suppertime. It’s a simple reminder that they are assuming a posture of waiting for someone special and important to arrive.
During Advent they decorate their Christmas tree with ornaments that hold meaning and memories from years past. They see this as a sacred time of passing on family stories and sharing memories from the past year.
The most important Christmas decoration is the nativity set at the base of the Christmas tree. The children build a stable with Lincoln Logs building toys around the Holy Family figurines.
“It’s a fun exercise as a metaphor, this idea that we are cooperating with God on Earth, the Incarnation is here, we need to help it, give a home to it,” said Baltutis.
The Baltutis Family attends an Advent retreat at the FCJ Centre in Calgary as a way of preparing their hearts for Christmas. They also avail themselves of the Sacrament of Reconciliation to turn back to Christ and make interior room for Him.
They pray the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass on Christmas Eve followed by a celebratory meal.
When it comes to Christmas Day and gift-giving, the Baltutis Family tries to keep a focus on gift-giving, rather than gift-receiving. Peter is originally from the United States of America and so at Christmas he flies his family back to Florida to celebrate Christmas Day with extended family. They each draw a name to buy a gift for and on Christmas Day they intentionally go around a circle, taking turns giving the gift they took time and care, to either make or buy, for that family member. Often the emphasis is on family time -- so giving the gift of an experience, such as candy and movie tickets, for example.
“There is a real concern about spoiling our kids,” said Baltutis. “We don’t want them to expect or demand a lot of gifts, walking around with a sense of entitlement. We try to counterbalance that by doing a service to those in need around us.”
The children consider the needs of the broader community by choosing a name from the Jesse Tree at their St. Patrick Parish in Calgary. The children help choose the gift items and wrap them.
“We are intentional about our messaging. It’s not simply doing things and assuming the kids pick up on it…. It’s having intentional conversations about key themes like generosity, giving, loving our neighbours, serving those on the margins of society,” said Baltutis.
On the other side of the city at St. Joseph’s Church, Marilou LeGeyt is trying to cultivate a similar focus on intentional gift-giving with her family and church music ministry members.
“We love Christmas gift giving, but we also want to teach our children the real gift of Christmas. How do we give thanks to God who has given us everything? And how do we share this gratitude with each other? I think for a start, we have to appreciate what we’ve been given and to take care of it really well.” said LeGeyt.
She is encouraging her family and friends to show their love for one another by either making a gift, upcycling/regifting, offering a talent/act of service or the gift of time together creating a shared experience.
It’s the time spent with our loved ones, not our material possessions that makes Christmas extra meaningful, said LeGeyt.
“We can’t be more excited!”
Singing belongs to one who loves
Faithful Living: Reusable bags
Over 127 countries have banned or regulated single-use plastic bags around the world. But how much better are the reusable options? The answer is... it's complicated. From green bags to degradable bags, hessian bags to cotton totes — are these plastic bag alternatives any better? We need to consider how the bags are produced, how many times we will use it, and how you can dispose of it.* Watch the video below.
The solution for this mass problem starts with an awareness and the lessening of the impact of our choices on others and the world around us. Small decisions contribute to the mass problem. Don't think that your small contribution to a global problem is meaningless
Consider these for faithful living:
What's your "shepherd's bag" made of?
Then he took his staff in his hand, and chose five smooth stones from the wadi, and put them in his shepherd’s bag, in the pouch; his sling was in his hand, and he drew near to the Philistine."
*Source: ABC News In-depth
Faithful Living: Biodiversity
Often our "privatized" and individualistic mentality or lifestyle can make us believe that we live in isolation, and that our lifestyle choices only affect ourselves individually, "My choices, my life." But we belong to one another and no matter how private our actions are, they affect others through a ripple effect either directly or indirectly. If we believe that our life and all of creation are gifts from God, we owe it to God to care for one another by caring and preserving our biodiversity.
Fundamentally, we depend entirely on the planet’s living systems for survival. We’re a part of these systems and we cannot exist without them. The better we understand how the systems of life work, the more sustainably we can live. The less we know, the more likely we’re going to continue causing irreparable damage to Earth’s ecosystems. (Source: Dr. Peter Raven).
Ecological destruction and the loss of biodiversity obscure our ability to see and experience God, and are an affront to the Creator. The fate of the natural world and human life are fully intertwined. Ecological destruction harms human life, and human social injustice inevitably has ecological consequences. Source:Celebrate Life: Care of Creation, 1998, The Bishops of Alberta and NWT.
Consider these for faithful living:
Canadian Bishops invite Residential School Survivors, Indigenous Elders, Knowledge Keepers and Youth to meet with Pope Francis in December
OTTAWA, November 10, 2021 – The Catholic Bishops of Canada are pleased to announce that 25-30 First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Elders, knowledge keepers, residential school survivors, and youth will meet with Pope Francis at the Vatican from December 17-20, 2021, accompanied by a small group of Canadian Bishops.
“The journey towards healing and reconciliation is a long one, but we believe this will be a significant milestone in the Catholic Church’s commitment to renewing, strengthening and reconciling relationships with Indigenous Peoples across the land,” said CCCB President, the Most Rev. Raymond Poisson. “With this delegation, we hope to walk together in a new way, to listen with humility, and to discern the next steps that the Church can take to support residential school survivors, their families, and their communities.”
The delegation has been planned through ongoing dialogue with the Assembly of First Nations, the Métis National Council, the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, and other Indigenous leaders. While specific travel plans and itineraries are being coordinated with the delegates directly, representatives from the Vatican have confirmed that the Holy Father will participate in private meetings with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis delegates respectively to hear their personal stories of the lasting legacy of residential schools. Delegates will also have the opportunity to speak with the Holy Father about their hopes and expectations for his eventual pilgrimage to Canada.
In addition to this group of delegates, additional Indigenous Peoples have been invited to participate in the journey, including for a final audience with the Holy Father. Centred around the principles of mutual trust, respect, and a shared desire to move forward for a more hopeful future, the Canadian Bishops and Indigenous Partners have agreed upon the theme, “Indigenous Peoples and the Church: Walking Together Toward Healing and Reconciliation”.
Collectively, the delegation includes participants from across the country, representing multiple faith and linguistic backgrounds. Every delegate brings their own perspective on the history of colonialism and residential schools.
Travel and hospitality costs for the delegation will be covered by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. Mental health workers will travel with the group, in recognition of the painful sentiments that may be experienced by many delegates.
Additional information on media accreditation and availabilities will be communicated in short order. Information about the delegates themselves will also be shared in the coming weeks, subject to their consent.
Download News Release (PDF)
Nativity postage stamps
Do you know that Christian-themed Christmas stamps are an example of successful resolutions by the Catholic Women's League (CWL) of Canada?
National CWL Resolution 1959.12 resolved "that The Catholic Women's League of Canada in 39th annual national convention assembled at Saint John, N.B., request the federal government to plan a Christmas stamp depicting a “Nativity Scene” to be issued in Canada annually during the month of December."
This was followed by their Resolution 1980.11 which resolved that "The national council of The Catholic Women's League of Canada, in 60th annual national convention assembled, do commend Canada Post for the issues of postage stamps with religious themes and do recommend that each year one or more of the Christmas stamps issued have such a theme." Resolution 2005.01 resolved "that the national council of The Catholic Women's League of Canada, in 85th annual national convention assembled, urge Canada Post to include a Nativity-related theme in its future Christmas stamp issues." All of these resolutions were archived in 2016 because the action requested has been accomplished. Canadians have had a Christmas-themed stamp for several years now and deeply grateful for the effort of CWL in the process.
Canada Post began the tradition of featuring Nativity art on stamps in 1965, with an issue featuring the Gifts of the Magi. In the years since, the Nativity Scene has been portrayed in children’s illustrations (1970, 1975) stained glass windows (1976, 1997), gouache illustrations (1977), early Renaissance paintings (1978), icons (1988), Aboriginal art (2002), and more. The stamps have provided excellent opportunities to celebrate the birth of Jesus through Canadian art.
Booklets of the 2020 Nativity stamp, the 2019 The Magi, the 2017 Adoration of the Shepherds and 2018 "Away in a Manger" are still available on the Canada Post website.
2021 Nativity Stamps
Celebrate Christmas with this booklet of 12 permanent domestic rate stamps from the 2021 Christmas (Angels) stamp issue. This year’s Christmas issue is inspired by the angels who served as messengers in the Nativity story. The stamp features a simple line depiction of a Christmas angel on a serene white background.
Montréal-based artist Stéphane Huot and illustrator Luc Melanson, who resides near Montréal, produced simple line drawings on a crisp white background, evoking purity and peace through the Christmas season. Beloved symbols at Christmas, angels played an integral part in the Nativity story. In the Bible, these celestial beings, whose name derives from the Greek word for messenger, often serve as benevolent intermediaries between God and humanity. According to the Gospel of Luke, it was the archangel Gabriel who told Mary she would give birth to Jesus, “Son of the Most High,” and when the day arrived, it was an angel who announced the good news to shepherds tending their flocks in the region. A choir of angels singing God’s praise appeared around the messenger angel, and then the awed shepherds departed for Bethlehem to worship the newborn king. (Source: Canada Post)
These stamps are available in outlets as well as through the Canada Post website. Some nativity stamps from previous years are still available through the Canada Post website.
Fast fashion and textile waste
One major contributor to the world's waste problem is fast fashion and textile waste. An average person throws away 37 kg of textiles annually and North American send over 10 million tonnes of clothing to landfill every year. Globally, new garments produced annually now exceeds 100 billion, double the amount compared to the year 2000. (Source: WCWRCanada)
This infographic tells the story of textiles in Canada, from the first shoemaker to what it will take for our circular textile future.
Consider these for faithful living:
Lest we forget
Canadians pause in silence on November 11 to remember those who died from war, and to pray for the victims of aggression and inhumanity throughout the world. This is a day to pray for peace, to consider what we are doing as individuals, as a community, and as a nation to bring God's peace into the world. (Source: ORDO)
A shrine to Our Lady of Lavang
A shrine to Our Lady of Lavang in the parish of St. Vincent Liem, Calgary has recently been built and blessed, and is the pride and joy of the Vietnamese community in the city.
Fr. Joseph Canh Vu, pastor of St. Francis Assisi parish and former pastor of St. Vincent Liem parish (2009-2017), says the Blessed Virgin Mary is an important part of the Vietnamese Catholic culture and the shrine has become popular for those who want to pray and honour the Holy Mother of God.
The shrine is devoted to the story of Our Lady who is said to have appeared many times in Lavang, Vietnam in 1798.
“The Vietnamese people are fond of the devotion of the Virgin Mary in Vietnam. Families say the Rosary often before going to bed,” said Father Joseph. “In Vietnam, it’s a tradition to devote ourselves to the Virgin Mary.
“The community is very excited. When people come to Mass, or even weekday Mass, they go to say a prayer in front of the shrine.”
St. Vincent Liem Church, which is located in the Forest Lawn neighbourhood, was formerly in Inglewood. After years of growth in Inglewood, the Church made the bold move to build a new Church where it is located today at 2412 48th Street SE. The current pastor of the church is Fr. Nguyễn Đức Vượng. The associate pastor is Fr. Phạm Công Liêm.
The new church was dedicated on July 11, 2015 by Bishop Emeritus Frederick Henry of the Calgary Diocese. It is known for its grandeur and modern architecture, featuring an open concept, natural lighting, and the versatile design with a touch of the Vietnamese heritage.
In the years 2009-2010, the St. Vincent Liem parish in Inglewood began to seriously contemplate building a new Church. The number of people attending Mass was increasing. Parking for the weekend was increasingly becoming more difficult.
From 2011 to 2013, the parish began planning the construction of a new Church. On June 15, 2013, the first broken stone officially opened the construction of a new Church in the Forest Lawn area. After the new Church was built, on May 16, 2015, the statue of Our Lady was moved and temporarily placed at the back area of the Church as a place for parishioners to pray.
On March 25, the parish held a Mass for the laying of the first stone to inaugurate the construction of the shrine. The project was completed in early October. On Oct. 10, Bishop William McGrattan officially blessed the shrine of Our Lady of Lavang.
Catholic Pastoral Centre Staff and Guest Writers