On Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023, Bishop McGrattan ordained twelve men into the Permanent Diaconate at St. Mary's Cathedral. The Bishop's homily, focusing on the permanent deacon's call to serve as a Servant of Christ and the Church, is a reminder of our own call as the baptized. It is the responsibility of every Christian to immerse themselves in a life of service in our own vocation. Below is the text of the Bishop's homily from the Ordination Mass for your reflection:
Nov. 18, 2023
We are gathered today at St. Mary’s Cathedral to celebrate as a local Church the ordination of these twelve men to the permanent diaconate. For some who are present you may be aware that I have also just returned to the diocese after having participated this past month in the first phase of the Synod. It is a Synod on Synodality which Pope Francis has described as the experience of the Church as the People of God called to walk together under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. And among the many issues, and I can say that there were many issues discussed, there were two that struck me as being fundamental at this time in our history.
The first was the inclusion of the poor in society. It was discussed, we listened to many parts of the Church to which the poor, in various ways, seek to be included not only in society but the church. And the second issue that was debated was the need to promote greater peace and social dialogue. It was somewhat ironic that as the Synod unfolded, we once again were seeing the lack of peace, the recent acts of aggression, and war in the Middle East, in the Holy Land. Yet the Church from its very origins and from the mission entrusted to it from Christ was to have the poor at the heart of the Christian community. The poor in terms of material goods; the poor in terms of social status or spiritually poor. It is the poverty that we also experience with a declining health or sickness of advancing age. But what we also discussed at the Synod was the “new face” of the poor, the growing reality of migrants, people who are displaced because of war, social, political and economic conditions. And this was shared in various ways from many of the delegates, who represented these migrants, that this reality touches their families, touches their parish communities, and the society that they live in.
The Church, in its social teaching, has stated that the preferential option for the poor must be at the heart of the Church and society. Have we been authentic as a Church in this witness? In lives of the saints we can see how the Church has lived this out. In the life of St. Vincent de Paul, St. Elizabeth of Hungry, or more recently St. Theresa of Calcutta. It was the Word of God that these saints often heard, which called forth in the witness of their lives this preferential option for the poor. And even today we know that when we hear the word of God proclaimed each week, there is oftentimes this same echo that goes through the readings. That God shows His love first to the poor, that His mercy is upon those who have nothing.
Pope Francis, in Evangelium Gaudium said, “inspired by this same call, the Church understands that the option for the poor has a special form of primacy in the exercise of our Christian charity. The whole tradition of the church bears witness to this.” Today, in the ordination of these men to the Diaconate, we are part of that tradition. Pope Francis went on to say, and he states this often, “This is why I want a Church which is poor, and for the poor, they have much to teach us.”
During the Synod he also witnessed to this option by inviting some of the homeless and poor that are a growing community around St. Peter's Basilica to join him for lunch with some of the cardinals, the princes of the Church. He made it very clear that ones that had priority in the Church were the poor who were invited to that table.
This Sunday we celebrate what has come to be designated as World Day of the Poor by Pope Francis. It is a celebration that is intended to be a witness of our preferential option for the poor. And to these candidates, it's providential that your ordination takes place on the eve of this Sunday celebration. In fact, it is most fitting and appropriate that those called to the permanent diaconate are ordained in anticipation of this day that is dedicated to the poor.
The history of the diaconate as a ministry in the Church is both ancient and also new since its restoration following the Second Vatican Council. It was also discussed on the Synod floor. The following question was raised and discussed - has the diaconate truly been received and implemented into the life of the Church as witnessed by the early Church, and does this ministry need to evolve to serve the needs of the People of God and the poor today. However, to understand the diaconate, its identity, mission and purpose, is to approach it from two perspectives. To understand it from the perspective of the Church, its ecclesial origins. And then, secondly, with every ministry within the Church, from the baptized, to the diaconate, the priesthood, and the episcopacy, that we are all configured to Christ in a special way through the sacraments.
The readings today, especially the first reading and the second, help us to understand how the early churches—both the Israelites or chosen People of God and the early Christian Church of the Acts— called some within the community to ministry or service. In Acts we see the calling of the seven, who later came to be designated as the first deacons and in the Book of Numbers the calling of the sons of Levi to service. In both instances there is a recognition within both communities that there were many growing practical needs, both spiritual and material. In the early church, especially the material needs of the poorest, the widows. In the Book of Numbers, the sons of Aaron designated as priests needed the assistance, not only in the temple services of worship but, more importantly, in the community. And so even today there originates many ministries in our parishes through the growing needs that evolve because of changing social and historical conditions.
What we also see in these readings is that those who are called to these ministries are called from within a community. A community of a parish, a community of a diocese. They're chosen; they're set apart, but they are to be men who are distinguished in their character. Men of good standing, filled with wisdom in the Holy Spirit, men of faith. These characteristics have been both called forth and tested during in these men during this period of formation. For the sake of you, the People of God, it is important that those who present themselves for ministry have in fact received the proper discernment and formation. Their vocation has been called forth from the community, from within the Church to serve the Church. But this calling and this spiritual leadership to which we see the seven and the sons of Levi reminds us that it is God who calls first, and it is God who commissions or ordains. And this is where every ministry in the church begins, in being called forth by God and ordained by God through the Church.
The final point is that in these readings we see that those appointed are given to tasks of service. Yes, to build up the community, but from the community to go out to the peripheries and to preach the word of God. And we preach the word of God most effectively not necessarily from the pulpit but from the very witness and the service that each of us does in witnessing to Christ.
This is one of the three priorities of our Renewal, that we need to become more of a Church of encounter and witness. To welcome people into the Church but also for the Church to go out and to be of witness and service to our brothers and sisters. These are the essential characteristics and origins of diaconal ministry that are found even today. That they are called from the community, that they are ordained for needs of the community, but they are chosen by God, commissioned by God, and that their work and service is truly to build up the church in outreach to the poor.
The other aspect of the diaconate is that its origins is found, as every ministry, in relationship to Christ. In today's Gospel, we hear of the disciples coming to the Lord once again, encountering him, and wanting to know how they can follow him more faithfully. And in John's Gospel, Jesus responds, not so much through conversation, but he gives them a parable, a very simple parable. He says to them, and He probably says to each of us, that when a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it bears much fruit. And this is the paradox of the Christian life of service: that we must emulate Christ in His self-emptying, His love which is sacrificial, His emptying of His life for the sake of others. This must be the attitude and the witness of those called to the diaconate for they represent symbolically the image of Christ the Servant. They have the pre-eminent responsibility to be in our midst and witness to Christ who serves.
Today, we see this sacramental reality unfold in the ordination rite. These ancient liturgical practices are ever old and ever new, and they show that it is truly God's action working through the Church and the ministry of the Church. These men have been called and they have responded by saying “I am present,” and they are acknowledged by all the People of God who are present today. They will be questioned as to their motivations and then they will come forward in a simple act of promising obedience, yes, to me the Bishop, but obedience to the Church, to the People of God that they will serve. And then, as an outward sign of this kenosis, this self-emptying, in every ordination rite they prostrate themselves on the floor and we surround them with the Church's prayer and the singing of the Litany of Saints, reminding them that it is truly the grace of God that sustains all of us in the call to ministry. And then I will go down as the Bishop of the Diocese and lay hands on these men in silence; a scriptural sign of being set apart, of being dedicated to the Lord and for service of the People of God. This new reality of becoming a deacon is then given an outward sign in the taking on of their stole and dalmatic a sign of service. Then they will come forward and receive the Book of the Gospels and asked to teach, to preach and to witness to what they believe. They will be asked to proclaim the Gospel not only in ministry of teaching and preaching, but in the witness of their service. This is the ultimate sign of being Christ the Servant.
In this ordination these men have the unique privilege of receiving the two sacraments of service, that of marriage and the diaconate. I wish to acknowledge and thank their wives who are present and to say that the deacons need to be committed first to their wives and families in service, and then today in terms of holy orders to be available to serve a broader community, the People of God. They must always unite both in being Christ the Servant.
The diaconate has always been identified to the scriptural image of Christ, who kneels to wash the feet of His disciples. May you experience their ministry in this way. That they may have the humility to kneel, to wash, and to seek out the poor, those most in need of Christ's mercy and Christ's presence. And finally, that they will, with the priests and myself, become at witness to what Pope Francis wants the Church to become: a church of synodality, a church that walks with the poor, a church that is poor, and that serves the poor.
May their ministry bring this renewal to our Diocese as we celebrate their ordination today.
+William T. McGrattan
Bishop of Calgary
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Congratulations to our twelve new permanent deacons, ordained on Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023 at St. Mary's Cathedral by Bishop William T. McGrattan.
Please pray for our newly ordained deacons that he may be strengthened by the gift of God's grace to carry out faithfully the work of ministry, and that he may imitate our Lord who came not to be served but to serve. Amen.
A special acknowledgment is extended to the liturgical ministers, St. Mary's Cathedral, and diocesan staff for their dedicated work in organizing the ordination liturgy. We express our special appreciation to the Permanent Diaconate Ministerial Council, sponsors, and volunteers for organizing and arranging the reception.
Join us in rejoicing as we welcome new permanent deacons, ready and eager to serve Christ and His Church. We're delighted to invite you all to explore our extensive photo album from the Permanent Diaconate Ordination.
We, as Catholics, are privileged to be invited to receive Jesus, truly present in the Eucharist at Mass. However, it's estimated that 70% of Catholics consider the Eucharist to be merely symbolic.
To increase the awareness of the Real Presence of our Lord in the Eucharist and to promote Eucharistic adoration, Sacred Heart Parish in Calgary hosted the Eucharistic Miracles Exhibition for their parishioners, faithful in the Diocese of Calgary and beyond.
The exhibition was created by Blessed Carlo Acutis, a youth who died of leukemia at the age of 15 in 2006. The Eucharistic Miracles of the World Exhibition is a curated collection of Miracles recognized by the Church, that have occurred through history, from across the world. Blessed Carlo researched and catalogued Eucharistic Miracles from around the world, using his God given technical and artistic talents to create the materials that make up the exhibition.
Eucharistic miracles provide indisputable evidence that Jesus is truly present in the Blessed Sacrament. As quoted from Blessed Carlo Acutis, “Jesus is my great friend, and the Eucharist is my highway to Heaven.” Blessed Carlo received the Eucharist daily and desired to share the joy of Christ’s presence with the world through the exhibition. He is the first millennial to be declared Blessed.
Why would a Texan move her family up to Calgary to become a president of a Catholic university?
I get asked this a lot so it’s probably about time I write down my story.
It was early last year, in January of 2022, that, out of the blue, I received a Facebook personal message from a friend of mine saying that she was helping a university with a search for their next president. She explained in her message that, because it was a Catholic and liberal arts & sciences university, she couldn’t think of anyone better than me to apply for the job. Would I be willing to at least talk over the possibility with her?
Well, I have to admit, that even though Jennie and I worked together quite closely for a number of years at Baylor University, and I trusted her, I was not eager to respond. After all, I had been living in Waco almost 18 years, I was enjoying my work there serving students, my parents lived there, we had a great community of friends, and both of my sons were attending Baylor. Nevertheless, I kept thinking of the message. Combining my Catholic faith, what I had learned about working with students for 18 years, and my love of the liberal arts & sciences … I had to admit that I was intrigued.
I consulted with my husband of 27 years, Terry, and he started researching the opportunity. As an American family that had never traveled to Canada, we were embarrassingly ignorant of where Calgary—even Alberta—was located. It turned out that one of Terry’s close friends had spent 25 years working up here and he quickly noted that Calgary is conveniently located quite close to the Rocky Mountains. We adore the Rocky Mountains and had spent nearly every summer camping for weeks in the Rockies in Southern Colorado. Once I finally agreed to speak to my friend Jennie about the opportunity, things happened quite quickly. By the next evening, I learned that the search committee wanted to interview me. From there, I started learning a lot about St. Mary’s University in Calgary, Alberta.
As I was preparing for the interview and only six days before I was to travel to Canada for the first time for the interview process, my son Jordan happened to meet a Ukrainian deacon from Ottawa, Fr. Deacon Andrew Bennett, at daily mass on Baylor’s campus. They struck up a conversation and it turns out that Fr. Dcn. Bennett knows Calgary quite well and even knows St. Mary’s University. When I made that connection, my first question to him was, “What is the Catholic community like in Calgary?” After all, if I was going to consider moving my family from Texas to Alberta, I knew that we would need to find a strong faith community to be a part of. Fr. Dcn. Bennett responded emphatically that, if he didn’t live in Ottawa where he does his research and work, he would live in Calgary precisely because he had found a vibrant community of Catholic faith. He then introduced me, via email. to a number of families and a priest in Calgary. The outpouring of warm welcomes I received made me feel as though this might be a place we could consider home. We even made contact with a couple of families where one or both of the spouses was from Texas!
After a grueling day of presentations and interviews at St. Mary’s, I called my husband late at night to share that Jennie had just let me know that the Board of Governors intended to extend an offer for the job as president in the coming days, he did not pause. His immediate response was, “Well, it’s obvious that this is what God wants us to do.” And, while I typically take a lot of time to make decisions—often wavering some as I consider options—I too felt confident immediately that this was the right next step for our family. I have never wavered from that confidence. And, that’s the answer to the question: I felt called.
Two parts to my calling: Community and Confidence
The past year has been a wonderful whirlwind of activity for me, the family, and, yes, St. Mary’s University. Welcoming me as their first female and fourth president and vice chancellor has been an adventure for the university for certain! I have been embraced with open arms on campus and across the Calgary Catholic community. While some days, I feel that my American personality can overwhelm some Canadians, I admire how the St. Mary’s community has adopted a courageous mindset, looking boldly into the future, embracing innovative approaches and continuing to grow deep roots in the Catholic Intellectual Tradition.
When I was asked to write something for Faithfully, I knew that I wanted to offer two thoughts: one centered around community and the other centered around confidence.
First, I want to express gratitude to you, the faithful of the Diocese of Calgary, for the warm embrace that you have given me and my family. So many of you have invited our family into your homes, you have prayed for us, we have celebrated mass together, shared meals, and more. You have embraced us as members of this community. And, in a strange way, just as Fr. Dcn. Andrew testified to what a great Catholic community there is in Calgary, the Catholic community in Calgary feels like something that I have been called to work to enhance in my job as president.
St. Mary’s University is located in southeast Calgary, off McLeod Trail at Bannister Road. If you have been in the area, you have likely noticed one of the oldest structures in Calgary, a tall red Water Tower that lights up at night. As an institution that was founded in 1986 by laypeople in Calgary, St. Mary’s has a unique position in all of Canada. It is one of the only independent (that is, stand-alone) Catholic universities in all of Canada. You may have noticed that most universities in Canada are not faith affiliated in any way. And, those universities that are Catholic are typically federated or affiliated with a large public research university. Think of St. Joseph’s College that is on the campus of the University of Alberta of St. Michael’s College in relation to the University of Toronto.
Just like our Water Tower shines at night, our unique position offers us tremendous opportunity to be a shining beacon for Catholic (and non-Catholic) students and community members all over Canada. It seems to me that Canada very much needs an authentic and flourishing independent Catholic university that offers quality degree programs, preparing students for future careers and to live a life worth living. I would love to invite you to be a part of the St. Mary’s University community. We want our campus to become a gathering place for Catholics across the city – a place for the young and old—to gather for fellowship and intellectual formation.
This year, we have a lecture series entitled Inspiration Unplugged. Be sure to come to campus for our next lecture featuring Dr. Troy Davies from Catholic Social Services of Alberta. And, save the date for Mary’s Festival, an all-day, outdoor family festival on June 1 on our campus! I believe that St. Mary’s University can become the pre-eminent Catholic university in Canada. To achieve this, we need everyone, especially the Catholic community from the Diocese of Calgary, coming around to support what we do and sharing the story of our beacon of light.
As I sat at my computer, preparing to set a vision for the St. Mary’s community even before flying up to Calgary, I contemplated for the first time that Mary had resolute confidence. And, while I had never before had a serious devotion to Mary (I grew up Protestant), my heart cried out, “Okay, Mary, if you want this to happen, you are going to have to imbue me with the confidence I need.”
Obviously, Mary answered this cry as I have found a resolute assurance, and I have needed this confidence every step of this journey. However, confidence has not just fallen on me in a personal / Marian devotional way. I have also felt a deep sense that confidence is exactly what the Diocese of Calgary needs more of these days. Let’s be honest—it does feel that the Church has taken a beating in recent years whether we’re talking about the lasting impact of COVID, wrestling with the Church’s role related to residential schools or even ongoing attacks on the nuclear family by many entities across our society today. How can we have confidence in the face of wrestling honestly with the issues we face today? It’s certainly not by retracting or turning inward into bastions of separation from the world, although some days that may be tempting.
So, during this time that our shepherd Bishop McGrattan is calling all of us to renewal, I invite you to consider that you, as a beloved child of God, are called to confidence. The Latin base words that form the word indicate “with faith.” And here I will make reference to the little way of Thérèse of Lisieux. She emphasizes in her biography a total and absolute confidence –not in self or plans or anything or anyone else—no, confidence in the absolute goodness of the Lord. Rather than choosing a self-reliant “confidence in me” as Maria in the Sound of Music sang about, I must offer myself in complete reliance to God, flinging myself into God’s loving embrace daily. This exercise, especially when practiced regularly, helps me get out of my own head. It frees me from self-reliance and all of the trappings that come with thinking that we have to solve our own problems. Putting myself into the gaze of Jesus imbues me with grace, and it’s grace that sets us free from self.
I encourage you to contemplate walking with confidence in God’s absolute goodness. And, if you are not doing so already, I encourage you to build into your regular routine coming together with others in our Calgary Catholic community. For me, weekly prayer / fellowship gatherings with a small group of friends grounds me and makes all of the difference.
In closing, I want to encourage you to follow what we are doing at St. Mary’s. You will not want to miss the Inspiration Unplugged Lecture series. At the next lecture, we will hear from Dr. Troy Davies, president of Catholic Social Services of Alberta, focused on the story of the washing of the disciples’ feet on November 23rd with doors opening at 6:00 pm. Mostly, I want to invite you to pray for St. Mary’s University. Pray that we would continue to build a university that uplifts the Catholic community and that reflects Mary’s simplicity, purity, clarity, and confidence.
Written by Dr. Sinda Vanderpool, President and Vice Chancellor, St. Mary’s University, for Faithfully.
As they prepare for their upcoming ordination the permanent diaconate, we invite you to learn about each of the deacon candidate's unique all to this vocation, the formation journey, and their unwavering desire to be configured in the heart of Christ the Servant.
As winter descends on Canada, The Salvation Army is teaming up with the Diocese of Calgary to ensure everyone has a warm coat. We're hosting drives to collect new and gently used coats for those who need them most.
We understand that a winter coat can be a significant expense, and we don't want anyone to choose between warmth and food or rent. If you're ready to make an impact, join us. Organize a Winter Coat Drive in your community, and together, let's spread the warmth.
Elizabeth House is accepting donations from the Wish List on December 14 between 9 am to 12 pm and 1-3 pm at the Catholic Pastoral Centre (120 17 Ave SW, Calgary).
Wish List 2023 - New items only
Who to contact?
To donate items, please contact Sarah Cormier at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you prefer a monetary donation, please contribute directly to the grassroots operations of Elizabeth House. Donations can be made by cheque to Elizabeth House or online at catholicyyc.ca/donateelizabethhouse
We are incredibly thankful for any help you can provide, whether it's through donating an item from our wish list, making a monetary contribution, or simply spreading the word about our cause. Thank you for your kindness and generosity!
A message from the Renewal Leadership Team:
As we draw the Diocesan Renewal Gatherings to a close, we offer you all a sincere THANK YOU!
What an amazing response! Almost 1000 participants joined four gatherings across the diocese. Sincere gratitude to each host-parish who went above and beyond by providing hospitality, food, welcome, ministries and an outpouring of support. The spirit at each gathering was hopeful and there was overall excitement for renewal. Bishop McGrattan and the Renewal Leadership Team are filled with gratitude for your encouragement and for your eagerness to move forward.
Every participant was invited to share feedback and, as a result, we were able to get a strong sense of your thoughts and insights. Here is what we heard when we asked: What aspects of the gathering were most effective?
If you are interested in providing a similar experience and gathering for your parish or lay association, the Renewal Leadership Team can share a template for planning and resources so that you may host a gathering of your own. Let’s keep the momentum going!
Thank you for your prayers and your heart for renewal. We are blessed to be among you, the Faithful. We look forward to seeing you at future Renewal events! Please spread the word, witness and pray for Bishop McGrattan and the work of the diocese.
There were many individual comments provided by participants and some of these quotes have been captured in the summary and pictures provided by Faithfully last week. Feel free to scroll down or click the location buttons below:
November 4, 2023 | Mary, Mother of the Redeemer, Calgary
November 7, 2023 | All Saints Parish, Lethbridge
November 8, 2023 | St. Francis de Sales, High River
November 13, 2023 | Holy Family, Medicine Hat
Special thanks to our digital media volunteers at the Renewal Gathering,especially to
Fr. Fabio D'Souza, Thiago Campos, Thiago Cavallini, and Daniel Vilela from Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Calgary;
Jason Openo from Holy Family, Medicine Hat.
Lectio Divina is a very powerful method of prayer and formation for spiritual growth and intimacy with the Word of God. The Church recommends we do it daily, with the readings from the liturgy. The Compendium brings together the daily Liturgy, space for the practice of the prayerful reading of the Word of God, prayers, and monthly formations on Unity in Mercy.
Aid to the Church in Need (ACN Canada, Pontifical Charity) will hold its 9th annual Red Wednesday on Nov. 15 and invites individuals, parishes and schools to participate between Nov. 15 to 19, 2023.
In solidarity with Christians who suffer for their faith, we are inviting people to organize an event around that theme, to make themselves visible by wearing red, illuminating their church or another significant building in red, as this colour is associated with martyrdom in the Christian tradition.
Please consider these activities with your parish, ministry, and community:
These days, and especially here, it's hard to imagine that people can be discriminated, or worse, persecuted because of their faith. Unfortunately, reality isn't as such. Today, across the world, 327 million Christians live in a country where there is persecution at various degrees. Because of their faith, they endure discrimination, they get scorned, they get arrested, they get incarcerated, they get tortured and sometimes they even get killed. It is estimated that 75 % of acts of violence for religious reasons are perpetrated against Christians, which makes them the most persecuted group.
Instead of getting better, the situation is getting worst year after year. Among persecutors we find governments who fear the influence of the Church and try by all means to reduce Christians to silence. This is frequent in communist or totalitarian countries. We also find other religious groups who wish to eliminate Christians in order to become the only religious group of a region.
The persecuted find strength in our prayers which accompany them and that way they don't feel abandoned from the rest of the world. Visit: https://acn-canada.org/red-wednesday/
Catholic Pastoral Centre Staff and Guest Writers