Fr. Wojciech Jarzecki can still hear the church bells ringing throughout his hometown of Chrzanow, Poland the day Bishop Karol Wojtyla was elected Pope John Paul II.
“He was my bishop because I’m from the Diocese of Krakow. When he became a pope it was a pretty big deal,” said Fr. Jarzecki, who was only 6-years-old at the time.
He could have never anticipated that years later he would literally continue to be so close to the late pontiff and be able to share that sense of closeness with his Calgary Diocese and beyond.
Fr. Jarzecki has gifted Sacred Heart Parish in Strathmore with a rare first class relic of the modern-day saint. He served as pastor of Sacred Heart Parish for more than 10 years before being reassigned last year to St. Michael’s Parish in Bow Island, Alta.
“The major impact that he made in my life was to show that the faith is not just something you have in your room; That the faith can mold your life, can mold the life of society and the country. Faith is not a theoretical thing, but it’s a practical thing,” said Fr. Jarzecki.
And the Catholic faith doesn’t get much more practical than relics. Three years ago Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz gifted Fr. Jarzecki with two first class relics of St. John Paul II’s blood.
During a medical procedure the Pope’s blood was drawn and kept in vials for a potential blood transfusion. After the Pope died, Cardinal Dziwisz had the unused blood turned into first class relics. Fr. Jarzecki called up the Cardinal to ask for a relic, and after some papal procedures, his request was granted. He traveled to Poland to receive the relic and bring it home to Canada.
The relic looks like dried blood on a tiny piece of cloth encased in a pyx-like container with a glass top. Today, the relic is kept at the Sacred Heart Parish office and is brought out to venerate inside a reliquary on special occasions such as Oct. 22 – the feast day of St. John Paul II.
At this time the parish community meets in the Holy Cross Collegiate gymnasium, while they raise funds to renovate a former IGA building into their new church building. The long term plan is to build a St. John Paul II chapel that will permanently house one of two relics; the other would be placed in the church altar.
Sacred Heart parishioner Tomas Rochford is honoured that his parish houses John Paul the Great’s first class relic because he admires the late pontiff for authorizing the writing of The Catechism of the Catholic Church, deepening the Church’s teachings on sexuality with The Theology of the Body and upholding the dignity of the person amidst political corruption.
“I find inspiring his ability to stand against the two great forms of tyranny in the last century – the fascism and nazism of Germany, but also communism, both of which affected Poland, and to come out of that situation not bitter, but reminding us that the answers to the moral, political, social problems are not to be found in a better, more powerful state, but in Christ ultimately,” said Rochford, the high school religion teacher at Holy Cross Collegiate in Strathmore
“That’s such an important witness even today when different forms of totalitarianism, even democratic totalitarianism, which is not as obvious as being taken to a gulag, can take authentic freedom away. I think John Paul II in his writings and the witness of his life is definitely someone we can turn to in this day and age.”
Fr. Jarzecki hopes the relics will make tangible the life of St. John Paul II and that the lessons taken from history provide important guidance for how to live (or not to live) today.
He remembers it wasn’t until he was 17-years-old in 1989 when Poland began to regain its freedom from communism. He remembers how the Communist Government put his father under house arrest because he was part of the Solidarity Movement in Poland opposing communism.
“When (Pope John Paul II) was speaking to Polish people during the Communist (rule) he didn’t talk about taking up arms, what he was basically saying is you are children of God and no one can take that away from you. God gives you freedom, this is not a government gift,” said Fr. Jarzecki.
“He showed how our faith can be so powerful if we follow it. Nobody believed communism could come to an end and it collapsed because of the Catholic faith.”
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"My hope at sharing some personal reflections from the perspective of being both a Catholic Priest and man of Indigenous heritage. In honour of the national day in recognition of Truth and Reconciliation, September 30, 2021."
Written by Deacon Michael Soentgerath for Faithfully, October 2021.
Written by Fr. Terry Connolly for Faithfully, October 2021.
Stories written and compiled by Solomon Ip for Faithfully.
A note from Solomon
The Diocesan Office of Communications had initially approached me last year if would be willing to write the jubilarian interviews for 2020, but I was just about to leave for Ontario for six months. This year, I thought I’d be proactive and offer to take on the project, not realizing that there is a wonderfully large amount of jubilarians this year!
My life is often that of St. Martha, where I am distracted by many different things; it has been a blessing to take the part of St. Mary of Bethany for a change, and to figuratively “sit at the feet” of these masters, and learn what it means to live out one’s vocation. My sincerest gratitude to this year’s jubilarians for all they have done in their priestly lives - we would be much spiritually poorer without you!
My deepest gratitude as well to the Diocese of Calgary, Dcn. Michael Soentgerath, Fr. Dan Gurnick, OFM, Fr. Kevin Lynch, OFM, and Mariette and Kristoph Dobrowolski.
The Catholic Bishops of Canada, gathered in Plenary this week, took the opportunity to affirm and acknowledge to the Indigenous Peoples the suffering experienced in Canada’s Indian Residential Schools. Many Catholic religious communities and dioceses participated in this system, which led to the suppression of Indigenous languages, culture and spirituality, failing to respect the rich history, traditions and wisdom of Indigenous Peoples. They acknowledged the grave abuses that were committed by some members of our Catholic community; physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual, cultural, and sexual. They also sorrowfully acknowledged the historical and ongoing trauma and the legacy of suffering and challenges faced by Indigenous Peoples that continue to this day. Along with those Catholic entities which were directly involved in the operation of the schools and which have already offered their own heartfelt apologies, the Catholic Bishops of Canada expressed their profound remorse and apologized unequivocally.
Together with the many pastoral initiatives already underway in dioceses across the country, the Bishops pledged to undertake fundraising in each region of the country to support initiatives discerned locally with Indigenous partners. Furthermore, they invited the Indigenous Peoples to journey with us into a new era of reconciliation, helping us to prioritize initiatives of healing, to listen to the experience of Indigenous Peoples, especially to the survivors of Indian Residential Schools, and to educate our clergy, consecrated men and women, and lay faithful, on Indigenous cultures and spirituality. They further committed to continue the work of providing documentation or records that will assist in the memorialization of those buried in unmarked graves.
A delegation of Indigenous survivors, Elders/knowledge keepers, and youth will meet with the Holy Father in December 2021. Pope Francis will encounter and listen to the Indigenous Peoples, so as to discern how he can support our common desire to renew relationships and walk together along the path of hope in the coming years. The Bishops of Canada have pledged to work with the Holy See and our Indigenous partners on the possibility of a pastoral visit by the Pope to Canada as part of this healing journey.
We are committed to continue the journey with the First Nations, Métis and Inuit Peoples of this land.
24 September 2021
27 September 2021
The Bishops of Canada, as a tangible expression of their commitment to walk with the Indigenous Peoples of this land along the pathway of hope, are making a nation-wide collective financial commitment to support healing and reconciliation initiatives for residential school survivors, their families, and their communities.
With a target of $30 million over up to 5 years, this will include initiatives in every region of the country. The commitment will be achieved at the local level, with parishes across Canada being encourage to participate and amplify the effort.
September 22, 2021
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 being reported each day has significantly increased in our province. This brings to the forefront of our consciousness the need to safeguard the common good, and in charity to promote the safety of others by protecting our individual health and that of society. In some provinces, the sectors of healthcare, education and social services, public agencies and corporations have begun to announce mandatory vaccination as requirement for their employees and the public. This has resulted in the Diocese and the parishes receiving from members of the faithful the request for letters of exemption from the mandatory vaccination based on the grounds of religious belief.
While the Diocese respects the freedom of a person’s individual conscience as the Church teaches, the Church and her ministers cannot objectively attest to or endorse a person’s process of discernment in coming to their decision of conscience. Therefore, the Diocese and the parishes will not be issuing any letters of exemption from vaccination.
The clergy has been strongly encouraged instead to accompany and assist those requesting such letters to know and understand the teachings of the Church on vaccination during this pandemic through statements released by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), and the pastoral letter provided by the Bishops of Alberta and the Northwest Territories.
As stated by my brother Bishops and in communion with the Holy Father, it is morally permissible to receive a vaccine approved for use in Canada against COVID-19, and while there are many possible reasons for one to struggle in their conscience with such a vaccine being mandatory, the Diocese will not take the position or role of endorsing an individual’s conscience and decision.
If vaccination will be mandated, there must also be on the part of legitimate authorities, the necessary provisions of reasonable accommodation which respects and promotes the dignity of the individual conscience and the decision of conscientious objection. However, those who choose not to be vaccinated for whatever reason must do their utmost to ensure that they take all precautionary measures possible to avoid places and circumstances where they and others would be most vulnerable. They must also follow the health and safety measures not only to prevent contracting the virus for themselves but also preventing others from becoming sick. This is everyone’s moral responsibility.
Much prayer is needed in this time, in this polarized society, for those who have suffered so much and for those who continue to suffer from the reality of the pandemic. As Christians and people of goodwill, we must grow in our love and concern for others and use the gift of our freedom responsibly to help others especially those who are in most need.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
+William T. McGrattan
Bishop of Calgary
“Pray, hope, and don’t worry” seems like a cheesy home decor slogan, but his life reveals the riches of this attitude of trust in God. He was a Capuchin friar who worked tirelessly for the salvation of souls. People flocked to him as they saw how his unique relationship with God was manifested in all sorts of spiritual gifts, from bilocation to reading souls. His feast day on September 23rd is an opportunity for each of us to experience his witness and intercession in our own lives.
Our diocese’s own Fr. Cristino Bouvette, who has loved St. Padre Pio since childhood, experienced his intercession in a crucial way. On June 16th, 2002, he was helping out with a contracting project. He was balancing on a sawhorse, holding a heavy garage door operator, when he took a wrong step that could have ended in calamity: “I was about to pull this very heavy operator down onto my head and land on concrete... I saw the whole thing happen before my eyes and I just said, ‘Padre Pio!’” The sawhorse fell forward instead of backward, and Fr. Cristino was unharmed. Since it was the day of Padre Pio’s canonization, Father always thought that maybe his beloved saint had given him a special blessing on that day. Apart from the lesson that one should not stand on a sawhorse, Fr. Cristino’s story teaches us how powerful and life-changing a simple, trusting prayer can be.
Padre Pio’s powerful intercession continues in Heaven. For the numerous intentions people would bring to him, Padre Pio prayed the Efficacious Novena to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It is a prayer characterized by deep trust in Jesus’ promise that the Father will give us whatever we ask with faith. He called prayer “the key that opens the heart of God.” Many of his prayers were answered in miraculous ways. Some prayers were not answered in the exact way the hopeful pilgrims expected, but he asked his spiritual children to abandon themselves to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and let Him take care of everything. He reminded people that God wants to give us many good things and that the best thing He wants to give us is the gift of Himself: “It seems that Jesus has no interest outside of sanctifying your soul.”
Rather than on things that pass away, Padre Pio’s prayer was set on eternity: “I feel powerfully the need for a true, sincere and intimate conversion to God... This is what I assiduously ask of Jesus: my conversion.” His radiant sanctity attests to the claim he made that "God has never refused me anything and indeed I must say He has given me more than I asked.” Nor did this saint refuse anything to God: he offered his life as a sacrifice in order to bring souls closer to Him. Fr. Cristino remarks, “I wish everyone knew that he was a saint not because of his stigmata but because he loved Jesus with his whole life. That’s why he was a saint.”
By embracing his relationship with God so completely, Padre Pio also embraced the Cross, including all the suffering that Jesus allowed for his purification. His daily choices had eternal consequences on countless souls, as do ours. Padre Pio has taught Fr. Cristino that “we need to be prepared to suffer for the Church... when we abandon ourselves to God, when we detach ourselves from our preferences, and give ourselves over to Him, we will live for the Church, we will become completely at her disposal, as He wants us. This gives us a lot of peace, this gives us a lot of hope, even when we are challenged.”
Padre Pio’s loving, interior assent to participation in the suffering and death of Jesus was exteriorly manifested in his Stigmata. These miraculous bodily wounds corresponded to those of Jesus. His relationship with Jesus strengthens our hope that daily intimacy with our Crucified Saviour will give way to a share in His victorious Resurrection, on earth and in Heaven. He gives practical advice: “Kneel down and render the tribute of your presence and devotion to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament... Speak to him with filial abandonment, give free rein to your heart, and give him complete freedom to work in you as he thinks best.”
Padre Pio’s glorious life testifies that God still works miracles. St. Padre Pio, pray for the most beautiful and important miracle we could desire, that each of us would become a saint.
As a young mom with a daughter ready to attend kindergarten, I was not sure which school I could trust my young and impressionable daughter to. Who would be good enough to teach her? I worked in the public division, yet my heart was being called to the Catholic school. I knew no one who worked there, so I decided to make an appointment to have a tour of Holy Family Academy in Brooks.
When I walked in, I felt something different. There was a sense of peace and calm. A welcoming presence washed over me. The Bible verse, “Let the children come to me” was exactly what I saw myself doing; letting my child go to these teachers. I wanted my daughter’s faith formation to begin with authentic relationships where prayer was spoken and open, and honest conversations were had on a daily basis. When I reflected on who would be good enough to teach my child, it was God. He had to be placed first as an educator and in my daughter’s life. I was grateful to know that I had a choice where my daughter could attend school. I know God led me to Holy Family Academy.
It has been wonderful to watch her grow and to see the amazing woman she has become, mostly due to the teachers who shaped and molded her and taught her of God’s love, mercy and forgiveness. This was where the seeds were planted. When our second daughter was born, we knew that she would attend Holy Family Academy as well. No questions asked. The decision was easy to make!
My work at the public school division made it tough for me to share in celebrations and events with her. I remember at a church event on Pentecost Sunday I walked up to the principal of Holy Family Academy and I told her that I was going to work for her one day. Unbelievably, that next year I was hired and I have been with Christ the Redeemer ever since. I have not looked back. Here I can openly pray for a student and make the sign of my faith. I am so grateful to work where my daughters went to school and be a part of their learning. I feel so blessed.
I have learned that God stretches you when you least expect it. I am not the same person I was twenty years ago. He has been at work leading and guiding me, as I walk and pray in ways I had never done before. The opportunities the school has offered me have been such a gift. Face to Face and NET retreats, listening to musicians and guest speakers, school masses, adoration, the Martha Retreat Centre, Faith Days, and Mission trips…all of these experiences have such a special place in my heart. When Mother Mary called me to go to Medjugorje and Knock Ireland, Christ the Redeemer allowed me to go. World Youth Day and the Holy Land were only dreams in my eyes, yet God made it a reality. It is all by the grace of God!
God has stretched me in my classes at work. When teachers have encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone and try teaching a new class, their words, “I believe you could do this”, made a huge difference. Their encouragement was a gift. My students have been my everything. They are the reason I am called to my vocation. I have joy when I wake up and know I get to do what I love. This is not a job, it is my calling and I am so glad God chose me to be a part of the Brooks Catholic Schools and Catholic Education. God is so good, all the time!
Called - The Founders (1992-1999)
The formation and foundation of a Catholic School in Brooks began in the early 1990s and rested in the hands of a small group of advocates from St Mary’s parish. They organized and conducted a census of the entire Brooks community. Then they hosted three separate votes in 1992, 1993 and 1995. Yes, three votes! It took those three votes, countless conversations, endless prayers, times of challenge, moments of deep reflection and, without doubt, movement of the Holy Spirit to bring Catholic Education to the community of Brooks.
Change is difficult and for the many Catholics and non-Catholics in the town of Brooks in the early 90s the idea of opening a Catholic school where none had existed before was not only daunting but divisive. The public school system in Brooks was excellent and had always been the only school system, and so, perhaps at the heart of the controversy was the question, “Why do they need a Catholic school? Isn’t the education in Brooks good enough for all our kids?”
Public schools are our neighbour's, our colleagues and our friends. Catholic education is not against public education. Catholic education is for Jesus. It is for Christ-centred, faith based, fully permeated learning that calls every person involved to know God, to love God, and to serve Him.
Finally, in November 1995 the Catholic community voted in favour of Catholic education. A decision was made to join Christ the Redeemer Catholic School Division. A trustee was elected and a name for the new school was chosen: Holy Family Academy. Those early founders were resolute and faithful advocates. They were prayerful visionaries. Their sacrifices ensured that children in Brooks had access to Catholic education.
Entrusted - The Builders (1999-2002)
By 1999 Holy Family Academy had +300 students in grade K-9 and a decision was made to form St Joseph’s Collegiate that September. The need for space was crucial and a rally attended by 650 people demonstrated to the government that Catholic Education in Brooks was on the move and growing. Portables were added and the government announced that they would approve an expansion and modernization of the existing buildings.
When you are growing a school, every decision is foundational. Faith events and prayer experiences became the norm. Staff gathered daily for prayer; school masses were held at the church, monthly adoration was embraced, the liturgical year was celebrated, the school décor reflected faith and classroom prayer corners were central to each classroom’s prayer rituals. Teacher faith days, Living Rosary, Stations of the Cross and parent prayer groups created a community of faith. St Joseph’s Grad Retreat became an essential faith experience for all graduates. A two day, overnight retreat became a transformational experience for students and one that would affect them in life changing ways. 26 students crossed the stage June 2002 to become St Joseph's first graduating class.
Gathered - The Leaders (2002-2014)
Over the next dozen years excellent, faith-filled teachers continued to deepen student learning and shape student faith. St Jude’s chapel was built and the furniture from St Jude’s Church in Tilley brought a legacy and possibilities for intimate worship to the Catholic Schools. Bishop Henry blessed and approved the chapel as a sacred space to house Jesus in the Eucharist. Morning staff prayer, daily student and classroom prayer, adoration and special services could take place with this additional space.
St Luke’s Outreach, a CTR Catholic Outreach School based in Okotoks, recognized the need for such programming in the Brooks’ community and in 2008 opened a campus in Brooks and became a living testament to its motto to “leave not one heart behind”.
In the course of these years new students arrived from around the world including Sudan, Nigeria and other African nations. Many students and families were refugees, often bringing a history of trauma and refugee camps with them.
Brooks’ meat packing plant continued to hire skilled workers from around the globe and our school enrolment rose dramatically. Students from Latin America, Philippines and Eastern Europe arrived, many of them speaking no or very little English. The student population was changing rapidly. Investment was made in resources and professional development. The ELL population in Brooks’ schools has been a gift to our community and has enriched all aspects of our community.
Inspired - The Witnesses (2014-2021+)
In 2014, Brooks’ fourth Catholic school opened. Christ the King Academy became a 5-8 Middle School. St Joseph’s Collegiate was modified to a 9-12 school and Holy Family Academy served K-4. The old 1960s portion of the schools was demolished and In 2015 Christ the King opened in a brand new two-story facility.
Brooks’ Catholic Schools serve students from around the world. With a total population of just under 1,100, Brooks’ Catholic Schools continue to witness faith in their schools, parish and larger community. Teachers from across Canada continue to be hired in Brooks. They bring their love of God and their vocational call to teach, with them.
Catholic education has been instrumental in the new evangelization of our Church. Brooks RCIA and RCIC classes have been thriving. Strong links between St Mary’s parish and Brooks’ Catholic schools have drawn many children and adults to seek baptism and confirmation in the Catholic Church. Many cite their involvement with Catholic education as the reason for their desire to join the Church. Teachers and staff lead Catholic formation classes and serve as Godparents and Sponsors. They are witnesses and role models.
Catholic education in Brooks was started by a small group of courageous advocates. More than 25 years later, much has changed yet the essentials have stayed the same. A deep, committed and unwavering faith in God is the reason for our schools. Each child who has passed through our doors or crossed our graduation stage has been steeped in a culture of God’s love. Each teacher and staff member who has served as an educator these past 25 years has grown on their own journey of faith and learning.
God does not call the qualified, he qualifies the called and He has called all stakeholders in Catholic education to know Him, to serve Him and to love Him. He has called each one of us in the Brooks’ Catholic School community to grow stronger, grow deeper and reach higher for His sake and the sake of our children.
Despite some tough health issues and challenges in recent years, Deacon Larry Driver has survived through the power of prayer.
In the fall of 2008, he went in to get an annual physical for his driver’s licence and the doctor noticed he had a large lump on the left side of his throat. It turned out to be Stage 4 melanoma cancer in his lymph nodes on his neck. But that was the primary. After an appointment in the cancer clinic, it was discovered cancer on his left tonsil. After surgery, he had both chemotherapy and radiation treatments.
Today, he describes himself as being “pretty healthy.” Although he’s a Type 2 Diabetic and taking some medication, but from a cancer point of view he’s clear.
Faith is what he carried him through the ordeal.
“I learned what prayer is all about at that point. Over the time, I had people praying all over the world for me to get better and to know that if you need help you ask people to pray for you . . . You need people to pray - to speak to the good Lord. The more people you’ve got praying for you the better your chances are of getting help. Not that He doesn’t help you but it’s the intercessions that we go to Mary and Joseph and the saints for. The more people you’ve got working for you the better it is,” says Driver.
Driver, who turns 70 in October, started the program in 2001 to become a Deacon in the Calgary Diocese. He was ordained on June 14, 2004.
Driver was attending St. Mark’s in Calgary where he saw Deacon Amadeo served as a deacon. ”It struck me as interesting that he was able to work there.” Closer to 2000, Larry asked Bishop Henry about the permanent diaconate.
Bishop Henry recalled this particular conversation with Driver. “Shortly after my arrival in the diocese, and upon meeting Larry, his first question to me was “What do you think about the permanent diaconate?” My reply was “I’m definitely in favour of it.” He was the first to raise the issue with me in the diocese. His question was actually repeated by others many times in the first six months.”
Driver has been a Deacon from the beginning at St. Francis de Sales in High River.
“I’ve been fortunate enough that the Bishops have left me in this parish so far for my Diaconate service,” he says.
Driver is originally from the Grande Prairie area. After graduating from the Grande Prairie Composite High School, he had jobs in labour, trucking and warehousing until 1975 then he was hired on by the City of Calgary’s Emergency Medical Services Department and moved to Calgary in July 1975.
“The City trained me as a paramedic at SAIT and I graduated as a paramedic with honours from the class and then I worked for the City until 1978. I moved back to Grande Prairie but that didn’t work out. So I came back to Calgary, was rehired and finished up my 32-year career with the City of Calgary,” says Driver, who retired in July 2007.
Being a Deacon fits in with his career being a paramedic.
“You’re there. You’re helping people. I could see that. But I also saw it as a faith journey to increase my faith and help others through that journey of faith,” says Driver, who has had an interesting personal journey of faith.
He was raised Anglican but over time he found the Roman Catholic faith more to his liking and he became a Catholic in the late 1980s with the help of Father Cooney, who eventually became a Bishop.
Driver has two daughters who both have two children - three boys and a girl. The family has played an important role in his success in becoming a Deacon as well as in his battle against cancer.
“My wife has been a super support through all of this and as much as she’s not on the altar she’s definitely been the one that has supported me the most in this,” says Driver.
Therese says it was only natural for her to support her husband on his journey to becoming a Deacon.
“If that’s what they want and feel called to do, who am I to stop them and if I don’t support them they can’t go on,” she says. “He felt the calling and was prepared to do what had to be done. It certainly didn’t harm me at all. It certainly gives me an understanding of what’s expected, of what the ministry is and it affects the family. You have to know that ahead of time. It does have an impact on the family and everything you do.”
Through Larry’s health challenges, the power of prayer became very important, adds Therese.
“To trust in God. If it’s meant to be it will happen, if it’s not then that will happen too. We trust in God and do the best we can and let God work the way He works. It’s God’s work one way or the other and we were prepared either way. If you’re going to survive this, great, if not then we’ll deal with it. So were our kids. They were all on board and you do what you have to. I grew up in hard times and you just do what you have to. That’s all there is to it.”
“Infinitely wiser would it be to urge young people to give to the Lord, in a legionary membership, the first fruits of [their] free time. Those first fruits will inspire the whole life and keep the heart, and face too, serene and young. And there is still left an abundance of time for recreation, doubly enjoyed because doubly earned.” (The Official Handbook of the Legion of Mary, pg. 186)
These words, taken from the Legion of Mary handbook, were the words of the first spiritual reading that the new members of the St. Francis Xavier Chaplaincy (SFXC) Mater Misericordiae praesidium heard at their first meeting, in mid-November of 2020.
The Legion of Mary is a lay apostolic organization founded in 1921 in Dublin, Ireland, by the Servant of God Frank Duff. The Legion apostolate focuses on bringing souls to Christ through His Mother Mary, by means of evangelization and the spiritual works of mercy. Taking its name and structure from the Roman Legion, the Legion of Mary seeks to emulate its discipline, loyalty, and sense of duty. Since its inception, the Legion has spread to over 170 countries, with over a million members serving souls all over the world. In our diocese of Calgary, there are about 24 praesidia (the name for groups of the Legion, normally attached to a parish) under the Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Curia (the higher body of the Legion overseeing all praesidia in our diocese).
The praesidium of the St. Francis Xavier Chaplaincy, formally established in April 2021, is the newest among these praesidia, taking the name of Mater Misericordiae (Latin for Mother of Mercy). A Legion of Mary praesidium for young adults and university students was in the works prior to the pandemic and, after much work, online meetings began in November 2020 with the help of two experienced legionaries from the Curia. For nearly eight months, the faithful
members of Mater Misericordiae praesidium met over Zoom every Saturday morning until mid-July, when they were finally able to meet in person.
The weekly meeting of the praesidium consists of praying the Legion prayers (known as the Tessera) together, giving reports on the work members have been assigned, and discussing sections of the Legion of Mary handbook. Members also hear an allocutio, an address given by our Spiritual Director, Fr. Cristino Bouvette, to help motivate the members in their apostolic work and help them better understand the Legion handbook.
The assignments that members receive each week are geared towards evangelization and outreach, with the ultimate goal of bringing souls closer to Christ through the Blessed Virgin Mary. Due to the pandemic, assignments were primarily virtual and limited to helping family and friends grow in the faith, or speaking to someone who was lonely or isolated. Members report on their assignments each week, enabling members to help each other with their works and keep them accountable. This special bond between members is seen through the use of the terms “brother” and “sister” to refer to each other, indicative of the Legion as a family.
The legionaries of Mater Misericordiae praesidium have experienced a great deal of spiritual a growth as a result of Legion involvement. Among many things, members have expressed growth in their relationship with Our Lady, and a deeper realization of Christ’s call to holiness and mission. Above all, being able to grow in these things alongside others has been one of the greatest blessings for them.
Under the auspices of Mary and the spiritual guidance of Fr. Cristino Bouvette, the SFXC Mater Misericordiae praesidium continues to grow, with about eleven active members and a growing number of auxiliary members (members who pray for the Legion). The legionaries of Mater Misericordiae hope to continue to spread devotion to the Blessed Mother, especially amongst young people, and inspire them to serve others in complete union with her.
“So, what do you want to be when you grow up?”
If you had any kind of typical childhood, you’ve heard this question more times than you can count.
For me, I normally had an answer. Princess, chef, interior designer, and – when asked in my university years – an investment banker or finance prof.
The last thing I could have imagined I’d answer some day is, “Religious sister.”
The Catholic faith that I was raised with became my own while I was a student at Mount Royal University. An organization called Catholic Christian Outreach (CCO) re-introduced me to the person of Jesus and proposed that the faith was something relevant for me as I moved into adulthood. The CCO students I met had genuine joy which flowed from their relationship with Jesus, and I knew that I wanted what they had. I made a decision that I would centre my life around Him going forward.
I was still excited to focus on what I “wanted to be,” but this time, I saw my career as an opportunity to witness in the secular world and bring others to God. Sounds pretty good, right? I didn’t think I had any reason to question my plans. There was only one thing: I never thought to ask Him about them.
When I was in my third year of university, I did something I’d never done before. I asked the Lord in prayer, “How do You see me?”
His response? “Sister of Life.”
My first reaction went something like, “Uh oh.” I knew that consecrated religious were a “thing” in the Church, but it was something that other people did – never something I imagined or thought of for myself! I did what seemed to be the smartest move in that situation…I tried my very hardest to push the idea out of my mind.
Thankfully, God plays the long game with us. He didn’t let me get off the hook and sometimes reminded me of that time of prayer, but He respected my freedom and waited while I continued to plug ahead at my plans.
It took going on a mission trip to New York City in 2019 to get my attention. While staying and working with the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal (CFRs), I recognized true joy. The men of this community had renounced everything the world places on a pedestal – success, money, the ability to do whatever they wanted – and yet, they were free.
I thought to myself for the first time, “Maybe, just maybe, what God wants for me could make me happy.”
If I’m being honest, though, I needed some help to figure this out. Just like kids go to their parents for guidance as they decide what to do with their lives, I turned to my Mother, the Church.
The Church has guided me the last couple years in almost every way possible. Through the sacraments, amazing spiritual parents, and an awesome community of other young Catholics, I’ve been able to draw closer to the Lord and gain more confidence in His call.
I’ve also had the opportunity to live at the inaugural St. Francis Xavier Chaplaincy (SFXC) Women’s House. Here, several young women and I stayed with the Seeds of the Word Sisters at their home in SW Calgary and had the gift of being able to participate in elements of their prayer and community life. These experiences helped to debunk some of the misconceptions I had about religious life and filled me with joy at the possibility of being totally His.
All of these things have led me to my next step in following the Lord’s call…entrance to the Sisters of Life in New York this September!
In responding to God’s plan for my life, I have recognized the truth of these words from Thomas Merton:
Vocation does not come from a voice out there calling me to be something I am not. It comes from a voice in here calling me to be the person I was born to be, to fulfill the original selfhood given me at birth by God."
I am thankful to the Church for being a good Mother to me. In an age where we’re told we can do and be whatever we want, She has helped me to discover not merely “what I want to be,” but far more importantly, who God made me to be.
These are words that come to mind when I reflect on my experience of Catholic Education in Brooks. My husband and I didn’t know what to expect coming here with two young children in tow 20 years ago, but this place has a way of grabbing hold, seeping into your heart and not letting go; it has a way of becoming home.
There are many people who have influenced my development as a Catholic educator: administrators who recognized my potential and encouraged me to have faith in my ability; colleagues who were, and are, my greatest role models; and students, who taught me more about life and faith than I could ever teach them and whose experiences showed me what courage really is. What I value most about St Joseph’s Collegiate. is threefold. It’s the people. It’s the presence of the Holy Spirit working on hearts and changing people. It’s a true desire to be “a community, rooted in faith, seeking excellence for all”. It’s a family.
I’d like to share story of a young man I’ll call Cas* who came to St. Joseph's for only one year. He had a great smile, and he loved basketball. He was respectful and attentive but wasn’t achieving very well. One day, Cas approached me and asked for help. He described his life at home with no rules; he could do what he wanted, when he wanted - and he did. Although this might sound great, Cas wasn’t happy. He needed parameters. Together, that day, we created some expectations: he would work in my classroom every day after school, and most importantly, he would call me every night at 10 pm to let me know that he was home. That’s all he needed - someone to care enough to set some boundaries. Cas’ grades and self-esteem improved drastically, and somewhere along the line, he started calling me “mom”. This young man left an indelible mark on my heart and this experience, to me, encapsulates how I feel about Catholic education. We don’t know the impact we have on students - a kind word, a listening ear, an open door. What an incredible responsibility and an incredible privilege!
I feel deep gratitude for my time in Brooks - to be part of all the amazing graduation celebrations and to witness the growth of our school into a vibrant and diverse community. God calls people here for a reason, and I know I was called to be in this place at this time. Leading a school during a pandemic is one of the most difficult things I have ever done, and it has challenged me to the core. But I am able to appreciate my freedom, my family, my upbringing, and my faith even more. I am thankful that God trusted me to do His work. What an incredible blessing!
As I move on from this amazing community, I know that the Holy Spirit will continue to be present here, and with that knowledge, there will be many more blessings, more challenges, more gratitude, and more growth. Thank you, Lord, for this incredible gift.
*not his real name
Catholic Pastoral Centre Staff and Guest Writers