Please read the Pastoral Statement from the bishops of Alberta and the Northwest Territories, called On the Impact of COVID-19 & the Call to Christian Renewal | Download here
In particular, the bishops are inviting Catholics to review the impact of COVID-19 within their homes, schools, workplaces, and society in general, in light of the gospel and the social teaching of the Church. Which values, attitudes and behaviours will we want to hold on to going forward? Which may be in need of remedy or renewal? Through a process of reflection and discernment, the bishops are using this time as an opportunity to inspire and lead a renewal of Christian life in the Church that will impact society in positive ways.
Over the next seven weeks, Grandin Media is hosting seven panel discussions on themes referenced in the letter – the impact on family, care of the vulnerable, the changing workplace and the inherent dignity of human life. The panelists, assembled from across the province and territory, include experts in their fields in health care, education, social services, law and ministry and business. Among them are Patrick Dumelie and Troy Davies, the CEOS of Covenant Health and Catholic Social Services respectively, national CWL president-elect Fran Lucas and Dr. Peter Baltutis.
The goal is for all of us to gain insights into living our faith at home and at work, and in our parishes and communities. “Our Catholic faith has much to contribute with respect to promoting human, social and spiritual values for the common good of society,” the bishops note in their letter. “We trust that you, like us, see the urgency to discern wisely the signs of the times and to “reset” our lives so that our collective experience in moving forward accords with the Gospel.”
Weekly reflections (PDF) can be downloaded with the links below:
Watch Discussion Panels
Parishioners and all viewers will be invited to respond to the prepared reflection questions or otherwise to send thoughts/comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
At the age of 11 was the first time I was exposed to suicide. A young man from our small rural church was reported missing. The men in our community gathered together to search for him, and my father found him. He had taken his life. Almost 5 decades have passed and suicide has continued to be part of my life through various avenues; the attempts of family members, the loss of a family member to suicide, numerous clients who have struggled with despair and suicidal ideation, and the poignant journey of traveling with families who are learning to live with these tragic losses. Fast forward to fall 2020 and suicide is still a grave concern.
A year ago, most of us had not heard the acronym - COVID-19. Today it is the topic of conversations especially as we transition back to school and work places. The landscape of social interaction has been altered. In Canada, we had never experienced a global pandemic and its consequences; we were unable to organize to change in a satisfactory way because change occurred frequently with little warning and minimal personal control. We could only react, and many experienced crisis like job loss.
Two things we know occurs in the aftermath of a disaster - a baby boom (memes suggest the babies born next spring might be referred to as Zoomers or Coronials), and an increase in mental health concerns. The Canadian Poverty Institute has completed a thorough review of the COVID 19’s impact on mental health to date. See report here.
Their research revealed an increase in anxiety from 5-20% and depression from 4-10%. The Distress Centre in Calgary reported a 94% increase in calls in June of 2020 compared to June of 2019. There has also been an increase in suicide related contacts. Research suggests that persons who have experienced reduced income or unemployment, have pre-existing mental health conditions or are front line workers are at a higher risk of suicidal thoughts and attempts. Other psycho-social factors impacting suicidal ideation and attempts are concern for family members, self isolation, family violence, and social media and news exposure. Social media/news, family violence and loss of routine increase concern for children, and the elderly or convalesced persons were also labelled as high risk groups. The events that led to racism awareness superimposed further stress on an already vulnerable society even though racism reduction is also a grave concern.
This information suggests that all of us have been impacted or know someone who may have been negatively impacted by COVID 19. Loving our neighbour at this time involves checking with those we know and asking how they are doing. If you suspect someone may be at risk of harming themselves, it is important to ask specific questions. Emotions deemed concerning are despair, anger and loneliness. If persons seem to be withdrawing, or are quarantining check in to see how they are coping. Connection with another person even if it is electronic can make a significant difference in someone’s experience of isolation.
As for ourselves and family, recognizing and implementing resiliency based practices help maintain our wellness and perseverance.
First, manage our expectations of self and others. The increased stress means most people are probably functioning 5-10% below normal capacity - be charitable - we are all in this together.
Second, balance our activities/work with ones that restore like exercise, play, prayer, or contemplation.
Third, establishing rituals that create routine and predictability such as family game night, attending mass, devotional or reading, or pizza nights. When change is unpredictable without an identifiable end - rituals/routines helps us stay oriented and future focused.
Fourthly, minimize manageable stressors such as reducing social media and news exposure.
Finally, if you notice that yourself or someone close to you seems persistently stressed, please consider connecting with professional resources. These include but are not limited to a spiritual director, your pastor, an agency like Catholic Family Services (Rapid Access Counselling program), The Distress Centre or a therapist in private practice (or you can go to Psychology Today and put in your preferences for a therapist and a list is generated).
Today, on World Suicide Prevention Day, let us pray that through love of neighbour we can continue to interrupt the desire that suicide is a solution to overwhelming change and stress. May God look with mercy on all whose afflictions bring them distress, confusion and isolation, and may God give to them understanding helpers and the willingness to accept help.
It is June and the time of year when our young people complete their studies and gather for the celebration of their graduation. But this year is different. The COVID-19 Coronavirus restrictions have curtailed the in-person gatherings and reshaped them into “virtual graduations.” This is new for all of us but it should not diminish in any way the joy we feel at seeing young people succeed whether it be the milestone of a graduation from kindergarten or the graduation from Grade 8, Grade 12, College or University.
I add my voice to the good wishes and encouragement which our graduates of 2020 are receiving. You are a graduating class with unique stories to tell and we anticipate the wisdom of your insights and leadership in the future. The following are for your reflection as you celebrate the completion of studies and look toward the next steps – be it further studies, a career, a religious vocation or some time to chart your future path in life.
The impact of a Catholic education was recently highlighted by Dr. Anthony Fauci, MD who has had a critical role in the pandemic leadership for the United States. Dr. Fauci graduated from Regis High School and in his own words he stated the “tenets of the Jesuit tradition sustained him throughout his life and career.” The imprint of a Catholic Education shapes the character of a person in striving to live a life of goodness but also in assuming roles of responsibility in promoting the common good in both ordinary and extraordinary forms of service.
As graduates of 2020 it seems to me that you are being offered three important lessons during this pandemic.
In a recent video message to young people commemorating the 100th anniversary of St. John Paul II's birth, Pope Francis spoke about the challenges and obstacles faced by St. John Paul II as a young man and how his deep faith enabled him to overcome them. Pope Francis expressed the hope that the life and faith of St. John Paull II would “inspire within you the desire to walk courageously with Jesus, who is “the Lord of risk, he is the Lord of the eternal ‘more.’" (Pope Francis, May 18, 2020)
Graduates of 2020, persevere in prayer, follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit and know that the Lord who calls you to embrace His Love will accomplish good works in and through you. Seek the “eternal more” as you celebrate your graduation in 2020.
I am weak. I can’t do life on my own. I am in need of a Saviour. This is what the Covid-19 pandemic has taught me.
My eyes welled up with tears as I knelt to pray after receiving the Eucharistic Jesus for the first time since public celebration of Holy Mass was suspended in the Diocese of Calgary. Staring transfixed at the crucifix, I prayed: Jesus, I need you. I’m helpless without you. I surrender.
This is not how my Covid-19 experience began.
Energy and even some excitement characterized the initial weeks of cancellations. To keep calm, I adopted a laid back attitude, got outside for walks and practised gratitude. My husband Ben and I head up a domestic church with five children ranging from 8 months to nine years old. I loved trading in my hectic chauffeur duties, for a simpler, slower lifestyle at home together. I experienced what it’s like to truly be the primary educator of my children and to boot, there were countless free resources and professionals offering virtual help.
I appreciated the empathy and compassion that society showed with the ‘we will get through this together’ mentality. I actually believed, at least on the surface, that: ‘I’ve got this.’ I experienced a vision for our domestic church that I had never dared to dream before.
But then, panic set in. What is going to happen once things open up again? Will it all seem like a dream? I noticed myself getting agitated, anxious and angry. I started to lose my peace because there were many aspects of this new life I wanted to retain, but I feared it might not be possible.
Being confined to household isolation 24/7 for months felt like a monastic existence. I could not run, nor could I hide from my own weaknesses that were barriers to fully loving my family as myself. I finally had to confront them and it was like a lightning bolt struck my heart waking me from my slumber.
I knew I was made for more. My unease felt so contrary to the holy woman I was striving to become. So I prayed for humility and courage to vulnerably peel off my camouflage. I desired to see myself the way God sees me. And through His grace, I discerned a call to a new radical self-acceptance; to become even more myself because God has even bigger plans for my life!
What I discovered through prayer and conversation is that while I possess many creative talents, I score lower in the practical skills to keep a home running smoothly. I had been holding myself to a very high standard for which I didn’t have the natural skill to peacefully pull off.
Early one morning, I walked to St. Pius X Church in Calgary and knelt outside looking through the window in adoration of Our Lord. I no longer felt trapped in silence and shame over my shortcomings, but rather felt freedom to address my challenges head on with compassion and mercy both for myself and others. Little did I know that only a couple weeks later, I would finally be reunited sacramentally with the healing, life-giving presence of Our Lord.
My greatest desire is to become a saint and for those with eyes of faith, Covid-19 continues to be a holy time where both our challenges and blessings can be used to become like Christ. While we are collectively undergoing this pandemic together, our experience is uniquely ours. Following this article are six reflections from a new university graduate, a mother, a teacher, a single person, a senior and a pastor –– each made in the likeness and image of God, each giving God glory with their lives.
Written by Sara Francis for Faithfully
Catholic Pastoral Centre Staff and Guest Writers