From the day my Father, Theodore was brutally and callously murdered in Toronto, on Easter Monday, March 27, 1978, I wanted to meet his killer. I wanted to know how it was possible to do such a horrific thing. I wanted to know how he felt about destroying the lives of so many; my family’s, and his own.
We did meet. The meeting occurred in July of 2007. Because of reading about an award I received for my Therapeutic Writing Workshops and the publication of my books about healing, voice, and agency, he emailed me. Our meeting, our reconciliation, even those many years after that dark, dark day, was a rich blessing in my life and proved helpful for him too.
The word forgiveness is one that can lead to great suffering for victims and offenders alike. Victims are told that if they do not forgive, they cannot heal. Offenders are told that if they are not forgiven, they cannot move on from the crime they have committed. Forgiveness is a loaded word, with as many understandings, expectations, and definitions as there are experiences of savage loss, savage grief, savage pain.
In 2012, after too many years of thinking that my life did indeed end with my Father’s, I completed a Master’s Thesis. The title: Sawbonna-Justice as Lived-Experience. Sawbonna means shared-humanity. It also means I see you, you see me.
Sawbonna means that no one is better in the eyes of God. It means that we are good, bad, ugly, amazing, loved, loving, and free. Free to know that whether we can forgive or are forgiven by another human being, we are deeply known, cared-for, and embraced by God. A God who invites us, gently and generously directly back into our very own hearts. Hearts of love. Hearts of justice. Hearts of Sawbonna. We are seen. We each matter.
Kathleen Chury has a tough job. A certified wellness coach and a registered nurse with 38 years of hospital and private practice experience, Chury spends her days supporting and coaching parents who’ve lost custody of their children. The stakes are high, the days run long—and there are many more misses than high fives. But you won’t hear Chury complain about the work, nor the fact that her days can begin and end with a three-to-four-hour commute. “To some people, the time they spend commuting is like lost time. For me, it’s a special time with God.”
Known as Kathy to her friends, Chury and her husband Greg were high school sweethearts. They attended Catholic schools in Red Deer and married two years into her RN training at the Foothills Hospital in Calgary. By the time she graduated in 1981, the couple already had a young son.
In the coming years, she and Greg added two more children to the fold, juggling their work schedules so they didn’t have to factor in childcare. Read between the lines and that means the young couple adeptly managed the parental waltz of many working families; Greg finished a full day of work and came home to be with the kids, Kathy worked mainly evening, night, and weekend shifts. It wasn’t always easy, “but it was worth it,” says Chury.
Faith and family
This April, the Churys will celebrate their 40th anniversary. Looking back, Chury’s not convinced her younger self understood how the Church blessed and strengthened their marriage. She does, however, remember taking to heart two key messages from their marriage preparation classes. Chury says they worked hard at never going to bed angry and they learned—then practised—healthy communication.
While the decision to raise their children in the Catholic faith was never questioned, the family hit a kind of spiritual road bump in the early 2000s. “I don’t know how to explain it. It’s what I would call a disconnect.” After being in the same parish for 20 years, a negative experience “changed our perception of how to be Catholic. We stopped attending mass and our kids followed suit.”
In 2008, life in the Chury household took an unexpected turn when Greg was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease that attacks the central nervous system. Their lives revolved around doctor visits, medical tests and procedures, decisions about healthcare protocols and work assembling a health team to change the direction of the progressive disease. Consumed by Greg’s health issues, jobs and family, the Churys found themselves busier than ever, praying daily, but still not attending mass.
The way back
Chury believes a series of events in 2017 guided the family to chart a different course. First, her beloved aunt died that summer, and Chury was asked to read at the funeral mass. “Suddenly, I found myself questioning why we weren’t at church. I missed it.” Then her brother died in September. Chury spent most of his last hours at his side, where she prayed and provided hands-on nursing care. The experience reinforced how much Chury missed being at church.
By the fall of 2017, the whole family was talking about faith, religion and a desire to step back into the Catholic church. “I was surprised to learn that our oldest son, who was probably the most disconnected of all of us, was feeling the same way I did,” recalls Chury. When conversations with Catholic friends and family included invitations to return to mass, the Churys listened, and then acted.
As luck would have it, the Churys and their children all attend the same parish church in northwest Calgary. The two children that had married outside the faith have completed their wedding validation ceremonies, thus completing their sacraments of marriage in the Catholic church. Two grandchildren have also been baptized at the church, and there’s no question that grandbaby number three, due in June, will be baptized in the faith. Both of their daughters-in-law also attend RCIA classes at St. Peter’s (their daughter married a Catholic). “God is number one in all of our lives,” says Chury.
These days, this working grandmother embraces her spirituality with the passion of a new convert. Chury and her husband pray a daily rosary and she meets regularly with a priest who provides spiritual mentorship. Chury begins her days listening to online Catholic videos and relishes her work commute as a chance to listen to favourite Catholic podcasts or EWTN shows. Slowly, but surely, she’s also getting involved in her faith community.
“I never dreamed that I would live the faith experience that I’m having now,” says Chury. “At work, I don’t talk about how my faith shapes my life. But I try to live my faith, and I definitely pray for the people I work with and for. More than all of that, Greg and I are just so grateful for all of this. We are blown away by what the experience of practising our faith has brought into our lives.”
Looking for some spiritual inspiration this Lenten season? Tune into one of the shows hosted by some of Kathy Chury’s favourite Catholics and Catholic programs: Catholic Answers Live, Take 2 with Jerry and Debbie, Kresta in the Afternoon, Mother Angelica, Women of Grace, The Word on Fire, More2Life, Father Chad Ripperger, Venerable Fulton Sheen, Father Mitch Pacwa, Catholic Café, and Sensus Fidelium.
Written by Joy Gregory
The Exodus 90 challenge is a “spiritual exercise” meant to be a “roadmap to freedom that engages the whole man and transforms his very way of life.” The eight men in our Exodus 90 fraternity have engaged in this 90-day-long gruelling battle of man versus flesh in an attempt to grow closer together, rid ourselves of every earthly desire, and draw near to a God who calls from the Exodus epic, “Let my people go!” To do so, we have committed to the three pillars of fraternity, asceticism, and prayer, meeting every Saturday morning at the abode of our eighth member and spiritual guide, Father Cristino.
My journey toward seeking the heart of Jesus began over a decade ago with a book. The book challenged my entire view of masculinity as the world had presented it to me, suggesting “Deep in his heart, every man longs for a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue.” I was convinced that a man must endure some suffering to understand that he has what it takes, to speak truth to the lies he has been told, and to seek the heart of Jesus is the true fulfilment of every desire.
Being open to this truth has not been easy, as greater intimacy with the heart of Christ has always opened greater intimacy to my own heart, revealing deep woundedness and fragility. Allowing my vocation as a husband and father, teacher and chaplain to bury me in the battle has at times drawn me away from that search for intimacy with Jesus. Therefore, the Exodus 90 journey has been a welcome change of pace. Once more into the fray.
Exodus 90 has demanded a daily commitment of hourly prayer, a scriptural focus on the Book of Exodus, close contact with the fraternity, and a Levitical list forbidding alcohol, desserts, television, music, and the internet, to name a few. These are topped off with the pleasant addition of cold showers, fasting and abstinence twice, and exercise three times a week.
What binds our fraternity together is the common desire for transformation. Exodus 90 has not failed us yet in providing that opportunity, and although at times we have failed to meet its standards, our skin is growing thicker and our hearts are ever-softening. I ask that you pray for us as we die to ourselves in order to rise again this Easter.
 Those Catholic Men, Inc. “Exodus 90” Apple App Store, Vers.1.0.2 (2019)
 Eldredge, John. (2001) “Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul” Thomas Nelson.
Written by Joseph Lawrence
Outdoor photo: (from left) Dustin Greenwald, Michael MacKinnon, Desmond Sanesh, Fr. Cristino Bouvette, Brian Salisbury, Joseph Lawrence, Matthew Szojka, Phillip Morin
The occasional ambulance siren and the thrumming of a helicopter hovering a few hundred feet above ground were piercing the stillness of a beautiful afternoon in Panama city’s Cinta Costera.
If it weren’t for the tens of thousands of young people present along this three-kilometre stretch lining the city’s Pacific Coast, you would think you were in an abandoned city.
The stillness was incredible.
“Do not be afraid. Be courageous to be a saint in today’s world,” one could hear blazing through the loudspeakers.
“Perhaps, as Church, we have been unable to transmit this with sufficient clarity, because at times we, adults, think that young people don’t want to listen.”
Those were the words of Mons. Jose Ulloa Mendieta, the Metropolitan Archbishop of Panama. His impassioned homily on Tuesday’s opening Mass was a rousing call for every young Catholic listening.
“Do not be afraid. You need to be heard. You need to keep making us adults nervous.”
Stepping Back: Preparing for a Pilgrimage
After having missed Krakow in 2016, a group of friends and myself decided sometime in early 2018 to go to Panama and “just do it.” And so that’s what we did — we bought our flights, paid the registration, and waited for January.
As the months flew by, it was becoming more and more apparent that this really was going to be a pilgrimage. Not that we didn’t know that ahead of time, but the questions we had during preparations made us realize things we otherwise wouldn’t have had if this were a vacation. Are we going to stay at a school gym or with a host family? Do we have a safe place to leave our stuff? Would I have a bed? Would we be able to do some laundry? How about my cameras: should I bring them? Which lenses should I bring? Do I really need them?
With all these little luxuries that I would otherwise take for granted on a normal vacation, I can’t help but see a significant parallel with our own spiritual life.
Aware of the fact that a wheelie luggage for this trip was a no-go (given the amount of walking we’d be doing), I was determined to fit all my clothes and belongings in a hiking pack — a small pack that forced me to reduce all that I’m bringing to not only the essentials, but to just enough quantity for these essentials.
One pair of shoes. Just enough clothes. Bible. Journal. No cameras.
Isn’t this true with our own spiritual life? The lesser the baggage, the better we’re able to focus on the journey. The lesser our attachment to earthly possessions, the greater the freedom we experience.
The warmth of a people
After waiting at Parroquia de Santa Maria for a few hours (together with hundreds of other pilgrims waiting for a ride to their accommodations), Xiomara finally arrived and came to see us. She and her husband, Rolando, together with their children Carlos and Andrea, would become our host family for the remainder of our stay.
The Mejia family was a real blessing. They made a home for those who needed one — mi casa es su casa, they say. But they weren’t the only ones: throughout the week, many of the people you’d meet on the streets would always be up for some conversation, despite us not speaking the same language. Hola! De que pais? My two years of Spanish in university was definitely useful, however horrible. I always asked them to speak slowly, otra vez y mas despacio por favor, so that I could understand them a little better. Then we were fine, or at least it seemed to me. And when we got to a point where we really could no longer understand each other, we would just end the conversation by laughing at ourselves. Ha!
I was struck by how friendly these people were. Late one evening, the manager of a local supermarket let us in their staff room to eat the free dinner we claimed at his store. On another occasion, several Muslim men set up a table outside their Mosque, handing out bottles of agua fria to the pilgrims who just came from the opening Mass not too far away. A big sign on their gate said: Bienvenidos amigos peregrinos (Welcome, pilgrim friends).
And who can forget that dreadful 21-kilometre hike to the vigil site: walking under the searing 35-degree heat for several hours, these friendly people boosted our morale by offering us a ride to our destination. At one point, a woman stopped her vehicle in the middle of the road and offered us a ride to her house nearby, urging us to take a rest and use the bathroom. And she wasn’t the only one!
A few hours and an obvious raccoon tan later, we finally made it to the vigil site: a vast, open field in an outer-city suburb that became the home for tired and exhausted pilgrims that night. It was an incredible experience: when the Holy Father led Adoration, the place was perfectly quiet and still. There we were, a few hundred thousand young people sitting out in the open under the clear night sky, adoring our Eucharistic Lord from a mile away. Later, when it came time for the Benediction, we all sang the Tantum Ergo. It was incredible. Everyone spoke different languages, but we all chanted that ancient hymn in unison — singing the Lord’s praises in the language of Holy Mother Church, which we all knew. It was a beautiful moment that sent chills down my spine: the sense of universality, of Catholicity, was so tangible.
A sense of where we came from
A few days before, we attended a Traditional Latin Mass (TLM or the Extraordinary Form of the Roman rite) at a downtown Carmelite parish where Archbishop Alexander Sample was preaching. The Archbishop of Portland, OR has become somewhat famed because of his orthodoxy and fidelity to the teachings of Vatican II on the sacred Liturgy.
“Why are you here today?” asked the Archbishop, addressing a congregation full young people from all over the world. “You never grew up in this liturgical tradition, so why are you drawn to it?”
My experience of WYD has not been without its own share of wishy-washiness in the Liturgy. On two separate Masses — one even celebrated by a Cardinal — people seemed to be more intent on “celebrating” their culture instead of ordering all our attention to Jesus in the Eucharist. At one point right after communion (when everyone was about to kneel and pray), a priest took the mic and asked everyone to stand up and clap our hands to the rhythm of the song his choir was singing. On another occasion, a group went in front right after communion and started dancing to an upbeat, Caribbean-style dance music — the sort of which you’d hear on an Expedia cruise commercial — which was supposed to help everyone “better reflect on the Mass.” Yikes.
Hence, being at a TLM that afternoon was a source of assurance and an experience of the sacred, giving us all a sense of where we came from.
“I think it’s important for young people to see, experience, and participate in the Mass of the Ages…the same form of the Mass that nurtured our grandparents and so many of the saints we venerate today.”
Put out into the deep
Having gone to several conferences before, I never thought that World Youth Day would hang heavy on my heart the moment it’s over. However, this one is different.
Throughout this entire pilgrimage, a message that I kept on getting from the catechesis, homilies, talks, and conversations was do not be afraid. And how appropriate — I was at an event started by a saintly man who never tired of saying the same thing during his pontificate.
“Most of us sinners live our lives in the shallow and spend our lives on the seashore,” said Bishop Barron, speaking about us being too easily amused with insignificant things and staying within our own comfort zones. “But when Christ the Lord steps into your boat and gets in your life, he will bring you to the deep.”
Do not be afraid….He will bring you to the deep.
This whole journey has been a reward in itself. Everything else was just a bonus. Now that I’m going back down to the valley after my mountaintop experience, the real earthly pilgrimage continues.
Written by: Ryan Factura
Visitors to the Faba home may be surprised by the size and shape of the kitchen table. Where others might have a couch that faces a television, this family of 11 has a round table that spans 72 inches in diameter. This is where the family gathers for evening meals and in a month where the secular world pays lip service to messages about love, this family works to live it. Indeed, if red is the colour of love and the colour of a house might speak to what’s inside, the heritage red hue of the Faba home in southwest Calgary is right on the money.
Kari and Phil Faba, who married at 20 and 25, readily admit they didn’t begin their married life with a plan to have an extra-large family. “I would suggest that the one thing that made all of this happen, one child at a time, was that there was a love for the Church that allowed us to trust,” says Kari.
Now parenting nine children ages 27 to seven, she and Phil talked to Faithfully about how they manage, as parents, to keep a love for Christ at their family table.
Kari’s got no shame in admitting she juggles faith-filled parenthood with paid work. But she knows where her priorities lie. Having worked full-time at a city bank until their third child arrived, she then moved to part-time work, taking night shifts opposite of Phil’s hours in the construction business. Looking ahead to her family’s future, she also partnered in a farmers’ market business that eventually became a full-time occupation.
These days, she and Phil own and operate that business outright. While they have full-time staff, The Stock and Sauce Co. at the Calgary Farmers’ Market is a seven-days-a-week enterprise and the Fabas are hands-on entrepreneurs.
The absence of firm boundaries between their marriage and their business partnership can be complicated. “It’s one thing to be married and then go off to your separate jobs,” says Kari. “We don’t have the luxury of comparing different job notes at night.”
Here, faith helps them keep priorities straight, says Phil. “As Kari likes to say, in our marriage there is sacrament. In business, there is no sacrament.” Daily mass as frequently as possible, regular reconciliation, constant prayer. The Church, says Kari, “always has our best interests at heart.”
Phil knows the notion of “quality time” with one’s children can come off sounding a bit corny. But he makes no apologies for how he and Kari make quality time with their kids a primary goal. In 2002, Phil took his first paternity leave when their son Thomas was born. “It was a totally different experience for me.” Taking responsibility for the home front helped Phil understand that while there may never be “enough” time, he would aim to know and love each child for his and herself. “Each one is different and you learn to nurture their strengths,” says Phil.
With the three oldest kids now living on their own (two own the house another brother rents a room in while attending university), Phil and Kari admit their parenting strategies have evolved with experience. Certain house rules, however, hold steady: All of the kids are involved in church, school and work; they participate in sports, but sit down to eat—together—every night; and they don’t leave family time to chance. By planning game and movie nights, they commit and recommit to being a strong presence in their children’s lives.
Written by: Joy Gregory
Called to action
In the fall of 2015, a committee of St. Mary’s parishioners, the FCJ Christian Life Centre Staff and FCJ sisters answered a global call for help and sponsored one refugee couple and their child from Syria, says Curran. Less than a year into that project, the committee discovered three fundamental truths about the Christian reaction to refugee sponsorship. First, the 12-month commitment mandated under federal sponsorship rules isn’t nearly long enough for the people you’re helping; second, when the people involved open their hearts to the process, 12 months isn’t long enough for the volunteers, either; and third, when you start to help people who need a particular kind of assistance, you’re likely to meet more of the same.
That last reality demands decisions about whether you step up or look away. “But it’s not really a choice,” admits Sr. Curran. “We do it because Jesus did it.”
The call to help more refugees arose soon after the group connected with the first family. As that family took its first steps towards settlement, Curran’s group found itself helping another Syrian family. Over time, they also helped two more. Since the newcomers all shared the same Melkite Greek Catholic tradition, it wasn’t long before members of the St. Mary’s and FCJ group were attending masses with the new Canadians. Determined to help the refugees develop relationships in their own cultural community, FCJ Centre also started to host an annual Syrian Christmas party with help from three Catholic schools in the downtown area, St. Monica’s, Our Lady of Lourdes and St. Mary’s. In 2018, that event attracted more than 130 people. It’s down from the 180 who came the first year, “but the people who come really enjoy it and the little ones love seeing a Syrian Santa.”
In addition to helping the Syrians connect with other Arabic speakers in the Catholic community, the group reached out to members of the city’s Turkish Muslim community. Called by their mandate “to live out of our abundant resources,” the FCJ Centre now invite their Muslim friends to an annual barbecue on the FCJ Centre grounds, says Curran.
In order to celebrate the Dedication Mass as well as Masses for Christmas and New Years, the parish sought a temporary occupancy permit from the city. A permit could only be granted after the building passed a safety inspection. On Wednesday the 20th, just two days before the dedication, the building did not pass. Several things needed to be done in order for the building to be considered safe for the public to access the Church. The city is responsible to ensure the safety of anyone who enters a building under construction explained Fr. Avi.
“The pews needed to be anchored down, exit signs needed installing, the roof needed to be clear of all debris, the construction materials like dumpsters had to be fenced and the parking lot cleared of ice,” said Fr. Avi.
On being asked by an inspector if he had a back-up plan, Fr. Avi motioned to the heavens saying, “He is my back-up plan.” Then he, along with the renovation committee and many gracious volunteers set to work.
Finally, on December 21st with just a half-hour before the rehearsal for the dedication would begin, the inspection was complete and the permit was granted.
“There were people crying when I announced it,” said Fr. Avi, “We had all worked so hard. The inspector was surprised that we were able to get so much done in such a short time.”
When the dedication Mass took place, emotions ran high for the people who knew what had occurred in the days before, “I was numb and I was praising the Lord for the miracle that he’d performed,” said Fr. Avi.
Though the walls of the church are still unpainted and there is still work to do, the Dedication Mass was a moving event, especially for those who hadn’t yet seen the new worship space.
Christopher Rappel, renovation committee member who is active in many roles at the parish cited Bishop McGrattan’s homily saying that actually, perhaps it was fitting that the Dedication took place amidst the renovations because the church is a work in progress, and so are all of us.
Sandra Will-Krile who serves as part of the renovation committee among other jobs within the church noticed the awe with which the parishioners entered on the day of the dedication. With newly anchored pews, a high sloping ceiling and lines that point to the altar, the new space certainly made an impact.
She said the renovation committee were constantly updated on the progress, so in preparation for the temporary opening, they saw what needed to be done more than what had already been done. “But when the people walked into the space and I saw their faces,” Sandra said, “it was then that I saw it through their eyes.”
The church was full for the Dedication Mass, which “went so smoothly,” according to committee members, despite the seeming chaos that had ensued in the days prior. It was a beautiful moment for all of the parish to see their work and care come to fruition.
To a few parishioners, the anointing of the altar stood out as one of the most beautiful moments during the dedication Mass. The time and care with which Bishop McGrattan took to anoint the altar and walls was noteworthy, as this is the first time that many in the parish had witnessed a rite of this kind.
The feeling of welcoming within the walls of Ascension doesn’t happen by chance; with nearly seven thousand parishioners, Ascension boasts over 900 volunteers active in the parish who might be called the lifeblood of the community. On top of those volunteers there is an active chapter of Knights of Columbus and of the Catholic Women’s League.
Fr. Avi, along with the renovation committee members are ever grateful to these families for their support both financially and physically as the process of taking the building from two semi-separate spaces to one unified sanctuary.
The community currently celebrates Mass in the hall and downstairs rooms. The Mass is projected on screens for the people not present in the main hall. During this time, the outside perception is that this is a rather painful burden for parishioners, but volunteer coordinator Sharron Robinson, along with renovation committee members are telling a different story.
“I think the sense of community is probably even greater with the renovations,” Sharron said,
“The volunteers step up that much more.”
When asked if the current Mass arrangement feels like fragmentation of the community, both Christopher Rapell and Sandra Will-Krile disagreed saying “No, in fact, I think people have adapted to the space that we have quite well.”
They both spoke of the parishioners as a resilient community pulling together to make the space at the church work rather than attending Mass at a school, which was their alternative.
To that end Fr. Avi who had been through parish renovations before said that it is challenging to maintain the sense of community in a different building, “so I asked the construction company and consultants if we could do this in stages.” Evidently, that approach has worked for the congregation, who have worked together to make not only two parishes one, but two sanctuaries into one unified space.
The big hearts of the community has never been more evident, said Sandra, than after New Year’s Day Mass when the new sanctuary had to be cleared of everything but the newly installed pews so that the work could restart.
“We expected maybe fifteen or sixteen people to help move things back into the hall, but we got fifty or sixty!”
As their pastor and renovation committee members would tell it, the people of Ascension are unafraid of hard work and lending a hand to anyone who needs help. With that spirit pulsing through its veins, they have every reason to look forward with hope to the future.
Written by: Jessica Cyr
Catholic Pastoral Centre Staff and Guest Writers