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.
What do burst pipes and penmanship have to do with being chosen by God? There are two things I remember about my first Rite of Election as a catechumen. The first is the sound of rushing water at St. Mary’s Cathedral as the backdrop to the celebration. The Rite of Election normally takes place at the start of Lent, the period of the liturgical year that helps Christians prepare to reaffirm their baptismal promises at Easter. In this particular year, the sound of the water came from a pipe in the Cathedral that had burst due to cold weather! No doubt it was memorable for the Cathedral staff, but for me, it was a poignant foreshadowing of the baptism I was preparing to undertake at Easter as a member of the elect, one chosen by God to receive the sacraments of initiation. The second thing that I remember is inscribing my name in the book of the elect, in the rite of enrollment of names. These two things are the namesake of this liturgy, the Rite of Election and Enrolment of Names.
Rite of Election
The Rite of Election is about being chosen by God to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. In this ritual, the Church chooses those who have the dispositions that make them fit to take part in the sacraments of initiation. Before the Rite of Election the priests, deacons, catechists, godparents, and the entire community arrive at a judgement about the catechumens’ formation and progress in the Christian life. In the liturgy, they present the catechumens by name to the bishop and the entire assembly and give testimony about the catechumens’ readiness. The catechumens then express personally their intention to receive the sacraments of initiation and live as missionary disciples.
Enrolment of Names
With these testimonies, the bishop accepts the judgement of the Church and invites the catechumens to offer their names for enrolment. One by one the catechumens inscribe their names as a pledge of fidelity in the book that lists those who have been chosen for initiation: the Book of the Elect. Once the catechumens have inscribed their names, the bishop declares the Church’s approval of the catechumens saying: I now declare you to be members of the elect, to be initiated into the sacred mysteries at the next Easter Vigil. From this day until they receive the sacraments of initiation those who were catechumens are now called “the elect”. Historically they have also been called competentes or co-petitioners because together, they are asking for the sacraments and the gift of the Holy Spirit. They have also been referred to as illuminandi, those who will be enlightened, because in their baptism they will be filled with the light of faith.
Holy Season of Lent
The period between the Rite of Election and the Easter Vigil is known as the Period of Purification and Enlightenment. It is to be a time of intense spiritual preparation for the elect. The time for catechesis has ended, so the elect now join with the entire Christian community in fruitfully employing the Lenten season to prepare for Easter. The readings, music, and prayers for the Rite of Election are generally taken from the First Sunday of Lent. The bishop urges the godparents and the entire community to be an example and support for the elect during this time and then they are surrounded by prayer before being dismissed to “set out with us on the road that leads to the glory of Easter.”
The Grace of Baptism
As for those already baptized who are planning to make a profession of faith and/or complete their initiation at the Easter Vigil, they have already been made ready for discipleship through the dignity and grace of their baptism. These Christians have already been chosen or elected; they cannot be chosen again. Becoming Catholic is an expression of God’s choice and a choice of the individual, but it is not a new choice by God. The community of faith recognizes their desire to be sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit and take their place at the Lord’s table. At this time, they affirm their readiness to more fully express their election by God that took place at their baptism. Then, with the whole Christian community, they join in uniting themselves more closely to Christ and coming to know in a deeper way the power of his resurrection in us during this holy season of Lent.
Written by Dr. Simone Brosig, Liturgy Consultant / Director
Growing up in a predominantly Catholic environment, Ash Wednesday was a very special day, not only in our home but in our entire community. Breakfast on that day was the usual one, our lunch and supper quite simplified, and no meat of course. There were no snacks and particularly no sweets. We would go to the evening Mass. Using ashes, the priest would make the sign of a cross on our foreheads saying “Repent, and believe in the Gospel” or “Remember that you are dust, and to dust, you shall return”. This service concluded a day of fasting along with an occasional reminder to pray and ask God for forgiveness for our sins. The no-sweets rule applied throughout the entire Lenten season. As children, we rated this as the ultimate torture, and we could not find one reason to celebrate the beginning of Lent.
Times have changed, and we now have a slightly different understanding of Lent. While Ash Wednesday remains a day of prayer, fasting and the distribution of ashes on our foreheads as a reminder to repent, we now recognize an element of celebration that involves the Sundays in Lent. Sundays are feast days and need to be treated separately and differently. We embrace them as joyful feast days and allow for relaxation of some penances.
The following activities might be helpful to mark Lent as a special time of the year:
Reflect on the Holiest of Weeks
During Mass on Holy Thursday, we get a glimpse into the Last Supper. The priest washes the feet of twelve people in remembrance of Jesus washing the feet of the apostles, demonstrating his love for them and how they should serve others. Then he instructs them to eat bread and drink wine in memory of him and tells them that this is his body and blood that will be given up for the forgiveness of sins.
The Gospel on Good Friday describes how Jesus carried the cross, suffering and dying for our sins. This is called the Passion. We pray for people in our community and our world. We show respect and love for Jesus’ sacrifice by either kissing, touching or kneeling in front of the cross. We think about the sacrifice that God made by sending his Son to die for us.
Jesus is in the tomb. It is a day of waiting. Unlike the apostles, who were hiding in fear, we wait with hope and prayer, knowing that Jesus will emerge from the tomb on Easter. We also know that he will come again someday. Many people will attend the Easter Vigil. It begins after dark and includes many readings and songs. The new Easter Candle, which symbolizes Jesus as the Light of the World, is blessed and lit. The people who are joining the Catholic Church are baptized during the Easter Vigil.
It is the most important celebration in the entire liturgical year. Easter Sunday is a day of great joy. In the Gospel, we read about how Jesus rose from the dead. Church bells ring, we sing the Alleluia, Easter lilies bloom and fill our churches with a refreshing fragrance. Families gather for meals, and we celebrate because Jesus made it possible for us to enter into heaven.
Written by Gabriele Kalincak, Marriage & Family Life Coordinator
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
About God’s Work
As a testament to what a determined woman can do with God’s help, Thorn began Project Rachel while raising her family of six children. Project Rachel began as a diocesan initiative in 1984, and from there it gained momentum and widespread support across the United States and then Canada, which includes the Diocese of Calgary.
She recalls at that time there were no experts to call upon when she developed Project Rachel. However, she was convinced then and still now practises a post-abortion healing ministry that offers anonymity, has a strong spiritual element and includes a psychotherapeutic component. The name Project Rachel is inspired by Scripture: “Rachel mourns her children, she refuses to be consoled because her children are no more” (Jeremiah 31:15).
Thorn knows that mothers of aborted babies go through different types of grieving and often seek forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. They are not the only ones who are traumatized from the loss of their child. Fathers who didn’t want the abortion, grandparents and siblings who later learned about it are also devastated.
Thorn has travelled to 28 countries speaking to thousands about not only the impact of abortion on men, women and on our culture but of what God’s ultimate plan is for humanity revealed to us through the science of the human body.
Thorn takes great joy in seeing her children value life. Now they’re all grown, and there are 14 grandchildren for her and her husband to enjoy. Each of her kids, she says, along with their loving partners and her grandchildren “are just a delight to my heart.”
Despite needing to lay low for health reasons, she said she’s still busy looking to expand and develop a framework for post-abortive healing in places around the world because, she explained, “you can’t just use an American model in other countries.” Her research has led her to seek communities of sisters who are already, as she said, “the boots on the ground” serving the people where they are.
In Milwaukee she says, she’s running a program for African American pastors who want to learn about post-abortive healing. There is a great need but “not a lot of help.”
Theology of the Body
This March, she’ll find herself at the Theology of the Body Conference in Calgary to speak to attendees about the science that undergirds the Theology of the Body, much of what she says is “well researched, but not well known.”
We have been seeing the effects of the sexual revolution since the 1960s culminating in what many in the Church refer to as a culture of death. Thorn spends a lot of her time explaining the wounds many of us experience as a result, with scientific studies to help her show the audience hard facts.
What we will hear from her is much deeper than what we heard from high school sex education.
Armed with the facts of male and female biology, the science of attraction and the biochemistry of sex and conception, Thorn will take us through the beauty of God’s plan for the human body.
“We haven’t really understood how awesome we are in terms of our sexuality,” she said, adding that over time the wonder and beauty of sex have been lost. What she’ll share with us will be concrete, uniting what the Church teaches with scientific fact, which will further our knowledge of what she says is “God’s intentional plan.”
Looking at all she has achieved and the ministry she continues to grow, attendees to the upcoming conference will be blessed to be part of her journey and work.
Written by Jessica Cyr
From the moment Phyllis and Clem Steffler walked into Evanston Summit, they knew it was destined to be their new home. “Phyllis was ready to move in the next day,” laughs Clem. Retired and living in Airdrie, the couple was seeking greater ease in their lives, without the worry of maintaining a home and cooking their meals. They’d been looking at options when Judy, from Covenant Living’s Evanston Summit, met them at their local church and invited them to a BBQ. They walked in and immediately loved the welcoming, attractive front entrance.
Their instinct was confirmed several months later when their daughter, a public health nurse in Toronto, was in town. “We took her to several retirement residences,” Phyllis recalls. When they got to Evanston Summit, she turned to her parents and said, “Dad and Mom, this is the place for you.” The couple moved in on July 18, 2018.
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
Catholic Pastoral Centre Staff and Guest Writers