I remember going past the dorm buildings, down the hill, through the cafeteria, and out into the coulees in the Oldman River. It was dark out — the University of Lethbridge hadn’t installed the floodlights yet — and so the only light I could see by was the moon reflecting off of the clouds, sailing eastward on a full chinook wind. I came to the crest of the coulees and just stood there, unsure of exactly what was going on or what exactly I was hoping to accomplish by getting fresh air.
And that’s when He came to me.
The song’s chorus goes:
“And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own,
And the joy that we share as we tarry there
None other has ever known.”
It sounds cliché, and it probably is, but I can’t deny that I felt the presence of the Holy Ghost there that night, riding in on the wind, wrapping me tightly in His embrace, teaching me that I am beloved regardless of my academic abilities. To accept that God loves me as a cerebral exercise is one matter, but to experience it in the heart is another matter entirely. I think I began to understand this all more clearly that night. I felt peace in the midst of the academic storm, and joy in the midst of personal trial. Most importantly, I knew that I was His own.
I stood on the coulees for quite some time, the wind washing over me and carrying all of my anxieties out to Saskatchewan (or wherever the chinook winds go). When I finally left to return to another few hours of pounding my keyboard, I knew that regardless of how my academic work turned out, of more importance was that I would turn out, because I have a loving God who will light a lamp and sweep the house to find His lost coin.
I would go on walks outside again throughout my degree whenever I was overwhelmed and anxious; even now, it has been a very present help in the midst of the pandemic. And still, every so often, God finds me on these walks and speaks with me in my heart, and we share that joy together that “none other has ever known”.
Written by Solomon Ip, a parishioner of St. John the Evangelist, Calgary.
If the last several months have reinforced anything, it is the extraordinary grace of an ordinary moment lived well. Faced with an abrupt “stripping away” of the extras that made life very full, our little family has had to work hard to claim, in simplicity and joy, the identity of domestic church. It has been challenging and edifying to see the ordinary, mundane moments through the lens of faith.
In the slowing down, we are becoming more aware of the opportunity these moments present to us. We have come to understand more deeply the invitation to elevate them and give glory to God through them. We hunger and thirst for Christ in the Eucharist, for the community life of our parish, for song, and the opportunity to embrace our friends. Yet this hunger has also made all the more clear to me that my little family is the microcosm of that greater Church reality! We are the image of Trinitarian love to the world, through our faithful and fruitful love for each other. As St. John Paul the Great reminds us in Familiaris Consortio, “...the family has the mission to guard, reveal and communicate love, and this is a living reflection of and a real sharing in God's love for humanity and the love of Christ the Lord for the Church His bride.” And so we seek ways to tangibly image His love to our children, and through them to those around us. It is incredible how ordinary realities can become imbued with incredible spiritual symbolism. Take, for instance, a picnic!
With four small children there is nothing perfect about the planning, preparing, and living out of a picnic adventure! There is mess, there are spills, there are little hands fumbling at sandwich making and mommy working very hard to keep her patience, while daddy sweats to load enough supplies in the car for what seems like a month’s trip. There is immense effort in the instruction, between the extra time everything takes and the imperfection of the end result. Truly, my humanity rebels a little against the effort when it could be done so quickly and neatly by only me! However, I know that this is a perfect moment of learning in the schools of service and forgiveness. Inevitably I will slip in my patience once or twice as we prepare our food or load it all up. I apologize and ask for forgiveness, and they willingly grant it. I have come to realize that family life is made all the more vibrant by the ready asking for and granting of forgiveness. Certainly, the outcome of our preparations will be rustic. Yet, I am convinced that we have no idea how these moments of family unity, service to each other, and joyful celebration imprint themselves as bookmarks of joy on our children’s little souls.
Every good picnic begins with the preparation. As we plan what we will bring and how we will prepare it, we look to both simplicity and beauty. We pause to admire the vibrant red of a strawberry, the perfection of the inside of our watermelon, or even the gorgeous seedy crust on a loaf of bread. I say out loud, “thank you Lord for the gift of this beautiful food!”. In that moment our children are formed in the habit of gratefully walking through the day communicating with their Creator. We remind them often that grateful people are joyful people. Is there a more beautiful reflection of God’s love to the world than our joy? Possibly not! Even more profoundly, we can recall that the word Eucharist comes from the greek, eucharisteo, or thanksgiving! In this way our simple, thankful, picnic preparations remind us of the Bread of Life.
The time comes to enjoy the fruit of our labour. With our feet in the earth and our lungs filled with healing air, again we give thanks for beauty so tangible as to point our hearts directly to the Giver of all these good gifts. While we enjoy our simple picnic meal together, my husband and I meet each other’s gaze. We do not need to use words to communicate to each other that we are rejoicing in this sacred moment. Our sweet children, noticing that gaze, feel safe and sound in our family’s love. Their little hearts know, despite the chaos that may be in the world around us, that life is very good and we are held by Love. This is the extraordinary grace of an ordinary moment lived well.
Written by Emily Packard for Faithfully. Emily and her family are parishioners of St. Patrick's Parish in Calgary.
Photos courtesy of Emily Packard
Written by Emily Rochford. The Rochford family are parishioners of Sacred Heart Parish in Strathmore, AB.
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
Through the visions St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, devotion to the Sacred Heart became formalized and the feast day extended to the whole Church by Pope Pius IX in 1856. This Friday, celebrate this beautiful feast at home, and receive the blessings and mercy Jesus promised St. Margaret Mary to souls who honour the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Devotions to the Sacred Heart of Jesus are numerous and here are some ways we may be able to observe it this year:
Domestic church. These words might mean a lot more now than they did a mere two months ago. As all of us have experienced, Covid-19, social distancing measures and the cancellation of Masses to stop the spread has affected the greater Catholic community in large and small ways.
“Mom, we are the people who walked in darkness,” my four-year-old said to me one day last week, citing the psalm we’ve been singing after sharing the Liturgy of the Word the last few Sundays before Easter, but even though there is much to be prayed for, I am seeing a lot of light shining through.
Many of us familiar with social media already know the hope that can be gleaned from the apps and resources that popular Catholics produce for wider consumption, but this unprecedented situation has had many of us reaching for our phones and computers, not only for connection with others but for prayer.
Alane Boudreau, with children and grandchildren ranging from 6 months old to 25 shared with me that their family took up an Instagram offer that Fr. Alex Mijangos, LC at Sacred Heart Church in Calgary made to join families for a live online rosary, and that night realized how well it might work for their family and friends to join in too.
“We have been saying a nightly family rosary after supper for a few years now. We always invite anyone who is with us for supper to also join us for the rosary, but we had never thought to do it live online until the social-distancing measures were introduced.
“We send out a Zoom invitation each day, and when we have all gathered, we share our intentions and then take turns saying a decade. There are usually around 6 logins, bringing us to around 20 people.
Simple and effective, this is one way for families to both connect and to receive the grace of prayer together.
“As the weeks have passed,” Boudreau said, they have focused efforts on her husband Rene’s parents who live in Nova Scotia and are “finding these weeks especially lonely and isolating.”
The nightly rosary also comes with a special treat:
“Our kids all go to the wonderful St John Choir Schola in Calgary, a choir school for homeschoolers, so they have been taught to sing. Their grandparents are true Cape Bretoners who love music, so at first, we would simply sing a song for them before and after the rosary.
“As these things tend to grow, it has expanded into all ages singing songs, now with choreography and costumes, using whatever we have in the house.
“It has definitely brought cheer and laughter to the grandparents, and our married adult children who are living in other cities.”
I am inspired by stories like this and of others’ too, who have taken the initiative within their homes to keep the life of the Church alive and well through this time apart from our church communities.
“For us, it’s been important to keep Sundays set apart,” said Caitlin Marr, a Calgary mom of two girls. The family still dresses up for Sunday Mass, and Marr and her husband Todd rearrange their dining room, putting candles and icons around their TV screen to livestream Mass, “so the girls know that it is more than just family movie time.”
Social media is awash with ideas and postings of things families are doing. From a seven-church pilgrimage on Holy Thursday with a few socially distanced friends to a visit here and there from friends dropping Easter gifts and spiritual aids, we as a church are finding ways to thrive in both beautiful and innovative ways.
I’ve had feelings of emptiness accompanied by feelings of abundant grace. We were already choosing to homeschool this year with Saint John Choir Schola to support us, and fortunately, that transition has been seamless, but I know the stress of being a new homeschooler, and that is what many are going through now.
Being trained in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, a Montessori-based program for children, I felt somewhat equipped to guide the children through Holy Week alongside my husband, though we have mourned the loss of being surrounded by our friends and family as we celebrate the liturgy.
On Holy Thursday, a fellow catechist was kind enough to drop some material for a presentation of the Last Supper. I felt so blessed as my seven-member family sat around our coffee table, looking at a miniature version of the disciples around a table with a peg doll Jesus, a cup, bread and wine.
On Saturday night we lit a fire for our very own Vigil and passed light to one another from a homemade paschal candle. As we explained the liturgy to our children, my husband and I had a deeper understanding of the great mystery we were missing, and a sense of urgency to pray for the day when we can unite within the walls of our churches again.
“I like it when Father does this better,” said one of my sons, which will hopefully gratify our parish priest, whom we value very much.
“So do I,” I thought.
And in the midst of this, our priests and religious are still hard at work to provide spiritual food for us. With online homilies and messages of hope, as well as reaching out online, our Church is making do and getting by as we have for thousands of years across the world in times of crisis.
Written by Jessica Cyr for Faithfully
Photo courtesy of Jessica Cyr
While I have spent most of my teaching career in Catholic Education systems in Saskatchewan and Alberta, I did not grow up attending Catholic schools. I was one of those people who didn’t discover that sense of “it just feels different” in a Catholic school until I began my teaching career at Father Gorman School in Lloydminster. Now don’t get me wrong – I had a wonderful upbringing in rural Saskatchewan. My little school was not a Catholic school but I loved it with all my heart. And the truth is, I always felt I was “very Catholic” based on my connection with our little church, St. Mary’s. Many of my memories of growing up are tied to that church. We attended Sunday Mass and gathered for fall suppers, wedding receptions, and potlucks after the celebration of First Communion and Confirmation. While I always proudly identified myself as a Catholic, I can see now that I basically grew up as a “Sunday Catholic.” Going to Mass was non-negotiable and my mom and dad saw to it that all of my siblings and I received all of our Sacraments. I said my nighttime prayers and we had books about Jesus in our home, along with a crucifix and religious statues. Beyond that though, I don’t remember thinking a lot about my faith on a daily basis.
My first taste of Catholic Education came in 1986 when I started my teaching career and I quickly “got it.” For children who are blessed to go to Catholic schools, they are immersed in their faith every day. I learned how blessed my students were to be able to pray together every day. They got to know God more deeply because we could read the Word of God together. My students learned to serve their brothers and sisters through acts of social service and social justice. Perhaps most importantly, they had the opportunity to celebrate the Eucharist at our school Masses. These experiences, and so many more, happen in every Catholic school in Alberta.
In our Catholic schools today, our students are not living a “Sunday Catholic” kind of life. They are learning to know our faith deeply and they live their faith every single day. I can think of no better description of what is happening in our Catholic schools than with the words from the Gospel of Matthew. “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before human beings, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” Our students are the light – they are shining brightly every day, not just on Sundays, because of the good and holy work that is happening in our Catholic schools. I am proud to be part of the story.
Written by Joann Bartley, Director of Religious Education
Holy Spirit Catholic School Division
At only 37, John Chick has accomplished tremendous achievements. He played professional football for 12 years in the CFL and NFL, winning two Grey Cups and being named the League's Most Outstanding Defensive Player before retiring in 2018. He and his wife Catherine have nine children, and more souls in heaven due to miscarriage.
He gives thanks to God for the gift of his body, mind and soul, which have allowed him to strive for excellence. Chick believes the body is a temple of the Holy Spirit and the pathway to glorify God.
“I see the physical world as God created it – all good and meant to point us back to Him. We were all created in His image and likeness,” said the former Saskatchewan Roughriders, Hamilton Tiger Cats and Edmonton Eskimos player.
“I’ve always loved the physical world,” said Chick. “I’ve always loved the pursuit of: how can I get this better. Every offseason for 12 years, I would not rest on how good the last season was, but how I can do better at what I wasn’t doing well.”
Chick has counted setbacks as blessings in his life, which have further motivated him and reminded him that where he is weak, God is strong.
“How many look at the glass half empty and woe is me. Regardless of what we have been ‘blessed’ with, we are all called to glorify God with our bodies,” he said.
“For me, you don’t have to look too far to see a lot of us are victims of something broken. In us or around us and we are victims of maybe our vices.”
Chick’s body has experienced several setbacks in his pursuit of his dreams. At 14, he was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. At the time, this news devastated his family. In college he experienced Bells Palsy and later in his professional career he had the onset of alopecia, a hair loss condition, and vitiligo, a skin discoloration condition, not to mention countless sports injuries throughout his life.
“Miscarriages, moves, trades, cuts, injuries, God always found a way (into my life). I attribute it to my family and experiences of the Holy Spirit,” said Chick.
Growing up in Wyoming as the eldest of three, faith was central in Chick’s life. His father modelled a devout faith life working as a Catholic youth minister.
So when a healing priest came to town after Chick’s diabetes diagnosis the family went to see him, and everyone had a powerful conversion experience through prayer to the Holy Spirit.
“It doesn’t mean we lived a perfect faith life, but we were always dependent on the sacraments,” said Chick.
Today, he lives in Florida where he is devoted to raising his own family in the Catholic faith. He incorporates faith and fitness into the running of his own life-coaching business called Ironwill Fitness.
Self-care has been central to his success, and he is trying to share his wisdom with his clients.
“We are supposed to love our neighbour as ourselves. But how can I love my neighbour if I’m not loving myself?” said Chick.
“How can I improve my capacity to be that servant leader? It’s taking care of myself first.”
God Squad Conference recordings, including the session with guest speaker John Chick, are now available online: https://godsquad.ca/2020-conference-recordings
Written by Sara Francis for Faithfully
Photos courtesy of John Chick
God is always waiting for our conversion to his mercy and love. For a large portion of my life I was haunted with the darkness of childhood abuse. This is my journey into God’s call and falling into His overflowing grace. As a five-year-old child I was playing in our local playground with children from the local church. When they left, I went home and asked my mother if I could go to church. My mother said I could go with the neighbours, but I wasn’t brave enough to go.
Later, I attended a Catholic high school because my mother believed in academics. In Grade 12, I completed a water pollution project for a Religion class and received a mark of 98%. From that moment, I believed that my vocation would be in the Sciences. That same year (1972), at the age of 17, I became pregnant and consented to an abortion supported by both sets of parents (Catholic and non-Catholic). The day I had the abortion I shut the door on God! I believed I was not worthy of His love; I had killed my own child. By this time, the darkness of my childhood abuse and the weight of an abortion had left my soul in complete darkness. The mask I continued to wear could not hide the pain, and I struggled. I knew one day that the darkness would envelope me and I would end my life: the pain of my soul too unbearable.
With a husband and my daughter my world was unravelling; filled with anger, guilt and darkness. I was asked to become a Catholic so my daughter could continue to attend a Catholic school. To me, it was nothing more than a course, I was never going to be a Catholic. But God had other plans. What I could not or would not do for myself, I would do for my daughter. It was the 3rd scrutiny during the Purification and Enlightenment process that things began to change. Prior to this Scrutiny, I had gone to Reconciliation and confessed my sins. God has an eraser of grace; He forgave me; the door of grace flooded opened. During the 3rd Scrutiny, in his fatherly love, the late Fr. Keith Sorge let me touch his vestments and I fell into the wellspring of God’s love. The search out of the darkness of my soul began, but it was only after a severe leg injury (run over by an ATV) that I could face the overwhelming pain and terror of childhood sexual abuse. The cry of the poor—that is what God hears in our prayers.
In gratitude for God’s grace, I became involved with the RCIA, Project Rachel, CWL, Hike for Life, Eucharistic Ministries and Lector ministries. I obtained a Master’s from Newman Theological College (Edmonton) focusing on Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’. Today, I am currently raising the awareness of Care for Our Common Home and Food Loss and Waste (FLW) through a CWL resolution and presentation to politicians and Catholic organizations. God had never left my side nor stopped calling me into His grace as I am a testimony to His love.
Written by Jeannette Nixon, St. Patrick’s Parish Calgary.
A hundred days ago, my husband and I said our vows before the altar of our Lord. If you were to ask me five years ago if I would be where I am at now, I would not have imagined this present moment. In fact, sometimes when I wake up in the morning and he greets me good morning, I would still think to myself, “Oh right — I’m married!”
Quite honestly, sometimes I feel it has not sunk in… but then again, it has only been 100 days. These past few months, friends have always asked us, “How’s married life?” Almost every time, I would mutter a quick, “oh it's great", or "well, it's new!" and such.
But how is it, really.
I have always thought that it will be an easy “transition” to the married life for Ryan and I because we have been together for many years, but I was caught by a surprise: I thought I knew him well enough; however, since we’ve been married, I have learned many new things about my husband! Don’t get me wrong: I knew what I was getting into — that the man I was going to marry was a man of values and had the characteristics I prayed for.
By new, I meant those things that you don’t really discover until you live together. And while some may think that you first need to experience living with someone before you marry them, they are completely missing out — being married (and now living together) gave us more reasons to get to know each other on a more meaningful level. While it could be difficult sometimes, I’ve learned that through those “new” experiences, we could still love each other even more.
“You need to communicate.”
Talk about the little things. Do not complain, nag, blame, or accuse. Your spouse cannot read your mind, and you cannot assume the other person knows what you’re thinking or feeling! There will be some occasions when they will know something is not right, but one cannot always expect this. It's important to cultivate patience, especially when your spouse does things differently than you do — and even more when you think your way of doing things is much better. Ha!
Experience the Gift
Be a gift and allow your spouse to be a gift to you — to love you without speculating that they only do things for you out of obligation because now, you’re married. Allow your spouse to accept you and love you, knowing that they will find your self-offering a gift that is precious. Cherish and serve them because you love them. Allow your spouse to do the same and do not question or limit their love for you despite of however little or much they seem to do. Every time I ask Ry to do something for me and he isn’t really up for it, he would always say jokingly, “It’s okay! I'll do it! Die to self!” It’s our running joke, and although he says it tongue in cheek, I appreciate it because I know that he is not only giving all he can, but he is giving all that he is.
I know we have a lifetime ahead as husband and wife, and even many more experiences, challenges that will come our way. We pray that this commitment of constantly choosing to love will always draw us back to the self-giving love that Christ had for his Church. May we always see this marriage as a gift that points and leads us to Christ. After all, our vocation is to lead each other to heaven.
Marriage is an act of will that signifies and involves a mutual gift, which unites the spouses and binds them to their eventual souls, with whom they make up a sole family – a domestic church. ~ Pope John Paul II
Written by Karissa Factura.
Photos courtesy of Karissa & Ryan Factura.
High on a hill overlooking fields of barley, wheat, hay and grazing cattle sits the little country church. It can be seen from miles around if you know where to look, and as you drive closer to look upon its tall steeple and red roof you might feel as if you’d stepped back in time.
St. Henry’s, founded by Fr. Albert Lacombe and area families in 1907, received a new coat of paint and a little more life on the fourth weekend of August when men from the Diocese of Calgary volunteered for the job.
“I knew it needed to be painted,” said Fr. Myles Gaffney, parish priest of St. Michael’s Parish in nearby Pincher Creek, “so I approached the Bishop who said ‘lets nudge the men’s ministries to see if they can get volunteers.’”
In stepped Sean Lynn of the God Squad men’s ministry. He contacted professional painter Dan Lebsack, and off to the hamlet of Twin Butte they went to evaluate the work ahead.
When a weekend was chosen, the two made known that volunteers were needed, and a few responses rolled in. Armed with a paint sprayer, scissor lift donated by a nearby Hutterite colony, telehandler donated by a Calgary carpenter, scrapers and brushes, and the God Squad barbecue and food for Lynn to expertly prepare, the team set to work.
Bishop McGrattan arrived on the scene on Saturday to see everyone hard at work, “I think it’s wonderful,” he said of the entire initiative. “The men are inspired to work together.”
Bishop McGrattan was welcomed by the volunteers and members of the Historical Society of St. Henry’s who have assumed the role of caretakers of the church and cemetery since the parish closed in 2001. The Historical Society is made up of former parishioners, people whose family are buried in the cemetery and those interested in preserving the site, according to the society secretary and treasurer Lois Johnston.
The group, who’ve been hard at work to keep St. Henry’s in good repair with much of their own time and resources – with the help of visitor’s donations – were happy to accept the help that came at the diocesan request.
A few hundred dollars is donated annually by visitors to the site, many who come just to see the classic country church and surrounding views, and many to visit the cemetery and to pray and enjoy the grotto and Stations of the Cross built by Bob and Nonee Bonertz, just one of the families who’ve lived there for over one hundred years.
Ken Wittkopf, whose wife Louise (nee Bonertz) grew up as a parishioner said, “We’ve talked about it for a few years, and we’re glad it’s happening because we don’t want to lose it.”
The value of this church to its parishioners was evident, as several who were not part of the painting crew stopped to see how it was coming along. As the painting went on, memories and stories were shared.
“I was baptized here, had my first communion and confirmation here,” said Louise Wittkopf.
Noreen Fischbuch told stories of having lived right beside St. Henry’s in the rectory, which was unused by the clergy at the time.
“I had eight children in that house,” she said referring to the house mere meters from the back of the church, “and one day, we were actually a little late for church, and Fr. Kramer looked up as we came in and tapped his watch.”
Lois Johnston, whose grandfather Fred Klunker was one of the carpenters who built St. Henry’s emphasised the value of the church to the community of families who descended from those who built the church. Quite a few of them still farm the surrounding land.
“My parents were married in this church, my family attended this church and my Mom was the organ player for years,” she said, adding that she grew up on the farm beneath the hill on which St. Henry’s stands.
The general feeling from the society and volunteers was one of hope for the legacy and the future of St. Henry’s.
“The big churches came from these little churches,” said Historical Society chairman Ron Schmidt, aptly speaking of the history of Catholicism in our country – it began with missionaries and settlers, from people building small country churches whose descendants fill the much-larger churches we see today.
Upstairs in the choir loft, children were encouraged to ring the bell during the Bishop’s visit, and the sound was enjoyed by everyone below. Each person savouring their memories and nostalgia for the living and loving that went on at St. Henry’s for over a hundred years.
Written by Jessica Cyr for Faithfully
Many Calgary Catholics are pushing through the coldest week of the new year by holding onto fond memories of the Christmas past. Others in the city’s East Asian communities keep themselves warm by anticipating the opportunity to celebrate the Lunar New Year on Saturday, Jan. 25. Ditto for parishioners at other ethnic parishes in the Diocese, where being Catholic and Canadian means you can commemorate important secular events with festivities that include prayerful appreciation of the cultural traditions that moved to Canada with their families.
Calgary’s Korean, Chinese and Vietnamese communities celebrate the Lunar New Year on the second new moon after the winter solstice. At St. Anne’s Korean Catholic Church in the community of Ramsay, parishioners will welcome the Lunar New Year with special prayers at the 11 a.m. mass on Sunday, Jan. 26, says parishioner and parish spokesman Nes (Luke) Noh. That service will be followed by a traditional New Year’s Day meal of rice cakes and soup in the parish hall. The rice cakes will come from a Korean market, the soup from parishioners. “We expect about 300 people,” says Noh. “No matter what the weather, people like to get together to celebrate. It’s tradition.”
Culturally, the Lunar New Year is also a good time to honour the memory of ancestors, so Korean Catholics will also offer prayers for their deceased family members, says Noh.
Week of Prayer about a shared faith
This year’s Lunar New Year falls at the end of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, says Theodoric Nowak, Director of Social Justice and Outreach Ministries with the Calgary Catholic Diocese. This year’s Week of Prayer, set for Jan. 18 to 25, calls for Christians to move from shared prayer to shared action. The theme also challenges Christians to show greater generosity to people in need. “In a Diocese as diverse as Calgary’s, it’s always important to remember the different backgrounds which people come from and the traditions they hold,” says Nowak. “The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity reminds us that despite the differences which exist between cultures and denominations, we find unity in our love of Christ and commitment to achieving the common good.” In addition to prayers for the faithful being offered for Christian Unity, the FCJ Centre and Ascension Parish will each host prayer events, adds Nowak.
Cultural and spiritual traditions
New Year celebrations at St. Stephen Protomartyr Church also reflect cultural and spiritual traditions, says Fr. Gregory Faryna. The Jan. 1 liturgy at this Ukrainian Catholic church in Glamorgan, celebrated the naming of Jesus and the feast of St. Basil the Great. An early Church father who defended the orthodox faith, St. Basil the Great is especially important to Albertans of Ukrainian heritage. At Fr. Albert Lacombe’s request, St. Basil sent Basilian priests to the Edmonton area to serve European Catholics who came from the Byzantine tradition, explains Fr. Faryna.
As the Ukrainian people historically followed the Julian calendar, Fr. Faryna’s parish also marked the Ukrainian New Year. While the actual date was Jan. 13, St. Stephen held a Ukrainian New Year banquet and dance on Friday, Jan. 8. About 200 people filled the parish hall for the event, which included a performance by a local Ukrainian dance group. Since many parish families are compromised of Ukrainians who married outside that ethnic group, events like these are an important way of sharing cultural traditions, says Fr. Faryna.
The Ukrainian New Year was also part of the Sunday liturgy on Jan. 12. There, the community offered special prayers for world peace and prayers for lives lost in the Ukrainian airliner shot down in Iran earlier this month.
Ukrainian Catholics approach each new year with prayers that honour the past year and help people prepare for the year to come, adds Fr. Faryna. Some families also commemorate the new year by performing or attending a traditional Malanka (which means new year) play. The play reminds people living through the long nights of winter that spring is on its way. “It’s that anticipation of new life that’s coming around the corner,” says Fr. Faryna.
Over at Ste.-Famille Church just south of the downtown core, Msgr. Noel Farman says the arrival of 2020 got him thinking about how important his parish is to the local francophone community. Ste.-Famille is the only French-language parish in Calgary. Many of the children Msgr. Farman met when he arrived at Ste.-Famille 11 years ago are now adult parishioners attending post-secondary schools or working. “This Christmas I told them, ‘I consider myself as your grandfather.’”
As with Korean-speaking parishioners at St. Anne’s parish, Msgr. Farman knows many of his parishioners make a special effort to attend a French-language mass for special events, including Christmas and New Year’s. At this year’s Christmas Eve mass, children gathered around the priest’s chair and treated mass attendees to a special performance. “It was like a dialogue between three candles representing faith, hope and love,” says the priest. The recitation ended with the candles representing faith and love declaring that hope brought them together to help each other.
This Christmas season, Ste.-Famille weathered the deaths of four people with close ties to the parish. Msgr. Farman says he was touched by how so many of his parishioners travelled to funerals in Edmonton and Claresholm to show their solidarity to each other and to their faith. “I was thinking, this is how we show our belief in eternity, we pray for those who have passed.”
For more information on this 2020 Week of Prayer for Christian unity, please download this poster.
By: Joy Gregory
My most enduring memories of youth have to do with the place of faith and prayer in my family. I didn’t fully appreciate the gift that was given to me then. Now I do. And in all honesty, neither did I fully grasp, in my first years as a husband and dad, the beautiful gift, the responsibility, and the opportunities family prayer was. I still remember the prominent weekly ritual of our family getting ready for Sunday mass and the privileged role of Mary in our Polish home. I fondly recall the persevering prayer life of my mother, the power prayer had for my dad when dealing with cancer, the image of my grandfather in prayer, so often with a rosary in hand and ever so contemplative.
A perfect family? Far from it. There were moments of harmony, but also conflict. Unity and cohesion, but also misunderstanding, hurt and pain. There was health, but also sickness and death. Rejoicing with successes, crying with betrayal, and conflict followed by repentance, conversion and forgiveness. How did we ever get through it all? Now, after all those years, I look back and see that it was all grace.
In Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis writes: “A positive experience of family communion is a true path to daily sanctification and mystical growth, a means for deeper union with God” (No. 316). He goes on to say, “If a family is centred on Christ, he will unify and illumine its entire life. Moments of pain and difficulty will be experienced in union with the Lord’s cross, and his closeness will make it possible to surmount them” (No. 317). Given the conviction of the Holy Father and Tradition of the Church on the power of prayer in the life of individuals and families, you may also find relief knowing that there is scientific support to Fr. Patrick Peyton’s maxim, “The family that prays together, stays together.”
One study, published in the Journal of Family Psychology, explored this adage and identified 7 themes.
There is value in creating a culture of family prayer. To do this means prioritizing time for prayer and intentionally setting aside distractions. Jesus said, “where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them (Matthew 18:20). In essence, that is what prayer is all about. Responding to His initiative, and inviting Jesus, who loves me and my family in an intimate and unrepeatable way, into our homes and hearts.
By: Anthony Banka, Family & Youth Coordinator
Note: Chelladurai, J.M., Dollahite, D.C., and Marks, L.D. (2018). The family that prays together: Relational processes associated with regular family prayer. Journal of Family Psychology, 32(7), 849-859.
An early family Christmas weekend this year brought special blessings to our family. My three children, their spouses, our seven grandchildren, my husband and I gathered at our family cabin at Pigeon Lake for some time together, exchange of presents and Christmas fun. On the agenda was mass at 10 a.m. Sunday morning at St. Theresa’s Church in Mameo Beach. Even though the little ones (seven children under five years old) were up at 6 a.m., it was still a scramble to get us all dressed, strapped into car seats and to the church on time. With just minutes to spare, we walked through the doors of St Theresa where the ushers met us with warm smiles and a sincere welcome. “Would you like to bring up the gifts?” they asked. My husband agreed and said he would bring the four boys (all 3-4 years old) with him.
We seated ourselves at the front in the hopes that the kids would be more attentive. Armed with coloring pages, stickers and some goldfish snacks we settled in. Mass was beautiful and the gathering of parishioners was intimate. There were a few squawks and cries from the front row but all in all the kids did pretty well. During the offertory, my husband took the four boys to the back of the church. Never one to be left behind, within seconds little Abby (19 months) was on her way as well, so her mom moved quickly to follow her.
The parishioners beamed as my husband and daughter walked up the aisle with the bread and wine. The kids followed. During communion, Father blessed every child individually as he placed his hand on each little head and said, “May the Baby Jesus bless you.” As mass came to a close, the usher came to the front and asked if there was anyone with an upcoming birthday. One of the ladies raised her hand, and he responded that we would now sing the blessing song to the birthday girl. In the same breath, he turned to us and he added, “And I think we should bless this family and all the little ones who have brought us such joy this mass.” The entire congregation raised their hands and sang the blessing song to us and the special parishioner. Amazing!
As Father began his closing prayer he turned to our family and said, “These children are the future of the church, and we are so glad that you brought them all to mass today.” The entire congregation applauded, and we were invited to stay for cookies and coffee and the decorating of the Church for Christmas. As a mother and an educator, I know that early childhood experiences form children. I also know that children are spiritual beings who instinctively love God and all of His creation. Having my whole family together at this mass and to be so warmly welcomed by St Theresa’s community was a gift beyond words. Thank you, St. Theresa’s for embracing us and blessing us so kindly.
By: Bonnie Annicchiarico
Throughout our Catholic tradition, the book of sacred Scripture has been the honored symbol of God’s living word present among us. Processions, bowing, candles, and incense express our church’s reverence for the inspired word as it is enthroned, opened, and proclaimed in Catholic worship. This prayer service brings the ancient practice of Bible enthronement to Catholic homes, so that it may be a continual reminder to seek and live God’s word each day.
“I would like so much for all Christians to be able to comprehend ‘the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ, through diligent reading of the Word of God, for the sacred text is nourishment of the soul and the pure and perennial source of spiritual life for all of us.” – POPE FRANCIS
Prayer to enthrone the bible in your home - Download Leaflet here
Reverently place the open Bible on a mantle, table, shelf, or bookstand. You may adorn the space with a candle, crucifix, icon, or flowers. It will serve as a spot for regular Bible reading and prayer. As you pray this enthronement service together, different family members may volunteer for different reader parts.
We begin in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. We gather together to enthrone the Holy Bible, the sacred book of our church. Since ancient times, the open book of Scripture has been enthroned at church councils and in cathedrals and parish churches. Since every Catholic home is a “domestic church,” we continue this tradition in the place of our ordinary lives, asking that this enthroned Bible remind us that God teaches, encourages, and challenges us through its open pages.
Let us pray: Ever-living God, send your Holy Spirit so that this Bible may be for us a source of strength, comfort, inspiration, and guidance. Give us a deeper love for sacred Scripture, a desire to read and reflect upon it, and a longing to follow more faithfully the way of Jesus.
Let us listen to Jesus as he offers us truth and freedom through his Word. A Reading from the Gospel according to John:
Jesus then said to those who believed in him, “If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31–32)
Pause for a moment of silent reflection.
Reader: Let us all respond: “O God, teach us your word.”
R/: O God, teach us your word.
Let us pray: Come Holy Spirit, open our eyes, our ears, our minds, and our hearts to the living word of Scripture. May it always be the center of our home and our lives. As you have inspired that word with power and truth, now give us confidence to read the Bible in ways that form us into disciples. Fill our hearts and kindle in them the fire of your love, so that you may renew the face of the earth.
Let us pray together as Jesus taught us.
R./ Our Father, who art in heaven …
Reader: Let us offer one another a sign of Christ’s peace.
(This enthronement service may be easily adapted to a classroom, community room, or whatever space you wish to dedicate to the sacred Scriptures.)
A place for listening and prayer
Now that the Bible is enthroned in your home, this spot is a place to come regularly to read the Bible, individually and as a family. Choose a book of the Bible to read over a period of time, the Sunday Mass readings, or a Bible study book. Then follow the five stages of the ancient practice of Lectio Divina to guide you.
Read the verses aloud, slowly and carefully, realizing that God is speaking through the sacred text. Imagine the scene, notice the feelings evoked by the text, and consider the type of writing used by the author. If done in a group, members share with the others what they have discovered in the text.
Considering what particular phrases or images have caught your attention, ask yourself what the text is saying personally to you. What insight, comfort, or challenge is God offering you? If in a group, feel free to share your thoughts with the others.
Respond to God who has spoken to you in the text. In words of thanks, praise, repentance, or petition, speak to God from the heart. In a group, this could be prayed aloud or in silence.
Simply rest in God’s presence. Trust God to work within you and form you in the divine image. Stay in silence and savor the Holy Spirit.
Determine how you can turn your prayerful reflection into practical experience. Let the power of God’s word have an effect in your life, making you a more committed disciple of Jesus.
Text & Prayer from Catholic Initiatives
Written by Steven J. Binz
Pope Francis has declared that the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time is to be devoted to the celebration, study and dissemination of the word of God “that the life of our people be constantly marked by this decisive relationship with the living word that the Lord never tires of speaking to his Bride” (Aperuit Illis, 2). In 2020 the Sunday of the Word of God falls on January 26.
Here are five liturgical suggestions for making the most of this universal invitation from the Pontiff.
Focus on the centrality of the Bible for Christians. In the Gospel, Jesus quotes what we heard in the first reading from the Prophet Isaiah. The word of the prophet is the foundation for his teaching and the call of the first disciples. In the second reading Paul tells the Corinthians that Jesus did not send him to baptize but to proclaim the Gospel and that “it is the power of God”.
2. Bless Ministers of the Word
Following the Homily, invite ministers of the Word to stand (e.g. lectors, psalmists, leaders in RCIA, liturgy of the word for children, and scripture study). Bless them with hands extended:
Blessed are you, Lord God,
Source of all light and all goodness,
you sent your Son, your living Word,
to reveal to humanity the mystery of your love.
Look with mercy upon these women and men who proclaim your word
and lead your people closer to your teaching.
Bless X them in their ministry
so that they may be nourished by your Word,
be transformed by it and faithfully announce it
to their brothers and sisters in your Church.
We praise and thank you, Father,
in the name of Jesus your Son,
and in the love of your Holy Spirit,
God of glory for ever and ever.
Adapted from the blessing of lectors in Celebrations of Installation and Recognition, copyright Concacan Inc.,2005. All rights reserved.
3. Universal Prayer
Introduction to the petitions:
Dear sisters and brothers,
nourished and formed by God’s Word
let us bring our needs and petitions before Him.
In addition to the petitions you have prepared for today, include some for the Word of God to come to life in your community, for example:
Prayer at the end of the petitions:
Grant, O God, that our lives be marked by your living word.
Hear these, our prayers,
and help us to proclaim the good news of the kingdom.
Through Christ our Lord.
4. Eucharistic Prayer
You might use Eucharistic Prayer III for Various Needs and Occasions (Jesus the Way to the Father). Its Preface focuses on Christ as the “Word” of God. Roman Missal p.764ff.
5. Enthroning the Bible (For use in homes, schools, and with RCIA or Bible Study groups)
The faithful have shown reverence to the bible as the inspired word of God since ancient times. The enthronement of an open bible has often served as a symbolic invitation to delve into the sacred text as the source of our spiritual life. You might use this short ritual from the American Bible Society to enthrone the Bible at home, in schools, and with RCIA or Bible Study groups.
With the disappearance of decorated Christmas trees from bay windows and the appearance of dried up evergreen trees free of ornaments, tinsel and lights now lying on our curbs we can easily perceive an atmospheric change in focus. However, Liturgically, Christmas ends with the Baptism of the Lord, which falls on Sunday, January 12.
So, even if your Christmas trees have come down and decorations have been returned to storage, we invite you to consider keeping out the Christmas crèche a while longer and placing it in a prominent place in your home where you can gather with family and pray.
You may light a candle (mindful of everyone’s safety) and pray these words…
“O God, who were pleased to give us the shining example of the Holy Family, graciously grant that we may imitate them in practising the virtues of family life and in the bonds of charity, and so, in the joy of your house, delight one day in eternal rewards. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. ”
Did you know that the Vatican has their life-size nativity scene up until February 2?
Just as the Blessed Virgin spent 40 days contemplating the Divine Fruit of her womb before going to the temple to fulfil the Law, we also can ponder, explore, and live out the fruit of the Incarnation in the period of Ordinary Time leading up to the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord on February 2. While this feast day is not part of the Christmas season, it is a feast that points back to Christmas and leads us forward to Easter.
And so, building on the #I Am Blessed campaign, we invite you and your family to keep in mind the words of Pope Francis: “The nativity scene is like a living Gospel rising up from the pages of sacred Scripture. As we contemplate the Christmas story, we are invited to set out on a spiritual journey, drawn by the humility of the God who became man in order to encounter every man and woman” Pope Francis, Admirabile Signum.
Close to the celebration of Christmas, after the Nativity scene has been set up, gather around to bless and praise God for sending his Son, Jesus. Here is a blessing prayer you can use at home with your family:
Sing a Christmas hymn or carol.
Leader: Glory to God in the highest.
(R/.) And peace to God’s people on earth.
Leader: Let us listen to these words of Scripture.
A reader proclaims one of these readings from Holy Scripture:
Leader: Let us praise our Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world, who was born for our salvation. Our response to each intention is “Glory to God in the highest.”
(R/.) Glory to God in the highest.
Leader: Eternal Word, you have scattered the darkness of sin and death. (R/.)
Word made flesh, you have made us children of God most high. (R/.)
Incarnate Son, you have united heaven and earth. (R/.)
Lord Jesus, you are the revelation of God’s love. (R/.)
Eternal Son, you are the light of the nations. (R/.)
Emmanuel, you are fullness of God’s glory. (R/.)
Son of God, you were born of Mary with Joseph as your protector. (R/.)
Bread of life, you were laid in a humble manger. (R/.)
Son of David, the shepherds came to worship you. (R/.)
Light of the world, the Magi brought you gifts. (R/.)
Prayer of Praise
Leader: Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation:
you have sent your Son
as the promised Saviour of the world
so that he might share with us your divine life.
Bless us as we prepare this crib,
and let it be a reminder of the Lord Jesus,
who was born of the Virgin Mary in the City of David.
Grant that we may always serve you in faith
as did the angels,
praise you for your saving deeds
as did the shepherds,
and surround you with the warmth of our love,
as did the animals of the stable.
Glory and praise to you, eternal God,
through Jesus Christ our Saviour,
who lives with you and the Holy Spirit,
for ever and ever.
Conclude by singing a Christmas hymn or carol.
From Blessings and Prayers for Home and Family.
Ottawa: Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2004.
Faithful Catholics take great comfort in reaching out, through prayer, to the communion of saints, triumphant and penitent. Many Catholics even keep a kind of on-call list of favourite saints based on namesakes, vocations and intentions. We invoke Mary for issues related to motherhood, we plead Peregrine’s assistance for loved ones with cancer, we call out to St. Anthony of Padua for all things lost, from keys to causes.
Fr. Myles Gaffney wants to add Saint Kateri Tekakwitha to the list of saints Canadians call on when they seek God’s help. The current vicar of Indigenous Affairs, Fr. Gaffney now serves the Calgary Diocese as the pastor of St. Michael’s parish in Pincher Creek.
There, he spends much of any free time researching and writing about Saint Kateri. While her indigenous heritage makes Kateri a somewhat obvious choice as a protectress of Canada, the environment and ecology, Fr. Gaffney says contemporary Catholics have much to learn from this saint’s experience of advanced prayer. “That’s something a lot of people don’t know about her, but it should really strike a chord in today’s world. Kateri could be the greatest contemplative that we know about in North America.”
Fr. Gaffney learned about Kateri when writing his first book, Signposts of our Faith: Canadian Witnesses to Vocation and Mission. That book was published in 2010 and by the time Fr. Gaffney took a 2016 sabbatical to study her life further, the priest was recognized as a Kateri scholar. During his sabbatical, the priest visited Kateri shrines in upstate New York and studied almost 400 pages of biographies and letters, including reports from first-hand witnesses of her life and miracles.
That research informs a presentation the priest has given at international Kateri Conferences, seminaries in the United States and Canada. He’s also presented to smaller groups of indigenous peoples and Catholics who want to learn more about the first Native North American Saint. Fr. Gaffney says the presentation is a work-in-progress that may eventually be published in book form.
Written by Joy Gregory
"To you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord." (Lk. 2:11)
You are invited to spend the Christmas season with Our Lord Jesus Christ with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Calgary. Check out the Mass times for the Christmas Season in parishes throughout the Diocese of Calgary. Click here.
Tonight, as I was driving by a parking lot in the bleak and snowy weather, feeling downcast and discouraged by difficulties from recent weeks, I saw a guy dumpster-diving in a clothing donations bin in the dark. Pulling over to ask if there was anything I can do to help, I was shocked to see a guy probably in his 30's, not older than me.
He said what he needed most was a warm pair of gloves to make it through the cold night, as his was full of holes. Since all the stores were closed, I offered him mine, though they were rather worn. He hesitated, but I insisted that he tried them on – they fit. The look on his face was one of genuine happiness and gratitude, over just my old worn pair of gloves. My heart ached. We made a run to Tim’s to get some food, and I let him know about the Feed The Hungry program every Sunday at St. Mary’s. He shared with me that he went to a Catholic school growing up, so I asked him if there was anything I can help pray for. Looking away, he stood silent for what seemed like a minute, neither speaking or moving. Then, with tears in his eyes, he asked me to pray for his two kids whom he hasn’t seen in a long time. I promised I would pray for him, and in your charity, I ask that you please pray for Mike and his kids too. He was so grateful, but to me he was the real blessing tonight, as he snapped me out of focusing on myself and my own problems. God bless Mike, and may he receive all the graces and help needed to be reunited with his kids. #iamblessed
Shared by Dr. Thomas Fung, parishioner of Holy Spirit Parish in Calgary, Vice President of Calgary Catholic Medical Association. Photo credit: Dr. Thomas Fung
Catholic Pastoral Centre Staff and Guest Writers