Dads, as we gear up for Father’s Day, let’s take a moment to watch this video and see if we can find a fresh perspective on fatherhood or a new inspiration to step up our game!
Thank you for always trying to be the best dad that you can be! Have a wonderful time with your family on Father’s Day.
I was born and raised in a Catholic home. I remember attending church with my parents but I sensed early on as a young child that my father was not living out his vocation and role as a husband and father. My father was an alcoholic, and because of his addiction, he was unable to be fully present to his family, or to teach me and prepare me for life the way a young boy needed.
I missed out on having a personal relationship with my father, on experiencing his love and acceptance. I was not given a proper example of how I should conduct myself as a mature person. Having personally experienced what life was like with an alcoholic father, I told myself many times that I would be different towards my own family, that there would be joy and love, mutual understanding and peace in the home; the very things that were missing in my own home and upbringing.
After I got married and started my own family, I came to realize that things were not so easy as I had imagined them to be. I struggled with dealing with my obligations as a husband, father, and provider. Often times alcohol served as a comfort and means to deal with daily challenges, but then it was followed by feelings of guilt, remorse, bitterness, and regret. Even hatred towards my father would surface for not having prepared me for life’s circumstances. I grieved over my father’s inability to model for me how to be a good husband, father, and man. I was terrified and panicked by the fact that I was becoming just like my father. I sought solace through alcohol, and of course, that made things worse.
While moving through life in this way, I longed for something more. I sensed that there was more.
I owe so much to my wife, who kept our family together, and never stopped believing that things could be different, better… that I could become the man she knew I could be. I knew that I needed help. I knew that the future wellbeing of my family, marriage, and the good of my 3 children depended on me becoming the man God called me to be. but at the same time feeling I couldn’t do it by myself. I needed help and direction. I needed God, and a renewed sense of faith and prayer to rise above the pain, hurts, resentment, and challenges.
Having exhausted various avenues, I cried out to God for help. It was then in the experience of powerlessness and sincere sorrow that God answered the call of my heart. He sent a friend my way who then reintroduced me to God and His mercy, to the loving protection of our Mother Mary, and who invited me to model my life after the example of St. Joseph in my call to be father, and to model our family after the example of the Holy Family.
It has been a long journey, but ever-grateful to the Lord, I am happy to share that I am alcohol-free for the last seven years. There have been many good days, tougher days, but I am better equipped to deal with them than ever before. My wife and I have been engaged in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, and the experience of the Spirit’s current of grace has been life-transforming.
Not only have I come to know Jesus in a personal and intimate way, received a new and ongoing outpouring of the Spirit, discovered that I am loved by my Heavenly Father, but through this new life in the Spirit, I have come to terms with my past, and have been given the grace to forgive and pray for the eternal repose of my earthly father. I have come to know God and that He is with me always, and that with Him all things are possible.
Thanks to God, my relationships with my wife and children have improved and I have become a better husband and father, and that my family can count and rely on me. Recently my wife shared with me that I remind her of St. Joseph!
Yes, with God, all things are possible, all things are made new.
With summer just around the corner, check out the list of Summer camps below that will leave your children with lasting memories of fun and faith:
Did we miss any? If your parish or lay association is organizing a Summer Camp, or Vacation Bible School, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
It is a beautiful thing to birth a baby and nurture a child through life. Motherhood, which is arguably the pinnacle of the experience of being a woman – whether through birth, adoption or spiritual motherhood – is highly underrated in the mainstream. We know that women are essential to life giving love, and with the example of Our Lady, women walk this journey in dignity and strength.
But women who come through adverse circumstances are almost a truer testimony to the strength of character and the resolve that it takes to be a mother. Add a global pandemic, and you’ve got a myriad more problems to work through.
Michelle Haywood is the program manager at Elizabeth House. Listening to her speak of what she has witnessed at one of Calgary’s a homes for pregnant women at risk, was balm for the soul as she told success stories of the women who resided there in the past 2 years.
“They are coming to us in crisis, and they’re leaving with sometimes a whole lot more confidence and resourcing than they came in with. They have to decide – its that choice that they made to do it and they’ve got to work hard to make this happen. I’m seeing dogged ethic and determination in every woman in her own way.”
I often imagine Our Lady in her own adverse circumstances, and am thankful for the relative ease with which I’ve raised my children by comparison. But Our Lady has special meaning for Michelle and Elizabeth House:
In its original location in an historic building in the heart of the city, Elizabeth House, founded by the Sisters of Charity of St. Louis, had a grotto with a statue of Our Lady. Unfortunately, the grotto did not make the move when Elizabeth House moved to a more suitable location. The statue, as Michelle put it, “followed us without a dedicated home.”
The Knights of Columbus at St. Peter’s parish who have been instrumental in creating a homey atmosphere in the front and backyards at the house with landscaping and upkeep, arranged to have a new grotto built for the original statue, which has also been repainted.
"We asked the St Peter's Knights of Columbus to rebuild the grotto and they came through as always. They even found the gentleman who was the original brick layer to build the new one!" Michelle said.
A dedication ceremony will take place with Bishop McGrattan at the beginning of June.
“I believe that all the women that come through are under her mantle and enfolded in Mary’s robes. I constantly think of that as being part of the leadership that we are all in her presence always, and it helps us get through some really difficult moments.”
Difficulty doesn’t even begin to describe what it must be like to be newly pregnant and unsupported by family, friends or community and without a place to go;
“Some of the research has shown that one of the most substantial reasons that women choose abortion is that they believe that they can not provide the optimal conditions for motherhood,” Michelle said, adding that housing is also a major contributor,
“If you have no idea where you’re going to sleep or you can’t guarantee in your mind that you can keep this baby safe from harm, that’s what might lead a woman to that decision. They want to feel like they can be the best mother possible.”
The proof that Elizabeth House moms can and do achieve the best motherhood possible is in their stories. Michelle emphasised the determination and hard work that many women have shown her over her 15 years there, especially the last two years in the midst of global pandemic,
The public health restrictions had a myriad of consequences for Elizabeth House. Some of the regularly accessed programming was closed, outside visitors were not allowed at times, and isolation for symptoms had to happen in the four walls of a small bedroom.
“We saw more acute mental health needs and crises,” Michelle said, adding that being in a staff position was very difficult, because inevitably acting on the public health measures made them feel they may be doing harm.
Despite the hardships faced, there were also silver linings.
“We had only one isolated case of COVID-19 in a place where people are coming and going, and that speaks to how well we cared for one another,” Michelle said.
Strength and resilience of the community showed through as well when amidst the fear and the struggle, victories were won.
“We were seeing women just circling the house – nowhere to go. Schools were closed. We have from time to time women who are in post-secondary education. Now they were online with a baby, and guess what? They did it. They absolutely did it.
“We had one woman finish her post-secondary degree at home with a brand new baby during COVID. This is what can happen. This is what I’m speaking to, just the resilience, the strength, the courage, the sheer determination of the women here. This isn’t about the program; this is about them. We are simply giving them the space to shine.”
Another woman was able to purchase her first home during the pandemic, which is a first for the program.
“We’ve never had a woman move into that situation before, but she worked so hard to get everything in place for her next steps.”
Michelle and the staff at Elizabeth House have been grateful for the financial and physical support that continued despite the pandemic.
“It slowed down understandably but it never ended. We were overwhelmed both Christmases with donations and still getting people who want to volunteer as soon as restrictions are lifted. In those incredibly dark moments, the support and care never ended and that really mattered.”
After only a few minutes of talking to Michelle, I noticed and admired how she spoke about the women Elizabeth House serves. She spoke with admiration and respect, and emphasised the dignity of each woman, saying that it is their hard work that makes the difference for them, and that Elizabeth House, just like a midwife to a birthing mother, holds up a mirror to them saying “You’re doing it. You’ve got this.”
“They’re powerful – they just don’t know it yet – and we are helping them to see that and to practice it so that they can move forward.”
HOLY SATURDAY & EASTER
God Squad Canada started in Calgary with four police officers coming together in prayer. It has since grown into an apostolate over the last 25 years that influences men around the world.
Through the guidance of St Joseph, God Squad’s vision is to form and strengthen men, inspiring them to embrace God’s vocation in their lives. They strive to encourage men positively amidst today’s darkness of spiritual famine and moral confusion. God Squad wishes to reverse the breakdown of families by serving and nurturing men of all ages to be leaders in their families and communities.
Their ministry brings men together by various initiatives such as BBQ Outreach, motorcycle rides, disc golf, or by hosting an annual Men's Conference. During the Year of St Joseph, God Squad was able to stream their conference online and reach men throughout the world.
Many men over the years have been inspired to show the same servant leadership to their families that Christ has for His bride, the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church because of these conferences. Men have discerned marriage; others the priesthood. (See “How Many of You” in God Squad’s Newsletter for November 2021 and read about Father Troy Nguyen's experience at a God Squad Conference). Others have found the strength to persevere or to take on new challenges, or to find new meaning and hope in their faith.
Some men have been sent by their wives and are now eternally grateful! Some come looking for answers. Most come just to be with other like minded men. Men need mentoring. Men need to mentor others. Men need to lead.
In an interview with Mario Toneguzzi on Faith Spotlight, Sean Lynn, president and founder of God Squad Canada says that this year’s theme was inspired by Avi Kaplan’s song “Change on the Rise" and St. John Paul II’s new springtime in his encyclical Redemptoris Missio, long before the current political winds and discourse in the media. Inspired by reflection, Sean recognizes, as farmers do, that the springtime is a time of hard work. As “we’re coming out of two years of struggle and strife” says Constable Lynn, “we need to work hard at coming together and work for healing” and building up the Kingdom of God.
Consider giving the men in your life a ticket to “Change on the Rise; Ushering in the New Springtime!”. This year God Squad has the pleasure of hosting amazing speakers: Jeff Cavins, Brett Powell, and Bishop William McGrattan, who will celebrate the Mass. All men in the Diocese (and beyond) are invited to come for the Conference at St. Michael's Church in Calgary, on March 18 & 19, 2022. You can register to attend in person or to watch via livestream. Bring your son, your father, your brother, your cousin, your friend, or even a stranger! Consider hosting a viewing party (Contact email@example.com if you need ideas on hosting a viewing party), or to host the viewing party in your parish.
And as a bonus, get free access to Chris Stefanik’s “Rise A 30 – Day Challenge” worth $45 - after you register.
Ten Reasons to join God Squad Men's Conference this year
Submitted by God Squad Canada
Reverence for Christ, love and laughter are paramount in the home of Irene Sarmiento and Ernesto Lozano, who met and married in their home-country of Mexico before emigrating to Canada with their growing family 11 years ago. They’ve been married for 26 years and they have six children.
“On our wedding day, we received the blessing of the bishop who married us, and one of the wedding gifts was a papal blessing from Pope John Paul II. I feel we’ve had tons of grace helping us on our journey,” said Irene.
That journey would carry them far from their beginnings, but when they arrived in Canada, they found a new home in their Catholic communities in Calgary.
“When we went to Church and I saw the tabernacle, I felt at home, because the Church is everywhere, and it is actually like you have a family,” said Irene, commenting that the Church community in Canada welcomed them with open arms when they arrived.
The family of the Church welcomed another couple into its midst in 2014, when Jean-Francois (JF) and Ana Church said, “I do.”
Though they met one another and attended JF’s prom together in 2006, they had a long journey toward marriage. As both of them journeyed separately toward a deeper relationship with God and a greater understanding of the workings of the Holy Spirit in their lives, they formed a friendship that blossomed into love as they eventually served in youth ministry together in Ottawa.
“It is such an intimate relationship when you are working with someone and being guided by the holy spirit and teaching about God,” said Ana. “You really get to see that person’s heart and where they are at and where their relationship with God is at. At the time I thought, ‘these are all the qualities that I’m looking for in a husband.’”
Both said they feel they were guided to one another by God.
“For some time, I thought I wanted to be a priest,” JF shared, saying he took a yearlong discernment retreat to find out.
“The answer for me was clear that I was called to exemplify the Holy Family, and that’s a tall order. I didn’t know who the lady would be at that time, but every time there’s a shadow of doubt, I know that I discerned this and that God has a plan for us.”
God’s plans are mysterious and beautiful. As I listened to both of these couples share their memories, my own came vividly to mind. Thirteen years ago on February 14th, my husband Joseph who had also discerned the priesthood but felt called to have a family, married.
As I walked down the aisle of our hometown church on the arm of my dad, I remember being awestruck. My thoughts raced, but I remember thinking that this was the church where our parents had brought us to be baptized, and where we had walked down the aisle to receive the Eucharist countless times, and here we were on the same path toward something entirely new and sacred. We felt truly at home in the Church in that moment.
“Being married is not easy, it is hard,” said Ernesto matter-of-factly, “especially being married to someone like me,” he finished with a wry smile.
I’ll confess I feel like Joseph sometimes carries an unfair burden with such an emotional, opinionated wife. But all self-deprecation and joking aside, as Catholics we have been richly blessed in the Sacraments, which feed our souls and call us to deeper conversion.
In 2011, Joseph and I walked the aisle of the same Church at my father’s funeral. It gave me comfort to recall our wedding, my First Communion and all of the Masses I’d attended there as I walked, this time with the heaviness of grief. It was in the Sacraments and in my marriage that I found solace.
This moment came to mind when Ernesto said, “when you are feeling terrible, there is always the Sacrament of Reconciliation.” He and Irene try to go often, and to normalize going for their children.
It is important for them that their children would feel at home in the church.
“When the children were little, I would take them and ask the priest if they could talk with him a little bit. That way when it came time for their First Reconciliation they weren’t going to a person they didn’t know,” Irene said.
As Irene and Ernesto recall starting their family, they remember feeling overwhelmed too.
“When you have your first child they do not come with instructions,” said Ernesto facetiously.
“Yes,” added Irene, “you have to figure it out as you go.”
Six children, including now-adult children have given them a lot of practice in parenting, and I had to resist the temptation to sit for hours picking their brains for advice about my own family. Something that is important to the couple is mentorship of parents, which they do through their involvement with a program called Family Enrichment.
As parents of young children, Mass can be a challenge. Nonetheless, Ana and JF try to attend Mass as often as possible.
In moments where certain behaviours are causing problems of concentration, JF says he tries to “remove myself mentally from the situation, as if to see myself in the third person, pretending that I’m God the Father looking at this situation; one of the kids wrote on the pew with wax crayon and I’m trying to listen to the homily.
“Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me,” and if I am pretending I am God looking in, I think “okay, this is actually hilarious.” If I miss the homily, then I know God meets us where we don’t expect it, and he’ll fill me some other way.”
“I don’t operate that way,” said Ana, “and I often feel alone in those moments.”
“So often I pray to the Holy Spirit that I need help. Sometimes (during Mass, but also in everyday life) I’m praying under my breath and the kids ask “what are you doing?” and I say “I’m inviting Jesus right now… you should too!”
It models for them that they can reach out to God when they need Him and that He will be there for us even when we might feel alone.”
“It also models for them that we are not trying to raise them to be perfect,” said JF. “We expect them to have freakouts just like we do, but in those moments there is a Holy Spirit, there is a Jesus, there is an Abba-Daddy who cares for us and wants to help. I think it is just beautiful to model that.”
To support one another in continuing to grow a relationship with God, Ana and JF have been going alternate weeks to Tuesday night Reconciliation, Mass and Adoration for almost a year.
“Having that sacred time that we can look forward to and that we protect for each other is really key. We also get to listen to the homily that day, which is really nice,” said Ana.
“It’s amazing how many saints went to frequent confession,” pointed out JF, who finds it helpful to go often and “break the cycle of sin.”
“If I’m going often, with not a lot of time between confessions, I’m forcing myself to be in a position to make an examination of conscience and go a deeper route so that I can address things in myself – other personality defects that are leading me to those sins.”
Ana and JF are a couple who’ve spent quite a long time building up the spiritual life of their family and seeking the Sacraments.
“The key is really staying vulnerable with the Lord and with each other, and I find the Sacraments just make room for that psychologically and emotionally, and bring a source of inspiration and dreaming with the Lord,” said JF.
Our homes hold a lot of what is near and dear to us. For starters, our family. The home provides shelter for the people we love.
Aside from our belongings which we need in order to function in life, our home is a shelter for the things that define us, objects that hold special meanings. Be it a special painting, a family heirloom, or that memorable walkman from the 80s.
In a Catholic home, some of the objects that hold special meaning to us are holy images or religious articles that help us think of God and the communion of the saints and the angels.
Some Catholic homes have home altars or prayer corners/rooms where the family can spend time of prayer, meditation, or teaching the Faith. This YouTube vlogger, A Catholic Mom's Life, features her prayer room as a place not only to pray but also to read and hang-out as a family apart from the living room or the kitchen.
Tips for starting your home altar/prayer corner or room...
Having a home altar or prayer corner/room can help us consciously make room for God in our lives.
Consider this... Our homes should be a refuge, a place where everyone can come home to rest, to be nourished, and to be re-energized for the next day. Carve a place for prayer and let the peace of Christ dwell in your house.
For you have been a refuge to the poor, a refuge to the needy in their distress, a shelter from the rainstorm and a shade from the heat." Isaiah 25:4
Catholics, or Christians in general, can sometimes forget that we are both body and soul as human beings. We are not spiritual beings like the angels even when our human nature also has a spiritual dimension. We are human beings beautifully made by God, body and soul.
How we see and treat ourselves will often shape how we see and treat others.
Christ became one of us as a human being, body and soul, in His incarnation while continuing to be God at the same time. He even bothered to be raised both in body and soul in His resurrected state because we matter. We matter to God both in body and soul and only death separates both from each other. Thus, the Lord opens for us the path of the resurrection to eternal life.
Watch this video and learn about a very simple financial principle that will require some discipline to live faithfully.
*The video is used for illustration purposes and is not an endorsement of the financial institution.
We must all live within our means. Even with more money, without any clear purpose, we can spend more than we make. Without this clear purpose, we can get into debt which causes a lot of negative impact on our spiritual, mental, and even physical well being.
Let's keep these in mind:
Consider this... does your money own you or do you use your money to serve God and His purpose for you?
Honour the LORD with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine." Proverbs 3:9-10
In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit… Despite his upbringing in a strict Hindu Orthodox home in India, Kasiviswanat Ganesan carefully recites the Trinitarian prayer complete with careful hand placements to mark out the sign of the Catholic faith.
Kasiviswanat or ‘Kasi’ as we all know him as, is the Cafeteria Manager at our newest high school in Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools. He has held this position since the school opened and has become well-known throughout the school division for his culinary expertise and the amazing lunches and dinners that he provides as part of the catering responsibilities that his team holds throughout the division. Kasi is also a parent in our division with a son and a daughter in our French Immersion program. This allows him to have a unique perspective and I sought him out to discuss his observations and understanding in relation to Catholic education.
In our conversation, Kasi shared that he works two full time jobs. He is a supervisor at one of the top restaurants in Red Deer. He begins this job everyday after working 8 hours at our high school. Kasi indicated how hard this has been on his relationship with his son, Mukesh, who he often doesn’t even see on a normal workday. He tells me that he is supporting his own extended family back in India as well as in-laws in Indonesia. Kasi also tells me that he has been offered twice as much money at other restaurants or a promotion at the restaurant he currently works at if he would give up his job at St. Joseph’s High School. I asked him why he doesn’t do that especially given the financial obligations he carries. He replies, “I stay because of Mr. Daniel”.
Mr. Daniel is the principal and Kasi goes on to inform me that he learns so much watching Mr. Daniel lead the school community. “He has built a family at our school.” I want to lead like Mr. Daniel who is tough on the outside, but has a really big heart.” I ask Kasi for an example and he describes a time when Mr. Daniel came to him and told him about a young man in their school who has a very difficult home life and was supporting younger siblings basically on his own. “Mr. Daniel told me to quietly give this student a lunch every day and just send the bill to the office and they would take care of it.” Kasi also recalls the time when Kasi, himself, became a Canadian citizen. “I did not tell Mr. Daniel that I was doing this, but the next day, the school had organized a special gathering for me and celebrated my new citizenship.”
Kasi knows that his kids are getting more than just a good education in our Catholic school division. “They are learning how to live in a relationship with others. Catholic school changes their character and puts them on a good path. It is a good thing that they are learning there is one superior power out there guiding them.”
This takes me back to the first line of the article where Kasi perfectly demonstrated the sign of our Catholic faith. Kasi has not joined the Catholic Church nor does he have any current desire to do so, but he knows Catholic education is good for his kids. Kasi explains, “My daughter taught me this as part of her prayers of gratitude she leads when we eat meals together and before she goes to sleep at night.” Kasi’s daughter’s name is Avanthika which means ‘beautiful sky’. She is five years old.
Christmas is a season and not just a day. Watch this video and learn more about the days of Christmas.
Consider these during the Christmas season
Celebrate how blessed we are with the gift of the Christ child not in a day but for a season. He is Immanuel, God-with-us.
Feasts during the Christmas season are about family, friendship, and the expression of gratitude, but for many of us, often these feasts can lead to overeating.
Watch the thought-provoking video by Fr. Mark Mary of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal on our relationship with food, material attachments, and our sisters and brothers in need.
Consider these when eating especially during the Christmas season...
Share with others the gift of food, made with an abundance of love.
Better is a dinner of vegetables where love is than a fatted ox and hatred with it."
Find links to blessings and other resources below to help you celebrate this special feast of Holy Family with your family and friends.
One of the only two Holy Days of obligation outside of Sundays in Canada is a Solemnity dedicated to Mary's motherhood. We close out the Christmas octave with a day to honour Mary as the Mother of God. Find links to blessings and other resources below to help you celebrate this special feast with your family, friends and community.
Epiphany means “manifestation”, that moment when we suddenly understand something that previously was hidden from us. Christmas is about the Incarnation, the coming down of the Son of God to become human, one of us. Epiphany is the showing of the Christ Child’s divinity, which is beginning to manifest itself in the world.
In his recent apostolic visit to Cyprus and Greece, Pope Francis addressed the youth...
"Realize that your worth is in who you are and not what you have. Your worth is not in the brand of the dress or shoes you wear, but because you are unique.
Here I think of another ancient image, that of the sirens. Like Odysseus on his voyage home, in the course of this life, which is an adventure-filled journey to the Father’s House, you too will come across sirens. In mythology, the sirens by their songs enchanted sailors and made them crash against the rocks.
Today’s sirens want to charm you with seductive and insistent messages that focus on easy gains, the false needs of consumerism, the cult of physical wellness, of entertainment at all costs... All these are like fireworks: they flare up for a moment, but then turn to smoke in the air. I understand, they are not easy to resist."
(Athens, December 6, 2021)
Consider these during Advent...
Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart." Psalm 37:4
What's happening in the Diocese of Calgary?
These are words that come to mind when I reflect on my experience of Catholic Education in Brooks. My husband and I didn’t know what to expect coming here with two young children in tow 20 years ago, but this place has a way of grabbing hold, seeping into your heart and not letting go; it has a way of becoming home.
There are many people who have influenced my development as a Catholic educator: administrators who recognized my potential and encouraged me to have faith in my ability; colleagues who were, and are, my greatest role models; and students, who taught me more about life and faith than I could ever teach them and whose experiences showed me what courage really is. What I value most about St Joseph’s Collegiate. is threefold. It’s the people. It’s the presence of the Holy Spirit working on hearts and changing people. It’s a true desire to be “a community, rooted in faith, seeking excellence for all”. It’s a family.
I’d like to share story of a young man I’ll call Cas* who came to St. Joseph's for only one year. He had a great smile, and he loved basketball. He was respectful and attentive but wasn’t achieving very well. One day, Cas approached me and asked for help. He described his life at home with no rules; he could do what he wanted, when he wanted - and he did. Although this might sound great, Cas wasn’t happy. He needed parameters. Together, that day, we created some expectations: he would work in my classroom every day after school, and most importantly, he would call me every night at 10 pm to let me know that he was home. That’s all he needed - someone to care enough to set some boundaries. Cas’ grades and self-esteem improved drastically, and somewhere along the line, he started calling me “mom”. This young man left an indelible mark on my heart and this experience, to me, encapsulates how I feel about Catholic education. We don’t know the impact we have on students - a kind word, a listening ear, an open door. What an incredible responsibility and an incredible privilege!
I feel deep gratitude for my time in Brooks - to be part of all the amazing graduation celebrations and to witness the growth of our school into a vibrant and diverse community. God calls people here for a reason, and I know I was called to be in this place at this time. Leading a school during a pandemic is one of the most difficult things I have ever done, and it has challenged me to the core. But I am able to appreciate my freedom, my family, my upbringing, and my faith even more. I am thankful that God trusted me to do His work. What an incredible blessing!
As I move on from this amazing community, I know that the Holy Spirit will continue to be present here, and with that knowledge, there will be many more blessings, more challenges, more gratitude, and more growth. Thank you, Lord, for this incredible gift.
*not his real name
I was born into a faithful farm family who attended church regularly. My sister and I were among the little people who flocked to Sunday School and ran around the church basement while our parents served coffee and visited with other members of the congregation. It was with sincere devotion that I was baptized as an infant and confirmed by my own choice as an adult in the United Church.
My journey continued in the United Church when I was married, and my husband and I welcomed two beautiful children into our family. We were living in Edmonton and I was teaching at a public school when my husband received the news that he was being transferred to work in Calgary. Shortly after arriving there, we needed to look at schools for the children. As a teacher, I started to research the schools in the area and found myself drawn to the Calgary Catholic Board. My husband was baptized Catholic and so we enrolled in the neighbourhood Catholic School.
I was thrilled with the education my children received and even more excited about the learning they were doing in regard to faith. They came home with stories about their lessons and asked questions about what they were learning. The more they asked, the more I thought about my responses and I was not satisfied. I attended liturgies at school and asked questions of my husband but felt like I needed more in order to support my children on this path that I had chosen for them.
Soon, I found myself in the office at St. Albert the Great Parish and enrolled in the RCIA program. “Information is what I need”. “It is for the children”. “I am happy with my faith and the United Church”. These were the lines that I was telling myself and they were what got me started; my feet in the door I guess you could say. As we hear so often, “God works in mysterious ways”. The more I learned at RCIA, and the more I volunteered at the school, the more invested I became.
Wednesday nights became the best night of the week as I joined my sponsor and delved deeper into the faith. RCIA allowed me to grow and expand on the faith that had been fostered in me as a child. As an adult, I am acutely aware of the fact that I had an opportunity to look at faith in a new way and to choose it for myself (with the guidance of the Holy Spirit and many other faithful companions). Now, as a Catholic school teacher, I am blessed daily to learn and grow in faith alongside my students. It is with humble appreciation that I embrace each day of learning that will last a lifetime and beyond.
Some of my fondest memories attending a catholic school were walking the 2 blocks or so to St. Mary’s Parish for school mass. Along with the holy mass itself, I enjoyed the brief reprieve from school work, a chance to visit with my classmates while walking, and singing in the school choir. I had learned harmonies from my mom singing at mass on Sundays, (and to Celine Dion at home) and loved to create music alongside my peers. Welcoming people at the door, reading Scripture, playing an instrument, and intercessory prayer; school mass gave us the opportunity to practice using our gifts for the glory of the Lord.
When I was 16, our school sent a bus-load of students to Prud’Homme Saskatchewan to attend a Face to Face Retreat. I later learned that Prud’Homme was also the first retreat my now husband attended, although neither of us remember meeting. At the retreat there were talks about God’s love and the saints, praise and worship sessions, time to attend the Sacrament of Reconciliation, one on one prayer ministry, and musical Adoration. I was moved by the love these young people had for our Lord.
During one of the worship songs, I vividly remember looking at the worship leaders thinking how lucky they were to witness this fire at each retreat. In that moment I whispered under my breath, “Lord, it would be so cool to do that.” The Lord answered that little prayer and 3 years later I was given the privilege of singing and serving with Face to Face Ministries for what would become 4 incredibly faith formative years. During these years, the seeds of service, self-sacrifice, prayer, and faith that my Catholic education had rooted in me, blossomed into an undeviating love for our Lord that continues to grow today.
Now raising our own 4 children, I am so grateful to pass along the good, the true, and beautiful to them through the gift of Catholic education. I am grateful to be able to root their identity in Jesus, our firm foundation, especially as our world faces such confusion of identity today. I am grateful to introduce to them the Sacraments that bring true life and peace to their souls. I am grateful to read to them the lives of the Saints so that they have role-models of virtue, and someone to relate to in times when they fail. I am grateful to teach them the rosary, so that one day they would recognize the importance of prayer and Our Lady’s intercession. I am grateful to bring them to Mass and Adoration so that they know our Lord deserves their time, and so that they know where to go when facing a difficult decision.
In a word, I am grateful for Catholic education because it was an extension of my domestic church; it cultivated the virtues my parents instilled in us at home while preparing me for a life of docility to the Spirit.
Catholic Pastoral Centre Staff and Guest Writers