Adoro te devote
The Beaver Tale
This St. Valentine’s Day, Jessica and Joseph Cyr celebrate a champagne wedding anniversary of sorts, with 14 years of marriage on the 14th. In that time, just as their family has grown to include five children, so has their extended family of faith.
The ceremonial ‘passing of the beaver pelt’ from one newlywed couple to another is a seemingly silly tradition that the Cyrs started in their Calgary Catholic community shortly after they were married, and never imagined would still be going strong today.
“I thought it would be fun to start a tradition within the Catholic community,” said Joseph Cyr. “I had the beaver hanging on my wall. It was unique to me, no one else had a homemade beaver pelt. I thought, ‘hey we can use that, and it’s something very Canadian, something that represents our heritage.’”
At the time of publication, 48 couples, with more than 100 children combined, have written their names and wedding dates on the back of this storied beaver pelt.
History of the Pelt
Back when Joseph was in high school, he earned his trapping license and trapped a beaver in a creek near his hometown of Pincher Creek, Alberta. He proceeded to prepare the beaver’s pelt for mounting onto plywood. While he had hoped to continue pursuing this hobby, the beaver was the only animal he ever trapped.
Shortly after he and Jessica married, Joseph hung the pelt in the living room of their first home, but as it happened Jessica did not exactly share Joseph’s taste in home decor. Joseph then had the idea to gift the pelt to another young couple; Jessica was very receptive to the notion and thus a tradition was born.
The Cyrs presented it to Jared and Natalie Fehr at their wedding reception with the stipulation that they must display the pelt prominently in their home until the next Catholic couple involved with their young adult community married, at which point the ceremonial bestowing of the beaver pelt would continue.
The beaver’s lodge
Currently, the pelt is in the possession of Brian and Jennifer Toner. Per the directive, it is displayed above their living-room television in Cupertino, California – one hour South of San Francisco.
Adam Pittman presented the pelt on behalf of the Catholic community at their wedding reception in November in Saskatoon.
“For us, receiving the beaver pelt was a huge honour,” said Jennfier Toner.
“It felt like our marriage was being uplifted by the prayers and thoughts of the whole group, whether we knew each couple or not. We also felt excited, because it is a delightfully ridiculous ‘gift and re-gift ' process that we now get to partake in,” Toner added.
A silly or serious tradition?
In his own way, Fr. Cristino Bouvette feels very much part of the beaver pelt tradition. He has celebrated the weddings of at least half of the couples associated with the beaver pelt, and witnessed time and again the passing on of the pelt at wedding receptions.
“It is clearly a silly tradition, but not merely a silly tradition. It is also a sign of married life being one of openness to the wider community. People marry for the sake of expanding the community of believers, expanding the community of the world,” said Fr. Bouvette.
“In receiving this memento, albeit tacky, it’s a sign of belonging to a wider community outside of your married life, which is a very important testament to the mystery of marriage. You give yourself to the other for the sake of the other, and then in that one flesh union that opens up to all others,” Fr. Bouvette added.
“It’s such a great sign to me of our ever-expanding faith community.”
Money habits that keep you poor
Spirituality & Mental Health
As human beings with both body and soul, we take good care of ourselves through healthy relationships, especially our relationship with God, and with the help of science.
Watch this video and see how both science and the Faith connect.
Sunday of the Word of God
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 2023 the Sunday of the Word of God falls on January 22.
Download: 2023 Liturgical/Pastoral Resource from the Dicastery for Evangelization for Sunday of the Word of God
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.
6. More Resources
Entering the Ordinary Time
Unpacking Christmas Day
Watch this video and go beyond merely having a picture-perfect family Christmas dinner. Let Christ be at the center of all things.
Joy, hope, and love
The art of accompaniment
“Help me!” Out of a dark bathroom in a long term care home, I heard a plaintive cry and froze. I was there to bring the Eucharist, nothing more. I turned to seek out an attendant and heard again, “Don’t leave me!” Heart pounding, I crept forward, identified myself loudly and turned on the lights to find an elderly woman on the toilet. With shaking hands I cleaned her and helped her to stand up. She leaned against me as we washed our hands. Secretly I thought, “I have wiped Christ’s bottom.”
Jesus said that whatever we do for the least of his brethren we do for him. This is true whether we cook for our family, give alms to the poor or serve at Mass. However, it might be particularly true when we are called to move out of our comfort zone and give more than we intended to. For example, when we offer to buy a street person a coffee and he chooses a whole meal with it. Or we call to check in on a friend and she spills out her woes for an hour. When we give of ourselves we prefer to have a measure of control over the experience but that is not how God gives of himself. God gave his only son, and Jesus gave his lifeblood for us. God continues to give constantly and completely, so we are called to do the same. This kind of self-emptying service is what Pope Francis called “the art of accompaniment”.
“The Church will have to initiate everyone – priests, religious and laity- into this “art of accompaniment” which teaches us to remove our sandals before the sacred ground of the other.” (Evangelii Gaudium 169)
I am coming to understand The Art of Accompaniment through a series of talks given by Fr. Tim Boyle at St. Martha’s Parish in Lethbridge . So far Fr. Boyle has noted that accompaniment is not quite the same as caregiving, although it might include that. To accompany someone is to first of all recognize that God is with them. As guest speaker Reno Guimond said, “We are not bringing God to anyone. God has been there long before we show up. We go to see where God is.” Besides recognizing God in each person, we also need to understand how God works in the world.
Fr. Boyle encouraged his listeners to imagine God “delighting” in the world as he created it. “God has invested himself in creation,” Fr. Boyle said. “This is not a one-time event but an evolving artwork. If God accompanies us as an artist not as an engineer then God is vulnerable to the unfolding of Creation… God suffers in the process… God chooses to spend himself on creation.” This form of sacrificial support was expressed ultimately by God becoming human and Jesus’ death and resurrection.
For us, sacrificial giving of ourselves is often a challenge. Society dictates that one must preserve oneself, must learn to ‘Say No’, and ration one’s time and energy. Yet Creation shows otherwise. Fr. Boyle used the examples of salmon making death runs upstream to spawn, and sunflowers drying up to produce seeds for food and for procreation. “Like salmon and sunflowers, every creature, in order to reach their full potential, needs to empty themselves out”, Fr. Boyle said. So how is this achieved in practical terms? How does one accompany another person, whether continuously or when called upon?
It begins when we accept God’s accompaniment of us. This happens through grace which Fr. Boyle suggests is “like manna – something given by God every day which cannot be stored up but only taken advantage of that day.” Grace is not a weapon or superpower, it doesn’t enhance our abilities. Indeed it requires us to first accept that we have no ability without God. We are flawed and vulnerable beings made precious by God’s acceptance. It is God’s grace that sustains us, sanctifies us. When we understand this dynamic we are better prepared to handle the vulnerability of others, to accept it, and handle it gently.
Since my first incident of extreme vulnerability in long-term care, my ministry partner and I have been called upon to assist a few others at their times of greatest need, in life and even approaching death. While I still feel my heart pounding each time, the experiences have been deeply humbling. I know God is helping me learn how to cherish the sacred ground of others.
A Catholic Divorce? Certainly not.
Find out why the term “Annulment” is problematic and why it’s not the same as the Declaration of Nullity. Watch this brief video with Fr. Mark-Mary.
It takes three to make a marriage: man, woman, and God. It only takes one for marriages to fail.
He answered, “Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female’, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate”. Matthew 19:4-6
All things beautiful last forever, and beauty involves joy, hardships, mutual self-giving, and sacrifice.
What's happening in the Diocese of Calgary?
Knowing the right things to say
Perhaps you have gone through difficult times and received unhelpful but well-meaning comments. Maybe you just heard yourself say something that didn’t come across as well as you thought it would as you tried to console someone.
Watch this video and learn some tips on knowing the right things to say as a personal mini sensitivity training.
The transfigured heart
Five o’clock. First light was beginning to peek through the blinds of our fifth wheel camper. I pushed past the temptation to remain snuggled under the blanket and forced myself out of bed. I was going to do it - I was going to climb a mountain (okay, a hill) to watch a sunrise and sit in the presence of my Heavenly Father.
My family was spending the first week of August at Dinosaur Provincial Park, joining my in-laws for a four-day adventure in the hoodoos. Our first evening at Dinosaur Park, we’d trekked to the highest point to get a full 360 of the oddly picturesque World Heritage Site. It’s an incredible anomaly among the flattest of prairie, and it’s one of the most breathtaking landscapes I’ve ever experienced. Anybody who’s been to Dinosaur Provincial Park, 43 kilometers northeast of Brooks, knows exactly what I’m talking about: after driving through miles of prairie, the world suddenly opens up. Sandstone-striped hills, hiding who knows how many millions of fossils, seem to go on forever. Standing at the top of the mountain (okay, again, hill) and breathing in the majesty of God’s creation, I had the bright idea to climb again one morning during our trip to take in a prairie sunrise over the hoodoos and hills.
Our first night camping was fraught with high winds, deafening thunder, and sheet lightning, which encouraged me to sleep in snugly that first morning (cozied up to my nine-year-old daughter, who tucked in with us at the first roll of thunder.) The following day, however, my internal alarm went off three times before I finally arose to first light at 5 am, pulled on a hoodie, and quietly slipped out of our camper while the rest of my family snoozed away.
It was quiet and dark enough that I felt a little bit disconcerted (I’ve seen a rattlesnake or two at the park), but as I began my ascent, my desire to be with God on a mountaintop (hoo-doo top?) outweighed my fear. The climb was steep and slippery in running shoes, and I laughed at myself as I huffed and puffed towards the top, bolstered by Al McGuire’s quote: “There’s no one who’s dropped on top of the mountain. You’ve got to work your way to the top.” After slips and slides and gratitude that I had no witnesses, I arrived at the apex, took a deep breath, looked around, and prayed:
Lord Jesus Christ,
Take all my freedom,
And my will.
All that I have and cherish
You have given me.
I surrender it all to be guided by Your will.
Your grace and love and wealth enough for me.
Give me these, Lord Jesus,
And I ask for nothing more. Amen.
I’d never heard Saint Ignatius of Loyola’s prayer until Father Raul Hernandez, former pastor of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Brooks, introduced me to it. It’s a prayer that I hold dear to my heart; it’s the prayer that I turn to most often, especially when I’m experiencing something uncomfortable or discouraging.
I’m writing about a mountaintop experience, which juxtaposes quite jarringly with the valleys my soul had been experiencing as of late. I’d been suffering from bouts of crippling anxiety since school let out. When I’m not teaching, my mental health tends to take a dip - I slug through the valleys of dark days, sustained prayer and platitudes (as well as adherence to exercise and diet.) God has given me many tools to help me keep my head above water when anxiety sets in.
When I’d finally made it to the top of the hill, I realized that I wasn’t alone: having neglected a good dose of Deet, I was joined by mosquitos, happy to keep me company as I attempted to pray and settle quietly into God’s presence. It was almost laughable - I’d stolen a moment to myself to be still, and I was busily swatting away the most loathesome of insects. It was tempting to sink into defeat, something that anxiety preys on greedily, but my repeated dedication to Jesus kept me mountaintop for over an hour. Praying… and swatting.
I watched the sandstone ground warm from grey to brown as the slow light began spreading its way westward over the hills, painting everything the colour of morning. I listened to coyotes howl from the south, answered by packs from the north. I watched a flock of Canada geese in their V formation, and listened to birds honk along the shores of the Red Deer River. I sank into the majesty of God’s kingdom here on Earth. Mosquitoes and all, it was a literal mountaintop (okay, hilltop) experience.
On August 6, we celebrated the Feast of the Transfiguration. After I shared that I was writing about my mountaintop morning, a dear friend of mine noted how, when prompted by Peter to set up camp at the top of the mountain, Jesus and His disciples came back down shortly after. They didn’t even stick around much longer after God acknowledged His Son. “We can’t stay in the mountaintop experiences. Even the disciples didn’t,” she noted sagely. She then asked, “what kind of transfiguration did you experience that morning?”
My mountain morning allowed for a transfiguration of my hurting heart. Anxiety doesn’t just slip away at will, but God always brings me back to His love, despite the temptation to despair. Climbing the mountain may not have entirely quelled my anxiety, but I was reminded of God’s great love for me as He painted the skies, and I returned to my family with an assuaged soul (and a million mosquito bites.) His grace and his love were in abundance that morning. Give me these, Lord Jesus, and I ask for nothing more. Amen.
We are the Church #walkingtogether
I remember the day a girl about my height with jet black hair bounded up my driveway asking to play. I was about five years old and shy. Lori was a high energy, outgoing six-year-old and we quickly became friends. For the next three years we had adventures, playing hide and seek and other childhood pastimes, sometimes getting into mischief together.
In upper elementary, I remember finding out that the reason Lori acted differently is because she had fetal alcohol syndrome. But as young children that difference never factored in, in fact, in my eyes she was exciting and fun to be around.
Knowing Lori was a gift I received early in my life. I’ve carried the memories we made together with me ever since. And I carried her in my heart as I made the pilgrimage from my home in Calgary to Edmonton for the Papal Mass on July 26, 2022.
I prayed for Lori, one of my first best friends, an Indigenous girl who was innocently sentenced to a life clouded by the effects of a preventable syndrome. Lori was adopted and while she never attended residential school, it’s likely someone from her family tree had spent time at one of these schools. To me, her situation is an example from my own lived experience of the repercussions of residential schools felt through the generations.
When we arrived at Commonwealth Stadium, the first thing we did was take a family photo to remember our family pilgrimage as we will continue to unpack its significance in the years to come.
Next we found our seats, and while waiting for the Papal Mass to begin I noticed four middle-aged women sitting behind me wearing Every Child Matters orange and black t-shirts. Among them was Kelly Spooner who was not herself Indigenous, but came to honour the memory of her uncle (through marriage) who died in 2019 and attended residential school for six years.
“I came for strength and to renew my spirit. It’s a part of history today,” said Kelly Spooner.
Not long after, the Pope rode around the stadium greeting the crowd. Kelly ran down to the front gate to get a closer look. After he passed by she came back in tears, saying “I’m so happy he’s here.”
As the pre-Mass program was wrapping up, emcee Janelle Reinhardt asked the crowd to keep a prayerful silence.
“The stadium truly became silent, it was powerful and profound, you could only hear the humming of the buildings. It was impressive in a crowd so large,” said Amber Franco, reflecting on this poignant moment. She drove from Calgary to Edmonton with her husband Mike and seven children.
Calgary Bishop William McGrattan also took note of the prayerful atmosphere as he looked up into the crowd from ground level.
“When we entered in the procession for Mass and I saw the number of people on the field and in the stands you had this sense of the presence of Christ in those who had gathered to be with the Holy Father,” said Bishop McGrattan.
The Papal Mass was celebrated on the feast of St. Joachim and St. Anne – the grandparents of Jesus. Pope Francis used this opportunity to speak about the importance of grandparents and family cohesion during his homily.
“This message was simple, but one that everyone could receive and appreciate,” said Bishop McGrattan. “The message of a pastor who himself was advanced in age and not afraid to show the signs of declining mobility, and the need for assistance, which is experienced in every family.”
Like any good pilgrimage, there are challenging moments and as we sat in the bleachers listening to Pope Francis our children began to get a bit restless in the blistering heat. I turned my own discomfort into a small offering toward reconciliation, all the while my heart growing in gratitude for the heroic effort of our 85-year-old pontiff.
I thought this was a generous gesture toward reconciliation simply by showing up and “taking the heat” with us in every sense of the phrase. But I was also humbled by the elders some 80 years and up who had made the pilgrimage from various parts of the country also suffering their own discomforts in an attempt to heal and move forward.
My own father Deacon Richard Loftson accompanied a group of Indigenous pilgrims from Manitoba on behalf of the Archdiocese of St. Boniface. He ministers to the St. Kateri Tekakwitha Indigenous Parish in Winnipeg.
“They were thankful for the apology. They were emotional, in tears many of them. They had been waiting for so long,” said Deacon Loftson.
Bishop McGrattan also sought feedback as he encountered people affected by residential schools.
“In talking to some survivors at the various events, it was difficult for some to hear and relive these memories. For others, there was a sense of recognition that they were listened to by Pope Francis and that his words and actions were genuine in their eyes,” said Bishop McGrattan.
Like many things, the future lies with the children in hopes they will learn from history and build a more just and merciful society where no child will ever again suffer the consequences of being forced to leave their family and lose their culture and heritage.
This is why our friends Alissa and Konrad Paley of Calgary also made the pilgrimage with their three young daughters (six years and under) to the Papal Mass with the same intention as our family: to build a culture of goodwill and reconciliation in their home.
“Participating in this particular Papal Mass was really important as a Catholic and a Canadian,” said Alissa Paley. “The Church is made up of the people, we are the people of the Church. In order for the Church to work towards reconciliation we must show up.”
“I was honoured to bring my daughters with me. I know that they currently don’t understand the gravity of this event, but I hope as they grow up they may continue to pray for the journey toward reconciliation in this country.”
My thoughts have turned toward the child during this pilgrimage. Just like my friend Lori who did nothing to deserve the circumstances she inherited as a child, neither did I deserve the family and opportunities I have been afforded. Everything is a gift. In gratitude, I left Edmonton pondering how I can use the time I have left to seek holiness by laying down my life for my friends.
== More photos from our Diocesan families during the Papal Mass (click "all comments")
Let us minister together to ensure no one lives in isolation and loneliness. This Sunday, July 24, we invite you to take a step forward in co-creating compassionate communities that see relationship and accompaniment with the elderly and grandparents as a normal part of family, neighbourhood, parish, and communal life.
Can I get a Yahoo?
Lessons from my Gong Gong
One of the most interesting things I learned from my Gong Gong, which is Chinese for “grandpa”, was that he grew up as the tenth child in his family. That came as a profound struggle for him since his family wasn’t well-off, and as the tenth child he usually perceived or felt the lack of parental comfort that his older siblings would get more regularly. He told me this story because I, on the other hand, have grown up as an only child. This difference in growing up is how a lot of my conversations with him have centered around life advice founded in the principles of gratitude, perseverance, and honesty. I am only able to see him in person every summer for about a week or so, and I take his lessons to heart, especially now that I have been unable to go visit him in precaution of his health.
Gratitude was the first and often returned to principle that my conversations with my grandpa would go. Primarily since I was an only child, I had no siblings to worry or quarrel with regarding attention or care from my parents, which is why my grandpa instilled into me how wholly grateful I should be when I’m looked after regarding all matters of my life: food and water, shelter, education, and most importantly, a parental devotion to forming my initial relationship with God. Since my grandpa told me tales of feeling neglect, I understand that he instilled this value into me because he wanted to emphasize how extremely blessed I am and should never take it for granted.
There still are, unfortunately, times when I do take blessings for granted. However, this is where the principle of perseverance becomes critically important. I have to admit and take responsibility for arguments and mistakes I make, which is embodied by the occasions where I would argue with my grandpa since I couldn’t quite understand what he was talking about. The key takeaway from these admittedly unpleasant interactions is that after I apologize and more closely listen to him, I do not beat myself up over the argument or misunderstanding. This also goes for when I am trying to convey something to him; something that I perhaps have great difficulty explaining to him in a way he can understand, and the perseverance he helped instill in me allows me to find that way. I still cannot imagine how much he had to persevere as the tenth child in order to make his views or opinion known to his parents. This perseverance can then be carried over to many other pursuits in my life such as education and career.
As I’ve discussed with my grandpa, these two principles of gratitude and perseverance become tightly interwoven with the principle of honesty. Gratitude for blessings must be genuine, it cannot be flippant or sarcastic as that is not only disingenuous, but also a new source for arguments or making ungratefulness even more apparent. When it comes to perseverance, my grandpa helped me to draw a line between the two unhelpful extremes: giving up or setting boundaries too early, or not setting proper boundaries for myself. Honesty is required to temper both extremes and find a proper balance. For example, a particular lesson my grandpa gave me over one summer vacation was regarding the emotional drama that I found myself wrapped up in during my high school years. He told me that it was good that I wanted to do my best to help my friends through the drama, but that it should not come at a cost to my own emotional well-being. I realized after that particular conversation that I had to give up and properly step away from the emotional turmoil I had gotten entangled in during high school; and that ended up preserving my emotional health so that I could graduate from high school.
I haven’t been able to visit my grandpa in a long time, and even though we do video calls and occasionally send emails, nothing is comparable to being able to physically talk with him face to face. In honour of 2022’s World Day for Grandparents & the Elderly, I wish to convey my heartfelt gratitude to my grandpa for all the lessons and advice he has given me so far in life. I pray to be able to visit him again soon and catch up on all the time we’ve missed.
Growing in holiness as a family
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 email@example.com
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.”
Catholic Pastoral Centre Staff and Guest Writers