Growing up in a predominantly Catholic environment, Ash Wednesday was a very special day, not only in our home but in our entire community. Breakfast on that day was the usual one, our lunch and supper quite simplified, and no meat of course. There were no snacks and particularly no sweets. We would go to the evening Mass. Using ashes, the priest would make the sign of a cross on our foreheads saying “Repent, and believe in the Gospel” or “Remember that you are dust, and to dust, you shall return”. This service concluded a day of fasting along with an occasional reminder to pray and ask God for forgiveness for our sins. The no-sweets rule applied throughout the entire Lenten season. As children, we rated this as the ultimate torture, and we could not find one reason to celebrate the beginning of Lent.
Times have changed, and we now have a slightly different understanding of Lent. While Ash Wednesday remains a day of prayer, fasting and the distribution of ashes on our foreheads as a reminder to repent, we now recognize an element of celebration that involves the Sundays in Lent. Sundays are feast days and need to be treated separately and differently. We embrace them as joyful feast days and allow for relaxation of some penances.
The following activities might be helpful to mark Lent as a special time of the year:
Reflect on the Holiest of Weeks
During Mass on Holy Thursday, we get a glimpse into the Last Supper. The priest washes the feet of twelve people in remembrance of Jesus washing the feet of the apostles, demonstrating his love for them and how they should serve others. Then he instructs them to eat bread and drink wine in memory of him and tells them that this is his body and blood that will be given up for the forgiveness of sins.
The Gospel on Good Friday describes how Jesus carried the cross, suffering and dying for our sins. This is called the Passion. We pray for people in our community and our world. We show respect and love for Jesus’ sacrifice by either kissing, touching or kneeling in front of the cross. We think about the sacrifice that God made by sending his Son to die for us.
Jesus is in the tomb. It is a day of waiting. Unlike the apostles, who were hiding in fear, we wait with hope and prayer, knowing that Jesus will emerge from the tomb on Easter. We also know that he will come again someday. Many people will attend the Easter Vigil. It begins after dark and includes many readings and songs. The new Easter Candle, which symbolizes Jesus as the Light of the World, is blessed and lit. The people who are joining the Catholic Church are baptized during the Easter Vigil.
It is the most important celebration in the entire liturgical year. Easter Sunday is a day of great joy. In the Gospel, we read about how Jesus rose from the dead. Church bells ring, we sing the Alleluia, Easter lilies bloom and fill our churches with a refreshing fragrance. Families gather for meals, and we celebrate because Jesus made it possible for us to enter into heaven.
Written by Gabriele Kalincak, Marriage & Family Life Coordinator
Kathleen Chury has a tough job. A certified wellness coach and a registered nurse with 38 years of hospital and private practice experience, Chury spends her days supporting and coaching parents who’ve lost custody of their children. The stakes are high, the days run long—and there are many more misses than high fives. But you won’t hear Chury complain about the work, nor the fact that her days can begin and end with a three-to-four-hour commute. “To some people, the time they spend commuting is like lost time. For me, it’s a special time with God.”
Known as Kathy to her friends, Chury and her husband Greg were high school sweethearts. They attended Catholic schools in Red Deer and married two years into her RN training at the Foothills Hospital in Calgary. By the time she graduated in 1981, the couple already had a young son.
In the coming years, she and Greg added two more children to the fold, juggling their work schedules so they didn’t have to factor in childcare. Read between the lines and that means the young couple adeptly managed the parental waltz of many working families; Greg finished a full day of work and came home to be with the kids, Kathy worked mainly evening, night, and weekend shifts. It wasn’t always easy, “but it was worth it,” says Chury.
Faith and family
This April, the Churys will celebrate their 40th anniversary. Looking back, Chury’s not convinced her younger self understood how the Church blessed and strengthened their marriage. She does, however, remember taking to heart two key messages from their marriage preparation classes. Chury says they worked hard at never going to bed angry and they learned—then practised—healthy communication.
While the decision to raise their children in the Catholic faith was never questioned, the family hit a kind of spiritual road bump in the early 2000s. “I don’t know how to explain it. It’s what I would call a disconnect.” After being in the same parish for 20 years, a negative experience “changed our perception of how to be Catholic. We stopped attending mass and our kids followed suit.”
In 2008, life in the Chury household took an unexpected turn when Greg was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease that attacks the central nervous system. Their lives revolved around doctor visits, medical tests and procedures, decisions about healthcare protocols and work assembling a health team to change the direction of the progressive disease. Consumed by Greg’s health issues, jobs and family, the Churys found themselves busier than ever, praying daily, but still not attending mass.
The way back
Chury believes a series of events in 2017 guided the family to chart a different course. First, her beloved aunt died that summer, and Chury was asked to read at the funeral mass. “Suddenly, I found myself questioning why we weren’t at church. I missed it.” Then her brother died in September. Chury spent most of his last hours at his side, where she prayed and provided hands-on nursing care. The experience reinforced how much Chury missed being at church.
By the fall of 2017, the whole family was talking about faith, religion and a desire to step back into the Catholic church. “I was surprised to learn that our oldest son, who was probably the most disconnected of all of us, was feeling the same way I did,” recalls Chury. When conversations with Catholic friends and family included invitations to return to mass, the Churys listened, and then acted.
As luck would have it, the Churys and their children all attend the same parish church in northwest Calgary. The two children that had married outside the faith have completed their wedding validation ceremonies, thus completing their sacraments of marriage in the Catholic church. Two grandchildren have also been baptized at the church, and there’s no question that grandbaby number three, due in June, will be baptized in the faith. Both of their daughters-in-law also attend RCIA classes at St. Peter’s (their daughter married a Catholic). “God is number one in all of our lives,” says Chury.
These days, this working grandmother embraces her spirituality with the passion of a new convert. Chury and her husband pray a daily rosary and she meets regularly with a priest who provides spiritual mentorship. Chury begins her days listening to online Catholic videos and relishes her work commute as a chance to listen to favourite Catholic podcasts or EWTN shows. Slowly, but surely, she’s also getting involved in her faith community.
“I never dreamed that I would live the faith experience that I’m having now,” says Chury. “At work, I don’t talk about how my faith shapes my life. But I try to live my faith, and I definitely pray for the people I work with and for. More than all of that, Greg and I are just so grateful for all of this. We are blown away by what the experience of practising our faith has brought into our lives.”
Looking for some spiritual inspiration this Lenten season? Tune into one of the shows hosted by some of Kathy Chury’s favourite Catholics and Catholic programs: Catholic Answers Live, Take 2 with Jerry and Debbie, Kresta in the Afternoon, Mother Angelica, Women of Grace, The Word on Fire, More2Life, Father Chad Ripperger, Venerable Fulton Sheen, Father Mitch Pacwa, Catholic Café, and Sensus Fidelium.
Written by Joy Gregory
About God’s Work
As a testament to what a determined woman can do with God’s help, Thorn began Project Rachel while raising her family of six children. Project Rachel began as a diocesan initiative in 1984, and from there it gained momentum and widespread support across the United States and then Canada, which includes the Diocese of Calgary.
She recalls at that time there were no experts to call upon when she developed Project Rachel. However, she was convinced then and still now practises a post-abortion healing ministry that offers anonymity, has a strong spiritual element and includes a psychotherapeutic component. The name Project Rachel is inspired by Scripture: “Rachel mourns her children, she refuses to be consoled because her children are no more” (Jeremiah 31:15).
Thorn knows that mothers of aborted babies go through different types of grieving and often seek forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. They are not the only ones who are traumatized from the loss of their child. Fathers who didn’t want the abortion, grandparents and siblings who later learned about it are also devastated.
Thorn has travelled to 28 countries speaking to thousands about not only the impact of abortion on men, women and on our culture but of what God’s ultimate plan is for humanity revealed to us through the science of the human body.
Thorn takes great joy in seeing her children value life. Now they’re all grown, and there are 14 grandchildren for her and her husband to enjoy. Each of her kids, she says, along with their loving partners and her grandchildren “are just a delight to my heart.”
Despite needing to lay low for health reasons, she said she’s still busy looking to expand and develop a framework for post-abortive healing in places around the world because, she explained, “you can’t just use an American model in other countries.” Her research has led her to seek communities of sisters who are already, as she said, “the boots on the ground” serving the people where they are.
In Milwaukee she says, she’s running a program for African American pastors who want to learn about post-abortive healing. There is a great need but “not a lot of help.”
Theology of the Body
This March, she’ll find herself at the Theology of the Body Conference in Calgary to speak to attendees about the science that undergirds the Theology of the Body, much of what she says is “well researched, but not well known.”
We have been seeing the effects of the sexual revolution since the 1960s culminating in what many in the Church refer to as a culture of death. Thorn spends a lot of her time explaining the wounds many of us experience as a result, with scientific studies to help her show the audience hard facts.
What we will hear from her is much deeper than what we heard from high school sex education.
Armed with the facts of male and female biology, the science of attraction and the biochemistry of sex and conception, Thorn will take us through the beauty of God’s plan for the human body.
“We haven’t really understood how awesome we are in terms of our sexuality,” she said, adding that over time the wonder and beauty of sex have been lost. What she’ll share with us will be concrete, uniting what the Church teaches with scientific fact, which will further our knowledge of what she says is “God’s intentional plan.”
Looking at all she has achieved and the ministry she continues to grow, attendees to the upcoming conference will be blessed to be part of her journey and work.
Written by Jessica Cyr
I was working in our garden shed one day when one of my teenage sons came in and asked me if he could get the Snapchat app on his phone. As a Gen X parent raising kids in the digital age, my kids know more about digital technology than I do. However, I was aware that on this particular app, images are sent and received and then disappear in a few seconds at the other end. My initial thought was, “what would be the purpose of an app like this other than to allow the sending of inappropriate images?”
I had to think quickly. Before entering the password into his phone to allow him to download the app, I had an opportunity for a conversation.
I asked him why he thought Snapchat was created and how he planned to use it. He told me that a lot of his friends had it and were using it to chat and send photos. We then chatted about my concerns of using it for sexting, bullying and communicating in a space that lacks accountability.
At that moment, I realized that it would not be a matter of IF he saw inappropriate images or pornography, but WHEN. So, we reviewed an earlier conversation about the dangers of pornography, the exploitation of others and how pornography can become addictive.
I also knew that if I wanted him to come to me if he ever struggled with pornography, I needed to let him know how I would respond before it happened. So, I assured him of three things:
I take this relational, proactive approach with my kids. Here are my top tips for keeping your kids safe from porn:
Written by Cliff Wiebe, Community Development Specialist | Calgary Pregnancy Centre
We received a thankful note from Lisa Brock, an alumnus of Elizabeth House:
Elizabeth House and it's donors have given me opportunities that my mother never had as a single mother. Thank you for making it possible for the new generation to obtain the help and support they need to start a new cycle of strong, healthy families. At time of writing I am getting married in two days and am in the middle of a wonderful marketing internship, and am set to graduate with my Bachelor of Management next year. All of the connections I made at Elizabeth House have enabled me to create a healthy relationship with my baby's father and soon to be husband. Elizabeth House enabled me to focus on my studies so that I can accomplish my career goals. Thank you and bless you all.
From the moment Phyllis and Clem Steffler walked into Evanston Summit, they knew it was destined to be their new home. “Phyllis was ready to move in the next day,” laughs Clem. Retired and living in Airdrie, the couple was seeking greater ease in their lives, without the worry of maintaining a home and cooking their meals. They’d been looking at options when Judy, from Covenant Living’s Evanston Summit, met them at their local church and invited them to a BBQ. They walked in and immediately loved the welcoming, attractive front entrance.
Their instinct was confirmed several months later when their daughter, a public health nurse in Toronto, was in town. “We took her to several retirement residences,” Phyllis recalls. When they got to Evanston Summit, she turned to her parents and said, “Dad and Mom, this is the place for you.” The couple moved in on July 18, 2018.
The occasional ambulance siren and the thrumming of a helicopter hovering a few hundred feet above ground were piercing the stillness of a beautiful afternoon in Panama city’s Cinta Costera.
If it weren’t for the tens of thousands of young people present along this three-kilometre stretch lining the city’s Pacific Coast, you would think you were in an abandoned city.
The stillness was incredible.
“Do not be afraid. Be courageous to be a saint in today’s world,” one could hear blazing through the loudspeakers.
“Perhaps, as Church, we have been unable to transmit this with sufficient clarity, because at times we, adults, think that young people don’t want to listen.”
Those were the words of Mons. Jose Ulloa Mendieta, the Metropolitan Archbishop of Panama. His impassioned homily on Tuesday’s opening Mass was a rousing call for every young Catholic listening.
“Do not be afraid. You need to be heard. You need to keep making us adults nervous.”
Stepping Back: Preparing for a Pilgrimage
After having missed Krakow in 2016, a group of friends and myself decided sometime in early 2018 to go to Panama and “just do it.” And so that’s what we did — we bought our flights, paid the registration, and waited for January.
As the months flew by, it was becoming more and more apparent that this really was going to be a pilgrimage. Not that we didn’t know that ahead of time, but the questions we had during preparations made us realize things we otherwise wouldn’t have had if this were a vacation. Are we going to stay at a school gym or with a host family? Do we have a safe place to leave our stuff? Would I have a bed? Would we be able to do some laundry? How about my cameras: should I bring them? Which lenses should I bring? Do I really need them?
With all these little luxuries that I would otherwise take for granted on a normal vacation, I can’t help but see a significant parallel with our own spiritual life.
Aware of the fact that a wheelie luggage for this trip was a no-go (given the amount of walking we’d be doing), I was determined to fit all my clothes and belongings in a hiking pack — a small pack that forced me to reduce all that I’m bringing to not only the essentials, but to just enough quantity for these essentials.
One pair of shoes. Just enough clothes. Bible. Journal. No cameras.
Isn’t this true with our own spiritual life? The lesser the baggage, the better we’re able to focus on the journey. The lesser our attachment to earthly possessions, the greater the freedom we experience.
The warmth of a people
After waiting at Parroquia de Santa Maria for a few hours (together with hundreds of other pilgrims waiting for a ride to their accommodations), Xiomara finally arrived and came to see us. She and her husband, Rolando, together with their children Carlos and Andrea, would become our host family for the remainder of our stay.
The Mejia family was a real blessing. They made a home for those who needed one — mi casa es su casa, they say. But they weren’t the only ones: throughout the week, many of the people you’d meet on the streets would always be up for some conversation, despite us not speaking the same language. Hola! De que pais? My two years of Spanish in university was definitely useful, however horrible. I always asked them to speak slowly, otra vez y mas despacio por favor, so that I could understand them a little better. Then we were fine, or at least it seemed to me. And when we got to a point where we really could no longer understand each other, we would just end the conversation by laughing at ourselves. Ha!
I was struck by how friendly these people were. Late one evening, the manager of a local supermarket let us in their staff room to eat the free dinner we claimed at his store. On another occasion, several Muslim men set up a table outside their Mosque, handing out bottles of agua fria to the pilgrims who just came from the opening Mass not too far away. A big sign on their gate said: Bienvenidos amigos peregrinos (Welcome, pilgrim friends).
And who can forget that dreadful 21-kilometre hike to the vigil site: walking under the searing 35-degree heat for several hours, these friendly people boosted our morale by offering us a ride to our destination. At one point, a woman stopped her vehicle in the middle of the road and offered us a ride to her house nearby, urging us to take a rest and use the bathroom. And she wasn’t the only one!
A few hours and an obvious raccoon tan later, we finally made it to the vigil site: a vast, open field in an outer-city suburb that became the home for tired and exhausted pilgrims that night. It was an incredible experience: when the Holy Father led Adoration, the place was perfectly quiet and still. There we were, a few hundred thousand young people sitting out in the open under the clear night sky, adoring our Eucharistic Lord from a mile away. Later, when it came time for the Benediction, we all sang the Tantum Ergo. It was incredible. Everyone spoke different languages, but we all chanted that ancient hymn in unison — singing the Lord’s praises in the language of Holy Mother Church, which we all knew. It was a beautiful moment that sent chills down my spine: the sense of universality, of Catholicity, was so tangible.
A sense of where we came from
A few days before, we attended a Traditional Latin Mass (TLM or the Extraordinary Form of the Roman rite) at a downtown Carmelite parish where Archbishop Alexander Sample was preaching. The Archbishop of Portland, OR has become somewhat famed because of his orthodoxy and fidelity to the teachings of Vatican II on the sacred Liturgy.
“Why are you here today?” asked the Archbishop, addressing a congregation full young people from all over the world. “You never grew up in this liturgical tradition, so why are you drawn to it?”
My experience of WYD has not been without its own share of wishy-washiness in the Liturgy. On two separate Masses — one even celebrated by a Cardinal — people seemed to be more intent on “celebrating” their culture instead of ordering all our attention to Jesus in the Eucharist. At one point right after communion (when everyone was about to kneel and pray), a priest took the mic and asked everyone to stand up and clap our hands to the rhythm of the song his choir was singing. On another occasion, a group went in front right after communion and started dancing to an upbeat, Caribbean-style dance music — the sort of which you’d hear on an Expedia cruise commercial — which was supposed to help everyone “better reflect on the Mass.” Yikes.
Hence, being at a TLM that afternoon was a source of assurance and an experience of the sacred, giving us all a sense of where we came from.
“I think it’s important for young people to see, experience, and participate in the Mass of the Ages…the same form of the Mass that nurtured our grandparents and so many of the saints we venerate today.”
Put out into the deep
Having gone to several conferences before, I never thought that World Youth Day would hang heavy on my heart the moment it’s over. However, this one is different.
Throughout this entire pilgrimage, a message that I kept on getting from the catechesis, homilies, talks, and conversations was do not be afraid. And how appropriate — I was at an event started by a saintly man who never tired of saying the same thing during his pontificate.
“Most of us sinners live our lives in the shallow and spend our lives on the seashore,” said Bishop Barron, speaking about us being too easily amused with insignificant things and staying within our own comfort zones. “But when Christ the Lord steps into your boat and gets in your life, he will bring you to the deep.”
Do not be afraid….He will bring you to the deep.
This whole journey has been a reward in itself. Everything else was just a bonus. Now that I’m going back down to the valley after my mountaintop experience, the real earthly pilgrimage continues.
Written by: Ryan Factura
Visitors to the Faba home may be surprised by the size and shape of the kitchen table. Where others might have a couch that faces a television, this family of 11 has a round table that spans 72 inches in diameter. This is where the family gathers for evening meals and in a month where the secular world pays lip service to messages about love, this family works to live it. Indeed, if red is the colour of love and the colour of a house might speak to what’s inside, the heritage red hue of the Faba home in southwest Calgary is right on the money.
Kari and Phil Faba, who married at 20 and 25, readily admit they didn’t begin their married life with a plan to have an extra-large family. “I would suggest that the one thing that made all of this happen, one child at a time, was that there was a love for the Church that allowed us to trust,” says Kari.
Now parenting nine children ages 27 to seven, she and Phil talked to Faithfully about how they manage, as parents, to keep a love for Christ at their family table.
Kari’s got no shame in admitting she juggles faith-filled parenthood with paid work. But she knows where her priorities lie. Having worked full-time at a city bank until their third child arrived, she then moved to part-time work, taking night shifts opposite of Phil’s hours in the construction business. Looking ahead to her family’s future, she also partnered in a farmers’ market business that eventually became a full-time occupation.
These days, she and Phil own and operate that business outright. While they have full-time staff, The Stock and Sauce Co. at the Calgary Farmers’ Market is a seven-days-a-week enterprise and the Fabas are hands-on entrepreneurs.
The absence of firm boundaries between their marriage and their business partnership can be complicated. “It’s one thing to be married and then go off to your separate jobs,” says Kari. “We don’t have the luxury of comparing different job notes at night.”
Here, faith helps them keep priorities straight, says Phil. “As Kari likes to say, in our marriage there is sacrament. In business, there is no sacrament.” Daily mass as frequently as possible, regular reconciliation, constant prayer. The Church, says Kari, “always has our best interests at heart.”
Phil knows the notion of “quality time” with one’s children can come off sounding a bit corny. But he makes no apologies for how he and Kari make quality time with their kids a primary goal. In 2002, Phil took his first paternity leave when their son Thomas was born. “It was a totally different experience for me.” Taking responsibility for the home front helped Phil understand that while there may never be “enough” time, he would aim to know and love each child for his and herself. “Each one is different and you learn to nurture their strengths,” says Phil.
With the three oldest kids now living on their own (two own the house another brother rents a room in while attending university), Phil and Kari admit their parenting strategies have evolved with experience. Certain house rules, however, hold steady: All of the kids are involved in church, school and work; they participate in sports, but sit down to eat—together—every night; and they don’t leave family time to chance. By planning game and movie nights, they commit and recommit to being a strong presence in their children’s lives.
Written by: Joy Gregory
Catholic Pastoral Centre Staff and Guest Writers