The gift of publicly funded Catholic education in Alberta is a true blessing. As a community we are called in gratitude, faith and action to ensure that our children and future generations continue to learn and grow in our Catholic schools.
The mission of GrACE is to inspire, invigorate and embolden the spirit of Catholic education in order to unite, engage, educate and communicate with one voice on its behalf. GrACE is a partnership of stakeholders resolutely committed to Catholic education within the province of Alberta.
GrACE invites all those committed to Catholic education, through the unity of the Holy Spirit, to be advocates and witnesses for our schools’ successes and their future.
In your homes, your neighborhoods, your schools and your parishes. Watch for and get involved with your local GrACE team. Tell your stories of Catholic education. Let your voice be heard.
Every day is a celebration of Catholic education. Let us be grateful for our blessings and commit our support.
Did You Know?
The Social Justice & Outreach Department is pleased to announce three important pro-life events taking place in May:
Families celebrating the National Week for Life and the Family (Sunday, May 12 – 19, 2019)
Each Day of the Week
For Flory D’Souza the Outdoor Way of the Cross is a family affair.
Her father Antonio Carvalho carried the cross in the procession a few months before he died. At 91, with a cane in one hand, the cross on his opposing shoulder, he carried the cross right to the very end of his life.
“I took a picture of him carrying the last station of the Cross and I got it printed while he was in the hospital. Everyone could not believe that was my Dad,” said Flory, picturing the scene four years ago.
“For him it was just because he was a man of faith and I think a little way of saying: Jesus I’m helping you carry your cross and carrying my own cross with His. It gave him fulfilment in being part of the Good Friday event,” said Flory.
For 20 years Flory’s parents Antonio and Annie made the Good Friday pilgrimage through the city. Now at 83, Annie is unable to participate anymore, but Flory fondly remembers how important this pilgrimage was for her parent’s spiritual lives — a spiritual practice she plans to carry on.
“When my dad was interviewed by a reporter he was asked: ‘You are such a small man and you carry such a heavy Cross?’ His answer was: ‘My Jesus helps me.’ I thought what a sweet answer,” said Flory.
“When I’ve carried the cross I’ve found it heavy, but I think it’s the weight of our sins that makes it heavier,” she said.
“It has helped us know that we all have a cross to carry, but Jesus helps us to carry that cross. And He never gives us a cross too heavy to carry. It helps our faith, to go on and trust in God and be thankful that Jesus did what He did for us to be free.”
Flory has carried the Cross a number of times and has consistently attended the pilgrimage for the last decade. Since she has never been to the Holy Land she sees this as her opportunity to walk in the footsteps of Christ.
“This just means so much. The stations take you to human suffering. It was Jesus’ suffering in Calvary, but here in every station is some kind of human suffering and you are made aware of it,” she said.
Flory is no stranger to suffering. Two years after her father’s death, her husband John suddenly died at the age of 57.
“My strong Catholic faith, thanks to my parents, has helped me cope with my cross in life and these great losses,” she said.
Flory immigrated on her own to Calgary 30 years ago from Kenya. Of her five siblings, she sponsored her sister in 1992 and three years later her parents. Then eight years ago she sponsored her brother Alex Carvalho. He volunteers with crowd control for the pilgrimage.
From humble beginnings, the Outdoor Way of the Cross has grown to attract between 2,500 and 3,500 pilgrims, some from other faith traditions. And more than 200 volunteers help keep it running smoothly.
Written by Sara Francis
So why is that joy lacking in so many Catholics and Christians these days?
“I think there’s a couple of reasons. One is the climate that we’re in. Many faithful Catholics feel sort of in a siege mentality. So much of the world has changed around us so quickly. We’re a post Christian culture, so our faith, our mission, our morality is being challenged left, right and centre. So it’s very difficult,” said Bishop McCaig when I spoke with him. “That’s why I spoke of the temptation that we have to overcome to lose our joy and lose our charity in the midst of the struggle. But ultimately joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. Joy is deeper than happiness. Happiness is transitory. I can be happy one minute and unhappy the next minute. I’m driving to work, and my truck breaks down. I’m not very happy. But joy is deeper.
“Joy is something that the circumstances of life can’t take away. Joy is something that flows from the deep knowledge of being known and loved and forgiven and blessed and anointed by God - of living in the grace of God. That comes from the Holy Spirit. That’s something we can’t manufacture. That’s something that we can’t even choose to have. We can choose however to expose ourselves to it by a life of deep prayer. I think you will find that the kind of joy the Lord speaks, which the world cannot take from us, is the product of someone who spends time with the Scriptures in prayer, with the the Lord personally. Spends time before the Blessed Sacrament in adoration, prays the Rosary, goes to Mass whenever they can. Is living deeply and from the heart that relationship with the Lord.”
But it’s ironic that despite the Good News many people still don’t have a joyful disposition.
“Pope Francis said it beautifully early on in his pontificate. We don’t need pickle faced Christians,” explained Bishop McCaig. “That says it all. Why is it that we’re going to the highest act of worship - the summit and sacrifice of life on earth in the Mass - and our visages look like we’re going to a funeral? It’s really a question of the reception of the Good News. Many of us have received the faith at one level - at an intellectual level. We believe it’s true. But I think God wants a lot more than that. He wants us to receive it deeply. He wants us to experience it. He wants us to come into a relationship with Him. And that’s why we have so many programs that are specifically designed to take us beyond the beginning stages into a deeper love of relationship.”
Wise words from a wise man - something I will remind myself of when I too find myself heading down that dour path. As Catholics and Christians, we truly have good reason to be joyful.
Written by Mario Toneguzzi
The biggest attraction at the 2019 God Squad men’s conference was a colourful, powerful motorcycle. This was no ordinary motorcycle on display. It was a custom-built machine by world-famous Orange County Choppers with a Pope John Paul II theme.
The presence of the vehicle was a good fit for a conference, at St. Peter’s Church, whose theme was Be Not Afraid To Be A Saint. When Pope John Paul II stepped onto the balcony facing St. Peter’s Square in 1978 when he became Pope, his first words were ‘be not afraid.”
Father Mariusz Sztuk, pastor of St. Francis de Sales Church in High River, will be using the motorcycle to evangelize.
“Sean (Lynn of the God Squad) and I ride with Jeff Cavins (a Catholic speaker and author) every year and I remember Jeff was talking to me one year and he said ‘you need to look at this bike’. I told him I don’t need to look at the bike because I had my own bike.
“When he showed me the picture, then I said ‘I need that bike’. So I got this bike through Jeff Cavins. There’s a lot of stuff that is very Catholic on that bike.”
It has a portrait of Pope John Paul II on its tank. It also displays numerous Catholic symbols such as the coat of arms, the eucharist, Mary and a cross.
“It’s a very Catholic bike. So when you ride the bike people always ask ‘who is that guy on the tank?’ That’s the beginning of the conversation about John Paul II and about Catholics. It is more of a kind of witnessing than anything else. I’m planning to take this to the school and talk to the kids about . . . religion, faith all of that . . . You can take pieces of the bike and talk about certain aspects of the Catholic faith,” said Sztuk.
Sztuk, who was born in Poland, came to Canada in 2001. He has a passion for his faith, for St. John Paul II, who was from his homeland, and of course for motorcycles.
“Since I was a kid I always had a motorcycle. It gives me that relaxation. I can jump on the bike and go,” he said.
The story of the unique motorcycle, which is worth about $110,000, is intriguing.
“There was a lady out in Syracuse, New York who had the bike. It’s called the John Paul II Tribute Bike. It’s one of a kind,” explained Cavins. “It’s very unique that everything about it is related to John Paul II in his pontificate. She knew I was a motorcycle enthusiast and I take ultra rides around the country . . . I went to speak in Syracuse not knowing about this bike. A deacon picked me up at the airport . . . and he said he wanted to take me somewhere and show me something before going to the hotel.
“My first thought was oh no I just want to go to the hotel. I’m tired. Been flying. I’ve got to speak tonight. And he said I think you’re going to be interested. He took me to this warehouse. He showed me a bunch of Bibles in boxes on the wall. I thought, that’s what he wanted to show me? . . . Then he introduced me to the lady and I realized there was a sheet over something. I could tell by the shape of it that it looked like a motorcycle underneath a sheet. They took the sheet off and I was blown away by what I saw. An unbelievably beautiful piece of art. I thought, man I’d love that for a teaching tool.”
The bike was originally commissioned for a church fundraiser. But that never took place, and it was sitting in storage with nine miles on it.
Nine months later Cavins was on a ride with Father Mariusz and Lynn when the woman called him, wanting an answer on if he was interested in buying the bike.
“I looked at Father Mariusz and I knew he would want to use this as well as myself and maybe we could do a joint venture on it where we would both use it, ” said Cavins, adding that he bought the bike for “way, way less” than its value.
Both Cavins and Father Mariusz will be using the bike on both sides of the border for evangelization. It’s a teaching tool. You can stand there and teach many aspects of John Paul II’s theology. His Marian theology. Suffering theology. Eucharist. Don’t be afraid.
Written by Mario Toneguzzi
It’s time for Catholic men to “man up” and truly follow Jesus Christ in their faith moving beyond the rut they can find themselves mired in when it comes to religion.
That’s the challenging message noted author and speaker Jeff Cavins gave during one of his presentations at the recent God Squad men’s conference - Be Not Afraid To Be A Saint - at St. Peter’s Church in Calgary.
Cavins said men need to understand what it means to be a disciple of Jesus and to walk with Jesus and be His representative.
“There’s a big difference between being a fan of Jesus and a follower of Jesus,” he said.
“We as modern believers can get caught in a rut . . . Where are we at today as men? Are we fans or are we followers? Are we merely going after theology or are we in a real relationship? And one of the ruts we can get into as men is that we get really excited about studying this stuff. We really like to study the faith . . . But there’s a rut that we can get into if we’re not careful. And that rut is that our faith can be simply made up of studying the faith.”
So our faith isn’t so much having a relationship with Jesus, coming to know Him, becoming like Him and doing what He does on a regular basis but our faith is reading the latest book, watching Catholic television, listening to Catholic radio, etc.
“In other words, the rut is that our faith can become our hobby,” said Cavins as he related a story about photography and how initially he learned all there was to know about the hobby, but it took him a long time to actually buy a camera and to “take a shot.”
“It is possible to get into a rut where you know the faith well; you can converse with others . . . You’ve got the Bible, you’ve got the Rosary, you’ve got a Catechism, you’ve got novenas, you’ve got holy water. You’ve got all the equipment set up, but you’re not taking the shot. That’s the problem we can get into particularly I would say as men we can get into that rut.
“You might be interested in theology, and dogma, and doctrine and councils and everything else. And that’s cool. But that isn’t going to get you to grow spiritually. The only thing that’s going to get you to grow spiritually, the only thing that’s going to help you deal with the vices in your life, is not a CD - that can help with ideas - but the only thing that’s going to deliver you . . . the only thing that’s going to help you grow as men is a relationship . . . I’m not in love with theology. I like it. I enjoy it. But I’m not in love with theology. I’m not in love with doctrine. I’m not in love with dogma. I’m not in love with debates and apologetics. It’s all necessary and good, but I’m in love with Jesus.”
Cavins said everyone has been chosen by Jesus to become like Him. But you cannot become like Him without Him and your lifestyle has to reflect that chosenness.
“So men I’m challenging you tonight . . . Guys you’ve got to decide who you’re going to follow . . . and you’ve got to man up and follow Him,” he said.
“You as men you are not called to complacency and you are not called to comfort. That is not the calling on your life . . . The calling on your life is not just to have your retirement plan established . . . The calling on our life is such that Jesus said to every man in here one thing more than anything else combined . . . Be not afraid. Why would Jesus say to men be not afraid more than anything else? Because He knows that what he’s calling you to will give you a reason to be afraid.”
Every man is called to go beyond themselves, to go into waters deeper than they’ve been before, to encounter challenges they have never, ever dreamt of encountering and avoiding.
In an interview, Cavins was asked why it is difficult for men to get out of the rut and become a follower as opposed to a fan of Jesus.
“One of the reasons that it’s difficult for men to get out of the rut is because in many homes, not all, it’s their wife that really is the one that is the leader of the spiritual activity of the home,” he said. “The wife is more relational. Men are more service oriented. They want to do things together. I think that’s one of the reasons why we see a lot of men not taking a leadership role.
“But I also think the point of entry into activity in a local parish is confusing to men. There are not a lot of natural points of entry. We don’t build on what St. Thomas said. Grace building on nature. Men do some things naturally. For example, men naturally lead. Men naturally provide. Men naturally protect. You don’t have to teach a man to do that . . . Then we want to bring that into the Church into the spiritual dimension of being a spiritual protector and leader and provider. There’s not a lot of points of entry into involvement in parishes.”
Cavins said many people have also been taught that their faith is a very private thing. One of the biggest problems with men getting out of that rut is that they have not been formed well in Scripture and they don’t want to talk to anyone about it. And unfortunately, many men have not grown up. They have not had other men take them and mentor them.
“And they are still playing with toys. Electronics. Sports. And things like that. But they have not had this rite of passage into manhood and responsibility, and they don’t have a lot of mentors to follow,” said Cavins. “One of the problems is we’re just so inundated with entertainment, sports, finance, games, cars; you name it. They’re distracted. They’re absolutely distracted, and this is not the love of their life.”
Written by Mario Toneguzzi
“I was raised in the People's Republic of China. I had no religion because it is a communist country. Then, God found me. He called me.
My family was going through a challenging time as my nine-year-old son was hospitalized for a year. From birth, he was diagnosed with bleeding in the brain. A vein in his brain burst, and he almost died. My life was work, home, hospital for that year. We were so tired and desperate. One day, someone gave me a wooden cross. That was my first time trying to get in touch with God.
My friend said, there is nothing you can do but ask God for help. Every day I went to work, and in the evening I stayed in the hospital with my son. I prayed daily, ‘God please don’t let him die.’ My son recovered and was released from the hospital. However, he had brain damage and many problems.
One day, in a box, I found the wooden cross again. And I realized that I didn’t keep my promise to God. I had prayed that if he saved Eric’s life, I would follow Him. Not having any idea of where to start and what to do, I contacted Ascension Parish. I learned a lot from going through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). The more I learned about God, the more I listen to him, the better my life gets. We still have a lot of problems with Eric’s recovery, but God supports me. My life is getting much better.
My relationships with others was a mess. I complained all the time. I would get so angry; now my relationships are better. I am a different person. Every day I ask God for forgiveness, and I also forgive others. Eric can see the change in me. He is now 14, and he goes to the youth sacrament. He can no longer use one of his hands. Daily, he lives with a four per cent chance of bleeding in his brain. We pray to God and figure a way to deal with each situation, day-by-day. There is nothing more the doctors can do. But God hears my prayers.”
An elect from the Ascension Parish, Calgary (2019).
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
Catholic Pastoral Centre Staff and Guest Writers