For the past four years, at St. Matthew School, our community has been faithful to praying the holy rosary daily in our school chapel. Each day, we have invited students from Division I, II or III to meet me in the chapel to pray the rosary before lunch and the Divine Mercy Chaplet at 3 pm before dismissal.
During the 2019-20, when the pandemic hit and students and staff were sent home, we knew we needed to continue this powerful prayer virtually. Every day, from March to June, I led our community in praying the Rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet through our Youtube channel. I remember one of our parents, who was a frontline nurse working long hours in ICU telling me that it gave her great peace to pray the rosary with me as she got home after a long day’s work. Another family said they started each and every day praying the rosary during the lockdown as a way to begin their day with gratitude and prayers for our school community and our world. During summer break, I had a parent reach out to tell me how her mother had recently passed away. She asked me to pray the rosary for her soul.
It took a while, but after four years of consistently praying to Our Lady as a community and teaching our students how powerful and comforting the rosary is, it has now become a staple in our ordinary school days. Now that we are back in school, we continue to pray the rosary on our Youtube channel but I record the rosary live from a classroom filled with students! Teachers will reserve a time during the week for me to visit their classroom and we pray the rosary together. We then send the YouTube link to our parent community and all staff and teachers can play the recording during the day when the time suits them best. Our Grade two teacher Mrs. Champion plays the recording every day during lunch while her students are eating. Another teacher includes the rosary in her Religion lessons, another during her CTF Meditation and relaxation course and another teacher starts each class praying a decade of the rosary before her lesson begins. We are teaching our students about Mary and the power of the Holy Rosary.
St. Louis de Montfort tells us that “Mary is the easiest, safest and quickest way to Jesus”. When we give our prayers to her through praying the rosary, she puts them on a silver platter and delivers them to her son, Jesus. At St. Matthew School, our main goal is to be Christ-centered. Through praying the rosary, practicing the virtues of Jesus Christ, sharing the daily scripture verse written on all classroom whiteboards and our student-led morning prayers, together we are moving closer to our goal as people of God to become more and more like Jesus every day. The rosary gives our school community strength, direction, peace and graces from above.
Catholic Education touches the hearts and souls of those we serve and teaches in ways we often don’t get an opportunity to see. I’m blessed; I have seen the impact!
My teaching career started in grade one, my dream grade. I wanted my students to experience what I had when I started school - God’s great love. My own early Catholic education had fixed this on my heart and now God gave me a chance to share. It was a fun year. As a math/science project we made rosaries. Making a rosary is a great way to teach patterning, counting to 50, grouping by 10, colors and most importantly prayer.
It was a joyous project. The rosaries were made with bright wooden beads and sparkly glitter-glue popsicle stick crosses. They took over a month to make. It was great!
I’m now working in a very different capacity for our school division and my office space is upstairs in our local high school. I often run into kids that I’ve taught as I am walking to and from my office. One day, on my way to my office, I heard a student (very loudly) leave a classroom that I had just walked by. I turned around and recognized them. They weren’t happy. They look up at me and stopped in their tracks.
I wondered what I should say as there clearly was a conflict. Before I had a chance to say anything, they looked at me and said, “You’re my grade one teacher. We made that beaded thing that we prayed with all the time.” I was shocked. I hadn’t thought of the rosary project in years. I answered yes and this student told me they still had theirs. I was even more shocked. Of all the things that could have been said or done at that moment, we talked about the rosary! What power the rosary holds.
I can’t tell you how it went between the student and the teacher as they turned and went back into the room. What I can tell you is that the power of the rosary changed the outcome. Our Catholic schools change outcomes for students at the least expected times and for years beyond the moment they are in our care.
This encounter gave me an idea for our local elementary school. We are fortunate to have Missionary of Charity sisters in our town. They love working with children and they love the rosary! For the past three years they have been coming into our elementary school each October to make rosaries. They spend a morning making rosaries and praying with the students. One of the sisters told me how during the summer when they were walking in a nearby community, one of the children they saw said to them, “Hey aren’t you the rosary Sisters?” She smiled as she told me this story and laughed; “The rosary Sisters”! How beautiful that our Catholic schools teach this life changing prayer to our students.
Submitted by Cynthia Martin, St. Paul Education Catholic Education Coordinator
Photo submitted by Cynthia Martin
I have been praying the rosary for years, but it never ever entered my mind to actually make rosaries – that is, not until a visiting priest gave me a hand-made cord rosary at one of our Parish Missions. As soon as I saw it, I had the desire to start making rosaries just like that one!
To make a long story short, I obtained the necessary supplies and tools and started making rosaries, not having the slightest idea of how this ministry would unfold.
As a former teacher I thought it would be a wonderful thing to make rosaries with children in the schools – but I didn’t mention this to anyone, because being retired, I didn’t see how this could possibly happen. Of course, our Lady had a plan. One of our parishioners saw me making rosaries and asked me, out of the blue ☺ if I had ever thought about doing this in the schools!!!
I said, ‘Yes! But I need to be invited!” He said “I’m inviting you – I’m a grade 6 teacher at” – get ready for this – “Our Lady of the Assumption School!” Our Lady had a plan and it was to begin in one of her own schools!
So on February 28th 1998 I made my first school visit. When the kids finished making the rosaries, they were thrilled – they were SO proud of their rosaries that they were showing them off to all the other students - naturally all of them wanted to make their own rosary, too - so the teachers had no choice but to invite me back to make rosaries with all the other classes in the school!
After that, news of the program spread by word of mouth, from teacher to teacher, from school to school – over the years we have visited 103 of our Catholic Schools – not only in Calgary, but also in Airdrie, Chestermere, Okotoks, DeWinton, High River and even as far away as Brooks! Every year we make and pray the rosary with between 2,000 - 3,000 students from Kindergarten to Grade 9. Teachers and students alike consider it a high-point of the year – by the end of September we are booked up for the whole school year.
At the same time, friends and parishioners, devotees of our Lady and the Rosary, were inspired to learn to make rosaries too, so we started having weekly meetings. Our membership has grown to over 60 men, women and children, who meet every Tuesday Morning at Holy Spirit Church to pray and make rosaries. When it becomes possible to resume gatherings, you are most welcome to drop in and learn how to make Rosaries and pray and enjoy the warm fellowship which has developed in this very special group.
Totus tuus is a Latin phrase which means ‘totally yours’ - Pope (Saint) John Paul II took it as his motto – consecrating his Pontificate to the care and guidance of the Blessed Virgin Mary. That was -- and is -- the inspiration for the name of our Association. The work is totally our Lady’s work – the group belongs totally to her. And each one of us, individually, strives to belong totally to her as well -- so that through Mary - we can belong totally to Jesus. For that is Mary’s desire for us. As our Heavenly Mother, her priority is to bring us closer and closer to Jesus, so that one day we can be united with Him forever in Heaven.
Our Apostolate is actually two-fold – the first is our ministry in the schools -- the second is making and distributing rosaries worldwide. It is truly amazing how our Lady works things out – we began by leaving a few rosaries in our chapel, giving them to pastoral care workers and then people started taking rosaries on their travels, giving them as gifts to parishes that they visited.
A few years ago, the daughter of one of our Rosary Makers was going to Malawi, Africa and took a gift of rosaries to a Sister there. The Sister gave a priest one of the rosaries, he in turn told other priests about our rosaries and word spread throughout Malawi, so that today we have over 45 connections in that country alone!!
Our Lady knows ahead of time where the needs are and makes sure they are met. For example, a friend called me, saying she and her husband were going to Hawaii and asked if it would be OK for her to take rosaries, even though Hawaii is not a ‘mission country’. I told her I would be glad to give her some rosaries - there must be a reason why she feels the need to take them. She called again when she got back – “You won’t believe it’ she said “ When I gave the rosaries to the Parish Priest in Maui he was overjoyed. He said the parish was starting a Prison Ministry and he didn’t know where he would get enough rosaries!!” And there are many more similar incidents.
Through our Lady’s inspiration and guidance, our world wide mission has grown to include 83 countries -- and this year alone we have already sent out over 40,000 rosaries!
Needless to say, the most important aspect of our ministry is the praying of the rosary.
Through the rosary we are surrounding the world in prayer – which is the true essence and meaning of our Apostolate.
Our Blessed Mother has made it possible for us to respond to her plea which she made in Fatima:
“Tell everyone to pray the Rosary everyday to obtain peace in the world.”
We know that the world needs peace and the rosary is the perfect prayer for peace, because it is all about Jesus, who is the Prince of Peace.
Written by Marta Toltesi. Marta lives in Calgary with her husband, John. They have two children and two grandchildren and have been parishioners of Holy Spirit Parish for over 40 years. She is a retired teacher and enjoys gardening, photography and volunteering in the schools, teaching about the rosary.
How often do we make plans, only to have them not go “as we planned”? Perhaps similarly, Mary had an idea of what plans were to unfold for her life. However, when approached by the Archangel Gabriel, her ‘yes’/fiat to God’s will transformed these ideas.
For us, the beginnings of this woman’s ministry, from what we perceived the Holy Spirit’s promptings to be, didn’t even come from a woman. It came from the encouragement of a man. Inspired by his perspective, the three of us gathered over vietnamese cuisine and multiple coffees to iron out our vision of hosting Calgary’s first Diocesan Women’s Conference.
It was the end of January 2020 when what we had was a venue and a date. We had an event before we even had a ministry! We had exactly 4 months to pull everything off and by God’s grace, every door opened for us. We had approval from the Diocese, a theme, amazing speakers, a production team, and tickets were being sold as soon as registration opened. God was very good. Despite the start of COVID-19 precautions, we were optimistic that our event would still occur. That is, until the end of March, where we sadly decided to postpone the event. It was difficult to believe that we were getting all the green-lights in planning over a short period of time, only to have the world literally shut down. Nevertheless,God was still very good. He had and has a plan for us. As a team we perceived this downtime as an opportunity to build a strong foundation for a ministry, that if God so willed, would flourish. We were given this opportune time to create the ministry, reach women locally via social media, create a social media presence and attempt to collaborate with local communities to get the ministry running despite the pandemic.
Reflecting on the Magnificat, I am reminded that we are nothing without the Lord and His grace in our life. As humans, we often lack the practice of gratitude. Mary gave a joyful claim: “all generations shall call me blessed.” She recognized the work of God in her life; that He was to make her the Mother of the Saviour of the world! Her ‘yes’ surely was a sign of gratitude, a quality that many acquire through virtuous practice and prayer. When I realized we were no longer able to proceed with the conference, I was disappointed and my motivation seemed to wane. I did not reflect on what God was conveying to us during the initial quiet months of COVID-19 restrictions. I didn’t “ponder” these things as Mary did. It is possible that Our Lady would have been overwhelmed, yet she never questioned Gabriel. Instead, she prayed and pondered everything interiorly. I can now recognize the generous gift God provided us. Our vision for this ministry is to continue saying ‘yes’ even when feeling discouraged. It is important to me that women in Calgary have a space to rediscover their identity and grow in virtue.
The virtue of humility echoes throughout the Magnificat. St. Teresa of Avila defines humility as: living in the truth. The truth of who we are, and who God is. As we grow in knowledge of this truth, everything and everyone is put into proper order. When one knows the truth of who they are, there is no longer the need to compare, or compete. Instead, secure and confident in the Father, one then forgets themselves and is present to others. In Mary, we see this lived out in full. Confident in her identity as a beloved daughter of God- that had already been rooted within through her practice of prayer and virtue- upon receiving her mission, Mary is able to forget herself, and goes with haste to tend to Elizabeth. Similarly, we hope that the Beloved Daughters Ministry becomes a platform for women. That our contributors, resources, and events, will aid women along the journey of growth in prayer, virtue, and friendship as they lean into their belovedness.
After postponing our conference, we were offered the opportunity to host a live-streamed Virtual Pilgrimage through Canmore’s Shrine. Our website launched on August 22, 2020 - the Queenship of Mary, which also happened to be the Shrine’s patron feast day. It was evident that Our Lady had held our hand through all this and so we dedicate this women’s ministry to her.
Mary is our example of how to magnify the Lord. If there is anything we desire, it is to do the same; that our ministry magnifies the Lord.
Each year, during the month of May, the Church encourages the faithful to pray through the intercession of Mary, the Mother of God, and the Mother of the Church. This year, as the pandemic took hold around the world, Pope Francis issued a letter “to encourage everyone to rediscover the beauty of praying the Rosary at home in the month of May.”
Mary who remained in the midst of the apostles continues to hold a special place in the heart of the Church. Mary’s motherhood for those in the Church is both maternal and spiritual for she continues to intercede to God for an increase in the life of grace promised to us through her Son. Four moments in Mary’s life reveal her intimate participation in the mysteries of her Son’s life, death and resurrection. Mary carried Jesus in her womb. She stood by while He suffered and died on the Cross. Mary remained in the Upper Room devoting herself to prayer with the first Christian community and awaited the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:14). Finally, as the Catechism of the Catholic Church (“CCC”) states, "The Immaculate Virgin, preserved free from all stain of original sin, when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things, so that she might be the more fully conformed to her Son." (CCC, 966.) Mary truly understands the grace of being united to the mysteries of Christ and she desires that all people may live in the richness of this faith and belief in Christ. Through this faith and devotion she continues to work through the Church to bring all people to Her Son.
In his Letter for the Month of May 2020, the Pope notes that “contemplating the face of Christ with the heart of Mary our Mother will make us even more united as a spiritual family and will help us overcome this time of trial.” The Pope’s letter also inspired the Bishops of Canada and the United States to re-consecrate their Dioceses to Mary, Mother of the Church during the current global pandemic on May 1. At the conclusion of the month of May, I will celebrate the Mass of Dedication for our new Marian Shrine Church in Canmore, “Our Lady of the Rockies” on May 30, 2020. This will also mark the anticipation of the reintroduction of the public celebration of Mass throughout the entire Diocese beginning on June 1, 2020 which is a new Memorial for our Blessed Mother.
The title “Mary, Mother of the Church” was given to the Blessed Mother by Pope Paul VI at the Second Vatican Council and in 2018, Pope Francis added the “Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church” to be celebrated on the Monday after Pentecost which this year will occur on June 1 when the faithful return to the celebration of the Eucharist. In this time of pandemic as the patron of our Diocese she remains an enduring sign of trust and hope that we must all have in God’s will despite what we face in the future.
As I stated in my homily for the Consecration of the Diocese of Calgary to Mary, Mother of the Church, I encourage families and individuals to consecrate yourselves along with the Diocese and parishes to the protection and daily intercession of Mary. In the words of St. Maximilian Kolbe, "Never be afraid of loving Mary too much. You can never love her more than Jesus did."
Come quickly to our aid at this time, Mother of Mercy, and deliver us from the dangers that surround us in our hour of need; watch over especially the elderly, the weak and the infirm, our children and the unity of our families, and all those who give of themselves selflessly in pastoral care to those in need until in your arms and in your gentle embrace we all find safety and solace.”
The consecration of Canada to Our Lady will enrich our faith, allow a more abundant outpouring of God’s spiritual and temporal gifts on us, and enable us even more to fulfill our calling and mission. Ultimately, consecration to Mary, which springs from a more fervent, more committed, and more sustained life of prayer and devotion in which the Blessed Mother plays a unique and loving role, points and leads to a renewed spirit and understanding of family, Church, and the need for societal engagement. To find more catechesis on Marian Consecration and why we consecrate Canada to Our Lady, please read the document "Consecrating Canada to the Blessed Virgin Mary: Insights for Adult Catechesis."
Join us in prayer: Bishop McGrattan will consecrate the Diocese of Calgary to Mary, Mother of the Church, on Friday, May 1, seeking her maternal protection during the Coronavirus pandemic. To assist dioceses with the consecration, the CCCB will provide a prayer for use during the solemn act of entrustment. It can likewise be incorporated into family or individual prayer at home and used by other groups and faith communities.
Bishop McGrattan will celebrating the following liturgies on Friday, May 1, 2020:
Standing inside the steel frame of the Marian Shrine of Our Lady of the Rockies under construction in Canmore, the fresh mountain breeze intermingles with the scent of burnt metal, plaster and cement. This time next summer, the doors of the shrine are expected to open for both parishioners and pilgrims.
Last spring, 144 screw piles were being drilled into a hole in the ground to help secure the foundation.
“I entered into the project right on the cusp of it really beginning to move forward. It was a really exciting moment to be there,” said Fr. Nathan Siray, who was transferred to take over as pastor in April 2018.
Today, construction is well underway: the entire steel structure erected, some framing for the walls and windows in place and the concrete floor poured.
When Fr. Siray stands inside the skeleton of the church, he imagines a feeling of overwhelm and splendor, but also connection and closeness. “It achieves this wonderful balance between grandeur and intimacy, which I think people are really looking for in a church building. I’m really excited that spirit is captured within the architecture,” he said.
Some key design features will be a larger-than-life custom-made stained-glass window of Our Lady of the Rockies in the apse of the church. It will depict Mary holding the Christ Child amidst images of the Three Sister Mountains and Canmore’s coal mining heritage.
“The moment you walk through the doors into the nave of the church, this window is going to blow you away. I think it’s going to be the centrepiece of the shrine,” said Siray.
Large clerestory windows on the upper portion of the church roof will bring in an incredible amount of natural light, explained Fr. Sirary. As the sun rises and sets you will have a different play of light and shadow in the building.
Written by Sara Francis
Photos courtesy of Our Lady of the Rockies Parish
Most Reverend W. T. McGrattan, D.D., Bishop of Calgary
Picture: Rest on The Flight into Egypt, c. 1510 by Gerard David
In 1964 at the close of the third session of the Second Vatican Council, Blessed Paul VI bestowed upon Mary the title “Mother of the Church”. It is no accident that the Council chose to situate its discussion of Mary in the Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium. In chapter eight of this document the Council affirms its special love for Mary due to her role in salvation history and instructs the Church to look to Mary as an example of what it means to be a redeemed person. By meditating on Mary in light of the Word made flesh, the Church enters more intimately into the mystery of the Incarnation and becomes more like Christ. Mary is “the model of virtues”; in contemplating her holiness, imitating her charity, and in receiving the word of God in faith, the Church herself becomes a mother.2
In 1975 the Apostolic See proposed a votive Mass in honour of the Blessed Mary Mother of the Church, which has since been inserted into the Roman Missal, and is the basis of the new liturgical celebration. The Gospel passage for the Mass, from the Gospel of John 19:25 – 27, takes place at the foot of the Cross:
When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.
Mary is simultaneously present in the Church as the Mother of Christ and as the Mother that Christ gave to humanity in the person of the beloved disciple, John.3
Tradition holds that Mary prayed with the apostles in the upper room awaiting the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost that gave birth to the Church. The members of this Church are the Body of Christ and united with Christ their Head they share the same mother, Mary. It is fitting that Pope Francis has chosen the following day to commemorate Mary’s motherly care of the pilgrim Church on earth. The new celebration reflects a maturation of liturgical veneration of Mary that “will help us to remember that growth in the Christian life must be anchored to the Mystery of the Cross, to the oblation of Christ in the Eucharistic Banquet and to the Mother of the Redeemer and Mother of the Redeemed, the Virgin who makes her offering to God.”4
By: Simone Brosig, Ph.D | Director of Liturgy
Catholic Pastoral Centre Staff and Guest Writers