In Mary's loving presence
An inspiring grotto housing the statue of Mary seems only fitting for the backyard of Elizabeth House, a transitional housing program supported by the Diocese which welcomes pregnant and parenting women who need a safe place to live.
Mother Mary is symbolic of womanhood and motherhood and Elizabeth House staff are hopeful that the resilient women who access the house and services provided there will find the grotto to be a place of healing and hope as embodied in Our Lady of Guadalupe.
Dave Curry, who built the grotto with the help of Peter Dugandzic, shared that the project was meaningful to him because the statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe holds pro-life significance. He spoke about the hard work of constructing the beautiful brick grotto in the summer heat last year and how it was recently completed.
Dave said that it was “beautiful doing something for Elizabeth House and for Mary”. Dave is a member of the Knights of Columbus Don Bosco Council at St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church and built the grotto with the help and support from the Knights of Columbus.
Elizabeth House has capacity to house seven women and their babies. This program offers resources, support, and a safe place for women to start their motherhood journey. Elizabeth House states that through their program courageous mothers are empowered to work towards a transition to independent living as well as pursue the education or job skills training necessary to help set the foundation for a bright future.
Marin Lepp, an Elizabeth House staff, said the grotto and statue speak to the “the incredible support and spiritual foundation that this place has for all of the women who we welcome from every background, every walk of life. This represents strength in womanhood and in motherhood and that looks so different for all of our ladies based on their circumstances.”
Marin called the the grotto a grounding place, and a guide in Elizabeth House’s approach to reconciliation for Indigenous peoples. She reflected that at the centre of the work is “motherhood, womanhood and the strength around that.”
The special garden area where Our Lady of Guadalupe has taken up residence was blessed recently by Bishop William McGrattan of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Calgary.
“I think the legacy of Elizabeth House is something that we’ve received from the religious and I think it’s something that allows us to witness to and continue the sanctity of human life and to know that we’re helping families, especially women who want to make this choice. It’s counter-cultural and I think the Church needs to be present and allow them to go forward with this particular support that they need,” said Bishop McGrattan.
Bishop McGrattan emphasized the importance of making sure that Elizabeth House continues. He stated that the program has important donors and volunteer associations who value and support the work of Elizabeth House and stated that this work is “an important commitment as well. Just the experience of them being here supporting these young women and their children is something. They know they’re living their faith.”
Bishop McGrattan also reflected on the significance of Mary as a symbol of grace, joy, and hope for all. He stated that “First of all, she is Christ’s mother. The mother of the visible and the image of the invisible God. But she is also the image and the model of the Church and she is an exemplar. In Mary, the Church joyously contemplates the image of all that the Church itself desires and hopes wholly to be. The Church recognizes in Mary the model of the path and the practice it must follow to reach complete union with Christ.”
Bishop McGrattan hoped that when people from Elizabeth House are outside in the backyard the grotto the statue of Mary will catch their eye and that “they might be drawn into a moment of reflection, a moment of prayer. And that’s what images and statues are for. They draw our attention, they focus our thoughts and our sentiments. Often we formulate the words of prayer. This is how I think it will be an important statue here in this backyard of Elizabeth House,” he said.
“We know that those who come here in this yard and are able to pray, and contemplate, will ponder as Mary did in the silence of her heart the truth and the gift of human life and the gift and choice that they’ve made. We pray and hope that this will be a time and a moment where they see the hand of God through our Blessed Mother that they have made a choice for life and that we are supporting them.”
Written by Mario Toneguzzi & Elizabeth House Staff for Faithfully. Photos courtesy of Marin Lepp.
48,000 miraculous medals will be blessed by the Bishop on Monday, May 30, 2022 during the Mass at the Shrine Church of Our Lady of the Rockies. These medals have been donated by a very generous couple for distribution to the parishes of the Diocese.
You may be curious about the meaning behind the miraculous medals and the practise of having such blessed objects of devotion.
The miraculous medal belongs to a category of religious or devotional objects blessed and dedicated for the purpose of inciting faith and devotion. A blessed medal can make a person realize the closeness of God through His Saints especially our Blessed Mother.
Our Lady appeared to St. Catherine Labouré in 1830 and showed her images with the instruction to “Have a medal struck upon this model. Those who wear it will receive great graces, especially if they wear it around the neck.” This medal was to express her closeness to her children especially those who call on her for help.
The following explain the meaning and significance of the design of the medal:
The 48,000 blessed medals will be packaged and distributed to the parishes shortly after May 30, 2022. Please remember to look for these medals in your parish and take however many you would like to bring home and use.
May the medal remind us that the mother of our Saviour is always concerned for our well-being. She wants us to be close to Christ and to pattern our lives after Him. May the medal make us experience her closeness… only a prayer away.
Source: AMM - Miraculous Medal Story
May is a month often associated with the veneration of Mary, the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ. One meaningful way to express our devotion to her is by undertaking a Marian pilgrimage. While it is common to think of organized Marian pilgrimages as the only way to embark on one, a meaningful Marian pilgrimage may be had by simply planning one that you journey alone, with another person, or with your family or a group of friends.
A key part to making a Marian pilgrimage is to embark on a physical journey to a spiritual place. This can be far which will require a considerable trek or can be short as a few blocks' walk. What is essential is the desire to offer this special homage to our Lady and to pray and reflect while going towards the destination and back. This resource provides guidance on how to make a spiritual pilgrimage (printable, one page).
Here are some suggestions of destinations for your Marian pilgrimage...
Don't miss the chance to make a pilgrimage during Our Lady of the Cape statue tour in Calgary and Canmore:
A pilgrimage may cause some frustration or inconvenience... don't complain.
Gracefully accept the sacrifice and make it an offering of love.
"May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light." Colossians 1:11-12
One of the only two Holy Days of obligation outside of Sundays in Canada is a Solemnity dedicated to Mary's motherhood. We close out the Christmas octave with a day to honour Mary as the Mother of God. Find links to blessings and other resources below to help you celebrate this special feast with your family, friends and community.
A shrine to Our Lady of Lavang
A shrine to Our Lady of Lavang in the parish of St. Vincent Liem, Calgary has recently been built and blessed, and is the pride and joy of the Vietnamese community in the city.
Fr. Joseph Canh Vu, pastor of St. Francis Assisi parish and former pastor of St. Vincent Liem parish (2009-2017), says the Blessed Virgin Mary is an important part of the Vietnamese Catholic culture and the shrine has become popular for those who want to pray and honour the Holy Mother of God.
The shrine is devoted to the story of Our Lady who is said to have appeared many times in Lavang, Vietnam in 1798.
“The Vietnamese people are fond of the devotion of the Virgin Mary in Vietnam. Families say the Rosary often before going to bed,” said Father Joseph. “In Vietnam, it’s a tradition to devote ourselves to the Virgin Mary.
“The community is very excited. When people come to Mass, or even weekday Mass, they go to say a prayer in front of the shrine.”
St. Vincent Liem Church, which is located in the Forest Lawn neighbourhood, was formerly in Inglewood. After years of growth in Inglewood, the Church made the bold move to build a new Church where it is located today at 2412 48th Street SE. The current pastor of the church is Fr. Nguyễn Đức Vượng. The associate pastor is Fr. Phạm Công Liêm.
The new church was dedicated on July 11, 2015 by Bishop Emeritus Frederick Henry of the Calgary Diocese. It is known for its grandeur and modern architecture, featuring an open concept, natural lighting, and the versatile design with a touch of the Vietnamese heritage.
In the years 2009-2010, the St. Vincent Liem parish in Inglewood began to seriously contemplate building a new Church. The number of people attending Mass was increasing. Parking for the weekend was increasingly becoming more difficult.
From 2011 to 2013, the parish began planning the construction of a new Church. On June 15, 2013, the first broken stone officially opened the construction of a new Church in the Forest Lawn area. After the new Church was built, on May 16, 2015, the statue of Our Lady was moved and temporarily placed at the back area of the Church as a place for parishioners to pray.
On March 25, the parish held a Mass for the laying of the first stone to inaugurate the construction of the shrine. The project was completed in early October. On Oct. 10, Bishop William McGrattan officially blessed the shrine of Our Lady of Lavang.
“Infinitely wiser would it be to urge young people to give to the Lord, in a legionary membership, the first fruits of [their] free time. Those first fruits will inspire the whole life and keep the heart, and face too, serene and young. And there is still left an abundance of time for recreation, doubly enjoyed because doubly earned.” (The Official Handbook of the Legion of Mary, pg. 186)
These words, taken from the Legion of Mary handbook, were the words of the first spiritual reading that the new members of the St. Francis Xavier Chaplaincy (SFXC) Mater Misericordiae praesidium heard at their first meeting, in mid-November of 2020.
The Legion of Mary is a lay apostolic organization founded in 1921 in Dublin, Ireland, by the Servant of God Frank Duff. The Legion apostolate focuses on bringing souls to Christ through His Mother Mary, by means of evangelization and the spiritual works of mercy. Taking its name and structure from the Roman Legion, the Legion of Mary seeks to emulate its discipline, loyalty, and sense of duty. Since its inception, the Legion has spread to over 170 countries, with over a million members serving souls all over the world. In our diocese of Calgary, there are about 24 praesidia (the name for groups of the Legion, normally attached to a parish) under the Queen of the Most Holy Rosary Curia (the higher body of the Legion overseeing all praesidia in our diocese).
The praesidium of the St. Francis Xavier Chaplaincy, formally established in April 2021, is the newest among these praesidia, taking the name of Mater Misericordiae (Latin for Mother of Mercy). A Legion of Mary praesidium for young adults and university students was in the works prior to the pandemic and, after much work, online meetings began in November 2020 with the help of two experienced legionaries from the Curia. For nearly eight months, the faithful
members of Mater Misericordiae praesidium met over Zoom every Saturday morning until mid-July, when they were finally able to meet in person.
The weekly meeting of the praesidium consists of praying the Legion prayers (known as the Tessera) together, giving reports on the work members have been assigned, and discussing sections of the Legion of Mary handbook. Members also hear an allocutio, an address given by our Spiritual Director, Fr. Cristino Bouvette, to help motivate the members in their apostolic work and help them better understand the Legion handbook.
The assignments that members receive each week are geared towards evangelization and outreach, with the ultimate goal of bringing souls closer to Christ through the Blessed Virgin Mary. Due to the pandemic, assignments were primarily virtual and limited to helping family and friends grow in the faith, or speaking to someone who was lonely or isolated. Members report on their assignments each week, enabling members to help each other with their works and keep them accountable. This special bond between members is seen through the use of the terms “brother” and “sister” to refer to each other, indicative of the Legion as a family.
The legionaries of Mater Misericordiae praesidium have experienced a great deal of spiritual a growth as a result of Legion involvement. Among many things, members have expressed growth in their relationship with Our Lady, and a deeper realization of Christ’s call to holiness and mission. Above all, being able to grow in these things alongside others has been one of the greatest blessings for them.
Under the auspices of Mary and the spiritual guidance of Fr. Cristino Bouvette, the SFXC Mater Misericordiae praesidium continues to grow, with about eleven active members and a growing number of auxiliary members (members who pray for the Legion). The legionaries of Mater Misericordiae hope to continue to spread devotion to the Blessed Mother, especially amongst young people, and inspire them to serve others in complete union with her.
The Diocese of Calgary invites you to celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima on Thursday, May 13, 2021 with your community. The message of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Fatima pleaded with an urgent call to conversion of heart, penance and repentance. Please consider joining these events:
Becoming very Marian this May
During May, the Church asks us to grow closer to Our Blessed Mother. St. Josemaria said, “If you want to be faithful, be very Marian.” Here are five ways we can become ‘very Marian.’
Let us earnestly love Our Lady!
Servus Mariae nunquam peribit. The servant of Mary shall never perish.
One woman: Stories of Mary
Christina and her husband Japp farm near Bow Island. When I asked how Christina wanted to be described she said, “I’m a farm wife and mom just trying to get through!” and we laughed. She and I had just caught up for nearly half-an-hour as we talked about raising kids, farming, husbands, and yes, Mary and our Catholic faith. Anyone who knows Christina knows she tells it like it is. It was a fantastic, refreshing conversation.
As we were talking I learned that though she is a cradle Catholic, Christina grew up attending a Protestant youth group, and instead of causing her faith to waver, she said, it actually did the opposite, especially in regards to Our Lady. “That’s why I’m confident that we can go to her and pray with her.”
“If Jesus is the son of God,” she said, “then who is this person who God chose to be His mother? If she’s special enough for God, then she’s special enough for me.”
With a firm foundation of Our Lady’s importance, Christina said she, like so many of us has had “no ‘aha Mary’ moment.”
“She had one perfect kid and a saint for a husband,” she exclaimed at one point in our chat and I laughed in agreement because I have often felt exactly the same way. It’s true that sometimes we have to dig a little deeper to look for similarities between ourselves and Mary.
“We’re so ordinary and boring,” she said, “I love Mary; I need Mary; we named our oldest child Mary after her, but we just do normal Catholic stuff.”
By normal, Christina meant that they ask Mary’s intercession and pray the Rosary as a family.
A regular family rosary has long been an ambition of mine, but I’ll admit that we haven’t made it happen, which is why I admire that Christina and Japp did it this past Lent, which also coincided with the time that the farm holds a few less demands, and therefore allows Japp to be there for dinner and bedtime.
Christina said, “when it’s just me by myself with five kids, we manage a decade of the Rosary and sometimes it’s pretty ugly, but I just trust that Mary is happy that the children are there and that she knows that it is just life with little kids.”
“With the way the world is lately,” said Christina, we have felt called to be praying more and to make a point to do it with the kids, and to have the kids see us praying as well.”
May crowning of Mary are a beautiful way to honor Our Lady this month, and Christina said that they’d thought of doing that this year since her daughter Mary will be celebrating her First Communion a little differently than would normally happen.
As I prepare one of my own sons for the sacraments, I’m intrigued by this idea too.
When I first met Pat, it was as a parishioner of St. Bernard’s parish where her son Fr. Nathan had recently moved. After Mass one Sunday while visiting our parish, Pat and her husband Brian who had sat behind us with our wiggly bunch of four little boys, paused to talk to us and let us know that our Mass experience had been a flashback to theirs not-too-many years before. I have been grateful for that conversation ever since and have often thought of it as I have dealt with normal little boy behaviour time and again.
Raising a bunch of boys is a task unto itself, but raising them in the Catholic faith is a thing Pat knows about very well. It wasn’t always the case though, she said, recounting a wake-up-call she experienced when preparing her oldest for First Communion. “It was like being hit over the head with a 2x4,” she said, “I realized he didn’t know anything.”
Though raised in a thoroughly Catholic home, Pat said that her years in university “weakened my faith. I never stopped believing or attending Mass, but I will admit that I became a Sunday Catholic.”
Teaching her sons would bring Pat deeper into the fold of the faith, with Our Lady playing a key role.
In 1991 Pat went on pilgrimage to well-known apparition site Medjugorje,
“That made a huge difference in my life,” she said, “Mary played a huge role in guiding me and leading me back to her Son.”
Pat started praying the Rosary again and talking to her sons about Jesus and Mary and the Church. It took her two weeks to fully unpack all that had happened in Medjugorje to awaken her faith to Brian, and “he was fascinated,” she said. “My experience changed his life.”
I first met Sarah when we travelled to World Youth Day in Toronto in 2002 as part of an over 80 person group. My now-husband made the same trip, and it was he who suggested I give Sarah a call.
The Stamp family resides in Vauxhall, Alberta and their story is a beautiful one. They have six children and “one in heaven,” Sarah said.
Mary Josephine is the name of the baby that Sarah and her husband Greg said goodbye to 9 years ago this October when she passed away at 20 weeks gestation.
“I’d like to say that the praying the rosary was comforting,” she said, “but really, at the time it felt like just going through the motions.
But, I think going through the motions brings us hope; we live the hope by just saying the words.”
I was awestruck by how much wisdom Sarah has as a result of her family’s loss, and by the ardent conviction that Our Lady was there all along.
“She picks you up and keeps pushing you toward her son,” Sarah said. “I think she helps you to trust Jesus more.”
Later, Sarah found an icon of Our Lady of Sorrows that touched her heart enough to hang it on her wall. “She has this little tear on her face. It is just so beautiful to me – that she cries with us, and that she feels our pain.
She has always been my mother, but somehow this icon makes her real.
“I know that without tears of sorrow, we wouldn’t be able to love as God calls us to love, and in my time of sorrow, she was right there with me.”
With incredible strength, Sarah and her family carry on, but with new hope.
“When I experienced the pain that I hope no one experiences,” she said, “I got to know what it meant to love Jesus. He was so close. There was a point where I couldn’t even stand, and I needed to lean on people, but also, the more I leaned on Mary, the closer I came to Jesus.”
“I also think sometimes “Mary gets to hold my baby,” and through all of this, I have realized that heaven is a lot closer than I thought.”
I could have talked to Sarah for another hour or more, but as our little ones started to need us, one of the last things she said about Our Lady really struck me: “Part of Mary’s power is in loss; when mothers have lost so much there are no words in our hearts, it is a broken heart that you’ve never felt before, and that can really crush you.
“But I ask myself, if this hadn’t happened to us, would I have been that connected with Mary?”
These are words that I myself will contemplate for years to come. All of us have some suffering and grief, and though it’s hard sometimes to see that the Queen of Heaven understands there are sometimes powerful reminders, like Sarah’s story that she truly does.
“I love that God gave us an example to follow – he gave us a mother, and did not leave us alone.”
To grow up with the name Mary puts a lot of pressure on a Catholic girl. Emulating Our Lady is hard even for those of us who don’t share her name, but who can blame Catholic parents the world over?
Mary Ma has lived 22 years with the name, and recently came to have a deeper relationship with her namesake, the Blessed Virgin.
“I haven’t always had a robust relationship with Mary,” she said, admitting that “I found her unapproachable and I became discouraged because she was sinless and I knew I could never be like her.”
But it was in 2019 while meditating on the Annunciation as part of a Catholic Christian Outreach faith study that changed things. “One of the topics was Our Lady’s docility to the Holy Spirit at the Annunciation and that study made me see her as a person.”
“When I was a child, I prayed the rosary with my family and no one would think that I didn’t have a strong relationship with Mary.”
On Ash Wednesday this year, Mary completed the Consecration to Mary guided by Fr. Michael Gaitley in his book 33 Days to Morning Glory.
"Marian consecration basically means giving Mary our full permission (or as much permission as we can) to complete her motherly task in us, which is to form us into other Christs." Gaitley says in the book.
On Ash Wednesday Mary said she “levelled with (the Blessed Mother), saying I know I haven’t been a good daughter, and I have been distant, but I am going to try to love you personally.”
Certainly now, Mary has solidified her faith in the Blessed Mother by joining a branch of the Legion of Mary as part of the St. Francis Xavier Catholic Community. Nine or ten members meet weekly to pray the rosary and keep one another accountable in their journeys to serve Christ.
St. Matthew prays the rosary
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.
The Rosary Sisters
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
Totus tuus, totally yours
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.
The beloved daughters
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.
Consecrated to Mary
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.”
Consecration of Canada - May 1
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:
Our Beacon of Hope
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
Women of faith and courage
Most Reverend W. T. McGrattan, D.D., Bishop of Calgary
Picture: Rest on The Flight into Egypt, c. 1510 by Gerard David
Mary, Mother of the Church
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