A beautiful evening of prayers for Syria was held on Friday, May 5, 2023 at St. Mary's Cathedral. Archbishop Joseph Tobji from Aleppo, Syria, Bishop McGrattan, priests, deacons, and faithful from the oriental churches in Calgary and the Diocese attended the event. In addition to the ongoing conflicts, people in Syria are also facing the aftermath of a devastating earthquake and the tragic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite these immense challenges, the people of Syria are bravely rebuilding their lives. We express our deep appreciation to everyone who participated and prayed with us for our brothers and sisters in Syria.
A special thank you to Fr. Daniel Fares, the chief organizer, volunteers and staff of St. Mary's Cathedral for the beautiful reception after the prayers. Let us continue to keep the people of Syria in our thoughts and prayers.
Photos and videos courtesy of Our Lady of Peace Maronite Church and Office of Communications.
More photos are available here.
Glory be to Jesus Christ!
Dearly Beloved in Christ!
Today, on our calendars we mark a year since a new stage of the Russian-Ukrainian war began with brutal cruelty and destruction, cynicism and falsehood. Every day of the past year has been a repetition of February 24, adding to the bitter statistics of losses and multiplying the grief experienced by many. Thousands of innocent men, women and children have lost their lives; many have been tortured, held in prisons and camps, and forcibly deported. Millions are forced to wander around the world, having lost everything, seeking refuge far from their homes. Many cities and villages have been erased from the face of the earth, leaving only traces in the history and memory of those who lived there. Countless are the deep emotional wounds from the losses, tragic memories, and longing for relatives, inflicted by the war on those who survive and are suffering - especially the children!
This war is not limited to the context of armed battles, but also occurs in the struggle for consciences, spiritual values and ideals with all the evils that war entails. Most importantly, it requires from everyone a clear choice for good or evil. The war challenges us to demonstrate our love for Ukraine, for its God-given freedom, political and human rights. War challenges the very sincerity of our love for our neighbor and the Lord God. Every Ukrainian in and outside of
Ukraine is called to discover a deeper awareness of his or her national, political and ethnic identity. The enemy are those who want to stop this process and plant other values which contradict the truths of the Christian faith, the foundations of our spirituality and our Ukrainian identity. And they are looking for all kinds of insidious ways to achieve their goals.
We, the Ukrainian Catholics in Canada, call upon all people of good will to steadfastly resist the spread of the evils of war, the killing of innocent people, and the destruction of the nation of Ukraine. Let us draw our strength from the Lord at all times in our struggle (cf. Ps. 26:1). As the Apostle Paul says , let us gird ourselves with the belt of faith and take the armor of justice, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the spiritual sword to "resist the wiles of the devil" and "against the principalities, against the authorities, against the rulers of this world of darkness, against the spirits of malice in the heavenly spaces" (Eph. 6:11-12). Fervent and constant prayer to the Lord is our weapon against which enemy forces are powerless, and with it we draw the grace of God. We pray not to succumb to feelings of hopelessness and oppression, excessive worries and cares (cf. Ps. 137:7).
Let us take the psalmist's words, "Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path" (Ps. 118:105) closer to heart and listen to God's voice in our lives. The word of God teaches us goodness, truth, love, understanding and ability to make right decisions that are sometimes very difficult, especially during times of deep tragedy and loss. In His word, we will find God who is near to us in solidarity, offering us comfort and healing.
Let us continue our works of mercy for the needy in Ukraine and those who seek refuge here in Canada, as a humble manifestation of our sincere faith and for the greater glory of God. In doing so, we share the time and talents with which the Lord has blessed us, knowing that everything will return a hundredfold. By giving temporal goods now, we will receive eternal goods in the future.
In solidarity and compassion with our brothers and sisters in Ukraine, who continue to suffer from the lack of food, water and other basic necessities of life due to the ongoing war, let us renew our practice of fasting and abstinence to remind ourselves of the many blessings we enjoy in our peaceful, daily lives here in Canada.
More than ever, we need to support each other through prayer, kind words and good deeds. A person who receives something through you will thank the Lord and praise Him always. "Let your light so shine before others that they may see your good works and glorify your Heavenly Father" (Mt. 5:16).
The outcome of this war is crucial and will have global significance and consequences. We pray for victory, which will be realized only when we put all our efforts together. Let us unite, pray, and work for the common good! Let this Lenten season be an opportunity to reach new spiritual heights and to better ourselves so that we can carry out our part in bringing to an end the tragedy of war.
May God bless the Ukrainian people both in their homeland and throughout the world. May He grant them the strength of a strong Christian faith, of enduring good health and the support of a multitude of people of good will. May He grant victory over evil and peace to Ukraine!
Sincerely Yours in Christ,
+ Lawrence Huculak, OSBM
Metropolitan Archbishop of Winnipeg
Apostolic Administrator of Saskatoon
+ David Motiuk
Eparchial Bishop of Edmonton
Apostolic Administrator of New Westminster
+ Bryan Bayda, CSsR
Eparchial Bishop of Toronto
+ Andriy Rabiy
Auxiliary Bishop of Winnipeg
How do we help our Ukrainian brothers and sisters beyond prayers?
The tragic consequences of this war have created grave needs for our brothers and sisters in Ukraine. Now more than ever we are called to recognize the responsibilities we have for each other as St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians reminds us, “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God.” (Ephesians 2:19).
Little things we can offer for peace in the world...
St. Paul says, "I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church." ~ Colossians 1:24
We all share in the sufferings of Christ and have a part in His crucifixion. As we consciously unite ourselves to His suffering and the suffering of others, we also unite ourselves to the gift of the resurrection and new life.
To support Ukraine beyond prayers
Day of Prayer and Fasting for Ukraine
Fr. Michael Storey knows he might not be able to attend a formal Remembrance Day service this November 11. As a hospital chaplain in the Diocese of Calgary, the Catholic priest could find himself beside a hospital bed when other Calgarians pause in reverent silence at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. But make no mistake. While Fr. Storey may not be able to hear the dying notes of the Last Post, he will feel the lament in his heart. And he will remember. November 11, for this priest, is a matter of country, family and faith.
Fr. Storey’s dad and brother served the Canadian navy in the Second World War. During the same conflict, where 42,000 Canadians died and another 55,000 were wounded, his uncles were soldiers in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF).
Having grown up in a family that sacrificed so much for so many, Fr. Storey admits it wasn’t difficult to step up when a friend and Calgary-based reservist mentioned the need for a military chaplain in Calgary. “I realized that military personnel needed spiritual support. I was also working at St. James parish, so it was easy for me to go back and forth between the parish and Currie Barracks.” Fr. Storey served that role in Calgary from 1987 to 1999.
Fr. Sajo Jacob, parish priest at Mother Teresa Syro Malabar Church in Calgary, assumed the military chaplaincy about two years ago. He was introduced to the ministry by students he met while serving as the campus chaplain at SAIT and Mount Royal University, a role he held from 2009 to 2019. Some of the students he met there joined the military and invited Fr. Jacob to bring his ministry there. Two years into the role, he’s grateful for the chance to serve military personnel, many of them young people, as they encounter the challenges of military service in defense of the country. “They are often away from their homes, they face personal crisis, they sacrifice for the country and people, and I felt a calling that I will be able to help them.”
A ministry of presence
Unlike more typical priestly ministries which focus on bringing sacraments to the faithful, military chaplaincy is a “ministry of presence.” As a chaplain, Fr. Storey met military personnel at formal events. He also dropped by places like a military rifle range if he knew soldiers and reservists were there to practise. “You do what you can to remind them that you are there if they need you,” he explains.
His formal role also included being one of two uniformed military officers who made next-of-kin calls to the families of military personnel who died in service to their country. “I was on three of those calls during my 12 years in the service. It was humbling,” he recalls.
The chaplain’s role is akin to “being a guide and mentor,” adds Fr. Jacob. “Sometimes you become a point of contact at a time of crisis and challenges. It is a vocation where you journey with people and you become God’s instrument to share peace and love.”
Whereas parish priests serve Catholic congregations, campus and military chaplains work in secular and interfaith spaces. “Chaplains are there for everyone and we guide and support whoever seeks help, regardless of religion, or orientation,” explains Fr. Jacob. His faithful presence in personal crises has included talking to people contemplating suicide.
There is no question that military chaplains witness Christ for others, adds Fr. Storey. He remembers being touched by the words of a former altar boy who attended an event to commemorate the priest’s 40th anniversary in the priesthood. “He told me, ‘I was so proud of my parish priest when I saw him in his uniform,’ That meant a lot to me.”
He and Fr. Jacob both view military chaplaincy as service to their nation. “It is my role in the nation-building process,” explains Fr. Jacob, himself an immigrant from India. In addition to serving military personnel as a spiritual guide and mentor, Fr. Jacob helps organize religious services and advises commanding officers in matters of religious accommodations and spiritual and ethical issues.
This Remembrance Day, Fr. Jacob will officiate at a November 11 ceremony. He says the events do more than remember fallen soldiers and veterans, they also inspire young Canadians in their message of service.
Written by Joy Gregory for Faithfully
Riley Isaacs, a 17-year-old football player at the school said, "Hearing from somebody who has served in the Canadian Military, really opens your eyes to how much of a sacrifice they made for the rest of us."
Students from the school continue to share a connection with the veterans beyond Remembrance Day. Corporal Hornburg's number has been retired from the team, and every year a student is awarded the Corporal Nathan Hornburg Award. Fuchko has also inspired the football team to wear "Remember Our Troops" stickers on all their helmets.
"It makes you feel inspired to love and support those who have fought for our country, in order to represent the ideals we support--that every human deserves," said student Ben Beaudry, 17, "It's just inspiring."
In preparation for this Remembrance Day, students at Bishop Carroll have come together to collect non-perishable food items for the Veteran's Association Food Bank.
Many are internally displaced or flee to neighbouring countries such as Lebanon and Jordan. Some, Syrians in particular, have settled in parts of Canada, including Calgary, but for those who stay or have gone back, their homes are often destroyed and require a lot of rebuilding. “Sometimes people don’t feel safe moving back to their town,” said Gabriel. “There have been cases of kidnapping, harrassment, discrimination. There have been times that they’ve been killed because of their faith.”
Due to difficulties crossing check points, Palestinian Christians aren’t always granted a pass to attend Easter Mass in Jerusalem. “The locals can’t experience Easter there, but the tourists have no problem,” said Gabriel.
She organizes pilgrimages with CNEWA to the Holy Land for those wanting both a spiritual experience and a snapshot into the life of local Christians. The next one is being planned for 2020. “The Christians are always very grateful when we come and visit them. They feel supported,” said Gabriel.
In August, Gabriel spoke at the national Catholic Women’s League (CWL) Convention held in Calgary because CNEWA is one of the charities CWL supports at the national level. Two of the projects CWL funds are a centre in Jerusalem that provides tutoring for at-risk youth and a centre near Bethlehem providing healthcare for women and their babies.
National CWL President Anne-Marie Gorman went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and met some of the local Christians, including entrepreneurs who left to seek education in the United States, but returned to open a brewery. “Things seem to be so unstable, so I’m thinking if they have enough faith to go home and settle back in the Palestinian occupied territory, it behooves us to support them as best we can,” said Gorman.
“Our past spiritual adviser Bishop Martin Currie said the Holy Land is in danger of becoming like Disneyland, just a tourist site that people go see what it used to be like. But when I was there, it was all about these people being living stones. These are the people that haven’t left.”
St. Bonaventure parishioner Kathleen Kufeldt is one of many Calgarian donors who financially support CNEWA. For several years she has organized a raffle at her parish for CNEWA during the annual CWL fundraiser. “I think we are so blessed here to practice our faith. My heart goes out to the Christians in the Middle East,” said Kufeldt.
“I feel it must be one of Jesus’s wounds that the area where He was born and grew up is so difficult for His followers.”
Written by Sara Francis for Faithfully
Nearly 900 Catholic Women’s League (CWL) members from across Canada gathered at the Hyatt Hotel in Calgary Aug. 18-21 for the 99th Annual National Convention.
Each year members debate and vote on resolutions, forming League policy and guiding their advocacy work. The CWL members passed two resolutions concerning the rights of the unborn and a nuclear arms ban.
The first resolution to pass was — Canada to Honour its Commitment to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Canada ratified this United Nations agreement to protect the unborn 20 years ago, yet there is still no Canadian legislation protecting the unborn at any stage of development.
“When you sign something and ratify it, you’d expect some legislation to appear,” said CWL President Anne-Marie Gorman. “What we are looking for is legislation. You said you were going to do it, so why hasn’t someone done it. We’ll be asking that question.”
The second resolution to pass asks the Canadian Government to honour the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. CWL wants the federal government to support, sign and ratify this treaty which the UN adopted in July 2017; so far 25 countries have ratified it.
Once members adopt a resolution an executive committee prepares to bring the concerns to federal politicians in Ottawa on behalf of all 78,000 members in the coming months.
Each convention also has a spiritual, educational and cultural component. Four Calgarians spoke on this year’s theme “Care For Our Common Home.” Dr. Peter Baltutis, Dr. Timothy Harvie, Sr. Madeleine Gregg and Marilou LeGeyt unpacked the topic from both theological and practical perspectives.
Dressed in a white sweater jacket and matching pearl earrings Sr. Dorothy Ederer, a Grand Rapids Dominican Sister from Michigan, delivered a high-energy, entertaining and emotional keynote address titled “What is our common home? We care for our homeland, our homes, our hearts.”
“Everyone take out your phones,” said Ederer. “What would God be calling to tell you if He were on the other line?”
Ederer proceeded to tell her captivated audience for the next two hours how each person is called to be Christ-like and loving toward their neighbour using a series of personal stories from her time in ministry and mission, interspersed with inspirational songs and tidbits of wisdom. She highlighted topics such as daily prayer, finding your passion and reconciliation.
“What kinds of values do we want to leave to our children or those coming after us?” asked Ederer.
She used the phrase “more is caught than taught” to highlight how her mother would keep a holy hour each morning before getting on with her day. “Kids imitate us,” she said.
“Find your passion, live it, but don’t compromise your morals and values,” she said.
She urged the Church to be a place where people are loved and forgiven.
“To forgive yourself is one of the hardest things we have to do as Christians,” she said. “If you hold anger in your heart it’s destroying you. It’s like taking a glass of poison and pouring it down your throat.”
Her last message was one of hope and love. “I want to tell you how loved you are.”
Conventions are an opportunity for renewal and Gorman said she hopes all CWL members will take what they’ve learned and share it with their communities.
“I hope they leave appreciating who they are and that God loves them,” said Gorman.
Written by Sara Francis for the Diocese of Calgary
Photos courtesy of Annie Chirka, St. Peter's Calgary
See more photos here: https://st-peters.ca/cwl/
We are praying for the victims of the explosions in three churches and three hotels over the Easter weekend in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Pope Francis issued an appeal for peace in Sri Lanka in his Easter message: "I wish to manifest my affectionate closeness to the Christian community there, hit while they were gathered in prayer, and to the victims of such cruel violence. I entrust to the Lord all those who have tragically died, and I pray for the injured who are suffering because of this dramatic event.”
As an expression of our solidarity with the victims of the Sri Lanka bombing, to those who are injured and those who died, their families, and the community of Sri Lankans, let us pray:
Catholic Pastoral Centre Staff and Guest Writers