The World Day of the Sick is celebrated each year on February 11, the liturgical memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes. It is an occasion to pray for individuals who are suffering, and to find concrete ways to draw nearer to them.
The Holy Father's 2023 message is entitled: "Take care of him - Compassion as a synodal exercise of healing". In light of the Church's synodal journey, Pope Francis invites us "to reflect on the fact that it is precisely through the experience of fragility and illness that we can learn to walk together according to God's style of closeness, compassion and tenderness."
Pastoral suggestions for the World Day for the Sick (Feb. 11, 2023) for parishes and all the faithful:
Resources for World Day for the Sick:
This is supposed to be a Christmas party, but among the seated rows of female inmates women are sobbing quietly. As they cry, a sympathetic arm might be briefly placed around someone’s shoulder or a toilet roll passed from hand to hand to wipe up tears.
On a bitterly cold night in December, I was privileged to attend the 2022 Christmas service at the Lethbridge Correctional Centre. Here I am witnessing the dichotomy of life in prison – isolation within community, loneliness with companionship, abandonment but also accompaniment. This is the essence of prison ministry.
The Lethbridge Correctional Centre houses inmates serving sentences of less than two years. According to the Alberta Government website, it has a capacity of just under 400 persons. For the past six years the Centre’s coordinating chaplain has been Rev. Anna Braun, a Baptist Minister. During the Covid lockdown, Braun and a co-chaplain ministered to the prison population on their own, (a time Braun discovered to be surprisingly meaningful). However, now that restrictions are lifted, ministry volunteers from several area churches are once again active within the prison community. Among them is a Catholic group, Friends of the Lethbridge Correctional Centre, presently led by Jim and Helen Manzara from All Saints Parish. They are supported by other volunteers from both Lethbridge parishes. These stalwarts lead worship services once a month and rosary prayer twice a week. In addition, Father Derek Remus hears confessions and participates in a program called Exploring Your Faith which is part teaching and Q&A.
Once a year all the Christian denominations gather to present a Christmas Service which includes carol singing, an inspirational message, and treat bags for the inmates and staff alike. This service is unusual in that it includes the entire prison population unlike the weekly services at which attendance is voluntary.
Visiting a jail can be daunting initially. I was asked to leave all personal possessions in a locker. After signing in and passing through a metal detector, I was escorted by a guard along wide hallways to a brightly-lit gymnasium. The gym had been gaily decorated earlier by some of the female inmates. There was even a Navajo themed crèche.
For the first while volunteers formed an assembly line to fill paper bags with donated treats like foodstuff, stationery and (separately) coveted bars of Irish Spring soap! Each brown sack had been painstakingly decorated by an elementary school student. They displayed messages of hope, Scripture verses, and even corny jokes. Braun explained that the students knew who they were creating the bags for and put their hearts into the task.
Once the bags were filled a small group of volunteers departed to bring music and treats to the segregated units. As the gym door closed behind them, a ripple of anticipation ran through the remaining volunteers. Musicians took their places and singers gathered around. Suddenly the gym door was unlocked and the first unit entered. Men dressed in blue jumpsuits or dark sweats, with ubiquitous orange plastic clogs clustered onto a section of bleachers. As carol singing commenced, I saw toes tapping, swaying to the beat and the occasional person singing along. One unit had a ‘choir’ who sang Silent Night beautifully. Appreciative applause followed every song. Then Braun rose to offer a few words, her familiarity with the prisoners immediately apparent.
She spoke about Jesus being poor, homeless, misunderstood and rejected by his community. She reminded everyone that Jesus came to bring light for our world and that each of us can be a bearer of light too. She said, “If you think you can’t be a light in this place just stand in a dark cell and look at that thin strip of light under the door. See what an impact a little light can have.”
To another group Braun quoted John 3:17, telling them that though the judicial system might have condemned them, Jesus did not. One of the most affecting moments came when Braun told a women’s unit, “When you think about the birth of Jesus, one little baby doesn’t seem significant. Until you have one, then you realize it’s everything.” It was immediately clear from the tearful reactions how many people were struck by the comparison. After her message, Braun led each group in a cheerful rendition of This Little Light of Mine and the inmates left smiling, expressing thanks for their gift bags and offering good wishes to all.
The powerful message of Christmas seems to fade in the cold months which follow; perhaps more quickly in jail than elsewhere because residents are so isolated. All the more reason for Christians to heed Jesus’ words, “I was in prison and you came to visit me” (Matthew 25:36).
Post-Covid there is a pressing need for more volunteers in prison ministry. I asked a couple of the current volunteers what they enjoy most about the work. Repeatedly I heard how thankful the prisoners were.
“The happy faces”, Helen Manzara said.
“They are not a captive audience but they are captivating in so many ways”, Esther Lambert said.
Lambert went on to elaborate, “There are often of a mindset that they are not lovable, not worthy. When I explain that I come to see them because in them I see the face of God, their expressions turn me to tears. I know of no other group where I would experience that love and appreciation.”
So as you make your 2023 resolutions, please consider becoming a “light in the darkness” and thereby finding Jesus among those who are imprisoned.
Volunteering Opportunities at Calgary Remand Centre
Volunteering Opportunities at Calgary Correctional Centre
As with any volunteering opportunities, we require a Vulnerable Sector Police Information Check (VSPIC), the completion of the Praesidium Academy sexual abuse prevention training, and the agreement to the Code of Pastoral Conduct and Accountability for Volunteers. This information will be provided to you after submitting your application.
The Paradoxical Commandments
On this 25th anniversary of Mother Teresa’s death, Bishop McGrattan highlights the words of “The Paradoxical Commandments,” embraced by this saint of the poor.
When Mother Teresa first heard these words, written by Dr. Kent M. Keith, an American lawyer, writer and leader in higher education, she was moved to put them on the wall of one of her homes for children in Kolkata. They are a sure guideline for finding personal meaning in the face of adversity and transcend all creeds and cultures. They very aptly describe Mother Teresa’s way of dealing with such a huge number of people throughout her lifetime.
Why would 10 Syrian refugees want to visit Writing-on-Stone of all places? Well, if they are accompanied by dedicated volunteers who want to spend a day making new friends and meeting snakes head-on, then wishes fulfilled!
On June 11, 2022, several Syrian refugees, part of three families who have been settling into life in Lethbridge, Alberta, went on an outing to Writing-on-Stone Provincial Park. These families had not been outside of Lethbridge since their arrival to Canada. Some have been here a few years, and the latest just arrived on April 14 of this year. They relished the chance to see this Unesco World Heritage Site.
The entire day was very capably organized by Trudy Niggli and the CWL of Allerston Parish, a mission church of St. Peter’s Parish in Milk River. The day started with a Mass at St. Isidore Catholic Church in Allerston. It was a poignant start to a day that was heaped to the top with blessings and graces. The Mass was arranged specifically for the visiting Syrian families, so Fr. Salvador Ahumada’s sermon reflected on the experiences these families have gone through. He spoke of their forced relocation; seeing the weakness of man; leaving behind loved ones and belongings; grappling with learning a new language and culture. He exhorted them to hear the Lord calling them, to keep praying and to hope in Him. “You needed to be strong, and came here out of need, not want.”
He challenged them to be the ones who can make the change, to see God’s hand at work, and to lean on Him for strength. He also prayed that our society may once again be Christian, and to pray for the ones left behind. Fr. Sal reminded them that they had a responsibility to encourage others in the faith. We left the church feeling blessed and inspired.
After the Mass, we continued into the Writing-on-Stone Park, where George Kardoh played on his Karbouka (Egyptian hand drum) , accompanying the singing of Syrian folk songs. Everyone enjoyed the true Canadian experience of roasting hot dogs and marshmallows over the campfire, and dodging the smoke. The park guide, after a Blackfoot introduction, gave us a free tour of the petroglyphs, and a snake even said hi on our path!
A perfectly timed thunder burst after the campfire led into an impromptu and hilarious polka dance as we waited out the storm in the picnic shelter. It was truly a memorable day with new friends, and thought-filled conversations about the refugee situation.
This day came from an initiative of Fr. Kevin Tumback, pastor of All Saints Parish. He suggested pooling three parishes together to support the refugees. So St. Martha’s Parish, All Saints in Lethbridge, and Allerston Mission Parish near Milk River joined forces and the results have been heartwarming. All Saints Parish had already hosted two Syrian families, so their expertise was very helpful with settling the following two families.
Brian Wright, a long-time member of All Saints Refugee Committee says, "Our Syrian families do cause us to pause and reflect on how fortunate we are to be living in Canada. It is also wonderful to be welcomed to their family just as we have welcomed them. We are the surrogate family for them in Canada, and it is a lifetime journey of sharing, learning from each other, and supporting them in their everyday life in Canada. For us, it has been an expansion of our family."
Another long-time member, Maureen Barnard, reflected that we are the family for these refugees. "We are their security as we help them navigate a new culture, a new language and a new life. We are their friends when they feel alone. We are their advocate when they need help to find a job , or get to school or go to a doctor. We are their voice when they do not yet have a voice here in Canada. It is a journey worth walking with our refugees. We feel the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ walking right beside us, every step of the way. We have witnessed so many miracles as people come forward and give from their hearts, often providing just what was needed at the time."
Lana Takla, who arrived in Canada 6 years ago, talks about coming from a village where their whole life revolves around the two hundred and fifty or so residents plus the priest and their church. They are deeply dependent on our Lord for their daily lives and they miss that community when they come to Canada. They are in constant fellowship in Syria so they miss the other family members they have left behind.
Mazyed Takla, who came to Canada with his family in October, 2021, felt that he misses the food, the weather, their music, their friends and their homes.
George Kardoh, the most recent arrival (April of 2022), expresses that he feels welcomed and loved here in Canada but awaits anxiously the rest of his family. He feels very alone at times.
They all love the fact that they can trust a bank, the government, and they know that no one here will try to do them harm. They trust us but there are still many challenges - learning a new language, cultural and food differences, financial burdens, and the longing to be reunited with family left behind. The Refugee Committee embraces the work we do as servants of the Lord. We are His body on earth, and we are richly rewarded in this work.
“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)
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).
"The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it." Genesis 2:1-14.
We are called to take meaningful actions to care for God's creation. If you are unsure of where to start, here are 5 ideas to consider this spring:
There are many simple and creative ways “to protect the earth and to ensure its fruitfulness for coming generations” (Laudato Si’ 67). Find more action items in Laudato Si' Week 2022 Celebration Guide (May 22-29, 2022).
Here are 5 small individual actions that help save you gas, build community, and can have a huge impact for our earth:
Pope Benedict XVI reminded us that our environment is God's gift to all people, and the use we make of it entail a shared responsibility for all humanity, especially the poor and future generations.
"We are all responsible for the protection and care of the environment. This responsibility knows no boundaries. In accordance with the principle of subsidiarity it is important for everyone to be committed at his or her proper level, working to overcome the prevalence of particular interests." (2010)
Everything starts with a small step.
"A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.”
This Lent Bishop McGrattan has re-introduced Solidarity Sunday in our Diocese.
So what is it? It has been an integral part of Development and Peace-Caritas Canada since 1968. Parishes throughout Canada hold a special Mass and a collection that gives us the opportunity to stand together in solidarity with the poorest of the poor in the Global South – in prayer and almsgiving.
This Lent we are invited to pray for all those who are the poorest and most forgotten and to give generously at our Solidarity Sunday Second Collection at your parish, which will be taken up on the Fifth Sunday(April 3) of Lent. Throughout our country our bishops are asking us to support Development and Peace-Caritas Canada in the life-giving work in places such as Honduras, Cambodia, Madagascar – and Ukraine.
A Day of Prayer for Peace in Ukraine will be observed on Friday, March 18, 2022 in all parishes in the Diocese of Calgary.
This is in coordination with all the parishes/churches of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Edmonton, the Anglican Diocese of Calgary, the Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton, the Anglican Diocese of Edmonton, Anglican Diocese of Athabasca, the Roman Catholic Diocese of St. Paul, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada.
Two Ukrainian Catholic Churches in Calgary have joined a worldwide movement to support the devastated people of Ukraine who have suffered from the vicious Russian military invasion of their country.
Since the Russian forces started a war in Ukraine, parishioners at St. Stephen Protomartyr Ukrainian Catholic Church and The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church have launched several initiatives to help the Ukrainian people through this terrible crisis.
Thousands of items have been donated through various efforts and hundreds of thousands of dollars have been given.
Father Michael Bombak, of St. Stephen, says the response is incredible and he’s been “blown away” by the support.
“The first and most important thing we’re doing as a parish community, and Assumption is doing as well, is prayer. That’s number one. This whole thing has coincided at this particular acute area of time with our beginning of the Great and Holy Fast. And so we’re increasing our prayer and fasting usually at this time but we’re also doing it now with a special intention of supporting our brothers and sisters in Ukraine,” says Bombak.
“That’s number one what a parish can do and should do. That’s the first and foremost. Prayer and fasting. St. James says you can’t tell your brother that you love him and then not feed him and clothe him and take care of his needs. So we’ve had the parish mobilize in supporting the Eparchial fund - that’s our word for Diocese. All the churches in Alberta are collecting funds through Catholic Near East Welfare Association. That’s a Papal charity and that ensures that all of that humanitarian aid that we’re collecting is going to go to Ukraine and be protected that way.
“We’re very grateful for that. We’ve had a generous donor who is matching the funds to $500,000. So we are collecting money for that continually. As well, we are collecting non-perishables, we are collecting various goods, clothing for humanitarian relief. Assumption is joining us as well.”
Father Bombak says the church will continue with its Lenten services with special intentions for Ukraine and its people,
Mary Chudyk, Charity Director at St. Stephen, says all the donated items are being shipped by land or air to Toronto then by air to Warsaw in Poland. Meest, a transportation and delivery company, will drive the items to Ukraine where they will be distributed to people through various accredited institutions.
“I’m overwhelmed with the generosity of people and I’m grateful that people want to do something,” she says. “It’s just been fantastic. People have been wonderful offering support, offering encouragement, offering prayers, showing up and just helping us out.”
Dave Wandzura, a parishioner at St. Stephen, says he’s very, very sad about what’s happening in Ukraine and the people there don’t deserve this.
“They’ve actually gone through so much stress and strife in their life in the last hundred years . . . Right now, we have to send funds to the people who need it most . . . Support in any way. Prayer is one of the big ones and financial support and goods as well.”
Maria Dwulit, another parishioner at St. Stephen, who has relatives in Ukraine, says what everyone can do for the people of Ukraine is pray.
“They just need the power to fight this evil,” she says.
Father Bombak says the situation is a complete injustice - absolutely terrible to see the suffering of innocent people.
“Your immediate gut reaction is to hate. That doesn’t serve anyone in the long run. It needs to be stopped. Innocent people are dying. Innocent people are suffering greatly. People are being displaced. This is a problem that is going to affect generation after generation,” says Father Bombak.
“I was born in this country because of a previous persecution. My grandparents were displaced people themselves. You see that it’s going to have a huge impact inter-generationally. So your immediate gut reaction is anger - this sort of righteous decision that this has to stop. But that can easily turn into something that is a spiritual pitfall and that’s hatred. You have to avoid that at all costs. And yet still work as best as we can to make sure that this ends because it’s wrong.”
When talking to children about this horrendous time in human history, Father Bombak says people have to speak the truth in love. Bombak and his wife Kimberly have five children ranging in age from 13 years old to three years old.
“You can’t spare them from this. It doesn’t work. They know more stuff than we know in many ways. So you have to be truthful. But you do have to say the whole truth in a way that they’re going to understand and in a loving way,” he says. “There’s feelings of depression, helplessness.
“Our kids have voiced the concern of what can we do. That question is echoed not just with kids. We are receiving information through social media and the internet at such a rate that it feels as though we can’t do anything because we’re bombarded by that information so quickly. So my advice and the way I talk to my kids is we have to do what we can do. We’re going to pray for Ukraine right now. We’re going to pray as a family. We’re going to go out and support places that are supporting Ukraine. We can work here in the parish to support. Those are all viable options.”
Those wanting to make a financial contribution to the humanitarian efforts by the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Edmonton can visit here: https://eeparchy.com/donate/
Interested in growing spiritually this Lent both in knowledge and in practise? Watch this short video about DOCAT!
"‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, ‘“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’"
Love God and love others. Learn and live.
Pray for Ukraine
God of реасе and justice,
we pray for the реорІе of Ukraine today.
We pray for реасе and the laying down of weapons.
We pray for аІІ those who fear for tomorrow,
that your Spirit of comfort would draw near to them.
We pray for those with power over war or реасе,
for wisdom, discernment and compassion to guide their decisions.
Above аІІ, we pray for аІІ your precious children, at-risk and in fear,
that you would hold and protect them.
We pray in the name of Jesus, the Prince of Реасе.
The climate crisis has a very human face. It is already a reality for multitudes of vulnerable people worldwide. Climate warming of merely 1.5°C would cause global sea levels to rise by 0.77 metres by 2100, threatening cities and crop and pasture land around the world. Projections based on current data predict a global temperature increase of 3-4°C by 2100.
The Migrants and Refugees Section of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development has recently published and presented at a press conference on Wednesday, 31 March 2021, the resource document entitled, Pastoral Orientations on Climate Displaced People. The resource highlights the new challenges posed by climate disruption and displacement and suggests pastoral responses to the global situation and crisis.
The document can be downloaded, in various languages and formats, from the newly created webpage dedicated to climate displaced people, on the Migrants and Refugees Section’s website: https://migrants-refugees.va/climate-displaced-people/
Keywords: global warming, climate change, Laudato Si,
This year has been difficult for all of us, but for those who were already vulnerable, it is even much more so. As in the past few years, Coldest Night of the Year walk support those Feed the Hungry. Your participation helps ensure ongoing service for those who rely on regular Sunday Meals at Feed the Hungry.
This year, Coldest Night of the Year is a “virtual” walk. We encourage families or individuals to participate in their own “COVID safe” walk at a location and distance you choose. Note that you may walk any day during February 2021, but we recommend event day Saturday, February 20 so you can join in the excitement across the country on social media. Teams and individuals are asked to register and fundraise through the CNOY website as in the past. To participate, start a group, or to support the walk, register at: https://cnoy.org/location/calgarydowntown
Tools to help promote #CNOY2021 in your community, feel free to use:
This Advent, Calgary area single mothers and babies may get a boost thanks to a generous benefactor.
An anonymous donor has announced they will match all financial contributions to Elizabeth House up to $20,000 before December 24, 2020.
“It’s so encouraging to get a phone call out of the blue...because we tend to be head down when times get tough,” said Michelle Haywood, Elizabeth House program coordinator. “This was a real lift in the spirit and confirmation that God will provide no matter what.”
Elizabeth House is a transitional home for single at-risk pregnant and new mothers with a child up to two-years-old. They typically serve mothers under the age of 25 who are working through a history of domestic violence, trauma/mental health challenges or substance use.
“We used to say we set people up for successful independent living, but we know the reality of being there out on your own as a single mom,” said Michelle Haywood. “What we hope to do is build resilience so that when stuff happens, which it inevitably will –– when hard things happen, they can get back up again. They have those inner resources and are connected in their community.”
Normally Elizabeth House can take up to seven women at a time, but it’s less these days due to social distancing restrictions. For the moms currently living there, the pandemic adds an extra layer of stress.
“Living in a shelter is a completely different world than facing a pandemic in your own home. The restrictions are stronger, the isolation is greater,” said Haywood.
If a woman needs to isolate she would have to quarantine inside her bedroom. Her overall access to community support is diminished at a time when she is trying to build skill and connections to be able to transition out of Elizabeth House.
The news of this donation matching program has brought hope to these women and a feeling of worth.
“Matching the contributions are making this possible for them because we are that net that can catch both mom and babe for that time period,” said Haywood. “But it’s also about them knowing there is a community out there that cares and is willing to donate.”
The Calgary couple, who asked to remain anonymous, has been donating to Elizabeth House for 20 years because they sincerely believe in the cause. After having visited the house and researching the organization, they are certain it is a reputable, well-run charity by the Catholic Diocese of Calgary.
“There are a lot of charities that have big names out there. This is one that does good work, but maybe doesn’t get the same recognition as others,” said the donor.
“We also realize it’s a difficult time for charities. Realizing it’s a tough time for a lot of people, we are still called as Christians to share what we have.”
This matching program coincides with the diocesan I Am Blessed Campaign, encouraging the faithful to give generously through either acts of service, financial donations to parishes, schools, diocesan programs or prayer for others such as a Mass, rosary or novena.
For those who cannot give financially to Elizabeth House right now, prayers are also welcomed as is looking into the process to become a volunteer. But for those who can give, Haywood said this money will sustain Elizabeth House for some time.
“When we say we’re in this pandemic together, here is the action you can take. We can do a lot with a little,” said Haywood.
Written by Sara Francis for Faithfully
Novelist Jeanine Cummins uses these lines from Chilean poet Pablo Neruda´s poem “The Song of Despair” as an epigraph in her novel “American Dirt.” The novel tells the story of a mother and son from the State of Guerrero in Mexico who wage an unbelievable struggle for life and freedom from the violence that engulfs this state and others in Mexico.
Just the other day I received a phone call from Paloma, a young mother from Guerrero who is in hiding with her husband Santiago and three small children. I have known Paloma since she was born. She has no formal education, but she is an incredible young woman and a great mother. Santiago’s two brothers were recently murdered by members of a crime cartel; Santiago managed to escape, but everyone in the village knows that his name is on the hit list. I helped the family contact a human rights organization that is trying to get them asylum in another country. However, due to the COVID pandemic, all of that paperwork is presently on hold, and the family remains in hiding.
Impoverishment, violence, corruption, discrimination, impunity, injustice … these are the daily fare of too many indigenous people living in the mountains of the State of Guerrero. The reason that the above-mentioned lines from Pablo Neruda come to my mind is that Mission Mexico has for twenty years been a “fruit” for many in the midst of the “thirst and hunger” of this reality; it has been “the miracle” for many in the midst of the “grief and ruins” of this reality.
Since the year 2000, Mission Mexico has been accompanying the people of “the Mountain” of Guerrero. Approximately 500,000 people from three indigenous cultures (Na´savi, Me’phaa, Nahua) live spread out among 700 towns and villages. Mission Mexico has partnered with several trustworthy Mexican organizations to promote projects related especially to health, education, and self-sufficiency. Transformation of such a difficult reality has never been easy, but Mission Mexico has earned the gratitude of thousands of families living in this poorest region of the country of Mexico.
Now there is COVID. Everything has changed. People have gotten ill and died. It is hard to give numbers because most of the people seldom go to a hospital; medical care always involves expenses. People have lost jobs, due to the closure of all kinds of businesses. Financial assistance from illegal workers in the United States who typically send money to their families each month has diminished.
Education has been particularly hard hit. At the present time, there is no face-to-face, classroom education in the Mountain of Guerrero. Everything is meant to be online learning, using either television or the Internet. This presents an almost impossible situation for thousands of families in remote villages in the mountains.
I used the expression that “everything is meant to be online learning” on purpose, because many teachers, realizing that their students have little or no access to computers or television, are going to the villages with photocopied worksheets: they leave “homework” with the students and return two weeks later to pick up the completed worksheets and to leave more. It’s not an ideal situation for many reasons: teachers risk contagion during their travels; many parents are illiterate and can’t assist their children; if a student falls behind, there is no remedial assistance. But I admire the teachers for trying to do what they consider is best for their students.
Mission Mexico began helping sixteen years ago to build the Champagnat High School of the Mountain, a residential school for impoverished indigenous youth; it is run by a Mexican religious order, the Marist Brothers. And Mission Mexico has a bursary program for university students from particularly needy families. The hundreds of students from the high school and university are involved now in online learning, which often means that students have to move to a town where there is Internet service. The support for the high school and for the bursary program is vital to the success of the students in this endeavor.
However, it is almost impossible for Mission Mexico to meet the “usual” goals in terms of financial support. COVID has hit the Diocese of Calgary too. The level of donations to Mission Mexico has diminished. This is understandable, and I assure the people of the Diocese of Calgary that their “friends” in the Mountain of Mexico are praying for them.
I also hope and pray that as the “thirst and hunger” and “grief and ruins” of the indigenous peoples here hit almost desperate levels, God might touch the hearts of people in the Diocese of Calgary to extend their generosity, so that Mission Mexico might continue accompanying these very needy people is this time of very real need. Every looney or tooney helps.
Please consider going to the donation page on the website missionmexico.com or giving during the special collection that the Diocese of Calgary is promoting in parishes on December 12 & 13, the weekend of the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Your solidarity will change lives here.
Having the obligation to attend professional development training with some regularity, and presenters seeking to have their audiences more engaged, I am often witness to grown adults frantically looking around as soon as they hear we’re going to break into groups. The desire to belong, and even more the fear of being alone, is strong within us.
Though attributed alternately to the writers of “Charlotte’s Web” and “Stuart Little” or “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and “Huckleberry Finn,” the quote runs that trying to explain a joke is like dissecting a frog – you gain understanding while losing your subject. This can be said also of discussing friendship. Much of its charm lies in what is unspoken.
Aristotle said there are friendships of utility and convenience – we get something that makes our way easier; there are also friends who bring us pleasure – being with them is enjoyable. But the philosopher really points to those who spur us on to being better. In the language of our faith, these relationships help us mutually perfect one another; they foster virtue. And no doubt they are also useful and pleasurable. Finding such people and making and keeping such relationships can involve lots of trial and error.
Friendships usually start with those near us, whom we encounter more than by accident. Over time we feel an attraction to this other personality and discover what we have in common. It is upon this that something of substance can be built. We give and take in an easy-going and natural process. When there are difficulties, we invest to make a fix, and we continue to grow.
For most of us, the challenges of our current day are different in kind though perhaps not in degree from what has come before, or will come hereafter. Now as always we can find opportunities to be friends more fully and deeply, to those who are already in our social circles and those who are not yet.
Recently required compliance with the imposed COVID-19 restrictions has disrupted many aspects of regular life, including our contact with others. The normal ways that we have informally cared for one another are no longer the same. While we can lament that loss, we can also be grateful for the chance to extend both how and to whom we show care. In justice, those who have first claim upon our energies are family and friends, and those in greatest need.
Every liturgical season offers renewed opportunity to become more like Jesus. Advent in particular calls us to make straight and prepare, to ease what is difficult for others. These are expressions of friendship. And we can make them even for those with whom we have no visible connection, as expression of charity, as acts of service to others in the Body of Christ. If it is Jesus’ will to be Friend to all, and we are friends to him, the deepest of connections exists already.
The contents of the backpack were easy to take out. A change of clothes, some carefully-chosen toiletries, a hand-written card and a hand-made bracelet. “They were also life-changing”, says one of the first women, a survivor, to receive one of the specially-prepared backpacks assembled by caring members of St. Michael’s council of the Catholic Women’s League.
The woman received the backpack when she arrived at RESET, a Calgary-based agency that helps women ages 16 and older escape sexual exploitation and trafficking. Bringing nothing but the jeans and T-shirt she’d worn for three days, the woman says she, “can’t put into words how much it meant to have something to change into. I cried when I read the card, and wore the bracelet on my ankle for three straight months. It’s now hanging on my wall.”
St. Michael’s CWL, with help from councils at Holy Name, Holy Spirit, St. Peter’s, St. Bonaventure and St. Albert the Great, launched the IWIN – I’m Worth It Now backpack initiative in late 2019. IWIN has already distributed eight of its first 12 packs in partnership with Calgary Police Service and RESET Society of Calgary (formerly Servants Anonymous). Another 18 will be assembled this year, says project lead Kristin Fahlman.
Kristin had previously participated in a project to combat human trafficking overseas and had learned of a similar backpack program operating in Florida, but did not know of the need to help survivors here. After attending a local conference about human trafficking in Canada, she knew God was calling her to take local action to address this issue.
When the conference ended, the Holy Spirit led her to Detective Paul Rubner, a Calgary Police Service officer who works on the front lines of human trafficking in Calgary. “I introduced myself and explained my idea. He was extremely enthusiastic and, as it turns out, he was the key person in Calgary who would know how to implement distribution system for the backpacks.”
Research shows human trafficking is one of the fastest-growing crimes in Canada, affecting people from all walks of life. It is also one of the most lucrative of criminal activities, with traffickers profiting up to $600,000 per victim, per year.
“We chose the name IWIN because we want survivors to know that they are worthy; worthy right at this very moment. It doesn’t matter what their past looks like. It doesn’t matter if they have plans for their future or not. They are worthy of love and respect,” says Kristin.
Each backpack is linked to a “prayer warrior” who receives a bracelet that matches one in a backpack. Survivors are told that someone else has a matching bracelet—and is now linked to them in prayer.
The next group of backpacks will also include hand-made reusable face-masks made by CWL members. “Two masks were added to each of the remaining packs and the plan is to include them in all future backpacks,” explains Kristin.
To learn more about IWIN and how you can assist, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Edited by Joy Gregory for Faithfully, on behalf of the Catholic Women's League.
Photos submitted by Jan Myhre, Calgary Diocesan CWL.
With climate change getting so much media coverage, it’s easy to see why some Catholics are asking questions about what they can do to support the papal call for Christians to unite in caring for what Pope Francis calls, “our common home.” Other Catholics don’t spend much time thinking about it. They’re too busy planting, weeding and harvesting food, flowers—and faith.
This summer, volunteers planted a 3,000-square-foot vegetable garden at the Mount St. Francis Retreat Centre at Cochrane. The potatoes, carrots, squash and swiss chard were put to good use; the food is shared between Feed the Hungry’s (FTH) Sunday dinners at St. Mary’s Cathedral and the Calgary Food Bank. “The food bank really is a ‘bank,” says Linnea Ferguson, program lead for the Calgary Catholic Diocese’s FTH program. “We take from that bank for our Sunday night dinners, so it’s nice to deposit some food there, too.”
Although FTH is more closely aligned with social versus environmental causes, the connection between food and life is obvious, notes Ferguson. “By actively participating in the production of local produce, I think Feed the Hungry shows care for our common home and how much we respect the dignity of the people we feed.”
Care for Creation
Over at St. Joseph’s parish in northwest Calgary, parish council has adopted some care for creation initiatives sparked by the 2015 papal encyclical, Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home. This spring, Knights of Columbus planted a courtyard area with plants donated by a long-time parishioner. “It’s really beautiful,” says parish council member Marilou LeGeyt. “We’ve got a variety of flowering plants, including roses, monkshood and black-eyed Susan. Next year, the Knights will divide those plants and sell the extras as a fundraiser.”
After all the planning and planting were done, the project yielded three wins for the parish. The garden is a fundraiser, a beautiful space by the Church entrance and its gives parishioners an opportunity to take an ecological piece of their church community home to their own gardens.
In late September, the courtyard hosted a Blessing of the Animals. The event attracted dogs, fish, cats and turtles! In line with Laudato Si and its focus on dialogue, St. Joseph’s parish is also exploring the addition of a vegetable garden on the church property. The concept is meant to nourish St. Joe’s place in the wider community, says LeGeyt.
At St. Peter’s parish, a team of volunteer gardeners is taking responsibility for the gardens built as part of a major reconstruction project. Led by parishioner Sylvie Fung, who’s also active with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, the grounds include several well-kept flower pots, ground-level plots and a new grotto. The latter includes an outdoor rosary.
To help the growing number of faithful who visit the space to pray, Fung tucks several rosaries and prayer cards into two solar lamps at the garden entrance. “People take the rosaries, so I’m always looking for more,” says Fung.
Members of her garden team take turns watering the pots and checking to make sure the freshly-landscaped shrubs and perennials are doing well. But the job can get a little prickly. While the space between the church and alley has been beautifully landscaped, these beds include a number of Canada Thistle, an invasive (not Canadian!) weed species known for its thorns and deep roots, both of which complicate eradication.
Fung encourages her fellow gardeners to weed these “beds of thorns, beds of suffering” as an act of faithful sacrifice. “It’s the perfect job to recite the Chaplet of Divine Mercy,” says Fung with a smile.
Written by Joy Gregory for Faithfully
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
Catholic Pastoral Centre Staff and Guest Writers