Aames Abanto from Catholic Sunday Best offers five great reasons for Catholic gentlemen to adopt St. Joseph as their 2021 patron saint.
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Christmas: A Light of Faith, Hope, and Love in our World
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light… (Isaiah 9:2)
This Christmas Eve we will hear the words of the prophet Isaiah ring out “the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light”. How does one begin to describe the experiences of this past year? It is as if a shadow has been cast over our lives by a “pandemic of darkness”. Many here and across the globe have lost their lives to COVID-19 with their families left to mourn their passing, many have survived the virus with lasting effects, and others have risked their lives to provide medical care and to conduct the scientific research leading to a vaccine. It has left many marked by profound sadness, isolation, and fear.
There is also some understandable impatience with the health precautions and restrictions that place limits on our normal ordinary human interactions such as work, social activities, family interactions, and religious gatherings. Yes, we all have had to make sacrifices.
It is into this world, here and now, that God’s love is being revealed. It is a light that comes to us in darkness.
The Nativity of Christ which we celebrate at Christmas is not merely a recollection of an historical event or of a birth which took place in the past. It fixes our gaze on the future, on his second coming at the end of the ages while acknowledging His presence here and now in our lives, each and every day. With the challenges that we have faced this year we might be tempted to give up, to not see Christmas and its celebration through this light of faith, hope and love.
A prayer to the Immaculate Conception beautifully captures the action of God and the docility of our Blessed Mother, “Father, the image of the Virgin is found in the Church. Mary had a faith that your Spirit prepared and a love that never knew sin, for you kept her sinless from the first moment of her conception. Trace in our actions the lines of her love, in our heart her readiness of faith”. God has traced the lines of Mary’s readiness of faith and love through our lives during this Advent season in the acts of love and sacrifice which each of us have freely accepted for the good and the wellbeing of others. They have probably gone unnoticed in the eyes of the world, much like Mary’s “fiat”, which was a simple response of yes to accepting the will of God. In our Catholic tradition, Mary has always been a type or model of the Church’s response to the will of God. As Mary came to believe, to conceive and to give birth to Jesus, the Son of God, this same action of God tracing His grace and love in our lives can come to birth this Christmas with a renewed sense of hope.
As St. Ambrose said, “You also are blessed because you have heard and believed. Home - I am Blessed 2020A soul that believes both conceives and brings forth the Word of God and acknowledges his works. Let Mary’s soul be in each of you to proclaim the greatness of God” (Office of Readings, Monday of the 4th Week of Advent). This year as we approach the celebration of Christmas, the I Am Blessed campaign of the Diocese is once again an opportunity to witness to our faith despite the suffering we may be experiencing, to recognize the blessings from God in the midst of our daily reality, and to seek out opportunities to be a blessing for others through prayer, giving, and in our acts of service for others.
As we prepare for Christmas, and the octave of this feast, let us rediscover how connected we are to one another. I invite us to experience in this coming year the hope that is found in the promises of God as did Mary. In the words of Pope Francis, Christmas is the feast that “returns us to the horizon of hope, a horizon that does not disappoint because it is founded on the Word of God” (Angelus, 1st Sunday of Advent, December 1, 2013). The incarnate Word, the nearness of God which we celebrate on the Solemnity of the Nativity of Jesus, has transformed human history and can restore in each of us this profound gift of hope.
In this time of pandemic when we look for that light in our darkness, I offer my Christmas greetings and heartfelt best wishes to all the faithful of the Diocese.
I express my gratitude and esteem for the witness of pastoral charity exhibited by the priests and the deacons who exercise the role of Christ the Servant, the presence of the religious communities that offer their unique charisms and a witness to holiness, the co-responsibility of the lay faithful - including the volunteers and parish staff - as a living sign of Christ in the world, the role of the teachers and catechists in our schools and parishes, and the essential gift of family life that is shared so readily in an expression of sacrificial love and an openness to new life. Finally, to those who have both in the past and now serve at the Catholic Pastoral Centre, I am grateful for the dedication and cooperation that is expressed in our desire to be of service to the parishes of the Diocese in these challenging times. May God bestow his blessings upon all of us as we look forward in faith, hope and love to the coming year.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
+ William T. McGrattan
Bishop of Calgary
Download Letter in PDF
As the National Catholic Women's League (CWL) celebrates 100 years, the Alberta Mackenzie Provincial Council is delighted to share in this wonderful anniversary. The following message is delivered by Judy Look, President of Alberta Mackenzie CWL.
Christmas Message from the Alberta Mackenzie CWL President: Judy Look
Christmas Messages from
Christmas Message from the Grouard-McLennan Diocesan Council CWL President: Christine Becher
Christmas Message from St. Paul Diocesan Council CWL President: Lolain Alsmo
Christmas Message from Calgary Council CWL President: Jan Myhre
Are you new with the Catholic Women's League?
The Catholic Women’s League of Canada was organized nationally on June 17, 1920 and granted federal incorporation on December 12, 1923. The League is officially recognized by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) as a lay association of women and is affiliated with the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organizations (WUCWO), a world-wide federation holding membership in the conference of International Catholic Organizations (ICO) and having consultative status with agencies of the United Nations.
Learn about the Catholic Women's League of Canada - Alberta Mackenzie Provincial Council
The Alberta & Northwest Territory Bishops have released a letter about the COVID-19 vaccination (Dec. 2, 2020). Download Letter here
Many people might be surprised that the question is even being posed. What could be wrong about receiving a vaccine, when we know that vaccinations save lives? The moral issue arises from the fact that vaccine development and testing often make use of cell lines derived from either the tissue of aborted fetuses or destroyed human embryos. Therefore, reception of a vaccine developed and produced from this unethical research presents us with a dilemma that seriously engages our conscience. The short answer from our Bishops on whether it's okay to be vaccinated against COVID-10 is: Yes, it is. Learn more about it from the Bishop's letter re: COVID-19 Vaccine.
Though we all have new restrictions being put into place for the pandemic, it need not be the same for our preparations for Advent. Advent still remains a joyful season. A time to prepare our hearts and our homes for the coming of infant Jesus. What is more simple than a child? God Almighty presents himself to us in the form of a child, approachable, little and simple. God works outside of time, He sees all things and knows all things. He has known that we would go through this season with a different approach and perhaps that is precisely how He intended it.
To approach this season without the hustle and bustle we typically endure, the endless wrapping, the loud and busy households with tons of visitors coming in and out for the holidays. We have been permitted such a time as this, peeling away at what has become the norm of chaos, back to the simplicity of our nuclear families or even just our single households. This season may have a different feel to it, more solemn, more quiet, but all the more able to be attentive. Attentive to the details of your home, relationships with people and especially to the coming of infant Jesus.
If you have yet to decorate your home or begin your Advent preparations, here are a few great local resources:
Written by Rikka Borras, Beloved Daughters YYC
Here is an Advent giveaway from Faithfully! A printable Advent Devotional for children "Jesse Tree" - best for children age 5-9 years old. The Jesse tree devotional will help children connect the custom of decorating Christmas trees to the events leading to Jesus’ birth, a great companion for the Advent season.
Written by parishioner Pat Grappolini, a retired teacher who occasionally teaches for the Calgary Catholic School District. Her family have been parishioners of Holy Name Parish in Calgary. Read one amazing story a day, from Dec. 1 to Dec. 24 and get inspired to create your own Jesse Tree!
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
The volunteer walks the length of the snow-covered sidewalk. She turns around when the front door of the subsidized housing unit swings open. A man steps outside and waves before he bends to pick up the groceries from his front step. This is a special delivery of COBS bread and groceries. The groceries include milk and cream with best before dates two and three days hence and it’s delivered to families the day it’s donated. Some families get the extra food every week, others on the weeks when they get bi-weekly or monthly deliveries of donated bread. These families can also call for a full hamper with fresh produce, frozen meat, cheese, milk, eggs and grocery store gift cards. The Thursday drop is extra for families who welcome some extra help. They never know if the extra food box will include school snacks or fresh fruit and a bakery pie. They do know this delivery is an act of kindness. It’s the food hamper equivalent of a neighbour sharing extra food—and they are grateful.
The woman at the next drop is one of three grandmothers on the Thursday List who are helping to raise grandchildren. “God bless you,” she calls out to the volunteer. “I had extra milk last week so I gave it to a neighbour,” she says. “That’s perfect,” says the volunteer.
Nine short months ago, the volunteer, one of Calgary’s 900 Vincentians, would have chatted with people at each drop. These days, she and others leave groceries on front steps, ring door bells and step back. They also wear masks and use disinfectant when they can’t wash their hands—because this is what Jesus would want them to do. “There’s a pandemic, but Christ’s work continues,” adds Theo van Besouw, president of the Calgary Central Council for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SSVP).
SSVP is an internationally-renowned lay Catholic charity with roots on the mean streets of 19th century France. The organization operates in 150 countries, including Canada. Here, much of SSVP’s work with the economically-vulnerable focuses on delivering emergency food hampers and helping people avoid homelessness by assisting with temporary crises.
In Calgary, the Central Council oversees the work of 23 conferences and three particulars. Each conference works within parish boundaries. The North, South and West particulars meet with conferences in their geographic areas. “We get together to see how we’re doing and those with more resources help the others,” explains Rina McDermott. The president of a conference in northwest Calgary, she also represents that conference on the West Particular.
“St. Vincent de Paul gets a lot of attention during Advent, but our work is year-round,” adds van Besouw. Across the nation and in Calgary, SSVP is the single-largest faith-based charity on the front lines of poverty. “We help everyone, regardless of faith. If you call, we answer,” says van Besouw.
People who live in the Calgary Diocese may learn about SSVP after calling a local parish to ask for help. Others get information from the website, ssvpcalgary.ca. In Calgary, 211 operators with the City of Calgary also direct people who need food to specific conferences or to the Central Council phone number. Every week, Central receives up to a dozen calls or emails from people asking for help. Those folks are matched to conferences who can bring them help. “St. Vincent de Paul is also aligned with other charities who can bring people food. We’re building relationship with other groups all of the time,” says van Besouw.
Conferences with lots of Vincentians (SSVP volunteers) continue to provide food hampers during the pandemic. Others have suspended their hamper programs due to concerns about their volunteers. “But we are certainly not closed,” insists van Besouw. “Some of the conferences now give people grocery store cards instead of food. The pandemic has helped us be more creative. We’re learning to do contact-free deliveries of food and grocery store cards and we’re keeping in touch with people by phone. We want to keep the people we serve and Vincentians safe, but we also want to feed people.”
On-boarding new Vincentians is bit complicated, because the pandemic makes it difficult to conduct security checks. “But if you want to get involved with SSVP, or to start a conference at your parish, please reach out. We welcome new ideas at the table,” says van Besouw.
Written by Joy Gregory
Christmas time is such a beautiful time. I think of Mary often and wonder about the night she gave birth to Jesus. Did she look at him with awe? Did she stare at his button nose? Did she tickle his little toes? Did she put one finger in his little hand as his fingers wrapped around hers? Did she rub his hair and hold him tight? Did she cry? Did she say out loud, “This is my boy!”?
I am so blessed to be a mom of four beautiful kids. With each one I remember just staring at them through the night in awe of God and his blessings. Thinking that Mary was a mother just like me puts the very first Christmas in such a different light. Do we consider the anticipation that Mary and Joseph felt while waiting for the birth of Jesus? And the joy they experienced when he was born! As a parent, I know that this waiting time was very special.
A book that I read to my Kindergarten students is Little One, We Knew You’d Come, by Sally-Lloyd Jones. I invite the children to bring a baby picture to class and encourage parents to have a conversation with their child about the anticipation they felt as they waited for their child to arrive.
Do we take the time and look at the children we teach as the blessing that they are?
My sister (a doctor) just told me about a funeral she attended recently, for an eight-year-old girl. Fifteen hundred people were there. She loved school so much that she came hooked up to an oxygen tank to help her breathe. The principal moved his desk outside the teacher’s door in case the little girl needed help. Her parents spent the days at the school reading books and newspapers while their daughter was in class. Any moment could be her last. Everyone waited. Just like her parents had waited for nine months for her to be born – although this waiting was going to end with a goodbye. She went to school Friday, blueish because her lungs were failing. Her dying wish was to go to school. She would never miss the Remembrance Day Assembly. She LOVED school. She died two days later.
Staff and families did not know that Friday would be their last day with this eight-year-old girl. The principal was asked to give the eulogy at the funeral. Everyone in the school was there. She loved stuffies, and her parents brought every stuffy she owned. When the children came in the church, they were offered a stuffy to cuddle. One last act of love… to love the things she loved most!
This Christmas, let us be mindful of the impact and privilege we have to be a teacher or work in a school. We play such an important role in bringing joy to the families of the students we teach. Families send their precious little ones (or big ones) to us daily to love, teach, support, help and nurture. Each child is a gift. God’s gift. Our mission is to look into the eyes of every child we teach and see the face of God. It is a blessing to be a teacher, a coach, a support worker, an administrator and custodial staff. We all have an opportunity to celebrate the life of a child.
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.
“It’s like getting a hug from God!”
That’s how Sharon Hagel describes the experience of receiving a hand-knitted ‘prayer shawl’. These beautiful wraps aren’t simply warm they are also imbued with prayers for the comfort and assistance of whoever ends up wrapped in their folds. So whether the recipient is a grieving widow or a sick child, they get a card explaining how they were prayed for and how God is an ever-present help in times of trouble.
Hagel and a dedicated group of knitters have been meeting at the Martha Retreat Centre in Lethbridge for longer than Hagel can remember. For two hours, over six to ten weeks, they knit, pray and converse. Even when Covid restrictions limited the size of the group, they welcomed new members to this ecumenical endeavour. Hagel says, “We’re all there for the same purpose, to support the needy.” During the group’s biannual sessions many prayer shawls are completed because participants often work on knitting at home too.
For Hagel it has become a regular part of her prayer life. “I sit with the Lord and I knit,” she says. “I say, OK Lord, whoever this is for, be with this person.” Many hundreds of wraps later, Hagel and the informal group of knitters continue to offer a tangible sign of God’s love to those in need of a loving embrace.
A key pillar of the diocesan I Am Blessed campaign is to act decisively in aid of the needy. While most Catholics do this sporadically, a few go above and beyond. Recently, I spoke with two such women in Lethbridge who have quietly spent decades helping others by sharing their talent for knitting and crocheting. As I spoke with Sharon and Jenny, I was moved to consider how I might use my own modest talents in a pro-active way, not simply to amuse myself and my friends, but to further the coming of God’s kingdom on earth. I hope these stories might inspire others too.
For over 15 years, Jenny Feher has been crocheting afghans for residents of long-term care homes. “It began when Fr. Ed Flanagan mentioned there was a need in the hospital,” Feher says. “I stopped for a while but then, after my husband died, Fr. Wilbert Chin Jon suggested I might start again. The need was still there.”
Feher, a lively member of All Saints Parish in Lethbridge, prefers to work on her craft while watching TV. “If I wasn’t doing this I’d go bonkers,” she says with a laugh, “I don’t sit there feeling sorry for myself, I’m too busy counting!”
Feher’s practical ministry has produced scores of colourful lap blankets over the years. Most are distributed over the Christmas season with a message of love and hope for the recipients. Visitors to local care homes can testify to how many of these striped treasures endure, and are seen tucked into wheelchairs or across bed covers. Grateful family members sometimes send thanks to the parish, never knowing who made the gift which warms their loved one. Feher is matter-of-fact about her outreach. “Everybody’s got their talents,” she says humbly while crocheting on.
October 29, 2020
Dear Faithful in Christ,
We bring to your attention two important legislative matters currently before the House of Commons. Since they each represent a direct and worrisome challenge to human dignity and freedom, it is necessary that we be aware of them and make our views known to the federal government.
The first is proposed legislation, Bill C-7, that seeks to expand access to assisted suicide and euthanasia in Canada. We know that these practices in themselves are inherently immoral. This particular Bill would remove the eligibility requirement that a person’s death be “reasonably foreseeable”, and thus effectively extend provision of euthanasia and assisted suicide to those who are not dying. This would place vulnerable citizens, such as persons with disabilities and mental illness, at serious risk. In the case of people who are dying, it aims to remove key safeguards set down in 2016, such as a 10-day reflection period and the ability to consent at the time of the provision of assisted suicide and voluntary euthanasia to hasten one’s death. The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops is among the signatories to an inter-religious statement expressing opposition to Bill C- 7. The Bishops have, in addition, issued their own statement detailing their concerns with this legislation.
Our ask of you is to contact your Member of Parliament to:
The second piece of legislation, Bill C-6, pertains to what is called “conversion therapy.” The Bill aims to prevent coercive practices contrary to the dignity of the human person, a goal that we support. However, its language and definition are open to interpretations that could lead to unacceptable overreach in application, to the detriment of parental rights and religious beliefs and practices. The Bishops of Canada have issued a statement on Bill C-6.
Our ask of you is to contact your Member of Parliament and insist that Bill C-6 be revised to protect and uphold:
Thank you for your attention and action on these matters of serious concern. May our Lord both inspire and bring to accomplishment our efforts to embrace and protect the suffering and vulnerable, and to honour and uphold our rights and freedoms.
Yours in Christ,
Catholic Bishops of Alberta and NWT
Most Reverend Richard W. Smith
Archbishop of Edmonton
Most Reverend William McGrattan
Bishop of Calgary
Most Reverend Paul Terrio
Bishop of St. Paul
Most Reverend Gerard Pettipas CSsR
Archbishop of Grouard-McLennan
Most Reverend David Motiuk
Bishop of the Ukrainian Eparchy of Edmonton
Michelle and Jason Widmeyer will light a candle for their little babe in heaven at the Memorial Liturgy for those mourning the loss of a child through miscarriage or stillbirth, Friday, November 20, 7 pm at Sacred Heart Parish in Calgary.
“I am looking forward to honouring our little one who has passed and gone to heaven and also gathering with others who’ve gone through the same thing,” said Michelle.
The Widmeyers attend St. Joseph Parish in Calgary with their four children ages 5 through 11. They were excited to welcome their fifth child into their fold, until the couple received the difficult news that their baby did not have a heartbeat during an early-stage ultrasound scan this fall.
“Through this experience I’ve really grown in my own faith,” said Michelle. “I’ve realized there is such grace in suffering. Even in the sorrow and the mourning there’s such great consolation from our loving God that He doesn’t leave us empty handed.
“There is the promise of eternal life and knowing He created this soul for Him out of love. Even if we can’t embrace this little one physically and raise them, we have a little one who’s gone before us and can pray for us in heaven.”
The Widmeyers named their child Marion meaning ‘well-wished for child’. In late August, they made a pilgrimage to Our Lady of the Rockies Shrine in Canmore after learning Michelle was pregnant.
“At this time we felt called to consecrate the little baby in my womb to Our Lady,” said Michelle.
As their joy turned to grief, they leaned on trusted friends, their midwife and family doctor for support. They also spoke with Fr. Adrian Martens at Ascension Parish –– nearest church to their house in NW Calgary. He provided comfort, empathy, information and prayer.
“He was wonderfully sympathetic and just gave a listening ear,” said Michelle.
Fr. Martens explained how the Church could support the couple during this time by offering a memorial service or funeral Mass and giving directives for burial if desired.
He encourages anyone who has suffered through a miscarriage or stillbirth (recently or decades ago) to speak with a priest in the Calgary Diocese. They can offer spiritual direction to help families heal.
“We’ll be here for you and support your family’s needs. Do not think you are taking up our time. This is important. In loving these little ones we are loving the face of Christ,” said Fr. Martens.
One way diocesan clergy minister to the bereaved is through the fifth annual Memorial Liturgy for those mourning the loss of a child through miscarriage or stillbirth. This year Bishop William McGrattan will preside over the service which draws people from all walks of life and stages of grief.
As the Widmeyers continue to work through their grief, it is these tangible signs of love and outreach, from their family of faith, that bring them comfort and hope.
“Even just the promise that people are praying for us feels like a big hug from God; that we are going to get through this and we will be okay; that there is joy in the midst of suffering through the loving actions of others.”
Written by Sara Francis for Faithfully
Raising of our children well is probably the most important task of our natural, and supernatural lives – with effects on society and eternity. Yet too few parents experience the confidence and joy that the process can offer. When it comes to dads and their girls, being at different life stages is merely one complication that may cause disruption. Whether socializing or biology or both together, the differing qualities of dads and daughters add another set of factors. But instead of looking at this as a mismatch, we can instead see opportunities to enlist the differing strengths of both the parent and the child.
It is a near universal reality that men tend to lack proficiency and become easily overwhelmed and feel out of their depth in the twists and turns of emotion – whether others’ or our own. Since emotion is an important part of what makes us human and humane, such discomfort really is a weakness, and it is of benefit to men and their relationships to grow in this area. Another fact is that little effort is required for most fathers to quickly become deeply attached to their little girls. The natural care a man has for his daughter can provide the energy to want to go beyond his own limits and meet his daughter in her world. Daughters – especially in their teens – are tremendously adept at riding emotional waves; for best success however they should learn how to accept feelings as part of life, but not as the driver of decisions. And here a father who is in loving connection with his daughter can be a mentor, even while he learns to integrate better his own feelings in service to another.
Confidence is something that usually increases with age and self-understanding. At the same time testosterone probably helps explain why males typically feel more comfortable in themselves and their abilities than do most females. Among young women this disparity can be seen in eating disorders, self-harm, and greater rates of depression. Some research suggests that social media is increasing these numbers much more rapidly for our daughters than for our sons. Even while we may understand reasons for this problem, biology is not destiny and there are good reasons to act with hope. Mothers and fathers are the original authorities for their children (for religious believers it is important to understand that in practical terms, parents actually exist before God in the lives of their children, with the substance of our interactions mediating and introducing our children to God; parents who neglect their responsibilities to their children are likely to disfigure their image of God (cf. Ephesians 3:15)). Through active acceptance and meaningful praise, fathers are especially important in communicating to our daughters (and our wives) that they are valuable far beyond how they look. Through our example of humbled confidence, our girls have a path to walk along as they gain greater insight into their own identities, and avoiding unfavourable comparisons to others.
Issues of sexuality are a final area of great importance. Here again fathers are desperately needed to give stability to their daughters as young women. Perhaps it is because females, rightly, see themselves so much in relationship with others that girls prize highly what they think others think of them. If they have not grown sufficiently in confidence, emotional stability, and self-understanding, they will be much more likely to give undue weight to messages about how to be accepted by a young man – himself often speaking out of weakness if not manipulation. What children see in the way their dads relate to their moms signals a standard to which potential romantic relationships may be later held. And we know that family stability is one of the most important factors in personal success in the short- and the long-term.
In all of this we can see opportunities, or obstacles. Being paternal while not paternalistic, and acting as a patron not patronizing requires hard work. It is my firm belief that being proactive in caring for and serving our children is a challenge to which fathers can commit. They are supremely worth the effort.
The painful truth is that I never knew my grandfather, at least in any way that a grandchild should. My grandfather went overseas to fight in the first world war, full of pride. But he returned, like so many other young men, broken in spirit. In the years after his marriage to my grandmother, life afforded him little opportunity beyond labour as a brick layer. He tried to be a man of faith, but with every bottle he drank, his sense of worth diminished. When his body finally became too tired to work, his waning years disappeared before the television screen, his mind consumed by his addiction. Whatever mercy he asked for in his final days, there is no doubt he carried tremendous pain to the grave.
How many of us carry the memories of those whose stories leave us with no tale of redemption, no dramatic moment of grace to close the curtain of life, no bright ray of hope shining on their horizon. We are left sorting through the broken dreams and fractured relationships to find a goodness we can hold up, something to tell us this life meant something.
During the month of November, the Church encourages the faithful to spend 30 days praying for the dead. Pope Francis has said: “Church tradition has always urged prayer for the dead, in particular by offering the celebration of the Eucharist for them: It is the best spiritual help that we can give to their souls, particularly to the most abandoned ones.”
It is in the words of his predecessor, Benedict XVI, where I find great hope in the gift of purgatory, the time when God purifies those souls who long to know the peace of His eternal presence, but still carry the scars and sin of this life on earth. Benedict XVI offers these words for us:
Purgatory basically means that God can put the pieces back together again. That he can cleanse us in such a way that we are able to be with him and can stand there in the fullness of life. Purgatory strips off from one person what is unbearable and from another the inability to bear certain things, so that in each of them a pure heart is revealed, and we can see that we all belong together in one enormous symphony of being.”
My grandfather lost a part of his soul on the battlefields. In this month to come, I will be praying that God, even now, is putting the pieces back together again, through His holy fire cleansing and making my grandfather whole in spirit, so he can at last rest eternally at peace in the presence of our Holy God. And for my own penance, for the times I have walked by the broken and depressed, and have not thought to share the hope found in Christ’s redemption,
I will give alms this month in support of veterans who are still living through the trauma of war for the sake of my freedom. Have mercy on us all, O Lord, and lead us safely Home.
Written by Lance Dixon, Director of Campus Ministry at St. Mary's University
Angela entered the Catholic Church on the Easter Vigil of 1987, after completing the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults at St. Mary's Cathedral in Calgary. It was two years after she and her husband Mario, a cradle Catholic, had married and moved to Calgary from Burlington, Ontario.
“Within weeks of being a Roman Catholic, Fr. William Stephenson (the Rector at St. Mary’s at the time) informed me as I entered to attend Mass one Sunday morning, that I was to be the lector that day. What a shock and a knee-knocking experience it was,” recounts Angela of her first experience as a church volunteer. As she started her young family, Angela began her lifelong ministry. Before long she was serving many vital functions in several churches in Calgary, running workshops and participating in parish councils, committees, and children’s programs.
Eighteen years of volunteering at St. Anthony’s Church has not dimmed Angela Alexandre’s enthusiasm for serving her community. Even as the COVID-19 pandemic poses extreme challenges for people everywhere, Angela is working hard with the pastoral staff led by Fr. Edmund Vargas to keep the church running during these difficult months.
Not only does Angela ensure that the parish website is up to date, she also sends out the weekly newsletter, which is particularly helpful for elderly parishioners and other vulnerable people who cannot attend Holy Mass in person. She takes part in implementing programs to meet Alberta Health protocols so that people who want to physically attend Holy Mass can safely do so.
“In return for my time, I have the privilege of witnessing parishioners, old and new, come to Mass and be reunited with their parish community – helping them to feel safe, welcomed, missed and needed,” says Angela, who ushers in Holy Mass attendees, cleans, coordinates safety protocols, and counts collections as part of a team.
Angela delights in meeting many wonderful people through her ministry, and treasures being a part of their lives even as they enrich her own. Taking part in church life also enabled her to understand and appreciate the workings and traditions of the parish community, which led to an administrative career with St. Anthony’s Church. She retired in 2014 and her family moved to another parish community for a time, but they found their way back to St. Anthony’s on the First Sunday of Advent in 2019, a homecoming that proved a great blessing to the parish at this time.
Fr. Edmund Vargas, pastor at St. Anthony's Parish, is very thankful of Angela's hard work, "She is the epitome of volunteerism. As a convert, she has been devoted to her faith; she attends daily Mass, and an exemplary wife & mother."
Angela believes that being steeped in the Catholic faith provides an irreplaceable grace, nourishment and strength. For her, the greatest rewards of being a volunteer are “to know the people you pray with; to be able to touch the lives of those in need; to pass along the faith to children and walk with the elderly; to be aware of the young mother with postpartum depression and extend a helping hand, a listening ear or a shoulder; to be able to attend funerals for those who have given so much of themselves during their lifetime and to pray them into the hands of the Lord; to know others and to be known by them.”
“I consider myself paid in full for anything I do, and I believe and have experienced that when you work for God, He is never outdone in generosity,” Angela concludes.
Written by Joan Acevedo, St. Anthony's, Calgary
Photo courtesy of Angela Alexandre.
If you have ever wondered how Catholic Education is impacting students’ lives, the Lakeland Catholic School Division annual Girls’ Retreat is a great example of how this is taking place in our communities.
Fifty girls in grades 5-12 participated in the sixth annual all girls retreat on January 31, 2020. Students arrived at École Notre Dame High School in Bonnyville at 6:00 pm on Friday and stayed until noon the following day.
We are so proud of our Youth Liturgical Leadership team who led all of the small groups, activities and worship. Organizers engaged the girls in a number of faith-based reflective and group activities designed to bring them closer. During the retreat, girls participated in an obstacle course teaching them that they can overcome their struggles by reaching out to God, others and their family. Using their strength, and the strengths of those around them; they can overcome the challenges they face and then, with their experience, help others in the future. Grade 12 student Keanna Reid gave an inspiring talk about the impact faith has on this aspect of her life and the importance of friendships.
Written by Amanda Wildman, Lakeland Catholic School District
Photos submitted by Amanda Wildman.
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
In this month of October Pope Francis’ prayer intention is for the Laity’s Mission in the World. At the Second Vatican Council one of the most important contributions was the reflection and teaching about the role of the laity both within the Church but also their apostolate or calling in the world.
The Laity’s Mission originates within the Church but is primarily lived out in what we call society or the world. By virtue of Baptism and Confirmation we are all incorporated into the Body of Christ and share in the priestly, prophetic and kingly mission of Christ. This is the vocation that is specific to laity and is one that seeks to promote the Kingdom of God through a witness of life and service which can transform society in accordance with God’s will.
In the ordinary circumstances of society and family life the laity will contribute to the sanctification of the world. They can promote and witness to the reign of God by being a leaven in fulfilling the responsibilities and obligation that are specific to their circumstances and role in the broader society. Within the Church the pastors “are joined by a close relationship” to the laity. In both following the example of Christ, and in developing a close collaboration and co-responsibility, they promote the unity of the Body of Christ and become through the Holy Spirit an authentic witness to the mission of Christ in the world. Despite the diversity of graces (gifts) and ministries (works) within the Body of Christ there is a unity that can be realized both in the Church and in service to the world through the one Spirit.
The apostolate of the laity within the world is first and foremost a sharing in the salvific mission of Christ through the Church. The laity have a special vocation to make the Church present and active in the world where they become the “salt and light” in the midst of society. The laity in this unique witness, through spiritual sacrifices of daily life, prayer, good works, family life and community involvement continually draw strength from the Eucharist and the Sacraments. For Catholics, this must be the source of our evangelization which becomes expressed in the proclamation of Christ as a living Word through the testimony of our lives in the ordinary circumstances of life and in the acts of charity that reflect the sacrificial love celebrated and received in the Eucharist, the Sacrament of his Body.
In the Church although there is a diversity of ministries, there must be a unity of mission. This mission of evangelization for the laity is a life lived in the midst of the world and among secular affairs. The apostolate of the laity in the world must have the following supports or foundations if it is to be vibrant and flourishing.
Catholic Pastoral Centre Staff and Guest Writers