Rob moved into his new apartment on Feb. 13, 2018. After six years of sleeping in a room that held up to eight men a night, he was eager to wake up in his own space. Since Valentine’s Day 2018 marked the day Rob would be able to get up when he wanted, he went to bed excited by the promise of the next day. After six years of not having a home to call his own, he looked forward to being able to make himself a cup of coffee he could drink while watching the morning news. He planned to sit at the table given to him by a new neighbour and watch a TV donated by another resident of his new apartment building. Life, finally, looked good.
But sleep was difficult.
“For the first week and a half, it was tough,” remembers Rob. He’d slept on the floor before, so the fact that he didn’t yet have a bed was the least of his worries. The real issue was the wall-to-wall silence. “At the DI (Drop In), there was always noise. Here, it was so quiet.”
Walking for change
Hundreds of people will participate in the Downtown location of four Coldest Night of the Year (CNOY) walks being held in Calgary on Saturday, Feb. 23. Money raised at the CNOY Downtown event funds two of the Calgary Catholic Diocese’s biggest social justice projects, says Samantha Jones, Event Coordinator, on staff with the Diocese. “This is a fun and family-friendly fundraiser and we really encourage Catholics to come out with their families and friends. You can walk two, five or 10 kilometres and the money supports Feed the Hungry and KAIROS Calgary.”
KAIROS is an ecumenical group of churches focused on Social Justice issues in Calgary. Its share of the money raised at CNOY Downtown goes to HomeSpace, a charitable real estate developer that owns 521 units of rental housing in 27 properties across Calgary. KAIROS used CNOY funds to help pay off the mortgage on an affordable housing project in Acadia. Money from the 2019 walk will help pay the mortgage on Bankview Apartments, the building where Rob rents one of 27 units rented to single people, couples and small families.
Affordable, safe, supported -- and quiet
HomeSpace properties are operated in cooperation with other community agencies, including The Alex, CUPS and Alberta Health Services, explains Rina McDermott, who works with HomeSpace. “It’s important to help people find a place to live. But people who have been homeless often need additional support. They may need help preparing meals or learning how to clean their units. At Bankview, CUPS provides that wrap-around service to our residents. We want them to be successful.”
This year, McDermott will walk the downtown route with her work colleagues and a group of Vincentians from St. Peter’s parish in the northwest Calgary. “St. Bonaventure, St. Patrick’s and the youth group from St. James in Okotoks are regular contributors, too,” says Jones, who’d like to see more Catholic churches and church-based groups support the walk.
“We typically get about 400 walkers—but there is room for 900. One of the best things about this event is that kids are welcome and the route we take often gives people an opportunity to meet and visit with some of our homeless neighbours.”
As an added bonus, the Saturday-night event includes a rest stop with hot chocolate and it ends with a chili supper sponsored by Boardwalk Rental Communities, one of the city’s largest housing rental property managers. Boardwalk also funds a Feed the Hungry dinner once a year.
Peace, at last
A year after moving into his apartment, Rob spends his days helping out around the building and working on cross-stitch pictures he sometimes sells. He looks forward to being able to use his balcony when the weather warms up—and he treasures its view of the city where he’s lived most of his life.
Unable to work but determined to stay busy, he sometimes goes back to the DI to help prepare and serve lunch and to visit friends. Having struggled with addiction, he never invites those friends back to his apartment; that would be too risky. Rob knows what it’s like to be evicted and he doesn’t want to live that pain again, especially not when he has it so good at Bankview. While he doesn’t know all of his neighbours, Rob volunteers to help cook when they gather for communal suppers. “I really like cooking. I did a lot of that at the DI and I like doing it here, too.”
These days, he also treasures the night-time silence at Bankview Apartments. The peace and quiet used to hinder his ability to fall asleep. A year later, that’s what “home” sounds like to Rob.
Written by: Joy Gregory
The lineup for a free hot meal organized by the Diocese of Calgary often begins an hour before the doors to St. Mary’s Parish Hall open at 3:30 p.m. Rain or shine, wind or snow, people come by the hundreds. Most arrive on foot, some aided by canes or walkers. Others come alone. The adults will all take a seat beside others gathered at the long communal tables, but some will never speak.
Those with children walk around to the hall’s back entrance. Pushing strollers, carrying toddlers, holding the hands of shy children and smiling at the antics of tweens and teens, they will be seated in the family section of the weekly supper known as Feed the Hungry (FTH). At one dinner held this past summer, a young mother travelled 90 minutes—taking three city buses—for the opportunity to take her three boys out for a meal. Illness keeps her from working. Her boys keep her from giving into despair.
Faith, hope and charity
A modern-day version of the Christmas story plays out near St. Mary’s Cathedral nearly every Sunday night of the year. Here, the menu includes a hot meal served alongside a good helping of faith, hope and charity.
A downtown Calgary institution since 1994, FTH welcomes as many as 500 people to its Sunday suppers. The event gives many of its guests temporary respite from emergency shelters. They are joined by parents with low income who welcome a break from meals made with items found in emergency food hampers; seniors parenting grandchildren; single people, couples and families couch-surfing through their wait for affordable housing; working parents for whom a couple of days off work to nurse a sick child means the month’s pay cheque no longer covers rent and food. Other guests may like to sleep “rough,” but welcome a tasty hot meal made and served by kind people.
Across the room from the family tables sit the less-than-sober. Every guest, regardless of age or situation, will receive table-side service of salad, a hot meal, beverages and desserts. Guests are welcome to ask for seconds and it’s not uncommon for the volunteer servers to step in when they see a young eater who’s not happy about the night’s fare. “Your little boy doesn’t like tonight’s entrée? Let me check with the chef. We’ll find him something.”
For a few hours once a week, there is always room at this inn.
It takes a village
Every FTH meal is sponsored by a parish, company or community group, says Program Manager Sartre Jean-Gilles. Sponsors donate $5,000 and agree to supply up to 100 volunteers. To keep everything running smoothly, another set of regular volunteers serve as Team Leads and oversee specific stations. The menu is managed by other rotating teams of volunteer cooks. Some cooking teams are organized around parish links. Others are staffed by groups of friends.
Bishop William McGrattan likes the way FTH garners widespread community support. While many of its benefactors are Catholic, others participate simply because they seek to serve the less fortunate. The Bishop is also a fan of how FTH enables children to serve alongside their parents.
On Dec. 16, an anonymous sponsor will treat dinner guests to live entertainment. Each of the diners will also receive a $10 gift card for a fast food restaurant. Those cards were donated by parishioners, FTH sponsors, vendors and volunteers.
Watching the first group of diners enter the hall, one of the Dec. 9 volunteers smiles. He’s been here before and he’s pleased to be back. “I’ve learned not to judge.” He doesn’t need to know why his guests are there. He’s just grateful they have a place to come.
Written by: Joy Gregory
With a servant’s heart, Joseph Gingco was pleased to help run the audio-visual equipment when his parish hosted an information meeting about the permanent diaconate back in 2013. Joseph, who has a Bachelor of Computer Science degree from the Philippines, knew his skills would prove helpful. Besides that, the life-long Catholic was curious about the topic.
Five years later, one of Calgary’s newest deacons believes God used that opportunity to serve to answer one of his prayers.
"I will seek you"
The Diocese of Calgary has partnered with the Calgary Flames to get discounted tickets for the game on Friday, February 22, between the Flames and archrival Anaheim Ducks. Discounted tickets are $39. Each ticket purchased will help fundraise for Elizabeth House, which provides a home for at risk pregnant or parenting youth and their babies. In addition, the first 100 people to purchase tickets will be receive a voucher to an exclusive pre-game event in the Alumni Lounge and have a Meet and Greet with Bishop McGrattan. Come out and join us for a great night of hockey and entertainment, or buy the tickets as Christmas presents.
To purchase your tickets at the special price, click here.
To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, communities across Canada will mark that moment in history by ringing 100 bells. The ringing of bells emulates the moment in 1918 when church bells across Europe tolled as four years of war had come to an end.
In the Diocese of Calgary, we encourage all parishes to join in this celebration by ringing their church bells at local sunset time (4:54 pm in Calgary) on Remembrance Day, Sunday, November 11. The Bells of Peace Ceremony aims to gather a soundwave of bells as they toll 100 times from coast to coast to recognize the people who helped shape the Great War.
List of Catholic churches in the Diocese of Calgary that will be ringing the bells on Remembrance Day (Sunset time):
What do you get when three bishops sit down for a chat?
It sounds like the start to a terrible joke, doesn’t it? But the delegates of One Rock 2.0 got exactly that: Three bishops: Bishop McGrattan of the Diocese of Calgary, Archbishop Richard Smith of the Edmonton Archdiocese, and Archbishop Gerard Pettipas of the Archdiocese of Grouard-Maclennan sitting poised on couches, as if in our very own living rooms, not only to be heard but to hear us in a panel discussion.
“I think our bishops were surprised by what they heard,” said Fr. Cristino Bouvette who acted as moderator for the panel. But it was with compassion and sincerity that the three responded to some fairly tough questions.
We are a crowd of over 600 young adults. I recognize men and women who are just beginning university and young professionals deep into careers. I say hello to married friends who, like myself, have started to raise children. I get the sense that this is a crowd of people who are deeply invested in the Catholic faith; many of them “retreat veterans” as attendee Joey Lafleur aptly put it; people who’ve fully accepted the role of sheep following the Good Shepherd; people who are looking for real answers from those called to lead us amidst doubt, horror and confusion at what is happening to our beloved Church; people who are reaching deep into the roots of the Church and to the core of our beliefs and traditions looking for food. In conversations with some of these people, I got the sense that this panel of Bishops, those given the task of shepherds, was going to be one of the most important moments of the One Rock 2.0 experience.
The bishops spoke on a myriad of topics, but most of the discussion centered around the scandal of abuse within the Church; on the desire in some young people for more tradition and reverence in the Mass and the Church as a whole; and on our call to live as witnesses to Christ in an ever-changing and sometimes confused society.
On Systemic Abuse and Scandal in the Church
The recent report from the grand jury in Pennsylvania has rippled like a shockwave into the minds and hearts of Catholics everywhere. Even I, a self-professed news junkie, find myself turning off and shutting out these stories because it makes me seethe inside that the Church I am raising my children to love has this ugliness within it. We want to be able to trust our bishops and priests and know that they are acting, not just giving speeches and hoping we’ll get over it. The panel discussion gave me a sliver of hope as I heard humble words calling me and everyone else to continue in faith.
“The world wants us to respond in an authentic and credible way,” said Bishop McGrattan, “but it will take all of the Church – not just the bishops, not just the priests, but all of the Church to remain faithful and allow ourselves to become purified.”
He continued to say that the work of the bishops now is to “allow the silence that was there in the Church to be broken, so that those who’ve experienced abuse can speak and that the healing can continue.”
As I meandered through the crowd trying to get a sense of other’s feelings on the answers from the bishops, I asked Robyn Pashula, attending from Calgary, what she thought.
“They answered very honestly, and you could’ve heard a pin drop as they were speaking vulnerably about the effects of scandals.”
It was in this sentiment that Archbishop Smith responded to a question about the abuse allegations saying “there’s a particular horror when [abuse] takes place inside of the Church, and we need to acknowledge that. We need to study that deeply.”
He said he thought that the loss of understanding of human sexuality and how it is to be lived according to God’s design is a contributing factor, together with abuse of power and conscience in the abuse that has taken place not only in the Church but in society as a whole.
“Because this issue is of such gravity, we need to be striving to understand it fully,” he said.
Drawing from past experience, Archbishop Pettipas also had something to add,
“A number of years ago – this has come up very recently but we’ve been facing this for a long time in Canada – I spent first years of ministry in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Some of you might have heard of the Mount Cashel orphanage, or of the priests in that archdiocese who were found guilty of numerous counts of despicable behaviour towards young children.
“In those days people would say to me ‘Father, how can this be stopped?’ And one of my answers – and it may sound a bit facetious – but I would say, ‘When we stop ordaining human beings, then this will stop.’
“It’s because we are sinful human beings, called to holiness, but still sinful. This is where it comes from.”
He pointed out that never before have we understood the impact of sexual abuse like we do today. Referring to the #MeToo movement – thousands of people who are speaking out about sexual harassment and abuse, many of whom have been living in silence until 2018 – he said that we are now being challenged to make some real and lasting changes, not only in our Church, but in our culture as a whole.
The bishop and archbishops gave every indication that their work to be good leaders and stop horrific abuses within the Church will be ongoing and that the dialogue will be continuous.
On Traditional Practices in the Church
There is and always has been diversity within the Church when it comes to style of worship and preference of liturgical practice. During the Mass celebrated by Bishop McGrattan that day, I could see living examples across a spectrum with both chapel veils and raised hands during song, and while those things are small indicators of the different types present, the questions for the Bishops came primarily from young people who could be described as having more traditional leanings.
In making their deep desire for more Latin Mass and solemn liturgies known, I got the impression that many of these young men and women have often felt cast aside or out of place for their love of traditional worship within our faith, while still others who may prefer more contemporary forms of worship look on with puzzlement about the desire for the “smells and bells.”
“Don’t be feeling like a dweeb!” Archbishop Smith assured them, going on to say that in the Mass, “you’re rooted in tradition, you’re rooted in truth and you discover the truth of who we are, the beloved children of God, and the more that our liturgy can express that ritually, the more attractive it becomes.”
He said that he has seen a “very pervasive existential angst that is gripping the lives, the minds, the hearts of people today.”
He said he’s been hearing from young people who are looking to find their identity, which is a confusing thing with the messages we’re getting from all around us today. This is why, he said, the Church is a place of refuge.
“We’re not called to create [our identity], it’s a given. We’re children of God,” he said firmly.
This could be why for some; the liturgical practices that were the norm in our grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ era have sparked something in the hearts and minds of some of our generation. When our identity as individuals is forever in question, the Church gives us the sacraments, the Mass, and the rich traditions of the ages. The tangible signs of God’s grace upon us in the context of beautiful music, and reverent ritual are not to be found anywhere else.
The discussion on liturgical practice and preference is ongoing in the Church, but as I talked to a small circle of young men and women who could be described as having more traditional leanings, there was a sense of hope in mulling over the words of our Bishops, who heard their genuine longings with open ears.
On Living Out Our Faith Authentically
In his opening remarks, Archbishop Pettipas quoted St. Peter saying, “Always be ready to tell others the cause of your joy,” when he spoke to us about the kind of evangelization we should enact. Throughout their time with us, we heard again and again that we are not to be passive, but active and authentic in times that are good, and even in times where confusion and hopelessness seem to reign.
“What I’m taking away from today is that I am church, and that whatever I do will contribute to it,” said Robyn Pashula.
It is that question, “what can I do?” that we all ask ourselves in the everyday, and in the difficult times. The first to ask a question to the panel, one young man recounted briefly that his good friend had taken his own life, and that he struggled to make sense of it.
“How do I move on from this?” he asked, also wondering simply, if his friend had gone to heaven.
“The Church has come to be more understanding and compassionate,” Bishop McGrattan answered, “That maybe the freedom that God gives us, and that maybe the full capacity of knowledge to know what to do and how to act -- that sometimes that is diminished in situations where people choose to take their life.”
I caught up with Spencer, the young man, so concerned for his friend’s soul and loved ones. Spencer is the only Catholic in his family (though his parents are supportive, he said) and so the loss of his friend, who had been an altar server and faithful Catholic himself was a huge blow.
I asked him if he was satisfied with Bishop McGrattan’s answer. “Yes,” he told me, then showed me the funeral card of his friend. I took a pause. Spencer and I agreed that Bishop McGrattan’s encouragement to persevere through these troubled times in faith was uplifting.
The bishop had encouraged us all that we can lift up the souls of the faithful departed and continue to believe in the mercy of God. Adding that through persevering in acts of faith, we can be witnesses to Christ’s mercy in these difficult circumstances.
Fathers in Faith
When introducing the Bishops to us, Father Cristino referred to a beautiful part of the Mass when a concelebrating priest asks the bishops’ blessing prior to reading the gospel; it is in asking this blessing that priest addresses the Bishops as “Father”. In that spirit, he went on to say that he hoped we could think of our bishop and archbishops as father figures too.
As they answered with honesty the questions of the day, and indeed as they continue the task of shepherding Alberta’s Catholic Church, they admit to being human beings who depend on God’s grace to serve us. In their concluding messages, each man, pledging to continue in service to us, the Church, asked for our prayers, and prayed for us.
“I pray that the acts of faith that come upon you each day might be strengthened through this gathering,” said Bishop McGrattan in his homily at Mass, “so that your lives might become a full and authentic witness of Christ.”
Good food, great conversations and loads of laughs -- that's what made our first diocesan Seniors Get-Together a great success. We also had a special guest. Bishop Emeritus Henry came and shared his seniors wisdom on how to be fully alive as a unique creation of God. If you missed the event, here are some of the highlights of Bishop Emeritus Henry's talk:
Do you know that last year Feed the Hungry Garden grew 4000 lbs of produce for the food bank? We are planting again this year! See pictures below from Linnea Ferguson, our Feed the Hungry Garden Coordinator.
A sampling of photos from a very successful morning of planting potatoes, which started with a special blessing by Bishop McGrattan and ended with a delicious meal together. Thank you everyone!
Catholic Pastoral Centre Staff and Guest Writers