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Pope Francis urged a crowd estimated at six million gathered in a Manila park to protect the family "against insidious attacks and programs contrary to all that we hold true and sacred, all that is most beautiful and noble in our culture." The pope's homily at the Jan. 18 Mass also reprised several other themes he had sounded during the four-day visit, including environmental problems, poverty and corruption. Despite continuous rain, the congregation in Rizal Park began to assemble the night before the afternoon celebration. The crowd was so dense in spots that people passed hosts to fellow worshippers unable to reach priests distributing Communion.
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EDMONTON – The Sign of Hope campaign has again surpassed its campaign goal in support of Catholic Social Services. From October to December the campaign raised $3.4 million – $300,000 more than its goal of $3.1 million. "I'm thrilled and proud," said campaign chair Beth Allard-Clough. "I'm incredibly grateful for the amazing support of our community." What brought the campaign over the top was "lots of hard work as a team," Allard-Clough explained. "I really believe in this agency and I am passionate about the cause, and when you believe in something you make it happen."
Father Gottfried Seifert joined the Society of the Catholic Apostolate, better known as the Pallottine Fathers, in Germany in the early 1950s. "There was no divine intervention or any great revelation," he says of his priestly vocation. The young lad had to decide what to do with his life and since he felt called to a life of service, the priesthood seemed like a good option. Seifert chose the Pallottines because he knew the order and was familiar with its charism. He was ordained in 1958 and was sent to Canada the following year.
Mothers are indispensable to society and the Church, showing the world what it means to generously give oneself for others, Pope Francis said. Mothers respect life and display tenderness and moral strength even in times of trouble, the pope said at his Jan. 7 general audience. Even though mothers are often "exalted" with praise and poetry, they often get very little concrete help and appreciation, he said. In his talk, the pope looked specifically at Mary's role in the Gospel accounts of Christmas. "She gives us Jesus, she shows us Jesus, she lets us see Jesus," he said.
Steve Bell was ready to face the music: his decade-long career as a nightclub musician was over. A little over age 30, he played in bars six nights a week, not making enough money to support his young family. He says he slipped into a deep depression and realized that, other than music, he had no employable skills. Then one night, as he lay in bed, he felt a presence, a presence he now acknowledges to be God, which provided him with a sense that he was meant to do something else. "So I quit playing, thinking that I was going to hang up my guitar and my career was over. But literally when I quit is when all of this new music came out of me," said Bell.
REGINA – "The most poignant artifact for me are the braids," said Dr. Shauneen Pete, as she explained the meaning of the "Memorial Blanket" artwork set up along a wall in the University of Regina's Research and Innovation Centre Atrium. The Memorial Blanket was put together by West Coast artist and master carver Carey Newman. Residential school artifacts were collected from across Canada and placed in panels of the nine-metre-wide work. The artwork includes everything from an old door, worn-out skates, a shoe, door handles, a clock, pieces of wood, glass and photos. Old books and encyclopedias occupy slots along the bottom of the work. A slide show of photos and letters are displayed on an old table behind the blanket.
COLOMBO, SRI LANKA – Pope Francis told Sri Lankans seeking reconciliation after two-and-a-half decades of civil war that, before they can forgive each other, they must repent of their own sins. "Only when we come to understand, in light of the cross, the evil we are capable of, and have even been a part of, can we experience true remorse and true repentance," the pope said Jan. 14, during a prayer service in the northern jungle town of Madhu. "Only then can we receive the grace to approach one another in true contrition, offering and seeking true forgiveness." The pope had traveled 250 kms in a helicopter from the capital city of Colombo to visit the shrine of Our Lady of the Rosary, which houses a statue of Mary venerated by Sri Lankans since the 16th century.
MANILA – New situations are opportunities to learn new things, even about the 78-year-old Pope Francis. After two days of watching the pope tenaciously keep his appointments in the Philippines despite pouring rain Jan. 17-18, one lesson is that the papal wardrobe needs to be expanded to include rain gear. A white umbrella – the usual Vatican response to a drizzle – is not adequate. And cancelling or moving an event indoors – the usual Vatican response to a heavy rain – is not acceptable to Pope Francis if his appointment is with thousands or even millions of predominantly poor people.
Over the years, the strongest of Pauline Sisters could manage the huge printing presses and handle the massive rolls of paper – work that men usually did. But these women religious were determined to share the Gospel the way their founder thought best a century ago: The Daughters of St. Paul were made for media. Today, the sisters outsource printing, but have their hands in almost every media pie imaginable spanning print, broadcast and the Internet. Technology has been good to these media mavens. "That's what makes us so unique. Because many religious orders have a publishing arm like Franciscans do, Paulists do, Jesuits do, but that's just one side thing that they do. For us, it's our entire apostolate. So we were founded to evangelize with media," said Sister Helena Burns. In 2015, the order is celebrating its 100-year anniversary.
Catholics responded well to the first consolidated charitable appeal in the Edmonton Archdiocese. More than 80 parishes took part in the Together We Serve appeal, raising $1.721 million. That's $121,000 more than the original goal of $1.6 million. "It went really well," says director of development Connie Lunde. "We are very, very pleased because, of course, a first year can be a little bit scary. It's hard for people to change something that they are very used to." Together We Serve replaced nine special collections previously taken in all parishes at various times throughout the year. The appeal began at Easter and ran until the end of December.
The encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well invites us to try water from a different well and also to offer a little water of our own. That's the idea behind the biblical verse "Give me a drink," which is the theme of this year's Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Jesus said those words to a Samaritan woman as he sat at a well owned by Samaritans, a tribe despised by the Jews of the time. Bishops, leaders and lay people of many different Christian churches and organizations took part in the opening service of the Week of Prayer at Braemar Baptist Church Jan. 18.
Seventy. Seventy years of living with the same person, raising a family, and sharing the twilight years of life seems almost impossible in today's society. Two Catholic couples living in Edmonton's downtown Rivera community know it's possible because they are still doing it. Edith and Ken Nixon display the easy companionship one might expect after 70 years of marriage. Sitting in their comfortable apartment, they correct each other or add a fact or two the other might have forgotten with the warmth of two lifelong friends. It is much the same with Lionel and Pauline Lemieux. Their marital journey was different, but the ingredients of faith and commitment were there too. The Montreal setting and Lionel's travelling gave a different tenor to the early part of their relationship.
Priests need to preach the Church's teachings on end-of-life issues more frequently to better spiritually prepare parishioners for the inevitable, Father Kevin Belgrave believes. "The solution to the vast majority of problems and challenges that arise at the end of life begins long before the moment of death arises," said Belgrave, an assistant professor of moral theology at Toronto's St. Augustine's Seminary. "If you attempt to deal with end-of-life issues only at the moment when death is on our door you have a person who has in no way been prepared for that moment."
In a 19-page reflection on the "racial divide" in the United States, Bishop Edward Braxton of Belleville, Ill., who is African-American, said he twice has been the victim of what he considered to be unjust police attitudes. The episodes "made me very conscious of the fact that simply by being me, I could be the cause of suspicion and concern without doing anything wrong," Braxton wrote in a reflection issued Jan. 1. In the first episode, when Braxton was a priest, "I was simply walking down a street in an apparently all-white neighbourhood. A police car drove up beside me and the officer asked, 'What are you doing in this area? Do you live around here? Where is your car? You should not be wandering about neighbourhoods where you do not live.'
Scarboro Missions is seeking those with the guts and grit to answer God's call to serve as a foreign missioner on a short-term basis. "Mission is not for everyone," said Scarboro Missions Father Ron MacDonell. "It has to come from a deep conviction that you are called . . . by God, called by Jesus, to want to serve. And young people have that capacity." That is why Scarboro Missions is again accepting applications from those 21 and older who are interested in enrolling in its One-Year Missioners program. The application can be found at scarboromissions.ca and must be submitted by Feb. 16.
Tears often are the only correct response to suffering, Pope Francis told 30,000 young people Jan. 18. While it is impossible to explain why God would allow children to suffer, he told the young people, "only when we, too, can cry" can one approach a response. "I invite each one of you here to ask yourself, 'Have I learned to weep and cry when I see a child cast aside, when I see someone with a drug problem, when I see someone who has suffered abuse?" the pope told the gathering in Manila. Being moved to tears out of compassion and in the face of the mystery of suffering is holy, he said. It is not the same thing as crying to manipulate or get something from someone.
A mother's faith was shaken to the core after her son was shot dead in 2007 in B.C.'s worst gang murder case. "I literally hated God," Eileen Mohan told The B.C. Catholic. "My faith, my everything, was taken away from me. I stopped believing at that moment." Eileen and her 22-year-old son Christopher lived in an apartment building in Surrey. When they temporarily moved from the 14th to the 15th floor seven years ago, they unknowingly became across-the-hall neighbours of drug trafficker Corey Lal. "I bumped into him a couple of times, and he would say 'hi' to me," Eileen recalled. "He seemed a nice person. There was nothing for me to think he was a drug dealer."
SPRUCE GROVE – A wonderful celebration and mortgage burning took place on Jan. 11 at Holy Trinity Church here. The parishioners paid off the mortgage on their church building ahead of schedule. Bishop Paul Terrio of St. Paul, pastor of Holy Trinity from 2002 to 2012, came to celebrate with the parish. Terrio spoke of the challenges he faced in leading parishioners to become a community and how, working with the parish finance committee, he instituted the unpopular weekly second collection, to meet the monthly mortgage payment of $20,825.
People who have buried or cremated relatives and loved ones in Edmonton's Catholic Cemeteries need not worry. Fires at Hainstock's Funeral Home and Crematorium in south Edmonton on Jan. 9 and 10 prompted families to express concerns about the safety of the remains of their loved ones. Deacon Paul Croteau, director of Catholic Cemeteries, would not comment on the Hainstock fires. But families, he said, should not worry about the safety of their loved ones' remains at Edmonton Catholic Cemeteries.
OTTAWA – In the 50 years since the Second Vatican Council's Decree on Ecumenism, observers see hopeful signs for ecumenism and interfaith dialogue under Pope Francis. "Pope Francis uses language very frequently on how important it is to walk together with other Christians," said Saint Paul University professor Catherine Clifford, noting theological dialogues are being complemented "with initiatives of common witness." "It's an invitation to do everything we possibly can together, not to wait for all 'i's to be dotted and 't's crossed and all the texts approved, but that we kind of live into the experience of mutual communion by beginning to act together today," she said.
The main factor in producing crime is "the huge marginalization of the First Nations community," says Saskatoon's police chief. Clive Weighill told a recent gathering at St. Anne's Church in Saskatoon the stereotypical story of a boy who grew up in a tough neighbourhood, who was poor and bullied. "He goes to school with no breakfast. He fails a test," Weighill went on. "He's an outsider who is finally invited in by a gang. This friendship escalates quickly to criminal activity."
While nothing can ever justify cold-blooded murder, the Charlie Hebdo murders in Paris are no surprise, said Canada's most famous Catholic philosopher. Charles Taylor spoke to The Register the day after brothers Said and Chérif Kouachi invaded the offices of the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo with AK47 assault rifles, killed 12 people and injured 11 others. One of the brothers is reported to have shouted "Allahu Akbar" (God is Great) and at another point in French, "The Prophet has been avenged."
OTTAWA – Aid groups are welcoming the federal government's Jan. 7 announcement that Canada will take in an additional 10,000 Syrian refugees and 3,000 more Iraqi refugees. But the groups hope the government will also streamline the refugee sponsorship program to make it easier and faster for churches and private charities to bring refugee families to Canada. Canada will also contribute additional humanitarian aid of $67 million, with $40 million going to Syria. "I think it's very good news," said Guy Desaulniers, emergency programs director for the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (CCODP). "We are quite happy. I think that Canada is a good player. They did well since the beginning of the crisis in terms of humanitarian aid."
QUEBEC – Rimouski Archbishop Pierre-André Fournier died suddenly Jan. 10 shortly after losing consciousness and being taken to hospital by ambulance. Fournier, 71, had also been serving as president of the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Quebec, during the province's contentious debates on euthanasia and a secular charter. The archbishop traveled to Quebec City in December for heart surgery and was in Rimouski recovering at the time of his death.
PASAY CITY, PHILIPPINES – Catholic families should resist "ideological colonization that tries to destroy the family" through such practices as contraception and same-sex marriage, Pope Francis told a meeting of families Jan. 16. Commenting on a reading from the Gospel of St. Matthew, in which St. Joseph twice learns God's will for the Holy Family from an angel in a dream, Pope Francis said dreaming could serve an analogous purpose in ordinary Christian families. "I very much like this idea of dreaming in a family," the pope said. "When you lose this capacity to dream, you lose the capacity and energy to love." But the pope noted St. Joseph's dreams also revealed the "dangers which threatened Jesus and Mary, forcing them to flee to Egypt and then to settle in Nazareth.
GUELPH, ONT. – The Church of Our Lady Immaculate in Guelph, the childhood parish of Cardinal Thomas Collins, has been named a basilica. The landmark church perched on a hill overlooking the city was designated a basilica last month by Pope Francis, catching parishioners by surprise. Parishioners heard the news Dec. 8 during a special Mass celebrating the church's new altar when Hamilton Bishop Douglas Crosby announced at the end of his homily that Pope Francis had approved the designation.
Mary Wagner is back behind bars after illegally entering a Toronto abortion facility armed with roses and pregnancy-help information cards. Within half an hour of her arrival on Dec. 23, police spilled out of three cars and arrested the 40-year-old British Columbia woman, charging her with breach of probation, and mischief for interfering with a business. Wagner has been in and out of prison in Ontario over the past four years. She spent two years locked up while her lawyer Charles Lugosi defended her in the Ontario Court of Justice on charges of mischief for interfering with a business and other minor charges. She was convicted last June and he is seeking leave to appeal. Lugosi said the judge and the prosecution wanted to release Wagner on bail but she refused to sign an undertaking promising she would not return to the facility.