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Images of war-torn towns, broken bodies of children, starving Iraqi people flash through the daily newscasts, splash across the front pages of newspapers. But there are those who know what these people are going through because they themselves fled the terror years ago and are now desperately trying to rescue relatives and friends left behind. Zeina Pauls of St. Albert and her two children have been living in the safety of Canada for 15 years.
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Christians and Muslims agree that love, peace and hope are some of the most basic gifts they can offer as they practise their faith in Canada's secular society. At their second dialogue in Edmonton, leaders of both major religions encouraged participants to live out their faith so others will see them as people of faith and agents of peace and love. Almost 250 people, including Muslims of the Sunni and Shia sects and Christians of the Roman Catholic and Mennonite churches, attended the event at the Edmonton Islamic Academy Sept. 13.
United in the suffering of their people, five Catholic and Orthodox patriarchs from the Middle East urged Westerners to take action to help ensure that Christians and other minorities can remain in the Middle East. "Christians are not (just) looking for humanitarian aid. They are looking for humanitarian action, to save Christianity in the Middle East," said Catholicos Aram of Cilicia, patriarch of the Armenian Apostolic Church.
Church officials fear that a proposal to fingerprint volunteers might discourage many people from offering their time and talents to the Church. The RCMP proposal would require volunteers to be fingerprinted prior to receiving a criminal record check. The procedure is aimed at increasing public safety and reducing the likelihood that somebody could obtain a criminal record check or police information check using false identity.
Thanks to the No Room in the Inn fundraising drive, a sober-living environment in Edmonton is much more liveable. The Oxford House Foundation in Edmonton has a house for five women recovering from alcohol or drug addiction. However, until recently the house had minimal cupboard space, a decrepit deck and two old trees in the backyard ready to topple over. The electrical breaker panel was misplaced, set up directly above a downstairs toilet. In one bathroom, whenever someone took a shower, water leaked into the walls, causing unhealthy black mold.
Cuba's Cardinal Jaime Ortega is about to welcome Canada's bishops to the rough and tumble world of Latin American theology. When Canada's bishops gather Sept. 15-19 in the nation's oldest parish in Quebec City to celebrate 350 years of North American prayer, struggle and faith, they will meet the other half of what Pope Francis calls the continent of hope. Ortega will attend the bishops plenary in Quebec City to lead Canada's bishops through a consideration of the Aparecida document.
Two academics with close ties to the local Catholic community have been elected to the Royal Society of Canada. The appointments of local mental health advocate Austin Mardon and Sister Eileen Schuller, a renowned expert on the Dead Sea Scrolls who teaches at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont., were announced Sept. 9. Schuller was appointed to the society's division of the humanities while Mardon was chosen as "a specially elected fellow" because of his advocacy on behalf of the mentally ill.
The Toronto Archdiocese's Office of Catholic Youth hopes to strike the right chord with young people by entering the concert business. Evangelization is about "bringing beauty into the culture," said Father Frank Portelli, and that's exactly what he plans to do with the launch of OCY Concerts. The concert series will showcase popular U.S. and Canadian Christian artists with one or two concerts a year.
Every dollar of the $13 million Development and Peace raised last year to help Filipinos left homeless by the most powerful hurricane ever to make landfall has a job to do. Thousands of Filipino families are still living in tents, in the beached hulks of ships Typhoon Haiyan left stranded on the streets of Tacloban City and in elementary schools where Filipino families first found shelter from the storm 10 months ago.
Marc Barylo, the driving force behind Catholic Social Services' successful Sign of Hope fundraising campaign for 30 years, is this year's winner of the Kevin Carr Christian Leadership Award. Barylo, CSS's vice-president of development and community relations, is "an impassioned leader" who inspires his team of community leaders and volunteers, said Father Mike McCaffery, former archdiocesan chancellor, in nominating Barylo for the award.
Walking to a cemetery on All Saints' Day, watching television past 10 p.m., even slaughtering a kid goat on Easter were once so highly suspect in Albania, they would trigger neighbourhood spies to tip off communist authorities. The religious persecution the atheist state waged between 1944 and the 1990s was so severe, it prompted Pope Francis to make Albania the first country in Europe he visits.
The gold stars on his report card are many. Now 83, celebrating his 65 years of religious life, Brother Donatus Vervoort is hard pressed to reply when asked what the greatest joy has been in his life. "You have put me at a dilemma," and a smile softens his face. "Music! I love music. The choirs, the singing . . ." This comes from years of study at Ward Institute in Roermond, Netherlands. As a child, Donatus and his 11 brothers and sisters lived on a five-acre farm. The 250 chickens, two cows and two pigs supplemented their father's wages as a labourer at a linen factory.
Sister Victoria Mazur, when she was much younger, met a man who claimed that God talked to him. The man told her that she was going to live to be an old woman. His prediction was correct. Mazur, a Sister of Our Lady of the Cross (Notre Dame de la Croix), celebrated her 100th birthday on Aug. 28. "Despite her age, she's as with it as anybody. She remembers people, and she remembers names. She still goes to Mass every day," said Janet MacLellan, a longtime friend.
Nineteenth-century missionaries arrived in Africa with a Bible in one hand and a plough in the other. Jesuit Brother Paul Desmarais still has a Bible, but he's given up on the plough. For 40 years Desmarais has run the Kasisi Agricultural Training Centre in Zambia. But over the last 20 years Desmarais has rethought almost every aspect of conventional Western agriculture and how it's applied in Africa.
Canada faces potential violence from aboriginal people unless the country can find a just solution to their plight, says Archbishop-emeritus James Weisgerber. In Ottawa Sept. 12, the day after Gov. Gen. David Johnston invested him as an officer of the Order of Canada for his work as a "champion of social change and justice," Weisgerber said he saw many signs of hope, despite the problems that have arisen in recent years.
The newest addition to St. Joseph's College at the University of Alberta is a liberation theologian who works for peace and justice in the Middle East. Basilian Father Maurice Restivo, who spends part of his time in Hebron keeping the peace between Palestinians and Israelis, began teaching theology at St. Joseph's in January. "I hesitate to call myself a peacemaker because I know I still have so much violence in my own heart," he says.
SASKATOON – Saskatoon musician and composer Zeljko Bilandzic, a convert to Catholicism, recently released a new album entitled Longing for the Bride. The compilation captures Bilandzic's talent as a classical guitarist playing the music of J.S. Bach, Albeniz, Tarrega, Josquin des Pres, Barrios, Villa Lobos as well as his own compositions. Originally from Sarajevo, Bilandzic came to Canada as a survivor of the Bosnian war in 1997.
Parish revitalization requires a Church filled with hearts on fire for Christ and parishioners helpful to fallen-away Catholics navigating their way back to church. "Yes, the Eucharist is enough, but so many people need more to understand that," Patrick Lencioni, an author and leadership consultant, told the recent invitation-only Amazing Parish Conference in Denver. "Those people out there who are former Catholics or Catholics going other places, they're hungry for what you have," Lencioni said.
BEAUPRÉ, QUEBEC – The Canadian bishops are launching a national strategy to fight the push for euthanasia. Archbishop Paul-Andre Durocher, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the CCCB will launch a "campaign to combat the movement in Canada to facilitate access to euthanasia" with the help of the Catholic Organization of Life and Family (COLF) and the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.
EDMONTON – A Development & Peace (CCODP) delegation visited the region of the Philippines devastated by last year's Typhoon Haiyan. Their trip in August was filmed for a documentary, which is still in production. Fran Lucas, national second vice-president of the Catholic Women's League, was one of 10 Canadians on the trip. Serving with the CWL for 23 years at St. Joseph's Basilica, Lucas was invited by CCODP to participate in the 11-day whirlwind solidarity trip.
The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace (CCODP) is hoping to engage a new generation of young Catholics in creating a more just world. "I want to create a movement that will reflect and be embracive of all the changes in Canada's growing Catholic family, a movement that is multi-generational, where we will have meetings in five or 10 years with tons of kids running around, with people of First Nations descent and from all walks of life," said Isabelle Kim who is charged with expanding the organization's youth outreach.
WASHINGTON – The conflict in which Islamic State fighters are driving out Christians and other minorities must not be seen as a war between Islam and Christianity, said the head of the Vatican Congregation for Eastern Churches. "I do not share this position and I ask, on the contrary, that it never prevail," Cardinal Leonardo Sandri told participants in the inaugural In Defense of Christians summit Sept. 9."
Among the various First World War-related anniversaries of this centennial year, the election of Pope Benedict XV, 100 years ago Sept. 3, is apt to be one of the less widely observed. Pope Benedict XV is the most obscure of the nine men who have led the Catholic Church over the last century – the title of his biography by historian John Pollard is The Unknown Pope – and in some ways, this negative distinction seems justified. His seven-and-a-half-year pontificate was relatively short and, with respect to his most prominent undertaking, spectacularly unsuccessful.
BEAUPRÉ, QUEBEC – The Canadian Church is in the midst of a precipitous drop in the numbers of priests, sisters and brothers, and the weakening of the faith of the laity, Canada's new apostolic nuncio told the country's bishops Sept. 15. A statistical overview of the Church in Canada, following decades of secularization, paints an "alarming portrait," said Archbishop Luigi Bonazzi, who arrived in Canada seven months ago.
MISSION, B.C. – An Edmonton man has taken the next step toward the priesthood after seven years of living in a Benedictine monastery. Frater Caesarius Marple was ordained a deacon at Westminster Abbey Aug. 31. "I was completely confident in the mercy of God. There wasn't really any nervousness," said Marple, 27, after his ordination.
Becoming Catholic: Finding Rome in the American Religious Landscape by David Yamane. Oxford University Press (New York, 2014). 256 pp.
In the introduction to Becoming Catholic, author David Yamane writes words that may take the reader by surprise: "Since 1988, well over two million individuals in the United States have entered the (Catholic) Church. . . . "(O)n average over the past 10 years, 67,298 adults annually have been baptized Catholic and 83,050 baptized Christians annually have been 'received into full communion'" with the Catholic Church in the United States.