July 25, 2016

My grandmother never said much about the "old country." I can remember her telling my little brother and me about the day Joseph Stalin's men came to round up her brothers and her dad. They lined them up against the barn to execute them.

Then, for some unknown reason, they changed their minds. After Stalin's men left, my great-grandfather said only one thing to his family, "Run! Go, two by two, go to Canada - they're accepting us."

This week, thanks to the generosity of the Edmonton Prospects Baseball Club, the Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton had the opportunity to host more than 100 newcomers to Canada at their first baseball game.

As I met them at the door, one Syrian family stood out amongst the crowd, a mother and her five daughters.

For a moment I thought about Grandma. Her terrifying escape as Stalin closed the Iron Curtain, and starvation and disease set in. By some miracle, all of my relatives made it to Canada, and Canada accepted them.

As this family entered the ballpark, two things struck me. First, the awe in their eyes and the joy in their laughter.

Second, I asked myself, "How different were their lives only a few months ago? And what will their lives be in the years to come because Canadians, this noble and generous lot of daughters and sons of immigrants and refugees themselves, opened their nation, communities and lives to these newcomers?"

I pray that from now on, when someone tells them to run, it's to steal a base, round third to home, and never again for their lives.

Steven Defer
Coordinator for the Office of Life and Family
Catholic Archdiocese of Edmonton