Friday, October 31, 2008

"Whoever Welcomes this Child in My Name..."

On October 27 th after the Celebrations of the Gift of the Holy Spirit around Esterhazy, I had the delightful occasion to be a part of the 50th Anniversary of Sacred Heart/Sacré Coeur School in Estevan.
The celebrations began with the Church's great prayer of thanksgiving, the Eucharist at the Parish Church in Estevan. The young people were very much involved in this Liturgy.

I need to say a particular thank you to Mason, who was courageous enough to be with me at the Chair and assist me with his presence during the homily. In the Gospel reading, Jesus was teaching his followers that the greatest ones in God's eyes are those who are the least in the eyes of the world. In our schools, our children don't have the ability to be the principal or the teachers or the school board members. Since they are the ones who know that they need us, Mason and his friends are the important people in Catholic education.
After Mass we went to the school where we were welcomed by the Principal, Charlene Holiday and had a meal together, prepared and served by some of the young people from the High School.

On the right of the picture is Sr. Jacqueline Lussier, CSC who is the Parish Minister at Our Lady of Seven Sorrows at Lampman. Next to the left is Fr. Lorne Crozon, the former Pastor of St. John the Baptist, Estevan and to my right is Fr. Joel Rama, the newly installed Administrator of the Parish and next to him is Fr. Peter Nijssen, an Associate Priest at St. John the Baptist. We are missing the second Associate Priest in the picture, Fr. Callistus Ibe.
As a point of explanation, Fr. Rama is on loan to or diocese from the Philippines. Since he is not incardinated into the Archdiocese, he is installed as Administrator of the parish in which he carries out the duties of pastor.
Here's a closer look at Fr. Joel.

After lunch we all gathered in the Gym and I had a little time to talk to the students, which I found very enjoyable. Then we lit the candles on the birthday cake, had the official cutting and we all had some.

On the far right is our newest Deacon, Louis Kim Nguyen who I think was glad to get back home to Regina after all our confirmations and anniversary celebrations. We met many children and youth of our Archdiocese that weekend. They are such a blessing to us.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Receive the Power of the Holy Spirit

This past weekend I travelled to the eastern part of the diocese to celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation for young people in Windthorst, Stockholm and Esterhazy. The gift of the fullness of the Holy Spirit is an incredible gift to receive from the Father. It gives the follower of Jesus great power to be a light to our sometimes very darkened world. The World Youth Day gathering this past summer was a dramatic witness to the power of God's Spirit dwelling within us. Its theme song, "Receive the Power of the Holy Spirit," continues to pop up in my mind, especially in liturgies which celebrate the Spirit of God such as these celebrations of Confirmation. I will share it with you.

The first Confirmation Liturgy was in Windthorst with twenty five young people from the parishes of Kennedy, Kipling, Wawota and Windthorst being confirmed. The pastor, Fr. Joe Strohhofer gave us a warm welcome and assisted Deacon Louis Kim Nguyen and myself in the liturgy.

So here we all are, a little out of focus after the big ceremony. And afterwards we gathered in the church hall for a very pleasant get together. Fr. Joe was a good host.

Well nourished and content we drove on to Stockholm where we were welcomed with a wonderful supper with the Parish Council. Five young people received the fullness of the Holy Spirit in St. Elizabeth of Hungary Church. It is a beautiful church and clearly displays with great pride the history of the first parishioners who came from Hungary and founded the parish community. Here we all are with Fr. Francis Plaparampil, the parish priest in this lovely church. And afterwards we gathered for another lunch.

On our way then to Esterhazy we drove through a little bit of snow! But nothing serious! And the next morning the pastor, Fr.Albert Schmitz presented twelve young people from his parish to be confirmed.

On these trips around the Archdiocese there is always some manifestation of the beauty of this prairie province. After a cloudy drive from Windthorst to Stockholm we were blessed with another spectacular sunset in the western sky. The fire of the sunset and the windy day were nature's reminder of the wind and fire of the Holy Spirit who entered the hearts of forty-two beautiful young people this weekend. I pray that they will be good and hope-filled witnesses of the beauty of our Faith and the love that God has planted in their hearts. There are many people in our communities who search for that love and meaning in their lives.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Face of Christ Recognized and Reflected

Because of a busy week, I missed last week's post. However, the Saskatchewan Catholic School Boards Association (SCSBA) held its fall convention in Prince Albert on Oct. 17 - 19 . Its theme was "The Face of Christ Recognized and Reflected." It was a wonderful weekend and I am very pleased to have been able to attend. I had the opportunity to meet those dedicated people who serve as Directors of Education and Chair of the Boards and members of the School Boards in our Archdiocese and spend some time getting to know them.

Here are some of the people from the five Catholic School Boards within the Archdiocese of Regina.
The Holy Family Roman Catholic Separate School Division serves Weyburn, Estevan and Radville. On the left is the Director, Shelly Rowein and third from the right is Board Chair Bruno Tuchscherer. Also in this group are members of the newest School Division, St. Augustine's in Wilcox. Rob Kreuger on the far right and Board Chair Kate MacLean.

The Chair of the Regina R.C.S.S.D., Paul Malone is seated on the left and the Director, Rob Currie is third from the left with other members from the Regina Board.

Christ the Teacher R.C.S.S.D. serves Yorkton and Melville. The Board chair Jerome Niezgoda is facing us on the left and next to him is the Director, Rrian Boechler.
And in the far west of the province we have Holy Trinity R.C.S.S.D. The Board Chair, Julie Randall is on the far right with other members of the board. The Director, Delme Wagner was off at another table.
Our sessions were opened by prayer and we were blessed with the presence of two children's groups who sang for the opening prayers. This was a wonderful beginning for those days. It certainly reminded us of why we were gathered for this convention and toward whom our efforts are directed.

The opening key note address was given by Bishop Albert Thevenot. He welcomed us all and spoke of education being about teachin what people need to know. Using his experience in Africa as a missionary there he told of the nomadic peoples of Tanzania who needed fire, food and water. That meant someone had to carry the coals as they moved about. Catholic education is about carrying the faith so that children get what they need: education in their faith by communicating the message of Jesus and a living witness to Christ. This education is best communicated by people who are committed to what they believe and to the future of the world.

The keynote speaker the next day was Fr. George Smith, CSB, President of St. Thomas More College in Saskatoon. Fr. Smith talked about the Convention's theme: "The Face of Christ: Recognized and Reflected," using Icons of Jesus. He led us in a very effective reflection on the face of Christ the Child in Bethlehem, the face of Jesus Transfigured and the face of Christ Crucified. As catholic educators we see the face of the Child Jesus refleceted in the face of each of our children. As disciples, we go beyond the demands of justice to see the face of Jesus among the suffering, the marginalized and the frightened. It was a good reminder to us of the presence of Jesus in the "little ones" who are in most need of our love.

The face of Christ Transfigured remins us that in our rebirth through the Holy Spirit into the life of God at our Baptism we are transformed into "other Christs", into the One who is transfigured before us in the Gospel. This belief gives us great strength and the understanding that need not be afraid of the challenges which face us.

The face of Jesus Crucified is a face looking into our faces where Christ sees our broken, sinful selves who seek to be loved and to love. The face of Jesus Crucified is a face full of love for us.

At the close of business, we gathered at St. Joseph Church to celebrate the Eucharist. Bishop Albert presided and myself and Bishop Brian Bayda of the Eparchy of Saskatoon concelebrated along with Fr. Smith and Fr. Matthew Nguyen, the pastor.

Some of the young people of the parish performed liturgical dance during the celebration. It was beautifully and tastefully done.

Of course a very important part of the Celebration were the Altar Servers who fulilled their duties as Acolytes with great expertise. Here they are with us at the end of Mass along with Fr. Francis Agbezuge and I believe Fr. Ivan Nahachewski who also concelebrated.

I was pleased to have a picture with the Regina Archdiocese Chairs of the Board and Directors of Education for our different school divisions. We are blessed with very dedicated and faith filled people.
And I will share with you some of the scenery of this beautiful province that made up my drive back to Regina on Sunday.

This last is the town of Holdfast seen from the highway with Fr. Neil Osiowy and his parishioner's church on the left and book-ended by the grain elevator on the right.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

An Evening with the Catholic Young Adults in Regina

Last Sunday I was invited by the Catholic Young Adults group to spend the evening with them to talk about some of the topics which they felt were of importance to them and therefore for other young Catholic Adults in our diocese. I had a very enjoyable couple of hours with these fine young people and we talked about some very pertinent subjects.

Sitting around the table (and the donuts!) are the young people who took part in the evening. Next to me is Nathan who is the leader of the core group of CYA in Regina. And in the back as well, Fr. Brian Meredith, the Rector of the Cathedral and Fr. Neil Osiowy the Diocesan Driector of Vocations.

We talked about how we are called to be witnesses of the Good News of Jesus to those around us. How do we do this when most of the people around us do not practice any faith? Some ideas we shared focused on the example that we give. People who know us know how we behave, what we think is right or wrong, how we treat others and so on. We witness by showing our honesty, our joy, our patience, our self control. And all the other "Fruits of the Spirit" within us that St. Paul spoke of in his Letter to the Galatians. These are things of good news to a world around us that can be tainted with dishonesty, with selfish use of other people and a pervasive lack of moral restraint not only in one's sexuality but also in other powers and appetities we have. We find true happiness when we follow the teachings of Jesus, and that happiness shown in our lives is what will draw others to a fuller and more deeply happy human life.

The subject of marriage and family was also discussed. We talked about the purpose of our sexuality in the teaching of the Church. That sexual love finds its true place only in the loving and faithful commitment of marriage. Conjugal love has two goals: the procreation of children and the deepening of the bond of love between husband and life. Thus children are born into a stable environment of love and fidelity which is their greates security in which to grow and learn.

I always enjoy my meetings with the C'YA group. Our young people are a very important part of our faith community. They can be like lights burning in the darkness for their peers in our very secular and consumeristic world. There is a great malaise and lack of hope that afflicts a troubling number of our youth and young adults. Jesus brings light to our darkness and hope in times of emptiness or difficulty. What a gift our Catholic young people have to bring to our world!

During our meeting I shared how overwhelmingly moved I was by the young people who attended World Youth Day in Sydney. Over 220,000 people registered for World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia. At the beginning of the week of World Youth Day, the Australian secular press was very negative and critical of the event. By the end of the week, they could not say enough good about the event and the youth who descended on the city of Sydney. The young people by the simple witness of their faith and a conduct based on their integrity and beliefs moved a whole country.

This is my favourite picture of world youth day. I took it on the day the Holy Father, Pope Benedict arrived to greet the pilgrims. They are a few of the 225,000 people who were there to greet and cheer and be with Pope Benedict. What I see in this picture is the energy, the openess, the enthusiasm and the joy of our Catholic young people. This can be a tremendously powerful force in the Church for the good of all people in the world. We need our young people to be visible and active in our parishes for our parishes to be fully healthy and alive.

If I may add this aside: Here as well are those of us from our Archdiocese who joined with Prince Albert Diocese for this pilgrimage of World Youth Day.

In the back row is Harmony Landgraf, Melanie Giambattista and Kristen Schneider along with Fr. Danilo Rafael, Rob Twa our Diocesan Youth Director and myself. There were three young people who went with CCO, Eric and Emily Lautsch and Kenna Nelson and also two who went on their own, Marijo Cayer and Emily Mann.

The next World Youth Day will be in 2011 and will take place in Madrid, Spain. It is my great hope that we will have at least 100 if not twice that who will prepare for and travel to this great gathering of Catholic Youth.

I am delighted to have had this meeting with CYA in Regina and to be able to spend time with and encourage our young Catholic people in our Archdiocese of Regina. I look forward to many other opportunities of spending time with them not only in Regina but throughout the diocese.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving or is that Merry Christmas

Here's a glimpse of Thanksgiving Day in Regina, looking out over the park behind my house.

That having been said, I ended the day having Thanksgiving Dinner at Martha House, a residence for retired priests of the Diocese. It added a pleasant warmth to a cool and wintry day.

As you can see, the Sisters did a very fine job of decorating to make the Thanksgiving meal a special one. There are six priests and three lay people who live at Martha house which is well looked after by the community of Sisters: the Daughters of St. Mary of Leuca.

And here are the three Sisters. They deserve special thanks for providing such a caring atmosphere at Martha House and for giving us all a very delicious and abundant meal to remind us of all of God's gifts given to us from the always loving heart of our God.

We give you thanks Almighty God, for these and all your gifts, through Jesus Christ, Our Lord.


Annual Priests Assembly

From Monday to Thursday last week the priests of the Archdiocese came to Moose Jaw to spend a few days together to listen to Gerry Goebel. Jerry Goeble has worked with youth and young adults for over thirty years. Twenty of those have been spent with at-risk youth on the streets or in the juvenile court system. So Jerry had a vision of bringing the Gospel to people in the most difficult and challenging situations. As he shared this vision and how it can be brought about the priests saw many ways in which it could give energy to the Visioning renewal that the Archdiocese is entering upon and also many ways in which it could enliven our progress towards becoming a Stewardship Diocese composed of Stewardship parishes.

We listened and we worked and we discussed and shared our thoughts on what we were hearing

And we prayed together as the Presbyterium of the Diocese, the fraternity of the ordained priesthood that serves the People of God in the Archdiocese of Regina.

We have to say a special thank you to Fr. Lorne Crozon for organizing the Assembly this year and for seeing that everything ran so smoothly for us. He also organized a special Anniversary Banquet for me. This year is the fifth anniversary of my Ordination as Bishop. The anniversary actually falls on July 3rd. But that date sort of disappeared on me this year. I left Canada on July 2nd to fly to Australia for World Youth Day. The next morning I arrived in Australia and it was July 4th. So somewhere between Vancouver and Sydney my anniversary disappeared. It was very nice for me to be able to celebrate this special day with the priests of the diocese. I was also presented with a gift by Msgr Ken Miller: a Roughrider Jersey.....Number 17.....Bishop. Needless to say I was very moved.

We had wonderful music for our liturgies provided by some of our priests; and we drew together a bit more as one presbyterate formed of many men from many cultures and backgrounds. We continue to grow more into a comunity of deliberate charity and Jerry Goebel might say.