Saturday, February 28, 2009

A Touch of Paradise

At the end of January, my sister and her husband were kind and generous enough to invite me to spend a week with them at their home in Barbados. After nearly two months of -30's temperatures, I was very happy to accept. This is a beautiful place in the world and for me reflects very much the beauty of its Creator.

This beauty was also emphasized in the sun rise which was at 6:00 am and not 8:45 am as in Regina. Although Regina makes up for that in the summer!

During the week, Fr. Harcourt Blackett, the Rector of the Cathedral in Bridgetown, very generously took me on a tour of his island country. I felt the love and attachment he had for his home and his delight in its history and natural beauty.

He took me to Codrington College, an Anglican Theological School at which he also teaches a course. He has a degree in Ecumenism from Trinity College in Dublin which he puts to good use here. The College was opened in 1745 and thus is the oldest Anglican Theology College in the Western Hemisphere.

Another very interesting place was St. Nicholas Abbey, a plantation house built thirty years after the British settled Barbados in 1625.

And if you want to know what an authentic 17th century plantation house toilet was like, here you are. A little too social for me, I think!

Among the earliest workers on the sugar plantations were Irish who were sent by Cromwell to Barbados as "indentured servants," slaves for all practical purposes. What is seen here is a cave that served as a place where these Catholic Irish would come for Mass. The Penal Laws were in effect at that time and it was against the law to practice the Roman Catholic Religion.

Another very interesting building is the Jewish Synagogue in Barbados. It is a lovely building and also is very old, having been built in 1654.

Evidence of Faith is found in many places such as this shrine which I came across walking along the beach. And of course continued evidence of the exquisite beauty of creation. These flowering bushes were a delight to see at the end of January.

We see lots of pointsettias at Christmas, here is one growing in a natural habitat and flowering every year.
"You answer us with awesome deeds of righteousness, O God our Savior, the hope of all the ends of the earth and the of the farthest seas, who formed the mountains by your power, who stilled the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, and the turmoil of the nations. Those living far away fear your wonders; where morning dawns and evening fades you call forth songs of joy." (Psalm 65:5 - 8)

"Bishops' Day" at St. Michael's Retreat

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity was celebrated this year at St. Michael's Retreat with a session with the Bishops of the three Christian denominations which operate St. Michael's: Anglican, Lutheran and Roman Catholic. The theme of the day was "Recommitment to Christian Unity: Understanding of Fundamental Sacramental Practices in Each Tradition."

Bishop Gregory Kerr-Wilson of the Anglican Diocese of Qu'Appelle is in the centre and on the left is Pastor Helmut Nachtigal, who represented Evangelical Lutheran Bishop Cindy Halmarson who was unable to attend. Each of the three of us gave a twenty minute presentation on the Sacraments as they are understood in each of the denominations. This then was followed by questions and comments from the group who had assembled for the day.

And as you can see, there was a very good turn out with a sizeable group present for the event.

Fr. Kevin Lynch, ofm who is the former Director of St. Michael's acted as Master of Ceremonies for the day.

After being welcomed by Fr. Anthony Gonsalves, ofm, the present Director of St. Michael's, Pastor Nachtigal began with his presentation outlining the Evangelical Lutheran Church's theology on the Sacrament. Bishop Kerr-Wilson and myself followed.

There was a good lunch after the morning session. The lunch was excellent, as is usually the case at St. Michael's

And there was time to chat informally.

At the end of the day we gathered for prayer together in the Chapel. The prayer was led by Fr. Dennis Vvrek, ofm, the Provincial of the Franciscans in Western Canada.

It was a very satisfactory day spent in working to an answer of Jesus prayer in John's Gospel (17: 20-21)for his disciples and followers: ‘
I, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.‘I ask not only on behalf of these As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Dishing out the smokies at Marian Centre

I recently spent the noon hour at Marian Centre helping to serve the meal to the men who come to the Centre for food and fellowship. Marian Centre is run by the Madonna House Apostolate.

On arrival I met a couple of great guys from LeBoldus High School, Aaron and Robin. They had come that morning to donate some of their time to help get the meal ready. I thought that these two high school students were a terrific example of giving time and talent to help others in witness to the Gospel.

Here's a couple of other regular volunteers who helpled make sure that I didn't mess up in serving the food to the hungry group who had gathered.

This kind of activity is one I enjoy very much doing. The Archdiocese has set out to establish Stewardship as a characteristic way of living our Catholic Faith in all our parishes. So my visits to Marian Centre help me to give of my time (and limited talent) back to God and so help me as part of my own goal to become a "Stewardship Bishop" in what I pray will be a "Stewardship Diocese."
Stewardship Prayer: I offer this day to you dear God.Thank you for the blessings you have given me.May I use these gifts to build your kingdom.May my actions be a reflection of your love.May what I do today bring others closer to you.May my words be kind and gentle and may they bring joy to others.Today, help me to give back a portion of what you have given me.I ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen. (Stewardship text and Prayers ©Mary Jane Doerr published in the2008 Stewardship Calendar ©J.S. Palush Company Inc.All rights reserved. Used by permission.)


Saturday, February 7, 2009

Lay Ministry Formation Class

Once again I get the chance to do some work in my job as Teacher in the Archdiocese. The invitation to come and give a class for the Lay Ministry Formation program was a very welcome one for me. This program has been very successful over the years and is well into its third decade of forming lay people to carry out their mission in the church and in the world.

Here you see some of the great people who give a weekend a month for nine months over three years to get this training.

The program is focused on forming Catholic men and women to live out their baptismal commitment in a profound and balanced way in their everyday lives. There is a strong emphasis on the integration of knowledge, spirituality and community. The program began in 1980 and has been strengthening the Church in the Archdiocese of Regina over all these years. You can find more detailed information on this important part of our diocesan church life on the Archdiocese of Regina web page

Since one of the foundational teachings of the program is living out our baptismal calling, I took the opportunity to speak on the meaning of the baptismal priesthood of the laity and how we are called to live that priesthood so that all the world will one day be in communion with our Risen Saviour, and indeed all creation will be made one in the love of God made known to us in Christ.

Here I am with two of the Archdiocesan staff who put on the formation program, Bonnie Thiele Hunt who is Coordinator of the John Paul II Office of Adult Education and Faith Formation and Judy Zolc who leads the Lay Ministries Formation Program.

The Church can only be strengthened as more and more of the faithful deepen their knowledge of our relationship with Christ as members of His Body, the Church and understand more clearly the teaching of Jesus and its meaning in our lives. The Lay Ministry Formation Program is a great richness in our diocese which helps bring this about.


Friday, February 6, 2009

Western Bishops Retreat

Shortly after New Year's, the Bishops of Western Canada held their annual retreat at the Benedictine Abbey in Mission, BC.

This view from the Abbey window gives a little idea of the beauty of the setting, even though it was a typical winter day in British Columbia with lots of clouds and some rain. It was none the less somewhat warmer than in Regina!

The Abbey Church is also a beautiful and impressive place where the liturgy is celebrated throughout the day by the monks and their students.

Our retreat was directed by Archbishop Marcel Gervais, the Archbishop Emeritus of Ottawa. Archbishop Gervais has a wonderfully strong background in Holy Scripture, and we were both attentive
and enjoying his talks, which I found very positive and helpful.

I particularly enjoyed the time he spent on the stories of the Patriarchs in the books of Genesis and Exodus. The portrayal of God and the relationship that existed between God and the Chosen People of Israel is much more earthy than we might perhaps use today and give us a different insight into our God who loves us and is so patient and forgiving of our weaknesses and failures.

The monks also had a wonderful Christmas Cactus that was in full bloom in the monastery. With the rain in the background I found it a lovely reminder that amidst the clouds and dark days of life, the presence of Christ with and within is is always a bright and hopefilled promise.

In the middle is Fr. Mark Dumont, OSB, our Guestmaster and on his right is Bishop Richard Gagnon of Victoria.

During the retreat we celebrated some of the Liturgies with the Monastic Community and their students.

And we concluded the week by celebrating the Sunday Eucharist with them in their beautiful Monastery Church.

And here is the bunch of us, obviously happy with the time together with the Lord and with one another for this time of retreat.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Cultural Interface

In the Fall of 2007 eight of our priests who have come from overseas plus eight of our local priests travelled to Riding Mountain Park in Manitoba to join an equal number of priests from the Archdiocese of Winnipeg and also from the Diocese of Saskatoon. We spent the week following a workshop given by Fr. Anthony Gittens C.S.Sp, professor of theological anthropoligy at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. The workshop dealt with ways to deal with cultural differences in a positive and productive way. Since our diocese has a sizeable percentage of priests coming from other countries and cultures working together, we found the week together both challenging and productive.

The group has continued to meet three or four times a year to develop a trust and a vehicle to try to reach some of the goals presented by Fr. Gittens. Here are some of the priests from our last meeting. Fr. Hector Seville of the Philippines who is pastor in Langenburg, Fr. Louis Kim Nguyen from Vietnam, associate at Holy Family, Regina and Fr. James Owolagba from Nigeriawho is pastor at Gull Lake.

And there is Fr. Andrew Pawlowicz who is on loan to the diocese from Poland, Administrator at Rockglen, and Fr. Tonny Dizi, pastor at Christ the King, Regina.
We had a great meal together put on by the Philippine priests - one way of getting to know one another's cultures. Seen here are Fr. Raymond Carrignan, Ponteix, Fr. Brad Fahlman, Holy Family, Regina and Fr. Thang Nguyen, pastor in Raymore.

Usually during the evening we have a presentation or two from priests of different nationalities. Fr. Dennis Remot, administrator at Moosomin,who is on loan to the diocese from the Philippines spoke about his homeland, his ministry there and the church in the Philippines.

Here with Fr. James is Fr. Neil Osiowy, pastor at Holdfast.

And a second presentation was given by Fr. Tonny Dizi, who came to Canada from Holland when he was a young boy. Fr. Tonny spoke about the church in Holland and the way of life there.
There usually follows some discussion on priestly life and the ways that different cultures can present both problems and opportunities for enrichment and growth both for the priests themselves and for the Archdiocesan Church.
The goal of the group is to eventually becine the "leaven" for all the priests of the diocese to enter into this process of personal growth in relationships, spirituality and ministry.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Underway Again!

On New Year's Day, after celebrating the Liturgical Feast Day of Mary the Mother of God at Holy Rosary Cathedral, we held the annual Archbishop's Levee in the Cathedral Parish Hall. The Levee is a reception held on New Year's Day in which the people of the Archdiocese can meet their Archbishop and exchange greetings and best wishes at the beginning of the new year.

The Levee ws a very pleasant event for me. The Knights of Columbus Fourth Degree were present to assist in the reception and facilitating my meeting with the people who were present. Msgr. Kenneth Miller the Vicar General of the Archdiocese was with me and was a wonderful help in making introductions. His long service to the Archdiocese has enabled him to know many people in our Church family.

It was a pleasure to have the opportunity to chat with many people

both young and old.

It was a very pleasant way for me to begin the New Year. The Mass in the Cathedral Church celebrating Mary, the Mother of God and the Mother of all who follow her Son completed the Octave of Christmas and gave confidence to all who believe to begin another new year secure in God's love and care for us all. Then to have the opportunity to meet and spend some time with the people of our Archdiocese and wish them the Blessings of God for the New Year was "the icing on the cake."
To finish off the day, I was invited by the Sisters at Martha House to come and have dinner with the retired priests and residents who make Martha House their home. The sisters who are members of the community of the Daughters of St. Mary of Leuca, provide a great meal in a very warm and hospitable home.
With me around the table is Fr. Art Vandendriessche, Fr. Louis Kubash, Fr. Gordon Rushka.
And on the other side of the table Fr. Dan McCarthy and Fr. Mike Hogan.

Here we see the Sr. Ninfa, Sr. Vincenza and Sr. Ulrica with Fr. Van.

Along with the priests who live at Martha House, there is also a very nice group of lay people who make Martha House their home as well. It is always a pleasure to see them when I visit.

Along with the traditional Creche for Christmas, the Sisters also have in their chapel a representation of the new born Christ Child as the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah: A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. 2The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. (Is 11: 1-2)

The church celebrates this belief as it is expressed in the Advent Antiphon: O Root of Jesse, you stand as a sign for the peoples; before you kings shall keep silence and to you all nations shall have recourse. Come, save us, and do not delay.

And so January 1 completed the solemn celebration of the Birth of the One who gives us hope and life and the security of salvation in each of our lives.