Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Heart of Lent

After the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday, the Church celebrates on the First Sunday of Lent one of the Rites of Christian Initiation for Adults: the Rite of Election. Our Catechumens gather this day in the Cathedral Church to bring to a close their Catechumenate, the lengthy period of formation of the Catechumens's minds and hearts. With this Rite, the Church makes its "election" that is its choice of these people and admits them to celebrate the Sacraments of Initiation: Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist at Easter.

It is called the Rite of Election because it is God who has chosen these people to be part of God's holy people, and it is in God's name that the Church acts.
The Bishop questions the Godparents to hear their recommendation: "As God is your witness, do you consider these candidates worthy to be admitted to the sacraments of Christian initiation?
The catechumens express their wish to enter fully into the life of the Church through the sacraments of baptism, confirmation, and the eucharist. They then enter their names into the Book of the Elect.

The Bishop then signs the Book of the Elect.

The dignity of this celebration is much contributed to by the excellent servers at the Cathedral.

The Bishop then says: "I now delcare you to be members of the elect, to be initiated into the sacred mysteries at the next Easter Vigil.

"That these elect may find joy in daily prayer, we pray: Lord hear our prayer.

That these elect may read your word and joyfully dwell on it in their hearts, we pray.

That each day of Lent they may do something in your honour, we pray.

That they may grow to love and seek virtue and holiness of life, we pray.

That they may dedicate their daily work as a pleasing offering to you, we pray.

That you will bless and protect their families, we pray.

That they may share with others the joy they have found in their faith, we pray.
Father, guide the elect of your Church and strengthen them in their vocation, we pray.

Dear elect, you have set out with us on the road that leads to the glory of Easter. Christ will be your way, your truth, and your life.

These elect now become the heart of our Lent as they journey towards baptism and with them we journey to a renewed commitment to our own baptismal calling at Easter.

Monday, March 9, 2009

AWCB Presentation on Human Traficking.

At their annual Assembly, the Western Catholic Bishops spend a full day, evening, morning and afternoon listening to a presentation which helps educate them on current aspects of living our faith as disciples of Jesus. This year Sr. Sheila Smith, RSJC, spoke to the Bishops on human trafficking.

Human trafficking means the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving ofr receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having controlover another person, for the purpose of exploitation.

Sister Sheila Smith reminded the bishops that human trafficking is a modern form of slavery. It is a violation of human rights and a serious crime, and it takes place in Canada. A conservative estimate is that at least 800 people are traficked into Canada each year, and from 1500 to 2200 people are trafficked each year through Canada to the United States.

I will pass on to you a story from the Canadian Red Cross, Vancouver, B.C. It is quoted in the Canadian Religious Conference Awareness and action Kit for High School Students "Human Trafficking and the 2010 Olympics:

" I wanted to get out of Thailand, so when the opportunity came to make lots of money and live in a big city in Canada, I took it. Upon my arrival at the airport, a group of men met me, took my passport 'for safe keeping', and drove me to a house where there were lots of otheer young women. Soon I realized I was trapped. I couldn't leave the house and was told I had to pay back $30,000 for my passage. When I asked how I was to get the money, I was told the only way was for me 'to service' men everyday. For months, I was kept in the locked house, given little food, and escorted daily by force, to a brothel. One of the men said, "You will do what we tell you if you want your family to live." Eventually government officials found and raided the house. I don't know what will happen to me now, since I have no official identity."

"Canada is part of this modern form of slavery. The sex industry inCanadian cities forces trafficked persons to work as escorts, strippers, and prostitutes. Canadians creat demand for these trafficked sex workers. There is also evidence of trafrficking for labour exploitation in industries such as : construction, agriculture and domestic work."

The Bishops of British Columbia and Yukon have issued a Pastoral Letter on Human Trafficking http://www.rcav.org/ht/index.htm. I will give one small quote from this letter: "As a community committed to the following of Christ, we dedicate ourselves to making every effort to help those who have been victimized to regain their sense of dignity. We call upon all men and women of good will to eliminate the mentality that treats hman beings as commodities of commercial exploitation and as objects of pleasure. With God's help this can be accomplished by strong legislation, use of the media, and above all through prayer and good example."

Saturday, March 7, 2009

AWCB Plenary Meeting

In the afternoon before the business meeting of the Assembly of Western Catholic Bishops begins, the Bishop's, who form the Board of Regents for St. Joseph's Seminary in Edmonton, meet with the Seminary Staff in an annual meeting.

From left to right we see the Seminary staff: Fr. Augusto Garcia p.s.s., Fr. Stephen Hero, Fr. Huy Nguyen, Fr. Andrew Szablewski, p.s.s. Then you have to skip over Bishop David Monroe of Kamloops, and next to him is Fr. Shayne Craig, p.s.s., the Rector of the Seminary. The meeting dealt with various issues, the most pertinent is the building of the new seminary. The previous site of Newman College and St. Joseph's Seminary is being taken over by an extensive highway project and these two institutions have to move. A new College and Seminary is being built in Edmonton and should be ready for occupation in the autumn of 2009.

After the Board of Regents meeting and the presentation of trafficking, the Assembly settled down to its business meeting on Wednesday evening and which continued until Friday at noon.

Bishop David Motiuk, Bishop of the Ukranian Eparchy of Edmonton, chaired the part of the meeting that dealt with Apex, the insurance company directed by the Bishops of Western Canada and which handles the insurance policies for most of the dioceses in the West.

There are twenty-two bishops in Western Canada (BC to Manitoba and including the Yukon and North West Territories) and all were present at the meeting. The meeting dealt with a number of practical issues such as the Enculturation Seminar for international priests serving in our dioceses, the Bishops' Annual Retreat, the Workshop for Priests Ordained five years and under. It was also decided that the Annual Assembly would take place in Lumsden next year to recognize the 100th anniversary of the Archdiocese of Regina.

Some national issues were also discussed such as the March for Life beging organized in Ottawa and the arrangement of a meeting with Phil Fontaine, the National Chief, and some aboriginal representatives with the Holy Father.
A representative of the Fundraising organization spoke to the Bishops on the question of the National Collection required by the Federal Government on the Catholic Church entities to raise $25 million dollars in reference to the Residential Schools settlement

On my left is Abbot Peter Novecosky who serves as secretary for the Assembly and helps keep things in order during the meetings. We also discussed Aboriginal Ministry, the issue of uranium mining and nuclear energy, the Summer School in Liturgical Studies for Western Canada and heard a presentation on L'Arche Canada Foundation. Bishop Luc Bouchard was elected as a member of the CCCB Permanent Council, Bishop Albert LeGatt as substitute and Archbishop Richard Smith as second substitute, among other things.

Bede Hubbard attended the meeting as Associate General Secretary of the CCCB. Bede is a native of Saskatchewan.
It was a good and productive meeting, but by Friday noon, we were all quite ready to go home. Personally, I greatly appreciate the bishops that we have here in Western Canada and find it a pleasure to be in their company. There is much wisdom, experience and dedication among these Shepherds of Christ's flock.
God of all gifts and source of all truth, give the fullness of your blessing to the college of Bishops, and keep all those entrusted to their care faithful to the teaching of the apostles. (Evening Prayer 1, Second Sunday of Lent.)

Archbishop Joseph MacNeil's 40th Anniversary

During the Assembly of Western Bishops' meeting, we took time to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Ordination to the Episcopate of Archbishop Joseph MacNeil, Archbishop Emeritus of Edmonton.

We began with the Celebration of the Eucharist at Providence Centre. Archbishop Richard Smith preached the homily at that Mass. Archbishop Smith is the present Archbishop of Edmonton and also a "Maritimer" like Archbishop MacNeil and some others out here in the West.

I knew Archbishop MacNeil when he was Bishop of Saint John, New Brunswick. He was always referred to as "Bishop Joe N," following the Cape Breton custom of distinguishing people who had one of the common Scottish names in their community by the second initial. I was a very young priest at that time. The people of Saint John were very pleased with this Cape Bretoner who had become their Bishop and were more than a little saddened when he was taken from them to become Archbishop of Edmonton.

Following the Mass we gathered for a very nice dinner hosted by Archbishop Smith.

The Archbishop is here with the Saskatchewan Bishops: Bishop Albert LeGatt of Saskatoon, on his left, myself on his right and Bishop Albert Thevenot of Prince Albert. We have lots of Alberts now in Saskatchewan.

From left to right here are Abbot Peter Novecosky, Archbishop James Weisgerber, Archbishop of Winnipeg and President of the CCCB and next to Archbishop MacNeil is Archbishop Smith.

Archbishop Weisgerber and Bishop Gerry Wiesner of Prince George had Archbishop MacNeil as one of the Principal Consecrators at their Ordination as Bishops.
It is nice to celebrate these special occasions together and to thank God for the blessings that are so generously given to us.

Aboriginal Ministry Committee

Before the annual meeting of the Assembly of Western Catholic Bishops met in February, its Standing Committee for Aboriginal Ministry met during the previous day. This committee was formed in 2006 by the AWCB in recognition that ministry to no longer was the sole responsibilty of the Oblate Community. The native people are part of the Roman Catholic Church in all of Canada. The Committee was set up to investigate what could be done to train people who minister to the native people of our region in matters of native spirituality and to bring together in some way the native groups recognizing the major difference that exists between the different tribes. The Committee then would deal with other related fields.

In 2007 it was transformed into a Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs. The Committee is chaired by Archibishop Sylvain Lavoie, OMI, the Archbishop of Kewatin-Le Pas, a diocese which stretches over northern Manitoba and covering a portion of northen Saskatchewan as well.
There are five members of the Committe. Going from left to right: Bishop Richard Gagnon of Victoria, Archbishop Sylvain Lavoie, Bishop Murray Chatlain of Mackenzie-Fort Smith, Bishop Gary Gordon of Whitehorse and myself. Everyone is looking quite happy despite the huge challenges of carrying out effective ministry to our indigenous peoples.
The Committee had seen to providing a summer school session at Newman Theological college in the summers of 2007 and 2008 for those involved in ministry to native people and for native people themselves to come and be part of the sessions. It has also looked to the development and presentation of Orientation sessions for Native Ministry. To this end, Sister Eva Solomon was hired as coordinator of this project.

In 2007 Sr. Eva was hired to co-ordinate a thirteen month pilot project "Interculturation of Faith" in the dioceses of Western Canada. Here is Sr. Eva with a pretty happy group at Telegraph Creek.

And Sr. Eva speaking with a group at Fort McMurray.
Her pilot project has been extended into the "Building Bridges Project" which includes Orientation and Information Sessions held throughout the dioceses of northern and western Canada, Directions for First Nations Ministry sessions held at Newman Theological College during the summer and in the planning is a Dialogue withFirst Nations Elders.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Saskatchewan Roman Catholic Bishops Visit the Premier

On February 10 I took part, along with Bishops Albert LeGatt, Albert Thévenot and Brian Bayda along with Scott Irwin, President and CEO of the Catholic Health Ministry of Saskatchewan (Saskatchewan Catholic Health Corporation) in a meeting with Premier Brad Wall at the Legislature in Regina.

We were warmly and cordially welcomed. The meeting provided an opportunity for the Bishops to re-establish their relationship with Premier Wall and for both parties to raise a number of health care related issues. The Bishop’s congratulated Premier Wall on forming the government and on a number of initiatives that his government has undertaken since taking office, including the “Ready for Growth” initiative, government sponsored education sessions for affiliate board members and the recent announcement to replace 13 long term care facilities throughout Saskatchewan.

We also touched on a number of other topics including personal liability for affiliate board directors, the need for long term care standards in Saskatchewan and opportunities for further partnerships to improve and enhance health care delivery in Saskatchewan.

The Bishops expressed their desire for an open and ongoing relationship with the Premier's Office in those areas which were of mutual concern, such as the topic dealt with that day: Health Care in the Province of Saskatchewan and the role of Catholic Health Care in that area of provincial life. The response of the Premier was positive to us and ours to him. We share a common desire to contribute to the quality of life for all people in our province.

Praise for the Prairie Messenger

On February 6th, I was invited by Abbot Peter Novesosky, the Editor of the Prairie Messenger to accompany him to the Saskatchewan Council for International Co-operation's 2009 Regina Global Citizen Awards. It was a great evening during which the Prairie Messenger received the Global Citizen Award.

The Council was formed in 1974 by international development agencies active in Saskatchewan. Now it encompasses the local committees of 35 major churches, educational organizations and international development agencies. It's mission statement is published as follows:

The Saskatchewan Council for International Cooperation is a coalition of organizations involved in international development and committed to the recognition of the dignity of all people and their right to self-determination, to the protection of the world's fragile environment, and to the promotion of global understanding, cooperation, peace and justice.

Abbot Peter was very happy in receiving this award and is justly proud of The Prairie Messenger and its nomination of this award. The Prairie Messenger was nominated by Development and Peace Saskatchewan for being an excellent source of news and analysis on international development and global justice issues

Also receiving Awards were Bill Curry and Dale Dewar. In nominating them it was said: "Dale and Bill are living proof that the constructive work of advocating for justice and building the wider community into a just and peaceful context for raising children is the core of global citizenship, and the foundation of life-long empowerment." (Earthbeat Jan 09)

And there were some familiar faces present to lend support to those receiving the Award.

Everyone enjoyed an unusual treat in a supper prepared by Abi Hafyze of Afghan Cuisine in Regina. Several people were seen going back for seconds.....