This is the last of my regular monthly columns as The Carillon adopts a new format and focus. While I never expected to have the privilege of writing this column on an on-going basis, I have certainly become used to the regularity of the project, preparing reflections on the story of St. Mary’s University, and on the story of my own faith in our times, as the subject revealed itself to me month after month. As a lay person, I have made a sincere effort to capture the joy of faith in every day experiences – from seeing and noting funny, misprinted church bulletin announcements, and charity event listings, to sharing misremembered prayers, and the imperfect study of our saints. Through it all I have been blessed with a generous audience, and have been surprised, not just at the wide reach of The Carillon itself, but also at the opportunities, both in and out of church, for me to meet with readers of this humble column.
Recently someone thanked me for writing Small Things: Essays in Faith and Hope, the collection published by Novalis that brought together the first three years of the columns. In truth, I’m the one who owes a note of thanks to the readers for their support, ideas, and generosity of spirit. I have never received criticism from the community for my ordinary effort to put these columns together. On the contrary I have been blessed with kind words and support. So too, has St. Mary’s University, the subject of so many of my columns. For this I thank all of you.
It does seem fitting to be writing this at the close of the year and in preparation for Christmas. There is a sense of reckoning that comes with the end of one year and the preparation for the next, and also a sense of stocktaking. It is a time when we gather in thanks for the gifts the Lord has given us, most importantly the miracle of his Son’s birth. It is a time when families gather to celebrate, to pray and to plan for the year ahead. And it is also a chance to say goodbye.
I want to use this opportunity to thank two special women who played a pivotal role in the shaping of these columns: Monique Achtman, a most generous editor and comrade-in-arms, always quick to offer advice and support; and my friend Helen Kominek, the first person to read each column and provide insight into their improvement, including, at times, a clear suggestion that I scrap my first draft and start again! To both Monique and Helen I offer my profound thanks. And to all of The Carillon’s vast audience: thank you for reading.
- If you would like to continue receiving Dr. Turcotte’s monthly columns, either electronically or in hardcopy, please send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org
Merry Christmas and God bless,
From all of us at St. Mary’s University
Dear Diocesan Friends,
Twenty years ago, Fr. Jack Bastigal suggested that I apply for the position of Editor of The Carillon, which was to become the diocesan communication vehicle from the Offices of the Diocese to the “people in the pews.” Mario Toneguzzi was hired and published first the issues of 1997. At that time, I was running an advertising business, and in God’s time, I was contracted by the Diocese to sell advertising in the publication to offset costs; and to become the new editor in 1998. Shortly after Bishop Henry arrived in March 1998, he had a vision for change in the Diocese. He made The Carillon an important part of diocesan communication during the time of his leadership.
Now Bishop McGrattan is here and he, too, has a vision for positive change in the Diocese. Collaborations at the Pastoral Centre will improve our communication strategies. The print editions of The Carillon will change in format and be published quarterly instead of monthly. This edition of The Carillon gives a glimpse of the new look with more in-depth articles, and much less advertising than in past editions.
In the early days we had an editorial board. Together, we shaped the publication by offering a writers’ style guide that ensured that our writers would write not only to inform, but to give formation, using catechetical resources including: the Bible, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, encyclicals of the Pope(s), the Compendium of the Catholic Church, and the General Directory for Catechesis.
We are grateful to the many contributors who made the time to pray, research, and write articles. All of the writers deserve special recognition, but for now, we thank our most regular columnists: Bishop Henry; Bishop W. T. McGrattan; Gabriele Kalincak, Director of the Life and Family Resource Centre for the popular Family Flyer; Dr. Simone Brosig in the Liturgy Office for the articles that offered a current understanding of the Church liturgical seasons and celebrations; Carol Hollywood, for the Library News offering reviews of books and resources, and historical vignettes from the Archives office; and Dr. Gerry Turcotte, President of St. Mary’s University for his column for the past six years.
The Carillon has highlighted many special diocesan events. In particular: Jubilee 2000; World Youth Day 2002 in Toronto; The Bishop’s Cup (hockey game at the Saddledome between the priests and retired Flames’ players); The Bishop’s Dinner; Ordinations to the priesthood – including the four that were celebrated at McMahon Stadium in 2002; Ordinations to the Permanent Diaconate; The Palio Country Fair; the Centennial of the Diocese in 2012; One Rock; World Youth Day at Home in 2013; The Jubilee Year of Mercy 2016; and the Jubilee anniversaries of many parishes, priests, and religious. Other programs and events initiated by the Diocese over the past 20 years include: the Pastoral Care and Bereavement ministry courses; the For Better and For Ever marriage preparation program; Project Rachel/The Song for Rachel; FaithLife; Strengthening Our Parish Communities safety program; Liturgy for the Miscarried; and many more to remember!
What would a publication be without beautiful front cover artwork? We are grateful to have received almost every cover photograph or design as a gift to share with you. We want to give special recognition to the photographers: Ellis Bartkiewicz and Giselle Nerlien, from St. Luke’s Parish; Fr. Fred Monk, now in Medicine Hat; Bandi Szakony from St. Anthony’s Parish, Calgary; Fr. Mariusz Sztuk, St. Gabriel’s Parish, Chestermere; Warren Harbeck, St. Mary’s Parish, Cochrane; Ryan Factura, St. Michael’s Parish, Calgary; Constant de la Cruz, and Victor Panlilio from Canadian Martyrs Parish; and artist, Paty Gasca in Mexico who created beautiful Christmas images that were included on nine of our front covers over the years!
The Carillon has been printed at Calgary Central Web on a “web” printing press for years. I once took my 95 year-old father-in-law to see the production. He was wide-eyed and absolutely amazed to see the professional setup and to learn that it takes only 1.5 hours to print 17,000 copies! After that, it is trimmed, bound, and prepared for delivery over the course of a few days.
Fr. Larry Bagnall (or Doug and Sue Bagnall in the winter months) arrive at the printers at 6:30 a.m. and proceed to drive and deliver each bundle of Carillons to every parish in the city of Calgary, and Strathmore, Airdrie, Cochrane, Canmore, and Okotoks. This is a 9-hour day of driving, followed by the 12-hour day of driving the edition to every Catholic parish door in southern Alberta! We thank our drivers for their dedicated service for the past 20+ years.
The Carillon will continue to be published in the new year. We’re looking forward to new design, new themes, and new articles. Thank you for sending in the Carillon Steering Committee Surveys last month telling us what you want to see in upcoming editions. We are considering all of the answers, and your comments. Please stay in touch by email, email@example.com or phone, (403) 295-8124 to learn more about the new publication.
We wish you a blessed Advent and holy Christmas,
Monique and Myron Achtman
Recently, I spent a few days at a conference that dealt with many issues, including euthanasia, that have preoccupied healthcare professionals in recent months. Although I am not a doctor, I attended the MaterCare International Conference for Catholic obstetricians committed to respecting human life at all stages.
As it turned out, as a lay person, I was in good company at the event. Other non-physicians also attended. In the midst of a busy holiday trip, the conference was a welcome break – a chance to ponder some challenging ethical issues, away from the thousands of tourists milling about St. Peter’s Basilica, just metres from the conference venue.
The conference held some surprises. Many Catholics are familiar with the story of St. Gianna Beretta Molla, the Catholic doctor who sacrificed her life to save the life of her unborn baby. Gianna Molla was canonized in 2004. St. Gianna’s daughter, saved by her mother’s sacrifice, is now an adult and was one of the conference speakers.
A devout Catholic, Vincent Kemme, stands apart from many scientists in a fundamental way. He does not believe resistance to euthanasia can succeed if it is purely secular. In Canada, many who oppose the practice — along with assisted suicide — do so on the grounds that it’s unreasonable, unnecessary and harmful to society, but they often go no further.
Kemme argues that euthanasia is a spiritual problem. The practice has sadly gained the most traction in the Netherlands. About 6,000 people will be put to death there this year, up from 2,000 cases only a few years ago. Kemme argues Dutch society has become largely secular, effectively cutting God out of the picture. He believes it is no coincidence that euthanasia has made the greatest inroads there, although the number of cases in Belgium is also on the rise.
By largely excluding God, the Dutch have done what secular philosophers only contemplated. They have substituted man for God, replacing divine law by human reason, which they consider supreme. Despite the grim trend in the Netherlands — a government report some years back noted involuntary euthanasia was on the rise — Kemme is not without hope for the future.
He believes the solution to the euthanasia problem lies in a return to God and prayer. A Catholic group he belongs to practises daily prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, underscoring that Catholics should avoid judging those involved in euthanasia, recalling the Church’s longstanding distinction between the sinner and the sin. He believes that resistance to euthanasia will succeed only if we oppose peacefully, without judging. “There is no room for aggression,” he told conference attendees.
St. Gianna Molla
For Gianna Beretta Molla, the path to sanctity began in late 1961 with an unwelcome event: the diagnosis of a uterine tumour during the early stages of her pregnancy. At the time, the attending surgeon offered abortion as an option, one that would very likely save Gianna’s life and allow for future pregnancies, should she so choose. In six years of marriage, this was her sixth pregnancy.
Yet, abortion was one option that St. Gianna Molla never entertained. Asked what other options remained, the surgeon offered one with potential, at least from her perspective. He could surgically remove the benign tumour and allow the pregnancy to come to full term. This option was risky for baby and mother, but offered one certainty: there would be no abortion.
The child was born, and named Gianna. Years later, her father, Pietro Molla, related the sequence of events to his daughter — now a geriatrician in Italy — also a speaker at this conference in Rome. She spoke lovingly of her parents and told the story in her own words:
“Mama prayed that the Lord would save her life and mine,” she said. “Two weeks before the delivery, she told my father, ‘Pietro, if you have to decide between the baby’s life and mine, do not hesitate: choose the child.’”
As it happened, when the delivery took place, it was safe and the newborn was healthy. For her part, St. Gianna Molla survived the delivery, but her condition worsened. In only a few hours, she developed a high fever and severe abdominal pains that did not dissipate.
“After a week of agony, during which Mom often repeated the words, ‘Jesus, I love you,’ her condition continued to deteriorate. She did not want to die in hospital, and so was returned to our family home, where she died, aged 39.”
Gianna, the daughter, named after her mother, has had many years to reflect on the lives of her parents. “Both the lives of Mom and Dad were the occasion of great joy, but also of great suffering,” she said.
Recalling the years her father carried on after his wife’s death — Pietro lived into his nineties until his death a few years ago — his daughter related something he said before his death. “Eternity is not enough for me to thank the Lord for the graces he has sent, in particular, through your mother’s canonization.”
Reflecting on her parents’ lives, Gianna offered her own thoughts, invoking the Blessed Virgin Mary. “Our Heavenly Mother has asked us for an unconditional ‘yes’ to, and our humble acceptance of God’s will, even when we don’t understand it,” she said. “My [experience] teaches me that the Way of the Cross is the way of joy: when we have the Lord on our side, when we follow his holy way, and see everything in the light of faith.”
- Presentations from MaterCare’s Rome 2017 conference are accessible online at the MaterCare Media website, at www.matercare.com
In honour of the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of our Blessed Mother at Fatima, schools within the Medicine Hat Catholic Board of Education, as well as the Catholic Education Office, consecrated their buildings, staff and students to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. This initiative follows the consecration of our country and dioceses by bishops and parishes by priests earlier this summer.
Director of Religious Education of Medicine Hat Catholic, Jill Wilkinson, assisted administrators of various schools, with parish priests, to officially consecrate the schools in prayer services during the month of October. At St. Michael’s School, students were reminded of the story of the three shepherd children of Fatima and the appearances of Our Lady urging them to pray the rosary for the conversion of souls. Students and staff prayed the rosary followed by a special consecration prayer and school blessing by Fr. Tomy Manjaly.
Our Catholic Faith is so rich in meaningful traditions, which are imperative for our children to experience. The story of Fatima and the examples of St. Jacinta, St. Francisco and soon to be canonized, Lucia, help students to understand our devotion to Mary and how God chooses even children to spread his salvation throughout the world. The consecration celebration held at St. Michael’s on Tuesday, October 10, was part of the school’s ongoing devotion to our Blessed Mother which consists of a weekly rosary making club and rosary lunch club.
We have such a tremendous freedom in our Catholic schools to educate our children in meaningful, life altering experiences. This was one such moment that I pray will remain with our students and staff throughout their schooling experience and in years to follow.
Catholic Education Sunday is a time that allows us to remember how fortunate we are in this province to be able to offer publicly funded Catholic education. Our schools provide our children with an environment where they can learn to be witnesses to the love of Christ, and to keep their eyes ever on Jesus. Since our Faith and our living cannot be separated, our Catholic Faith permeates everything we do as educators.
This year, Holy Spirit Catholic Schools will remain focused on our Faith Plan, Growing in Faith Together (GIFT). Our guiding image for this plan is a beautiful tree that will be revealed over three years. The aim of the plan’s first year was to be “Rooted in Christ,” developing a greater understanding of the foundations of our Faith. This encouraged purposeful study of the Gospels and an appreciation for Christ’s enduring love through the Eucharist. Our second year inspires us to “Grow in Spirit” together. Expanding on our knowledge of Jesus through Scripture, we hope to know Him more deeply in our hearts by nurturing this relationship through prayer.
In celebrating the gift of Catholic Education in Alberta, we are grateful to both God and our provincial parish family that loves us, supports us, and stands up for us. Please continue to pray with us and for us. Along with our students, our families, our staff, and our parishes, we look forward to a beautiful year of Growing in Spirit together!