Remembrance Day was first observed throughout the British Commonwealth in 1919 to commemorate the armistice agreement that ended the First World War on Monday, November 11, 1918 at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. Every year on November 11, Canadians pause in a moment of silence to honour and remember the men and women who have served, and continue to serve Canada during times of war, conflict, and peace. Here is a true story of Jason K. Major, G35 Deputy, MONUSCOFHQ, a soldier who served in Afghanistan for almost an entire year and most recently served in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Jason’s story represents many of its kind and is an example of the outreach conducted through our young men and women in uniform today:
“In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a country where the most grievous human rights violations are a daily occurrence, it is hard for anyone to feel optimistic about the future, yet amidst all of the poverty, there still exist some beacons of hope. The members of Op Crocodile recently had the opportunity to take some time out of their busy schedules to extend a small gesture of love on behalf of generous Canadian donors, to one of these beacons, the Tulizeni Orphanage in Goma.
As we arrived at the orphanage, we pulled past the guards into a walled compound no larger than a typical suburban property in Canada, where we were greeted by a sea of 86 small African children who were singing, laughing, and dancing. They were extremely excited by our arrival and even chanted, “CAN-A-DA,” over and over again. Some of the smallest and cutest among them would approach and look up longingly with their little arms extended in hopes that they might get picked up and hugged in loving affection, while others would come and hug our legs. Picking a little one up was a touching moment for me as it made me think of my own toddler at home who is truly blessed to have two parents who love her, and will never have to experience the things that these orphans have had to endure.
While this was my first time at the orphanage, it was not for many of my fellow Canadians. There is a Canadian United Nations volunteer, Gabrielle Biron from Montreal, who comes out every weekend to volunteer at the orphanage, and several of the other task force members including MCpl Ann Gunner, who make the time to visit once a month to play with the kids. Sometimes they treat the kids and bring out a laptop and borrow a projector from work to show the kids a movie. Other times they bring candies or toys donated either from their own pockets, or from other generous Canadians. You could see in the children’s eyes, and those of the staff, how much they appreciated having us visit, a gesture of compassion and generosity that is sadly not embraced by many other countries involved in this United Nations mission.
Sr. Georgette Marjorie Thsibang, the orphanage manager, took us on a tour of the facility. As we took the tour of the orphanage, I noticed the very cramped living conditions of the 86 kids currently residing there. There were a few bedrooms filled with many beds. The first one we visited had three bunk beds packed into a 10' x 10' room. The smallest kids sleep here, five to a bed, which makes for a room that houses 30 kids. We also visited a larger room, which was also packed with beds. We were told this was the room where the older girls (13-17) who had been raped, lived with their babies. My heart sank as I looked at the number of beds that were crammed into the room. To add to this, when I heard about all of the expenses I was shocked. It costs 195 USD per kid each year to go to school. Even just the operating cost for food is another 100 USD per day to feed the orphans a modest amount of food.
I couldn’t help but think that this place could really use more support and funding. They mentioned that they recently had to return several kids to the internally displaced persons (IDP) camp because they just couldn’t afford to keep them and provide for them anymore. All of this comes in the midst of trying to build a new orphanage just outside of town; however, while the land has been purchased, the project is a long ways off. The project hopes to increase their capacity, decrease the cost of schooling by having an on-site school, and includes living quarters for the staff.
On this day, after the singing had settled down and the tour completed, the task force commander, Col Pierre “Pete” Huet, on behalf of a group of Canadian donors, and alongside the members of Op Crocodile, presented a large cheque donation of 2783 USD (4000 CAD before conversion) to the Tulizeni Orphanage to assist with the tuition expenses. The excitement of the kids and gratitude of the staff radiated and, not surprisingly, triggered the next round of singing and excitement. There was so much energy that the kids swarmed around Col Huet and hilariously attempted to pick him up and put him on their shoulders to carry him around as they cheered.
After the handshaking and the many gestures of thanks, they saw us off with big smiles and waves as we departed to get back to our primary task of combatting armed groups and protecting civilians in the DRC. If anyone would like to make a difference in the lives of these orphans, you can contact the task force adjutant by email at MONUSCO-HQ-DCOSOpsCoord@un.org.
You can also send your cheque to Mission Council at the Catholic Pastoral Centre, 120 - 17th Avenue SW, Calgary, AB T2S 2T2, Attn: Tulizeni Orphanage in Goma. Sr. Rita Kim, coordinator of Mission Council, will gladly forward your contribution to Sr. Georgette Thsibang. It just so happens that both Sisters speak English and French and belong to the Franciscan Order.
- During family time, talk about family members who lost their lives in a war (WWI, WWII, Korean War, other areas of war or conflict). Who were these family members? Did you know them or did other family members tell you about them? What is their story?
- Do you have family members in today’s Armed Forces? Do you know where they are serving, where they served and/or where they are now?
- Invite a family member, or a friend, who is presently serving in the military, to your home to share their experiences.
- Encourage your family to develop a prayer that includes praying for those who have lost their lives while trying to protect others; and praying for those who are risking their lives to help those in need. Recite this family prayer throughout November.
Heavenly Father, protect the
men and women of our Armed Forces
as they go about their duty trying, to the best of their ability, to protect those who are in harm’s way.
Equip them with the strength and dignity to act on Christian values
so that they can be true ambassadors of Christ.
Let your Light shine on those whom you have called home,
away from the chaos of
war and conflict.
May they enjoy their eternal rewards.
Guide us in prayer as we remember those who have gone before us;
and those who protect us at the present time.
May we always recognize
the sacrifices made by others
so that we can live in peace,
and may we be open to do our part
to help make the world
a better place for all.
Let me confess that I am someone who tends to wear his clothes until they virtually fall apart. My favourite pair of shoes is over ten years old, and my sweaters weren’t much younger, with most pitted with an assortment of tears, holes and other character-defining features. In fact, it wasn’t until I had a business meeting and noticed one of the attendees fixated on my shredded sleeve that I decided, finally, to replace them.
My first thought for the fate of my trusty companions was a quick burial in the garbage. But as the mercury fell dramatically it occurred to me that perhaps a faded or well-worn sweater, for someone less fortunate, was better than none, and so I dropped them in the local charity bin. I won’t lie. My heart skipped a little at seeing my trusty steeds put out to pasture, but at least, I reasoned, it was a noble retirement.
As is often the way, I thought of those clothes going out into the community and wondered whose home they would join. Would they find their way to a cool retro-hunter keen to show off his thrift-shop chic? Would they be part of a workman’s casual wear, perfect for odd jobs around the house? Or would the charity determine that they weren’t fit for duty after all?
Recently, while volunteering at a soup kitchen, a remarkable situation occurred. As I was moving through the crowded hall I noticed an older gentleman shuffling forward. He set himself up at a crowded table and wriggled out of his threadbare jacket. To my surprise I saw that he was wearing one of my recently discarded sweaters. I recognized the torn sleeve, the holes peeking out beneath the armpits, and the frayed edges all around. I couldn’t help but move towards him, and when he saw me he smiled. “Check out my new threads,” he said, rubbing his sleeves happily. “Looking good,” I answered, humbled and abashed. “Yes,” he laughed emphatically, “yes I do.”
If there are such things as life-defining moments, then that was surely one of them. I will never again take my good fortune for granted, and I will always remember that all gifts matter, be they large or small. More importantly, I know that I must go out into the world to offer service. Not just to render good to others, but because my soul needs feeding, and there is no greater meal.
… because you have torn your clothes and wept before me, I also have heard you, says the Lord. -2 Kings 22.19
Spirituality of Stewardship: Lenten Mission
During Lent of 2017, the Office of Stewardship presented Spirituality of Stewardship, a three-day Lenten Mission in the Diocese with Fr. Daryl Befort from Wichita, Kansas. The Lenten Mission focused on a threefold Call of Discipleship: Deny Youreslf, Take up Your Cross, and Follow Christ.
The True Meaning of Being a Steward of Christ
Catholic speaker, author, and stewardship coach Tracy Earl Welliver explains how we do not merely volunteer for Christ when we serve Him in different parish ministries, but that we give our lives to Christ by serving in the Church because we truly love Him. This talk series is entitled "The True Meaning of Being a Steward of Christ", conducted in the Diocese of Calgary on September 2016.
This resource contains discussion questions that can be used in small group study. The document helps individuals grasp with the heart the meaning of stewardship. I recommend that parish councils and stewardship committees (also prayer groups in the parish) work through the text once a week for 5 weeks with a 6th week for making an action plan. The stewardship office has hard copies available for $10.
Deus caritas est (God is Love). Pope Benedict XVI's first encyclical.
The theology and principles in this resource are a wonderful formation tool for stewardship spirituality. Part one offers a speculative reflection on love. Part two is a reflection on the meaning of charitable giving. The Stewardship Office has hard copies available for $5.
Exploring Deus Caritas Est
Exploring Deus Caritas Est is a 4-part process for small groups. Written by Anthony Garascia and published by Ave Maria Press, the study guides are available as free downloads. They are also included here for easy access by your parish groups:
- Deus Caritas Session One
- Deus Caritas Session Two
- Deus Caritas Session Three
- Deus Caritas Session Four
Stewardship: 'Well done, good and faithful servant.'
A Pastoral Letter by Thomas Collins, Archbishop of Edmonton
This document is shorter than Disciple's Response but still offers some discussion questions at the end. It is a very good resource and introduction to stewardship. The stewardship office has hard copies available for $0.50 a piece.
- Pastoral Letter: "Well done, good and faithful servant."
Stewardship and Teens
Cardinal Mahoney, Archbishop of Los Angeles
The Little Burgundy Book: Six Minute Reflections.
The diocese of Saginaw, Michigan has published three out of four of these books, one for each Gospel, based upon the writings of the late bishop, Ken Untener. So far, they have Mark, Luke, and John available. Those who have used these books find them invaluable and an easy but significant way of bringing stewardship into the prayer-life of busy people.
There are a few copies available in the diocesan stewardship office.
Pray Always and Never Lose Heart: A Treasury of Private Prayers for the Christian Steward
National Catholic Stewardship Council, Inc. 1998.
This collection of private prayers is available at the Resource Centre library.
Copies are available for purchase at the stewardship office ($15).
Stewardship: Disciples Respond. A Practical Guide for Pastoral Leaders.
Catholic Stewardship Council, Inc. 1997, 2004.
This book is filled with ideas for implementing stewardship practices in your parish.
It is available at the Resource Centre library. Copies for purchase are available at the stewardship office ($10).
Message of our Holy Father, Pope Francis for the 25th World Day of the Sick
Dear brothers and sisters,
On 11 February next, the Twenty-fifth World Day of the Sick will be celebrated throughout the Church and in a special way at Lourdes. The theme of this year's celebration is "Amazement at what God has accomplished: 'The Almighty has done great things for me...'" (Lk 1:49). Instituted by my predecessor Saint John Paul II in 1992, and first celebrated at Lourdes on 11 February 1993, this Day is an opportunity to reflect in particular on the needs of the sick and, more generally, of all those who suffer. It is also an occasion for those who generously assist the sick, beginning with family members, health workers and volunteers, to give thanks for their God-given vocation of accompanying our infirm brothers and sisters. Read more
As we conclude this Jubilee Year of Mercy, I’m reminded of the words of Pope Francis at the beginning of his papacy: “Let us be renewed by God’s mercy and let us become agents of this mercy, channels through which God can make justice and peace flourish.” For the past seventeen years, the people of our diocese, through Mission Mexico, have been agents of God’s transforming mercy in the lives of many of the poorest of the poor in southern Mexico. As they have benefited from our corporal works of mercy, so we have benefited from their spiritual works of mercy on our behalf. The corporal works of mercy have borne fruit this past year in northern Mexico near Tijuana. The Trinitarian Sisters of that outreach have reciprocated in spiritual ways that have profoundly benefited members of our diocese. The Table of Mercy project was made possible by both your financial donations and time and labour of many Alberta volunteers.
As Bishop Henry has so well noted: “What an example of reciprocal mercy with which to conclude the Jubilee Year of Mercy!”
Gratefully yours on behalf of Mexico’s poorest of the poor,
Fr. Fred Monk, Founder, Mission Mexico
Table of Mercy
John Paul, Table of Mercy Project Coordinator
St. Mary’s Parish, Cochrane, Alberta
“In April 2016, a group of us visited a monastery in Tecate, Mexico and met the Trinitarian Sisters of Mary. They had been praying for many years for God to send someone who could help them construct a soup kitchen/community meeting place at their convent/retreat centre. Thus began Mission Mexico’s Table of Mercy project. Many volunteers from our diocese have answered the call to come and build our special kitchen for the sisters. This beautiful, generous and loving group of nuns that minister to thousands of the poor and hungry each year, have demonstrated to all of us what it means to love as Christ loved us.
Each of us has brought home to Alberta a special gift in our hearts that we never expected.
If God calls you to assist in Mission Mexico projects, don’t be afraid to answer that call. His generosity knows no bounds and you will be given back more than you can fathom.”
Mission Mexico Onsite Representative
“Here in the mountains, there are so many needs in so many different places, and Mission Mexico is a trusted partner in the struggle for life. It isn‘t that Mission Mexico can resolve all the problems of the poor, but it has a proven track record of accompanying the poor as they strive to build a world of greater justice for themselves and others. The people are so noble and the hopes are so tangible that it seems like the greatest blessing on earth to be allowed to journey with them.”