For the last three years, hundreds of people have come together to raise funds for charities serving the vulnerable, displaced, and exploited at a little event with a big heart called Ride for Refuge. The diocesan Elizabeth House program is one of about 20 charitable beneficiaries supported by this event.
As I was reviewing the route map, I was struck by the perseverance it takes to ride a bike for 10 km, especially on the hilly sections! That is the cycling distance chosen by most of the participants in Ride for Refuge. It’s an even greater commitment for the participants who ride the 25 or 50 km options! These dedicated people make a big difference with their commitment. Elizabeth House has received more than $32,000 through the efforts of the devoted riders. For those seeking something a little less challenging, a 5 km cycling/walking route appropriate for all ages is also an option.
Commitment to a cause is not the only “race” we can run. The Epistle to the Hebrews calls us as believers to a different type of race: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” [Hebrews 12:1-2, RSVCE].
Often our “Christian” race sets us apart, with trials and pain. We carry on in obedience to our Lord for receiving salvation and grace.
Single motherhood is also a race of perseverance. Choosing to carry an unplanned pregnancy to term in a crisis situation often subjects a woman to shame, hostility, and rejection. If her life has been complicated by brokenness at home or in relationships, carrying her baby to term can be an even more daunting decision. During this Year of Mercy, we are called to assist in healing the wounds of those who are struggling. We cannot make the choice to carry the child for a young woman. We can, however, assist her healing journey to parental wholeness by making sure Elizabeth House exists. We can “race” alongside the women we serve by providing a safe place in which to complete their pregnancy and access programs to seek out a desired life change, healthy parenting tools, and life skill education. Ride for Refuge is one way to raise the necessary funds needed to run the Elizabeth House “race.”
We’d love to have you and your team of friends and family join us on Saturday, October 1 to participate! Volunteers are needed as well! See Diocesan Dates on page 21 of the September edition of the Carillon for details.
Historically, parishioners of our Diocese have responded with great generosity in times of crisis at home and around the world.
The response to the devastation caused by the fire in Fort McMurray has been no exception. More than $270,000 has been raised and forwarded to the Diocese of St. Paul. Fifty percent of funds raised will be used to support the parishes in Fort McMurray, and fifty percent will be given to the Fort McMurray Ministerial Association for any of the families under their ministry. Policies and procedures have been put in place to ensure funds are disbursed and managed fairly and ethically.
There is still a need for further support as families and businesses begin to rebuild. Funds can continue to be donated through our Diocese and will be forwarded to the Diocese of St. Paul. You can do so at the donate section of our website.
Thank you for extending your love and generosity to our neighbours in Fort McMurray.
It takes a whole village to raise a child” is a Nigerian proverb that has become part of current parenting vocabulary. Faith-based communities come together to support their young families with older congregation members offering mentorship, advice, sometimes even childcare. In close-knit families, older members come alongside new parents with meals and other material supports, childcare, a listening ear and helpful gestures. What happens when a new mother does not have a village?
It is the hope of our diocese that Elizabeth House and its partner agencies would be that village. In 2015, seven new mothers became residents at Elizabeth House. This diocesan program supports at-risk youth who choose to carry their babies to term. All of these young women chose to parent their babies. Parenting a new baby is a daunting concept even for the most prepared new mother who have a supportive spouse and family. When that precious baby is born into a challenging situation, daunting does not even begin to cover it. However, Elizabeth House works with a group of partner agencies that bring expertise, support and education to our residents to ensure that their journey to independence is not made alone.
Catholic Family Services, Calgary Family Services, the Healthy Babies Network, The Alex, Women in Need Society (WINS) and the Calgary Food Bank, are just a few of the agencies networked with Elizabeth House. Last year, some residents participated in Motherhood Matters at Catholic Family Services. The Louise Dean Centre provided a supportive learning environment to residents continuing their high school education and made sure that Elizabeth House mothers were always invited to their Family Fun Nights. The Calgary Food Bank provided groceries for the program. Visitation and support at Elizabeth House from the Calgary Healthy Families Program (for interested residents) helps to reduce risk factors and increase the new family’s capacity for a safe and nurturing environment.
The staff and volunteers at Elizabeth House work to create a loving, supportive, home-like environment for their residents, knowing that these young moms will not be there forever. This is why it is vital that residents also have solid relationships outside of the home with community supports that will enable them to have continued personal and parenting success. These community partners work with Elizabeth House staff to build and create that critical village.
Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven” [Matt 19:14]. These smallest of children and their mothers are dearly loved by our Lord. Creating these supports for them is another way we can express His love in a tangible way. To learn more about the village of support Elizabeth House is building, visit us on the Internet at www.elizabethhousecalgary.ca.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Calgary is honoured to partner with Blue Sea Philanthropy, as the host partner for Ride for Refuge. This is a fantastically fun, family-friendly bike-a-thon supporting charities serving the displaced, vulnerable, and exploited.
In 2015, Ride for Refuge in Calgary benefited 22 charities. The Diocese raised funds for its Elizabeth House Program.
The first line in the final press release before February 20th's Coldest Night Of the Year event read "Calgary is definitely not getting the cold shoulder from donors this year despite tough economic times." How fitting that during the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy this diocesan hosted event supporting the poorest of the poor should receive so much generosity! In a city where people are losing their jobs, their homes and other possessions every day, Calgarians still gave generously. So much so that more than $127,000 was raised to benefit Acadia Place, Feed the Hungry and The Mustard Seed.
By the time registration closed, almost 600 walkers joined together at Eau Claire and then headed out to walk 2, 5 or 10 kilometers along the Bow River Pathway system. The weather was balmy; most 2 km walkers upped the ante to 5 km! Location Director Samantha Jones was moved to tears during the opening ceremonies. "We are so truly grateful to every single one of you!" she said to the crowd. Representing the Diocese through their participation in the event were St. Anthony's (second place team), Deacon Rob McLean with his company Bentall Kennedy, Ascension Parish, Holy Name Parish, the FCJ Centre, St. Bonaventure Parish, St. Patrick's Parish, St. Peter's Parish and the U of C Catholic Community. Many of the event's volunteers were also Catholic parishioners. They were joined by many other denominations, corporate teams, and staff, donors and volunteers from the other beneficiaries.
Pope Francis has asked us during this special Jubilee of Mercy to open our hearts and minds with love and mercy and to look for opportunities to bring healing to the wounds of those struggling. Almost 600 people spent the evening of February 20 doing just that. And it was beautiful!