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The Relic of St. Francis Xavier

A culminating moment in the ritual of ordination for a new priest is when, after having received the laying on of hands and investiture in the priestly garments, the new priest kneels before the Bishop who anoints his hands with Sacred Chrism. The Bishop says, “The Lord Jesus Christ, whom the Father anointed with the Holy Spirit, guard and preserve you, that you may sanctify the Christian people and offer sacrifices to God.” The anointed hands of the priest, therefore, are to become a public sign of Christ’s ongoing ministry to His people in order that they may be made holy. There is no more important and powerful way that this occurs than through the sacrament of Baptism.

Hence, it is very fitting that, to this day, is preserved the incorrupt hand of St. Francis Xavier – the 16th century Jesuit missionary who is reported to have baptized more than 30,000 souls in multiple countries stretching from India to Japan during his voyages. He will continue his missionary endeavours on a cross-country tour throughout Canada in January 2018, as this physical reminder of his undying priestly ministry is received into our midst.

Upon having chosen the name of Francis, it was presumed by many that our Holy Father — the first Jesuit Pope in history — was pointing to his own Jesuit predecessor. It didn’t take long for Pope Francis to clarify that it was under the patronage of St. Francis of Assisi that he had chosen his name – but certainly not because he didn’t honour and revere the memory of his saintly confrere! In fact, in the programatic document of his whole pontificate, Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis reminds all of us who are part of the Body of Christ that we are meant to live out our baptismal call through the identity of being “Missionary Disciples,” as he put it. “Every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus: we no longer say that we are ‘disciples’ and ‘missionaries,’ but rather that we are always ‘missionary disciples.’ If we are not convinced, let us look at those first disciples, who, immediately after encountering the gaze of Jesus, went forth to proclaim him joyfully: “We have found the Messiah!” [Jn 1:41] (E.G. 120).

An organization in our nation who has been taking up and living this call to missionary discipleship for almost 30 years now is the university campus movement, Catholic Christian Outreach. CCO has facilitated the conversion or reversion of innumerable souls across our country through their tenets of proclaiming the gospel, clearly and simply, to one person at a time. This year, in honour of Canada’s sesquicentennial, CCO has partnered with Archbishop Terence Predergast, SJ and the Jesuit curators of the relic of St. Francis at the Church of the Gesù in Rome to bring this sacred artifact to tour the cities where CCO is doing their work on our university campuses.

We will be blessed to host the visit of St. Francis Xavier’s relic to Calgary and honour his presence with liturgical prayer and personal veneration from January 21 - 22, 2018. More details are soon to come, but one thing is for sure: we should already now be praying for a fresh outpouring of the same missionary zeal that inspired St. Francis to renew the evangelical efforts of our diocese. St. Francis Xavier, pray for us! 

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St. Gianna Beretta Molla's Story

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
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A Note of Thanks

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 communications@stmu.ca

Merry Christmas and God bless,

From all of us at St. Mary’s University

Related Offices Carillon
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Reflecting the Carillon

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, monique@adita.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

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A Field Hospital in the Digital Universe

Parish staff and communicators were in for a real treat when they attended the 2017 Parish Communications Workshop at the Pastoral Centre. Fr. Thomas Rosica was the keynote speaker, sharing wisdom and reflections on his digital media ministry at Salt & Light TV.

After Bishop McGrattan led us in prayer, 60 participants from all over the diocese listened attentively to the keynote and breakout sessions. We learned many things about social media including: best practices, practical tips such as writing skills, creating quality videos and graphics on a budget, and tips on how to make an memorable impression with a branding strategy.

While these are all essential tools for digital communicators, Fr. Rosica’s keynote session reminded us that the one essential image we should keep in mind is that our digital media ministries are like a “field hospital in the digital universe,” a phrase he borrowed from Pope Francis.

Fr. Rosica explained that the digital world is a real battlefield where many wounded souls are taking part in, or are the victim of character assassination, online bullying, and slander. Many of these actions are even done in the name of defending the faith. As Pope Francis wants us to uphold the truth with love, Fr. Rosica urged us to stay away from quick and instant responses in the digital world, and that “no matter how hasty, undigested, and unreflective the responses are from our audience, our patient listening must always triumph.”

Parish communicators are indeed field hospital workers ready for deployment, sent to build bridges for those who are wounded, and to facilitate real encounters with each other, and with Christ. As Pope Francis encouraged us in his 2016 World Communication Day message, “… our hearts and actions are inspired by charity, by divine love, then our communication will be touched by God’s own power.”

Being authentic in our online social interactions means that we should reflect the spirit of our faith in our Internet postings, including a commitment to justice, peace, honesty, and transparency, with a gracious, kind style.

So the real question for parish communicators is not how to use the slickest technology for vocation promotion, ministries, parish life, school, worship, or to be relevant and to appeal to the younger generation. Fr. Rosica wants us to ask this question instead: “Does the use of new media serve to deepen our attentiveness to the presence of God, to the risen Christ, to the Living Spirit, to the community gathered about us, and to the world in which we are called to minister?” Do we embody Christ’s love in our digital ministry, not simply to be connected but to grow into true encounters with each other?

Fr. Rosica reminded all of us to continue to be inspired by Pope Francis who communicates with both his words and actions: “Let us learn from him how to model this badly needed kindness, goodness, mercy and joy to a wounded world and broken humanity around us.”

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