Funeral for Sr. Cecily Graves | 2017 - All Souls Day
By Bishop Emeritus Frederick Henry
For a Catholic, with the Feasts of All Saints/Souls it would be hard to pick a better time for a funeral.
For some time now, scientists have been sending signals into the cosmos, hoping for a response from some intelligent being on some lost planet.Even if inhabitants outside of the solar system existed, communication with them would be impossible, because between the question and the answer, millions of years would pass.
The Church has always maintained a dialogue with the inhabitants of another world -- the saints. That is what we proclaim when we say, "I believe in the communion of the saints." Here, though, the answer is immediate because there is a common centre of communication and encounter, and that is the risen Christ.
We are like the embryo in the womb of a mother yearning to be born. The saints have been "born" - the liturgy refers to the day of death as "the day of birth." To contemplate the saints is to contemplate our destiny. All around us, nature strips itself and the leaves fall, but meanwhile, the feasts of the saints/souls invite us to gaze on high; it reminds us that we are not destined to wither on this earth forever, like the leaves, or to be covered up by snow.
Sr. Cecily’s Funeral reminds us that our bodies will one day give out. Somewhere, sometime, sooner or later, we will experience the startling reality of death. Then what? Is it all over for the individual? Nothing but extinction, absolute silence, darkness? Will there be no more love, no more joy, no more laughter?
Jesus assures us that there is a future for us. He has personally walked ahead of us through the doors of death and came back and say there is light, love and laughter and rejoicing in the presence of God.
Our funeral liturgy reminds us of Job: “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the last he will stand upon the earth; and after my skin has been destroyed, then in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see on my side, ....”
Listen again to the consoling words of Scripture:
Paul to the Corinthians: “Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died... and then at his coming those who belong in Christ”.
John 12:26: “Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am. There will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour.”
Instead of looking back at Sr. Cecily’s life, we all bring to this celebration so many memories of her, and various experiences and events, and it would be easy to fall into a nostalgia-like experience but I tried to imagine what she would say to us today and here is what I came up with.
Sr. Cecily might very well say: The first thing to do would to overcome our indifference and insensitivity to the poor. What we are to do for them in practice can be summed up in three words: love, help, and evangelize.
- Love the poor. Loving the poor means first of all respecting them and recognizing their dignity. Francis of Assisi would remind us that they are not simply our "fellow men" or our "neighbours": they are our brothers and sisters!
- The duty of loving and respecting the poor is followed by that of helping them. It is not about getting angry with God in face of the misery of the world, but angry with ourselves."Oh God, where are you? Why don't you do something for that innocent creature?" But an inner voice replies: "I have done something -I created you!" Sr. Cecily, from time to time, would came to my office with a tale of woe from near or far and say : “Bishop, what are you going to do about it?” I would say - good issue, bad question - “What are we going to do about it?”
- Finally, evangelize the poor. This was the mission that Jesus recognized as his own par excellence - reading from the scroll of Isaiah:”The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor." The poor man does not live on bread alone but also on hope, and on every word that comes from God's mouth.
Her imagined words are not surprising as they are based in the Franciscan tradition: Quote from a letter of St Francis of Assisi - the Office of Readings for October 4. “Furthermore, let us produce worthy fruits of penance. Let us also love our neighbours as ourselves. Let us have charity and humility. Let us give alms because these cleanse our souls from the stains of sin. Men lose all the material things they leave behind them in this world, but they carry with them the reward of their charity and the alms they give. For these they will receive from the Lord the reward and recompense they deserve. We must not be wise and prudent according to the flesh. Rather we must be simple, humble and pure. We should never desire to be over others. Instead, we ought to be servants who are submissive to every human being for God's sake. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on all who live in this way and persevere in it to the end. He will permanently dwell in them. They will be the Father's children who do his work. They are the spouses, brothers and mothers of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Praying for those who have died should be a quiet fondness for them before the Lord. We pray for Cecily today with a quiet fondness.
Remembering our departed loved ones like that, praying for them, keeps us in ongoing communion with them. We believe that they are with the Lord, who is also with us in this life.
Sister Elizabeth Lynch has been a member of the Sisters of St. Ursula of the Chatham Union for 63 years. Growing up in what is now called the district of Cliff Bungalow, she attended Holy Angels Elementary and Junior High School and St. Mary’s Girls’ High School in Calgary. Since her profession and training to be a teacher, she has been missioned to Ridgetown, ON, Rockyford, AB, and Edmonton. She taught elementary grades over a course of 19 years and then moved into pastoral ministry in Stratford, ON, Drumheller, AB and Calgary. In Calgary she also served as a diocesan chaplain in long term care and worked with AHS in Chaplaincy at the Alberta Children’s Hospital.
It was 1921 when the first Ursuline Sisters came to the Diocese at the request of Bishop McNally. Two were from the USA, one from Chatham, ON and a postulant was from Toronto. The superior was Sr. Angela Sidley. The order was independent of other Ursuline communities and was officially called Calgary Ursulines, a corporation unto themselves. They established the first English speaking novitiate in Western Canada.
The Sisters taught in St. Anne’s, Holy Angels and Sacred Heart Schools and in later years at St. Charles, St. Paul, Forest Lawn, St. Margaret’s and St. Francis High schools. They also had a music school in Calgary. In 1929, they were asked to send Sisters to Rockyford. There they taught at St. Rita’s and had boarders from the country during the week.
In 1934, the Calgary Ursulines were amalgamated with the Chatham Union of Ursulines. Young women who entered from the West travelled to Chatham for their religious formation. The Sisters in our diocese opened a convent in Drumheller in 1935 to respond to the bishop’s request for social workers in that town. They also taught music and kindergarten. For many years Ursulines gave catechism classes to students of public schools on Saturdays and did the same in various country places during the summers.
Sr. Elizabeth, the last Ursuline of Chatham in our diocese, will be leaving Calgary in mid-November. We thank Sister and all of her congregation who so generously served southern Alberta.
Protection of Minors and Vulnerable Adults: The Vision and the Process
Pope Francis spoke the following words to the Congress on Child Dignity in the Digital World on October 6, 2017: “The Gospel speaks to us of the affection with which Jesus welcomes children; he takes them in his arms and blesses them [cf. Mk 10:16], because ‘it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs’ [Mt 19:14]. Jesus’ harshest words are reserved for those who give scandal to the little ones: ‘It would be better for them to have a great millstone fastened around their neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea’ [Mt 18:6]. It follows that we must work to protect the dignity of minors, gently yet firmly, opposing with all our might the throwaway culture nowadays that is everywhere apparent, to the detriment especially of the weak and the most vulnerable, such as minors.”
Every day, the vision of protecting minors and vulnerable adults is continuing to become more and more integrated into the mainstream of our lives. We pray that there will come a time when what we do to prevent even the possibility of abuse – sexual or otherwise – will seem as natural as buckling our children’s seat belts or waiting for the little ones to cross the street at a crosswalk.
Praesidium™ Online Abuse Prevention Training for Clergy, Staff, and Volunteers
Across all of the Canadian dioceses, the Catholic commitment to safe environments grows. Abuse prevention education is a major plank in the construction of safe environments. Consistent, high-quality training for the entire ecclesial community is a critical component to systematically improve protection of minors and vulnerable adults. All clergy, staff, volunteers serving the vulnerable sector, and parish leaders are required to complete initial abuse prevention training and annual refreshers. Any parishioner may have access to our training to keep the vulnerable safe.
Both initial training and annual refreshers in abuse prevention are offered in the online format. Ask your parish screening coordinator if you have already been enrolled for online training in abuse prevention. You can self-enrol through the Praesidium™ website, as follows:
To enroll in online abuse prevention training:
- Go to the website, PraesidiumInc.com/EnrollNow (note that the website name is case sensitive)
- Enter the registration code: diocal
- Fill out the form and click the link to enroll (choose your own parish from the drop-down menu)
- Print the page or write down your user login and password for future reference
- To begin taking training immediately, click the link or follow the instructions below to login later
To begin training:
- Go to the website, PraesidiumInc.com/LoginNow
- Enter your user login and password. Then click Login.
- Click on the course image or title to begin. Several courses are listed. The common initial training courses are: Meet Sam, It Happened to Me, Keeping Your Church Safe, and Your Policies. Annual refresher courses are assigned by your parish screening coordinator depending on your role (see below).
- Email your completion certificate to your parish screening coordinator and ministry coordinator.
Annual refresher training:
For those serving minors the refresher modules are:
- 2017 - Abuse Prevention Refresher
- 2018 - Duty to Report Mandated Reporter
- 2019 - Bullying
- 2020 - Social Media
For those serving the elderly the refresher module is:
- 2017 - Preventing Elder Abuse and Neglect
The Diocese of Calgary, with assistance from our civil authorities, will meet or exceed the safe environment standards set out in our protocols Strengthening Our Parish Communities. Contact your pastor, parish screening coordinator, email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or telephone (403) 218-5549 with any questions or concerns.
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!
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.