On September 23, we celebrated the 50th Anniversary of Canadian Martyrs Parish. It was a joyous event capping off a year of special events and planning. The choir, under the direction of Andreas and Kathryn Berko, was jubilant in song. Kathryn composed The Mass of the Canadian Martyrs, while Caroline Panlilio composed the Responsorial Psalm.
Bishop McGrattan spoke eloquently about a church building and its relationship to the community over 50 years. He reiterated the Gospel message: “…the first will be last and the last shall be first” [Matthew 20: 1 - 16] At the beginning of the 50 years, the parishioners built up the parish memories with many sacraments performed; and now the newest parishioners continue on!
Following the Mass, parishioners and guests attended a dinner and gathering at Varsity Community Hall where we enjoyed speeches and parish entertainment along with the St. Francis School Jazz Ensemble. With 250 people present, the mood was celebratory and included much visiting among parishioners, past and present, including pastors. Fr. Vincent’s address traced the pioneer spirit of the Canadian Martyrs to the parish’s first priest Msgr. Joseph Le Forte and other founding parishioners, some of whom were present. Quoting Msgr. Le Forte from the 10th Anniversary, “…through it all the families of Canadian Martyrs formed a strong community of faithful and loyal people that work together in a most remarkable manner…” In a toast to the priests who had served, and continue to serve as the parish’s pastors, being men who had brought life to the inanimate building – no matter how beautiful – and the visible results of 50 years of their dedicated, visionary hard work, all rose in their honour and in thanks to those pastors absent or whom have gone before us.
The Closing Hymn at the Mass echoed the 50th Anniversary theme: “We are a pilgrim people, we are the Church of God. A family of believers, disciples of the Lord. United in one spirit, ignited by the fire. Still burning through the ages, still present in our lives.”
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.
In the hilarious television program Mr. D., the titular character expounds a basic philosophy about teaching. “Mark the smart kid’s exam first and use it as an answer key.” He explains in another episode about the mentoring of practicum students – basically, throw them into the deep end and take a day off. In his standup routine he once told a group of teachers, “I saw a seminar recently, Engaging Students in the 21st Century. It was cancelled. You can’t engage them anymore! Teachers saying, ‘I’m not going to that! That’s impossible.’”
Needless to say, Mr. D. is not actually a role model for us as teachers, though in the way of great parody, he often builds on real situations to make his humour more identifiable. While all of us no doubt prepare diligently for each class, it’s true to say that the workload for teachers is at times overwhelming. And teaching isn’t just about the material anyway. As teachers everywhere understand – it’s how you present information, and how you connect to your students, that can be the difference between failure and success. All this is compounded by the different learning needs and styles of the students themselves. Clarity for one individual can be gobbledygook to another.
For all of these reasons, I think that teaching is one of the toughest gigs on the planet. And yet the world over, masochists keep presenting themselves to take on this challenge. Why? I truly believe that most individuals turn to this remarkable profession because they want to make a difference in the lives of others. Teaching, in the context of a faith tradition, can be even harder. We live in a secular society, and the dynamic messaging of today’s technology, and the contradictory information that flows to our children, is overwhelming.
The Calgary Catholic Education Foundation (CCEF) is one organization that understands the challenge for both teachers and students. Founded in 2008, CCEF is a charitable organization that raises funds for schools in need – innovative educational experiences, technology, literacy projects, and educational environments – to ensure that no child is left behind. And once a year, on Catholic Education Sunday, the organization rallies to raise funds through parishes and the community to help support educational opportunities and initiatives that are otherwise not funded. I’m proud to say that this year our Bachelor of Education students will be playing an active role in helping to promote the Foundation’s objectives, and indeed that one of our Education students, Vanessa Bitoni, is on CCEF’s Board of Directors. Together I am sure that we will work together to ensure that this is one of the most successful years to date for CCEF.
Our job is not just to educate, but also to do this with passion, so that we can help students find theirs. Aristotle once said, “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” To which I think we can all say: Amen!
Catholic schools are privileged to share in the saving mission of the Church by providing education in the faith. Cultivating wisdom and virtue by nurturing truth, goodness and beauty, students come to know, glorify and love God. In addition to educational content, these attributes are taught and learned through the practice of the faith and learning opportunities, which integrate instruction with service.
The Truth that we share is Jesus Christ and it is expressed in knowing the truth of God’s love and mercy for each person and by fostering a relationship with Jesus Christ. In the Calgary Catholic School District, students grow in truth through such activities as Youth for Christ, Alpha, pilgrimages, retreats, liturgies, prayers, devotions, and by participating in the sacraments.
Knowing the truth of God’s love, students discover their inherent goodness, learning that they and all people have been created in the image of God who alone is good. Goodness is expressed, according to Pope Francis, by drawing near to others. We see this exemplified in schools in many different ways. One school prepared an image of a large cross made up of paper hands of different tones to demonstrate that all people are created equally and must be treated with dignity and respect. One school provided items for newborns while others spent time with seniors or with the L’Arche Community.
Recognizing that all people have dignity, students experience and know beauty by serving others. Service is fueled by joy that gives hope and affirms the work and action of the Holy Spirit. Each school community thoughtfully selects service activities that provide students with service learning opportunities to help them grow in faith. In Calgary Catholic, students have served others through a variety of activities such as food, clothing and coin collections, justice fairs, breakfast clubs, being in solidarity with the homeless, and more. Some schools integrated quotes from Pope Francis’ book, Dear Pope Francis, to reinforce responsibility to care for one another.
By fostering faith through truth, goodness and beauty, Catholic schools perform an invaluable service. In the Calgary Catholic School District, we work to share the Good News of the Gospel with our students, who can then, in turn, share this with the world.
In 1992, St. John Paul founded the World Meeting of Families (WMF) that takes place every three years in a different country. Pope Francis has chosen Dublin, Ireland, for the 2018, World Meeting of Families, a festival of witness to the love of God revealed in Jesus Christ Under the motto “The Gospel of the Family: Joy for the World”.
Families and individuals will come from all over the world to gather in Dublin from August 21 – 26 to share their experiences and create new ones. You are invited to join them. For more information go to http://wmof2018dublin.com/