Some parishes in our diocese have memberships to the website Formed.org, enabling their parishioners to access Catholic resources hosted there. Formed.org is an online platform, which some have nicknamed the “Catholic Netflix.” It hosts an impressive amount of content including Bible studies, presentations on the sacraments, on Catholic thinkers, saints, and theology. Formats include video programs and feature films, audio presentations and downloadable books, all accessible on demand through the Internet. You may already be familiar with some of the programs used in small group parish settings, such as the Symbolon Bible study or Fr. Michael Gaitley’s retreat, 33 Days to Morning Glory. At the website these are all available to revisit whenever and wherever you are. The website is simple and reliable to use and has proved very popular with many parishioners I have spoken to.
Recently I checked Formed.org out in depth. I found many things there to encourage and challenge my faith. I particularly liked the Opening the Word segments which give short video commentaries for each Sunday Gospel reading. Designed for RCIA, a printable leader’s guide and participant’s journal are available for each Sunday. Although the translation used is from the New American Bible, differing slightly from the New Revised Standard Version we hear at Mass, the commentary still applies.
I also listened to Keep Holy the Sabbath by Dr. Tim Gray. Gray has an in-your-face style that some will find compelling and convincing but others defensive or alienating. Similarly the video presentation Why God Still Matters by Karlo Broussard, of Catholic Answers, comes out fighting against public atheists, such as Christopher Hitchens, using philosophy and reason to undermine the strident claims that there is no God. While their arguments here are traditional Catholic teaching, the apologetic sensibility of these speakers bleeds into other content on the site giving it an energetic but combative stance, of a church newly embattled (hasn’t it always been?) and a forceful rather than humble evangelization.
Many parishioners have already experienced Dr. Edward Sri as an engaging speaker. I watched his class room discussions with college-aged students as he presented on relativism in Who Am I to Judge?: Responding to Relativism with Logic and Love. Sri made some strong and substantial points that I could imagine using in discussing my faith with others. As a whole the speakers bring welcome clarity to points of theology. It is interesting to note, though, the lack of diversity in style and presentation. It took me a while to discover authoritative women’s voices, although I found Dr. Mary Healy delivering the Lectio Bible Study on Evangelization looking at the Book of Acts. Cut and dried answers and “I know I’m right” fervour leaves little room for real debate. The audio lecture on G.K. Chesterton seems less about the man and his faith than a thinly veiled partisan political speech. This style could alienate some parishioners.
These issues aside all the video that I watched was of consistently high quality and a wonderful starting point for parish meetings and discussion. Parishioners will have to buy workbooks and other resources in order to get the full benefit of some sessions but the content goes a long way to helping form Catholics in our faith albeit with a particular flavour. Formed.org is a great resource for busy parishes although it would be a mistake to think it covers all bases. There is little on Catholic Social Teaching and there is a “preaching to the converted” tone – perhaps not surprising for a “Catholic Netflix,” but which may make it less helpful for new Catholics or inquirers. Still the site is evolving. Perhaps the Augustine Institute, owners of Formed.org could be persuaded to diversify and include Canadian content, or materials on Catholic Social Teaching? It you have the chance I urge you to take a look. Can Formed.org be a wholesome part of your formation in faith?
When our loved ones turn from God
It can be extremely distressing to see our sons, daughters and loved ones make life choices that take them away from God. The secular world often tempts people of all ages to put material possessions, relationships, careers, pleasure, or addictions ahead of a relationship with God. Many pray in anguish for their children or loved ones to re-find their faith. Years may pass without improvement and some may feel that God is not listening or wonder if they are doing something wrong.
What can we do?
Jesus tells us to persevere in prayer and that whatever we ask in His name, He will do. Jesus desires that we are in a “right place” with respect to our relationship with Him. In other words, we need to be aligned with God’s will for us and develop a heart that is forgiving, full of love and at peace. Recognizing the needs of parents and grandparents to learn to pray more effectively, a popular seminar called “How to Pray for Your Sons, Daughters and Loved Ones” has been taught over the past 20 years by Vernon Robertson, a Catholic evangelist.
The impact on lives
Vernon and his wife Maureen went through a very difficult phase of their life when their teenage son became a real prodigal. After an intense period of prayer over many years, they had a surprise call one day from their son who was living and working far away. He apologized for how he had treated them, asked their forgiveness, and told them he had re-found his faith.
Hundreds and hundreds of people have attended this Seminar of Hope over the past 20 years or watched it on EWTN. Feedback from previous participants includes:
- “Absolutely transformational for me and my prayer life…”
- “Vernon is a very powerful speaker. I’ve never attended anything quite like this and it touched me deeply.”
- “I thought it was wonderful … God definitely spoke to me at this seminar.”
- “I now have hope and peace in my heart about my children; I did not have this feeling before.”
- “I felt God telling me: I love you and will take care of you and your loved ones … trust me.”
Upcoming seminar on May 26 and 27, 2017
St. Michael Catholic Community is pleased to sponsor this two-part seminar starting on Friday, May 26 from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. and concluding on Saturday, May 27 from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. To receive a free participant’s manual and reserve a seat, please register in advance by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or phone the parish receptionist at (403) 249-0423 ext. 101. The church is located at 800 - 85th Street SW in Calgary. There is no charge for this seminar and a free will offering will be taken to cover the speaker’s costs. For the lunch break on Saturday, please bring a brown bag lunch or eat out at a nearby restaurant; coffee/tea will be provided.
About the speaker
Vernon Robertson is a Vancouver based Catholic evangelist, father of three and grandfather of eleven. He has led this seminar for 20 years and has spoken on this and related faith topics across Canada and in other countries. Vernon is currently a board member of Renewal Ministries of Canada. Previously, Vernon was National Catholic Advisor to the Alpha Board of Directors of Canada and served on the Vancouver Archdiocesan Pastoral Council. In October 2010, Vernon was awarded the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice (for Church and Pope) Cross by Pope Benedict the XVI. For more information, see www.seminarofhope.org.
About the writer
Mark Richards is a father of four adult children and a member of St. Michael Catholic Community. Mark has personally experienced how God uses this seminar to work in his own life and in the lives of his children. He can be reached by email at email@example.com or at (403) 836-0545.
Without a doubt, the Holy Spirit powerfully uses the Seminar of Hope as a channel of healing and reconciliation for people from all walks of life. - Fr. Jerome Lavigne, St. Peter’s Calgary
Dear Friends in Christ,
Mission Council receives about 30 appeals every year from different parts of the world. Some applicants need very urgent and immediate help. However, because of the lack of funds we can only help a few projects out of the 30 appeals. It’s very difficult to let others down every year, and it breaks my heart.
I hope that many faithful will participate in this mission to help people in need. We chose eight projects last year and I am happy to present some photos of our diocesan missions. We are unable to include photos for one project (Rescuing young girls from human trafficking in Nepal) due to confidentiality.
I take an opportunity to give a sincere thank to all the donors whose generosity made this mission possible.
God bless you,
Sr. Rita Kim FMM
View the mission council report here: http://www.calgarydiocese.ca/resources/mission-council-2016-report.html
You might remember that some time ago, all parishioners of the Calgary Diocese were invited to participate in a survey on family life. This survey was distributed to all Catholics throughout the universal Church. The completed survey questionnaires were collected by each diocese. In Canada, each diocese forwarded results to the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. The survey results were then sent to Vatican City in Rome.
The fourteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, also referred to as the Synod on the Family, took place from October 4 to October 25, 2015. The topics of this gathering were the vocation and mission of the family in the church and in the contemporary world.
The 2015 Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the Family was preceded by the Extraordinary General Assembly in 2014. The result of both assemblies was publicly released by Pope Francis on April 8, 2016 in the post-synodal apostolic exhortation, entitled Amoris Laetitia. The document features nine chapters beginning with In the Light of The Word and ending with The Spirituality of Marriage. It deals with the experiences and challenges of families, love in marriage, pastoral perspectives, the education of children and more.
I challenge you to read this document in its entirety. The materials including a study guide can be obtained on the Internet (Google: “Amoris Laetitia” and “Study Guide to Amoris Laetitia”) or through the Life & Family Resource Centre of the Calgary Catholic Diocese. We also offer the document in book form. Phone Gabriele Kalincak at (403) 218-5504 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Suggested Family or Parish Activities
(best practice to study this document is one chapter at a time – weekly or bi-weekly)
- Attend a study group.
- Initiate a study group.
- Join a ministry that reflects what you have learned from this document.
- Many couples choose the reading from St. Paul to the Corinthians [1 Cor 13:4-7] to be read at their wedding. You can meditate on it in chapter 4.
- Make a list of one or more changes you want to implement after reading each chapter.
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Help us to understand the true meaning of the teachings that Amoris Laetitia provides. May we grow in love and understanding of our faith, values and traditions. This we ask through our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen. LFRC, Carillon
If you make a donation to the Diocese this year, you will notice your tax receipt speaks to the integral part of stewardship to our faith.
Biblical stewardship is more than giving of time, talent and treasure. “True generosity has no limits. When we say that mature disciples are to answer the call of Jesus Christ regardless of the cost, we are inviting good stewards to embody this type of generosity. We can be the person who does not respond to the call, be the person who responds and gives what is required, or finally, be the person who seeks to give above and beyond what is required. God doesn’t just give us what we need, but He gives us more than we need. Made in His image, we are called to do the same. If we try to live in this manner every day, then we might just succeed on leaving this world a little better than the way we found it” [Tracy Earl Welliver, Catholic Stewardship Coach].
At the core of all the charitable work we as Catholics engage in is a desire to live Christian stewardship in all we do, striving to make the world a better place. Each parish has elements of community outreach; many parishioners volunteer with or donate to their favourite charity. At a diocesan level, the Together in Action (TIA) Granting Program is one very tangible way in which our efforts to make the world a little better can be measured. We wanted to share a story with you in celebration of your generous giving to TIA and to encourage all of us to find other ways to make a difference in our communities around southern Alberta.
This year, Catholic Family Service (CFS) is celebrating 60 years of providing for the needs of people in Calgary and the surrounding area. The Diocese is honoured to partner with this amazing organization through the TIA granting program and this year marks 20 years of support of CFS’s Family & Schools Together (F&ST) program. This ground-breaking program, recognized by the United Nations, has connected families with their schools and communities since 1996. Recognizing that feeling connected and being part of a community has a big impact on our quality of life, the program works to give parents the support they need to be positive role models within their family and the community. Parents are empowered through education, group sessions and mentoring to: be leaders and role models for their family; be involved in their child’s school; and ensure their children are healthy and thriving both socially and academically.
We know that the ties that bind and make us strong go beyond just our immediate families. Relationships with friends and neighbours, schools, teachers, coaches, etc. are just as important to our health and well-being. Knowing we are not alone in our life journey can make all the difference. As one program parent explained it:
Our family enjoys every component of F&ST! My husband and I especially like being in Parent Group and find it very helpful to talk with other parents who are facing the same challenges as us. Each week our family is becoming more and more connected through F&ST. Our house is calmer after the program, my stress levels are reduced and we have started opening up our communication at home.
We all have gifts and talents that we can share by volunteering in our local communities with organizations like CFS. And by supporting TIA with your contributions, you are helping CFS and more than 40 other charities locally and internationally help make the world a better place! Thank you for working Together in Action with your fellow Catholics.