Migration has been a reality of our world since ancient times. It has always been a sign of the strength of the human spirit to overcome adversity and strive for a better life. Today, a great number of people move to other places, some by choice and others not. No matter the circumstances, all share the desire to live a safe, peaceful life.
The Church has been celebrating World Day of Migrants and Refugees each year since 1914. World Refugee Day has been marked by the UN on June 20 since 2000. This year, join us on June 29, the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, for a special mass to celebrate World Day of Migrants. This is an opportunity for the faith community to reflect upon the role migration has played in our history and tradition, pray for migrants and refugees around the world, and raise awareness about the causes, challenges, and opportunities involved with migration.
Recent tragedies around the world have lead to a dramatic increase in global migrants and refugees, putting a great many men, women, and children in danger. As Christians, we are called to share the burden of those suffering hardship, to open our doors and hearts to the weary and marginalized. The Church recognizes in migrants the image of Christ who said, “I was a stranger and you made me welcome” [Mt 25:35]. As Pope Francis says, “The phenomenon of migration is not unrelated to salvation history, but rather a part of that history. One of God’s commandments is connected to it: “You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” [Ex 22:21]; “Love the sojourner therefore; for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt” [Deut. 10:19]” [Pope Francis, September 8, 2016].
On World Day of Migrants, we remember Mary and Joseph, migrants of their time – the hardships they faced, the importance of their journey, and God’s greater plan for them. We can see these same elements in every migration story, and must take the opportunity to reflect on shared human experiences and how we can be a part of the solution to a global challenge. After all, “no one is a stranger in the Christian community, which embraces ‘every nation, tribe, people and tongue’ [Rev 7:9]. Each person is precious; persons are more important than things, and the worth of an institution is measured by the way it treats the life and dignity of human beings, particularly when they are vulnerable” [Pope Francis, September 8, 2016].
Join Bishop William McGrattan on June 29, 7:00 p.m. at St. Mary’s Cathedral to celebrate World Day of Migrants and live the words of Pope Benedict: “The Church is God’s family on earth” [Deus Caritas Est].
In 2015, the first Walk for One Rock took place over a period of two days. When Fr. Joseph Nagothu heard Bishop Henry’s request for priests to get more involved, he decided to respond to the invitation and began the Walk for One Rock to raise more awareness for the One Rock Festival. The desire was that many others would participate in this walk. The journey began at St. Rita’s Parish in Rockyford, Alberta, home of the first One Rock Festival. The participants made the 80 km journey by foot to St. Thomas More Parish in Calgary. This pilgrimage walk created the opportunity to spread the word about this great festival of faith, as well as to raise necessary funds for it. Together the pilgrims walked, sang and prayed, all rejoicing in the name of Jesus. Some walked the whole distance, and others the distance that their time would allow.
It was an enriching experience where we were able to spend time with others who believe in Jesus. While walking we met strangers on the journey, and shared bread together thanks to the generosity of volunteers who prepared sandwiches, and provided places for us to stop along the way to be refreshed. To journey together with love and faith in God, can be considered the reward for having had the strength to complete the journey. Not only was there a spiritual reward, but the participants were welcomed to a huge feast prepared by the parishioners of St. Thomas More Parish.
Inspired by the Lord and everyone who participated in the walk, we rejoiced! We all shared a memorable experience, and were not discouraged by the challenges that were encountered. Having the chance to dedicate your actions, your time and yourself fully to the most worthy cause in our lives ensured memories for a lifetime. Now you can be a part of the experience this year!
Another Walk for One Rock will be taking place on Friday, June 9, and for a $5.00 entrance fee all are welcome to join several priests of the Diocese for this occasion. Again, we will start at St. Rita’s Parish in Rockyford, and finish in Strathmore. The walk should be full of spiritual and physical rewards for all who participate. Those who wish to participate or donate please go to www.onerock.ca for more information.
By 1884, the CPR was bringing more settlers to the Calgary region. Unable to obtain homestead grants yet from the government, due to the lack of completed surveys, many newcomers were simply squatting on whatever piece of open land they could find. Fr. Lacombe was concerned about the proximity of settlers to his mission and the future of Our Lady of Peace. Without waiting for approval from Bishop Grandin he took passage on a CPR construction train and made his way cross-country to Ottawa. Visiting the office of the Minister of the Interior, David MacPherson, Fr. Lacombe announced he was there to obtain a homestead grant for the property around the mission. MacPherson, unmoved, told the priest that he would put in a request to the department in due time.
Local historian David Mittel-stadt, commenting on the creation of one of Calgary’s earliest communities, records Lacombe’s legendary response:
“Non, monsieur, I cannot go until I receive that settlement of our land. I came hundreds of miles to you just for this. I will wait here with your permission. I am used to camping on the prairie… I will just camp here until I get my papers.”
Well, with the prospect of having Fr. Lacombe sleeping on the floor by his office door, MacPherson lost no time in arranging the land grant!
In fact, Fr. Lacombe registered two homesteads, one for himself and one for his colleague, Fr. Leduc, in order to double the size of the property he was claiming for the Oblates and the Diocese of St. Albert.
The location of St. Mary’s Cathedral is well known to Calgarians, and it is surrounded by St. Mary’s High School, St. Mary’s Hall, the original St. Mary’s Hall, St. Monica School, the Sacred Heart Convent of the FCJ Sisters, Our Lady of Lourdes School, and, further south, the old Holy Cross Hospital site. This is the community of Mission, appropriately named, and it included St. Mary’s Cemetery on the hill across the river. It is all part of the original Lacombe-Leduc homestead area.
Fr. Lacombe had the Mission Bridge built over the Elbow River and he contracted the grading of the Mission Road, as a shortcut to and from Macleod Trail. It still is a useful shortcut!
Many Calgarians enjoy the 4th Street Lilac Festival every Spring. All the buildings, condos, and houses on the east side of 4th Street SW, south of 17th Avenue, are on sub-divided lots that Fr. Lacombe sold. Yes, he was a real estate magnate! But, honouring his vow of poverty, all proceeds were directed towards the needs of the Church, of course. Today historical signage indicates the original street names: 17th Avenue was Notre Dame Road; 18th Avenue (St. Joseph Street); 19th Avenue (St. Mary’s); 20th Avenue (Oblate); 21st Avenue (Lacombe); 22nd Avenue (Doucet); 23rd Avenue (Rouleau) - for the two French Canadian brothers who settled there; 24th Avenue (Grandin), 25th Avenue (Scollen), and 26th Avenue (Legal).
In that same year, 1884, Fr. Lacombe arranged for the construction of the St. Joseph Industrial School south of Calgary at Dunbow. With Canadian Government funding and policies in place, the Residential School was run by the Oblates and Grey Nuns. It was “meant” to serve the children of the Blackfoot Confederacy by teaching them skills to cope with the inevitable changes to their traditional lifestyle. Fr. Lacombe was the Principal and primary recruiter for the school in its first year of operation and Crowfoot approved of the plan.
And Mary said, ‘My soul magnifies the Lord.’ –Luke 1:41
The 100th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima is approaching. It will be a celebration of one of the most dramatic accounts of Marian apparitions in our time. Beginning with three visits by the Angel of Peace in 1916, three shepherd children in Portugal claimed to have seen the Virgin Mary during six apparitions that concluded on the 13th of October 1917. Our Lady had promised to reveal three secrets to the children, and offered a miracle upon her last visit, which was witnessed by upwards of 60,000 people. One of these secrets is said to have predicted the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II in 1981. Lucia Dos Santos, the eldest of the three children, later saw an apparition, of the Child Jesus and the Virgin Mary, in her convent room in 1925.
Dating back to the 1500s, the Anglo-French word “aparicion” references the Epiphany as an opening of Heaven to the world. Just as the revelation of the Christ child to the three wise men offered a glimpse of a greater glory, so too can an apparition be understood to open a door to divine understanding. Over time the word has come to be used as a signifier of anything ghostly and unexpected, but it traces itself back to holy origins. Marian apparitions occupy a unique place in our Catholic faith, and pilgrimages to major sites in Lourdes and Tepeyac (near Mexico City, Our Lady of Guadalupe), for example, are legendary.
As important as the visions themselves, are the “messages” Mother Mary is said to have brought, from requests to build churches, to prayers to end a world war. The visions reveal a call to hope, though they also warn of challenges and crises, for which faith is offered as a refuge and an antidote. A particular feature of Marian apparitions is the disclosing of secrets that tell of impending tragedies or momentous events. In the end, such apparitions are powerful reminders of our belief in Mary, and her place as a mediator for humanity – a bridge to Our Lord.
As a university named in her honour, the St. Mary’s community looks forward to the month of May, which is traditionally understood as Our Lady’s month. As Marge Fenelon, writing in the National Catholic Register put it, “The idea of a month dedicated specifically to Mary can be traced back to baroque times. …It was in this era that Mary’s Month and May were combined… with special devotions organized on each day throughout the month. This custom became especially widespread during the nineteenth century and remains in practice until today.” For many, including me, every day is Mary’s day: a time to celebrate a blessing of incredible mystery and approachability. As St. Josemaria Escrivá once said, “When you see the storm, if you seek safety in that firm refuge which is Mary, there will be no danger of your wavering or going down.”
For a number of years, I have been helping with this program to make our parish and our church more safe for the vulnerable. What I believe is that we are making progress with our Model Code of Conduct, Police Information Checks, and abuse prevention training for the parishioners who help in our high and medium risk ministries.
It is so important to be aware of our seniors and children. While being around the elderly, I notice how they are so wonderful and helpful to all and they have so much knowledge to share with us. By getting to know them, we begin to see what they are going through, and what abuse some have received from people in their lives. Some just stay silent, but we all must be aware and reach out to them.
The deathly silence of some of those victims, our own elders, brings to mind Isaiah’s description of the suffering servant, “Like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so he did not open his mouth” [53:7]. And again, “He was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities…” [53:5]. This reminds us of the truth that many vulnerable suffer by the sinful actions of others.
Isaiah says that this suffering and this iniquity would make us whole, that “by his wounds are we healed.” But we know that healing is a long way off for many, even some very close to us. There are no excuses for violence and abusive behavior. We are only very slowly learning that, if someone is abused mentally or physically or sexually, blaming the victim is never justified.
Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary General of the UN, says that “this world is in trouble and I am urging us to work for all of humanity.” We know that we are children of God and as St. Paul has explained, the Spirit we have received gives us the grace to cry “Abba, Father” and to be free from the fear of being slaves [Rom 8:15]. With the grace of the Holy Spirit and the willingness to question and change our lives to help each other in strengthening our parishes and protecting our vulnerable, we can realize God’s desire for all people to live as his beloved children.