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The love of a family changes the world – Perspectives Daily

Today on Perspectives, Pope Francis talks about how a Christian family can change the world by being themselves and CNS has a look at one group of people going back to school.

World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation – Perspectives Daily

Today on Perspectives, Pope Francis held a special liturgy for the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation.

Coast to Coast: August 23 to August 29

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Here are some of the things we’ve been reading about across the country:

One Ukrainian seminarian travelled a long way to be ordained a deacon and continue his journey to priesthood.

In Prince Albert, Saskatchewan two other men weathered life’s unexpected twists and turns before realizing their callings to the permanent diaconate.

August is the month for Marian pilgrimages. Many archdioceses have a place where they make pilgrimage on or around the feast of the ascension. For one Alberta couple the annual Skaro Shrine pilgrimage has extra special meaning.

One parish in Thornhill, Ontario got to see (or at least hear about) the results of their relief efforts for Typhoon Haiyan victims.

And in Prince Edward Island just when St. Malachy’s parish was preparing to sell the rectory to pay for repairs to the church, they got an unexpected helping hand.

Mom Made Me Do It

Rosemary-Azu

Rosemary Azu is hard to miss in a crowd. She has a natural presence that draws people to her. The fact that she is usually dressed in brightly coloured traditional Nigerian dresses also makes her stand out. That natural confidence in her own identity has helped her build her own successful mortgage and real estate business, and raise three sons. But Azu’s face really lights up when she talks about the women at her parish and her Catholic Women’s Leauge council. “Catholic women are different…Catholic women are gifted, and we have to be proud of that!” she says.

It is hard to believe that she almost did not join the CWL and had to be convinced by other women every time she was asked to take on greater responsibility within her council.

Azu moved to Coquitlam, British Columbia in 1993 and looked for a parish to join. At that first parish she heard an announcement that the CWL council was holding a meeting. “In Nigeria the Catholic women’s organization is open to all married women, you don’t need to join or sign up,” she explained. Adding that in her native country when a Catholic woman marries the other married women of the parish present her with the uniform of the Catholic women’s organization.

Her first experience with the CWL in Canada was definitely a very different experience. “I showed up at the announced time and had to knock on the door [of the meeting room]. They opened the door, let me in, and continued with the meeting,” Azu recalls. She sat at the back of the meeting room for two hours listening to the members “all of whom were over 80 years old” discuss council business. At the end of the meeting Azu said the group prayed. “No one asked me why I was there. No one talked to me. I left that meeting and never went back,” she said.

Time passed. Azu discovered that based on where she lived she actually should have been attending All Saints parish in Coquitlam. She began attending that parish and things changed. Azu made friends there and became an active member of the parish community. One of those friends was the woman who served as Organization Chair for the parish’s CWL council. Azu recalls “she kept telling me I should join but after that first experience at my previous parish I said ‘no way, not for me.’”

Azu might have gotten away with saying “no” had her father not been visiting. As fathers do, he encouraged his daughter to put aside her idea of the CWL and try again. He also relayed the story to Azu’s mother who was back in Nigeria. That was the decisive factor. Her mother urged her to get involved. Azu joined the parish CWL and quietly participated in the council’s various activities as much as she could. At the time she had three young sons, was working full time, and planning to start her own business.

In 2006, while her mother was visiting from Nigeria, a friend from Azu’s CWL council asked if she would let her name stand in the upcoming elections for council executives. Azu hesitated but her mother urged her to “be more involved with the women.” A week later the same friend called back to say Azu had been elected council treasurer. She went on to serve two consecutive two year terms as treasurer, followed by a two year term as as Christian Life Chair. “Then I decided I was going to sit on the backbench for awhile,” she said..    

That was not to be. A trusted friend and mentor in the parish, who was also a CWL member, asked Azu to stand for Organizational Chair. Out of sheer respect for this fellow CWL member Azu agreed to let her name to stand. She was elected and served a two year term. Again, at the end of the two year term Azu intended to step aside and let someone else get involved. Again the same friend approached and asked her to let her name stand for election once more. Thinking she would end up serving another two years as Organizational Chair Azu agreed. Instead she was elected Council President. Azu’s mother was overjoyed. Azu says all she could think was “I have two full time jobs, I have no time!”

Azu’s mother convinced her to accept this new responsibility. “My mom told me ‘there is something these women see in you that you don’t see yourself.’” She took the leap and accepted her election as president. “I thought I was not ready, and it is true I was not. But you can’t be ready because God makes you ready,” Azu said recalling her experiences as council executive.

Her mother’s advice seems to have been accurate. During Azu’s time on the council’s executive committee, membership has grown. In the the last three years the council has gone from 163 members, to 165 to 175 members. In part it may be due to the fact that “I love to talk to people,” says Azu. She makes a special point of talking to the women of the parish. “We are all members of the Catholic Women’s League by virtue of the fact that we are all Catholic Women. I tell them the only thing they need to do is make it official by filling in the [membership] form.”

Of course one woman can not lead alone, nor can she lead a group that only has meetings but does not take action. “There are three past-presidents in our council, and I rely on them for support and advice. When I need help it is always there. That shows me that God is in this.” Azu said. Together Azu and the women of All Saint’s CWL council work to meet the needs of their parish community and the country.

Azu’s council collects clothing, food and money for the St. Vincent de Paul Society which provides support to people in need. To support education, the council gives out two bursaries each year: one to a student entering High School and one to a university student. Of course, to help foster a sense of community within the parish and provide parishioners a chance to get to know each other the council provides hospitality after Sunday Masses.

Although she says there are still days when she doesn’t know how she will balance the demands of her business, her family, and the CWL council, she wouldn’t have it any other way. “I tell women don’t be afraid to make your voice heard. You can’t make a difference watching from the corner” she said..

Photo c/o Olaf Photo.

Women’s Business

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When one thinks of Prince Edward Island one tends to think of glowing sunsets over green fields, farms where animals roam free, small towns where everyone knows everyone else, and quaint green-gabled homes. One would not immediately think of the province as a place where 37 percent of people use the services of food banks to make ends meet. That’s more than twice the national average.

Low wages, a lack of full time jobs and high rates of seasonal work contribute to the disproportionately high rate of food bank use in P.E.I. Among those looking for help making ends meet are women. One of the things women using food banks often can not afford, but urgently need, are feminine hygiene products. This past spring the Catholic Women’s League in P.E.I. got in on a campaign to stock food bank shelves with those necessary, but often forgotten, products.

The “Taking Care of Women’s Business. Period.” Campaign was launched by a Tracey Comeau, a P.E.I woman who read about low income women feeling like their last shred of dignity was robbed when they could no longer afford feminine hygiene products. Comeau launched a 28 day campaign to collect women’s sanitary products and drop them off at local food banks.

The CWL Provincial Executive heard about the campaign and decided to get on board. Louise Doiron, the CWL Provincial President, sent an email to every CWL council on the island with details about the campaign.

“We told our members to buy whatever product they would normally buy, even soap and other items we know women need, and drop it off at their local food bank,” Doiron explained.

While Doiron does not know how many items were delivered by CWL members, the 28 day campaign launched by Comeau collected 1, 439 boxes of feminine hygiene products.

Inspired by the success of the campaign and the way CWL members, responded, Doiron says she is thinking of ways the league could get feminine hygiene products to even more women in need.

Photo c/o Olaf Photo.

Getting things done as only women can

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In Abu Dabi in 1993, there was one Catholic Church. The work week in the Arab Emirate was Sunday to Thursday. For Jacqueline Nogier and her husband – both Catholic teachers who were working in Abu Dabi- that meant going to church after work on Sundays. This was Nogier’s life for two years. It taught her that it is possible to live one’s faith quietly and have it play a central role in one’s life. Still, when she returned to her home to Canada she couldn’t stop herself from jumping in feet first and getting involved in something that would allow to her live her faith openly, on a daily basis.

Home was Snow Lake, Manitoba, a town of just over 900 people located 684 kilometres north of Winnipeg, with an even smaller Catholic population.

Nogier says on the one Sunday a month when Mass is available, an average of 15 people attend. That means when something needs to be done “If everybody doesn’t help, nothing happens” she says. This sense of responsibility towards her community, and the need to live her faith in way she had not been able to while abroad resulted in Nogier taking some decisive action.

In 1997, shortly after returning to Canada, “I turned to my Mom and said let’s join the CWL (Catholic Women’s League) together” Nogier recalls.

“Mom” is Ella Nogier, a retired grade two teacher with a sharp wit, contagious smile, and abundant energy that she channels into whatever needs to be done.

Recalling how she joined the CWL Ella Nogier states, “there was a council in our parish, but many members didn’t go to meetings and the president ended up having meetings by herself. So my daughter and I decided we had to help her out.”

That might have been the catalyst, but joining the league gave Ella Nogier “something to do with my daughter” and fellowship with other Catholic women. “It is amazing to be with people that pray the same prayers as you. They know the Hail Mary. Not everyone [in Snow Lake] does.”

The female fellowship Ella and Jacqueline experienced in their council ignited a flame that kept growing. Jacqueline says “I didn’t want my growth and my learning to stop.” So Jacqueline accepted position on the provincial executive council, “and I pulled my mom along.”

Jacqueline also “pulled” her sister Melissa along into the league. “I found something cool and I wanted to share it with my Mom and my sister,” she recalls. And so it was that Melissa Nogier joined the CWL 15 years ago.

Her contact with the league went back to her teenage years when her mother signed her up to serve at the annual tea. Melissa says at a certain point “I realized I can’t expect women my mom’s age to continue [their work] forever.”

Her increasing exposure to the work of the CWL through her mother and sister’s involvement opened Melissa’s eyes to the needs that the league tries to respond to at the parish level. She joined the league, signing up in the same council as her mother and sister, and started taking on more and more responsibility.

Six years ago Melissa moved to Vita, Manitoba and discovered that her parish did not have a CWL council. She kept her membership active in her home parish in Snow Lake, and still helps out the council’s activities from afar. “I went home to visit and was handed four books of tickets of sell, so I did” she recalls.

Though all three Nogier women joined the CWL for different reasons, all three say they have found the league a source of spiritual and human fellowship. Melissa says “connecting with women of different ages who share one common belief” gives her a safe place to express her values, something “that doesn’t happen very often” outside the league.

Ella Nogier similarly speaks of the beauty of having the fellowship of other women, but with the added bonus that it gives her an extra connection to her two adult daughters. Meanwhile Jacqueline, who now serves as Resolutions Chair on the CWL National Executive, says her desire to keep growing and serving the work of the league has given her leadership skills and confidence she did not feel she had before. On a person note, it gave her “an extra layer of sisterhood” with her sister Melissa, and a vehicle to connect with her mother as an adult.  

Photo c/o Olaf Photo.

CWL Opening Mass – Practical Prophets of Wisdom

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What happens when you gather together some of the most committed, passionate, dedicated Catholic women from across the country in one church? Vancouver’s St. Francis Xavier church in Vancouver learned the answer: the congregation outsings the choir and the decibel level threatens to take the roof off the building.

The Catholic Women’s League opened their 95th annual national convention August 16 in Vancouver. More than 800 members took part in the opening mass. Their enthusiasm was palpable.

Addressing the women during his homily Vancouver’s Archbishop Michael Miller thanked the women for their “prophetic mission of wisdom”.

Appearing to beaming as he spoke, the archbishop explained that to be wise means to have insight into how things really are. For Christians that means being able to see when something is “of God” and when it is not. Women, he said, have a particular sensitivity for discerning God’s presence and have a duty to be “practical prophets of wisdom”.  

Why are women called to be practical prophets? According to the archbishop – who cited the Second Vatican Council and Pope Francis – because women’s gift for focusing on the person in a given situation is opens the door for God’s mercy. He said “now is the hour when women are called to use their feminine genius to protect and promote the dignity of every person.”

On hand for the opening Mass and opening ceremony was the Honorable Judith Guichon, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia. She reminded the women that Canada “is a nation born of conversation, not conversation” and the CWL has been an integral part of that conversation, providing a strong foundation for communities. She called on the league’s 85,000 members to continue working to uphold the Christian values that provide a solid foundation for the communities that make up the nation.

The CWL convention continues until August 19 in Vancouver.

Photos courtesy of Olaf Photo.

Coast to Coast: August 9 to August 15

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Here is a look at some of what has been going on across Canada this week, church-wise. Also, the month of August brings us the feast of The Ascension and with it an assortment of Marian pilgrimages and celebrations.

First up, in Vancouver the Eparch Emeritus of the Ukrainian Eparchy of New Westminster (the Ukrainian Catholic diocese in Vancouver)  reflects on his 60 years of priestly ministry.

In Alberta, one woman shares how a yearly pilgrimage to Lac Ste. Anne healed her, though not in the way one might expect.

Since the release of the Papal Encyclical on Human Ecology, there has been a push to try to understand exactly what the pope’s teaching should mean in the daily lives of Catholics. Toronto’s Catholic Register offers this look.

August is the time for Marian pilgrimages. Here are some diocesan pilgrimages happening across the country over the next few weeks:

Out west, the Archdiocese of Vancouver is making pilgrimage to the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes in Mission, B.C. Saturday August 15. If you are in the area, stop by between 10:00am and 4:00pm. Archbishop Michael Miller will celebrate Mass at 1pm.

In Alberta, the Skaro Shrine (also a replica Lourdes Grotto) hosts a weekend of activities beginning Friday, August 14 with a vespers service. On Saturday August 15 Mass will be celebrated at the grotto, followed by a Eucharistic procession.

In Winnipeg the Marian celebration takes place on September 5 in Polonia, Manitoba. at St. Elizabeth Church. Archbishop Richard Gagnon will celebrate Mass with the faithful on that day.

In Toronto, a Marian celebration honouring Our Lady of Kibeho and St. Josephine Bakhita is being held August 21 at Midland Martyr’s Shrine.

And the Archdiocese of Halifax-Yarmouth celebrates the Feast of the Assumption in a very special way this year: with the ordination of a new priest. Archbishop Anthony Mancini ordains James O’Connor to the priesthood at 10:30 am on August 15 at St. Mary’s Cathedral.  

Behind Vatican Walls: Castel Gandolfo and Ferragosto

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Rome, the eternal city, is conveniently located just barely inland from Italy’s Tyrrhenian coast and is surrounded by hills. This combination of geographical features means the summer months are hot, humid and smoggy. By August, it is next to impossible to breathe in the city. Thus Roman residents flee and take refuge in the beach or mountain village of their choice. Since 1623, popes have taken part in this exodus from Rome. Until now.

Jesuit Pope

Perhaps it is to be expected that a Jesuit would not feel the need to have a second residence. Maybe it is because he has lived in far hotter climates where retreating to a summer residence is a luxury reserved for the rich; or perhaps it is just a symptom of his need to stay close to his “habitat”. Whatever the reason Pope Francis has shown no interest in using the residence at Castel Gandolfo himself. For the third year in a row he has not scheduled a long term stay at the summer residence.

This omission has residents of the hilltop town disappointed. Besides the stunning views of Lake Albano, quaint restaurants along the lakeside featuring fresh porchetta and fish, and picturesque hiking trails, the town’s only bankable attraction is the fact that the pope lives here during the summer and leads the Angelus every Sunday. The current pope’s decision to stay in Rome means local business owners face an uncertain future with hard times ahead. At least, this is what some media reports would have you believe.

Why do the residents of Castel Gandolfo feel such a profound sense of abandonment? More importantly, have they really been left high and dry by the pope?

A history of abandonment

At 55 hectares the papal residence at Castel Gandolfo is larger than Vatican City State, and can be traced back to days of the emperor Domitian. After Domitian died his successors saw no need for his villa (a familiar story). By 1596 the Savelli family owned an estate built over the ruins of Domitian’s villa.

Alas, the Savelli family fell on hard times and failed to repay an important loan. Pope Clement VIII issued a papal bull seizing the Savelli Villa as repayment for the outstanding loan and incorporated a large part of the property as Holy See territory. In 1623 Pope Urban VIII, who had a habit of leaving Rome during the summer to avoid disease, began using the villa at Castel Gandolfo as his official summer residence. He believed a pope should not have to stay in other people’s homes. Since then popes have retreated to Castel Gandolfo during the summer months.

As often happens with a centuries old institution, each pope left his mark on the residence. Today the papal villa at Castel Gandolfo includes a residence for the pope and a team of household staff, a fully functional farm that can provide food to the Vatican (including honey), an observatory (run by the Jesuits) and a vast, manicured garden. Pope Francis’ decision not to use the summer residence does not in any way mean that the house or the town are empty.

Open Doors

In 2014, the Vatican announced that the gardens of the Papal Summer Residence would be open to the public for the first time. Though visitors must purchase a ticket in advance from the Vatican Museums website, and tour times are limited, the Castel Gandolfo Papal Gardens are a must see for both garden and archeology enthusiasts. The remains of Domitian’s villa have been incorporated into the design of the terraced gardens.

While the gardens are open to the ticket-holding public, there are currently no facilities within those gardens for tourist essentials like food, drink, and souvenirs. (Or so it would seem from the reports of friends and colleagues who have visited the gardens). Thus the merchants of Castel Gandolfo stand to gain year round from the steady stream of visitors to these previously restricted gardens.

Links

For a less paraphrased history of the Papal Residence at Castel Gandolfo and all its previous inhabitants, check out the Vatican City State website.

Steubenville Toronto 2015 – Highlights

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For decades, the Franciscan University of Steubenville has been offering their famous teen conferences to groups around North America. This past weekend Toronto hosted its second Steubenville Conference. The team included Chris Stefanick, Matt Fradd, Cooper Ray, Sr. Miriam Heidland and Fr. Chris Martin. If you missed the broadcasts of their keynote talks on our network, or want to see more of what went on in between the talks and liturgies, check out these highlights from the weekend.

Here is the opening Praise and Worship session led by the Josh Blakesley Band, followed by Matt Fradd’s talk on “The Shepherd” and Cooper Ray on “The Thief”.

For young women out there who couldn’t make it to Steubenville Toronto in person, (or maybe you were there and want to hear this again) here is Sr. Miriam Heidland leading the women’s session.

Here is Fr. Chris Martin on the Holy Spirit just before the conference wrapped. (and of course the worship session that took place before his talk)

If you’re looking for more of the fantastic music on offer at Steubenville Toronto, check out this video stream featuring a concert with Cooper Ray. As a bonus, the concert is followed by Matt Fradd’s talk on living out friendships in this modern, high-tech, constantly connected world.

Here is the incomparable Sr. Miriam Heidland giving her keynote talk on Limitless Love. Her thought provoking presentation looks at why we crave things that don’t seem to satisfy us, and the security blankets we hold on to throughout our lives.

Check out this page for more clips!