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When the Levee Breaks


Retired New Orleans Archbishop Philip M. Hannan is pictured during a helicopter tour of areas stricken by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Archbishop Hannan was a World War II paratroop chaplain who befriended and secretly counseled John F. Kennedy during and after his historic run for the White House as the first U.S. Catholic president. CNS photo/Sean Harrison, Archdiocese of New Orleans.

One of the recurring themes during my time in New Orleans has been the impact of Hurricane Katrina, which can still be felt nearly 10 years later (August 29, 2015 marks the 10th year anniversary of the disaster). Although the city has rebounded and is getting its groove back, there are still signs of recuperation.

In the following, Dr. Barbara Fleischer explains the extent of the flooding.

In the second clip, Barbara shows me one of the 50 levees which broke and explains some of its impact.

Many religious communities, including the Sisters of the Holy Family, The Sisters of Mount Carmel and Daughters of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Chi-Hoa were seriously affected by the flooding. Their motherhouses and most of their facilities; schools and nursing homes all had to be rebuilt. But as is so often the case when disaster strikes, there were also many instances of heroic virtue as the Sisters chose not to abandon the people they served.

To learn more about the Sisters’ response to Hurricane Katrina, I recommend watching We Shall Not Be Moved. But have some tissues ready because the Sisters will make you proud.

New Canal Lighthouse, New Orleans

Side note: most people will know of the Zed Leppelin version of the song “When the Levee Breaks”, but the rock song is actually take off an old blues song written by husband and wife couple, Kansas Joe McCoy and guitar legend Memphis Minnie who wrote it in 1929 about the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927.


CherdianS1The Producer Diaries – Cheridan Sanders shares her experiences developing a new S+L television series featuring seven women religious communities located in Africa, the Philippines, Timor-Leste and the United States. The globe-trotting series invites viewers to delight in the spiritual gifts of each of community and witness the extraordinary work of: educating girls, ministering to outcasts, sheltering HIV orphans, preventing human trafficking, taking care of the elderly, and so much more. The time is now to show the world how magnificent our Sisters are. The new series is an exciting collaboration with the Loyola Institute for Ministry in New Orleans and is made possible through a $900 000 dollar grant from the Conrad Hilton Foundation.


A League of their Own

They don’t call it “Beautiful British Columbia” for nothing. And as much as the words stick in my throat as a Toronto native, I have to admit, BC truly is beautiful.

This past week, cameraman David Leross and I were in Vancouver for the CWL’s National Convention filming interviews for an upcoming episode of Catholic Focus, which will feature the League.

Here’s a little of what went on behind-the-scenes.

One of the highlights of the Convention was Dr. Josephine Lombardi’s keynotes. As many of you already know, Dr. Josephine Lombardi is the Assistant Professor of Pastoral and Systematic Theology at St. Augustine’s Seminary here in Toronto. Her very well-received keynote addresses reflected on the theme of the Convention, “One Heart, One Voice, One Mission”.

In the following, we asked Dr. Lombardi to share with us a little of what inspired her talks.

Stay tuned for more on this story featuring the Catholic Women’s League in an upcoming episode of Catholic Focus.

To read more about the Convention, here are some posts by S+L producer, Alicia Ambrosio:

Women’s Business

Getting things done as only women can

Practical prophets of wisdom


CherdianS1The Producer Diaries

Cheridan Sanders, a Producer at Salt and Light Television, reflects on her experiences as she travels the world telling Catholic’s stories.


An Artful Story

Sr. Catherine Martin O. Carm, in her art studio, Lacombe, Louisiana.

Sr. Catherine Martin O. Carm, in her art studio, Lacombe, Louisiana.


Cheridan Sanders learns how Sr. Catherine Martin, O. Carm discovers her life-long love for art through an unwitting contribution to her father’s artwork.

The best part of my job? The people. I love meeting the people who make up this beautiful reality we call the Church. There are so many stories to share and listening to these stories, always leaves me in awe at the ways that God speaks to us in the big and little moments that make up our lives.

One of the communities that we’ll feature in our new seven part series are the Sisters of Mount Carmel. Theirs is a fascinating charism which will eventually lead us to the farthest reaches of Timor-Leste. But before we get to that, I spent some time getting to know the community based in New Orleans by taking a trip to Lacombe to visit the Carmelite Spirituality Centre.

The Lake Pontchartrain Causeway is the longest continuous bridge over water.

The Lake Pontchartrain Causeway is the longest continuous bridge over water.


And tucked away in her little Art studio, I had the privilege of meeting Sr. Catherine Martin.
Born in Lafayette and the youngest of 5 children,  Sr. Catherine has taught art and prayer for over 20 years.

In the following she shares how she discovered her love for art.


CherdianS1The Producer Diaries  – Cheridan Sanders shares her experiences developing an original television series featuring women religious communities located in Africa, Asia and the United States. The globe-trotting adventure invites readers to delight in each community’s spiritual gifts as they: educate girls, minister to outcasts, prevent human trafficking, and so much more. The production is an exciting collaboration with the Loyola Institute for Ministry in New Orleans and is made possible through a grant from the Conrad Hilton Foundation.

Soul Food, Soul Music

Cheridan Sanders visits the legendary neighbourhood of Treme, New Orleans to learn more about the life of Venerable Henriette Delille, Founder of the Sisters of the Holy Family.


As part of my research into the life of Venerable Henriette Delille, founder of the Sisters of the Holy Family, I recently attended aa unique Mass at St. Augustine’s Church – the place where Henriette Delille and Juliette Gaudin pledged to live in community; thus founding the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Family in 1842.

St. Augustine’s has a fascinating history as it is famous for it’s “War of the Pews” which resulted in the first fully racially integrated parish in the United States.

Moreover, the historic church is also located in Treme, New Orleans, home of legendary jazz greats.

And that brings us to an interesting intersection between local jazz culture and faith.

Once a year, St. Augustine’s Soulful Voices Choir teams up with the Treme Brass Band and Yoshio Toyama of Japan to provide the musical accompaniment for Mass at St. Augustine’s.

The Mass is so well regarded that it is featured as part of the official program of the annual Louis Armstrong “Satchmo” Summerfest, which means that the church is packed to the rafters with believers and jazz lovers alike.

Here’s a taste of the opening procession.

And later the hymn before the final blessing.

CherdianS1The Producer Diaries  – Cheridan Sanders shares her experiences developing an original television series featuring women religious communities located in Africa, Asia and the United States. The globe-trotting adventure invites readers to delight in each community’s spiritual gifts as they: educate girls, minister to outcasts, prevent human trafficking, and so much more. The production is an exciting collaboration with the Loyola Institute for Ministry in New Orleans and is made possible through a grant from the Conrad Hilton Foundation.

Faith At Sea

Cheridan Sanders learns about life on the Rig, as she chats with Alison Carey about faith, work-life balance and what it’s like living 120 miles out to sea.

When you imagine reaching out to the peripheries, setting up shop in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico isn’t exactly what comes to most of our minds.

But one thing I have found you can always count on, no matter how far or inaccessible a human community may be, Christ always finds a way to reach them.

And so here enters Alison, a Deepwater Process Control and Automation Engineer, who is no stranger to adventure as she lives and witnesses in one of the toughest working environments on the planet.

Find out what it takes to live at sea and how opportunities to witness are found even in the most unlikely of places.

How did you come to work on an oil rig? I suppose it’s not something you wake up one day and say you’re going to do? Or is it?

I am a process control engineer (my degree was chemical engineering) and I am based out of the Covington Louisiana (LA) office, but spend around 60 days offshore per year. My main workplace is the office but I am an operation support engineer which requires me to make “field visits” (to our outlying deepwater platforms- some are as far as 120 miles off the coast of LA). Before moving to LA, I worked in the gas plants and oil fields in West Texas and New Mexico. Before that, I was an operations process engineer at a refinery in Philadelphia.

What is your day to day like?

When I am in the office, I work on control systems, monitoring the oil/gas/water separation process via our automation and computers. I interface with the operators daily asking them to make adjustments and finding ways to run the process smoother. I am focused on what we can “topsides” which means that my work boundary starts once the oil arrives at the platform (I am not involved in drilling or production) and ends when our products reach their respective pipelines (to the sales point). When I am offshore, I spend my time working in the control room (the most common visual for a control room would be NASA’s Mission Control Center where one can see all the temperatures, pressures, flow rate, etc. of the fluids moving through our pumps, separators, compressors, treaters, heaters, etc.). I make adjustments to run the process smoother, so we can increase our throughput in a safe and reliable manner.

What’s the biggest challenge that you’ve encountered so far? What was the role of your faith in that experience?

Work/ life balance can be very stressful at times with my job. I think this is true with any career. Do we let our career become our God? When I first started working, especially at a union refinery in the Northeast, I dealt with a lot of hostility. I was severely outnumbered as a female there and struggled with gaining/earning respect. This is not a problem in the Gulf due to (in my opinion) the culture of the people I interact with and also due to some maturity and personal development on my behalf.

Is there anything that surprised you when you started working out in the middle of the Gulf?

I have a great respect for the people who work a 14 day on / 14 day off schedule. They sacrifice so much to provide for their families. This puts great strain on relationships and lifestyles. They do hold Bible Studies and prayer sessions offshore on Sunday nights at many locations, giving the employees a sense of community even though they cannot be with their families. There is a lot of risk with the work we do offshore. In many cases, it can become a life or death situation. People take care of one another, they look out for one another’s safety and well-being. There is a sense of brotherhood that engulfs you when you step off the helicopter and onto the platform. There are so many offshore coworkers who I know would do anything for me- this is the definition of a true Christ-like person. There is an overwhelming sense of ownership and pride that one can sense in this environment from most of the crew.

What are the people like that you work with? How would you describe the environment on the rig?

When you are in the offshore environment, there is a significant pull to get along. At the end of the day, you do not leave work. You have to live with your coworkers so this creates a different environment. Sure there are people who do not get along, but it’s less common than in the office environment. I am also one of the few if not the only female out there. Sometimes this can be awkward, as no one likes to be outnumbered, but once people get to know me, they treat me as an equal or sometimes better. Although my job is not vocational (like a doctor, teacher, etc.) I still see my purpose is to help others in any way. It can be difficult to live offshore for long periods of time because it is so isolated. I keep myself busy and try to make the best out of it. As far as what are the people like? They are normal people. They love their families. They take pride in the work they do which provides energy and a way of life to others.

Alison Carey, a process control engineer, is based out of the Covington, Louisiana office, but spends around 60 days offshore per year.


You’ve recently graduated with a Masters of Pastoral Studies from Loyola, what did you take away from that experience? Has your worldview changed at all?

I graduated with my Masters of Pastoral Studies last year from Loyola. It allowed me an opportunity to grow my faith on an intellectual basis. I was using this for working with the RCIA program at my local parish. The program definitely changed my worldview. I was introduced to a new network of people who carried the same concern about how our careers and faith intersected. Spending the time at Loyola allowed me to grow in empathy for others, especially those I work with. Not everyone is viewing life from the same vantage point, and even when talking to other Catholics about their work and faith, the viewpoints were not the same. This realization changed my worldview in that I need to have more patience with others and need to come to them at their own starting point. Jesus approached his disciples as they were out fishing, doing their jobs. This is where Jesus meets me as well.

Something I read recently that describes a little more on the Catholic perspective of the workplace:
Author Chris Lowney wrote a very engaging article about the newly canonized St. Peter Faber. The focus of the article is on the impactful life of St. Faber and the business consideration of his work and teachings

Here is a one paragraph excerpt –

But Faber implicitly challenges businesspeople that their talents are only being used well when they maintain a proper perspective on life. Business and money-making are not the highest ends: “If there were not such a harvest of souls to reaped,” Faber writes. Our destiny lies beyond this world, and we’re here for purposes beyond what we can sell, trade, build, buy, flaunt or own during this short earthly sojourn. That includes, if we are businesspeople, remaining aware that our every business decision impacts, for better or ill, the lives of employees, customers, shareholders and communities.

How do you give witness to the faith in your day to day encounters?

One of the focus areas for my studies is the fact that the faith needs to be lived out. A lot of people justify their dedication by being immersed in ministry. However, practically speaking, we spend most of our time at our jobs. I recall being in high school and our religious teacher telling us we did not have to be sisters or nuns to be holy. We can make any job holy as long as we keep our focus on God, and remember as St. Paul challenges us, that we are always serving God regardless of the task. Keeping this at the forefront of my mind is a daily challenge but one that I am called to do. In an environment as fickle as the energy business, one must be ready for constant change and for a dog-eat-dog world that any for-profit corporation can become by means of their inherent structure. In other words, we come to work to make money, not for social betterment or for a deeper cause.

There are always those among us who are poorer in something. For example, one “ministry” in my job is mentoring younger engineers. It’s a true labor of love to take the time required to prepare them for his or her career. I am mentoring one young lady right now who I took under my wing when I saw she was struggling with some of the same situations I had been through. This empathy provides me a way to mimic Christ in the work place. The poor will always be with us, Jesus prophesized. The poor can be anyone in need- someone who does not have the same amount of knowledge or confidence and needs a little help.

There is also a cliché about engineers and operators and how the two are oil and water. Historically there exists much animosity between these two. As you can imagine, a bad relationship between an engineer and operator can create a daunting work environment when trying to convince a control room operator to make a change when he has been operating that system just fine for 20 years. It takes some finesse to do this successfully- something I learned from a few good mentors and bosses by watching them interact and ask questions with respect and listen to the offshore personnel. This also becomes a way to witness my faith- you will know what I believe by how I treat others. This is my goal. Sometimes I struggle with personality conflicts and with egos and all the messiness that exists when many people are required to meet a common goal. It is how we handle and conduct our business that shows what we truly believe.

Power of authority and position can be resorted to too often in this environment. I would rather people do what I ask because they respect my knowledge and skills rather than doing it because I said so. In order to reach this level with others, significant effort is required to know and honor them as individuals and see how we can work in unity to reach a goal that is beneficial to both.


CherdianS1The Producer Diaries

Cheridan Sanders, a Producer at Salt and Light Television, reflects on her experiences as she travels the world telling Catholic’s stories.


The Strong Arm of the Church: The Knights of Columbus

A household name for many, the Knights of Columbus have grown into the world’s largest lay Catholic organization. But, surprisingly, there’s still a lot of mystery that surrounds these noble men. In light of the upcoming Supreme Convention, we thought you might want to find out why the Knights remain the ‘Strong Arm of the Church’.

Don’t forget to tune in for Salt + Light’s live coverage of this year’s 133rd Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus.

Swimming Against The Tide

Cheridan Sanders celebrates her First Holy Communion at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Windhoek, Namibia. Brother Sebastian stands in the foreground.


A religious brother teaches young Cheridan Sanders how to swim; and that having faith means believing in a reality that does not exist, yet.

I grew up in mission territory.

‘South West’, as it was known then, was hot, dry and isolated.

Even today it remains one of the least densely populated nations.

No surprise then that many people have never heard of Namibia.

Imagine what life would have been like without those missionaries? Besides my own fond memories of attending Mass and participating in my weekly catechesis I benefited most from their presence.

Two impressions in particular remain with me.

First, the Sisters. I don’t recall one as much as I recall all of them. They were always giving out prayer cards and encouraging us to pray, especially to the saints on the cards.

Their encouragements were usually joined with hugs, smiles and invitations to come out of the sun and drink lemonade on hot days.

I reveled in their warmth, their embraces, their sweetness. And to this day, I love Mary and the saints and I believe it’s largely because of them.

And then there was Brother Sebastian…

Brother Sebastian was an intimidating, severe character to a seven year old me.

Stern, matter-of-fact and very German he was my version of Severus Snape. I recall his long, black robe, his black-rimmed glasses, and the fact that he was always dabbing his forehead with a white handkerchief.

He tolerated no cavorting, no dilly-dallying, no chatter and most of all, ‘no excuses!’.

(Admittedly, all things I was often guilty of)

This saga, all started in the shallow end of my primary school pool. Timidly holding onto the side, glancing furtively over to the deep end where the rest of my classmates were diving and prancing with delight.

I looked back at the kids in the shallow end with me. I took in my situation. I knew why we were all there. We were the kids who weren’t rich enough to have pools in our backyards, and then there was the colour of our skin as well.

… I was ashamed. I couldn’t swim, and judging by my flailing around, I determined that I never was going to be as good as the other kids in the class who’d been swimming, as one girl took much pleasure in pointing out, “since I was ‘3 months old!’.

I couldn’t help but roll my eyes.

I don’t recall exactly how the next series of events came about, but I must have gone home and complained to my mother.

The next thing I knew, I was signed up for additional swimming lessons with Brother Sebastian at the Catholic high school up the street.

As I walked up the steep hill towards the Black Gates of Mordor… sorry I meant, the high school where my additional swimming lessons were held, my stomach churned.

I thought to myself: “Now, you’ve really gone and done it, Cheridan!” bitterly regretting telling my mother how embarrassed I was that I couldn’t swim like the other kids in my class.

How could I have anticipated that sharing my shame would mean bi-weekly swimming lessons with none other than Brother Sebastian!

It was bad enough flailing about helplessly in front of my grade school friends …but having to learn under the eagle eye of Brother Sebastian and his pack of elite high school swimmers, well it was all just too much!

It was decided; I needed to die.

Even to this day, I can see the high school boys who formed his elite swimming squad, some of the best swimmers in the region in fact, looking on with smirks as they waited for Brother Sebastian to turn those penetrating eyes of his on them.

And true to his reputation, Brother Sebastian was indeed a task master. He was very clear about his expectations:

Tardiness was unacceptable
Practice outside of the regular instruction was expected.
And, above all, we were to stay focused and committed to the task at hand.
Now, into the pool and get to work!

All of which, delivered in a pronounced German tone which brooked no argument.

He was methodical and painstakingly meticulous.

… Sometimes, he would even jump into the pool to ensure that we were executing our strokes correctly!

This I hated the most; the singling out of my ineptitude.

Oh! The suffering!

And I’ll openly admit that I tried to drop out on more than one occasion.

But once signed up there was no way out. My mother said I was going to follow through on this, no turning back.

And so, somewhere between my mortification and the drills, I learnt to swim.

Really well.

All too soon I became one of the best swimmers in my school, and eventually in my age group. In our inter-school competitions I always had a spot on my school’s relay team. And we rarely went home without winning.

And so, below his stern exterior, Brother Sebastian was a man of charity and generosity. He wasn’t exactly the warmest character; but he was ultimately a good man.

I learnt years later that he’d taken me on as a bit of a charity case. My mother couldn’t afford to send me for the semi-private lessons (my existing school fees already were astronomical).
She’d approached him on my behalf one day after Mass.

I still smile at my mother’s audacity, she sought out the best coach in the country to teach her daughter how to swim.

And, his instruction (as much as I hated it) was a great service to me.

He taught me to swim against the tide. He taught me that hard work, perseverance, and self discipline pay off. That excellence is rarely achieved without a constant eye to self-improvement, and that success was not a matter of social standing, the colour of your skin, or even when you begin. But how much you apply yourself and your God-given talents.

He showed me that the real battle was believing in a future that was not a reality, yet.

And, if it weren’t for those missionaries and their unique forms of witness, expressed in a variety of ways, well I think my life would have been a little less rich.

CherdianS1The Producer Diaries

Cheridan Sanders, a Producer at Salt and Light Television, reflects on her experiences as she travels the world telling Catholic’s stories.

Sr. Rosemary – one of the world’s most influential pioneers.

Cheridan Sanders meets another hero, Sr. Rosemary Nyirumbe, Sisters of the Sacred Heart

Cheridan Sanders meets her hero, Sr. Rosemary Nyirumbe, Sisters of the Sacred Heart

It often happens that Fr. Tom Rosica will pile us all into a van and take us on a ‘road trip’, of sorts.

This time it was just a jaunt across the border into Buffalo for this year’s Catholic Press Association Convention. The Convention was an opportunity to refine and update our skills, and meet other Catholic media professionals.

Here’s a little taste of that experience:

There’s a palpable excitement at seeing fellow colleagues. We get to swap war stories, strategies, renew connections and walk away with lots of ideas and practical ways to implement them.

This year 12 of us attended the Convention, some of the S+L team members for the first time.

Personally I was stoked about the prospect of hearing from Sr. Rosemary Nyirumbe’s keynote. You may recall she obtained fame in the documentary Sewing Hope. Ok, if you haven’t watched Sewing Hope – stop everything that you’re doing and watch this trailer, right now!

Isn’t she amazing? No wonder, TIME magazine listed her as one of the 100 most influential people in the world!

Well, the best part of this year’s CPA Convention was that I got a chance to speak with her and here’s some of that interview:

To support Sr. Rosemary and her work with former child soldiers and to provide young women the opportunity to earn their own living, consider purchasing some bags or accessories for yourself or as a gift.

CherdianS1The Producer Diaries

Cheridan Sanders, a Producer at Salt and Light Television, reflects on her experiences as she travels the world telling Catholic’s stories.


Family Living in God’s Country

Photo by Creekgeek via Flickr Under Creative Commons

Photo by Creekgeek via Flickr Under Creative Commons


Cheridan Sanders chats with Andrea Lefebvre mother of 5, about Yukon-living, open-door hospitality and the call to live as a lay missionary.

It takes a special kind of person to venture out and live in the Yukon. With an average temperature of -22 degrees celsius in the winter months and a population of less than 40 000 in the whole territory ( that’s less than many small cities further South) the Great Canadian North, for many, is about as close as it gets to living to ‘God’s Country’.

I’d heard of families living in Canada’s North as lay missionaries for years. The idea of it, intrigued me. I’d never really thought of missionaries as being regular families.

My own experience had always been of religious or priests as missionaries. But of course, like all baptized Christians, families are called to go forth into missionary territories, to the North, to the South or right where they are, to proclaim the Good News.

The Holy Family Apostolate is quite new, it was started in 2008 when Bishop Gary Gordon (at the time Bishop of Whitehorse) had the vision of families living in and being present to communities in the North.

The apostolate started out with just five families who gathered at Madonna House in Vancouver where they began a process of discernment and reflecting on the ‘Little Mandate’.

In light of the upcoming World Meeting of Families and the particular challenges that families face today, I caught up with Andrea Lefebvre, mother of 5 to chat about Yukon-living, open-door hospitality and the call to live out her vocation in everyday life.



You’re originally from B.C. –  Tell us about surviving a Yukon winter. How do you deal with the isolation and the long periods of literal darkness?

A good parka and wool socks do a lot for the cold. I’m certainly more tired in the winter with the long periods of darkness but I am blessed to have small children. Their needs are the same no matter whether I’m in BC or here. I have to get up early, make breakfast, get everyone dressed and who knows what might happen next. Whitehorse is a nice sized city and I haven’t found it isolating. There is a great community of people up here.

Did you ever imagine yourself as a missionary?

I certainly have always been in love with God enough to do so. In my younger years I wanted to do great things for God but as I grew in my faith I realized I had to grow with the gifts he had already given me. So I stopped looking elsewhere and tried to embrace my family more. In the midst of that I met my husband, with whom we shared a common love of family life. About two years into marriage, the Holy Family Apostolate began from the vision of Bishop Gary Gordon, who at the time was the Bishop of the Diocese of Whitehorse. He had a vision of families living their vocation and being a presence in the communities in which they reside. Bishop Gary asked Madonna House, which has been a strong presence in Whitehorse for over 60 years now with many years of experience in lay formation, to guide the HFA in its formation. My husband and I are very different in the way we draw closer to God, with the HFA we grow together as a couple and as a family. The Holy Family Apostolate is just what we needed to nurture our growing faith as a family.


It’s not a common thing to see big families anymore, how do people usually respond when they see you and your wolf pack?

Any number of ways; from positive to dirty looks. There is one woman in town that is in her seventies. When she sees me with all my children, her eyes light up and she loves to tell me about her seven children and all her grandchildren. Some people make all kind of strange comments and this took some getting used to. Like “you’re brave,” “you know how to stop that problem,” “you’re busy” or the most common one is “you’ve got your hands full”. I was quite surprised by the number of comments that I got from strangers when I was pregnant with my third and fourth child. I hadn’t realized that there was so much cultural pressure related to family size. I’ve also come up with my own one liners. To most comments I just say something positive like “It’s great!” To the comment “you’re busy,” I usually say… “Everyone is busy; I’m just busy raising children.”

You spend a lot of time at Mary House, tell us about why you feel it matters and how it has impacted your life.

Mary House has been like my extended family in the Yukon. At first I went there because that is where Bishop Gary directed us to go. They always welcomed me and were gracious to me, my children, or anyone else I brought over. I like to joke to them that they can’t get rid of me and they always say they’d never try.

With time, I have come to really love the writings of Catherine Doherty and I have such a respect and love for the lay consecrated that I have met from Madonna House. They are good people grounded in God living a disciplined life of faith and service. They have taught me how to live more simply and to serve others more simply.


Tell me about the “Little Mandate.”

The Little Mandate” is what Madonna House follows in their spirituality and it is also what we are following as the Holy Family Apostolate. It really covers the depth and breadth of our faith. When we gather for the Holy Family Apostolate we have a written reflection that is based on one line from the “Little Mandate.” With all the information out there these days, it is helpful to have a simple focus.

Tell me what inspires you most about being a lay missionary.

Being a lay missionary seemed to shift my thinking as an ordinary Catholic. Instead of thinking about what the Church is doing for me, I instead turned the thinking more into what I need to do to serve our Church and others. I also identify more closely with the church and its strengths and weaknesses.

You’ve mentioned that you love to welcome people into your home, why is an open door so important to you?

I have felt this is what I am called to. In the vocation of family life, we have a gift of having a community already and a home. So it is in our vocation that we must share this gift and be generous to anyone who may visit.  We like to keep our guest bed clean and ready for whoever might need it.


Give us two qualities that you feel embody Yukoner’s and tell us why they are so important in the North?

Resourceful and adventurous.

Resourcefulness is important because in urban centres you can have anything you want but in more remote or rural places you learn to work with what you have. Whitehorse has most of everything anyone really needs but being more resourceful is helpful. When meeting some of the older Yukoners, I am amazed at how much I could learn from them; they are incredibly resourceful. One man in particular hunts, traps and grows most of his own food. He always plants some extra broccoli and cabbage for me every year and when he gives them to me they are planted in cut out milk cartons. I just love that he uses whatever he has rather than buying something like pots. Having moved up here, my husband has taken up hunting and I’ve had to figure out how to cook Moose, Caribou and Bison.

Everyone up here just seems to be adventurous; this is why it isn’t so isolating. Even when it’s minus 30C, we’ll see other parents attending events with their children as well.

We featured the Marian Centre in Edmonton, Alberta for The Church Alive series. Watch that story here.

CherdianS1The Producer Diaries

Cheridan Sanders, a Producer at Salt and Light Television, reflects on her experiences as she travels the world telling Catholic’s stories.


Why going on a pilgrimage is worth every penny

New documentary 'Camino' follows hikers' trek from France to famed pilgrimage site in Spain

I came across an article the other day that indicated there’s research that suggests that experiences, not things, make us happier.

Turns out there are a few reasons for this – the value of experience increases over time, and it’s something that people share, and even bad experiences (apparently) are valued more over the course of time because they become good stories.

Reflecting on this research, what immediately popped into my mind was pilgrimages. Because it really doesn’t matter how terrible the accommodations or the inevitable logistical fiascos may be because, in the end, it is overcoming these trials or bad experiences, like the saints before us, that makes these journeys, these experiences, worthwhile.

To quote St. John Paul II, “For the Church, pilgrimages, in all their multiple aspects, have always been a gift of grace.”

The best part is that you don’t always have to be trekking halfway across the world to go on a good pilgrimage. There are many spots close to home that you can enjoy. One place in particular, which I thought I’d share with you, is a stunning exhibit of the life of St. John Paul II that allows pilgrims to immerse themselves in his life and teachings.

I caught up with Dr. Jem Sullivan, Director of Research and Education for the Saint John Paul II National Shrine to learn more.


The permanent exhibit is dedicated to preserving the legacy of St John Paul II – why is that important and what are some of the unique features of the exhibit?

Saint John Paul II is the “pope of the family,” as noted by Pope Francis when he canonized him a saint of the Church in 2014. Pope John Paul II’s clear and courageous witness to the gift and sanctity of the family continues to be among his most enduring legacies.

The exhibit is meant to be both an informative and a transformative experience that invites pilgrims to become part of the “spiritual family” of Saint John Paul II by walking in the footsteps of one of the great saints of our time.

Saint John Paul II’s entire life was an embodiment of his fearless preaching of the Gospel. From his early experiences of family, and his personal and physical sufferings, he showed the world that it is possible to live a fully human life through the power of faith in Jesus Christ.


Many people considered Pope John Paul an important player on the world stage, how does the exhibit explore this?

The permanent exhibit  explores the impact of his teachings and witness to the dignity of the human person through an extraordinary collection of photos, quotes, short films, personal interviews, artifacts, and original works of art.

Pilgrims can view his handwritten notes of his 1979 speech to the United Nations on display in the exhibit, and be inspired by his 1995 address to the United Nations when he said that, “…the answer to the fear which darkens human existence at the end of the twentieth century is the common effort to build the civilization of love, founded on the universal values of peace, solidarity, justice, and liberty.” (John Paul II, Address to the United Nations, October 5, 1995).


How has John Paul’s life personally had an impact on who you are today?

As a young student of theology and philosophy in the 1980s and 1990s, I had the privilege of reading and reflecting on the writings of Pope John Paul II. The pope’s first encyclical, Redeemer of Man, and his writings on catechesis, evangelization, and art made a deep impression on me and was a guide to the subsequent intellectual paths I would take during my graduate and doctoral studies.

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The pope radiated the love of God in a way that had a strong impact on my faith and life, as a wife and mother, and as a catechist, teacher, and professor. His love for Christ was a powerful example of Christian discipleship that encouraged me to serve the Church over the past twenty years. I took to heart Saint John Paul II’s call and challenge to grow daily in prayer and holiness of life, and to “not be afraid” to give one’s life in service of Christ and His Church. His saintly witness and example of Christian discipleship was among the reasons I was led to serve through catechesis, evangelization, and the renewal of culture and art for the past two decades.


So this summer consider visiting this stunning exhibit to learn about a hero, live his life and share in something which will inspire you, challenge you and leave you grateful for his witness.

What could make you happier?

Exhibit photos courtesy of: Matthew Barrick, Barrick Photography and CNS.



CherdianS1The Producer Diaries

Cheridan Sanders, a Producer at Salt and Light Television, reflects on her experiences as she travels the world telling Catholic’s stories.