From the moment our plane landed in Vancouver early last Friday morning until our departure late yesterday afternoon, the Salt and Light team experienced an outpouring of goodness, joy, gratitude, welcome and embrace of our efforts at Salt and Light Television over the past decade. The Archdiocese of Vancouver, considered by many to be at "the ends of the earth" chose to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Salt and Light by hosting a Gala Dinner and Auction on Friday evening, September 7 at the Italian Cultural Centre.
When Vancouverite Richard Podgurski and his wonderful wife Michelle approached me about this possibility several years ago, I realized how deeply committed they were to Salt and Light and its contribution to the New Evangelization. But I never imagined in my wildest dreams that they could mobilize an entire Archdiocese and so many people to host such a magnificent celebration. Richard is clearly a community and church leader. He and his friends, Greg Barcelon, Pauline Chau, Carmine Morelli and many other dedicated volunteers did a superb job in gathering together over 500 people (a sell-out crowd) for a gala banquet at the Italian Cultural Centre and an auction to die for, led by none other than British Columbia's former Catholic Premier Bill Vander Zalm!
The Vancouver team worked closely with our Salt and Light staff, especially those who accompanied me to the West Coast this past weekend: Stefan Slovak from our Marketing Department (who spearheaded the entire effort) and producers Rodney Leung (head of our Chinese Department), Sebastian Gomes (who addressed the crowds in Vancouver on his work) and especially Vancouverite Alicia Ambrosio, the pride and joy of Canada's Wild West for very good reasons! (Her mom and dad were with us on the weekend and her mother's constant glow rivaled Moses' face when he came down the mountain after his conversation with God!)
During my address to the sold-out banquet on Friday evening, I mentioned the beautiful opening ceremony of Vancouver's Winter Olympics three years ago at Vancouver''s BC Place. The Vancouver Olympic Organizing committee did a spectacular job in making our country look spectacular before the eyes of the world!
More than 100 projectors were used to create the ceremony's "landscape of dreams" theme. The simulations of trees, mountains and massive wheat fields were stunning. Who can forget the orcas spouting across the ocean after the ice broke up and the breathtaking prairie tribute featuring the lone aerialist walking, running, then soaring through fields of gold, accompanied by Joni Mitchell's piped-in rendition of "Both Sides Now". It was my favorite moment of that splendid opening ceremony. It was living proof that the quality of the song was more important than the presence of a singer.
That memorable sequence from BC Place in 2010 finds an echo in our efforts at Salt and Light Television for that prairie tribute is, in many ways, what we have tried to do for the Church in Canada over the past decade. We have visited this country, from sea to sea to sea, providing a 360 degree view of the richness and complexities of our land, and "touched down" to bless the new life present in each of the provinces and offer it to the rest of the country and the world to discover. We have tried to present both sides of the great story of the Church: the universal side and the local side, the big picture and the little picture; the stories of great popes and Church leaders and ordinary Catholics who have done and continue to do heroic things across this vast land.
During the weekend, I was invited to celebrate 5 masses at various parishes throughout the Archdiocese. To the pastors of the parishes of St. Francis Xavier, Canadian Martyrs, Our Lady of Sorrows, Good Shepherd and Christ the Redeemer, thank you for the welcome extended to us. To meet your parish communities and hear of the impact of Salt and Light on their own lives of faith was a deeply heartening and affirming experience. I was particularly thrilled to visit two vibrant Chinese Catholic communities and thank them for their support of our Chinese Catholic programming. I reminded them that our Chinese Fountain of Love and Life Series was only ONE of many new, outstanding, top-quality Chinese series on our network. To see our own Rodney Leung in action among the Chinese Catholics was in itself a feast for the senses!
Last Friday afternoon, after celebrating mass with the entire staff of the Vancouver Chancery at the John Paul II Pastoral Centre, Sebastian Gomes and I were invited to address the staff on the Papal Transition and Salt and Light Television. It is no exaggeration to say that the entire staff stands behind the mission and work of Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation. To each of them, a thousand thanks.
In Vancouver these past few days, it was once again very evident that under the wise, able and joyful leadership of my Basilian brother and friend, Archbishop Michael Miller, CSB, the Church in Vancouver is alive and young, filled with life and hope, and welcoming the world. Without bishops like Archbishop Miller who have tasted and seen Salt and Light Television, and have believed in our work, we could not continue our mission. I will be forever grateful to Vancouver's chief shepherd for his encouragement and friendship over the past 35 years!
Above and beyond a highly successful Gala Dinner and Auction, the significant funds generated for Salt and Light, and the "brand awareness" of Salt and Light that took place in Vancouver this past weekend, something even more beautiful happened. We tasted and saw the goodness of the Lord among the people of the Archdiocese of Vancouver! We saw a local Church in Canada that has taken seriously the mission of the New Evangelization and the challenges of the Second Vatican Council to call people to holiness, to raise up lay leaders who are teachers and witnesses, and to experience a diocesan clergy that is so united around their Chief Shepherd.
Each time I have visited Vancouver over the past 17 years, to preach priests' retreats, lead clergy study days, participate in excellent youth ministry activities, I have always admired the youthfulness and international dimension of that Archdiocese. Situated on the Pacific Rim and responding to the constant challenges of welcoming so many people from different parts of the world, Vancouver has never missed opportunities to announce the Good News.
Thanks to all in the Archdiocese of Vancouver for embracing the mission of Salt and Light, for welcoming us with arms opened wide like Christ the Redeemer atop Rio de Janeiro's Corcovado mountain, and for hopefully offering an example and template to other dioceses in Canada of how to seize the momentum and energy of the Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation and use our network to help build up the Church in Canada. We look forward to a long and fruitful relationship with your Archdiocese, situated at Canada's "ends of the earth," but ever so close to the heart, soul and mission of Salt and Light!
(Photos courtesy Chingtai Wong)