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Discovering the real Alberta

January 8, 2008
Team S+L in Banff: Benoit Leveque, Kris Dmytrenko, Chris Valka CSB and Richard Valenti
As part of the S+L production team, I usually have to plead my case to traveling for work. So it felt odd to find myself on a flight to Calgary, still unsure what that story will be.
Our goal was to cover the national conference of Catholic Christian Outreach, a national student movement dedicated to evangelization. But apart from the conference, we weren’t sure what else the city had to offer.
My preliminary research already revealed that there would be no story in Alberta stereotypes. My Calgarian contact Peter van Kampen, a teacher at a private Catholic school, insisted that there were no country music liturgies to be found. And despite the economic boom, parishes seemed no better funded than their suburban counterparts in Ontario.
Then, after a Mass at the conference, Fr. Thomas Rosica introduced me to Mary Kate MacIsaac, a photojournalist and communications manager with World Vision in Afghanistan. She was home for Christmas before returning to the war-torn country. I expected MacIsaac to work in the higher-security capital, but instead, she described living in the mountainous Badghis, Goer and Herat provinces. Four World Vision workers have been killed there in recent years.
Her belief in her mission was so infectious—I was ready to jump on a plane to Kabul—that I knew I had to introduce her to you, our viewers. I had my story. (You’ll see it later this year in a Catholic Focus episode on non-governmental organizations.)
The Calgary Herald had the same idea, it seems. I woke up the next day to find MacIsaac’s picture on its front page as one of its "20 Compelling Calgarians." This affirmed what I had been learning: that fearlessness, compassion and hope—not oil and rodeos—are what Calgary is really about.
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