Apr 24, 2014

Canadian Bishop Recalls Advice From John XXIII

Few Catholics can say they’ve met a pope, let alone one who was canonized as a Saint. Bishop John O’Mara, however, has had the privilege of meeting two.

John O’Mara was ordained to the priesthood in Toronto in 1951. Upon the death of Pope Pius XII seven years later, Cardinal James McGuigan, Archbishop of Toronto, asked O’Mara to accompany him to Rome as his secretary for the conclave.

Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli was elected as Pope, taking the name John XXIII.

“We were able to meet him the following morning after the election,” recalls O’Mara. “That was before his installation, or, as it was called then, the coronation.”

McGuigan and O’Mara would encounter John XXIII again one week later.
Pope John XXIII with Toronto clergy at the Vatican, dated November 1958. Left to right: Rome official, Msgr. Vincent Priester, Cardinal James C. McGuigan, Pope John XXIII, Msgr. Thomas McHale, Fr. Aloysius Ambrozic, Msgr. John O'Mara. Credit: Foto Felici.

“Part in Italian and part in broken English, he told me the same thing that Pope Pius X told him on his first visit to Rome,” said O’Mara. “And if it was good for him to tell John XXIII, it was also good enough for John XXIII to tell me. He said a secretary was to be a good and faithful servant, and to remember that when I was with the Cardinal.”

Three other Toronto priests were present. One was a young Biblical scholar named Father Aloysius Ambrozic, who later became Archbishop of Toronto.

“He told Father Ambrozic to learn the scriptures and enjoy the scriptures, but never twist the scriptures.”

Before they departed, John XXIII asked the Cardinal to relay a message to a Canadian friend, who at the time was the Governor General.

“You tell George Vanier to come over and visit me,” said the Pope, “because he said I’m not supposed to visit him!”

Monsignor O’Mara returned to Rome soon thereafter as a peritus, or expert, at the Second Vatican Council invoked by John XXIII. He was ordained as Bishop of Thunder Bay in 1976, then sent to lead the Diocese of St. Catharines in 1994. The positions would provide him with many opportunities to meet John Paul II.

“They were both great popes, great examples of diligent service to the church.”

Now retired at age 89, Bishop O’Mara plans to watch the canonization mass of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II on TV at his residence in St. Catharines.

Kris Dmytrenko is a Communications Coordinator in the Archdiocese of Toronto’s Office of Public Relations & Communications. This post is part four of a week-long series of posts commemorating the canonization of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II.

Part 1: Follow Your Heart: The Impact of Pope John Paul II's Words

Part 2: Pope John Paul II Gave Us Hope
Part 3: The Day I Had Lunch With John Paul II

Apr 23, 2014

The Day I Had Lunch With Pope John Paul II

It was a surreal and exhilarating moment in my life that helped galvanize my faith. I’ve been asked about it many times, shown photos to family and friends, yet I have never truly felt comfortable talking about it. Equal parts disbelief and unworthiness have made it difficult to discuss the day during World Youth Day 2002 in Toronto that I had lunch with the late Pope John Paul II.
Emanuel Pires shakes hands with Pope John Paul II.

When I was told that I was one of the pilgrims selected to represent youth from around the world to have lunch with the Holy Father, I was excited and scared. Many dignitaries, celebrities, holy men and women meet the Pope, but the chance to break bread with him had my senses temporarily numb. What followed was excitement and joy. I told some friends but generally kept it quiet until a few days before meeting him.

I found it amazing that the Holy Father made a point of sitting down with young people during WYD. To make the time to have a deeply personal and intimate moment with a few of us spoke volumes.

I met the rest of the pilgrims from around the world (14 in all) briefly before heading on a bus to Strawberry Island in Lake Simcoe. I was a just a jumble of nerves at that point. Whether it showed I don’t know, but I was afraid of what to say, what to do and how the day would unfold. When we approached Pope John Paul II, he was sitting down and thanking each of the police officers that had been with him during his stay. One officer mentioned that although he wasn’t Catholic, it was an honour to spend that brief moment talking with the Holy Father.

When it was time for the pilgrims to greet JPII, we spent the time introducing ourselves. Many people viewed Pope John Paul II as a living saint. I was struck by how approachable, open and loving he seemed. My nervousness was almost completely gone with a handshake and a few words briefly exchanged.

Delegates enjoy lunch with Pope John Paul II.
Once inside, we all sat around the table, quiet and unsure of what to say. The Pope, seeing how nervous we were, picked up a fork, swatted at a fly that landed on his hand and looked up with a smile at all of us. The ice was broken and he proceeded to go around the table talking to each of us.

A conversation that struck me was the one he had with the young delegate from New York. The Holy Father’s tone changed from a jovial one to concern, talking about 9/11 and telling her that the city and victims were in his prayers. Her eyes welled up and she thanked him.  This tender moment has always stuck with me.

While some people later on described it as a similar setting to the Last Supper, I viewed it more like a grandfather with his grandkids, sharing love, faith, laughter and song.

I walked away from the experience with a full heart, open mind and a renewed sense of faith. From time to time, I still look at a blessed rosary and medallion given to all the delegates that day, with fondness and feeling truly blessed to have had the opportunity to spend that time with him.

Photo from the beatification ceremony of Pope John Paul II,
taken by Emanuel Pires.
When the Holy Father died, I travelled to Rome to be one of a multitude of people who went to the holy city to pay tribute. Seeing the tears and love flow from those gathered made me very emotional, as I reflected on that brief time with the Holy Father in Toronto. I vowed that I would go back to Rome at some point and had the opportunity to do so when he was beatified.

It is still hard to believe that I had lunch with a saint who was and is such a pillar for the Church. I am happy to see that the Church is canonizing him so that he can continue to be inspiration and a guiding light to call Catholics.

Although he is now a saint, I also view him as my grandfather, an amazing man who inspired a generation of vocations and taught us all how to live with dignity, faith and love.

Emanuel Pires works as Graphic Designer and Web Developer for the Archdiocese of Toronto. This post is part three of a week-long series of posts commemorating the canonization of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II.

Part 1: Follow Your Heart: The Impact of Pope John Paul II's Words
Part 2: Pope John Paul II Gave Us Hope

Apr 22, 2014

Pope John Paul II Gave Us Hope

Agnes, back row third from the left, looks towards Pope John Paul II
on the day of her First Communion.
At the beginning of his pontificate, Pope John Paul II opened up the doors of the Church to young people in a very visible way when he instituted World Youth Day in 1985. This sent a message to young people, including myself, that the Church cares for us and as young people we have something important to contribute to the mission of the Church. I attended my first World Youth Day in Rome in the year 2000 as a university student. One of the strongest messages I took home was that I was not alone in my decision to choose Christ. Through my own experience and also my work with youth, I have learned that young people are yearning for a sense of belonging. In his messages to young people, Pope John Paul II connected with the hopes, longings and anxieties of myself and many other young people. Through his example and his writings, Pope John Paul II inspired my desire to study theology and in this way directed my path toward working for the Church.
Agnes reaches out to touch the pope's hand.

In addition to many significant World Youth Day memories, as a young girl I had a chance to live in Italy for a short period while awaiting my family’s eventual immigration to Canada. During this time, my family and I were blessed to experience many beautiful moments and attend several public audiences with Pope John Paul II. Both his election and his work to abolish Communism empowered many Polish families. He left us with much hope. His two pilgrimages to Poland shortly after his pontifical election helped to rebuild a nation’s morale. Living abroad during the long process of immigration, Pope John Paul II’s words and actions served as a compass for my family as we navigated life in a new country.

Agnes Kuzio works as Coordinator of Chaplaincy for the Archdiocese of Toronto. This post is part two of a week-long series of posts commemorating the canonizations of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II.

Part 1: Follow Your Heart: The Impact of Pope John Paul II's Words

Apr 21, 2014

Follow Your Heart: The Impact of Pope John Paul II's Words

Robert Comella: "We met in 2002 when the pope had visited Toronto for World Youth Day. We were both part of a delegation of youth. My wife was from Ottawa and I was from Toronto and we were selected to be the pope's "entourage" for his time in Toronto. We would follow him to the various youth day activities that were going on in Toronto.

"The evening of the vigil is where I met Matylda. She was talking with one of the other youth and then I cut in on the conversation and said [to myself] I have to talk to Matylda and get to know this person.

"The morning of the Mass at Downsview, before we had started, I didn't know if I was going to see Matylda again, so I wanted to get her information."

Matylda Comella: "Robert came up with a Clorets wrapper and his name, number, address on it and said "Call me anytime." I took a look at it, put it into my jacket pocket, but didn't really think that much about that previous event because I was really excited about getting the opportunity to walk up to the pope and ask him for prayers for my vocation and exchange the peace of Christ with him.

"He squeezed my hand and when I has said to him "Can you pray for my vocation and my intention in religious life?" he had actually said "Follow your heart." So I walked away not really realizing the impact those words would going to have on my life.

"In 2009, Robert and I got married, almost seven years to the day after that meeting with the pope.

"I hope to watch the canonization on TV, as it will be telecast too close our due date of the birth of our first child. We were planning on going to see it in person, but I'm sure that the pride and joy that will be within my heart and Robert's heart will be just as strong and will unite with everyone at St. Peter's Square on that day."

Robert and Matylda Comella are parishioners of St. Ignatius Loyola Church in Mississauga, Ontario. This post is part one of a week-long series of posts commemorating the canonizations of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II.

Apr 20, 2014

Easter "Urbi et Orbi" Message of Pope Francis

Happy Easter! Christ is risen, Alleluia! Below is the full text of Pope Francis' "Urbi et Orbi" Easter message. Click here to see the video of this message.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, a Happy and Holy Easter!

The Church throughout the world echoes the angel’s message to the women: “Do not be afraid! I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised… Come, see the place where he lay” ( Mt 28:5-6).

This is the culmination of the Gospel, it is the Good News par excellence: Jesus, who was crucified, is risen! This event is the basis of our faith and our hope. If Christ were not raised, Christianity would lose its very meaning; the whole mission of the Church would lose its impulse, for this is the point from which it first set out and continues to set out ever anew. The message which Christians bring to the world is this: Jesus, Love incarnate, died on the cross for our sins, but God the Father raised him and made him the Lord of life and death. In Jesus, love has triumphed over hatred, mercy over sinfulness, goodness over evil, truth over falsehood, life over death.

That is why we tell everyone: “Come and see!” In every human situation, marked by frailty, sin and death, the Good News is no mere matter of words, but a testimony to unconditional and faithful love: it is about leaving ourselves behind and encountering others, being close to those crushed by life’s troubles, sharing with the needy, standing at the side of the sick, elderly and the outcast… “Come and see!”: Love is more powerful, love gives life, love makes hope blossom in the wilderness.

With this joyful certainty in our hearts, today we turn to you, risen Lord!

Help us to seek you and to find you, to realize that we have a Father and are not orphans; that we can love and adore you.

Help us to overcome the scourge of hunger, aggravated by conflicts and by the immense wastefulness for which we are often responsible.

Enable us to protect the vulnerable, especially children, women and the elderly, who are at times exploited and abandoned.

Enable us to care for our brothers and sisters struck by the Ebola epidemic in Guinea Conakry, Sierra Leone and Liberia, and to care for those suffering from so many other diseases which are also spread through neglect and dire poverty.

Comfort all those who cannot celebrate this Easter with their loved ones because they have been unjustly torn from their affections, like the many persons, priests and laity, who in various parts of the world have been kidnapped.

Comfort those who have left their own lands to migrate to places offering hope for a better future and the possibility of living their lives in dignity and, not infrequently, of freely professing their faith.

We ask you, Lord Jesus, to put an end to all war and every conflict, whether great or small, ancient or recent.

We pray in a particular way for Syria, beloved Syria, that all those suffering the effects of the conflict can receive needed humanitarian aid and that neither side will again use deadly force, especially against the defenseless civil population, but instead boldly negotiate the peace long awaited and long overdue!

Jesus, Lord of glory, we ask you to comfort the victims of fratricidal acts of violence in Iraq and to sustain the hopes raised by the resumption of negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.

We beg for an end to the conflicts in the Central African Republic and a halt to the brutal terrorist attacks in parts of Nigeria and the acts of violence in South Sudan.

We ask that hearts be turned to reconciliation and fraternal concord in Venezuela.

By your resurrection, which this year we celebrate together with the Churches that follow the Julian calendar, we ask you to enlighten and inspire the initiatives that promote peace in Ukraine so that all those involved, with the support of the international community, will make every effort to prevent violence and, in a spirit of unity and dialogue, chart a path for the country’s future. On this day, may they be able to proclaim, as brothers and sisters, that Christ is risen, Khrystos voskres!

Lord, we pray to you for all the peoples of the earth: you who have conquered death, grant us your life, grant us your peace!

Dear brothers and sisters, Happy Easter!

Apr 16, 2014

Hearing the Sound of Our Faith

St. Justin Martyr Parish choir.

“All roads lead to Rome.” For one Markham choir those words recently came alive in a very special way.

The choirs of St. Justin, Martyr Parish recently returned from a whirlwind trip to Italy in March. During the 11-day pilgrimage, the choir led the music at Mass in a number of churches in Rome and throughout Italy, including the main altar of St. Peter’s Basilica. Other performances of note were at the Chapel of St. Catherine inside the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi, accompanying the liturgy inside St. Mark’s in Venice and singing in the Basilica of St. Lorenzo in Florence and in St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice.

The choir prepares to sing outside the Basilica of San Francesco d'Assisi in Assisi.

The pilgrimage was the idea of Julia Iacono-Hauser and her husband and parish organist, Eric Hauser. Together, they dreamed of a trip that would strengthen the spirituality and commitment of nearly 40 music ministry members and their spouses. 

"When you have a bona fide choir that sings sacred music in four parts, it seems appropriate for them to journey home to Vatican City and sing God’s praise while obtaining meaning and a deeper sense of faith and friendship,” Julia said.

For Julie Levy, one of several lead cantors in the choir, this trip helped her understand the importance of music and its place in liturgy.

“This trip helped to enhance the spirituality and works of God’s ways in my life.” Levy said. “As a choir, we united as one in the eyes of God – both in word and in song. I couldn’t have asked for anything more. God’s meaning and our purpose came alive!”

The choir sings at St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City.

The Second Vatican Council’s Instruction on Music in the Liturgy states that “through [music], prayer is expressed in a more attractive way, the mystery of the liturgy, with its hierarchical and community nature, is more openly shown, the unity of hearts is more profoundly achieved by the union of voices, minds are more easily raised to heavenly things by the beauty of the sacred rites, and the whole celebration more clearly prefigures that heavenly liturgy which is enacted in the holy city of Jerusalem.” Our choir continues to closely study this document.

The group poses with the dome of St. Peter's Basilica seen in the background.

As we move forward from our experience in Italy, I give thanks to God for the gift this trip has been to our parish community. With Holy Week and the great season of Easter approaching, I pray that the parishioners of St. Justin Martyr will continue hearing the sound of our faith and the voice of Our Saviour in the liturgies that our choirs serve. Ultimately, it is God’s voice we follow and His glory we sing.

Andrew Santos is Youth Minister at St. Justin, Martyr Parish in Unionville, Ont.

He accompanied the group as a photographer and videographer and looks forward to sharing his experience in pictures with the parish community in the days and weeks to come.

Apr 14, 2014

Lenten Challenges: Week 6 - Education/Evangelization


Monday: Challenge

Beginner: Make a playlist of spiritual music that you enjoy and share it with a friend.
Intermediate: Attend a lecture or public discussion centered on faith issues.
Advanced: Invite someone who's been away from the church, or never been, to attend Mass with you this Holy Week.

Tuesday: The Prayer

Wednesday: Reflection

What is it that stops me from sharing my faith with those who don’t believe? How can I expand my understanding of Catholicism?

Thursday: Tips

We have often heard the saying “Actions speak louder than words.” The things that we do can most certainly be a powerful witness to those around us, but so can our words.
The Archdiocese of Toronto has many programs available to help you grow in your faith and learn more about Catholicism. Contact your local parish, or the Office of Formation for Discipleship to find out more.

What are your tips for sharing your faith? Where do you go to learn more about Catholicism?

Apr 11, 2014

Canada's Adopted Saint

Photo credit: Bill Wittman
How does one judge the value of a life? A wise, elderly man once told me, “We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures; we are the sum of the Father’s love for us and our real capacity to become the image of his Son.”

Those who attended World Youth Day 2002 will recognize this as the message of Pope John Paul II. In a rain-soaked Downsview Park in Toronto, he told a congregation of 800,000 pilgrims to “listen to the voice of Jesus”, whose words “tell you who you are as Christians.”

Such is the measure of a saint: we are not left discouraged by an unattainable example of virtue, but reminded that we all share a universal vocation to holiness.

The 2002 global gathering delighted in JPIIs presence, many of us certain our beloved shepherd would one day be proclaimed a Saint. Twelve years later, that moment has arrived; his canonization Mass takes place on April 27 in St. Peters Square.

As the CEO of World Youth Day 2002, Father Thomas Rosica, CSB had a prime vantage point of John Paul II’s final visit to Canada. When I worked at Salt + Light Television, Father Rosica would regale the staff with stories about the Polish pontiff. Novalis has now published some of these reflections in the book John Paul II: A Saint for Canada.

“Who can forget the powerful images of the Holy Father’s visit to this vast country in 1984, 1987 and 2002,” Father Rosica asks. “From Vancouver to Newfoundland, from the First Nations longhouse in Midland to the origins of the Church in Quebec, the Holy Father crisscrossed this vast land from sea to sea. He is the Successor of Peter, but also the Successor of Paul, the missionary of the gospel.”

In his 93-page book, Father Rosica outlines the ways John Paul II’s 2002 visit to Canada shaped our church, and considers the ways he challenged us to fully live out the Gospel. John Paul II: A Saint for Canada can be purchased online at the Salt + Light Store or Novalis.ca.

Naturally, Salt + Light Television will be broadcasting the canonization Mass live with repeats throughout the day. Many cable providers are offering a free preview of S+L until the end of May. Visit saltandlighttv.org to learn how you can watch the celebrations on April 27.

Kris Dmytrenko is a Communications Coordinator in the Archdiocese of Toronto’s Office of Public Relations & Communications.

Apr 9, 2014

The Day You've Been Waiting For

If you've been putting off confession, I know the feeling. There are few experiences more unsettling than admitting one’s failings. We invest so much energy into crafting our image — personally and professionally – it takes courage to admit that we don’t have it all together.

The other obstacle is time. When the regular confession time at your parish conflicts with your schedule, it’s all too easy to let the months go by.

If you can relate to these challenges, then today is meant for you. Wednesday, April 9 is the Day of Confessions, when most of the 225 parishes across the Archdiocese are offering the Sacrament of Reconciliation at various times.

Visit our Day of Confessions website to find the times at a parish in your neighbourhood. To help you prepare, here are 10 helpful tips:
1. The hardest part about confession is walking into the church. Make your spiritual health a priority by going today.
2. Don’t be afraid of returning to confession after a long absence. Let the priest know it’s been a long time, and he’ll guide you through the process. You can also print out this helpful confession guide, available in eight languages.
3. Priests have heard it all before, so you can’t shock them. Remember that priests go to confession too, so they know exactly what it's like to be on your side of the confessional. 
4. Examine your conscience beforehand. Here are some questions to get you started. 
5. The one thing you really don't want to confess—that’s probably the thing you need to confess. 
6. Worried you’ll be too nervous to remember your sins? Write them down on a piece of paper. 
7. Be honest and straightforward. At the same time, the priest does not need to hear a play-by-play of what lead up to each particular sin. 
8. If you feel like you’ve been confessing the same sin over and over, don't give up. God is merciful. 
9. Ask a spouse, sibling or best friend to keep you accountable for going to confession regularly. 
10. Tell someone how liberating it was to receive God’s forgiveness. It might encourage them to go to confession, too.

Remember, you’re one of thousands of people going to confession today in the Archdiocese. Appearances aside, not one of us has it all together. But God, in his mercy, is eagerly waiting to restore you to wholeness.

Kris Dmytrenko is a Communications Coordinator in the Archdiocese of Toronto’s Office of Public Relations & Communications.

Apr 8, 2014

Lenten Challenges: Week 5 - Fasting

Monday: Challenge

Beginner: Think about what takes up the most from your free time (TV, computer games, a hobby) and give that up for the week. Spend that time instead with your family or friends, helping them out.

Intermediate: Fast from negativity. Resolve to try your hardest not to say anything negative this week.

Advanced: Give up your smartphone for the week—outside of needing it for work-related reasons. (There’s a reason this one is advanced. No games, no reading, no social media via your phone.)

Tuesday: Prayer

Wednesday: Reflection

How attached am I to my possessions, my time, my food? Is God more important to me than everything else in my life?

Thursday: Tips

Fasting isn’t just something for us to do during Lent. We are called to fast on all Fridays (except for solemnities).

Fasting doesn’t need to be related to food items. We can fast from hot showers, from sleeping in our beds, and from electronics.

What are your tips for fasting?

Friday: Sharing

How did your fast go this week? Were you successful in putting God first in your life?

Apr 7, 2014

A Partnership of Equals

The following post was written by Genevieve Anderson, Chaplaincy Leader at Notre Dame Catholic Secondary School in Brampton. Below she shares her experience of travelling to Nicaragua to do mission work with her students.

From February 28 through March 10, nine students and four staff from Brampton’s Notre Dame Catholic Secondary School visited Nicaragua to be in solidarity with our sisters and brothers of the Global South. With the invitation of the rural community of JiƱocuao, and in partnership with Casa Canadiense (http://thecasa.ca/), we lived, worked, played, prayed and learned alongside visionary Nicaraguans eager to transform their communities and improve the lives of their children.

It was a testament to solidarity (and humility) that we didn’t have to pretend to be experts at masonry, or even see the classroom construction through to completion. When we arrived on site, the brick walls had already been started on the fourth classroom for their rural secondary school. When we said goodbye (after four mornings of hard work, a day of mountain climbing, and a farewell dance party) and departed for two final nights in Managua, the classroom roof was not yet the next step. (A similar delegation from Brampton’s St. Roch Catholic Secondary School continued the partnership a few weeks later.)

Getting to and from the well and fetching water several times each morning became a metaphor for our solidarity experience. As David, our Casa Canadiense facilitator, put it, “The fires of Hell opened up along the path!” What a heated effort to haul simple pails of water back to the site to mix cement and assist brick-laying!

Past the shady mango tree and the school “tuck shop” (an outdoor table), through a barbed wire fence, down a dusty dirt road, past the side of someone’s house, through scrub and bush on a narrow path downhill to the well, we trudged in single file, empty buckets in hand.

We would slosh water onto our feet or the side of the path as we struggled uphill. On the last morning, a teacher had us form a “chain”, thereby cutting down the walk, and ultimately getting more water to the site. More than once, I resisted the temptation to “accidentally” spill the cool water onto myself to get relief from the blazing sun.

Each arrival at the community well presented a different daily life activity: a woman washing laundry on a stone platform; people taking “bucket showers” in the privacy of a metal stall, sometimes helping each other by pouring water; and a group of laughing school boys slowly obtaining one small bucket of drinking water for their class.

Ultimately, solidarity means we are a partnership of equals. Canadians and Nicaraguans learn from each other despite language barriers and economic disparity. We are grateful for this annual chance to learn and live out our place in the Body of Christ.

Mar 31, 2014

Lenten Challenges: Week 4: Examining your Conscience

This week’s challenge: Examination

Monday: Challenge

Beginner: Take some time this week to sit down and reflect on your life since your last confession with an examination of conscience list.
Intermediate: Find an examination of conscience that’s geared for your state in life and read through it every evening before you go to bed.
Advanced: At the end of every day, write down and reflect on the way you conduct your life, focusing on sins of omission.

Tuesday: The Prayer

Wednesday: Reflection

How can I improve the way I examine my conscience? Am I truly focusing on improving my life?

Thursday: Tips

Examining our conscience daily is a great way to recognize and acknowledge the ways in which we have strayed from God.
What are your tips for examination of conscience?

Friday: Sharing

How did you improve your examination of conscience this week?

Mar 28, 2014

The Pastoral Plan as a Parish Tool

Fr. Frank McDevitt is the pastor at St. Paul's Basilica in Toronto. He recently preached a series of homilies about each core direction of the Pastoral Plan of the Archdiocese of Toronto. This is one of many examples of how the plan is being put into action in parishes across the archdiocese. Below, Fr. Frank reflects on what the Pastoral Plan has meant for his parish and how it will continue to impact the vision of their community going forward.

St. Paul's Basilica. Image from Wikimedia Commons

St. Paul’s Basilica Parish is in a period of transition. After having been under the care of one pastor for 13 years, his retirement has brought a new pastor.

These significant changes are a natural time for a parish to stop and consider its vision as we move forward. The area in the city which St. Paul’s serves is in rapid transition. The building of condos and the shift of the population is quite noticeable. A third factor needs to be considered; the parish is at the bottom of the Don Valley Expressway and just off the Gardiner Expressway. This draws parishioners from various parts of the city who come to St. Paul’s because of the historical significance of the parish or for aesthetic reasons.

The Pastoral Plan of the Archdiocese of Toronto was distributed to all parishioners. They were strongly encouraged to read the short version and to also go online to search out the longer version. Throughout the winter, five homilies have been preached, one on each of the five core directions of the pastoral plan. This has been done in the lead-up to a process in May when parishioners will gather to consider the state of the parish and determine the direction the parish will travel over the next number of years.

The homilies were not preached in order, rather when the scripture best complemented the theme. Part of the homiletic process drew the distinctions between the diocesan concerns and the concerns of the parish. Vocations, for example, which is very much about service to the church in the Pastoral Plan, was developed to acknowledge the vocational life of most members of St. Paul’s, which is single life or marriage.

The Cathedral as a Sign of our Mission was centred on the concern for stewardship in parish life.

Response appears to have been reasonable, though there are always those who are somewhat ambivalent.

Through the rest of Lent and the early Easter season, homiletically we will continue to draw from the Pastoral Plan and encourage all parishioners to prayerfully prepare for the process taking place in our parish in mid-May.

This process will encourage the parishioners to take ownership of the parish, to celebrate the gifts and talents present in our community, and to reflect on the nature of the parish as we move forward.

The beautiful interior of St. Paul's Basilica. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Mar 24, 2014

Lenten Challenges: Week 3 - Almsgiving

Monday: Almsgiving

Beginner: Find 5 items in your home that you can do without, but are still fairly new, and donate them to an organization that can use them (like a homeless shelter, etc.)
Intermediate: Give up an item that you pay for but you can do without, and with the money that you save, donate to charity, whether that be to your parish, a local Catholic organization or an overseas mission group.
Advanced: Every paycheque you receive this Lent, donate 10% of it to charity, whether that be to your parish, a local Catholic organization or an overseas mission group.

Tuesday: The Prayer

Wednesday: Reflection

In what areas of my life do I own “too much stuff”? What can I let go of to help me focus on God more?

Thursday: Tips

Add your almsgiving into your monthly expenses, just like you would with your bills.
What are your tips for almsgiving?

Friday: Sharing

How did you share what you have with those in need this week?

Mar 17, 2014

Lenten Challenges: Week 2 - Service

Monday: Service

Beginner: Thank a bishop, priest or member of a religious congregation for the service they provide to the Catholic faithful—invite them out for coffee or invite them to your home for a meal.
Intermediate: Buy a coffee for someone living on the street and learn their name and something about them.
Advanced: Find an organization to volunteer with and sign up to help out! (Message us if you need help with this one, we know lots of great organizations.)
Super-advanced: Do all the challenges listed above: beginner, intermediate and advanced!

Tuesday: The Prayer

Wednesday: Reflection

Do I view my day-to-day work as a way to serve others? How can I better develop a servant’s heart?

Thursday: Tips

The best help we can give to those around us is by doing our day-to-day jobs and tasks with joy and kindness.
What are your tips for serving others?

Friday: Sharing

What did you do this week to serve others? How did those around you react?