Catholic Culture Updates

Renewing the Promise - A Pastoral Letter

Religious Education

Hope, Gratitude and Solidarity

This message is also part of a 10-page PDF.

A Message to Canadians from Religious Leaders in Canada in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic

Canadians are experiencing the devastating impact of COVID-19 in what has become a rapidly evolving crisis.

Understandably, this crisis has brought about feelings of anxiety, apprehension and fear. Critical elements of our daily lives are being thrown into uncertainty: health, employment, financial security, recreational activities, as well as our ability to gather as worshiping communities.

In view of these difficulties, we as religious leaders wish to bring forward a message of hope, gratitude and solidarity to all people who call Canada home.

In spite of present sufferings, which can seem overwhelming at times, the flames of hope cannot be extinguished.
Let us witness hope to each other and so become beacons of light during these uncertain times.

A Message of Hope

We draw hope from a variety of sources: from our religious beliefs, the love of our families, the rela- tionships with friends and the work we do. Each of these, and others as well, provides rays of hope to our daily lives.

Likewise, hope provides cour- age to face the burdens we bear and the ability to look onwards toward the dawning of a new day. In spite of present sufferings, which can seem overwhelming at times, the flames of hope cannot be extinguished.

Love, which gives life its fullest meaning, continues to seek out the common good in spite of individual difficulties. Acts of kindness can bring us closer in spirit, despite the require- ments of physical distancing.

Let us witness hope to each other and so become beacons of light dur- ing these uncertain times.

Canada has gone through several difficult and painful experiences in its history. When current and former generations have responded to these challenges, many were empowered by unwaver- ing hope as well as human and spiritual resilience.

We draw hope from a variety of sources: from our religious beliefs, the love of our families, the relationships with friends and the work we do. Each of these, and others as well, provides rays of hope to our daily lives.

For religious believers, this hope takes on a special and unique dimension. It assures us of the caring embrace of the Creator, a sacred relationship sustained by prayer, and which flows into our human relationships whereby we care for one another and bear each other’s burden. Yet, hope brings for everyone a promise of renewal, even in the midst of human suffering. Hope assures us that this affliction too shall pass.

A Message of Gratitude

During this time of crisis, we as religious leaders wish to offer words of appreciation and grati- tude. Health care professionals are providing unfailing and dedicated service under stressful and difficult circumstances.

They provide for us a powerful witness of care, expertise and service in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

There is also the increased risk of exposure to infec- tion along with other hardships being experi- enced by so many others.

For instance, while the rest of society rightly heeds the precautions of physical distancing, many remain at work in grocery stores, pharmacies and factories.

Students, the middle-aged, and those close to retirement are fulfilling a variety of essential front-line jobs in the supply chain, ensuring that stores remain open, shelves remain stocked, and goods are delivered so that others can have food, medicines and other essentials for their families and communities.

We express a deep appreciation and gratitude for these workers.

Governments across Canada as well as religious leaders are bearing particularly heavy burdens in steering our communities through this calamity.

It is comforting to see that in such demanding times, political differences are being set aside to serve the common good.

This too is a witness of hope for Canadians. For all these acts of generos- ity and dedication, let us add our expressions of gratitude for the important work of the diverse leaders of our country.

As religious leaders, we raise our collective voices to highlight the necessity for greater attention to the needs of the homeless, the incarcerated, the elderly and those already suffering from social isolation.

A Message of Solidarity

We urge all people in Canada to listen and follow attentively the directions of our public health officials and government leaders.

We, as religious leaders, pledge to lead by example. We all must act together in confronting this virus.

While everyone is vulnerable during this crisis, let us not forget those in our society who, prior to COVID-19, were already vulnerable to health and social ailments.

As religious leaders, we raise our collective voices to highlight the necessity for greater attention to the needs of the homeless, the incarcerated, the elderly and those already suffering from social isolation.

We remember too those people, especially women and children who face abuse and violence, who are not safe at home and may suffer additional abuse and violence as stress increases.

We must never overlook or exclude these groups from our plan- ning, preparedness and response to this pandemic. We are particularly mindful of First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities, including isolated Northern communities, who were already facing pre-existing challenges and for whom the COVID- 19 outbreak could prove singularly devastating.

Likewise, we need to remember the needs and vulnerabilities of the many refugees and migrant workers who have come to Canada seeking safety and security.

Charitable organizations in Canada will face greater challenges during this time of crisis and will need greater assistance from governments so as to continue their vital work. This is a time for human solidarity.

We all need to pull together. It is essential to carry out the practical requirements to limit the spread of this virus. It is also important to maintain a posture of attentive caring towards our neighbour.

This is a time for human solidarity. We all need to pull together.

This includes care and solidarity for the global community who face this crisis with far fewer resources than those accessible to Canada. This is a time for us to draw closer to God.

Religion and spirituality can indeed contribute to building people up, to providing a sense of meaning, inner strength, new horizons and openness of hearts.

As religious leaders, we wish to emphasize, especially in times like these, the power and importance of prayer. We earnestly pray for healing, for the continued efforts to relieve human suffering, and for perseverance throughout these challenging times.

As history records these moments for our country’s future, let us pray that, in the face of COVID-19, we respond with an abundance of hope, gratitude and solidarity, trusting in the loving and ever merciful God, the source of all hope.

Let us pray that, in the face of COVID-19, we respond with an abundance of hope, gratitude and solidarity, trusting in the loving and ever merciful
God, the source of all hope.

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Catholic Education News

Opening Celebration for Catholic Education and Mental Health Week 2020

We kicked off Catholic Education Week and Mental Health Week with an opening celebration!

We started the week with an opening by Marilyn Netemegesic, Ben Jewiss, Principal St. Brigid School and Acting Faith Formation Coordinator to talk about Catholic Education Week, Tracy Bryson, Mental Health Lead to talk about Mental Health Awareness Week and the Liturgy by Fr. Terry Sawchuk and SNCDSB Staff.

 

Check out our full list of planned activities at http://www.sncdsb.on.ca/blog/catholic-education-mental-health-week-2020 or download the 2020 Catholic Education and Mental Health Week Schedule of Activities pdf.
 

"Together We Educate Heart, Mind and Soul."

These Holy Days: An Easter Weekend Message

To the Superior North Catholic District School Board Community

Dear Friends,

The next few days ahead are the most sacred days of the entire year. In light of what we are experiencing on a global scale, they are perhaps more meaningful than ever. In your personal prayer and reflection this weekend, I trust that the Holy Spirit will allow you to connect the words of Scripture to the events unfolding in your own life at this time. The following are a few thoughts on the days ahead that I would like to share with you:

Holy Thursday. On this night, in the context of the Last Supper, Jesus instituted the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist and the Priesthood. “This is my body, which is given for you…This cup…is poured out for you…” (Luke 22:19-20). He washed the feet of this disciples and instructed them to do the same, saying, “For I have set you an example, that you should do as I have done to you” (John 13:15). The message is simple yet profound: the heart of Christian leadership is solidarity and service.

Good Friday. In his farewell words to his disciples the night before, Jesus said, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). Today, Jesus will practice what he preached, literally laying down his life for his friends. The pain, trauma, and undeniable stress Jesus endured cannot be called good. The goodness of this day is found in how Jesus transformed suffering into sacrifice – a holy offering – by enduring it with love and for love’s sake. The cross comes to us in many forms. On its own, we cannot call the cross good. But when we endure suffering with love and for love’s sake, it takes on a new quality, a redemptive one. Every cross, trial, or inconvenience can become a holy offering, a life-giving sacrifice.

Holy Saturday. “Something strange is happening - there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep” (Bishop Melito of Sardis, died c. 180). The body of Jesus rests in the sealed tomb. Jesus “experienced death and in his soul joined others in the realm of the dead. But he descended there as Saviour, proclaiming the Good News to the spirits imprisoned there” (Catechism of the Catholic Church #632). Silence gives us permission to “descend”, to go deep. Perhaps for this reason, it is generally avoided. In the mix of a steady stream of chatter and breaking news reports, Holy Saturday invites us to go deep. Spend time in that place where God’s voice can be heard, where creativity, healing and transformation may be found.

Easter Sunday. “Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb” (John 20:1). The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the beating heart of the Christian faith. St. Paul wrote that if Christ has not been raised from the dead, our faith would be in vain (1 Corinthians 15:14). Consider today Jesus’ triumph over the tomb. Social distancing and other forms of isolation may have a tomb-like effect for some people. At the very least it can be hard not to feel at least a little bit “caged in.” By virtue of our Baptism, we “have been raised with Christ” (Colossians 3:1). Now, more than ever, is a chance to consider what this means. The risen Jesus empowers us to resist the tomb-mentality with invincible faith, to outshine the darkness of defeatism with supernatural hope, and to conquer barriers with creative charity.

Solidarity. Sacrifice. Silence. Triumph over the tomb. Thank you for all the ways you witness to each of these in your professional and personal lives. May the Risen Christ bless you and your loved ones abundantly this Easter.

With prayers and best wishes,

Fr. Terry Sawchuk

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