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Around the Arch
Nov 15
Faith on the Frontier

Below is a post by Michelle Sawyers, Project Archivist, Archives of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto (ARCAT). This article was originally written for The Shepherds' Trust newsletter accompanying the November 18-19 collection. 

The Archdiocese of Toronto's foundations of faith begin with the story of a handful of pioneer priests who weren't afraid to live on the frontier. In 1842, the diocese stretched from Windsor to Oshawa, and from Lake Ontario to Sault Ste. Marie and beyond, to the borders of Rupert's Land. The territory was vast and Catholics were a small percentage of the population. Though many Catholics lived in the established areas of Toronto, Hamilton, London and Windsor, there were others who lived hundreds of kilometres away from any settlement. An 1844 letter lists one bishop, 18 diocesan priests, five Jesuit priests and one Redemptorist priest administering the diocese and serving over 50 "stations" (parishes or missions). It was up to these few brave men to bring the grace of the sacraments to the pioneers who lived in the wilds of Canada West (now the province of Ontario).

Before the establishment of the diocese, Fr. (later Bishop) Macdonell traveled extensively between his base in Glengarry, near Cornwall, and Fort Erie, about 600 kilometres to the west, seeking Catholics and establishing missions. In May 1806 he wrote to Bishop Joseph-Octave Plessis of Québec:

"I arrived last night from my tour through the upward parts of the Province … I visited both going and coming the district of Johnstown, Kingston, Bay of Quinty [sic], and York … I should be able to find out all the Catholics that had spread themselves out in the extensive tracts of country. The numbers I found were as following: The District of Johnstown 23, Kingston 78, Bay of Quinty [sic] 29, York and its neighbourhood had 37. Several of those had not an opportunity of coming to the sacraments since the year 1779 and their children had never seen a priest yet they taught them their prayers very correctly and made them come to confession. I wished to say mass in different places on the Bay of Quinty [sic] but could not get a cruet of wine nearer than York or Kingston."

Photo courtesy of the Archives of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto

Almost 40 years later, as first Bishop of the diocese, Michael Power expanded on Macdonell's travels. He wanted a true understanding of the territory in his care. In July of his first year as Bishop, he travelled to Manitoulin Island, sailed north to Sault Ste. Marie, and returned south via Penetanguishene and Coldwater, travelling by cart, canoe, wagon and foot over some 1500 kilometres. He continued to visit the far reaches of his diocese during each summer of his episcopacy.

In such a vast territory, clergy could scarcely avoid extensive travel. In the 1840s each priest had in his care at least three stations; in addition they were compelled to visit isolated Catholic families who did not live near a parish or mission. Before cars, trains or reliable roads, priests had to travel by foot, horse, or boat to visit their missions. The journey took time and had many perils. For example, when Fr. Edward Gordon travelled north in 1830, he wrote,

"I left York on the 16th [of last month] on a mission through the Townships of Toronto, Albion, Mono, Adjala, Tecumseth, west Gwillimbury. In this latter Township, which was never before visited by a Catholic Clergyman, I found 19 Catholic families comprising a population of 75 souls with whom I remained two days, and then proceeded on towards Thora by Lake Simco, where I lost my way on the ice and after straying a part of the night along the shore, fortunately came to a path which brought me to a house within 10 miles of Thora. I stopped 4 days in Thora and then returned to York. The difficulties, hardships, and expenses of my mission were forgotten when I witnessed the fervour of our poor people in complying with their spiritual duties, their willingness to contribute to the support of a clergyman, and the fervent prayers they offered to Heaven for your eternal welfare in thus giving them the means of complying with their duty."

It is clear that the early clergy in this part of the country took their vocations seriously. They knew it was up to them to bring the faith and sacraments to the pioneers who were building the nation. Their work helped to establish the Archdiocese of Toronto as a place where Catholics from all over the world can build new lives while remaining connected to their faith – it's a legacy that has lasted 175 years.

Today, the priests of the Archdiocese of Toronto continue to minister to Catholics from all over the world who now call this place their home. While they don't have the same travel challenges that Fr. Gordon faced when he visited northern outposts, the responsibilities of diocesan priests remain complicated and all consuming. While Fr. Gordon and his brother priests served dozens of families, priests serve thousands today, often providing pastoral ministry well into their 70s. And, just as Fr. Gordon relied on "the fervour of our poor people in complying with their spiritual duties, their willingness to contribute to the support of a clergyman", the diocesan priests of 2017 rely on your prayers and support.

The circumstances in our diocese have changed immensely over the past 175 years, but many of the spiritual and temporal needs of our family of faith remain the same. After a lifetime of service, the Shepherds' Trust appeal ensures diocesan priests who have dedicated their lives to serving the frontier Church of today are provided lodging and support as they rest in their retirement. 


Oct 24
Cardinal Collins provides guidance on cremation

Below is the text of a statement from Cardinal Thomas Collins, Archbishop of Toronto, regarding cremation as an option in funeral and burial arrangements. This communication was sent to all parishes of the Archdiocese earlier this month.

October 2017

My dear friends,

It is never easy to discuss funeral and burial arrangements with loved ones. Yet as Catholics, it is important that we learn and appreciate how our legacy of faith can be embraced in every moment of our journey, even in death. 

Following the most ancient Christian tradition, the Church asks that the faithful, in preparing their funeral and burial arrangements, ensure that the bodies of Catholics are buried in cemeteries or other sacred places.

Many Catholics are unaware that since 1963 the Church has also accepted cremation as an alternative to burial. The Church raises no doctrinal objections to this practice, since cremation of our loved one does not affect his or her soul, nor does it prevent God from raising up the deceased body to new life. Thus, cremation does not deny the Christian doctrine of the soul's immortality nor that of the resurrection of the body. Concern about cremation being chosen as a way of denying these doctrines was the reason the Church formerly opposed it, but in our time this is not an issue, and so cremation is now allowed.

Over the years, the number of people being cremated has increased in many countries for a number of reasons. Unfortunately, with this increase come practices that are not appropriate or acceptable. 

When cremation is chosen, this choice must never violate the wishes of the deceased.

According to Church teaching, scattering cremated remains on the sea, in the air, on the ground, or keeping them in the homes of relatives, does not display appropriate reverence.

When, for legitimate reasons, cremation has been chosen, the ashes of the faithful must be laid to rest in a sacred place, that is, in a cemetery or, in certain cases, in a church or an area set aside for this purpose, and so dedicated by the bishop. This shows fitting respect for the one who has died.

There is also a spiritual and emotional benefit when cremated remains are laid to rest in a proper place of burial. It gives the bereaved and the Church community a place to focus remembrance and to pray for the deceased. Such a sacred place will also make it easier to memorialize those that have been called home to God.

Within the Archdiocese of Toronto, Catholic Cemeteries & Funeral Services, as a ministry of the Church, has the responsibility for providing cremation to our Catholic faithful according to the faith tradition of the Church, for those who wish to have this alternative to burial. I encourage you to visit www.catholic-cemeteries.com to learn more about this ministry and to have your questions answered from a Catholic perspective.

Be assured of my ongoing prayers for you and your loved ones.

Yours sincerely in the Lord,
Thomas Collins
Archbishop of Toronto

Oct 20
ORAT Opens its Doors

"Open wide the doors for Christ." Those famous words of St. John Paul II in 1978 have been taken literally, decades later, by the Office for Refugees of the Archdiocese of Toronto. ORAT is opening its doors for a special Open House to share news with the community concerning their ongoing work and efforts.

ORAT will host its 2017 Open House and Volunteer Appreciation Event on Tuesday, October 24, 2017. The event takes place at ORAT's office, located at 1220 Yonge St., Suite 203. Their doors will be "open wide" to the public from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m., with a formal Volunteer Appreciation Event scheduled for 5 p.m.

orat1.jpg

This provides an opportunity for ORAT to thank the many people who have helped them address the plight of thousands of refugees who have found shelter and security in Canada, especially those affected by the recent turmoil in the Middle East. 

In a special way, ORAT will acknowledge the leadership and vision of Cardinal Collins, Toronto's four auxiliary bishops, pastors throughout the Archdiocese of Toronto and an army of Resettlement Group volunteers, all whom have worked to address one of the greatest humanitarian crises in recent history. 

During the Open House, the efforts many volunteers who sacrificed their time and talent for this important project will be recognized.

According to ORAT, there are a lot of reasons to be grateful. In 2017, their office welcomed over 670 refugees to Canada.

So want to celebrate? Don't miss out on the festivities. Be sure to RSVP at https://oratopenhouse2017.eventbrite.ca

All are welcome.

Oct 13
ShareLife's 2017 parish campaign ends on a high note

Cardinal Thomas Collins, Archbishop of Toronto, sent the following letter to parishes to thank them for their generous efforts on behalf of the ShareLife Campaign.

“Before all else, the Gospel invites us to respond to the God of love who saves us,
to see God in others and to go forth from ourselves to seek the good of others.”
Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium: The Joy of the Gospel



With deep gratitude, I join our pastors, parishioners and school communities in celebrating the results of ShareLife’s 2017 Parish Campaign. The $12,690,597 raised for our agencies represents hard work, perseverance, and great love for the marginalized in our communities. Without you, ShareLife could not fulfill its mission to “Live the Gospel by providing for those in need.”

ShareLife also represents a reliable signpost on the course mapped out by our Pastoral Plan – namely, its core direction of “Catholic Outreach in Justice and Love.” The work of our agencies, and your generosity towards them, “serve as a pathway through which acts of justice and love are realized, and the witness of the Catholic faith strengthened.” (Pastoral Plan, IV - 3.)

With your support, ShareLife was able to allocate additional funding to support new initiatives. These include:

• A pilot project in Peel Region and Simcoe County to provide outreach services for seniors.
• A pilot project to test the applicability of a grief reconciliation approach for young mothers
who have suffered trauma and other mental health issues.
• Supporting the St. John Paul the Great Family Centre at St. Augustine of Canterbury Parish,
providing programs for seniors and youth in their community.

ShareLife is also investing in the future of our Church by educating 70 seminarians at St.
Augustine’s Seminary and Redemptoris Mater Seminary.

The enthusiastic support of our pastors makes possible these and many other programs. Please extend my deep gratitude to your parish community for its commitment to the work of ShareLife agencies. Together we are making a real difference in the lives of those in need, both here in our archdiocese and around the world.

My prayer is that we may continue to respond to God’s love by going “forth from ourselves to seek the good of others.”

May our Lord bless you always,

Thomas Cardinal Collins
Archbishop of Toronto
Oct 10
"Dialogue with the Divine"

​Many people in society today continue to think faith and the Church are irrelevant; something people should stay away from. However, countless teens and young adults from across the Archdiocese of Toronto think otherwise.

This past January, Pope Francis called for a synod of bishops to take place in October 2018 at the Vatican on the topic of, "Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment."

For the past month or so, the Archdiocese of Toronto has been engaged in a "live listening process" – seeking input from youth and young adults from various regions of the archdiocese, with the intent to collect and amalgamate their views into a document that Synod participants can use them.

presynodmarkham.jpg

Sponsored by Faith Connections, together with the Archdiocese of Toronto's Office of Catholic Youth, multiple sessions have taken place already across the region. Cardinal Collins and all of the auxillary bishops have committed to taking part and listening to the many voices that are expected to take part.

Allison Belen had the chance to share her thoughts concerning the Church's outreach to young people at the most recent discussion group at St. Stainslaus Parish in Toronto. Allison commuted in from Scarborough, as a Youth Minister and newly-expecting Mom, to hear the Cardinal's personal comments.

"I had a desire to connect with fellow young adult Catholics to really hear and share our passion, concerns, and Concrete future hopes for the Church," Belen said. 

"Pope Francis invited us to speak and assured we'd be heard— I felt it my Catholic duty to be actively involved in the process designed for dialogue and enrichment of the Church and collective Body of Christ."

All dioceses, including Toronto, have been asked to provide input, which will be used to help draft the Instrumentum Laboris, the working paper for the synod participants.

As Director of the Office of Catholic Youth, Fr. Frank Portelli has had a front row seat for all of the pre-synodal discussions so far. Portelli says the response has been favourable from the various Catholic campus ministries across the archdiocese. Many of them have sent in their responses and he's been encouraged by the entire Speak Up! process.

"I think it has confirmed the spirit of the age and the missionary spirit that the last few popes, since Pope Paul VI, have been encouraging the Church to adopt. We need to be making and equipping disciples," he said.

Portelli is tasked with writing the final report on behalf of the Archdiocese of Toronto.

"This is a new experience for me," he added. "I will be attempting to synthesize the feedback from all participants in the 16-29 age range, and then to have data attached so that the Vatican can read my report but rely on the feedback as well."

For Belen, her hopes for the Synod are clear and concise.

"With this coming Synod on Young People and Vocations, my hope is that the Pope and Bishops will listen to the Young people's suggestions with an open, earnest and prayerful heart."

Still want to jump in on all of the action? Join Faith Connections and the Office of Catholic Youth on October 11 and November 1 for their last two sessions in this unique series. That way, you can give your take on the place of faith and the Church in modern society.

Oct 03
In celebration of World Teachers' Day

"Teaching is a beautiful job as it allows you to see the growth day-by-day of people entrusted to your care. It is a little like being parents, at least spiritually. It is a great responsibility."

It is fitting to reflect on these words from Pope Francis this week as we recognize World Teachers' Day, an annual celebration that honours the dedication and commitment of educators around the world.

The fruits of a Catholic education are numerous. In addition to an education infused with the teachings of the Catholic faith, students have the opportunity to be involved in a wide array of social justice activities while building a solid moral character that will guide them for many years to come.

Image of a teacher and student.

To help equip Catholics on how to take action in their support of the Catholic education system, the Ontario Catholic School Trustees' Association has launched the "Together in Faith" campaign, in partnership with the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario and the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association.

The campaign provides an opportunity to learn more about publicly-funded Catholic education, to celebrate the incredible work of both staff and students and to share our story with the broader community!  

If you simply want to stay in the know, the website offers a subscription form for users to sign up in order to receive timely updates about Catholic education in Ontario.

 This World Teachers' Day, consider getting involved in showing your support for the distinctive faith-based mission of Catholic education. And while you're at it, be sure to reach out to the educators in your life to let them know you appreciate all they do.

Sep 28
"I am Catholic" at Invictus

​As all eyes in Toronto and across the world turned to the athletes at the Invictus Games this week, the attention of the Archdiocese and the Catholic community turned specifically to ministering to this year’s athletes, as well we as their families and supporters.

While Toronto plays host to the international event this year, the Archdiocese of Toronto and the Office of Clergy Personnel worked hand-in-hand to ensure the spiritual needs of all of our self-identified Catholic visitors were met.

For Deacon Steve Pitre, the games provide an opportunity to enhance the mission of the local Church. Pitre currently serves as the coordinator for the Diaconate Ministry in the Archdiocese of Toronto. He's been on the ground this past week, serving as the diocesan liaison and pastoral representative to the many athletes and delegation within the Athletes Village.

Invictus1.jpg

“It’s been an incredible opportunity to minister and be relational with everyone involved,” Pitre said.

For the remainder of the Invictus Games (the closing ceremony takes place on September 30), Pitre's responsibilities include helping set-up for daily Mass at the Interfaith Centre each morning, while wandering through the Athletes Village and chatting with athletes and family members, as well as friends who may have accompanied the athletes. Besides Catholic Mass , an interdenominational prayer service is held in the morning, followed by a communal bible study in the evening

To further outreach efforts during the Invictus Games, the Canadian Bible Society created a new Bible. The Bible is entitled "I am," which is not only the theme of the games, but also two of the most important and significant words in the Bible, according to Pitre.

"The athletes have been extremely appreciative of all of the resources given, as well as the time and effort within the Interfaith Centre," said Pitre.

When not at the Interfaith Centre, Pitre says some athletes and families have taken time to visit the newly-restored St. Michael's Cathedral Basilica and have found it to be marvellous. 

For the rest of the week, Pitre is looking forward to being present; to knowing and loving all those who come through the Interfaith Centre. He recounted quite vividly how three security guards visit him every day, looking for advice and solitude, and a man from Great Britain who gave him a card and original poem.

Many thanks to Deacon Steve Pitre and all the people involved in the Interfaith Centre for their pastoral efforts this week – while the world watches the Games, the pastoral team witnesses to them.

Aug 24
From the Vineyard: A Few Thoughts

Below is a recent post by Father Chris Lemieux, Director of Vocations for the Archdiocese of Toronto. His blog can be regularly found at http://www.vocationstoronto.ca/blog

I have entered my fourth year "In the Vineyard" so-to-speak; in a dedicated way as Director of Vocations.  A priest should always find himself in the vineyard in every way, encouraging and supporting men and women to dedicated service in the Church of Christ.  Today, I want to begin to offer a few thoughts on this blessed ministry which I am grateful that I have been called to by the Lord.

These really have been four amazing years.  As a relatively new priest (I celebrated my fifth anniversary of ordination in May), I was blessed to spend 1 1/2 years in a beautiful and vibrant community and was then reassigned to the Office of Vocations for the Archdiocese of Toronto in January 2014.  I have worked with many who have heard the Lord's call and find myself collaborating with many to find new and better ways to help those who are open to discerning find their way, too.  One of the most helpful directives I received from Cardinal Collins upon my appointment was his desire that I always put "people before programs," which I have tried my best to honour.  The investment of time offered for anyone discerning is well worth it!

The Church is blessed with many very solid, loving, faith-filled men and women discerning religious vocations amid the challenges that we face as a Church and as Christians in the world today.  There are many devout disciples of Christ who are willing and ready to make sacrifices for a life that is filled with meaning and purpose, such as they are hopeful to find when they contact my office or speak to their priest or minister who will then speak to me. The challenge I find the vocations team faces in the Archdiocese of Toronto is finding the right place for all people to find their way to dedicated service as priests; religious sisters and brothers in the Church.

Every vocation director has their priorities, and these are mine.  I share them, because these are what I see as the most important things we do as Christians to discern ourselves but help others discern, too. From these will flow the next few reflections:

  1. Personal Accompaniment: It really is not the Christian way for us to "go it alone" in our vocational discernment.  Although silence in prayer often is the place where the Lord speaks to us most clearly and profoundly, a vocation to priesthood or religious life is one which requires direction and companionship. This is the primary work and ministry for a vocation director and it certainly comprises most of my own dedicated time.
  2. Development of our Catholic Culture:  Even as dedicated Catholic people, we do not live in a culture that often welcomes, embraces or supports religious vocations.  It's not that we are hostile to these kinds of dedicated lives, but we tend not to understand them.  We need to get the word out and help everyone, not just those discerning to see the relevance of religious vocations today and help one another to a greater understanding of what a religious vocation is and why they are essential for us all.
  3. Development of our Culture of Prayer: Even as dedicated Catholic people, we sometimes have a superficial understanding of prayer and why it's important. Prayer is not to change the mind of God, especially praying for vocations.  Prayer often is most important because it helps to change our social conscience and awareness of what's important to us.  In families for example, when we pray for an increase in all vocations, children are more apt to speak with parents and family members about religious vocations. If families consider these kinds of vocations just as important as the vocation of holy, healthy marriages, these kinds of thoughts and considerations become the part of a young person's formation in life and may lead to considering religious life.
  4. Leading by Example.  As I present myself before the Lord, I am very aware of my own weaknesses and sins, my shortcomings and challenges in life that make me less than everything I would wish to be.  I am grateful for my gifts but well aware of my many faults.  However, the greatest asset I have as a vocation director is my own sense of joy in the priesthood.  I try to share this with the men discerning and the seminarians with whom I mainly work.  I also try my best to point out the other priests and religious who share and radiate this quality of joy.  It's the most attractive thing.  Joyful witnesses beget more joyful witnesses of the Gospel.  Negativity, melancholy and pessimism in priesthood and religious life don't attract others to a commitment to live for a life that doesn't seem appealing.

I hope you will enjoy the reflections and I hope that my Blog Reflections continue to offer some food for thought.  May God bless you!

Jun 29
Catholic Charismatic Renewal Celebrates Golden Jubilee

​Earlier this month, those involved with the Catholic Charismatic Renewal from around the world gathered in Rome with Pope Francis to celebrate the organization's 50th anniversary. Below, Catholic Charismatic Renewal Council of Toronto (CCRC) Chairperson, Mary Cruz Guzman, shares about the movement and its work in the Archdiocese of Toronto. With contributions from Fr. Ben St. Croix, CCRC's Liasion to the Cardinal.

1.      What is the Catholic Charismatic Renewal?

The Charismatic renewal is essentially a rediscovery among ordinary Catholics of the event of Pentecost in the early Church. On that day, the apostles and many lay people were caught up in an experience that changed their lives in powerful ways and gave them a new courage to share their faith far and wide, even in the face of great opposition. Many that have attended prayer groups and gone through Life in the Spirit Seminars (120+ million worldwide) have given testimony to experiencing similar things, for instance a deeper experience of God in prayer and deeper desire to pray as well. Many find the scriptures come alive in a new way. They begin to love God and serve Him with greater devotion. There are countless blessings besides the prayer groups themselves that have come from this awakening of Pentecost which Pope Francis is calling "a current of grace" for our time, including many of the movements in the Church.

Prompted by the Holy Spirit and faithful to the teachings of Catholic Church in harmony with the local pastoral programs, the Catholic Charismatic Renewal Council (CCRC) facilitates, educates and promotes activities and resources that foster the growth and development of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal throughout the GTA. 

2.     Tell us about the work and events of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal Council (CCRC) of Toronto

CCRC is committed to support English and ethnic prayer groups and prayer communities in the Archdiocese of Toronto. Through our events, our objective is to ensure we live under the Lordship of Jesus by building unity, promoting charity, deepening spirituality and fostering evangelization and formation.

This includes Life in the Spirit Seminars for parishes and other institutions, formation retreats, workshops and seminars, evangelization, workshops, monthly Adoration and fostering adult, youth and children's ministries. 

Our two major annual evangelization events are "Christ the King Rally" and the "Cradle of Hope."

CCRC members pray in St. Michael's Cathedral

Members of CCRC pray at St. Michael's Cathedral Basilica

3.     What exactly is being celebrated this summer with the Golden Jubilee conference? 

We are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in our Church. On February 17, 1967, 25 students from the University of Duquesne, in Pittsburgh, were at a retreat where they experienced an extraordinary outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

CCRC Toronto is joining in the worldwide celebrations to commemorate of this powerful movement of the Holy Spirit, spreading as wildfire throughout the Catholic Church. 

4.     How has the charismatic movement made a difference in your own life or of people who you know?

Through Baptism in the Holy Spirit, the Catholic Charismatic Renewal awakens our Baptismal promises, bringing the experience of living in the Spirit and perpetual Pentecost.

This experience results in a deepened prayer life, a deeper relationship with Christ, a thirst for the word of God, renewed devotion and active participation in the sacraments, especially the Eucharist. It creates in us a desire to work in our own personal conversion and sanctification. 

5.     Pope Francis has spoken of the Charismatic Renewal as a "current of grace" for the whole Church. How do you see that this movement can be of help to the Church going forward from here?

This "current of grace" is for everyone. It is a call to action to share the Gospel with others. The Charismatic Renewal brings restoration and transformation and invites us to live our identity as children of God while experiencing daily renewal and answering our call to discipleship.

Jun 01
Encountering Christ in the Holy Land

Melodie Gabriel is a Development Officer for the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA), whose board of directors includes Archbishop of Toronto, Cardinal Thomas Collins. Below, she describes CNEWA's collaboration with The Catholic Women's League of Canada to support Holy Land Christians, an initiative called "Velma's Dream."

On May 31, we celebrated the Feast of the Visitation from the Gospel of Luke (1: 39-56). A pregnant Mary visits her relative Elizabeth, who was also with child. Mary's greeting prompts John the Baptist to leap for joy in his mother's womb and Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit. Then Mary praises the Lord with her inspired Magnificat. All of them are filled with immense joy in Christ's presence. In short, I see the Visitation as a joyful encounter with Christ.

Velma Harasen, a former national president of The Catholic Women's League of Canada (CWL), made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 2010. While there, she met the local Christians and learned of their struggles. Through their stories, she too encountered Christ and she longed to bring these struggling Christians hope and joy. She came back to Canada compelled to help and started a special CWL initiative called Velma's Dream

Velma Harasen

Velma Harasen of The Catholic Women’s League of Canada visits the Infant Welfare Centre, one of the CNEWA projects supported by the CWL.

As part of my job with Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA), I work with the CWL to spread the word about Velma's Dream. I also help raise awareness to the plight of Holy Land Christians and all Christians of the Middle East.

The goal of Velma's Dream is to help Christians remain in the Holy Land and strengthen their presence. Over the years, many have had to flee for economic and political reasons such as unemployment, poverty and the Israel-Palestine conflict. Christians now make up less than 2% of the population and though they want to stay, they cannot survive without our support. Christianity began in the Holy Land and it is important that we help our brothers and sisters there, so as to not lose the roots of our faith.

CNEWA has organized Holy Land pilgrimages for CWL members to visit these Christians and to show them our support. During our pilgrimages, I've witnessed these women encounter Christ, not only by visiting and praying in the places where Jesus walked, but also in meeting the local Christians and hearing their struggles. We also take time to visit local CNEWA projects, including ones supported by the CWL, which aim to help the poor and the marginalized of the area.

On our trips we visit the Church of the Visitation, which commemorates the meeting of Mary and Elizabeth. 

Fr Chris Cauchi celebrates Mass at Church of Visitation

Our chaplain, Fr. Chris Cauchi of the Archdiocese of Toronto presiding at Mass at the Church of the Visitation.

I’ve come to admire the work of the CWL, as they put forward a strong and united Catholic voice on important issues affecting our world today. Also, CWL members do many good works in their parishes, their local communities, and abroad.  

CNEWA 2016 pilgrimage group

From CNEWA’s 2016 Holy Land Pilgrimage with Catholic Women’s League members. Current CWL national president Margaret Ann Jacobs, from the Archdiocese of Toronto, is front centre.

It's been a blessing for CNEWA to partner with the CWL, and share a common goal to serve the Christians of the Holy Land. CNEWA is Pope Francis' special agency, supporting the Eastern churches in their service to people in need throughout the Middle East and in other regions overseas.

To learn more about CNEWA and Velma's Dream, please visit www.cnewa.ca. Our next CWL pilgrimage with CNEWA is set for July 2018 and you can visit our webpage for more information. The Catholic Women's League of Canada website is www.cwl.ca

CNEWA 2015 pilgrimage group

From CNEWA's 2015 Holy Land Pilgrimage with CWL members

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