(From Vatican Radio): Pope Francis met Monday, March 27 with Bishops from western Canada, who were in Rome for their visit ad limina Apostolorum (to the threshold of the [basilicas] of the Apostles).
The year 2017 marks two important pastoral events for our Archdiocese. The first is the launching of our Archdiocesan Synod and all the preparation that has gone into it; and the second is the Ad Limina visit to Rome for the Assembly of Western Catholic Bishops. Both of these pastoral events mark intensive opportunities to experience a special solidarity among the faithful. Our Synod has now moved into its second phase where the 9 Focus Commissions are working diligently on their topics so as to prepare white papers on various pastoral proposals for the Archdiocese to consider during the Synod sessions beginning this fall. The Ad Limina visit itself, was preceded by an extensive report to the Holy See by each of the western dioceses which gave an opportunity for the local churches to examine the general state of affairs within their communities. This was followed up by an extended conversation with the Holy Father about our various pastoral concerns and then, during a one week period, a series of visits to the various dicasteries ( departments) of the Holy See, to discuss a number of concerns and issues affecting the whole Church. The fruits of the Ad Limina will certainly have a place during our Synodal experience in the Archdiocese of Winnipeg over these next two years.
My blog will continue this theme of solidarity by sharing with readers, various experiences of Archdiocesan events during these Synod years. Thank you for taking the time to read through these reflections.
Posted on April 25, 2017
Posted on April 24, 2017
Posted on April 21, 2017
Posted on April 20, 2017
Posted on April 19, 2017
Posted on April 25, 2017
There are many occasions when I have the opportunity to visit parish communities throughout the Archdiocese. These visits are often associated with Confirmations and other special events. As positive as these visits are, they present limited opportunities to really know a parish community on a deeper level. A formal Pastoral Visitation from the bishop allows for a more in-depth experience. In this form of visitation the bishop meets with the parish council and other significant parish groups; he celebrates the Liturgy with the people; he meets with the parishioners in a “town hall setting”; and he visits the sick within the parish community. All this needs to be carefully arranged and preceded by a questionnaire that the pastor and the parish council responds to prior to the visit. Such a Pastoral Visitation is beneficial for the bishop, the pastor and the parishioners. The Pastoral Visitation can be called an “Institute of the Church” which affirms the People of God and also identifies particular challenges and needs. Fisher Branch, Arborg and Ashern were chosen for this first Pastoral Visitation in the Archdiocese.
I left for the two hour drive to Fisher Branch on Saturday morning, April 22, 2017, in a blinding snow storm in Winnipeg and unseasonal cold weather! Fisher Branch is located in the Inter-Lake region of Manitoba which is a major cattle and pig ranching part of the province. As one approaches Fisher Branch itself, one sees more and more agricultural farming. About twenty minutes from my destination, the sun returned and the snow finally disappeared!
Parish Council at Immaculate Conception Parish in Fisher Branch. A very good exchange of one hour and a half occurred with parish council, followed by a delicious lunch.
Interior of Holy Cross Church in Ashern.
Parish Town Hall meeting in Ashern.
Care Center in Fisher Branch. I said Mass at the Fisher Branch Care Home on Saturday evening. This is a modern facility built with three modules and can accommodate 30 residents. Most residents and many staff attended Mass in the gathering area of the facility.
Fr. Darius Biliran (pastor for all three parishes) and myself in Immaculate Parish Church. This was following the parish town hall meeting, after Mass Sunday morning.
Reception after the Liturgy in the basement of St. Philip Neri Church in Arborg. The parish town hall meeting was held after a very nice pot-luck supper.
Posted on April 24, 2017This photo was taken in August 2016 at St. Theresa's Point in the Archdiocese of Keewatin - Le Pas. I spoke at the opening Convention Mass about the connection between our Baptism and the Cross. By way of illustration I cited my experience participating in the Way of the Cross in this aboriginal village and how, after 2 or 3 km this heavy cross was erected in the fresh clean water of the nearby lake. In the same way, we are washed clean in the baptismal water through the Cross of Jesus. In following Jesus there is always the cross but the Lord carries it with us and his burden is light. I reminded the ladies not to forget into who we were Baptized!Following the opening Mass at St. Anthony's parish we gathered for the banquet. Here Fr. Frank Obrigewitsch, Pastor of St. Ignatius Parish, provides musical entertainment.
Posted on April 21, 2017The Catholic Foundation of Manitoba hosts a Caritas Awards Banquet each year to honor a notable person of service within the Catholic community of Manitoba. This well attended event has occurred since 1979 and in recent years has been held at the RBC Convention Centre. The event is attended by hundreds of people from within and outside the Catholic community - many clergy, religious and lay from parishes, health care, education and Catholic organizations.This year's recipient is Mr. Conrad Wyrzykowski, (above, centre) a well known philanthropist in the province and supporter of charities. Educated in catholic institutions, the principle of service to those in need, has been a motivating factor for both Conrad and his wife (deceased) for many years. He is described as a man of dignity, compassion, faith and courage.
Posted on April 20, 2017St. Mary's Cathedral looking down the nave on Easter after morning Masses. The Cathedral is the Mother Church for the Archdiocese of Winnipeg. It was originally constructed by the Archdiocese of St. Boniface to serve the English speaking Catholic community. It eventually became the Cathedral Church for our Archdiocese from 1915 onwards. This year marks the 102nd Easter Sunday celebration at St. Mary's Cathedral!Above and below, Fr. Geoffrey Angeles speaking to the children after the Easter morning Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral. Fr. Geoffrey is the Rector of the Cathedral and often gathers the many children in the congregation after Mass to explain to them something of the mystery we have celebrated. In this case he uses a colorful Easter Egg to talk about how the empty tomb was cracked open when Christ arose.Both morning Masses were standing room only. I preached the following short homily on Easter Day:Easter morning is one of the great mornings of our faith – in fact it is the greatest of mornings because in spite of the sorrows and the joys and troubles of life, there is something that shines even brighter –the Lord has truly risen and he is here among us –this is not about an idea but about a real person who desires to come into our life – Christ broke the chains of sin and death and truly rose!Jesus rose on the first day of the week after the darkness and silence of Holy Saturday when Jesus lay in the tomb –when all seemed lost and there was no hope – when the empty tomb only increased the women’s confusion - suddenly the women heard the angel say: Why are you weeping? And then, Our Lord himself appeared to them and he too said: “ Woman, why are you weeping?” “ Don’t hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father!”In other words, Mary is told that the old order has passed away – that something new has come – she must now open her heart to a new relationship with Jesus that is even greater than before: “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God."Just as with the first day of creation in Genesis when God said to the darkness: “Let there be light!" So on this first day of the week, God created an even greater light – the light of faith leading to eternal life. Pope Francis reminds us that the light of faith is the greatest gift that Jesus brought through his Death and Resurrection: “ I have come as light into the world, that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness."Yes, Mary, with this new thing that has happened – this new creation day, “Why are you afraid? Did Jesus not say: “ … that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?" And the same thing could be said to us: Why are you afraid if you know and believe that I have risen?The poem Lorica by Kuno Meyer expresses this Easter joy: “Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right, Christ on my left, Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down, Christ when I arise!"It is Easter joy that enables Paul to say: “Set your minds on higher things, not on things below, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God."The Resurrection of Jesus shows that God’s love is stronger than evil, stronger than death – it is God’s love that enabled Jesus to undergo the Passion for us and to descend into the tomb for us – and it was the same love that raised Jesus to his Father and our Father – the same love that desires to take us with him.Last night at the Easter Vigil we brought into the darkened cathedral, the new Paschal Candle freshly lit from the Easter fire and we all sang at different times: “The light of Christ." This is what the Christian life is all about –being enlightened by the presence of Christ in a world that does know him. We are to go to Galilee as Jesus instructed the women and let people know he has risen. When Mary Magdalene said to the Apostles: "I have seen the Lord!" This tells us that something had changed within her fundamentally.Paul reminds us: “ … for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God." In our Baptism the old sin of Adam is destroyed through Christ’s victory and we are given the new life from the new creation – and everyconversion of heart to Christ is a dying to self and a rising with Christ: A conversion from lust and pornography, greed, anger, love of money, the god of popularity and power, the addiction to alcohol, drugs, substances of one kind or another, the turning away from self-centeredness, the lack of charity or to anything else to which we are enslaved!An ancient anonymous homily imagines Christ speaking to old Adam – and so often we are like that old Adam and Eve: “I am your God … out of love for you and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, o sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to become a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead for I am the life of the dead”.So where do we go from here? Well the Gospel recalls that Mary Magdalene went out and announced: “I have seen the Lord”! Are we not at the tomb? Are we not to do the same? Christ has Risen – Christ is surely Risen!
Posted on April 19, 2017
The Easter Vigil Mass is at the very centre of the Liturgical Year as it marks the first Biblical reference to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were first at the empty tomb and encountered the angel who asked them: “Why are you weeping”? He then said that the Lord is not here at the tomb for he has risen as he said he would! Among a number of important aspects of the Easter Vigil there are extensive Biblical readings as well as the lighting of the new Easter or Paschal Candle. Seen here, is the Word of God and a Paschal Candle photographed in a side chapel of one of Malta’s beautiful churches.
The Lord is Risen! Indeed he is truly risen! This common greeting of the Christians of the Eastern Churches came to mind in this photo taken of a stairway in a Knights of Malta fortification on the Island of Gozo ( part of the country of Malta).
After the Biblical readings taken from the Old Testament at the Easter Vigil Mass, the lights are turned on in the darkened church and flowers are brought into the sanctuary. All this indicates that the Light of Christ has now dawned through the new creation ushered in through the resurrection of Jesus. Photo features colourful flowers at the end of winter on the Island of Gozo.
The Assembly of Western Bishops were given a private tour of the Redemptoris Mater Chapel inside the Vatican. The mosaics, created by Marko Ivan Rupnick, SJ, are featured in this wonderful place of prayer created for St. John Paul II, just a step or two from the Papal Apartments. The entire chapel depicts the main Biblical themes and featured here is the Resurrected Christ.
On Easter Vigil this Year, St. Mary's Cathedral was full and I preached the following short homily:
In the Easter Vigil account of the resurrection from St. Matthew’s Gospel, we hear about a great earthquake and an angel from heaven descending and rolling back the stone at the entrance of the tomb – this angel’s appearance was like lightning and his clothing was white as snow. Women then arrived at the tomb early in the morning and saw the angel who spoke to them about Jesus.
Now this occurred after the Sabbath was finished and the early rays of light of the first day of the week were dawning.
The Sabbath in the Old Testament was the day of rest which remembered how God rested after he created the world in six days. During this Holy Week and Easter, we are remembering another work of creation that God did – the Passover – where Jesus won the victory over sin and death – the establishment of the New Covenant in the Blood of Jesus on the Cross.
Scriptures speak of death as the last enemy to be overcome – on Holy Saturday – which is the Sabbath – Jesus is in the tomb – God descended to the dead – God rests in a totally new way, on this Sabbath, this day of rest.
Then suddenly, this sleep of death is interrupted by an earthquake and a flashing light as the stone of the tomb is rolled away. All of this reminds us of what the Book of Genesis says about the first day of creation: Darkness covered the face of the deep … then God said: Let there be light; and there was light. And God saw that it was good and God separated the light from the darkness – and there was evening and there was morning the first day.
When Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to the tomb and encountered the angel sitting on the stone that had been rolled away, he said to them: “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said”.
This is what we celebrate tonight – we remember and we experience that Jesus overcame the old order of creation by conquering sin and death and rose as a new creation to eternal life in the Resurrection – he is the first to rise in this new creation! And so all who believe in him may have this new life in Christ!
But believing in him means a dying and a rising in our own life – this is why Baptism is such a central theme during the Easter celebrations. In the Epistle tonight from St. Paul, he says that: “We know that our old self (the old creation) was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin.” Our Baptism is going into the tomb with Christ and rising with him: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?"
A popular TV series now days is the “Walking Dead” – dead people walking! Well this TV series is a silly story but the idea that we die to the world and live for Christ is a most powerful reality. St. Paul, once again says: “Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we might walk in newness of life."
We are the walking dead who actually walk in a new life – an Easter life!
And this is why, the beginnings of conversion in a heart caught up in sin is the very beginning of this new life in Christ and a great sign of Hope and a great sign of the Resurrection!
A conversion from lust, pornography, greed, anger, love of money, the god of wanting popularity and influence, the addiction from alcohol, drugs, substances of one kind or another, the turning away from self-centeredness, the lack of charity, or from anything to which we are enslaved.
An ancient anonymous homily from the 2nd century reminds us: Imagine God speaking to sleeping Adam on this Holy Saturday: “I am your God … out of love for you and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, o sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to become a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead for I am the life of the dead!"
The Paschal Greeting of our Eastern Brothers and Sisters is something we should repeat tonight: Christ is Risen –Truly he is Risen! Truly we should consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Jesus Christ! Alleluia, Alleluia!
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