Remembrance Day is a time to remember all of Canada’s veterans, but it is also carries a very personal message for Cooper Pickering.

Published in Youth Speak News

Just when one thinks the current president of the United States can’t do anything more brazen, he trumps that belief and goes one further.

Published in Register Columnists
VATICAN – The bells of St. Peter’s Basilica rang out in unison with thousands of other church bells around the world Sunday as Pope Francis commemorated the 100 year anniversary of the end of World War I.
Published in International
QUEBEC CITY – Churches of the Archdiocese of Sherbrooke will join those of other churches across Canada and ring their bells 100 times Nov. 11 to mark the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.
Published in Canada

A hundred years on, the numbers remain chilling — more than 15 million dead, including 61,000 Canadians.

Published in Editorial

Churches of all denominations across Canada are being asked to participate in the Royal Canadian Legion’s Bells of Peace at sunset on Remembrance Day, Nov. 11.

Published in Canada

This Remembrance Day will almost certainly be unforgettable for an 11-year-old Thornhill, Ont., student — in more ways than one. 

Published in Canada
Following is from The Catholic Register, May 31, 1917, making reference to the Battle of Vimy Ridge (April 9-12, 1917), where more than 10,000 Canadians were killed or wounded.



Chaplain’s Letter to Bereaved Wife

The following letter was sent to Mrs. Gorrell, lately of Toronto, at Preston, England, where she went to be nearer her husband when he left for overseas. She was received into the Church at Holy Rosary Church, Toronto, previous to her marriage to Corporal Gorrell nearly four years ago. A little boy is proving a real consolation to the mother in her bereavement:
Dear Mrs. Gorrell, 
You must have received official notification of the death in action of your dear devoted husband, Cpl. R. Gorrell, 14th Canadian Battalion. He was instantly killed on the morning of the 9th inst. during the battle of Vimy Ridge. It is sad news for you, and I can assure you that our sympathy is real and deep. I knew Cpl. Gorrell quite well as he was a member of my congregation. He was a good soldier, devoted to duty and enjoying the full confidence of his officers and the affection of his comrades. His loss is keenly felt my us all. I especially feel his loss quite deeply, as he was one of my best parishioners and his example was of great help to me in my work among the soldiers.
It will afford you some consolation to know that he was a good Christian man, always ready to give to God what belonged to Him. He kept his soul readiness for any sacrifice that God might demand of him. He prepared himself for this great battle by a pious and worthy Holy Communion, and I feel sure that Our Saviour has accepted his sacrifice and rewarded him for that greatest of all acts of Charity, to give one's life for others. 
He was reverently laid to rest beneath the arms of a beautiful Cross erected by the Battalion. I blessed his grave and offered up the Holy Sacrifice for the eternal repose of his soul.
We have prayed for you also, that God may grant you His consoling grace in this your hour of trial.. May He give you the strength and courage to bravely accept His Divine Will and to patiently bear the heavy cross which He has allotted to you.
With deepest sympathy, 
A. J. LABOULE,
Capt. C.F.
Subscribe to our Digital Edition to have unlimited access to The Catholic Register's 125-years worth of archived stories. 
Published in Features

TORONTO - Taking the time to remind ourselves of the sacrifices made by others for our freedom is what makes Remembrance Day ceremonies so special, St. Michael's College School vice-principal David Lee told his students.

Published in Canada

The Canadian military’s first Roman Catholic Chaplain General in a decade says his top priority is to recruit more chaplains.

Published in Canada

TORONTO - On Nov. 11 the entire student body, full roster of staff and a couple dozen community members came together at St. Anselm Catholic School to celebrate the sacrifice of soldiers, both living and deceased. That included one of their own.

Published in Canada

VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI said the annual Holocaust Remembrance Day calls humanity to work to overcome all forms of hatred and racism and to respect the dignity of each human person.

Published in Vatican

TORONTO - Gerry O'Pray served his country in the armed forces for eight years and now he wants young people to understand why.

"We have to stand up for our values that citizens have fought and died for," said O'Pray. "Remembrance is good but maintaining and living our values is the best way to honour those who've served."

O'Pray was speaking to 55 Grade 8 students from St. Gabriel Catholic School on Nov. 6s. The students placed paper poppies inscribed with personalized messages at a memorial set up at the Catholic Education Centre.

"Thank you for fighting for our peace and our lives," said one note.

"May your neighbours respect you, trouble neglect you, angels protect you and heaven accept you," said another.

"Because of our soldiers I may stand tall and free, not having to worry about a gun and having to flee," said a third. 

Collins leads people through vespers and lectio divina once a month at Toronto's St. Michael's Cathedral.

Gerry O'Pray speaks to 55 Grade 8 students about why he served.

- Photo by Evan Boudreau

O'Pray, who turns 71 this Remembrance Day, joined the Canadian Forces in 1959 at 18 after graduating high school in Truro, Nova Scotia. Two years later he was in the Congo serving in a peacekeeping role with the United Nations — a mission that saw 256 peacekeeping soldier casualties, including two Canadians.

"When I was on the Congo mission, there were 37 countries as part of that mission," he said. "It was then that I realized how much I appreciated my country. The Congo mission ended in 1964 (and) unfortunately we left a really brutal dictator in charge."

Following that two-year tour, O'Pray returned home until deploying to Egypt for a year. He ended his eight years of service safely in Canada and transitioned back into civilian life. But he's never forgotten why he served.

Remembrance Day fell on a Sunday this year, outside of school hours, but the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) was intent on remembering the men and women who've served the nation. That long list includes one of the board's own, Second Lieutenant Christian Cieplik, a graduate of the Toronto Catholic school system.

Collins leads people through vespers and lectio divina once a month at Toronto's St. Michael's Cathedral.

Second Lieutenant Christian Cieplik tells students on from St. Edward Catholic School about his 2010 tour in Kandahar, Afghanistan on Nov. 8.

- Photo courtesy of the Toronto Catholic District School Board.

Cieplik was one of three veterans invited to speak to students at the Catholic Education Centre during the week. Two years ago, while a member of the 3rd Battalion Royal Canadian Regiment, he received about 800 letters from students of his alma mater, Our Lady of Victory Catholic School, while deployed in Kandahar, Afghanistan.

"That was a huge gesture on their behalf and it was really cool because, depending on the age group, they tell you everything about themselves," said Cieplik.

Participating in Remembrance Day services is more than a tribute to those who've risked their lives for our freedoms, said Bruce Rodrigues, the board's director of education. It's also an expression of Canada's commitment to transforming the world.

"Because Remembrance Day falls on a non-school day this year, we wanted to ensure that we took the time within our school communities to reinforce its importance," said Rodrigues. "That importance would be to honour all of those who have sacrificed for peace and those who continue to serve our country."

Cieplik credits his time in Catholic school for preparing him for his stint in Afghanistan. He said it instilled him with a sense of service, respect and sacrifice.

"Being able to connect with people of different backgrounds and beliefs, that helped a lot over there," he said. "Especially dealing with locals and our interpreters. The Afghan National Army, they're all Muslim or Shiite, but I was still able to respect that faith and it was reciprocated. That helped a lot."

Cieplik, who joined the Canadian Forces in 2006 after graduating from York University where he studied political science, wants to give back to the school board. He began last school year with a speaking engagement at Our Lady of Victory, where students gave him a hero's welcome.

"Last year when I went to my old elementary school they were cheering, the kids were cheering, they went nuts," he said.

"The area I grew up in has grown more violent over the years in Toronto and you're just kind of showing that there is another option, that violence doesn't have to rule or dictate how you turn out or it shouldn't really affect your morals and ethics in a negative way."

Cieplik connected so well with the children that the board asked him to speak this year at the Catholic Education Centre during Veterans' Week. Before his address to more than 50 students from St. Edward Catholic School, the 31 year-old soldier said he'd stress that all war did not end in 1945, rather, a type of war ended.

"Everything has been engrained in their minds that it's poppies and white crosses, like older forms of wars in Europe," he said.

Rodrigues reiterated this.

"It's not about the past. It's about the present and about ensuring the future," he said.

Remembrance Day is as much about a moment of silence as it about learning from the voices of the past, Rodrigues said.

"Having someone who's had the experience puts a real face on the event," he said. "The veteran will often do that with students so they can understand here is a real human face that has lived this experience and is not telling it from a story perspective but rather a real life experience."

Collins leads people through vespers and lectio divina once a month at Toronto's St. Michael's Cathedral.

Word War II veteran Stan Egerton, who reached the rank company sergeant major, speaks to an auditorium full of students at Don Bosco Catholic Secondary School on Nov. 7.

- Photo courtesy of Tim Stewart

Veterans visited several schools during Veterans' Week. Second World War veteran Stan Egerton was at Don Bosco Catholic Secondary School and told students how, like many surviving WWII veterans, he lied about his age to join the service.

Egerton served under his brother George, a sergeant, for about two years in Europe before an artillery shell claimed his brother's life on Sept. 4, 1944. About a month earlier Egerton's other brother Frank, a private, was also killed in action, leaving him the family's sole surviving, son.

Often Remembrance Day services focus on the dead, the fighting and the destruction. But the TCDSB wanted a diverse range of veterans to teach students that there is more than one way to solve a conflict and fighting is always the last resort.

"Youth need to understand that there are other ways to solve conflict," Rodrigues said. "Today we wouldn't necessarily resolve conflict through fighting but through collaboration and that sense of coming together to find a common solution that can be attained through conversation."

Published in Canada