A working vacation changed 16-year-old’s view of Africa

Celeah Gagnon spent her summer vacation abroad. But she didn’t spend it tanning in Cuba or backpacking across Europe. For five weeks, she was in Africa helping her grandmother.

Her grandmother is Barbara Michie, a Scarboro Missions lay missioner who is working as a teacher in Malawi at an all-boys Catholic boarding school.

During this time, Gagnon, a Grade 11 student at F.J. Brennan Catholic High School in Windsor, Ont., mended about 300 books in the school library, which her grandmother runs.

    Military chaplain finds there’s no life like it

    TORONTO - For  Major Gillian Federico the call to serve as a military chaplain came at a time in her life when few seriously consider joining the Canadian Forces.

    It was 19 years ago when the then 41-year-old religious education and family life consultant with the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board and pastoral associate decided to enrol in the army reserves as a military chaplain.

    Now at age 60 she recently retired from the Chaplain Branch of the Canadian Forces with the rank of Major, having served in a variety of full- and part-time assignments, including regimental and brigade chaplain in Toronto, instructor at the Canadian Forces Chaplain School, Deputy Senior Garrison Chaplain at Canadian Forces Base Petawawa and Deputy Area Chaplain for the regular army command in Ontario.

      Spiritan makes his way back to Malawi in a roundabout way

      Spiritan Father Locky Flanagan tries to lead by example as spiritual director at the Inter-Congregational Seminary, a philosophy seminary in Malawi, Africa.

      “I try to look at the seminarians and what they seem to be seeking is to know the Lord and to follow Him and I have to live it out myself,” Flanagan told The Catholic Register from Ireland, where he was attending a niece’s wedding.

      Flanagan’s most recent stint in Malawi began in early 2009. But prior to this, he served in the southern African country for 10 years — in the 1980s and then again in 2000.

        We are all called to serve

        TORONTO - With the first words of his homily, Fr. Len Altilia, S.J., made the Sunday congregation at St. Rose of Lima parish in Scarborough sink in the pews.

        “How many of you have a vocation?” the Jesuit vocations director asked.

        A scattered collection of brave hands rose hesitantly as others looked around.

        “How many of you are baptized?” was the next question from the guest homilist.

          Can’t take the actor out of the priest

          VANCOUVER - You don’t have to be a Broadway actor to be a good priest, says Fr. Edward Danylo Evanko, pastor of the Dormition of Our Mother of God Church in Richmond.

          “But,” he adds, lapsing into a Manhattan Yiddish accent, “it wouldn’t hoit.”

          Evanko was an actor on Broadway, as well as in Hollywood, in television and film, for more than 30 years before a seemingly chance conversation at Vancouver’s Holy Rosary Cathedral pointed him to the priesthood. Once a priest, he thought he had put acting behind him, but he was wrong.

            Chaplains help foster pros spiritual side

            VANCOUVER - Pro athletes receive huge salaries and benefit from armies of professionals behind the scenes tending to their mental and physical health so they can perform at the top of their game.

            However, when the pressure takes its toll on players and they start to feel spiritually drained, the sports chaplain’s ministry comes into play.

            “Our purpose is to serve the community within the team, and our focus is on the person, not their position,” said Dave Klassen, national pro ministry director for Athletes in Action, Canada, whose members work to nurture the spiritual side of athletes. “We’re not trying to find a cure for the athlete so that they can get out on the field and perform as quickly as possible; we care about the whole person.”

              After 75 years of service, only one proposal worthy for this sister

              FORT SASKATCHEWAN, ALTA. - At age 18, Ada Toner was still contemplating what to do with her life. She had no parents, no education and no profession. As well, within the span of a year, she had received marriage proposals from four different men.

              “I was picking berries one day, and I looked over and asked myself which one of those guys would I like to spend the rest of my life with. Then I saw the face of Jesus, and I don’t know if it was in the clouds or a feeling within me or what it was,” she said.

              This was her first calling to religious life — a calling she was at first reluctant to accept. She felt like a nobody, with nothing of value to offer the Church. But she took hold of the opportunity and on Sept. 8, 1936 joined the Sisters of Charity of the Immaculate Conception.

                Long search ends for sister

                EDMONTON - While others around her believed she would make a good sister, it took Sr. Christina Wong a long time to realize it herself.

                As a high school student in Hong Kong, she was asked by the sisters who ran the school whether she had considered becoming a nun.

                “I was under 20 and I didn’t take their question too seriously because in a convent school the sisters looked after the students,” said Wong, seeing a reverence in them that she did not see in herself.

                But after years of searching, Wong made her perpetual vows as a Sister of Providence Sept. 17 at the chapel of Providence Renewal Centre.

                  From Chile to a religious call in Canada

                  EDMONTON - By most standards, Sr. Loreto Andrea Leon Soto was like any other girl growing up in Santiago, Chile. Becoming a nun never occurred to the young girl who had a normal upbringing with close friends and a boyfriend.

                  But enter religious life she did. After five years of religious formation, Leon made her first profession of vows Sept. 20 at Providence Renewal Centre.

                  Leon came from a strong Catholic home where faith was essential. Christmas and Holy Week were more than just liturgical celebrations, they were a time to fully express the faith.

                    Justice office aids refugees

                    VANCOUVER - The most shocking experience of her life, says Lindseigh Lochhead, was the year she taught English in refugee camps in Thailand.

                    “I met many who had been persecuted. The conditions in the camps lacked dignity, and many despaired of ever being able to return home,” said the administrator of the Refugee Outreach Program of the Office of Service and Justice of the Vancouver archdiocese.

                    Shaken but not discouraged, Lochhead became determined to help. She returned to Vancouver to get a degree, expecting to return to Thailand. Instead an opportunity opened up to work with refugees coming to Canada through government sponsorship programs.

                      Church must move closer to Gospel, not to worldly values, pope says

                      FREIBURG, Germany - The church must change to respond to the Gospel call and the needs of real people, but that change must be dictated by Christian values and not by greater adaptation to the values of the modern world, Pope Benedict XVI said.

                      Meeting Sept. 25 with about 1,500 Catholics involved in church ministries, lay movements and civic, political or social activities, the pope said he knows Germany is experiencing a decline in religious practice and is seeing many of its members drift away from church life.

                      The audience, which included German President Christian Wulff, gave the pope a standing ovation when he finished his speech.