{mosimage}During the past 15 years that he spent searching through boxes and files in a basement room at Martyrs’ Shrine in Midland, Ont., volunteer archivist Steve Catlin has come across many surprises.

One day he found a box marked “director’s box.” Inside, among what seemed to just be odds and ends, he found two pieces of burnt wood. Research revealed that these were remains of two posts excavated from St. Ignace II, the place where Jean de Brébeuf and Gabriel Lalemant were martyred.

African prison chaplains learn about Canadian jails

{mosimage}Sr. Josephine Eke is quite impressed with the prisons in Canada and Anglican priest Rev. John Ngabo is surprised by the access and support various non-governmental agencies have in Canadian prisons. But the two African prison chaplains,  in Canada to learn about Canadian restorative justice efforts, may have as much to teach as they have to learn.

From the city of Jos, deep in the interior of Nigeria, Eke is used to working in overcrowded and underserviced jails where the food is poor and some prisoners are forced to sleep on the floor. But she’s also used to prisons where prisoners are in constant contact with their prison guards and wardens.

Embracing Slow Food

{mosimage}TORONTO - Before the lunch hour rush, chef Scott Vivian prepares locally grown leeks to accompany his slowly braised short ribs from a Bradford, Ont., farm.

Vivian, executive chef of Jamie Kennedy on the Gardiner restaurant atop Toronto’s Gardiner Museum , is an advocate of the international Slow Food movement which has been picking up steam in Canada. Its Toronto-based chapter has grown from five volunteers to more than 200 in six years, joining the 100,000-strong Slow Food movement in some 150 countries.

Slow Food movement supporters believe that access to good, clean, fair food is “an irrevocable human right.” Carlo Petrini started the movement in 1986 as a grassroots protest against fast food and the lifestyle it came to represent.

Moral challenges confront food production

{mosimage}When G8 leaders meet in Italy July 8-10 they will have two crises to talk about — the financial market seize-up of last September and the food crisis that sparked riots around the world last year.

While the G-8 has already spent more than $1 trillion to bail out the financial system, what will be done to help millions of people suddenly rendered hungry by a 43-per-cent rise in food commodity prices is still up in the air.

Development agencies wonder how effective Canadian aid is

{mosimage}Plans to narrow Canada's foreign aid spending so larger amounts can go to fewer projects has left the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace wondering where Canada is going on overseas development aid.

In a second speech this year addressing "aid effectiveness," Minister of International Co-operation Bev Oda announced May 20 that Canada would henceforth concentrate its aid dollars on three "themes." The Canadian International Development Agency will limit its non-emergency spending to increasing food security, promoting sustainable economic growth and programs for youth and children.

Kimberly Process failing diamond mining oversight

{mosimage}TORONTO - About 15 per cent of the world’s diamonds are mined by 1.3 million artisanal diamond diggers, many of them living on less than a dollar a day. In addition, diamond fields in sub-Saharan African countries are often controlled by whichever militia has the most guns, and diamonds have generated the cash to fuel some of the most horrific and enduring wars of our time.

A single gold ring creates as much as 20 tons of waste, while about half the gold mines currently in production are on the traditional lands of indigenous people — often against their will.

Palliative care is an option

{mosimage}Michele Chaban doesn’t want the option of asking her doctor to kill her, but she thinks she’s probably going to get it.

Chaban is one of Canada’s leading experts on how we die and the care we provide to the dying. She counsels dying patients and their families and teaches the subject at the University of Toronto and the University of Wales. She has also lived with a spinal cord injury for 26 years.

“I get scared sometimes that somebody is going to say, ‘Well, you’re not really a helpful member of society, and you’re not producing anything, and so we don’t need you any more,’ ” Chaban told The Catholic Register.

River of Awareness is about love

{mosimage}River of Awareness , by Stephen Sims (Novalis, 312 pages, $21.95).

When Stephen Sims was 22, he found he was thoroughly dissatisfied with his life. It wasn’t that he didn’t have any opportunities where he was living. He had a deep inner conflict which couldn’t be resolved by sitting at home.

So, the Montreal-born teacher not only left his home and job, but his country as well, travelling to Australia. This move was the first step in a long journey that led him across Australia and Asia and to a new level of self discovery.

PhD at pulpit treasures the Word

{mosimage}MARKHAM, Ont. - Probably every Catholic knows what bad preaching feels like — all the perplexing, irrelevant, boringness that comprises the whole tortuous experience.

Deacon Peter Lovrick encountered what might be the deep mystery of bad preaching when he met a priest finishing his third year of priesthood in Taiwan years ago.

“He told me, ‘Oh thank goodness! Now I don’t have to write any more homilies,’ ” recalls Lovrick, who serves at St. Patrick's parish in Markham. “He had simply stored all of them on a computer and he planned to reuse them. The one-size-fits-all homily which is completely independent of space and time and groups of people and what is happening in the world — if I were to go out on a limb and talk about good preaching and bad preaching — I would say that’s not good preaching.”

Twitter time for church

{mosimage}If you haven’t heard a tweet out of Canada’s Catholic hierarchy, keep listening — and surfing. Catholic twittering is coming.

As the world witnessed a revolution on the streets of Tehran that was fueled and organized on Twitter and Facebook , the church in Canada was appraising the new technology.

This fall, the National Standing Committee for Communications of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops will seriously examine how the Canadian church can be present on these types of social media Internet-based services that rely on users to generate content, promised committee secretary Gerald Baril. 

Toronto parishes put words into action for refugees

{mosimage}TORONTO - With four months to go in 2009, Toronto parishes and religious orders have welcomed 45 per cent more refugees than they did in all of 2006. There will be five more landing in Toronto the second week of September.

The 53 refugees welcomed in the first eight months of 2009, the 72 sponsorship applications submitted to Citizenship and Immigration Canada , the 37 parishes and six religious orders actively sponsoring refugees are just numbers. Every number masks a story.