Calgary Bishop William McGrattan

Calgary leans on technology to continue mission

  • December 12, 2020

As much as the current landscape enables, Calgary Bishop William McGrattan is keen on being a vibrant presence this Christmas season by engaging in key charity and goodwill campaigns.

McGrattan himself was a central participant in one of these campaigns, the Calgary Catholic Education Foundation’s (CCEF) inaugural fundraising telethon, which was livestreamed Nov. 17. In his keynote address, McGrattan underscored the importance of Catholic education.

“The most important message I wanted to convey was that Catholic education is a gift that we cannot take for granted,” said McGrattan. “Many people in Alberta sacrifice for this education system. We need it to continue in this same spirit especially during this pandemic where our teachers have been challenged and are responding in often heroic ways.”

Janet Lymer, executive director of the CCEF, conceived, planned and executed the telethon with her team in a tight eight-week window. This new donation-collecting enterprise was spawned out of necessity because in-person appeals during Masses do not bear fruit during a pandemic.

The CCEF was armed with technical and personnel support from Feature Productions Incorporated out of Lethbridge, and the Calgary-based Access52 media and ministry company. Almost $28,000 was raised on behalf of the Calgary Catholic School District (CCSD), the FrancoSud French schools, St. Mary’s University and St. Joseph’s Seminary, which together educate more than 60,000 students.

Lymer said these donations will specifically help the CCSD and its 118 schools weather the pandemic, particularly as all Grade 7-12 students shifted to strictly online learning for at least six weeks in late November.

“We discovered in the spring when we had to pivot to online learning that 17 per cent of Calgary households do not have Internet access,” said Lymer. “That’s a staggering number in one of Canada’s largest cities. And then we discovered that students did not have access to a portable device to do work because sometimes the computer is a shared device in households. Which members of each family takes precedence? We were able to send out Chromebooks and iPads to students then, and we are seeing similar technology requests made now.”

McGrattan said it was “very remarkable” how Lymer and her team mounted a “creative and uplifting” production in such a short timeframe.

McGrattan hopes the second annual diocese-wide “I am Blessed” campaign will channel the telethon’s creative and uplifting spirit as parishioners are inspired to give to others from a spirit of gratitude, especially during the season of Advent.

Exchanging colourful postcards, a staple of the 2019 campaign, will not be a feature this year because of the current social-distancing climate. But a key thematic element that remains is the appeal to “pray now, act now and give now.” The diocesan website,, features webpages with advice and resources to help Catholics through prayerful intercession, acts of good works and monetary assistance.

Isaiah 9:2, “the people who walked in darkness has seen a great light,” inspired this year’s challenge for people to “be that light for others during this difficult time.”

“This year we are highlighting churches in our diocese, including some rural and some on First Nations reserves, that are maybe wanting or are open to receiving donations,” said McGrattan. “We also have churches who are still looking to pay off loans from building projects in the past 10 years.”

Ultimately, the core mission is to inspire a mindset of discipleship and friendship as the birth of Jesus draws near.

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