The chalice that was rescued from a local scrap yard and used in St Martin of Tours Church's "Travelling Chalice" program on display in the church. Fr. Terry Sawchuk (St. Martin's Church)

Discarded chalice’s new life helps spread the call for vocations in Thunder Bay

  • May 16, 2024

Upon visiting a local scrap yard last summer to dispose of some waste, one local man from the Thunder Bay District noticed someone attempting to sell an item - one he knew was too precious to be lost to time. 

“He phoned me up and said I got something you might be interested in having… It was a chalice that my cousin had found there with the man in the scrap yard,” said Fr. Terry Sawchuk, Pastor of St. Martin of Tours Church in Terrace Bay. “In a way, it was something of divine timing that he happened to show up to drop stuff off as the gentleman was trying to sell it to the scrap dealer.”

While the timing was perfect to stop the chalice from being sold and instead brought into the possession of Fr. Terry, the act also happened to line up with Diocese of Thunder Bay Bishop Fred Colli’s call of prayer for vocations. With his request, the Holy season of Lent saw parishioners of St. Martin’s welcome the chalice into their homes as part of a new “travelling chalice” prayer campaign. 

“We wanted to make those prayers for vocations a little more tangible. By bringing this chalice into (parishioners) homes, they could pray for that intention specifically and understand the connection between the priesthood and the chalice as something that they could reflect on while bringing it closer to home,” said Fr. Terry. 

Described by Sawchuk as “symbolic of the desire to restore and to reclaim our faith,” staff from St. Martin’s church posted a sign-up sheet at the back of the parish for those interested in welcoming the new-found chalice into their homes. To the joy of the parish council, it wasn’t long before the list was completely filled.

“The whole thing has been very surreal and it almost feels like this is something God is looking after,” said Diane Polesky, a parish council member at the parish. “The chalice is Ukrainian and so is Father (Terry,) and I remember thinking ‘Wow, how can I put this into words?’ It was meant to be, there are no coincidences.” 

Polesky has been in charge of arranging the movement of the chalice from home to home, something that she says has been met with a combination of excitement and reverence from each household. She even went as far as to mention that members of the church who had the chance to pray with the chalice voiced their reluctance to give it back after the two day period. 

Those who didn’t have the chance to welcome the chalice into their homes were still able to celebrate its return as it was displayed in the church while being open to prayers for a handful of days during the Holy season. 

Polesky also shared a testimony from a fellow parishioner following her time looking after the travelling chalice that has stuck with her since she first heard about it. 

“We had one person who said that she woke up in the middle of the night and felt that God said to her, ‘Go and pray your rosary in front of the chalice.’ She said that she was obedient and went and lo and behold, her son was in a car accident and he had come out of it without being hurt in any way,” Polesky recounted. “That was something very powerful.” 

Equally powerful are the similarities between the new adventures of the chalice itself through its second chance for sacred use and the individuals nursing the very vocations the program sanctifies. While the chalice is now securely housed inside St. Martin’s, Fr. Sawchuk wishes to continue the initiative on the back of such a welcoming reception from his parish. 

“My intention is to keep it and with the response that we had this past, I could see us doing this again perhaps next Lent or maybe even for Advent. We want it to become a little bit of a focal point in creating and fostering a culture of vocations,” he said. “These vocations are at the forefront of who we are specifically priestly, but not exclusively, even we reconnect with the gift of the Eucharist as people of faith.” 

While it will likely never be fully known where the chalice originally came from or how it came into the stranger's possession, the chalice has undoubtedly found a renewed purpose in Terrace Bay as a symbol of prayer within the community and one that mirrors the very epitome of our Catholic faith. 

“It is the truth of our faith that we believe in Christ risen from the dead and just when you think that something's over it re-emerges. (The chalice) is back home again and apart from being symbolic of Lent and Easter it shows that as dark as things might look, we never lose hope because Christ is risen and there is always the reality that he is with us until the end,” Fr. Terry said. 

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