Sr. Peggy Flanagan of the Sisters of Providence in a prayerful moment at a silent vigil in front of Kingston City Hall. (Photo courtesy of the Sisters of Providence)KINGSTON, Ont. - The Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul, the only religious congregation founded in Kingston, is marking 150 years of service to the poor with a year-long series of events celebrating the congregation’s history.

“Throughout the year we will be highlighting the different ways we have been in service,” said Sr. Jeannette Filthaut, a Sister of Providence and member of the team organizing the celebrations. “We want to showcase how throughout a century and a half we have lived our charism of compassionate caring for God’s people.”

The celebrations focus on themes of mission, ministry and heritage with events held at various locations, including health care institutions founded by the congregation, and Kingston’s historic St. Mary’s Cemetery and St. Mary’s Cathedral. Celebrations culminate at Providence Motherhouse on Dec. 13, the anniversary of the order’s founding.

Building a culture of peace after 500 years of colonization

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Sr. Clare Garcillano was in Toronto in early April to tell the story of the Justice and Peace Commission in East Timor. The commission is one of Development and Peace’s international partners. (Photo by Vanessa Santilli)TORONTO - By giving a voice to the voiceless, Sr. Clare Garcillano is helping build a culture of peace, gender equality and solidarity in East Timor as acting director of the Justice and Peace Commission (JPC).

On April 4, Garcillano, a missionary sister with the Sisters of St. Paul of Chartres, told the commission’s story, delivering a talk at the Paulist Centre in Toronto.

Visiting Canada at the invitation of the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, which has partnered with the JPC, Garcillano has been working and living in East Timor for the last five years. East Timor only gained independence in 2002 after 500 years of colonization and foreign occupation, first by Portugal and then by neighbouring Indonesia. The small island nation is 96.5 per cent Catholic.

The JPC was established in 1995 by Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo in the diocese of Dili with the support of Development and Peace, as a result of a conversation between the bishop and Jess Agustin, regional director of Development and Peace in Asia. It was created solely to promote the rights and dignity of every person and was set up at a time when human rights abuses were rampant as a result of the Indonesian occupation.

Sr. Ongo survives the seas to make dream come true

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Sr. Theresa Ongo became a Missionary Sister of St. Peter Claver in Toronto after a harrowing escape from her native Vietnam. (Photo by Sheila Dabu Nonato)TORONTO - At 13, Sr. Theresa Ongo of the Missionary Sisters of St. Peter Claver escaped in the dark of night and rode a rickety wooden boat from Vietnam to eventual freedom in Canada.

She escaped Vietnam in 1987 with her uncle on a boat that had a legal a capacity of 20 but carried more than double its limit. The seas were treacherous and food was scarce, Ongo recalls. Everyone on the boat received only a spoonful of water and condensed milk each day.

“On the boat, I felt I was at the end of my life,” she said.

What kept her going was praying the rosary her mother gave her before she left.

Polish Oblate becomes one with people of the north

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Fr. Daniel Szwarc with children who are preparing for First Communion. (Photo courtesy of Fr. Daniel Szwarc)Fr. Daniel Szwarc is a Polish Oblate priest who went to Nunavut in 2002 from his home town, Zlotniki Kujawskie. When he finished his studies, he asked for two years pastoral experience in a mission. Since he always preferred winter and cold weather, Nunavut was an easy choice. And knowing where missionaries are needed and where Oblate priests have their missions also influenced his final decision.   

Szwarc’s first mission was Igloolik where he arrived on Oct. 1, 2002. He was ordained there June 5, 2004. He stayed in Igloolik until October 2007, when he was transferred to Repulse Bay where he still is today.

I sat down with Szwarc and asked him about his transition from Poland to the extreme north of Canada.

Popular piety, liturgy key for Latin American Church, Pope says

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VATICAN CITY - Processions, shrines and other forms of popular piety common to Latin American countries should be encouraged but supported by solid faith and adherence to liturgy, Pope Benedict XVI said.

The popular expression of the Catholic faith “is rooted in the very beginning of the evangelization of that land,” and so should be respected but also guided, the Pope said April 8 during a meeting with members of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.

The theme of the commission gathering was: “The impact of popular piety on the evangelization of Latin America.”

Pope Benedict said that the many displays of popular piety that are so ingrained in Latin American culture must be considered an essential part of the new evangelization undertaken by the bishops of Central and South America and the Caribbean.

Pope Benedict says prayer, mission were foundations of John Paul's life

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Pope John Paul II is seen in a promotional image for the Polish-produced documentary, VATICAN CITY - Pope John Paul II's life and ministry were built on prayer and on witnessing to the Gospel, Pope Benedict XVI said after watching a Polish-produced documentary about his predecessor.

"Once again I want to underline the two foundations of his life and ministry: prayer and missionary zeal," the pope said April 9 after a Vatican screening of the documentary, "John Paul II: I Kept Looking for You."

Pope Benedict watched the film in the early evening with the director and producers, several cardinals and Vatican officials.

After the screening, he said: "John Paul II was a great contemplative and a great apostle. God chose him for the see of Peter and protected him so he could lead the church into the third millennium. With his example he guided us all in this pilgrimage and still continues to accompany us from heaven."

Kusyk’s call to serve was first heard at age 13

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Jan Michael KusykJan Michael Kusyk faced the greatest obstacle to his vocation to the priesthood, and to his life, before even being born.

“I was only six weeks old, still in my mother’s womb, when my mother’s doctor informed her that her body was rejecting me and that the only alternative that made any sense was for her to abort me,” said Kusyk.

His parents returned from that visit to the doctor and prayed for the intercession of St. Joseph. A month later, they consulted another doctor, and to their surprise, their son was doing fine.

Kusyk was born healthy in Bamberg, Germany, and spent his childhood in London, Ont. At 13, he remembers feeling a call to the priesthood in the most unlikely of cicrumstances.

John Paul II’s holiness paves way to sainthood

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A woman holds a calendar with an image of the late Pope John Paul II during an event in Mexico City’s Azteca Stadium to mark the sixth anniversary of his death April 2. The late pope will be beatified May 1. (CNS photo/Jorge Dan Lopez, Reuters)ROME - Pope John Paul II is being beatified not because of his impact on history or on the Catholic Church, but because of the way he lived the Christian virtues of faith, hope and love, said Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes.

"Clearly his cause was put on the fast track, but the process was done carefully and meticulously, following the rules Pope John Paul himself issued in 1983," the cardinal said April 1, during a conference at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome.

The cardinal said the Church wanted to respond positively to many Catholics' hopes to have Pope John Paul beatified quickly, but it also wanted to be certain that the pope, who died in 2005, is in heaven.

Pope advances sainthood cause of Canadian brother

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Brother Chatillon, who lived 1871-1929, taught in schools in Quebec and at the Christian Brothers' novitiate. (image from lasalle.org)VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI advanced the sainthood causes of 35 candidates, including Canadian Christian Brother Adolphe Chatillon.

During a meeting April 2 with Cardinal Angelo Amato, prefect of the Congregation for Saints' Causes, the Pope signed a decree recognizing that Brother Chatillon lived the Christian virtues in a heroic way.

Before Brother Chatillon can be beatified, the Pope would have to recognize a miracle attributed to his intercession.

Brother Chatillon, who lived 1871-1929, taught in schools in Quebec and at the Christian Brothers' novitiate. Born in Nicolet, Que., he was a model pupil in school before entering the novitiate of the Brothers of the Christian Schools, where he took the name Br. Theophanius Leo.
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