Michael Swan, The Catholic Register

Michael Swan, The Catholic Register

Michael is Associate Editor of The Catholic Register.

He is an award-winning writer and photographer and holds a Master of Arts degree from New York University.

Follow him on Twitter @MmmSwan, or click here to email him.

Many Catholics are only vaguely aware of the evangelicals among them — the religious brothers, sisters and priests whose lives are shaped by three vows.

The insiders know the vows as the “evangelical counsels.” They commit every nun, brother and religious order priest to poverty, chastity and obedience. Every religious community interprets these three vows through their own charism — the founding spark or reason for their order’s existence.

The vows do not apply to secular priests, that majority of priests who were trained and ordained by their diocese.

Though some religious communities have grown smaller over the last half-century, Dominican Father Francois Mifsud insists that the evangelical counsels are more relevant than ever.
A monk prays in the silence of the Benedictine’s Westminster Abbey in Mission, B.C. Salt+Light Television is airing its look inside the walls of the abbey in This Side of Eden on Palm Sunday, April 17.If you strip life down to its essentials you don’t strip out beauty. You produce lives entirely devoted to beauty.

In This Side of Eden we’re invited into the lives of Benedictine monks at Westminster Abbey in Mission, B.C., during Holy Week. The simplicity of their daily round of work and prayer feeds into the most solemn and significant liturgies of the Christian calendar — Palm Sunday, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, the Easter Vigil.

All this unfolds before the camera in one of the most extraordinary settings. Surrounded by mountains and nestled into the temperate rain forest of the B.C. coast, Westminister Abbey Church is a modern architectural gem constructed in the early 1980s with 7,000 square feet of stained glass. The church and abbey are filled with contemporary frescoes, paintings and sculpture — much of it by one of Mission’s monks, Fr. Dunstan Massey.
TORONTO - When last year's ShareLife campaign did a little better than the organization's cautious projections, local charities benefited to the tune of $305,000.

Catholic Charities distributes the largest portion of ShareLife money to 31 Catholic agencies at work in and around Toronto. It allocates the money in November, long before ShareLife raises the bulk of the money during Lent.

"People say, maybe we've got this backwards. Maybe we should raise the money and then make the commitment," said Catholic Charities executive director Michael Fullan. "I've called the ShareLife campaign an act of faith, because it really is."

Coming in a bit higher than projections last year allowed Catholic Charities to distribute one-time extra grants to a number of agencies at the beginning of 2011.
Karen HamiltonThe number one demand churches are making from campaigning federal politicians is a concrete plan to reduce and end poverty in Canada.

The Canadian Council of Churches reiterated the ecumenical priority in a letter to all the national party leaders March 31.

"The issue of poverty, certainly our Scriptures call us to that over and over and over again," Canadian Council of Churches general secretary Rev. Dr. Karen Hamilton told The Catholic Register.

The eight priority issues listed in the CCC letter largely repeat the priorities laid out last year by international faith leaders gathered in Winnipeg just before the G20 Summit in Toronto.
Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason KenneyChanges to Canada's refugee system are being denounced  by the sponsorship community as a cap on compassion and generosity.

A February letter from Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney  to churches and non-profits that sponsor refugees revealed plans to limit the number of refugees Canadians would be allowed to sponsor under the Private Sponsorship of Refugees program. Kenney calls it a "different kind of stewardship." The government is also unilaterally altering its contracts with Sponsorship Agreement Holders, ending all agreements as of Dec. 31, 2011.

"Putting a cap on the number of refugee applications can mean putting a limit on the generosity of Canadians," said Canadian Council for Refugees director Janet Dench.

Trisha Postle plays the hurdy gurdy as she musically leads morning prayer from the Divine Office for the feast of St. Joseph, March 26 at Regis College. (Photo by Michael Swan)Jesuit Fr. Gilles Mongeau has been cultivating an occassional community of artists who gather once or twice a year for an artists' liturgy. On the feast of St. Joseph, March 26, the artists' liturgy took the form of morning prayer from the Divine Office.

The singers contributing to this liturgy, and singing as you view these photographs, are the 46-member Cantores Celestes.

The amatuer women's choir has been singing together for 22 years, and over those years has raised more than $30,000 for charity. Singing for a liturgy rather than a concert allows the choir to connect with its repertoire of religious music in a very different way, said conductor Kelly Galbraith.

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A woman who fled from the vicinity of the Fukushima nuclear power plant sits at an evacuation centre in Kawamata, Japan. (CNS photo/Yuriko Nakao, Reuters) Who would want to choose between the morality of indecision and fear versus the morality of blind, reckless gambles imposed on future generations? Whether we want it or not, the nuclear question awaits.

Canada’s Nuclear Safety Commission began three weeks of hearings March 21 at Hope Fellowship Church in Courtice, Ont., on future plans for the Darlington Nuclear Station near Bowmanville, Ont., about 50 km east of Toronto. There are plans for four new nuclear reactors at the station on the shores of Lake Ontario.

Hundreds of written submissions were already before the nuclear regulator before the world was riveted to its television screens, watching Japan’s Fukushima 50 (in fact, about 200 technicians and engineers) fight to keep their crippled nuclear power plant from killing hundreds of thousands of people in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake and tsunamis that struck Japan March 11.

A woman who fled from the vicinity of the Fukushima nuclear power plant sits at an evacuation centre in Kawamata, Japan. (CNS photo/Yuriko Nakao, Reuters) Who would want to choose between the morality of indecision and fear versus the morality of blind, reckless gambles imposed on future generations? Whether we want it or not, the nuclear question awaits.

Canada’s Nuclear Safety Commission began three weeks of hearings March 21 at Hope Fellowship Church in Courtice, Ont., on future plans for the Darlington Nuclear Station near Bowmanville, Ont., about 50 km east of Toronto. There are plans for four new nuclear reactors at the station on the shores of Lake Ontario.

Hundreds of written submissions were already before the nuclear regulator before the world was riveted to its television screens, watching Japan’s Fukushima 50 (in fact, about 200 technicians and engineers) fight to keep their crippled nuclear power plant from killing hundreds of thousands of people in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake and tsunamis that struck Japan March 11.

You could vote on Good Friday, Holy Saturday or even Easter Monday, but you don’t have to and nobody should take offence that Elections Canada has chosen dates for advance polling that coincide with Easter, said Philip Horgan.

“Let’s not get too bogged down in minutia when there are bigger issues at stake here,” said Horgan, president of the Canadian Catholic Civil Rights League.

The bigger issues for the league include documenting the voting records of MPs on issues such as euthanasia and appealing an Ontario judge’s decision that would decriminalize street prostitution and bawdy houses. So their noses should not be out of joint over a voluntary advance polling date.

Poverty, life issues, seniors may be lost in 'horse-race politics' of election campaignIt’s hard to know what will be decided in the May 2 election, but it’s just as hard to imagine that Canadians will decide well unless we inject respect, sincerity, honesty and a few high-minded ideals into our political culture.

We can’t run a country on vitriolic rhetoric, political tactics and cheap-shot ads, said Christian think-tank director Peter Stockland. Looking at the latest attack ads turned Stockland’s stomach.

“I was absolutely appalled that a government and a lot of people in that government would unleash something like that,” said the director of the Cardus Centre for Cultural Renewal. “Where’s the charity?”

The Conservative ads claim Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff is dangerously soft on crime, and a Liberal government would make people unsafe in their homes and neighbourhoods.