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.

For the sixth year in a row Canada’s birth rate has inched up, but a polarized job market and pressure on young couples to obtain and pay for their education before starting a family is pushing mothers up against a biological wall.

Statistics Canada reported the nation’s fertility rate for 2008 was 1.68 children per woman, up slightly from 1.66 per woman in 2007. The 2008 fertility rate produced 377,886 babies, a 2.7-per-cent increase over 2007.

Much of the increase can be attributed to the population bulge of children of baby boomers, the so-called “echo generation,” now in their 20s and 30s.

“Canada, in terms of fertility, is the middle of the pack (compared to other Western nations),” said Vanier Institute for the Family director of programs Katherine Scott. “Obviously, we’re below the replacement rate of 2.1.”

TORONTO - There are about 6,900 languages in the world. Anthropologists and linguists believe 90 per cent of them will be extinct by the end of this century. But Scarboro Mission priest Fr. Ron MacDonell is doing his best to save one of them.

MacDonell works with the Makushi people deep in the Amazon rainforest, near the border between Brazil and Guyana. Working with his parishioners, MacDonnell has produced a trilingual book of Makushi myths in Makushi, Portuguese and English.

The English title for the collection of 30 legends and folk tales is Jaguars, Tapirs and Foxes.

Years in the making, the book is only MacDonell’s latest effort to give momentum to Makushi language and culture. In 2008 he published a Makushi dictionary and since 2006 he has worked with native Makushi speakers to broadcast Makushi lessons on the Raraima diocese’s FM radio station.

PORT ROYAL, N.S. - Canada's Jesuits returned to the scene of their earliest footsteps in Canada to help mark 400 years of service in Canada May 22.

About three dozen Canadian Jesuits and some 100 guests gathered to mark the landing, 400 years to the day, of Jesuit Fathers Pierre Biard and Ennemond Massé at Port Royal in what is now Nova Scotia. Halifax Archbishop Anthony Mancini presided at a jubilee Mass that was part of the day-long celebrations at Port Royal National Historical Site.

The reconstructed Habitation on the shores of the Annapolis Basin, near the Bay of Fundy, provided a back drop for a brief dramatic re-enactment of Biard and Massé’s landing at the site. The original Habitation had been built by French fur traders in 1604 but had been abandoned to Mi’kmaq control when the Jesuits arrived. It became the base for two years of missionary activity before the Jesuits returned to France.

TORONTO - A leaked private e-mail between two Australian bishops that was critical of Toronto Archbishop Thomas Collins briefly threatened to halt the process of forming a Catholic Anglican ordinariate in Canada.

The message from Traditional Anglican Communion primate Archbishop John Hepworth to Melbourne’s Catholic Bishop Peter Elliott accused Collins of “the wanton destruction of their (Anglican Catholic Church of Canada) communities, the absolute disregard for their ecclesial integrity, and the brutish manner in which these edicts are being communicated.” Hepworth said that he and Anglican Catholic Church of Canada Bishop Peter Wilkinson would immediately place “on hold” further steps toward creating an ordinariate in Canada.  

Collins has been put in charge of the processes of forming an ordinariate for ex-Anglicans in Canada under the terms of the 2009 apostolic constitution Anglicanorum Coetibus.

In a statement posted to the archdiocese of Toronto’s web site May 16, Collins said his job was to offer the terms of Anglicanorum Coetibus to any and all former Anglicans, not just the Traditional Anglican Communion, of which the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada is a member.

TORONTO - The United States failed the most basic test of the Golden Rule in its reaction to the 9/11 attacks, but killing Osama bin Laden could be justified on the basis of the do-unto-others rule, Fr. Harry Gensler told a gathering of Golden Rule enthusiasts at Scarboro Missions May 11.

The Jesuit author of 14 books on ethics and logic would have preferred that bin Laden be captured. And the American priest is appalled by celebrations over his death. But an argument for killing bin Laden could be made using the Golden Rule as a starting point, he said.

“You have to be able to say that if I do all those things, the acts of terror, etc., then I’m willing that I should be killed,” said Gensler, a philosophy professor at John Carroll University in Cleveland.

On the broader question of all of the ways the United States has employed its military in response to the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, America can’t claim a Golden Rule justification for its actions, according to Gensler.

Wafi Shara shows the bullet she was struck with during an attack on a Baghdad church. (Photo by Michael Swan)TORONTO - Wafi Shara lived through the attack on Baghdad’s Syriac Catholic cathedral Oct. 31, 2010, but the bullet Italian doctors removed from her leg still holds her captive.

Shara spends all day in a tiny, two-room apartment in midtown Toronto praying, crying and wishing to be reunited with her brother Wafi Youssif. The damage to her leg has left her with limited mobility. She’s in a strange city with few friends, working hard to improve her English.

While her brother would prefer to come to Canada, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees staff are recommending him for the United States. Youssif is now trying to decide whether to remain in Jordan and hope someone in Canada can sponsor him, going back to Baghdad where he fears for his family’s safety or going to the United States where he knows no one.

In Toronto living on about $600 a month, Shara carries with her the fears that became part of life in Baghdad as the city descended into rounds of violence and sectarian cleansing of neighbourhoods. She asked us not to photograph her face  for this article.

As she lay wounded underneath a pew in Our Lady of Salvation Cathedral, Shara saw her niece Raghda escape into the vestry. Shara thought perhaps her niece had been smart to get out of the main part of the church. In the end, Raghda was the only one of about 50 people crammed into the vestry who was killed.

Shara now finds herself in the country her niece dreamed about in Baghdad. The 61-year-old single Shara finds it a bit cruel that she is now in Canada in her niece’s place.

“She is the bridge for me to come to Canada. She wished to come to Canada,” said Shara.

The former school teacher lived with her brother in Baghdad and helped raise Raghda. Separated from the city she once loved and from almost all of her family, Shara wants nothing more than to be reunited with her brother.

“I am alone here. I live alone. I want him here with me.”

With her wound still fresh, Shara was evacuated from Baghdad to Italy for surgery and physiotherapy. There she met with Pope Benedict XVI before Canada stepped in to sponsor her as a refugee. Until and unless she has her brother back at her side, safely here in Canada,  Shara remains in limbo — the journey still not completed and so many left behind.

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WOODBRIDGE, Ont. - If Pope Benedict XVI wants to declare saints, former prime minister John Turner sees no reason why he shouldn't get in on the act. Turner declared three "living saints" of his own at the annual Tastes of Heaven fundraising dinner for Catholic Missions In Canada.

"Rome may not reach you but I'm telling you, you are saints," Turner declared to three missionaries at the May 6 dinner in Woodbridge.

As a long-time supporter and honorary chair of the Tastes of Heaven event, Turner was chosen to hand out the St. Joseph Award to three northern missionaries. Soeurs de Sainte-Chretienne Sr. Bernadette Gautreau and Sr. Jeannette Berger received the award for a half-century of service in Fox Lake and John d'Or Prairie in the Little Red River Cree Nation. Oblate Father Joseph Baril was given the award for 57 years with the Cree of James Bay, the Inuit of northern Quebec and communities in Labrador.

He's still a bishop and the proper title is still "The Most Reverend" Raymond Lahey, but the former bishop of Antigonish, a confessed hoarder of child porn, is very likely to set canon law history by being dismissed from the clerical state.

New norms to deal with priests who use child pornography became Church law just a year ago. In May 2010 a new list of grave acts to be judged by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) included the possession, acquisition or distribution of pornographic images of a minor under 14 years old for the purposes of sexual gratification by whatever means and using whatever technology.

Lahey is likely be the first bishop transferred to the lay state (defrocked) as a punishment for possessing child porn after he pled guilty to charges in an Ottawa courtroom May 4.

It's hard to say how long it will take, but the congregation has a clear mandate from Pope Benedict XVI to prosecute such cases, said Chad Glendinning, a canon law professor at Ottawa's Saint Paul University.

TORONTO - Practical steps toward establishing an Anglican Ordinariate for Canada were taken at the University of Toronto’s Newman Centre May 1.

About 25 Anglicans and ex-Anglicans met to discuss their personal decision to seek union with the Catholic Church and how they would fulfill the conditions of Anglicanorum Coetibus, the apostolic constitution which governs how groups of Anglicans will be able to retain Anglican liturgical and pastoral traditions even as they become Catholics.

Ex-Anglican Canadians have been asked to send individual letters to Toronto Archbishop Thomas Collins by May 31 seeking inclusion in the Anglican Ordinariate. This will indicate to Collins how many people would eventually make up the ordinariate. The ordinariate is analogous to a diocese without the usual territorial borders.

Bishop Richard Grecco and the diocese of Charlottetown no longer own all the Catholic parishes in Prince Edward Island.

The diocese of Charlottetown, which covers all 49 parishes on Prince Edward Island, has reorganized itself so each parish is now separately incorporated as a non-profit, charitable corporation. In the old “corporation sole” arrangement, the parishes were, legally speaking, the property of the diocese, and thus of the bishop.

This kind of corporate reorganization has been gradually taking place across Canada since a Dec. 14, 2005 letter from then-apostolic nuncio Archbishop Luigi Ventura to Canada’s bishops asking them to abandon the corporation sole and bring their corporate structures into line with the Church’s 1983 Code of Canon Law.

The big motivator for the change has been the recent history of lawsuits and bankruptcies over sexual abuse cases.

“If there is a court case and the court demands a huge sum, they demand that the diocese use all its assets to pay it,” explained Grecco. “Well, the parishes belong to the diocese’s assets.”