VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- New evangelization will never be possible without women who are proud and happy to belong to the Catholic Church, the president of the Belgian bishops' conference told the Synod of Bishops.

"Two-thirds of active members of the Church are women," and the primary evangelizers are usually women, "however many women feel discriminated against by the Church," Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard of Mechelen-Brussels told the synod Oct. 9.

"It's high time" the Church better explain why only men may be ordained, he said.

It is not because women are looked upon as being less worthy or able to minister to others, "it's absolutely the contrary," the archbishop said.

The priesthood is open only to men "because the male figure of the priest is a representative of Christ, the groom, who came to wed humanity" through his spouse, the Church, he said.

A male priesthood "is only out of respect for this profound symbol of marriage," Archbishop Leonard said. "Let us remember and remind the Church of her profound feminine nature as the bride of Christ and our mother."

The archbishop spoke forcefully and with emotion, said Basilian Father Thomas Rosica, who briefed reporters about what occurred in the synod hall. The speech was a bit of a "shocker," said one synod participant, because the archbishop is considered to be very conservative.

Archbishop Leonard asked everyone to give thanks for "the quality and the specificity of the massive contribution of women to evangelization."

"Without joyous women who are recognized for all of their qualities" and who are proud of belonging to the Church, "there will be no new evangelization," he told synod participants.

He called on church leaders to "never hesitate to entrust more important roles to women in the life of the Church. We must find new and strong ways to do this," he said.

Synod participants spent the morning session Oct. 10 in small groups divided by language.

In one of the four English-language groups, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York made great efforts to get the three women and four laymen in the group to speak and participate as much as the bishops, according to Father Rosica.

Together with Australian Cardinal George Pell of Sydney, Cardinal Dolan "created a mood to speak because there was a little bit of timidity" within the group of 30 English-speakers, said Father Rosica, who is part of that working group.

Cardinal Dolan said it was his first experience at a world Synod of Bishops, and that he was not there just to sit and listen to bishops, but to also tap into the rich experience and expertise of the religious women and laypeople attending as experts or observers who normally do not get a chance to address the larger assembly.

Father Rosica said the initiative was "very well-received" and that one nun told him she was pleased they weren't there "just to sit in the back and listen."

Published in International

Catholic leaders in Bosnia-Herzegovina said real ethnic and religious dialogue is not occurring and not all religions have equal rights.

"Real dialogue" is being impeded by "legalized war crimes and injustices," as well as by failure to implement the peace accord that ended the country's 1992-95 war, said Msgr. Ivo Tomasevic, secretary-general of Bosnian bishops' conference.

Tomasevic welcomed a September interfaith peace appeal, issued in Sarajevo after an international peace meeting sponsored by the Rome-based Sant'Egidio Community gathered 2,000 Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist and Hindu representatives.

However, in a Sept. 19 interview with Catholic News Service, he said the country still lacks a firm foundation for religious and ethnic co-existence.

"Peace is firstly a gift from God, so it's important all faiths and confessions pray for it together," he said. "But we also need to work for peace, at a time when our Catholic population has almost halved and the Catholic presence in Sarajevo is dwindling year by year."

Tomasevic said participants had expressed a wish to create a zone of peace in Bosnia-Herzegovina, where more than 100,000 people died in the war.

Earlier, the president of the Bosnian bishops' conference told the Croatian daily Vecernji List that he had questioned claims at the meeting that his country offered an example of religious and ethnic reconciliation.

"In no other European country has the plight of Catholics been as dramatic as here — at least half have left, and those who remain have problems finding a roof over their heads, food, jobs and conditions for life," Bosnian Bishop Franjo Komarica of Banja Luka said in the interview, published Sept. 16.

"I pointed this out many times during the meeting and was warned participants knew nothing about these things. I accepted this, although I don't know whether people are uninformed, or rather uninterested."

Bosnian newspapers said Bosnia's Grand Mufti Mustafa Ceric had rejected complaints by Catholic and Orthodox leaders at the meeting that growing Muslim domination had left Christians with no future in Sarajevo.

A statement issued by participants at the end of the Sept. 8-11 meeting said Bosnia was a reminder of hostilities caused by religious and ethnic differences, but also of the "grace of dialogue" and of "how to build the future."

"Religious and national communities in Sarajevo remind us war is a great evil and leaves a poisoned legacy," the statement said. "Although we are different, we unanimously believe different people can live together fruitfully anywhere in the world. This is possible in Sarajevo and elsewhere — we must prepare responsibly for the future."

Catholics made up 18 per cent of the 4.3 million citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina, with Muslims and Orthodox Serbs constituting 44 per cent and 35 per cent, respectively, before the war, which ended with the formation of separate Serb and Croat-Muslim territories in a united country.
Tomasevic told CNS that religious leaders could not make the political decisions needed to create firmer foundations for peace, adding that he feared the meeting's final statement could be misused by local politicians.

"The peace meeting was all very well, but we still need a more-just society where the three constituent peoples will have equal rights," Tomasevic said.

"It's important we shape consciences so people will be open to dialogue and tolerant of differences. But injustices are occurring not just at the level of power, but in ordinary life as well. Until a better foundation is created, our personal goodness will not be enough."

Published in International

WINNIPEG - Ukrainian Catholic bishops from four continents gathered for a final celebration Sept. 16 as they closed their weeklong Synod of Bishops.

One of their emphases was on the role of the laity, and the final "gala," as it was billed, included the Hoosli Ukrainian Male Chorus, an honour guard and the Selo Ukrainian Dancers.

Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, the elected head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, challenged his audience of 800 to live Christian life to the fullest and not as "lukewarm, nominal Christians."

"If we allow ourselves to be overcome so we don't pray or enter into liturgy, we will cease to be a Church," Shevchuk said. "We are called to be people of prayer, gasping for the air of the Holy Spirit.

"Sometimes our churches are more like Ukrainian museums. We need vibrant parishes, a place to encounter the living Christ. May our encounter today fill us with new faith, energy and perseverance."

Reinvigorating Ukrainian parishes is part of Vision 2020, the long-range pastoral plan for the Ukrainian Catholic Church, which was suppressed for decades under Soviet rule.

After an opening Divine Liturgy in Winnipeg Sept. 9, the 38 bishops in attendance moved to Portage La Prairie, a city of about 13,000 west of Winnipeg. Focusing on the theme "The Role of the Laity in the Life and Mission of the Church," they heard presentations and reports before breaking into smaller thematic groups.

A statement issued at the end of the synod said the bishops acknowledged the role of the laity in preserving the faith when the Church was suppressed in the 20th century, and they issued a pastoral letter to the laity; it was not immediately available in English.

"The laity must be collaborators with the bishops and priests in pastoral work and, with their giftedness and by their talents, contribute toward the building up of the body of Christ," the statement said.

The bishops proclaimed a patron of Ukrainian Catholic laity: Blessed Volodymyr Pryjma, a choir director from the parish of Stradch, Ukraine, who in 1941 was tortured and murdered by Soviet paramilitary agents in a forest after taking Communion to a sick woman with his priest.

They also pledged to support Ukrainians who have emigrated from their home country.

Bishop Borys Gudziak, newly named bishop for Ukrainian Catholics in France, Belgium, Netherlands, Luxembourg and Switzerland, told Catholic News Service before the synod began that in the last 18 years, Ukraine has lost up to 15 per cent of its population to emigration.

"People have been leaving in droves," he said, noting that, in many countries, the Ukrainians are illegal and living on the margins of society.
Gudziak was one of four bishops elected to the permanent synod for the next five years. Others were Archbishop Volodymyr Vijtyshyn Ivano-Frankivsk,

Ukraine; Bishop Ken Nowakowski of New Westminster, B.C.; and Bishop Jaroslav Pryriz of Sambir-Drohobych, Ukraine.

Next year's general Synod of Bishops will be Aug. 11-13 in Kiev, Ukraine, and will have as its theme the new evangelization.

Published in Canada

HAVANA, CUBA - In Old Havana, time seems to stand still. Amidst the stunning architecture and vintage cars rolling along cobblestone streets, visitors are shown a glimpse of a different world at this UNESCO World Heritage site.

But what is striking about the old city is the many signs of Catholicism in the capital of one of the few remaining communist nations in the world. It is evident immediately upon arrival in Havana. Driving past the bay, we saw the white marble Christ of Havana statue on a hilltop. There was no stopping, however, as the 20-metre work of art was under construction.

Then we made our way into the city, down the narrow walkways into the heart of Old Havana.What do we pass but a stone cross towering overhead, smack dab in the middle of the sidewalk — a sign of what’s to come.

Our tour began at the Basilica and Monastery of St. Francis of Assisi. Built at the tail end of the 16th century for the Franciscan community, its religious use was discontinued in the mid-1760s after Cuba reverted to Spanish rule following a brief two years under British rule. Attached to a 40-metre bell tower, the basilica functions today as a museum and concert hall. Inside, there is a glass statue of Jesus that was given to former Cuban president Fidel Castro by Blessed Mother Teresa, our tour guide tells us.

Walking into the picturesque “Hostal Valencia,” a rustic bed and breakfast established by Spanish settlers, there is a large portrait of Castro (or El Comandante, as locals call him). And less than a half-metre away, a small illuminated statue of Mother Mary holding baby Jesus in a glass case caught my eye. To an outsider, it seems contradictory to have these two symbols so close. Then again, the Blessed Virgin and the dictator both have devotees in this communist state. The city’s charm is encapsulated here, with vines growing from the upper balcony of a large courtyard where visitors eat at tables on the ground level.

Continuing along our route, El Templete comes into view, a tiny neoclassical chapel partially covered by a massive ceiba tree. It was erected on the spot where Havana’s first Mass was held under the same kind of tree in the 1500s. Every Nov. 16, Habaneros (residents of Havana) celebrate the anniversary of the first Mass along with the first town council of San Cristobal de la Habana.

A little farther along is the Museum of the City, which used to be the Captain General’s Palace, seat of the Spanish governments on the island from 1791 to 1898. From 1899 until 1902, the U.S. military governors were based here, and during the first two decades of the 20th century the building briefly became the presidential palace. Half of it was used for official business and the other half as a residence. But before it served these purposes, this was the site of Havana’s original church, the Parroquial Mayor, with relics from its past on display in the lower chambers. Among these relics are an old pew, a Gospel adorned in gold, a monstrance decorated in coral and a sculpture of Jesus wearing a crown of thorns.
Fittingly enough, the finale was the iconic cathedral of Havana that has not one name, but two. Officially called the Cathedral of the Virgin Mary of the Immaculate Conception, it’s better known as the Cathedral of St. Christopher, Havana’s patron saint. Before being shipped off to the cathedral in Seville, Spain, the bones of Christopher Columbus lay here. On either side of the baroque facade are bell towers, one of which is visibly larger, creating an intentional asymmetry. Tourists shuffle about the square outside, staring in awe at the grandiose testament to the faith.

Amidst the multitude of sights in Old Havana, such as the Ambos Mundos Hotel where American writer Ernest Hemingway penned many of his classics, and Morro Castle that guards the entrance to Havana Bay, Catholic icons are scattered. They play a prominent role in giving Habana Vieja its unique character.

Six months after Pope Benedict XVI visited Cuba and spoke out for stronger religious freedom for Catholics, it was interesting to see the religiosity inherent in the city’s many features. Indeed, it is a country of contrasts. Although the anti-religious views of Marxism have clearly had a powerful impact on the country, Cuba’s Catholic roots remain.

Published in International

BEIRUT (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI signed a major document calling on Catholics in the Middle East to engage in dialogue with Orthodox, Jewish and Muslim neighbors, but also to affirm and defend their right to live freely in the region where Christianity was born.

In a ceremony at the Melkite Catholic Basilica of St. Paul in Harissa Sept. 14, Pope Benedict signed the 90-page document of his reflections on the 2010 special Synod of Bishops, which was dedicated to Christians in the Middle East. He was to formally present the document Sept. 16 at an outdoor Mass in Beirut.

A section dedicated to interreligious dialogue encouraged Christians to "esteem" the region's dominant religion, Islam, lamenting that "both sides have used doctrinal differences as a pretext for justifying, in the name of religion, acts of intolerance, discrimination, marginalization and even of persecution."

Yet in a reflection of the precarious position of Christians in most of the region today, where they frequently experience negative legal and social discrimination, the pope called for Arab societies to "move beyond tolerance to religious freedom."

The "pinnacle of all other freedoms," religious freedom is a "sacred and inalienable right," which includes the "freedom to choose the religion which one judges to be true and to manifest one's beliefs in public," the pope wrote.

It is a civil crime in some Muslim countries for Muslims to convert to another faith and, in Saudi Arabia, Catholic priests have been arrested for celebrating Mass, even in private.

The papal document, called an apostolic exhortation, denounced "religious fundamentalism" as the opposite extreme of the secularization that Pope Benedict has often criticized in the context of contemporary Western society.

Fundamentalism, which "afflicts all religious communities," thrives on "economic and political instability, a readiness on the part of some to manipulate others, and a defective understanding of religion," the pope wrote. "It wants to gain power, at times violently, over individual consciences, and over religion itself, for political reasons."

Many Christians in the Middle East have expressed growing alarm at the rise of Islamist extremism, especially since the so-called Arab Spring democracy movement has toppled or threatened secular regimes that guaranteed religious minorities the freedom to practice their faith.

Earlier in the day, the pope told reporters accompanying him on the plane from Rome that the Arab Spring represented positive aspirations for democracy and liberty and hence a "renewed Arab identity." But he warned against the danger of forgetting that "human liberty is always a shared reality," and consequently failing to protect the rights of Christian minorities in Muslim countries.

The apostolic exhortation criticized another aspect of social reality in the Middle East by denouncing the "wide variety of forms of discrimination" against women in the region.

"In recognition of their innate inclination to love and protect human life, and paying tribute to their specific contribution to education, health care, humanitarian work and the apostolic life," Pope Benedict wrote, "I believe that women should play, and be allowed to play, a greater part in public and ecclesial life."

In his speech at the document's signing, Pope Benedict observed that Sept. 14 was the feast of the Exaltation of Holy Cross, a celebration associated with the Emperor Constantine the Great, who in the year 313 granted religious freedom in the Roman Empire and was later baptized.

The pope urged Christians in the Middle East to "act concretely ... in a way like that of the Emperor Constantine, who could bear witness and bring Christians forth from discrimination to enable them openly and freely to live their faith in Christ crucified, dead and risen for the salvation of all."

While the pope signed the document in an atmosphere of interreligious harmony, with Orthodox, Muslim and Druze leaders in the attendance at the basilica, the same day brought an outburst of religiously inspired violence to Lebanon.

During a protest against the American-made anti-Muslim film that prompted demonstrations in Libya, Egypt and Yemen earlier in the week, a group attempted to storm a Lebanese government building in the northern city of Tripoli. The resulting clashes left one person dead and 25 wounded, local media reported. According to Voice of Lebanon radio, Lebanese army troops were deployed to Tripoli to prevent further violence.

Mohammad Samak, the Muslim secretary-general of Lebanon's Christian-Muslim Committee for Dialogue, told Catholic News Service that the violence had nothing to do with the pope's visit.

"All Muslim leaders and Muslim organizations -- political and religious -- they are all welcoming the Holy Father and welcoming his visit," Samak said. "I hope his visit will give more credibility to what we have affirmed as the message of Lebanon -- a country of conviviality between Christians and Muslims who are living peacefully and in harmony together for hundreds of years now."

Bishop Joseph Mouawad, vicar of Lebanon's Maronite Patriarchate, told CNS that the apostolic exhortation represents "a roadmap for Christians of the Middle East to live their renewal at all levels, especially at the level of communion."

The exhortation will also be a call to dialogue, he said, especially between Christians and Muslims.

Chaldean Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk, Iraq, said now church leaders in each Mideast country must "work on how to translate the exhortation into real life in our communities and also in our Muslim and Christian relationships."
- - -
Contributing to this story was Doreen Abi Raad.

Published in International

My younger brother isn’t what I would call “cultured.” An 18-year-old on a boat cruise around Europe has priorities other than discovering the famous basilicas or the incredible detail in their paintings and sculptures. Before our trip last month, my mom and I talked a lot about whether or not Aidan would care to see — much less appreciate — all of the sights. How much groaning could we put up with while we bounced between pieces of history in these old Europeans cities? A fair bit, it turns out.

But something changed when we visited the Vatican. The complaining gave way to a flurry of questions our tour guide tried to answer before my brother interrupted with another question. He forgot how tired and hungry he was, how much his feet hurt or how comfy his bed was back on the cruise ship. He was totally immersed in the magnificence of the city. It seemed obvious to him that St. Peter’s Basilica wasn’t just another old church.

But that’s exactly what it is: an old church. St. Peter’s just happens to be a very important old church. After all, the entire state of the Vatican was built around it.  

The Vatican’s importance as the epicentre of our Catholic faith is lost on most 18-year-olds. They may know some details, but it’s much tougher to grasp the weight they carry. I thought the Vatican was just another old church too.

When I looked at pictures of St. Peter’s Basilica, I could see it was big, but I couldn’t see it was magnificent until I was standing in it. Similarly, a Google image search of the Sistine Chapel won’t make you feel the way you do when you’re looking with your neck craned back at the scenes painted on the ceiling. You don’t see the care, detail or incredible talent it took to create it. You don’t feel the intangible, indescribable something that makes the Vatican more than a big church until you walk through its museums and feel it for yourself.

It’s the art that creates this wonder. “It makes you think about human potential,” our tour guide mused while looking at the detail along every foot of the ceiling in St. Peter’s. People — young people in particular — are drawn in by it.

Amidst all the facts about the scaffolds they used or Michelangelo’s age when he carved the Pieta, there is a narrative. The art tells the story of our faith, capturing its divine messages and old parables. The art creates the questions which lead to discussion. Questions like why was the man who pierced the side of Christ canonized?

From there, the messages of our faith spread between curious onlookers, even after they leave the city. The difference between the art of the Vatican and many other efforts to spread the same messages is one of esthetics. The art gives onlookers only two options: stand in silent admiration or ask questions about it.

But the answer is just a bonus. Spiritual enrichment comes from all the people there who are doing the same thing. There is a sense of solidarity that transcends age, race, sex and even religion. Anyone can appreciate the art, regardless of whether they subscribe to the beliefs embedded in its narrative. That is what makes the city holy. That’s why St. Peter’s is more than just another old church.

Published in YSN: Speaking Out

While many of their Anglophone counterparts struggle with declining enrollment, the French Catholic District School Board of south-central Ontario opened three new schools this year to accommodate an increasing student population.

“The school board has an increase of students every single year and this year is not different,” said Réjean Sirois, director of education for the French Catholic school board which services south-central Ontario. “We’ll be over 14,500 students this year. It is an increase of four per cent.”

Since 2006 the student population has increased by about 2,500, placing a heightened demand on the board’s infrastructure.

On Sept. 4 the doors opened to the French board’s new elementary schools, École du Sacré-Coeur in Toronto and École Eléméntaire Catholique Notre-Dame-de-la-Huronie in Collingwood, Ont. Meanwhile in downtown Toronto students of École Secondaire Catholique Saint-Frère-André, who were formerly educated at West Toronto Collegiate Institute, explored their new home-away-from-home.

Formed in 1998 the board is responsible for a geographic area stretching from the Niagara Peninsula to Georgian Bay. Currently the board, one of eight French first-language Catholic boards in the province, operates 51 schools across the more than 40,000 square kilometres it services.

“There is a demand for a French first-language Catholic education and it has been like that for the past eight or nine years,” said Sirois. “There are several factors for the increase in our student population but mainly (it’s because) we’re putting schools where we didn’t have schools before. In certain regions where we didn’t have schools we’re now offering the service.”

This year’s additions do not represent the end of expansion for the board either. There are three more facilities in the works.

“As we speak we are building two new schools and pretty soon we’ll start building another school for Oakville,” said Sirois.

While Sirois admits there are several factors which have led to this continuous growth, there is one component which stands out — parental awareness.

“People are more aware now that there is a French Catholic school board where the instruction is done in a French first language,” he said. “With all the publicity and the effort from our communication department we have been able to reach more parents.”

Although the curriculum follows the same provincial standards as the English boards, all of the material, social interaction and extra-curricular activities are French-spoken only, said Sirois, detailing the difference between his board and the public system’s French immersion programs.

“We recognize the excellent work of our parents who support their children in French education,” said Sirois. “We’re lucky to have devoted staff dedicated to the difference of French Catholic education and it’s a good place to be, let me tell you, it’s a good place to be right now.”

Published in Canada: Toronto-GTA

TORONTO - For the second time Tobias Enverga has made Canadian political history.

After being the first Filipino-Canadian to hold a publicly elected position in Toronto, the Catholic school trustee has been appointed to the Canadian Senate.

"I'm the first Filipino-Canadian (senator) and we have some unique values that the Senate doesn't have yet and I want to share that," said Enverga, who is now a former Toronto Catholic District School Board trustee after his appointment. "It's a big honour for me and a big honour for our community at the same time."

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's office announced Enverga's election to the Red Chamber on Sept. 7, which fills an Ontario seat vacancy. He, along with four other new senators announced the same day, will officially be sworn in on Sept. 25 in Ottawa.

The five new senators, who have an allegiance to the Conservatives, swells the majority government's chamber representation to 62 in the 105-seat Senate.

When Enverga received the phone call telling him he had been chosen as a senator, he was shocked. Not only did he not know he'd been nominated, Enverga, 56, didn't even really know what a senator did.

"Never in my wildest dreams did I think I was going to be in one of the highest positions in the land," said Enverga. "Like any other new position there will be new challenges. I'm not sure what the new challenges will be because this is the first time that I've heard about the position actually."

But treading unfamiliar waters is nothing new to Enverga, who arrived in Canada in 1981 seeking "adventure and a good job."

Employed by the Bank of Montreal since arriving here, most recently as a project manager, Enverga sought adventure again in 2010 when he ran for Catholic school trustee. 

As a senator Enverga had to give his two weeks notice to the bank and resign from his trustee position.

"According to the by-laws I cannot hold two jobs, especially as a senator and trustee," he said. 

Although Enverga said he feels bad about leaving the ratepayers who voted for him, this new position will allow him to help a broader range of people. And he believes his experience with the TCDSB can only help him in his new position.

"The good thing is that the Catholic school board has given me the experience to deal with issues and deal with people at the same time," said Enverga, adding that the economy will be a large area of focus while sitting in the Red Chamber. "It's a big challenge but God will not give me anything that I cannot do."

The TCDSB has not decided how it will fill Enverga's seat. It could call a by-election or appoint an interim trustee.

Published in Canada: Toronto-GTA

PORTAGE LA PRAIRIE, Manitoba - Catholic and Orthodox churches in Canada and the United States can be an example for their counterparts in Ukraine, Canada's top Ukrainian Orthodox leader told the Ukrainian Catholic Synod of Bishops.

Ukrainian Orthodox Metropolitan Yurij of Winnipeg, addressing the worldwide synod Sept. 10, told the bishops it was "evident that our God is blessing us and helping us develop this better relationship."

"We also pray that in Ukraine this same attitude will develop as well," he said at the first meeting of the synod. The synod is private, but part of its initial session was open to media.

Metropolitan Yurij told several dozen Ukrainian Catholic bishops that the North American Catholic and Orthodox bishops have worked through the "animosity" that once marked relations between their Churches, and they now collaborate.

"In Ukraine, they have to go through the same kind of process," he said, and the bishops outside Ukraine must be patient with their brothers.

While the majority of Ukrainians are Orthodox, they are divided into three Churches: one in communion with the Russian Orthodox Church, one with a patriarch in Kiev and the third known as the Autocephalous Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

The forced unification of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church with the Moscow Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church in the 1940s "is one of the principal problems," the metropolitan said.

The 2010 election of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, a member of the Orthodox Church in communion with the Moscow Patriarchate, appears to have fueled long-standing tensions between Orthodox loyal to Moscow and those who support an independent Orthodox Church in Ukraine. Yanukovych has worked to strengthen ties with Russia.

Metropolitan Yurij did not mention politicians. However, he did note that the Russian-affiliated Ukrainian Orthodox Church is the only one canonically recognized by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. So, for instance, when Patriarch Filaret of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Kiev Patriarchate visited Canada in April, Metropolitan Yurij did not meet with him.

"I have directors also," he said, referring to the ecumenical patriarch, considered first among equals of Orthodox leaders. "I am part of the community of the Orthodox, and he (Patriarch Filaret) is not recognized as a patriarch, so I could not meet him."

Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, Ukraine, the elected head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, told Metropolitan Yurij he often finds himself caught in the middle of the delicate situation in Ukraine.

Shevchuk deals with leaders of all three Ukrainian Orthodox churches. Yet every time he has contact with someone from one of the non-canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Churches, "right away a letter goes from Moscow to Rome" asking why the Ukrainian Catholic Church is collaborating with them.

"Directly or indirectly ... I end up being a kind of a go-between between the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church," he said.
Shevchuk said he, like his predecessor, Cardinal Lubomyr Husar, believes that "we can and we must be ambassadors of the whole Kievan Church," a term used to refer to all Eastern churches based in Ukraine.

Metropolitan Yurij and Winnipeg Archbishop James Weisgerber thanked the synod members for inviting them to the opening session and to the previous day's Divine Liturgy.

Weisgerber, former president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, told them, "Sometimes we get the impression that — because the Roman Catholic Church is so large — that it has nothing to learn from anyone else.

"This is a great, great mistake. Often the smallest have the most important things to say," the archbishop said.

The synod was scheduled to meet behind closed doors in Portage la Prairie until Sept. 15 before a public closing celebration in Winnipeg Sept. 16.

Published in Canada

BRAMPTON, ONT. - Flags flew at half-mast at Brampton's St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Secondary School Sept. 10 in memory of Gene Odulio, 17, who passed away the day before in hospital after he collapsed during a high school football game Sept. 7.

Odulio mysteriously collapsed during an exhibition football match against the visiting Brantford Collegiate Institute. After huddling with his team's defence squad, Odulio, a four-year veteran, fell limp onto the field with about nine minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. He was rushed to Toronto's Sunnybrook Hospital in critical condition.

"It was a very sad environment at the school this morning ... liturgies were held throughout the morning to remember Gene," Bruce Campbell, spokesperson for the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board, said. "That's one of the things about a Catholic school, that we can rely on our faith to help us to grieve and better understand or at least better accept that we are all part of a greater plan."

Campbell said it was a head injury that felled the defensive back. Odulio had no history of head injuries, at least to the school's knowledge.

"There was no discernible hit or triggering playing in the game where you could identify that he might have been injured," said Campbell. "But clearly it was a head injury of some type, he did have swelling so it was a brain injury for sure."

Remembered as an outgoing and popular student, football stood out as Odulio's passion in life.

"He was very passionate about football and that seemed to be a major passion in his life," said Campbell.

The school is considering retiring Odulio's number, a bittersweet tribute to the Grade 12 student, said Campbell.

Published in Canada: Toronto-GTA

WINNIPEG - Ukrainian Catholic bishops from around the world gathered in Winnipeg to discuss how to make their parishes more vibrant — especially through the involvement of laypeople.How they do that requires solutions as varied as the parishes that represent more than four million Ukrainian Catholics on four continents.

"We have parishes that are growing" and need pastoral, financial and structural support, said Bishop Ken Nowakowski of New Westminster, B.C., who heads the Ukrainian Catholic Church's implementation team for its strategic plan, "Vision 2020."

Some urban parishes have an aging population and declining numbers, and synod members must decide how to support the parish priest who spends so much time visiting the sick and officiating at funerals, said Nowakowski. At the other end of the spectrum, the bishops must consider how to help keep priests in busy, large parishes from burning out.

The vibrant parish initiative was approved by the synod in 2011 when the bishops met in Brazil. Their first steps have included making sure that clergy understand the plan and representatives of each of the Ukrainian Catholic eparchies, or dioceses, designated a priest-representative to help introduce the plan within the diocese.

Nowakowski said that about 70 per cent of the world's 4,500 Ukrainian Catholic priests have given feedback and are involved with the plan. This year Church leaders hope to involve religious communities and monastics, he said. He told Catholic News Service he would present synod members with a report on what has been accomplished and would include feedback. Synod members will either ask the committee to continue with its current plan or make changes, he added.

The Synod of Bishops, the Ukrainian Catholic Church's governing body, normally meets in Ukraine, but it is meeting in Canada Sept. 9-16 in honour of the centenary of the arrival of Canada's first Ukrainian Catholic bishop, Blessed Nykyta Budka.

Winnipeg's Ukrainian Archbishop Lawrence Huculak said as bishops from other countries arrived for the synod, they were impressed with the involvement of Canada's laity. Even the synod's organizational committee has laypeople on it, he said.

"It's not just the bishops ... the people are taking part and helping to organize it," he said.

Ukrainian Catholics in Canada have women's, men's and youth groups. Lay groups have national conventions, elect leaders and participate in the life of the Church.

"Although we (Canadians) may take it for granted, our laity have not been able to organize themselves in the same way" in some other countries, he said.

Last December, the head of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk of Kiev-Halych, Ukraine, outlined his vision in a pastoral letter to Ukrainian Catholics worldwide. In the letter, "The Vibrant Parish — A Place to Encounter the Living Christ," he spoke of the elements needed to "grow in holiness and unity in Christ Jesus."

Shevchuk said people of all ages must continue to learn about the faith — not only from the Bible, but also from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Priests must teach and laity have a responsibility to learn because "permanent and continuous formation for various age groups ... is an essential component of the vibrant parish."

Parishioners must participate regularly in the sacraments, and families must once again become "a school of prayer," he said.
"Our parishes can become places where care is given to the orphan, protection for the widow, help for the poor, and where the suffering of the sick is shared," he said.

Parishes must have active pastoral and parish councils as well as "well-formed and mature co-workers who assist the priest in leading catechetical schools, church brotherhoods, charitable works, youth organizations and prayer groups," he said. "One of the most important responsibilities of leadership in the parish community is discerning God's will and searching for the best ways of implementing it in the life of the parish."

Everyone in the parish must have a missionary spirit, he said.

Published in Canada

TORONTO - Tools, training and talent aside, the one thing you really need to make a piece of stained glass is time.

“A stained glass window, if it is truly a stained glass piece, you put in about five months,” said Joseph Aigner, owner of Artistic Glass since it opened in 1971. “That’s realistic. If it is just coloured glass and leading, that’s different.”

For a piece to be genuine stained glass one must paint it, heat it in a kiln to 677 degrees Celsius, and repeat as necessary. Each time this is done, four times on average to produce a detailed face, it takes about 16 hours because once the glass is heated it requires half a day to cool before a second coat of paint can be applied.

Not only is this the defining characteristic of stained glass, it is also a very time-consuming stage of the process — one which many people never associate with the semi-transparent art work.

“A lot of people have the imagination that this is what stained glass is,” said Aigner, pointing to large piece of coloured glass that had been tinted during the manufacturing of the solid glass sheet. “You have to then inform them that what they have is coloured glass leaded together.”

Aside from the paint and bake component, the process of making a piece of artistically leaded glass — be it clear, stained, coloured or more commonly a combination — is the same.

A design is composed and once it satisfies the collective vision of those involved, a full-scale version is drawn up. One of these drawings is then taken and, using wide-blade scissors to compensate for the necessary gaps for leading, cut into the individual sections. These patterns, labelled for further reference, are used to cut out each piece of glass by hand.

Leading is when the multiple sections of glass are bound together. To do this a full-scale pattern is laid out on a table which has one corner fitted with a molding boarder. The molding, which sits higher than the table’s surface, provides the artist with a ridged edge to pin the glass pieces against as stripes of lead are used to frame each.

Once the entire project is laid out and leaded, including the outer edge, all joints are soldered together and then sealed with a specially mixed glue.

How long this all takes varies as much as the number of combinations you can make.

“(It) depends on how many pieces are in it, how difficult it is,” said Aigner, who picked up the craft as a child while working at his family’s glass shop in Germany. “When we make a church project it can take sometimes up to two years to complete.”

There are two major reasons why stained glass windows for churches take so long, said Aigner. First, priests want real stained glass, although most accept a mixture of coloured and stained to keep costs down. The second reason, church projects are large, complex and often multi-window assignments intended to please hundreds of parishioners meaning the design phase is rarely a first-draft success.

“The most challenging thing is to get the design approved,” said Aigner, who is four months into an eight-window project, each representing one of the Beatitudes, for St. Augustine Catholic High School in Markham, Ont. “We had a little bit of a problem finding images for the Beatitudes. I had a little trouble getting a concept ... but now we have a beautiful design.”

Published in Canada: Toronto-GTA

Ontario’s Catholic school trustees are pressing for changes to Dalton McGuinty’s Putting Students First Act and insisting that Catholic school boards should not be legally bound to new teacher contracts imposed by the government.

OCSTA officials will continue to push for amendments to the act to remove contentious clauses that strip school boards of important management rights pertaining to teacher hiring and student testing, said Bob Murray, OCSTA director of legislative and political affairs.

Under the proposed new law, Catholic boards will be required to operate by more restrictive policies than the province’s public boards. That inequality was created in late August when the government backtracked on Putting  Students First and returned to French and public boards the right to negotiate non-salary issues with their unions. But the same right was denied to Catholic boards.

The government had previously done a deal and signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) directly with the union that represents Catholic teachers, the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA). That deal was negotiated without input from Catholic trustees and their boards, and was allowed to stand after the government relented to opposition party demands to amend Putting Students First.

“While the union has signed, the boards themselves, as the legal employer, refused to sacrifice those rights (pertaining to hiring and testing) that are legally theirs,” Murray said. “So, for no reason should they be legally bound to an agreement they didn’t sign.”

Five Catholic boards had previously agreed to accept the terms negotiated between the government and OECTA and, said Murray, those boards are legally bound to honour the contract they signed. But OCSTA believes the other 24 Catholic boards should have the same negotiating rights as the public boards.

“We have these agreements that were not reached according to the legal collective bargaining process,” said Murray, adding that “labour relations rights of employers and employees have been violated.”

The trustees are concerned that granting teacher unions more input in hiring and a greater say in managing diagnostic testing will negatively impact the quality of education. In a statement, OCSTA expressed concern that decisions about education are being made for reasons of political expediency.

“These rights are important because of the impact they have on students and the quality of education delivery,” said Murray
OCSTA officials were to meet with Liberal and opposition party members to make their case for change.

“There will be opportunities for amendments to be put forward and our hope is that the opposition parties will continue to push very strongly to have these two issues fully removed from the legislation,” said Murray. “Our intention and our desire would be for the bill to be amended further to remove those two provisions to be bound to any board at this point.”
According to a government spokesman, a final vote on Putting Students First is not expected before Sept. 10.

Published in Canada

VANCOUVER - Food for the body and food for the mind were the two focal points at Dish with the Bish: Reheat, a combined potluck dinner and question-and-answer session for students with Vancouver Archbishop Michael Miller.

Published in Youth Speak News
TORONTO - Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church just got a $1-million facelift. In just under one year art restorer Carlos Nunes and his team has restored the downtown Toronto parish to look as it did in 1908, except for a few new additions reflecting the culture of its Chinese congregation.    
Published in Canada: Toronto-GTA