Church officials say Pope John Paul II is being beatified for how he lived the Christian virtues of faith, hope and love.VATICAN CITY - As church officials keep emphasizing, Pope John Paul II is being beatified not for his performance as pope, but for how he lived the Christian virtues of faith, hope and love.

When the Vatican's sainthood experts interviewed witnesses about the Polish pontiff, the focus of their investigation was on holiness, not achievement.

What emerged was a spiritual portrait of Pope John Paul, one that reflected lifelong practices of prayer and devotion, a strong sense of his priestly vocation and a reliance on faith to guide his most important decisions.

More than leadership or managerial skills, these spiritual qualities were the key to his accomplishments -- both before and after his election as pope in 1978.

From an early age, Karol Wojtyla faced hardships that tested his trust in God. His mother died when he was 9, and three years later he lost his only brother to scarlet fever. His father died when he was 20, and friends said Wojtyla knelt for 12 hours in prayer and sorrow at his bedside.

Couple’s married life has been one of service

By Sheila Dabu Nonato, The Catholic Register
Maggie Banga during one of her earlier service missions in Honduras. She and husband Mark are currently in Ethiopia. (Photo courtesy of the Bangas)Toronto missionaries Mark and Maggie Banga arrived in Addis Ababa in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Ethiopia’s capital city where cars and minibuses crowded the streets and waves of the city’s 3.5 million people filled the sidewalks.

“The air is thick with exhaust and smoke. Our first days were really overwhelming, despite the fact that we have visited very poor countries before,” Maggie recalls in a blog post.

The Bangas left their jobs in Toronto to spend the early years of their married life as a missionary couple.

“The walk to our minibus is heart-wrenching. There are forgotten people everywhere, orphans, single moms, cripples, elderly and especially people in desperate need of medical care,” Maggie wrote.

Before heading to Ethiopia last year, the Bangas spoke to The Catholic Register about their call.

Elena Orrico’s efforts helped make St. Rita celebrations possible

By Vanessa Santilli-Raimondo, The Catholic Register
Elena Orrico poses with her statue of St. Rita of Cascia at her home in northwest Toronto. (Photo by Vanessa Santilli)TORONTO - In 1986, Elena Orrico was asked to organize and prepare the first feast day celebrations in honour of St. Rita, the patron saint of impossible causes, at Marylake Shrine. Twenty-five years later, what she made possible is still going strong.

Devoted to St. Rita of Cascia from a young age, Orrico said she was thrilled when Augustinian Father Cyril Smetana, prior at Marylake Augustinian Monastery in King City, Ont., at the time, asked her to take on this task.

“When I read the letter, I was so happy to hear I could help to keep the St. Rita tradition here in Canada,” Orrico told The Catholic Register. “I worked with all my heart for St. Rita.”

St. Rita’s feast day is celebrated on May 22.

RCIA program reminds co-ordinator of the power of faith

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A group of catechumens who have gone through the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults prepare to enter the Catholic Church. (CNS photo) AJAX, Ont. - By being a witness to the calls of those he serves daily, Mike Hyland is reminded of his own call to service as a co-ordinator of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.

“I really got transformed by the experience,” he said. “(I saw) how rich our faith is and how wonderful the Church is.”

The RCIA program is the process of introducing and welcoming new Catholics into the faith. Hyland has been co-ordinating this four-part process at St. Francis de Sales parish in Ajax, Ont., for almost seven years, where he has guided more than 70 people into the Catholic faith.

“Their call is my call too,” he said.

Sisters of Providence mark 150 years of service to the poor

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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

By Vanessa Santilli-Raimondo, The Catholic Register
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

By Sheila Dabu Nonato, The Catholic Register
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.

Evangelical counsels today are more relevant than ever

By Michael Swan, The Catholic Register
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.

Seminarians must exercise Christ’s authority in priesthood

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Fargo, N.D., Bishop Samuel Aquila, centre, told seminarians that it is Jesus who teaches them how to be shepherds of their flock. (CNS photo)PHILADELPHIA - Seminarians must not be afraid to exercise the priestly authority of Christ upon their ordination to the priesthood, Bishop Samuel Aquila of Fargo, N.D., told an assembly of seminarians in Philadelphia.

“Jesus is the shepherd who teaches us, as bishops and priests and future priests, how to shepherd, how to live His own pastoral authority bestowed upon us by Him and the Holy Spirit on the day of our ordinations,” Aquila said at a recent 10th annual Symposium on the Spirituality and Identity of the Diocesan Priest.

The symposium was sponsored by the Institute for Priestly Formation and St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in the Philadelphia archdiocese.
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