“Rend your hearts, not your clothing” (Joel 2: 12)

February 18, 2018

“Rend your hearts, not your clothing” (Joel 2: 12) 

This past Ash Wednesday many of you made the sacrifice of coming to receive ashes on your forehead and to begin together with the whole Church that forty day period which will lead to Easter when we can truly celebrate the full meaning of Christmas and how the Cross and Resurrection redeemed humanity. It was good to see so many people coming, including some families with children. We need to find a way (tell us how!) to have more families with children coming to receive the ashes; after all it is a Lenten journey together as a family and as a community.  Ash Wednesday’s readings make us realize that our usual Lenten habit of giving up something or even doing something special are useless, mere window dressing, unless these are accompanied by a real change in direction, by changing our heart: a turning away from destructive and useless things and a turning to positive action, doing and living something which the Gospel calls us to and thereby overcome our sins of omission, often our greatest sins! That is why we sometimes see Lent as a time of soul-searching, a time to look inwardly at ourselves, to scrutinize our past and then to make the necessary amends and begin anew. That is the personal experience of Lent to which I am invited as an individual and we as a community: very important. In fact, this Sunday’s Gospel of Mark 1: 9-15 invites us to look beyond the horizon, beyond the limits of our vision.  Notice, first of all, that Mark is only interested in the adult Jesus. His Gospel begins (“The beginning of the good news of Jesus-Christ, the Son of God…”) when Jesus comes to John the Baptizer to be baptized. John had said: “I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:8).” And Mark continues by saying that that same Spirit “drove Jesus out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by the Satan (Mark 1: 12-13).” We could say that the desert journey for Jesus was a time of soul-searching, when he was tempted to go it alone, to look after his own needs for peace and happiness. But it was also a challenge and opportunity for Jesus to seek what God had called him to be. Jesus freely decides to be of service to God and to his sisters and brothers in humanity: to bring healing, wholeness to a broken humanity; to bring peace and justice. He became obedient to God because Jesus was in a loving relationship with his “Abba” and that brought him to do the will of God. Whenever we are in a loving relationship with a person we are willing to be “obedient” to whatever that person desires, not grudgingly but joyfully. This is also true of our relationship with God, our faith in God. As disciples of our Lord we enter into a special personal relationship of love and this brings us to do the will of God in our lives bringing us, yes suffering at times but also joy, peace, fulfillment, wholeness of life.  Temptations are truly moments of truth: to continue to seek self-interest or turn our gaze from self in order to look at God, and what God calls us to be. This different way of seeing is what is meant by repentance. To turn to God, to focus and to center on God, to focus on the things that are of God (justice, peace, reconciliation, joy, healing, etc.), is at the very heart of the experience of conversion/metanoia, the Greek word which means a change of mind and of heart; the heart which for the ancients was the seat of the intellect and will. But this metanoia does not just mean my about-face, a change in my mind and in my heart. No, it is more than that; it is to put on the mind and heart of God, revealed to us in Jesus. And what did Jesus reveal to us: a God who reaches out, who rejoices in the return of the sinner; a God who since the beginning of time is calling humans to become fully human, to allow His breath, His Spirit to become fully in us and in the whole world. The Mission of Jesus which he accepted from God in the desert was to bring humanity and creation to its fullness, to bring together into unity men, women and children of all races, cultures, religions and walks of life. Lent calls us to re-focus on Christ’s mission which we have accepted as our own in baptism and whenever we are more fully aware of the image of God in us. Our mission too is to reach out to our, my sisters and brothers whose needs we are called to recognize and serve. Lent calls me to reach out, to be a compassionate and life-giving presence in my family and my community. Lent calls me to live the Beatitudes in a concrete way so that at the end of my life I may hear Christ say to me: “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me (Matthew 25: 40).”  Have a joyous and fruitful Lenten Journey! Shalom,

Pastoral letter from Bishop Gary Gordon

February 4, 2018

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Pope Francis has designated Sunday, February 11, 2018, as the 26th World Day of the Sick, drawing our attention to Jesus’ words on the Cross to both Mary and John: “Woman, behold your son ... Behold your mother. And from that hour the disciple took her into his home” (John 19:26-27). With these words, Pope Francis notes the maternal role of Mary for the life of the Church: she is a mother to us all, tenderly caring for both spiritual and physical needs. Mary’s physical care for us, and of course the healing ministry of Jesus, can never be underplayed: they are signs of the reign of God’s Kingdom announced by Jesus. In the context of the motto for this year’s World Day of the Sick we also see that in that moment of death we do not witness hopelessness, but rather real hope and glory! On the Cross, Jesus does not abandon the Church and her suffering members, but rather cares deeply for us, wanting to ensure that in our suffering, we can encounter Christ, know Christ, and find real hope in the Cross. This hope is communicated through us to the world, to all who are sick and suffering.  Pope Francis acknowledges how the deep response of the Church to the sick and suffering has been a faithful sign of hope and care for those in need. This is exemplified by the Church herself who is a ‘field hospital’ – to use Pope Francis’ image – which cares for the sick and suffering on all levels, whether spiritual or physical, in order to address them with the tender care and mercy of Jesus. This strong tradition is not foreign to our Diocese. Through the tireless self-sacrifice of our parishioners—those who work in our Catholic and other healthcare institutions; those who visit the sick and homebound; and those who work hard to ensure no person is alone in their suffering—all these efforts serve to bring the healing ministry of Christ to those in need. I hope and pray that our efforts in these areas will bear fruit and will continue to grow. Pope Francis also notes the ways in which the Church has been bestowed with healing power in his address for the 2018 World Day of the Sick. The power of Christ to heal, to accompany, and to strengthen, cannot be underestimated. It may not always come about in ways we imagine, but the simple act of accompaniment can do wonders for those who are finding it difficult to bear their suffering alone. With that in mind, I wish to encourage you to sign up for our Diocesan Pastoral Care Outreach Training workshops within the Diocese. In these sessions, you will learn what it means to bring a healing ministry to others; how to work through the difficulties of suffering and pain when offering pastoral care; and more. You will be equipped with the tools necessary to tenderly touch the lives of those who are so much in need of the healing ministry of Christ. My dear family: the pain, suffering, and sickness in our Diocese is widespread, and it is our privilege and responsibility to address these issues together. When one member of the body suffers, we all suffer; Christ calls us to respond in grace, hope, and tenderness. When we accompany others in their time of need, we bring them hope, and give them hope and strength to see and believe that they are beloved of God. Indeed, this is one of the greatest signs of hope that we as a Church can bring to people’s lives: to let them know they are not alone. It is my great hope that you will sign up for these Pastoral Care training sessions, and let that hope shine brightly in the world, through you, beloved of God.       In Communion,  Most Reverend Gary Gordon, Bishop of Victoria
For continuity, we recommend that participants attend all four sessions. Please bring a bag lunch to each session; coffee and tea will be provided. Session 1 The Healing Ministry of Christ February 24, 2018 9 am – 3 pm St. Patrick’s (Oak Bay) (250) 592-7391 stpat190@telus.net Session 2 Listening & Communication and Mental Health March 10, 2018 9 am – 3 pm St. Patrick’s (Oak Bay) (250) 592-7391 stpat190@telus.net Session 3 The Grieving Process and Ministering to Families April 14, 2018 9 am – 3 pm St. Joseph the Worker (250) 479-7413 sjtwoffice@shaw.ca Session 4 Who Am I as a Pastoral Care Visitor? May 26, 2018 9 am – 3 pm  St. Joseph the Worker (250) 479-7413 sjtwoffice@shaw.ca Program Info.: Moira King, Chair, Diocesan Health Care Cttee.: moiraking@shaw.ca

Charitable Donations in 2017

January 21, 2018

Pastor’s Corner - January 21, 2018 - Charitable Donations in 2017   Christmas is a time of gift giving: the gift of God reborn in our hearts and in our lives throughout the New Year 2018. We can be thankful for the many ways in which our Parish community welcomes and makes a home for Christ in our midst and in other parts of the world. Yes, we are very blessed in our community and we are not afraid to share those blessings with others. In addition to innumerable  hours of volunteer service with the CWL, Friendly Hours, K of C, St. Vincent de Paul, the many parish ministries and other community organizations, our parishioners are also very generous in sharing financial resources both here in the Parish and in the wider community.  Let us be thankful for these blessings and for this tremendous generosity.  This past year you have been very generous in giving to Hanti Sidra - One Global Family, to St. Vincent de Paul (your blue      envelopes), to Anawim, to BirthRight, to Marianagar - these separate independent groups appreciate your contributions to their important work and have reported on the considerable amounts they raised here in the Parish.  You also responded with enthusiasm and caring hearts to the special CCCB (Canadian Catholic Conference of Bishops) and D&P (Development and Peace) appeal (“Pray, Give, Speak out”) in June on behalf of the millions of people affected by the famine crisis in the South Sudan/Somalia/Yemen areas; $8,439.35 was sent to D&P.  In March we were able to send $ 34,166 to the Dominican Sisters of Siena in Erbil and Mosul in Iraq to help them in their health and education work with internally displaced Christians who had to flee their homes in 2015 and in the fall began to return to their devastated towns and cities. Please, remember that we made a conscious    decision not to sponsor a refugee family for settlement here but rather to send money to help the many internally displaced       Christians who may not have the financial resources to flee or who wish to remain in their own countries and rebuild their lives  because that is their home. I am convinced that in this way our donations can help the most vulnerable and assure a Christian presence which has been there for more than 2000 years despite wars, conflicts, occupations, ethnic cleansing, etc.  In addition, years ago our Parish decided to set aside an amount (about 25,000 to 28,000) in the parish’s annual budget to be given to charitable organizations (roughly 10% of our total budget). Various Parish Councils (present chair: Mary McGovern) and Finance Committees (present chair: Peter Taylor) also decided over the years to give a preference and the largest amounts to small locally administered groups working in developing countries. The rationale being that our financial donations can do so much more in those countries especially in the education and formation of future citizens there. I think we can be very proud of what these charitable donations are enabling small local organizations to do in a wide range of services.   Because of my stay in Indonesia and East Timor from 1989-1993 and several visits since I personally know what these parish donations, as well as your additional personal contributions, have done for the youths and families in Timor Leste (East Timor) and for the Paso-   bolong Holy Rosary Family Centre in Zamboanga City, Mindanao, Philippines. Because of your generosity individual and communal lives have been bettered and people have renewed hope as their youths are prepared for their future. Thank you again for all you are doing to welcome and make a home for Christ in His many disguises. 
PS, Because Talitha Koum received a  substantial donation, we decided not to donate this year.