99th Annual National Convention
Tuesday, August 20, 2019
Today the focus was on our theme Care for Our Common Home masterfully explored in four breakout sessions in the morning and a keynote speaker’s presentation in the afternoon. The morning Eucharistic celebration set the tone for the day with hymns such as “The Canticle of the Sun” where all creation sings God’s praise and “For the Beauty of the Earth” which reminds us of both natural beauty and the beauty of love in family, Church and God’s great gift of self.
Celebrant Archbishop Richard Smith in the homily asked us to focus on two truly Albertan images, oil and beef, no shortage of the first and renowned quality of the second to lead us into scripture. With the current falling oil prices, the resource dependent economy of the province is unstable. The Church too is resource dependent but its primary resource of energy, the grace of God never fluctuates, needs no search for alternatives, leads to joy and thanksgiving, and nothing is more stable than God’s providence. Archbishop Smith recalled the story of the rich young man who trusted in his own resources rather than Christ. We all belong to Jesus and can only live from his love. As for the beef, cattle are branded to show ownership and so too are Christians branded in Christ. Early Church Fathers used the branding common to soldiers to explain sealed in the Holy Spirit in Baptism. Through the Fire of the Spirit we belong to Christ and are sent on a mission. For the League, don’t be afraid; know we belong to Christ and His love makes us part of the Church participation in His mission. We are sent to a world marked by suffering. Forces are strong against the church and we could feel inadequate but resource dependent in Christ we continue forward.
Four breakout sessions were offered from which one could choose two: 1. Living Laudato Si’: Practical Tools on How We can Care for our Common Home. 2. Spiritual Practice and Care for our common Home 3. What the Catholic Church says about Care for Creation and why it is Fundamentally Catholic that we are “good stewards” of the environment. 4. A Carbon Conversation: Why is it So Hard to Change? How can we respond to the Cry of the Poor?
Session one was presented by Dr. Peter Baltutis, CWL Endowed Chair of Catholic Studies at St. Mary’s University. After a gorgeous video from Salt and Light on the Canticle of Creation by St. Francis of Assisi, the presentation focused on three steps of Social Justice: 1. SEE: Look in detail at the situation. 2. JUDGE; Analyze in light of the Gospel. 3. ACT: Suggest appropriate action to be taken by church and/or society.
SEE: Air, Water, Land quality all are deteriorating rapidly as statistics and examples prove. One example: July 29, 2019 is Earth Overshoot Day the point where we use more resources than can be replenished. Such details disturb but we are Easter people who have hope.
JUDGE: Several scripture passages show care for creation. e.g.; Gen.1:1-31 God saw that it was good. Gen.2:15 man to till and keep the garden. Care is embedded in the Torah, Wisdom and Prophetic traditions. Today we have World Day of Peace texts by Pope St. John Paul II, and Pope Benedict XVI who notes that the ecological crisis is a MORAL crisis that requires us to rethink the path we travel together. Pope Francis: American CRS has an excellent four minute video on Laudato Si’ Care for our Common Home. Do we hear these messages in our church pews?
ACT: Take the Laudato Si’ Pledge to pray for and with Creation; Live more simply; Advocate to protect our common home. Peter challenged us to find one or two practical things to do. A resource is the website of the Global Catholic Climate Movement.
Pray: daily prayer of thankfulness for creation and protection of our common home; pray with the daily news; pray outside, the psalms. Use the Ecological Examen: Gratitude; Awareness; Understanding; Conversion, Reconciliation.
Live Simply: Purchases: do I need or want this; no meat once a week; meatless/vegetarian for Lent; drive less; be present to one another with no electronics; grow fruit and vegetables; plant a tree; be an ethical consumer five Rs Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rot; assess lifestyle, do inventory of house single use of plastics,, track spending habits, look at your trash.
Advocate: work together to look for structural impediments and then advocate for needed structural and political change. The upcoming federal election offers opportunities. Question candidates as to what they will do for our common home. Promote Laudato Si’ in parish/diocese by use of reading guide studies, and taking the Pledge.
Sister Madeleine Gregg, fcj, began Session two with questions: what does it mean to a) have faith b) to have faith that makes a difference in everyday life c) to have faith that safeguards our common home. ENGAGED faith is at the heart of our lives. Principles:
- Believe the words of the Bible are for us. Scripture is not was. Google Boston Crossroads for $25 dollar courses. Believe that love is at the heart of all Creation which is made of subatomic particles in a relationship of attraction which mirrors the Trinity. Love not always attractive’ there is the cross; sometimes requires confrontation when our common home is disrespected.
- See the world as it should be—God’s vision. Need passion for restoration. Need to see life as the first gift. St. Irenaeus says the “Glory of God is the human person who is fully alive.” Sister sees the Liturgical Year as a great gift. We are always changing so the celebration is new each year.
- Honour and revere the life on our planet. e,g, Water is not a commodity.
- Really believe that God gave us free will. God’s economy takes negative and turns it to positive. We can choose our direction; trees, for example, can’t. We can choose to be in a conscious relationship with God. We need mental pit stops: use the Ignatian examen. Take baby steps and consciously choose to shape life with integrity.
- Do the inner work of growing in spirituality, of taking on the Incarnation. We are flawed sinners who need a saviour and for that we are grateful. Make time for prayer. Care for Our Common Home; be present in nature, look, listen, and journal. Sister used the image of the baby in the womb who cannot imagine what life in the world is like just as we cannot imagine what heaven, God’s surprise, is. We need the dynamic of seeing the sacred and being shaped by it to care for our common home.
I was unable to attend the other two sessions but heard of a resource from the Carbon workshop: Google Tom Chi on carbon.
At noon the Spiritual Advisors Luncheon and the Life Members Luncheon took place. Life members had two special treats. One, a Calgary artist and League member Katy Morris donated fifteen watercolour paintings to be drawn for; two, Honorary Life Member Agnes Bedard spoke about her project of detailing the apparitions of and devotions to Mary over the centuries. Several picture boards and timelines were placed chronologically around the room for members to view: an incredible labour of love, Thanks, Agnes.
Highlight of the day: the keynote presentation What is our Common Home: We Care for our homeland, our homes, our hearts. Sr. Dorothy Ederer, Grand Rapids Dominican Sister, Catholic Chaplain at Holy Cross Services, informed, entertained, and touched our hearts. With deft humour, intriguing and often poignant stories, wonderful videos and songs, and many short pithy statements Sister kept her audience engaged. Her examples of trusting to God in her own life inspired. Who can forget the story of the Chinese education official who met with sister and subsequently came to know and acknowledge God? What I cannot adequately convey is Sister Dorothy’s passion, warmth, magnetism and superlative speaking skills, all recognized by a resounding standing ovation and our League blessing. This event was live-streamed and I urge anyone who did not experience it firsthand to check it out on the League website. It is well worth it. Then share it with your councils.
The afternoon closed with the Memorial Service for Deceased Members and Spiritual Advisors.
The evening was given over to provincial dinners where attendees from the same province meet to share food, good conversation, and friendship.