Catholic Family Service was founded in 1957 with five staff members. Today, more than 100 employees deliver affordable counselling and a wide range of community programs aimed at building strong families.
Catholic Family Service has faithfully upheld Fr. Pat O’Byrne’s legacy of professional and compassionate service to vulnerable Calgarians for 60 years. Fr. Pat was one of the first trained social workers in Calgary. In 1957, he founded Catholic Family Service, employing five staff members to provide pre-marital and individual counselling, adoption services and financial assistance to all faiths and cultures. Fr. Pat had a hand in establishing several interdenominational social agencies in those years, including the Calgary Drop-in Centre.
Within a few years, satellite offices were established in Medicine Hat and Lethbridge. These offices closed in the late 1960s, as we evolved to meet changing priorities. Joining the United Way (then called Community Chest) in the 1960s led to a greater focus on community-wide needs. Today, Catholic Family Service employs 100 professionals who deliver affordable counselling and a wide range of community programs aimed at building strong families.
A succession of dedicated CEOs — only five in 60 years — has ensured that Fr. Pat’s legacy lives on. Frank Bach was CEO from 1964 to 1968. During his tenure, we became recognized for the professionalism of our staff and our willingness to work cooperatively with other agencies in the community. Under Jack Kirley’s leadership from 1968 to 1984, we formed a partnership with the Calgary Board of Education to provide services to “unwed mothers.” This successful collaboration continues today at the Louise Dean Centre, where we provide counselling, life skills training, on-site child care and financial support to pregnant and parenting teenagers while they complete their high school education.
Greg Campbell was appointed CEO in 1984, serving for the next 27 years. Greg worked with staff to develop programs that connect families within their communities. Under Greg’s leadership, innovative programs were launched such as Crew (formerly Athletes Mentoring), matching youth aged 10 – 14 with student-athlete mentors, and Never Too Late, an academic and social support program for adult learners as they prepare to write their high school equivalency exams. Motherhood Matters (formerly named Volunteers Teaching Important Parent Skills (V-TIPS) and Teen Parent Friend) continues today, as does the Family & Schools Together Program (F&ST), an international school-based family skills program that we brought to Calgary 21 years ago. Under Greg Campbell, volunteers were welcomed as valued partners into the organization (now 400 strong!) We also launched our fundraising arm, the Unlocking Potential (UP) Foundation, during that time. Greg handed the reins to Patricia Jones in 2011. Patricia has championed greater involvement of all fathers, regardless of age, in our services, including the research-based Fathers Moving Forward program which supports the fathers of babies born to young mothers attending Louise Dean Centre. Collaborative approaches continue today through our innovative finance model for students at Louise Dean Centre (a partnership with Terra Centre, Edmonton and the Alberta Government) and our partnership with Carya offering Functional Family Therapy to the community.
Catholic Family Service has never strayed from its original goal to strengthen families through marriage preparation. In partnership with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Calgary, we offer a Marriage Preparation Weekend to couples planning the sacrament of marriage. Grounded in Catholic values, this weekend is open to couples of all faiths and cultural backgrounds.
Among the many funders, partners and donors — far too many to list here — supporting Fr. Pat’s vision over the years, one in particular stands out in our 60th anniversary year. Alberta Teachers’ Association Local 55, Catholic Teachers Charities invites teachers in the Calgary Catholic School District to allocate a donation from each pay cheque for distribution among local charities. Since Catholic Family Service started benefiting from these donations in 2000, we have received more than one million dollars from Catholic teachers. Thank you so much for this amazing support!
A lot may change in six decades, but some things never change. As we celebrate, we are eternally grateful for the vision and leadership of Fr. Pat O’Byrne, our staff and volunteers, and the thousands of Calgarians who have stood beside us to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to live the life they want.
Every year in October we are invited to publicly demonstrate our pro-life values. On the first Sunday of the month we celebrate Respect Life Sunday. In some areas in the Diocese, including Calgary, we have the opportunity to participate in the “Life Chain” where people stand on both sides of a busy street holding pro-life signs. Throughout the month we are particularly encouraged to pray for the safety of the unborn and for their mothers. We also pray for those who contemplate assisted suicide and for their doctors that they may have a change of heart and honour life from conception until natural death. At the same time we pray for doctors who do not want to participate in the killing of others, that they may not be forced to take part in such acts; and we pray for those who had or were involved in an abortion, that they may find healing and reconciliation.
Being pro-life means advocating for the protection of all human life. The teaching of pro-life values begins at a very early age. Parents are most influential when it comes to preventing their young children from making harmful and morally wrong choices. Focusing on the value of human life, no child is too young to understand that they are loved. Kisses, hugs, words of encouragement and affirmation are perfect ways to make a child feel loved and special. As the child gets older parents can explain the value of human life by pointing out the differences in people’s appearances and telling them that each person is unique and special. Then there comes a day when a child asks the question, “Where do babies come from?” In today’s society, parents expect this question to be asked by their young children, but when it is actually presented to them they often feel put on the spot and struggle with the appropriate answer. Luckily, there are a number of good books available to children and their parents that can be of helpful assistance.
Here are two books for pre-school to third grade children.
Both are available at many libraries and bookstores:
- Horton Hears a Who! by Dr. Seuss: It tells the story of Horton, the kind-hearted elephant who rescues the citizens of Whoville. Horton’s philosophy is “a person’s a person no matter how small.” It is a gentle lead into the humanity and dignity of the unborn.
- Before You Were Born by Jennifer Davis: It is short and easy to understand for children of preschool age to third grade and includes a simple approach to the unborn baby’s development. There are interactive pages that children can peek into and look at.
Some suggested family pro-life activities:
- Look for books similar to the ones mentioned above (for smaller children and for older children and youth).
- Participate in the pro-life awareness and fund raising activities in your area.
- Arrange for a visit to a family member or to a family from your church that has a newborn baby.
- Take the children to visit people in a home for seniors. Contact your parish if you don’t know how to go about it.
- Collect and donate funds to Elizabeth House, the home for the less fortunate young women and their babies supported by the Calgary Diocese.
- Discuss the cycle of life with your older children and teenagers.
- Add your own pro-life activities to the list.
Heavenly Father, the beauty and dignity of human life
was the crowning of your creation.
Help us to realize the sacredness of human life
and to respect it from the moment of conception
until the last moment of life.
Give us courage to speak out in defense of life.
Help us to extend the gentle hand of mercy
and forgiveness to those who do not
reverence this precious gift.
We ask this in Jesus’ Name.
I have had a naturopathic family practice for 11 years supporting natural women’s health, including fertility and pre- and post-natal issues. Over time in my practice, I’ve seen an increasing number of patients with fertility concerns that are not well served by conventional medicine. I’ve also heard many stories about both the side effects and ethical dilemmas involved in Assisted Reproduction Technology (ART) that is practiced at local fertility clinics.
As a doctor who has pledged to “first, do no harm,” I worry about the impact of powerful artificial hormones used in fertility medicines on children born using ART. I also worry about the emotional and spiritual effects of people being told that they cannot conceive without extensive technological intervention; where implantation in a medical outpatient clinic replaces conception in the loving environment of the home.
Fortunately, I have many tools besides medications for promoting fertility. In my practice, I have used Natural Family Planning (NFP) with cycle charting for many years to promote fertility literacy, and have used charting successfully with botanical and nutrient medicines to achieve pregnancy for many couples. Recently, I have also noticed increasing interest from patients in natural fertility methods, and patients often come in with their own cycle charting done on paper or with digital apps.
As a diagnostic tool, cycle charting also gives me useful information about when to test hormone levels so that the information acquired is clinically relevant. In the past, patients were often told that their levels of estrogen, progesterone, or other hormones were “fine” for fertility when they were not. With cycle charting, I have a much better idea when to send patients into the lab for blood testing to establish if there are specific problems with ovarian or uterine functioning or we are dealing with healthy cycle variations. Knowing when to test also helps if pregnancy is successful to monitor progesterone and other hormones to help prevent miscarriage or pre-term birth.
Earlier this year, I was accepted to the Pope Paul VI Institute at Creighton University for their post-graduate medical consultant program. This certification involves two eight-day sessions of intensive classroom instruction and a year of supervised practicum training (with long-distance faculty support) to help implement the Creighton protocols in a variety of clinical situations. What convinced me to follow Creighton was the fact that I will have more experienced medical professionals supporting me while I’m learning to put their protocols into practice.
Choosing to use fertility awareness forms of family planning has become profoundly counter-cultural in our secular society. However, almost 50 years since Pope Paul VI’s encyclical, Humanae Vitae, warned about divorcing the “unitive” and “procreative” aspects of marital intimacy, we are discovering that medicalizing fertility has in fact profoundly disempowered many couples. Instead, what has resulted from the “ease” of contraceptive culture is many people are now struggling with sub- and infertility, as well as increasing levels of miscarriage and premature birth. Natural fertility methods, using cycle charting and supportive natural or prescriptive medicines, help to heal this cultural wound in so many of our families, and provide medicine in support of life.
It seems that our schedules become slightly more hectic than usual at this time of the year. There are so many new beginnings, and this might intensify stress levels in the family. A new school year with new teachers is coming up; there are new job challenges; and new activities that may bring about feelings of fear and apprehension. Here’s a suggestion: Place a note inside a lunch box, or tape it on a mirror, that reads I Love You – and don’t forget, so does God; or Don’t forget to smile today and praise God. Such gestures contribute a great deal to making somebody’s day a little brighter.
A little humour helps too. Several years ago somebody gifted me with a car visor clip made out of pewter that portrays an angel with a banner in his hands that reads, Don’t drive faster than your Guardian Angel can fly. It always puts a smile on my face when I look at this little angel, even if I don’t feel like smiling. The sentence on the banner has more than one meaning. It reminds me to slow down when I feel like driving faster than I should; and it also reminds me to slow down my usual pace of activity every so often. Sometimes it prompts me to pray. It’s amazing what a little symbol of faith in your car can do for you!
It is important that a family includes fun activities at times like this. Here are some more suggestions:
- Bagged Lunch in the Park: Make use of remaining sunny days to arrange a Sunday afternoon family lunch in the park. Each person can plan and pack a lunch for another member of the family. The younger children will need some assistance with this. Each lunch bag should include a brief Bible passage that will be shared at lunch time. Before eating, everyone will be asked to read their Bible quotation and then share their thoughts. Bring along a ball, baseball gloves, a badminton set, or whatever else you wish to include physical activities after lunch.
- School Book Covering: Spend an evening together covering school books and invite everyone to participate. Everyone plays a role, whether cutting the paper, measuring the books and folding the paper accordingly, and picking up the left over paper to put in the recycling bin or to create more designs for the covers. You may talk about the subject of the books as you put the covers on them. You may conclude the book covering session by asking for God’s blessing praying: Almighty God, source of all knowledge, insight and wisdom, we ask you to bless these books and all of us who use them, that through them we may come to a greater understanding and reverence of this world that You intrusted in us. May these tools of learning open our minds and hearts to understand the wonders of Your creation. This we ask through Your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.
- Good News Bulletin Board: At your next family gathering add the buying of a “Good News Bulletin Board” on the agenda of things to be discussed. Explain that only good news can be displayed on this bulletin board. Involve the entire family in discussing what they would like to see displayed and how long it should remain there before it goes into the “Good News Archive,” a box or trunk that will house past Good News items. Make sure to notice what is on the board and compliment each other on the good news.
- Fly a Kite: Although you can buy a ready-made kite, it is still lots of fun to make your own. Here is what you will need: a 90 cm wooden dowel and a 120 cm wooden dowel. The longer dowel will be the spine of the kite and the shorter dowel the crosspiece. You will also need: plastic sheeting or recycled garbage bags; strong tape, such as packing or electrical tape; twine; kite string or fishing line. Get your supplies and gather your tools. Sketch your kite sail. Cut out your kite sail. Build your kite structure. Attach your line. Make a tail. Fly your kite!
My wish for you is that you will carry out these and other family fun activities in a relaxed and prayerful atmosphere. And always remember, “Don’t drive faster than your Guardian Angel can fly!”
This year, Canada is celebrating its 150th anniversary of confederation. The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) invites every bishop of every diocese or eparchy to consecrate the country to the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary on July 1. Families are also invited to commemorate this important event. We can do this by engaging the family in an active and communicative way!
To begin this journey with your family you need a Bible (and, if possible, a Children’s Bible) and the colouring page on page 6, and some colouring pencils. Prepare for the activity by reflecting on your relationship with your parents or with your children, so that you can share an example of your special relationship with your loved ones. Read the scripture passage, John 19:25-27.
- Have copies of the colouring page ready (1 per child). Click Here.
- Ask the children to describe something that they really like to do as a family, something that makes them feel special. For example, “each night before bed, Daddy reads to me and then we say our prayers together,” or “when Mommy makes my lunch she puts a special treat in the bag – something that she knows I will really like,” or “Mommy always knows what to say when I am feeling sad,” or “Daddy and I play outdoor hockey together on the weekends.”
- What makes these moments special? Is it because it is one-on-one time just between the parent and child?
- After everybody has had a chance to talk about their special times with mom or dad, read the scripture passage – John 19:25-27. If you don’t have a children’s Bible, you can paraphrase the passage in words that the children understand. It is important to mention that when children get older, they want to care for their parents, just as their parents cared for them when they were younger. Jesus wanted to make sure that his mother would be looked after. He wanted to make sure that his mother and John would take care of each other.
- Jesus also has a special relationship with his mother, and he wants us to care for her, and for her to care for us. That is why we pray through Mary that she will ask God to help us when we need it. We are comforted in the knowledge that Mary loves us and cares for us just as our parents do.
- This year Canada is celebrating its 150th anniversary. As Jesus entrusted the disciple John to his mother Mary, and his mother Mary to John, we, as Catholics, are marking this special occasion by entrusting our country to the care of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. By doing so, the Blessed Virgin, Mary, the mother of Jesus, will ask God to help us live together in peace and harmony.
Ask the children to colour the image of Mary, the Mother of Jesus.
Pray the Hail Mary together:
Hail Mary, full of Grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.