Remembrance Day was first observed throughout the British Commonwealth in 1919 to commemorate the armistice agreement that ended the First World War on Monday, November 11, 1918 at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. Every year on November 11, Canadians pause in a moment of silence to honour and remember the men and women who have served, and continue to serve Canada during times of war, conflict, and peace. Here is a true story of Jason K. Major, G35 Deputy, MONUSCOFHQ, a soldier who served in Afghanistan for almost an entire year and most recently served in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Jason’s story represents many of its kind and is an example of the outreach conducted through our young men and women in uniform today:
“In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a country where the most grievous human rights violations are a daily occurrence, it is hard for anyone to feel optimistic about the future, yet amidst all of the poverty, there still exist some beacons of hope. The members of Op Crocodile recently had the opportunity to take some time out of their busy schedules to extend a small gesture of love on behalf of generous Canadian donors, to one of these beacons, the Tulizeni Orphanage in Goma.
As we arrived at the orphanage, we pulled past the guards into a walled compound no larger than a typical suburban property in Canada, where we were greeted by a sea of 86 small African children who were singing, laughing, and dancing. They were extremely excited by our arrival and even chanted, “CAN-A-DA,” over and over again. Some of the smallest and cutest among them would approach and look up longingly with their little arms extended in hopes that they might get picked up and hugged in loving affection, while others would come and hug our legs. Picking a little one up was a touching moment for me as it made me think of my own toddler at home who is truly blessed to have two parents who love her, and will never have to experience the things that these orphans have had to endure.
While this was my first time at the orphanage, it was not for many of my fellow Canadians. There is a Canadian United Nations volunteer, Gabrielle Biron from Montreal, who comes out every weekend to volunteer at the orphanage, and several of the other task force members including MCpl Ann Gunner, who make the time to visit once a month to play with the kids. Sometimes they treat the kids and bring out a laptop and borrow a projector from work to show the kids a movie. Other times they bring candies or toys donated either from their own pockets, or from other generous Canadians. You could see in the children’s eyes, and those of the staff, how much they appreciated having us visit, a gesture of compassion and generosity that is sadly not embraced by many other countries involved in this United Nations mission.
Sr. Georgette Marjorie Thsibang, the orphanage manager, took us on a tour of the facility. As we took the tour of the orphanage, I noticed the very cramped living conditions of the 86 kids currently residing there. There were a few bedrooms filled with many beds. The first one we visited had three bunk beds packed into a 10' x 10' room. The smallest kids sleep here, five to a bed, which makes for a room that houses 30 kids. We also visited a larger room, which was also packed with beds. We were told this was the room where the older girls (13-17) who had been raped, lived with their babies. My heart sank as I looked at the number of beds that were crammed into the room. To add to this, when I heard about all of the expenses I was shocked. It costs 195 USD per kid each year to go to school. Even just the operating cost for food is another 100 USD per day to feed the orphans a modest amount of food.
I couldn’t help but think that this place could really use more support and funding. They mentioned that they recently had to return several kids to the internally displaced persons (IDP) camp because they just couldn’t afford to keep them and provide for them anymore. All of this comes in the midst of trying to build a new orphanage just outside of town; however, while the land has been purchased, the project is a long ways off. The project hopes to increase their capacity, decrease the cost of schooling by having an on-site school, and includes living quarters for the staff.
On this day, after the singing had settled down and the tour completed, the task force commander, Col Pierre “Pete” Huet, on behalf of a group of Canadian donors, and alongside the members of Op Crocodile, presented a large cheque donation of 2783 USD (4000 CAD before conversion) to the Tulizeni Orphanage to assist with the tuition expenses. The excitement of the kids and gratitude of the staff radiated and, not surprisingly, triggered the next round of singing and excitement. There was so much energy that the kids swarmed around Col Huet and hilariously attempted to pick him up and put him on their shoulders to carry him around as they cheered.
After the handshaking and the many gestures of thanks, they saw us off with big smiles and waves as we departed to get back to our primary task of combatting armed groups and protecting civilians in the DRC. If anyone would like to make a difference in the lives of these orphans, you can contact the task force adjutant by email at MONUSCO-HQ-DCOSOpsCoord@un.org.
You can also send your cheque to Mission Council at the Catholic Pastoral Centre, 120 - 17th Avenue SW, Calgary, AB T2S 2T2, Attn: Tulizeni Orphanage in Goma. Sr. Rita Kim, coordinator of Mission Council, will gladly forward your contribution to Sr. Georgette Thsibang. It just so happens that both Sisters speak English and French and belong to the Franciscan Order.
- During family time, talk about family members who lost their lives in a war (WWI, WWII, Korean War, other areas of war or conflict). Who were these family members? Did you know them or did other family members tell you about them? What is their story?
- Do you have family members in today’s Armed Forces? Do you know where they are serving, where they served and/or where they are now?
- Invite a family member, or a friend, who is presently serving in the military, to your home to share their experiences.
- Encourage your family to develop a prayer that includes praying for those who have lost their lives while trying to protect others; and praying for those who are risking their lives to help those in need. Recite this family prayer throughout November.
Heavenly Father, protect the
men and women of our Armed Forces
as they go about their duty trying, to the best of their ability, to protect those who are in harm’s way.
Equip them with the strength and dignity to act on Christian values
so that they can be true ambassadors of Christ.
Let your Light shine on those whom you have called home,
away from the chaos of
war and conflict.
May they enjoy their eternal rewards.
Guide us in prayer as we remember those who have gone before us;
and those who protect us at the present time.
May we always recognize
the sacrifices made by others
so that we can live in peace,
and may we be open to do our part
to help make the world
a better place for all.
In 1992, St. John Paul founded the World Meeting of Families (WMF) that takes place every three years in a different country. Pope Francis has chosen Dublin, Ireland, for the 2018, World Meeting of Families, a festival of witness to the love of God revealed in Jesus Christ Under the motto “The Gospel of the Family: Joy for the World”.
Families and individuals will come from all over the world to gather in Dublin from August 21 – 26 to share their experiences and create new ones. You are invited to join them. For more information go to http://wmof2018dublin.com/
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.
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.