Bishop's Blog

"The Merry-Go-Round"

This song, (same tune as "Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush"), tells the story of several children on a merry-go-round that - in a sadistic twist - collapses because so many children are riding it. The circle game that accompanies it is similar to the one for Ring Around the Rosie.

The merry-go-round goes 'round and 'round.
The children laughed and laughed and laughed,
So many were going 'round and 'round,
That the merry-go-round collapsed"
(The verse is usually repeated for a second time.)

The circle singing game that accompanies these verses consists of participants standing in a circle and holding hands, followed by skipping in one direction as they sing the tune that accompanies these verses. As the word "collapsed" in the second verse is sung, the group usually falls down into a heap.

This is an apt metaphor of how we seem to be proceeding in Calgary in dealing with the issue of secondary suites in Calgary.

On Monday, March 7, 2011 , Calgary City Council debated long into the night regarding secondary suites. In the end, there was a decision made to defer the decision until December so that administration could work out more of the details and report back to Council.

The merry-go-round goes 'round and 'round,
The children laughed and laughed and laughed, ...

It's time for all of us to get serious about ending and not merely managing homelessness. For Christians, our Sacred Scriptures and the Church's teaching on social justice provide motivation and reasons tor engagement in this cause.

God is not only the shepherd who seeks out the lost (Isa. 40:11) but also the powerful warrior who wilI defeat the exiling agent (Babylon) in order to permit the people to go home (Isa. 40:1 0). God is powerful and tender, terrifying and gentle. The good news of this literature is that God is aligned against the organization of the world on behalf of the homeless ones who still yearn to go home (cf. Jer. 29:5- I4; Ezek. 37:1 -14; Isa. 40:3-4; 43:5-6).

The actions of Jesus are home-bringing events. He came especially to the outcasts, displaced, and rejected ones in society (the lepers, the demon possessed, the sick, the lame). And he acted toward them in ways so that they could be "at home" again. (Lk.4:I6-19)

It is time to stop the merry-go-round and take positive steps to increase the stock of safe affordable housing in Calgary.

Calgary needs more affordable housing for lower-income residents. There is currently a wait list of about 4,000 people for social housing in Calgary. (The Calgary Housing Company, the major operator of these units.)

Over the past decade, Calgary has lost about 1,000 units per year of low-cost rental housing (Steve Pomeroy (2010) Housing Strategy Review prepared by the Calgary Homeless Foundation.)

The informal rental market, which includes secondary suites, is estimated to include as many as 64,000 units in Calgary. Many of these units are illegal. (The City of Calgary (2002) Corporate Affordable Housing Strategy.)

Secondary suites are the most cost effective way to add affordable housing without the need for government subsidies. Secondary suite income helps potential homeowners qualify for mortgages and make payments.

It costs less to add to or renovate a house for a secondary suite than to build apartments.(A study for the Ontario Ministry of Housing in 1999 found that suites could be developed in large urban centers at a cost of 40 to 50% of the typical new one-bedroom unit.)

Secondary suites allow families to stay together, providing a separate space for older children, aging family members, those with special needs and caregivers.

The City of Ca lgary will be better able to enforce health, safety and community Bylaws on both illegal and legal suites. By knowing the true number of people in a community, governments can plan infrastructure needs and older communities will be revitalized.

Calgary is the only major city in Canada to not have a policy that allows legal suites city-wide. In seven other western Canadian cities with more permissive secondary suite policies, development has been gradual

Secondary suites can increase the value of a home and if there are many in a neighbourhood, the overall property value for everyone increases. (Source: Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.)

It is within a property owner's right to build a secondary suite, as long as the proper processes and protocols are followed.

Most Calgarians already support secondary suites. (A statistically valid and random telephone survey with 501 Calgarians conducted in fall2009.)

  • 84% of Calgarians supported the development of new secondary suites.
  • 85% of Calgarians suppm1ed the legalization of existing suites.
  • 76% of Calgarians supported secondary suites in their own community.
  • 94% of those who live in a suite do so because the rent is affordable.
  • 68% of those who rented out a suite did so to eam extra income.

What can you do to stop the Merry-go-round? Contact your member of City Council to tell them you support secondary suites in Calgary. Don't let a vocal minority make this decision for all Calgarians.

☩ Frederick Henry
Bishop Emeritus

Related Offices Social Justice Bishop's
Related Themes Social Justice Homelessness

Building A Culture of Life And The Family

In a small African village, two brothers were about to set out to make their fortune in a distant country. "Go with my blessing," their father said, "but on your way put marks on the trees lest you lose your way."

So the brothers went off. The older brother proceeded through the thick forest. As he went traveled on, he cut down some trees and carve marks into others. The younger brother, however, took another route. As he journeyed on, he stopped at a various houses along the way and offered to work in return for food and shelter. He returned his hosts' kindness with generosity and gratitude. The brother made many friends all along his travels.

The two brothers returned home and shared their adventures with their father. Happy to have his sons back, their father said, "I would like to see the marks you left."

So the father went off first with his older son. They followed his road, marked by all the trees the son had cut down, eventually returning to their village.

Then the father set out with his second-born. They were received warmly by all the friends the son had made. Father and son had a wonderful time and returned home with many gifts and warm memories.

After their return, the father called together his two sons. "I have seen the work you have done. Now that I am old, I must entrust the affairs of our family to one of you." To the older brother, he said: "My son, your journey was marked by many fallen trees. But what good are such marks? You must learn to care for people."

But to the second son, he said: "I have seen with great joy the marks you left on your journey You made the most important marks: friendship, kindness, understanding, generosity. Continue to make such marks as you succeed me as head of our family."

The story reminds us that we need witnesses capable of seeing farther than others because their life is so much broader. A witness is someone who first lives the life he proposes to others.

It also emphasizes family leadership. The family is the primary cell of society; we often refer to it as “the domestic church.” It is in it that children learn the human and Christians values and virtues which enable them to have a constructive and peaceful coexistence. It is in the family that they learn solidarity between the generations, respect for rules, forgiveness and to welcome others. The family is “the first school” in which we are trained in justice and peace.

In his New Year’s Message for Peace, Pope Benedict observes that: “We are living in a world where families, and life itself, are constantly threatened and not infrequently fragmented. Working conditions which are often incompatible with family responsibilities, worries about the future, the frenetic pace of life, the need to move frequently to ensure an adequate livelihood, to say nothing of mere survival – all this makes it hard to ensure that children receive one of the most precious of treasures: the presence of their parents. This presence makes it possible to share more deeply in the journey of life and thus to pass on experiences and convictions gained with the passing of the years, experiences and convictions which can only be communicated by spending time together. I would urge parents not to grow disheartened! May they encourage children by the example of their lives to put their hope before all else in God, the one source of authentic justice and peace.”

Today, more than ever, we need to be encouraged and sustained as we strive to live out our Baptismal call and to create an authentic culture of life and family. We all know that the family is called to be the leaven of transformation for a world so desperately in need of the Good News. The family is not only a pillar of the New Evangelization to which we are called, but also the ""main objective"" of the New Evangelization.

This is exactly why the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops decided, at our Plenary assembly last October, to make the family a major focus of our future pastoral efforts. The CCCB, working in collaboration with the Catholic Organization for Life and Family (COLF), has developed a National Pastoral Initiative for Life and the Family. In preparation for the launching of this plan in 2013, a number of activities have been designed for implementation during 2012.

I strongly encourage each parish or pastoral unit in the Diocese to host a series of three workshops — sometime during the coming year — focusing on the content of the COLF publications and their workshop guides:

(1) World Peace: a family recipe!
Teaching our children to love Jesus, to recognize Him in each person they meet and especially in victims of injustice means gently awakening their thirst for justice and solidarity towards all humans, who are their brothers and sisters in God.

(2) Families, did you know? Love is calling your children!
In God’s great plan - a plan of love and unity - each person has a role to play. That person and no other, at a precise moment in the history of humanity, will be able to fulfill this role by answering “yes” to God’s call ... Christ will call every single one of our children to a very personal vocation. Their answer will depend to a great extent on the openness of heart acquired in the family.

(3) Work + Love = Holiness!
It is within families, among other places, that children, teenagers, and young adults learn about the meaning of life; it is within families that they also understand the importance and meaning of work ... Christians know that the main ingredient that gives any labour its value .... is the love with which it is performed.

If we are to be effective, we must work together and in a concerted way. Please be assured that you will have my full support as well as the support of the Catholic Organization for Life and Family ( as we move forward with this plan.

If we seize the opportunity which this Initiative represents, there is no doubt that, with the grace of God, the Catholic Church in Canada will soon have a new generation of young families, living out the Christian vocation as effective agents of the New Evangelization!

☩ Frederick Henry
Bishop Emeritus

Related Offices Bishop's Life & Family Resource Centre (LFRC)
Related Themes Evangelization Family

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