By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News
“Let Us Encounter The Lord and One Another” was the theme of Spring Congress 2022 in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon, with representatives of parishes and groups from across the diocese gathering March 24-25 in-person and online to reflect, to pray, and to learn.
Broadcast to remote participants via Zoom, the Spring Congress was also an in-person event at the Cathedral of the Holy Family in Saskatoon, beginning March 24 with Mass celebrated by Bishop Mark Hagemoen.
Led by MC Celeste Woloschuk of St. Thomas More College Campus Ministry, participants entered into the two days of reflection starting with a keynote address by Bishop Hagemoen reflecting on the inspiration, influence and impact of the Holy Spirit.
“The Left Hand of God Calls the Church to Renewal”
In his keynote address at Spring Congress, Hagemoen cited a recent Western Canadian assembly of bishops’ retreat led by Fr. Roman Paur, OSB of St. John’s Abbey, Collegeveille, Minnesota, who spoke about the Holy Spirit as “The Left Hand of God,” echoing a theological treatise by another monk, Fr. Kilian McDonald, OSB.
“No wonder one of the names of the Holy Spirit is ‘the left hand of God,'” said Hagemoen. “This name in large part comes from the Sacred Scriptures and our Catholic Creed which indicates that the second person of the Trinity – the Son – is at the Father’s right hand. (see Luke 22: 69; Acts 7: 56) This leaves the left side to the third person of the Trinity – the Holy Spirit.” Like a left-handed boxer or “south paw” batter, the Holy Spirit is also ever-surprising, acting in ways that are unexpected, unpredictable, and effective, the bishop noted.
“Fr Paur pointed out to us during the retreat the numerous references to the Spirit of God sprinkled throughout the New Testament, in various contexts, for example, about ‘…things to come and promises of enlightenment. The most dramatic reference are the tongues of fire in the Acts of the Apostles. Even more impressive is that so much is attributed to this cause and source of guidance and assurance on what is right and good and possible,'” cited Hagemoen before exploring Scripture and Catholic teaching about the Holy Spirit in more detail.
“In all of this, it is the Holy Spirit the is the key agent of conversion, who calls us to authentic and sometimes painfully revealing renewal on the path to becoming truly more fully human and alive. And, it is a conversion on God’s terms, and not ours. As Fr. Paur states: ‘Such a Holy Spirit leaves little wiggle room for irresponsibility and complacency and inclination to quick judgment and condemnation but infinite latitude for responding to opportunities to apply the gospel as a blessing grace in our relational responsiveness – as best we can with our resources at hand – to people we know in need, and with a sense of collective mission to the poor and disadvantaged – that is, of course, regardless of origin or race or beliefs or allegiance or wealth.’”
Hagemoen also reflected how it is often a crisis that provides the occasion for the Holy Spirit to do “great things with us — our minds and our hearts.”
“The grace of the Holy Spirit acts in the worst crisis, bringing greatly needed healing and light amidst the most desperate and dark situations,” noted the bishop.
God is the protagonist of life and work in the diocese of Saskatoon, stressed Hagemoen. “All our organization and governance must reflect the Church’s mission, and have an openness always to the Holy Spirit who helps accomplish our efforts. The Holy Spirit inspires us – including in the areas of governance and administration – to achieve the spiritual formation of God’s people: ministers and those who receive ministry.”
He added: “Our identity as the Body of Christ will challenge us – but also help us navigate the tensions in our culture and world we encounter today. Without personal and communal docility to the Holy Spirit, the challenges we face can overwhelm and back us into corners that the People of God should not be in. ….This is a time when virtues such as humility, docility to the Spirit, and other virtues related to magnanimity and generosity are very, very much needed. Boy, do we need to call on the Left Hand of God for such important and noble gifts!”
Hagemoen quoted Pope Francis who calls for a missionary spirit led by the Spirit, focused on Christ: “Mission is not a well-tested corporate project. And it’s not a show where we count how many people come in response to our marketing. The Holy Spirit works as He wishes, when He wishes, and where He wishes. And this can lead to some disorientation. Yet the summit of freedom rests precisely in allowing oneself to be led by the Spirit, renouncing the desire to calculate and control everything.”
Synodality in the Catholic Tradition
The Holy Spirit is also seen to be working through “Synodality in the Catholic Tradition,” as explored in another Spring Congress session, presented via video link by Dr. Peter Baltutis of St. Mary University in Calgary.
“Rediscovering the ancient tradition of being Church together” was at the heart of his presentation, which looked at key turning points in how the Church understands itself, namely: the Council of Jerusalem in the year 49, and in the Second Vatican Council that met between 1962 and 1965.
At the Council of Jerusalem, the early Church provides a model for decision-making; apostles and elders collaborating together to communally discern the will of the Holy Spirit (Acts 15:1-35 and Galatians 2:1-10), said Baltutis. And then many centuries later in the Second Vatican Council document Lumen Gentium: Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (1964), the Church is described as the whole ‘People of God,’ instead of the Church being identified exclusively with the clergy (Lumen Gentium, Chapter 2, 9-17).
These key moments provide the context for the “Synod on Synodality” now underway in the Church, a multi-year process launched by Pope Francis to listen to each other, to journey together, and to experience and strengthen this “synodal” tradition of the Church, inspired by the promptings of the Holy Spirit, noted Baltutis.
Responding to Homelessness in the Community
The practical challenges of responding to homelessness were then addressed by speakers Chris Donald of St. Joseph Parish, Saskatoon (which has been working on a proposal to use the parish hall as a “warm-up location” for those with nowhere to go in the cold days of winter) and Marc Cheriyan of the Salvation Army Crossroads Residential Services initiative (which provides outreach to those who are homeless in Saskatoon).
Parishioner Chris Donald described the situation of St. Joseph Parish, located on Broadway Avenue and 8th Street in the Nutana neighbourhood of Saskatoon, and its efforts in trying to find ways in which the parish might very practically “care for their neighbours” by assisting with the community response to the increasing problem of homelessness. In December 2021, the parish was one of those represented at an online conference to learn more about the needs of those who are homeless and ways to respond. “What struck me was the magnitude of the problem,” said Donald. At the same time, with an aging population and limited resources, the parish had to carefully discern what action was possible.
Hearing that the community needed places where people could go to stay during the day — especially in freezing weather — the parish began discussions with one agency about the possiblity of opening a warm-up location in the large parish hall next to St. Joseph Church on Broadway. The discernment and practical requirements of such a step have been under discussion “and we hope to have things set up for next winter,” he noted.
Marc Cheriyan, Director of Crossroads Residential Services run by the Salvation Army in Saskatoon, gave an overview of the problem of homelessness, the gospel call to care for those in need in the community, the kinds of outreach and services being offered, (including a shelter, a halfway house, a home for teen girls and a community feeding program) and practical ways for congregations, groups and individuals to assist — including leadership, service, giving and prayer. He encouraged those interested in learning more to visit the website: www.salvationarmysaskatoon.org.
The Vocation of Leadership
Spring Congress continued with an afternoon session March 24 with Brett Powell of the Archdiocese of Vancouver speaking via video feed, exploring leadership and our response to the baptismal call to be intentional missionary disciples.
Powell reflected on the universal call to holiness and mission, and how an encounter with Jesus Christ and response to the urging of the Holy Spirit is what propels action in ministry, summarized Marilyn Jackson, Director of Pastoral Services for the diocese of Saskatoon.
“He talked about a Pyramid of Leadership, consisting of four levels of leadership: organizational, managerial, interpersonal and personal. The base of the pyramid is the personal level where we are challenged to be self aware, to be ‘whole and holy.'” she said. “It is critical, as leaders that we recognize the areas in our life where woundedness still exists, and to seek healing.”
At the top of the pyramid, the organizational level, “everything we do must align to the mission and that we must prune all that which does not. Our efforts and resources must be invested in the activities which point to the mission,” Jackson summarized.
Prayer launches second day of Spring Congress
Day 2 of Spring Congress began March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation, with a “Prayer in the Six Directions” led by Elder Dianne Anderson and Parish Life Director Debbie Ledoux of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Saskatoon.
This was followed by musical praise and worship by the FacetoFace Ministries team, and then Bishop Mark Hagemoen stepped forward to pray in unity with Pope Francis, who that day in Rome was praying for peace and consecrating all of humanity, Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
Sharing the Gospel through Edge Middle School Ministry
Congress Day 2 continued with a focus on youth ministry to those in Grades 6-9, specifically through the Life Teen Edge program, presented by Jill Bagshaw of Life Teen International via video feed.
Her overview was followed by a presentation from the FacetoFace Ministries Team, led by Jon Courchene, demonstrating how Edge works in a parish.
Charisms – “Called and Gifted”
Jim Anderson of St. Therese Institute of Faith and Mission, presented a reflection on “Charisms: the Jewels that Adorn the Bride of Christ” on Spring Congress Day 2, followed by testimonies from St. Therese students who have experienced the Catherine of Siena Institute “Called and Gifted” program for discerning charisms, as well as information from Anne Williams about the “Called and Gifted” workshops.
Charisms are God-given gifts for service, ministry and building up the Church and are a sure aid to missionary discipleship, said Anderson in his overview of charisms, noting that recognizing and appreciating the wealth and the variety of these gifts of the Holy Spirit is identified was a key element in the prepatory document for the Synod on Synodality. Like jewels on the bride of Christ, charisms reflect back the glory of God, he said.
“A sure aid to missionary discipleship,” charisms help with intentionality, clarity, discernment and helping to “keep the main thing the main thing,” he said.
He quoted the Catechism of the Catholic Church #798-801, describing the action of the Holy Spirit in building up the Body of Christ through special graces called charisms.: “Whether extraordinary or simple and humble, charisms are graces of the Holy Spirit which directly or indirectly benefit the Church. (CCC #799)”
Anderson described different kinds of charisms and the different ways they work, with some kept and others given away, but all in existence to enable God to work through them. In particular he focused on the discernment of individual charisms — “the variety of charismatic gifts that are offered individual Christians as the means by which God will work through them as they live out missionary discipleship.”
Anderson described how charisms are gifts given to every baptized person, and are all:
- evangelizing, making “aspects of Jesus’ redemptive work visible and accessible to others”
- healing, making “the love of God present”
- given long-term
- accomplishing something extraordinary, beyond natural human abilities
- focused outward, existing for others, not self
- not used for evil, but for the good of others and building up of the Church
- received, not chosen
- integrated into the demands and disciplines of discipleship.
Charisms are an important part of responding to the universal call to holiness, rooted and manifest in the context of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, said Anderson. They flow from the sacramental life (especially baptism, confirmation and Eucharist) and from a personal friendship with God, and they work in concert with faith.
Specializing in the discernment of charisms through the Called and Gifted program, the Catherine of Siena Institute has identified 23 of the most common charisms, he described.
These most common charisms include pastoral charisms of encouragement, hospitality, helping, pastoring and mercy; communication charisms of evangelism, prophesy, teaching; organizational charisms of giving, leadership, service and administration; charisms of healing and intercessory prayer; charisms of understanding, knowledge and wisdom; creative charisms of craftsmanship, music and writing; lifestyle charisms of celibacy, faith, being missionary, and voluntary poverty; as well as a number of other charisms such as peace-making, working miracles, listening, and redemptive suffering.
Discerning charisms benefits both the individual and the Christian community, encouraging growth in holiness, bringing joy and a sense of purpose, fostering evangelization, energizing rather than burning out, building confidence, strengthening unity and avoiding jealousy, comparison, competition and guilt about not doing everything. Recognizing one’s charism and putting that gift to work reveals: “I have my part to play in salvation history and I am remarkably effective in it and joyful in it.”
Two St. Therese students who have taken part in the “Called and Gifted” discernment process to discover their own charisms also shared their testimony with the diocesan Congress participants.
Cyandra Cornish, a first-year student at St. Therese, said the “Called and Gifted” workshop and the exploration of gifts has been “just supernaturally filled with grace and very fruitful” and helped her draw closer to Christ. “It felt like a prayer.” She described how the process has helped her to confirm a charism of teaching and to fill that calling with meaning and direction, connecting that gift to the promptings and inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
“I want charisms in my parish, and I want charisms to be known in the diocese of Saskatoon. It gives me hope that people are not just going to be using their own talents, they will be using their charisms,” she said. “People would realize that they are hand-picked by Christ to do these (parish) roles by using their strengths, talents, but specifically their charisms to share the gospel with others… We need people who know what their charisms are, and that they are willing to use them, if we want to love and evangelize the whole world and bring back the people who have left our churches.”
She concluded: “If we want to set the Church on fire we need to invite and live in the fire of the Holy Spirit.”
St. Therese student Aiden Powell described the “Called and Gifted” workshop as a space “to explore the gifts God gave me through greater self knowledge and to discover my call through intentional discernment and cultivate a deeper and more intentional relationship with Jesus.”
Openness to the Holy Spirit is key, he said. “There is no such thing as vocational unemployment. We are all called to holiness and we are all called and gifted for holiness.” The workshop is not difficult, it is soaked in prayer and it is the start of a lifelong journey, he said. “More charisms pop up and it’s just beautiful, it’s a journey that just sets you on fire.”
He added: “The Synodal process is basically this: it is loving one another and it is accompanying one another, in unity toward Christ, and he is our companion and he will be with us, but he is also our destination.”
Anne Williams provided an overview of the “Called and Gifted” program from the Catherine of Siena Institute introducing it as a tool that the diocese and its parishes might use to call forth and strengthen missionary disciples. “It is a discernment process designed to help Christians discern the presence of charisms in their lives.”
Jim Anderson of St. Therese Institute of Faith and Mission opened and closed his session about charisms with a prayer of Pope John XXIII, used in convocating the Second Vatican Council in December 1961:
“Divine Spirit, renew your wonders in this our age as in a new Pentecost, and grant that your Church, praying perseveringly and insistently with one heart and mind together with Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and guided by blessed Peter, may increase the reign of the Divine Saviour, the reign of truth and justice, the reign of love and peace. Come Holy Spirit, Amen.”