Handing on the Whole Tradition

Dr. Glenn CJ Byer

Isn’t it great to be Catholic these days? The Pope is admired around the world, we have just celebrated the Easter rituals and customs that help us to be aware of the presesnce of God in our lives, and people who share our faith continue to do amazing things in service to the poor, the unborn, the elderly.

But challenges remain. Many people have no place for church membership in their lives. They feel like they need to run non-stop just to supply food, shelter, health, education, and to find a bit of community support and recreation for their families. These sound like physical needs, and at one level they are, but it is to our loss if we see them only in those terms, for these same concerns exist on the level of the spiritual life.

Those of us who are part of the Church show how membership can meet the spiritual dimension of these physical needs. The tradition of which we are a part expects this, and if we don’t act on this, we diminish the power of the Gospel.

Food – Faith means that the word of God is the food for our souls. In the sacraments, especially the Mass we know that God in Christ himself feeds us. So it seems to me that when it comes to food in the world, the Church, our communities need to be there too. The Church had a long tradition of blessing the food for the Easter meals, of blessing seeds, fields and animals, and of giving thanks at the harvest. We still have all these tools at our disposal. We can also bless hunters and fishermen during their various seasons. But there are new ways we can be present. Why not an annual day of prayer for farmers who are planning out the coming year. A mix of discussion among farmers and prayer for discernment places the Church at the centre of these discussions. So too the care for people who need food through the support of food banks and other charities must be at the heart of parish life. It is what we do. What we are handing on is the faith that all that nourishes us comes from God.

Shelter – I was sad to see that St. Anthony’s in my home town of Busby is no longer there. This is not just nostalgia. It was in many ways my spiritual home. I knew the families that had built that place, and it was a kind of sacrament of their devotion. When we talk about building homes for our families, any carpenter will tell you that it is much more than the sum of the individual beams and drywall. In this world of mobility, I am so grateful for the communities of faith in nearly a dozen places where I have lived. Often it has been immediately clear I could count on other Catholics to welcome me and to let me know about all the wonderful things that the local community has to offer. Even before newcomers to our community unpack all the boxes, they should know that they have a place to lay their spirit.

Health –Healthcare has been part of the Christian tradition since since Christ had healing as a major part of his ministry. Since then, remembering all the order of nursing sisters, the efforst of the hospital orders in the Holy Land, what we are learning once again is that spiritual balance has a key role to play in our physical balance, in our health. What we can hand on is the tradition of visiting and praying with the sick, listening to their fears and bringing Communion and the love of the community to them. It is especially at the end of life that we have much to offer, both in terms of the liturgy and prayer, but equally important assuring them by our presence that they are not alone as they make that great journey. What we are handing on is that community is not just for the easy times. It is especially for the hard times, and by faith it is for all time and beyond time.

Education and Recreation – In the debates that sometimes flare up around Catholic schools, we need to remember that the Church, the actual Catholic Church has been at the forefront of education, science, the arts, and yes, even of sports. It was Christian Brother Matthias Boutlier that trained Babe Ruth, and here in Canada, we had the Flying Fathers. Many Catholic organizations continue this tradition of showing how learning, performing and playing are all ways in which we can share our faith and celebrate the gifts that God has given us. To reduce Catholic faith to going to church, prayer and acts of charity is to weaken the power of the message. Faith is for all, and the church should be reaching out in a thousand ways to show God’s love.

Community Support – Ultimately all of this comes to the building of a caring community. In the years since Vatican II the Church has done wonderful work at placing the celebration of the Eucharist at the summit of our lives as Catholics. What has been less successful is the development of the rest of the spiritual life. The Eucharist needs to be the summit of something more, and so the life of the community – in prayer, in education and recreation, in caring for the needs of others, and in nourishing the body and soul of all God’s children – all of this needs to be part of the tradition – part of what we hand on to those who follow in our footsteps.

A National Campaign for Palliative and Home Care: Against Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide


It is my pleasure to advise you today of some important changes to the Marriage Tribunal that serves the five Roman Catholic dioceses in Alberta and the Northwest Territories.

Through the cooperation of all five bishops and with the permission of the Holy See, we have integrated tribunal services into one body now known as the Interdiocesan Tribunal of Edmonton.

Through this change, we hope to offer better and more timely service to anyone who requires a declaration of nullity before entering a new marriage within the Catholic Church.

The new Interdiocesan Tribunal of Edmonton has its main office at the Pastoral and Administration Offices of the Archdiocese of Edmonton, and an auxiliary office at the Catholic Pastoral Centre of the Diocese of Calgary. The personnel in each office will remain the same as they were before this change.

The new arrangement has enabled the following changes:

1. The Interdiocesan Tribunal of Edmonton has its own visual identity, which will be reflected in signage, stationery and on the new website at www.edmontontribunal.ca. Our five member dioceses will be encouraged to place links to the new site prominently on their diocesan sites. 2. A shared file which can be used from either Edmonton or Calgary will be set up to allow staff in either office to access all of the print material required when processing a nullity case (decrees, citation and notification letters, the definitive sentence, and questionnaires for interviews.) 3. Two Excel spreadsheets have been put into use to replace several record books and ledgers that were kept manually, and were previously in use in both offices. This allows tribunal staff to track both the progress of a case, and the current balance outstanding, online. All information required for year-end reporting is available from these spreadsheets. 4. Later this year training will be provided for a number of advocates who will be able to offer assistance to the parties during the time their case is pending. 5. Training will also be provided to increase the number of auditors available. 6. The roster of active judges for the tribunal has been increased from seven to twelve, which should help expedite cases.

I am grateful to all who have collaborated with the Bishops on this project. May we all be guided by the mercy of God the Father, the love of His Son Jesus Christ, and the wisdom of the Holy Spirit.

† Richard W. Smith

Archbishop of Edmonton

Moderator of the Interdiocesan Tribunal of Edmonton

2 March 2015