Posts Tagged ‘Roman Catholic’

A Collaborative Faith Talk with Bruce Callow

For those unfamiliar with the term, you are not a Trekkie either (which can I show you some stuff?) or you are not a fan of the fifth movie adventure of the original series crew, The Final Frontier. It is the journey for the Source, God if you will. Some balk because of the idea, humanity advanced beyond the concepts of religion (or is simply we had advanced beyond the bigotry and divisions that religion used as an opiate for the masses, as a means of power and control?). For those who do not think spirituality (those intrinsic pieces of us that get renewed through certain practices that speaks to the beginning of the answer to the why question of life), look no further, than the show enjoying a renaissance thank to streaming, Star Trek Deep Space Nine, which interweaves rebirth, renewal, de-colonization, reconciliation, science, and religion together. Illustrating the types of questions each is designed for.

Why does this matter? What percolated these thoughts once more, about how stories, like Star Trek, and science, and faith can co-exist together? It began to take shape on the Spock Days adventure, as my friend, Bruce, began to speak to joining the Roman Catholic Church in Costa Rica, and began pondering the wandering journey that brings us to these moments of pilgrimage. 

Bruce is a musician, a storyteller, a community builder, and an educator. For those regular followers, you may remember the various Friday night space & science conferences out of Costa Rica I would share that he was a part of, or you have read or seen one of his books, or been a part of one of his community building through music projects in Calgary through the Drop In Centre, or the name is memorable from the interview here, and in the Calgary Herald, of his work in Poland with Ukrainian refugees. 

I pondered his openness in sharing the journey of faith, with who he was, and will let him share…

What was your background of Christianity?

I grew up in the United Church of Canada. Parkdale United Church is where I received my Christian formation. That church had a strong social justice culture and my mum was very involved in that stuff. Later, as a high school student I began to learn about Liberation Theology in the fight against oppression which was part of what compelled me to want to learn more about Central America. Nicaragua had managed to overthrow  a dictatorship and it was heady idealistic stuff to be connected to, at least for a while. Several Jesuit priests and university staff were massacred in El Salvador at the time when I was studying political science at the U of Calgary, I had applied for an internship to work with them a few months before that happened. Oscar Romero of El Salvador and Jerzy Popiełuszko of Poland are heroes of mine. Both gave their lives in the struggle against oppression.

When did the questioning or connecting begin?

My reconnection with faith-based matters got going during my time in Poland earlier this year. Christianity was always in the background for me, but this visit helped it come to surface in a more articulated way. The Catholic Church was a subversive organization during the Cold War that helped lead to the overthrow of the Soviet Union. I got a better appreciation of how important the church is in Poland by talking to people there.  That faith and strength rubbed off on me and I think I needed it as supporting refugees directly in a time of war can be a very draining and consuming experience. To do the work I was doing effectively I could not wear a mask. A smile can’t be shared very well  with a mask on.  Visiting refugee centers with 4,000 mostly unmasked people packed in there, well you know that you might catch something. It was a calculated risk and that’s where faith helped me a lot to be cheerful and always give my best to the Ukrainians. I had already had COVID and had had my shots too. My faith has given me the strength to carry on helping Ukraine in other ways this year.  I met someone very important in Warsaw, it was a chance encounter at the busy Central Railway Station where he was assisting new arrivals from Ukraine.I observed him and other volunteers with awe and much respect. That 2 minute conversation led to a chain reaction of activity and a very special friendship. His name is Roman Lakhnyyuk. Roman is a 23 year old Ukrainian but moved to Edmonton when he was 12. I guess you could say meeting him was the reason I went to Poland.  It is amazing how two strangers can connect like that in the midst of all the turmoil and distractions.  We have helped 40 Ukrainians get to Canada this year and now are delivering other projects in Ukraine.

What have you learned on the journey?

I like the saying “Your life is not about you.” There are so many generational aspects going on regarding the impacts you can make. It is a bit like time travel going forwards and backwards and sending messages to the future. Do what you can to help others but try not to sacrifice yourself in the process. But do push the limits of what you can do. Spending time outside your comfort zone is necessary if you want to grow. And denounce what needs to be denounced and that includes about  churches, like the petition we organized about the abuses committed by churches against indigenous school children in Canada. Pope Francis came to Canada to apologize in person this year which was especially important for healing to take place and trust to be restored.

How do you see God in science, space, stories, music, the world?

Verbal explanations of God are too hard for me, I’ll leave that to others. For me God is a quiet voice that tells me to keep going when I think there is nothing left to give. Humility is very important. I think religion and science can be effective partners, at least they should be.

“ This upcoming conference is a good example of how the worlds of science and religion can come together.”

Anything else you would like to share in regard to the journey through spiritual formation in the church?

I don’t pretend to be a guide of any sort. I am happy I completed my Catholic studies this year and to be welcomed formally into the church. It feels like a direct connection to history somehow and there is a lot of cool mystery. Pope Francis suggested yesterday that people have a more austere Christmas this year and give what we have left over to help the people of Ukraine. His commitment to Ukraine is impressive.

Roman and I just arranged the purchase of a diesel generator for the state orphanage in Lviv Ukraine which houses 168 kids, using funds we generated at our recent benefit concert at St. David’s United Church. I feel good we can help Ukrainians in a tangible way to get through this hard winter and I look forward to continuing these kinds of projects working with all kinds of partners.


When grieving, contemplation, prayer and collaboration lead to action. That is what this Saturday morning was about as my youngest tried to decide for their final Grade 8 Social Studies project which nation that is a part of them to discover and share (Metis, Indigenous, European), a friend reached out about what educators can do in our shock and grieving over the discovery of the unmarked grave on May 27, 2021 at the site of Kamloops, BC residential school.

What happened was, and I hope/pray will be powerful, a call to action on the dormant call to actions. There is a petition you can sign here.

If you would rather reach out via e-mail to the local faith leaders and political leaders that can make the International Investigation and locating of the other missing children, feel free to adapt the below letter and send on:

To Pope Francis, Archbishops & Bishops of Roman Catholic Dioceses in Canada

 Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Canada

 Moderator of the United Church of Canada

 Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada 

 The Government of Canada

Re: An Open Letter to actualize Truth and Reconciliation Call to Action #75 from Educators from Canada and around the world.

On May 27, 2021, an unmarked mass grave of 215 children was found on Turtle Island (Canada). 

Youngsters stripped from their homes on the onus of the Canadian Government, handed over to religious authorities for the purpose of cultural genocide. This act of genocide ended their lives. A discovery that had the Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada to ask for flags to be lowered in mourning.  

Sadly, this atrocity is not an isolated incident, but rather it is part of a dark chapter of history, known as Residential Schools which were closed in 1996. It is time for Canadians and people around the world to know this story, atrocities, and all. It is time to heal, as other nations have held up the mirror and investigated the darkness to know the truth and act in reconciliation.

It is time for Canada to be honest in our truth, and act on our intent of reconciliation. For those from a religious background, reconciliation is recognized as a sacrament, or an important act lived through the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth known as the Christ for Christians. It is not simply saying, “I am sorry for what has been done”. It is articulating the right words for what has happened, making amends and reparations, affecting healthy closure, and with that closure the grieving process in order to  move forward in healing towards a new reality. 

This open letter from educators calls on those institutions involved to turn their records over to international investigators so that they will be able to locate and return the lost children to their families for appropriate mourning. For  international investigators to be able to state clearly to Canadians the truth that is being evaded. Only then will it be possible to move forward in the spirit of reconciliation. 

On every Holocaust Remembrance we utter those words, “We will never forget or repeat,”and the whole time our own genocide was being carried out.

We acknowledge the 4/5 institutions that have apologized, and the work Anglicans, Presbyterians and United Christians have been attempting in Reconciliation work. We call on the Roman Catholic Church to actively live what their Catechism teaches on Reconciliation and  to not only formally apologize but catch up to where their contemporaries are at in the process. And to move forward to ensure the call to actions are actualized (not simply read or taught but done). For Canada, like other nations around the world needs to finally interrupt and heal our intergenerational trauma, and know our truth.

I woke up the morning of December 19 for work with my shirt soaked with tears. It is not a normal occurrence, but my son had a rough night of emotional pain and crawled into bed and couldn’t stop crying. Why you ask?  Well that is an intriguing story that actually started a reminiscence for long time readers.

A few years back when I was editor of socialist paper, I had a column dubbed “View from the Pew” where I would ruminate on the crossroads of the spiritual and political. As those in Canada know (or may need to re-learn) that the progressive movements started over coffee and tea in church basements in trying to build our just society.

A society that a spiritual centre dubs in their Metro paper ads as “inclusive” and my son learned far to devastatingly that this was false on the morning of December 18, which led to the tears overnight.

It was a secondary response from a pulpit that was anything but inclusive, and sadly so different from what he, in his joy, was used to feeling/experiencing.  Our world is not comfortable with those blessed and experiencing the world differently abled, we like to sidebar or over see or exclude. As some may realize, my family is not like that, when we speak of an open door for anyone, and even to loss of spiritual homes we have lived this.

So a few years back, we were attending and about to join the Roman Catholic church (I know shocking with their conservative theology, but bear with me on this)…and my sons joyful noise was addressed from the pulpit during High Mass, and y’know what the Priest came back with?  Hallejuah that there is someone so alive with love and the Spirit here today, that is how we all should be in our faith and living of love.

A faith home, that also had leadership that essentially stated all were welcome, all ages were welcome, and those raising complaints would be dealt with by the leadership for not including all God’s children.

Fast forward a few years and we are a family in a spiritual centre that speaks of inclusion, that never raises any issue with my son’s joyful noise. One time, the av guy had to come speak with us, he was respectful needing us to move from the back to the front so the sounds did not overcome the recording microphone. We got it, and even though the stadium seating stair case at SAIT Orpheus Theatre are not easy for someone with Cerebral Palsy to move down, supported by me, that is not always the strongest of backs, we made it work.

Then as my son in his grief cycle of loss, got to the point he wanted to go back to “church” to hear music, and hear about Santa…we went.  The morning music was about Santa, he was rocking in joy, and excited with pics of his buddy (Santa) up on the screen…when it happened.

The Minister decided it was time to attack as he was taking a moment to gleefully calm down. Asking him to move to the back or not make a noise while she talked. My son said No. He knew there was no option to move to the back, and by asking he was being kicked out.  With the next noise he made in glee…my son and me left. It was a hard walk up, as he did not want to go, but I could not deal with any more spiritual assault from the pulpit to my little boy. Eyes were averted.

Of this great spiritual place that boasts 9 other “deeply trained” practitioners and ministers, none followed, no members of the congregation that always said how they enjoyed my son followed to see if we were okay…sorry check that…one loan lady came running out in tears pleading for us to go back in saying he wasn’t bad, but that’s all my son could repeat:

Santa thinks I’m naughty. I spent time calming him, soothing him, reminding him no he was not naughty, this is the ugliness of prejudice that he is far to young to experience.

A few members came out to use the washroom or get a drink, he would say hi, they would not make eye contact and hustle past completely ignoring him. We were waiting as I did not want my daughter to feel the pain of being cast out to by pulling her out of Funday early.

But as we waited,

I watched the sparkle leave my son’s eye. His joy fade to a pale facade, as each of these “holy” people ran away…

my little boy who a few years earlier when we became members thanked this place for loving him…looked at me and said, “Daddy they no love me.”

Was there an outreach for an apology? A feeble attempt of the, it was handled badly moments…made worse by the centre believing they could post the video unedited of the talk, so that I actually had to contact them to deal with it in a respectful way…because that act in itself tells me you saw nothing wrong with the actions as a community, and do not see him as a full person.

But it was the ringing silence that morning that struck me…one person whose heart is bigger than her, but no one else, and those that did averted like you think we had the plague. That is when it hit me. The progressive spiritual movements were in shock when someone like Trump road a wave of lowest common denominator to the presidency and in shock asked how?

Sunday Morning December 18 when my little boy was asked to leave a spiritual gathering over joy in Santa, and all but one person in a 100+ person gathering remained silent. Sat in silent solidarity with the most vulnerable being cast out…that is how a USA 2016 election result happens, you are now part of the tipping point to the opposite of love and inclusion.

This is my humble view from my pew (or in this case padded seat in an Orpheus Theatre to a wooden bench in the SAIT Student Centre).



Wednesday, May 9, 2012
At least 32 Roman Catholic priests have fled the country to avoid prosecution since 1985 and only five have returned to face trial, reports the Chicago Tribune.
Getting On The Right Side of History For LGBT Rights
Possible Hate Crime As Historic Church Is Vandalized
An Intellectual Journey To Islam
Buddhist Abbey
A Dream Fulfilled For U.S. Nuns
Rosa Parks Gets Statue In National Cathedral
Brad Hirschfield: Missing Maurice Sendak
Sendack knew that we should never pretend about the potential danger of human rampaging, but neither should we lose hope about the possibility of returning home. We don’t, as Reb Maurice teaches, escape to a better place, as much as we return to where we came from.
Arnold M. Eisen: Holiness After the Death of 6 Million
Holiness is meant to pervade all of daily behavior, not to inhabit the high points of experience only. Love means reaching out toward neighbors and the world with the same care, regard and generosity we normally reserve for ourselves and those closest to us.
Charles Redfern: What Would Happen if Environmentalists Learned to Laugh and Play Cards?
Can we schmooze and trade business cards and crack jokes and slap backs and form partnerships? Or will we keep alienating potential collaborators with a brand of green fundamentalism?
Robert P. Jones, Ph.D.: Why Are Millennials Leaving the Church?
Pastors and priests seeking to fill their pews with young churchgoers have a tough task ahead. Many younger Millennials have already moved away from the religion in which they were raised, mostly joining the growing ranks of the religiously unaffiliated.
Anat Biletzki: Why I Am Not a Liberal Zionist: A Response to Liberal Zionists Speak Out
If Zionism has been based on a set of values — any values — that “override whatever injustices statehood has brought,” then it has taken us as far as one can get from the set of values that undergird liberal democracy.