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Catholic school district in Canada mandates LGBT Pride Month awareness, staff training

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Hamilton, Canada, May 9, 2021 / 15:00 pm (CNA).

While a Catholic school district in Ontario failed to pass a proposal to fly the rainbow-colored LGBT Pride Flag outside schools in June, the school board changed the proposal to say that staff should “raise awareness around Pride Month.” The board mandated staff training on the issue to encourage “shared understanding” and requested a review from the Ontario education minister.

 

Patrick Murphy, chair of the Halton Catholic District School Board, told CTV News Toronto that many people spoke out against the proposal to fly the LGBT rainbow flag at all schools in celebration of Pride Month and to put safe space posters in every class.

 

“The reality is, we received probably a thousand emails. There is polarization on this subject,” he said.

 

At an April 26 meeting, the school board debated the proposed motion. They amended the motion to remove the request to fly the flag and instead decided to put one poster in each school.

 

“We received a great deal of feedback on the proposed motion to recognize Pride Month from members of our community, and we know that some will be disappointed with the outcome of our deliberation,” Murphy said in an April 27 statement. “The actions prescribed in the motion adopted by the Board of Trustees outline the first steps in an ongoing commitment to supporting the 2SLGBTQ+ members in our HCDSB community.”

 

The expanded LGBT acronym used by Murphy includes “queer/questioning,” “two-spirited” and other professions of sexuality.

 

The school district has 37,000 students in 45 elementary schools, nine secondary schools, and three continuing education schools. On its website, the district describes itself as “distinctively Catholic, providing exceptional education, while nurturing the call to love and to serve as a people of faith, living out God’s plan.”

 

Its values statement includes support for “conditions that support the spiritual, intellectual, physical and emotional well-being of all students so that they may fulfill their God-given potential.”

 

The board’s amended April 26 motion, titled “Supporting Our Diverse School Community,” resolved that the school district staff “raise awareness around Pride Month” starting June 2021, following the guidelines of a May 19, 2020 communication from the Institute for Catholic Education, the support organization for English-language Catholic schools in Ontario. It required that each school post signs “to ensure that students in the 2SLBGTQ+ community are supported throughout the entire school year.”

 

It mandated training for senior school board staff so that the school board can “create a shared understanding” on “the Catholic Social Teaching on loving and accompanying students who identify as 2SLGBTQ+, denominational rights and rights of students and staff under the Ontario Human Rights Code.” This training is to start with the school year.

 

It also mandated such training for principals, vice principals, teachers, chaplains, early childhood education staff, and special education staff, to be started in September.

 

Ontario is one of three Canadian provinces— the others being Alberta and Saskatchewan— that fully fund Catholic school systems with taxpayer money. While provincial governments set basic rules for the operation of those schools, local decisions are made by trustee boards elected by Catholics at the time of municipal elections. Schools are not owned by the dioceses in which they operate. While bishops set catechetical curricula and ensure sacramental ministry in school contexts, they do not exercise control over elected boards.

 

CNA sought comment from the Diocese of Hamilton, the Halton Catholic school board, and the Institute for Catholic Education, but did not receive a response by deadline.

 

Murphy’s statement said that mandatory staff training, raising community awareness, and making sure that resources and supports are in place for students are part of “a long-term strategy to creating and maintaining safe and inclusive learning environments in each of our schools where all students and staff can feel welcomed and accepted.”

 

Days before the board meeting, in an April 19 letter, Murphy wrote on behalf of the board to Ontario’s Minister of Education Stephen Lecce. He cited the Ontario Education Action Plan’s action item on the need to strengthen the “inclusive culturally responsive and relevant curriculum, assessment and resources… available to educators.”

 

That action item includes providing resources and professional development support to teachers and school leaders to “combat Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, racism, homophobia and transphobia.”

 

The school board made a formal request to the education minister for “a review and revision of the Ontario curriculum to better incorporate the culture and history of racialized and marginalized students and staff, including: women, people with disabilities, Black and Indigenous People, People of Color, and 2SLGBTQ+ individuals.”

 

The Halton Catholic District School Board policy on equity and inclusive education, last updated in 2019, stresses both commitment to the Church and commitment to a learning environment that treats individuals with respect regardless of various categories, including “sexual orientation, gender identity, (and) gender expression,” in accord with Ontario’s Human Rights Code.

 

Its commitments to religious freedom and freedom from discrimination or harassment are to be interpreted in accordance with this code, said the policy. At the same time, the policy notes the denominational rights of Catholic schools.

 

Nicole Hotchkiss, a twelfth grade student at St. Ignatius of Loyola in Oakville, had backed the measure to fly the Pride Flag

 

“The entire point of my motion and my original delegation was that people would know that Catholic schools support LGBTQ2+ students and they denied us once again today,” said Hotchkiss. 

 

She told CTV News Toronto that it was unfair to see the controversy as a debate between equal sides and “basically have your rights debated in front of you.”

 

“You're told that it's through a Catholic lens so you have to sort of view both sides, but one side is telling you that you're not welcome, you're not accepted, you shouldn't have the right to marry who you want, that your identity doesn't exist.”

 

She said, “the message that I got is that they're afraid.”

 

The Halton chapter of the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association, which has 3,000 members, wrote a letter in support of flying the Pride flag. After the school board’s decision, all Catholic high schools in the district made some show of support of the Pride flag, including changing their logos.

 

Kirsten Kelly, the Burlington student trustee on the board, said the decision against the flag was “frustrating” and shows “ that a lot of people don't want to move forward and they are very set back in their ways in trying to defend the fact the 2SLGBTQ+ community shouldn't be supported by the Catholic community,” adding, “it is just full of bigotry and hatred.”

 

Kelly is also public affairs coordinator with the Ontario Student Trustees’ Association, CBC News reports.

 

At times, school board leaders have censored or rejected critics who cite Catholic teaching.

 

In November, Thomas Cardinal Collins of Toronto rebuked members of the Toronto Catholic District school board for refusing to allow a passage of the Catechism of the Catholic Church pertaining to ministry to people with same-sex attraction to be read during a recent meeting.

 

“The Catholic faith must guide all who are engaged in Catholic education— including students, teachers, administrators, and trustees— or that education ceases to be Catholic,” Collins said.

 

The Canadian Community Health Survey for 2015–2016 reported that 1.4% of Canadians over age 15 identified as homosexual and 1.5% identify as bisexual.

 

Trans Care BC, a transgender-affirming group run by the Province of British Columbia, has claimed that between 1% and 3% of Canadians identify as transgender. Statistics Canada has not previously collected information on such self-identification and is testing responses for the 2021 census, according to a June 2019 report from the Standing Committee on Health of the Canadian House of Commons.

Pope Francis: To love like Christ means saying ‘no’ to love of money, vanity, power

Pope Francis waves during Regina Coeli address on May 2, 2021. / Vatican Media/CNA.

Vatican City, May 9, 2021 / 07:00 am (CNA).

Pope Francis said Sunday that loving like Christ requires a rejection of the worldly loves of money, success, vanity, and power.

“To love like Christ means saying 'no' to other ‘loves’ that the world offers us: love of money – those who love money do not love as Jesus loves -- love of success, vanity, of power,” the pope said from the window of the Apostolic Palace on May 9.

“These deceptive paths of ‘love’ distance us from the Lord’s love and lead us to become more and more selfish, narcissistic, overbearing. And being overbearing leads to a degeneration of love, to the abuse of others, to making our loved ones suffer.”

In his Regina Caeli address, the pope told pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square that “Jesus asks us to abide in his love,” not in “our own self-worship.”

“Those who dwell in self-worship, live in the mirror, always looking at themselves,” he said.

The pope said that Jesus desires “us to overcome the pretense of controlling and managing others,” and wants to open hearts to self-giving love for others.

“To love as Jesus means to offer yourself in service, at the service of your brothers and sisters, as he did in washing the feet of the disciples,” he said.

“It also means going outside of ourselves, detaching ourselves from our own human certainties, from earthly comforts, in order to open ourselves up to others, especially those in greater need. It means making ourselves available, as we are and with what we have.”

After reciting the Regina caeli, a Marian prayer said during the Easter season, the pope asked people to pray for the victims of a terrorist attack in Afghanistan.

At least 50 people were killed and more than 100 injured in a bombing on May 8 outside of a school in Kabul, according to the BBC. Many of the victims were young girls who attended the school.

Pope Francis called the attack “an inhumane act” and asked people to pray for each of the victims and their families. “And may God give peace to Afghanistan,” he added.

The pope also expressed concern about “violent clashes” in Colombia and in Jerusalem. He prayed for peace in both places, urging that the Holy Land should be “a place of prayer and peace.”

Pope Francis commended the May 9 beatification of Blessed Rosario Livatino, a Catholic judge brutally killed by the mafia in Sicily in 1990, calling him a “martyr of justice and faith.”

“And we cannot forget mothers!” the pope added, acknowledging Mother’s Day and extending a greeting to “all mothers around the world.”

“The Lord wants the joy he possesses … to be in us insofar as we are united to Him,” Pope Francis said.

“The joy of knowing we are loved by God despite our infidelities enables us to face the trials of life confidently, makes us live through crises so as to emerge from them better.”

“Our being true witnesses consists in living this joy, because joy is the distinctive sign of a true Christian. True Christians are not sad; they always have that joy inside, even in difficult moments.”

Just 'do the next thing': How one Colorado couple is raising four children with Down syndrome

The McGarrity family (L to R) Jeffrey, Augustine, Sonia, Charlotte, Jeff, RoseMarie, Cecilia, Sean, Brendan, Thomas. Photo courtesy of Patrick Sola.

Denver, Colo., May 9, 2021 / 06:01 am (CNA).

Many things in the McGarrity household start early, including preparations for Mother’s Day. Sonia McGarrity has eight children, ranging in age from three to 18, three of whom are adopted. Four kids, including McGarrity’s third oldest son and their three adopted daughters, have Down syndrome. For Mother’s Day, McGarrity has all of her children—biological and adopted—sign cards for the three birth mothers and six grandmothers of the girls. 

While McGarrity first thought about adopting a child with Down syndrome after she miscarried in her second pregnancy, the thought took a back seat when she and her husband, Jeff, welcomed sons Sean, Jeffrey, and Brendan into their home. Jeffrey was born with Down syndrome, unbeknownst to the McGarritys before his arrival. Pregnant with their fourth child, the McGarritys moved from Washington, D.C. to Colorado.

“We were extremely busy, doing therapies, trying to find and remodel a house, and were not actively discerning adopting,” Sonia McGarrity said. “But, when Brendan was about two years old, I had had two miscarriages, and we were open to having more children. One thing that struck our hearts was to learn about Down syndrome.”

In their research, the McGarritys learned about how many children were being aborted with a prenatal diagnosis. 

“I contacted the National Down Syndrome Adoption Network to ask if it was crazy to be a parent of a child with Down syndrome who also wants to adopt a child with Down syndrome,” McGarrity said. “The woman on the other end of the line said, ‘I have four children with Down syndrome,’ and I was like, ‘Ok, I guess I’m not crazy.’” 

The McGarritys began a home study in May 2010 to see where God would lead them. Shortly after finalizing their home study, they were contacted by Cecilia’s birth parents to ask if they would be open to parenting her. They agreed and Cecilia, or “CeCi,” came home to them in December of 2010. Throughout the adoption process, the McGarritys professed their Catholic faith and shared that they would be raising their children in the Church.

“Nobody understands what these beautiful souls, with their unconditional love and acceptance of every single person they meet, can do,” Sonia shared. “It’s about opening your heart to say ‘God, I want to love as much as you will give me love. We are surrounded by love and opportunities to love.”

Sonia and Jeff welcomed a fifth son, Augustine in 2011, followed by the adoption of RoseMarie in 2015 and Charlotte in 2018. RoseMarie and Charlotte both have Down syndrome. 

When asked about the possibility of adopting Charlotte, McGarrity, who was 50 at the time, said she didn’t think she had the energy to chase after a two year old. In her prayer, she told God that if he was calling them to do this, it needed to be really clear. 

“We didn’t think we could handle it, but obviously we can because she’s ours,” McGarrity said with a laugh. “There is this beautiful thing that happens when you meet your [adopted] child where you are like, ‘Oh, yeah, she’s mine.’ God knows who your children are going to be and he picks you specifically to parent them.” 

A normal day in the McGarrity household begins around 5:30 a.m. Sonia makes breakfast and lunches for the whole family and tries to get everyone out the door to one of their four respective schools by 8:30 a.m. 

“I made two loaves of french toast this morning and six pounds of bacon,” Sonia said. “My kitchen right now is an utter wreck. We wake up and the whole kitchen is clean, and getting seven children out the door for the day with lunches, it’s chaos.”

With the older children off to school, Charlotte, now two-and-a-half-years-old, has in-home therapy, and Sonia cleans up from the morning rush. Then, they head to a local food bank, where Sonia volunteers stocking shelves for a couple of hours.

In the afternoon, Sonia and Charlotte return home and get ready for the other kids to return from school. She also tries to have dinner ready by 1 p.m., for the kids to “grab and go” in the evening between various therapies, sports and music activities. Each of the children with Down syndrome have about eight hours of therapy every week. 

“I probably have about three pages of things to get done, and might get through a quarter of a page each day,” Sonia said. “I’m never caught up, but that’s where the Lord has to keep saying, ‘I’m not asking you to complete the list. I’m just asking you to do what you need to do today.’ And the most important thing I have to do every day is love my kids.”  

Though she never imagined she would have four children with Down syndrome, Sonia feels that God has blessed her family with children who are “little love machines,” she shared. 

Today, Sonia and Jeff are active in helping other parents who have a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome. They invite expecting parents into their home and talk openly about the challenges and joys of parenting children with Down syndrome, as well as adoption plans. 

“Our goal has always been to say, ‘If you are a birth parent and you have a prenatal diagnosis, come and meet our family. Come and see what life is like,’” Sonia said. “Because there is this sort of unknown with a stigma attached, and what doctors are telling you, that makes it difficult to decide whether to parent or write an adoption plan.”

The McGarritys’ home study remains open, and Sonia has been active in various Facebook groups to let expectant mothers know that if they have a prenatal diagnosis and are considering an abortion, she is happy to parent their child.  

“God has called us to spread the joy of Down syndrome adoption,” she shared. 

When asked how she does it all, Sonia credits her husband, a supportive parish, great girlfriends, and good neighbors. She also makes time for frequent confession and encourages her kids to do the same.

“I have a wonderful husband,” she said about Jeff, who works as the director of music for St. Thomas More Catholic Church in Centennial, Colorado. “Everybody who knows us says we make a great team. Our new thing is that every morning when he wakes up, he comes downstairs, gives me a big hug, and he says, ‘Are you ready to do it again today?’ It reminds me that whatever comes our way, we can tackle it, we can take it, and I’m not alone.”

The family ends each day with Compline from the Liturgy of the Hours, singing the Marian antiphon and praying for forgiveness for whatever is on their hearts. 

“Number one, I remind myself every day that we live in the ‘valley of tears,’ but this is not our home,” Sonia said. 

“My only job is to get myself and my kids to heaven. I just do the next thing.”

Rosario Livatino beatified in Sicily, honored as ‘martyr of justice and faith’

Rosario Livatino.

Rome Newsroom, May 9, 2021 / 05:40 am (CNA).

Blessed Rosario Livatino, a Catholic judge brutally killed by the mafia in 1990, was beatified Sunday in the Cathedral of Agrigento, Sicily.

Pope Francis commended the beatification of the young judge, calling him a “martyr of justice and faith” at the end of his Regina Caeli address on May 9.

“In his service to the community as an upright judge, he never allowed himself to be corrupted. He strove to judge, not to condemn, but to redeem,” Pope Francis said from the window of the Apostolic Palace.

“He always placed his work ‘under the protection of God;’ for this he became a witness of the Gospel until his heroic death. May his example be for everyone, especially magistrates, an incentive to be loyal defenders of the law and liberty,” he said.

The beatification of Rosario Livatino at the Cathedral of Agrigento / Vatican Media/ACI Group
The beatification of Rosario Livatino at the Cathedral of Agrigento / Vatican Media/ACI Group

Cardinal Marcello Semeraro, the prefect for the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints, offered the beatification Mass in the Cathedral of Agrigento on the morning of May 9.

“Livatino is a witness of the justice of the Kingdom of God. While Livatino is a hero of the State and of the law, he is also a martyr of Christ,” Semeraro said in his homily.

A relic of Livatino, a shirt stained with his dried blood from the day of his murder, was venerated at the Mass in a transparent reliquary.

Cardinal Semeraro read out the beatification declaration from the pope: “We grant Venerable Rosario Livatino, lay person and martyr who was a credible witness of the Gospel in the service of justice, can henceforth be called blessed.” His feast day will be Oct. 29.

A relic of Rosario Livatino's shirt stained with his blood. / Vatican Media/ ACI Group
A relic of Rosario Livatino's shirt stained with his blood. / Vatican Media/ ACI Group

Livatino worked as a prosecutor in Sicily dealing with the criminal activity of the mafia throughout the 1980s. He confronted what Italians later called the “Tangentopoli,” the corrupt system of mafia bribes and kickbacks given for public works contracts.

At the age of 37, he served as a judge at the Court of Agrigento.

He was driving unescorted toward the Agrigento courthouse when another car hit his vehicle, sending him off the road. He ran from the crashed vehicle into a field, but was shot in the back and then killed with more gunshots.

Today a plaque on the highway marks the spot where Livatino was killed. It reads: “Martyr of justice.” On Dec. 21, Pope Francis elevated this title when he recognized the judge as a martyr killed “in hatred of the faith.”

His legal legacy lives on through the work of the Rosario Livatino Study Center, which is dedicated to issues of life, the family, and religious freedom.

After a controversy erupted earlier this year over the translation of Livatino’s relics from his hometown to the Cathedral of Agrigento, it was announced Feb. 19 that the martyred judge’s body would remain in the town of Canicattì, about 25 miles northeast of Agrigento.

Livatino is buried in the chapel of the Canicattì cemetery, a town of about 35,000 people and his birthplace.

Pope Francis wrote a preface to a book about Rosario Livatino published in March in which he reflected on the lessons of Rosario Livatino’s life and death.

The pope recalled that the judge was shot dead by young men paid by two Sicilian organized crime groups, the Stidda and Cosa Nostra.

He said that Livatino’s last words were: “Picciotti [young mafiosi], what did I do to you?”

Pope Francis said: “To Rosario Angelo Livatino, today also through his beatification, we give thanks for the example he leaves us, for having fought every day the good fight of faith with humility, meekness and mercy."

Livatino did everything “always and only in the name of Christ, without ever abandoning faith and justice, even in the imminent risk of death,” he said. “This is the seed that was planted, this is the fruit that will come.”

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Mother’s Day: 12 Catholic Quotes on the Beauty of Motherhood

Mosaic of Our Lady of Guadalupe inside Christ Cathedral in Orange, California / Kate Veik/CNA

Washington D.C., May 9, 2021 / 04:00 am (CNA).

On Mother’s Day, Catholics recognize two important figures: our mother, and Mary, Mother of God. In celebration of all that mothers do, here are 12 quotes from saints and other Catholic figures on the beauty and significance of motherhood:

1. St. Thérèse of Lisieux: “The loveliest masterpiece of the heart of God is the heart of a mother.”

2. József Cardinal Mindszenty: “The Most Important Person on earth is a mother. She cannot claim the honour of having built Notre Dame Cathedral. She need not. She has built something more magnificent than any cathedral—a dwelling for an immortal soul, the tiny perfection of her baby’s body….The angels have not been blessed with such a grace. They cannot share in God’s creative miracle to bring new saints to Heaven. Only a human mother can. Mothers are closer to God the Creator than any other creature; God joins forces with mothers in performing this act of creation….What on God’s good earth is more glorious than this; to be a mother?”

3. Pope St. John Paul II: “Thank you, women who are mothers! You have sheltered human beings within yourselves in a unique experience of joy and travail. This experience makes you become God’s own smile upon the newborn child, the one who guides your child’s first steps, who helps it to grow, and who is the anchor as the child makes its way along the journey of life.”

4. St. Teresa Benedicta, also known as Edith Stein: “To be a mother is to nourish and protect true humanity and bring it to development.”

5. The Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen: “Motherhood then becomes a kind of priesthood. She brings God to man by preparing the flesh in which the soul will be implanted; she brings man to God in offering the child back again to the Creator….she is nature’s constant challenge to death, the bearer of cosmic plentitude, the herald of eternal realities, God’s great cooperator.”

6. St. Teresa of Calcutta: “That special power of loving that belongs to a woman is seen most clearly when she becomes a mother. Motherhood is the gift of God to women. How grateful we must be to God for this wonderful gift that brings such joy to the whole world, women and men alike!”

7. St. Zélie Guérin Martin, mother of St. Thérèse of Lisieux: “Above all, during the months immediately preceding the birth of her child, the mother should keep close to God, of whom the infant she bears within her is the image, the handiwork, the gift and the child. She should be for her offspring, as it were, a temple, a sanctuary, an altar, a tabernacle. In short, her life should be, so to speak, the life of a living sacrament, a sacrament in act, burying herself in the bosom of that God who has so truly instituted it and hallowed it, so that there she may draw that energy, that enlightening, that natural and supernatural beauty which He wills, and wills precisely by her means, to impart to the child she bears and to be born of her.”

8. St. Gianna Beretta Molla: “Look at the mothers who truly love their children: how many sacrifices they make for them. They are ready for everything, even to give their own blood so that their babies grow up good, healthy, and strong.”

9. St. Augustine, son of St. Monica: “And now thou didst ‘stretch forth thy hand from above’ and didst draw up my soul out of that profound darkness [of Manicheism] because my mother, thy faithful one, wept to thee on my behalf more than mothers are accustomed to weep for the bodily deaths of their children….And thou didst hear her, O Lord.”

10. Alice von Hildebrand: A “woman by her very nature is maternal – for every woman, whether married or unmarried, is called upon to be a biological, psychological, or spiritual mother — she knows intuitively that to give, to nurture, to care for others, to suffer with and for them — for maternity implies suffering — is infinitely more valuable in God’s sight than to conquer nations and fly to the moon.”

11. Pope Francis: “A society without mothers would be a dehumanized society, for mothers are always, even in the worst moments, witnesses of tenderness, dedication and moral strength….Dearest mothers, thank you, thank you for what you are in your family and for what you give to the Church and the world.” 

12. Our Lady of Guadalupe, to St. Juan Diego: “Do not be troubled or weighed down with grief. Do not fear any illness or vexation, anxiety or pain. Am I not here who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not your fountain of life? Are you not in the folds of my mantle? In the crossing of my arms? Is there anything else you need?”