Faith Resources

BISHOP MESSAGE

OAPCE

Easter 2024 message from the Liaison Bishop

 Yvan Mathieu, SM

Dear members of the Ontario Association of Parents in Catholic Education (OAPCE), on the occasion of the Easter Vigil, the Evangelist Mark will recount how the women discovered the empty tomb of Jesus on Easter morning. “When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint Jesus. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?’ ” (Mark 16:1-3)

Let us contemplate what inhabited the women’s hearts as they went to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus. These women had been touched by Jesus’ healing hand, transformed by his words, and they became his disciples. They had put their hope in him. But their hope seemed to die on the cross with Jesus on Good Friday. Not only did death deprived them of their master, but a stone had been rolled against the door of the tomb. How would they be able to enter and pay respect to the one who loved them so much?

As we are about to celebrate the 85th anniversary of OAPCE, similar thoughts might be present in our hearts. After all these years, the commitment of Parents towards Catholic education is still needed. It seems that the necessity to engage in favor of catholic education, to advocate catholic education and enhance it will never end. “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?”

Just like the women who went to the tomb on Easter morning, we are invited to look up and see that, through the Resurrection of Christ, “the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back.” (Mark 16:4) Indeed, “Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified […] has been raised.” (Mark 16:6) “We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.” (Romans 6:9) He is with us until the end of times. 

The angel who appeared to the women concluded his message, saying, “go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” (Mark 16:7) This is our mission today. Yes indeed, the risen Lord did not leave us alone. He is going ahead of us in the Galilees of our lives. He is leading the way as we engage, advocate and enhance Catholic education through our commitment to OAPCE. May the presence of the risen Lord sustain our efforts so that the future generations be able to know him, love him and serve him as committed Catholic disciples. Amen. Alleluia.

Happy Easter 2024!

 Yvan Mathieu, SM

OAPCE

2024 message from the Liaison Bishop

 Yvan Mathieu, SM

Dear members of the Ontario Association of Parents in Catholic Education (OAPCE),

Even though I am a little late, let me start by offering you my best wishes for the New Year. May the Lord bless you and keep you; [may] the LORD make his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; [may] the LORD lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.” (Num. 6:24-25)

Throughout this year, during our Sunday liturgies, we will read the Holy Gospel according to Saint Mark. “Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news’.” (Mk 1:14-15). These first words of Jesus are an invitation to seize the moment. This is the time, the kairos, when the kingdom of God is near. Why? Because Jesus, the risen Lord, is among us. He says: “Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me.” (Rev. 3:20)

As Catholic parents, how are we to open the door to Christ and allow him to be present in the life of our families? Here are a few suggestions. Prayer is a wonderful way to start a day. We could create a little moment as the little family is getting ready in the morning to offer our day to the Lord. We could ask him for his blessing and for his protection. We could also ask for the help of the Spirit to support each family member in his/her challenges of the day.

Another way of turning to the Lord (this is the meaning of “to repent”) is to make sure we take the time to share one meal a day as a family. In today’s hectic way of life, we often must take quick meals, then to be on the run. Occasionally, the whole family could take some time to eat slowly and to exchange about what each member lived during the day. That meal could start with a short prayer. And in the conversation, we could relate the shared experience to a passage of Scripture we remember. These are a few means to open the door to Christ and to allow the kingdom of God to be in our midst.

These little moments will allow us to be faithful to the mission Christ entrusted us with. Let us remember Jesus’ last words in Mark’s Gospel: “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.” (Mk 16,15) I pray that what we are, what we do, and what we say in our daily lives as Catholic parents always be a proclamation of the good news. Let us open the door of our hearts. If we do so, what a year it will be! 

Happy 2024!

 Yvan Mathieu, SM

OAPCE

Christmas 2023 message from the Liaison Bishop

 Yvan Mathieu, SM

Dear members of the Ontario Association of Parents in Catholic Education (OAPCE),

In a few days, Christians from all over the world will celebrate the Nativity of Christ. The Bible does not mention Jesus’s exact birthday. We celebrate Jesus’s birth on December 25th because on that date, in the northern hemisphere, the days are getting longer. Daylight increases, and the night’s darkness decreases. Christmas is a celebration of light. Jesus declared: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12). To celebrate Christmas on December 25th is a way to declare publicly our faith in Jesus, light of the world. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (John 1:5)

This year’s Christmas celebration also marks a special anniversary. Eight hundred years ago, St. Francis of Assisi created in Greccio (Italy) the first-ever Nativity Scene. Pope Francis writes: “Francis had earlier visited the Holy Land, and the caves in Greccio reminded him of the countryside of Bethlehem. […] Fifteen days before Christmas, Francis asked a local man named John to help him realize his desire ‘to bring to life the memory of that babe born in Bethlehem, to see as much as possible with my own bodily eyes the discomfort of his infant needs, how he lay in a manger, and how, with an ox and an ass standing by, he was laid upon a bed of hay’.” (Admirabile signum, § 2)

“On 25 December, friars came to Greccio from various parts, together with people from the farmsteads in the area, who brought flowers and torches to light up that holy night. When Francis arrived, he found a manger full of hay, an ox and a donkey. All those present experienced a new and indescribable joy in the presence of the Christmas scene. The priest then solemnly celebrated the Eucharist over the manger, showing the bond between the Incarnation of the Son of God and the Eucharist. At Greccio there were no statues; the nativity scene was enacted and experienced by all who were present.” (Admirabile signum, § 2)

My prayer is that all of us might experience on this Christmas Eve the closeness of Christ, the Word made flesh. May we be the holy families that welcome in their house the Son of Mary, whom God the Fathers send among us for our salvation. The more we will allow Christ to dwell in our hearts, in our home and in our schools, the more faithful we will be to our mission of Catholic parents, and the more we will be committed to transform our Catholic schools into instruments of evangelization of our children.

Merry Christmas to you all!

 Yvan Mathieu, SM

OAPCE

Fall 2023 message from the Liaison Bishop

✠ Yvan Mathieu, SM

The school year that started a few weeks ago is an important milestone for the Ontario Association of Parents in Catholic Education (OAPCE). Founded in 1939, the Association is about to celebrate 85 years of existence. This is a unique occasion to reflect more deeply on the role of parents in Catholic education.

In his apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia, The Joy of Love, (2016) Pope Francis declared that “the family is the first school of human values.” (§ 274) Thus, parents are the first educators of the children God entrusted to them. In 2018, echoing Pope Francis, the Bishops of Ontario wrote the apostolic letter Renewing the promise. They remind parents that “God has gifted you with children and you are their first and most important educators. Yours is the task to immerse them in the unconditional love of God found in Christ Jesus.” (§ 16)

In today’s world, this is not an easy mission. Your most important commitment is to continue to invest in your role as first and most influent educators of the children God gave you in his love. It requires from each and every one of us a renewed personal encouter with Christ, the risen Lord. Like any human beings, your children’s hearts desire God. You are the voice that reminds them on a daily basis that God’s love is calling them.

In his 1975 apostolic exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi, pope Saint Paul VI wrote, “for the Church, the first means of evangelization is the witness of an authentically Christian life, given over to God in a communion that nothing should destroy and at the same time given to one’s neighbor with limitless zeal. As we said recently to a group of lay people, ‘Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses’.” (§ 41) As parents, you are certainly called by God to be witnesses “of an authentically Christian life.” By giving yourselves wholeheartedly to your family, you give yourself to God and his project of love for the whole of humanity.

My prayer for all of you who are Catholic parents, for our Catholic schools and for all those who dedicate their life the Catholic education or our children, is that together we might turn our hearts to Christ. In return, Christ will introduce us once again in the communion with the Father. He will renew in us the gifts of the Spirit. In the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, we will become more and more witnesses of Christ for our children and for the whole humanity.

✠ Yvan Mathieu, SM

OAPCE

Summer message from the Liaison Bishop

✠ Yvan Mathieu, SM

Summer is about to start. After a very full year of work and commitments, it will be good to have some time for ourselves and for our families. As vacation time is near, I like to remember the invitation Jesus made to his apostles after they came back from their first mission. “He said to them, ‘Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.’ For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.” (Mk 6:31) It is important therefore to take seriously that time of rest.

What is fascinating is that, while he wants his apostles to rest, he himself continues his mission. Once they arrived in that deserted place, many had followed them. “He saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.” (Mk 6:34) Jesus refused to let them go without food. With the help of his disciples, he fed five thousand men with five loaves of bread and two fish. “they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish.” (Mk 6:43) Jesus will continue to be at work in our families this summer.

As members of the Ontario Association of Parents in Catholic Education, it is important to take our summer rest seriously. We can take that time off while continuing to evangelize the members of our families. In his June 4 message, pope Francis’s words suggested that “we can think of God […] through the image of a family gathered around the table, where life is shared. […] it is not only an image; it is reality! It is reality because the Holy Spirit, the Spirit that the Father poured into our hearts through Jesus (cf. Gal 4:6), makes us taste, makes us savour God’s presence: the presence of God, always close, compassionate and tender. […] The invitation he extends to us, we might say, is to sit at the table with God to share in his love.”

What a beautiful invitation: to sit at the table with God. Allow me to continue to quote pope Francis. By allowing God to sit at our summer table, “we commit ourselves to bear witness to God-as-love, creating communion in his name.” What a summer this will be! We will be strengthened by our rest and by the loving presence of God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. That way, we will be able to start anew our mission in September: to “bear witness to God-as-love,” to “offer everyone the food of God’s forgiveness and Gospel joy.”

And I conclude with pope Francis’s words: “may Mary help us to live the Church as that home where one loves in a familiar way, to the glory of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”

A wonderful summer to you all!

✠ Yvan Mathieu, SM

OAPCE

Lenten message from the Liaison Bishop

✠ Yvan Mathieu, SM

Dear members of the Ontario Association of Parents in Catholic Education (OAPCE),

From Ash Wednesday until Easter Sunday, the whole Church is living the Season of Lent. The word “Lent” translates the Latin word Quadragesima, which simply means forty. It is a reminder of the forty years the people travelled in the wilderness between its liberation from Egypt and its entry in the promised land. Most importantly, it reminds us that, right after his baptism, “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights…” (Matt. 4:1-2). As followers of Jesus, forty days before Easter, we walk in his footsteps, led up by the Spirit and learn from him how to overcome temptations.

Lent is a time of penance and prayer. Most importantly it is also a time of preparation for Baptism. The Sunday Readings of Lent in Year A are oriented towards the main symbols of our Christian Baptism. Like every year, on the first Sunday we read the Temptations Gospel, then the Transfiguration Gospel on the second Sunday. The three other Sundays are oriented towards baptism. With the Samaritan woman, we contemplate Jesus as the source that brings us to eternal life: “The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life” (John 4:14). With the man born blind we are reminded that Jesus is the “light of the world” (John 9:5). Since those two signs, water and light, were given to us at baptism, with Lazarus we confess that Jesus is “the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25).

As Catholic parents, we have a responsibility towards our children, whom we presented to Baptism. We committed ourselves to teach them the Gospel. Through are daily lives, we can show them what it means to be “baptized in Christ.” The Season of Lent is a time when we take seriously our commitment to drink from the well that is Christ, to allow his light to shine in our lives by considering ourselves “dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus (Rom. 6:11)

May this Lent 2023 reminds us of God’s grace and allow us to take seriously our baptismal commitment. The season of Lent will thus prepare us to celebrate the Paschal Mystery.

A good Lent and a Happy and Holy Easter to you all!

Assuring you of my prayer and blessing,

+ Yvan Mathieu, s.m.

OAPCE

Easter message from the Liaison Bishop

✠ Yvan Mathieu, SM

In a few days, at the end of the forty days of Lent, we will celebrate the mystery that is at the center of our catholic faith: the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul reminds his readers that “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” (v. 17) “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died.” (v. 20)

No wonder the Good News of the Resurrection is at the heart of Christian Faith. That also explains why we celebrate this mystery in the course of three days, the Easter “Triduum.” In fact, if we prepare our celebration of Christ’s Passover by forty days of fasting, we celebrate the mystery of his Resurrection for fifty days, between Easter Sunday and Pentecost.

The Resurrection of Christ is the mystery that gathers us in the Catholic faith. It gives us hope that, at the end of our journey on earth, we shall be united to Christ in eternal life. Once again, let us listen to Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians: “since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. […] Therefore encourage one another with these words.” (4:14,18).

This new life already started for us on the day of baptism. “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.” (Rom. 6:3-4) This is the life we asked for our children when we asked the Church to baptize them.

This gift of life comes with a mission for parents. Remember the words of the risen Lord to the disciples: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.” (Matt. 28:19-20a).

As members of the Ontario Association of Parents in Catholic Education, we are the first witnesses of our Catholic faith for our Children who are baptized in the Death and the Resurrection of Christ. I pray that we take that responsibility seriously. May this Easter celebration make us grow in Love, Faith and Hope, relying on the risen Lord’s promise to the whole church: “remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:20b).

Happy Easter to you all!

✠ Yvan Mathieu, SM

OAPCE

New Year message from the Liaison Bishop

✠ Yvan Mathieu, SM

Dear members of the Ontario Association of Parents in Catholic Education (OAPCE),

First of all, I offer you my best wishes for the new year that just began.

The Lord bless you and keep you;

the Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;

the Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace. (Num 6:24-26)

On December 31, 2022, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI passed away. His life, his teaching and his death are a great inspiration to all of us. At the General Audience of January 4, Pope Francis spoke of his predecessor as “a great master of catechesis”. “Jesus, the risen Crucified One, the Living One and the Lord, was the goal to which Pope Benedict led us, taking us by the hand. May he help us to rediscover in Christ the joy of believing and the hope of living.” Taking our children by the hand so that they may discover in Christ the joy of believing and the hope of living, this is precisely the mission of Catholic parents.

The last words Pope Benedict pronounced were “Lord, I love you”. What a nice way to conclude one’s life. May we teach our children how much God loves them. May we also teach them to answer him using the same words: “Lord, I love you”.

May 2023 be a year of blessings for all parents, all children, especially those involved in Catholic education.

Assuring you of my prayer and blessing,

+ Yvan Mathieu, s.m.

Faith-based activities for March Break

March Break in Ontario is a time when families look forward to the possibility of a vacation to spend time in a warmer climate or just take a breather at home with a staycation. As Catholics, we are observing Lent and preparing for the blessings of Easter, and March Break is a great opportunity to continue to include faith as part of the week’s activities.

If you are spending March Break with your family away from home:

  • Wherever you are traveling, consider adding a visit to a shrine, cathedral, or other Catholic site to your itinerary. Search online to find a Catholic shrine or historic church near your vacation destination, and add it to your trip events.
  • On your family’s trip, have faith-based music to listen to in the car or even on the beach! Invite the whole family to make up a playlist that contains both Christian and secular music. Pack faith-based books as well.

Bless It—No matter where you eat, remember to bless your food.

If you are spending March Break with your family at home:

  • Put on a play based on a favorite Bible story—Read a story from the Bible to your kids, and have them dress up or put on a puppet show to bring it to life.
  • Bring the Bible into the kitchen—Pick a story from the Bible that involves food and find a recipe that goes along with it. You can bake a loaf of bread (excellent with honey, a food item mentioned over 60 times in the Bible!).

Get outside—Go for a walk or hike and be more aware of the beautiful creation that surrounds you. At this time of year, for example, there are many local maple syrup festivals happening, which is a great opportunity to see a maple syrup demonstration, taste some sweet treats, and thank God for our plentiful and giving forests.

Faith-Based Christmas Activities

Isaiah 9:6-7

A child is born to us!

A son is given to us!

And he will be our ruler.

He will be called, “Wonderful Counselor,” “Mighty God,” “Eternal Father,” “Prince of Peace.”

His royal power will continue to grow;

his kingdom will always be at peace.  

He will rule as King David’s successor, basing his power on right and justice, 

from now until the end of time. 

The Lord Almighty is determined to do all this.

Christmas is a time that is filled with celebrations with family and friends. Getting caught up in the fun that Christmas and the holiday season brings can also mean that we can forget what it is all about: Christ. Check out these faith-based activities that will help ensure that your family prioritizes Jesus as the center of the most wonderful time of the year!

 

  • CHARACTER CARDS: Create birthday cards for Jesus as a “gift” to Him. Brainstorm situations and actions that strengthen patience, love, self-control, forgiveness etc, and write these ideas on the cards. On Christmas Eve, place the cards in a stocking to be opened and shared by the family on Christmas morning. Each child can then celebrate the birth of Jesus in a personal way, becoming “doers” of the Word and growing in strength of character.

 

  • NAMES OF JESUS STARS: Cut out stars from cardstock paper and write “Jesus” on each one. Then, write words that describe Jesus such as “Savior,” “Emmanuel,” and “Prince of Peace.” Use the stars to decorate the house to engage kids in remembering the character of Jesus.

 

  • FINDING THE BABY JESUS: Set up a nativity scene. Hide the baby Jesus in various locations in the household and ask your kids to locate Jesus. As Christmas approaches, move the figure closer to the nativity scene. On Christmas morning, place the baby Jesus in the manger.

 

  • THE CHRISTMAS CANDY CANE STORY: 

You will need: two red-and-white candy canes for each child.

The Christmas Candy Cane Story: Say, “According to legend, a long time ago, a candymaker made the Christmas candy cane to tell the real Christmas story. He chose pure white candy for the virgin birth and to remind us that Jesus is sinless. He made the candy hard so it would remind us that Jesus is the solid rock and that all God’s promises are solid. The candymaker made the candy in the shape of a “J” to remind us of Jesus who came to Earth as a baby and became our Saviour. He added stripes. Real candy canes have stripes for the blood Jesus shed for us on the cross to give us eternal life.”

 

Give out the two candy canes. Say: “Jesus came at Christmas to make a way for us to go to heaven to be with him forever. Keep one candy cane, and give the other one to someone else and share the story of the candy cane.”

Teresa Hartnett's Inspirational Retreat Message

Recently we had the pleasure of having Teresa Hartnett (M.R.E.), the Director of Family Ministry for the Diocese of Hamilton, join us to lead us in our first Advent Retreat for all parents across the province. As one of our pillars of OAPCE, we provide Faith formation to all our parents. We share this wonderful message from T. Hartnett to all:

 

It was a joy to spend time with the many members of the OAPCE who joined together to share an Advent retreat and prepare for Christ’s coming at Christmas. The retreat was meant to let us all pause and remind ourselves of the reason for the season. Together, we took a brief period of time to spend some time with God during Advent. God sent his son to be with us, knowing he would pay the price for our sins and his sacrifice opened eternity with God for each of us. Christmas is a time to rejoice and show gratitude 

During the retreat, we reflected on the Holy Family, who, by example, model for every family how to live a life steeped in faith in God. Both Mary and Joseph said yes to God’s request to become active participants in Jesus’ life: Mary to carry him in her womb and Joseph to support both Mary and Jesus. From the start, they trusted in God’s plan and, despite times of fear and unknown, they continued to find joy in the birth of their son and his growth into childhood and eventually adulthood. They knew his purpose, but they focused on their faith in God and the joy they felt in being parents, like all of us, the first and foremost educators of the child Jesus.

The gift of life we have each received is something to cherish during the Christmas season when we focus on the birth of Christ. We sometimes fail to see the gifts that first Christmas brought to us and continues to bring to us each time we celebrate. What are the gifts? Love - God created us to love and loves us. He taught us that love comes at a price, but it is a gift – it fills us and sustains us. Life - the gift given to us by God, who asks us to share it with others, and he gives us eternal life. Joy - God’s love and gift of life brings us joy and a sense of peace. All these gifts are given to us freely with no price, but are priceless.

The decorations we use at Christmas are reminders of the original Christmas, yet we do not often make the connections. God’s LOVE is expressed at Christmas in our nativity scene, red bows, giving gifts, and serving one another. The gift of LIFE, which is now open to eternity, is expressed at Christmas in evergreen trees, wreaths, lights, and candles. The gift is JOY, a sense of well-being apart from life circumstances, expressed in music, angels, and bright colors.

Take the time as you decorate and plug in the lights, as you sing and light candles to take a moment to thank God for these gifts of Christmas. To thank God for the gift of the Eucharist that continues to feed us and for the gift of eternity, which will be ours when we live with faith, trust and obedience to God, who loves us beyond measure, in the same way as Mary and Joseph. Merry Christmas to all!

SEEKING THE KINGDOM OF GOD ABOVE AND BEYOND ALL OTHER THINGS

Pastoral Letter to the People of God in Toronto
1 January 2024, Solemnity of Mary Mother of God
Most Reverend Francis Leo
Metropolitan Archbishop of Toronto

Advent Resource Guide

Take some time before Advent starts to form a plan that will prepare your heart to enter into the celebration of the birth of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ on Christmas day. The season of Advent invites us to step back from the hustle and bustle of the pre-Christmas world, urging us to slow down and reflect on the Mystery of the Incarnation. It marks the beginning of a new liturgical year in the Church, gradually gaining momentum towards the Christmas celebration with each passing week. Like any new beginning, this season aims to revive our joy, hope, faith, and love check out this wonderful website for resources for Advent:

Consecration to the Blessed Virgin Mary on the Solemnity of the Annunciation of Our Lord

Discover how you can participate in this grace-filled opportunity, understand its profound significance, and access specially prepared resources to make your consecration meaningful. Whether at home, in church, or within your community, this act of devotion is a step toward spiritual growth and unity in faith.

The OAPCE Book Nook

Everyday Family Faith by Sandy Swartzentruber is a pocket-sized resource guide for families looking to focus on daily faith formation. The guide provides activities for discussion about Bible verses, prayer life, how to integrate faith in a fun-filled way with your children, and more from Monday to Sunday!

God Gave Us Easter

(by Lisa Tawn Bergren) is the story of Little Cub and her Papa bear who helps her discover the meaning of Easter.

Easter Love Letters from God

(by Glenys Nellist) is an interactive picture book for children aged 4-8 that applies the Easter story directly to a child’s life.

Inspector Smart and the Case of the Empty Tomb: Case File

(by Time Chester) is a great way to get tweens consider the evidence of the resurrection and ask more questions about who Jesus is and why he died.

Hidden Potential

Hidden Potential – Adam Grant This book offers some interesting insights into character skills, the important role of kindergarten in future success and how school systems can be built with a child-centred approach, in order to ensure all students reach their full potential.

Faith Engagement with Your Children

As parents, we want our children to love and live for Jesus. But how do we engage our children to develop their faith and grow spiritually? Check out this article on Five Parenting Practices That Help Develop Your Child’s Faith.

Beyond the Bell Podcast

The Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board created an education podcast specifically for students who attend Catholic schools. It is called Beyond the Bell (formerly OnPoint Parenting). From the website: “Tell me about the Beyond the Bell Podcast? Chantelle: Beyond the Bell is all about providing parents and caregivers an inside look into the school system. You may find us talking about familiar topics, but our goal is to provide you with information and a new perspective that you may not have thought about. You know… those things that you didn’t know that you needed to know!” Topics range from what makes Catholic education so special, to vaping, to technology and even emergency preparedness. All age groups are represented through the podcast episodes currently available through the first two seasons. There really is something for everyone. You can stream or download podcast episodes wherever you normally get your podcasts or they can be found on the Beyond the Bell website.

The OAPCE Book Nook

Today, children face tremendous challenges and pressures from social media, crammed schedules, and a greater awareness of the world’s problems, resulting in loneliness, anxiety, and fear. Aimed at tweens and teens, this book helps them take control of their feelings and develop emotional understanding by focusing on God’s love.

The OAPCE Book Nook

Lego CatechesisBuilding Blocks of Faith Series

If you have a child who loves Legos, these Building Blocks of Faith Series of guides by Kevin and Mary O’ Neill are sure to please! Set in an easy-to-read comic-book format,  various Lego figures help kids understand Catholic catechism in a way that educates and entertains. In this series, kids can learn about the seven sacraments and their biblical roots, the significance and prayers of the Holy Mass, explore a pocket guide to the Stations of the Cross, and more! These books are full of rock-solid catechesis that give kids a sturdy foundation for building their Catholic faith.

NOVENA TO THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS

To those involved in and those who care for Catholic Education in the Province of Ontario to Pray Together

Let us once again pray together for the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus – a heart that overflows with love for each and every one of us.
During Catholic Education Week, we celebrated that we are many and we are one. Our provincial symposium reminded us that we are also all “On the Way”! Together, on the journey, we pray.
We place our trust in you, Lord… ON THE WAY. You call us to love God and love our neighbour… ON THE WAY. You are with us in times of trouble … ON THE WAY. You call us to be generous and helpful to those we meet … ON THE WAY. You give us yourself as living bread – food for the journey… ON THE WAY. You call us to be peacemakers … ON THE WAY. Let our light shine … ON THE WAY. Teach us … ON THE WAY. Jesus, give light to our learning … ON THE WAY. Remind us that we never walk alone … ON THE WAY.

Topical Prayers

Gentle Mary
Be with us, our schools, our families, our communities and our world, as we draw the strength to
radiate light during these uneasy times.
Guide as we begin a new school year.
Be with us, we know God sets the plan, but we must work together for the good of all our
students.
Lead us, to proclaim the living God; guide us to bear witness to Jesus, Your Son.
Teach us, to be patient with each other, and to accept our new way of life.
Pray for us, to act justly and walk humbly with God.
Help us, to remember You are a guiding force of light and fill our hearts knowing that we are
immeasurably loved by You.
Amen.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
You are the Vine grower, O Lord -Christ the vine, and we the branches.
Grant us the wisdom to know Your will, and the strength of Your Holy Spirit to do our work,
supporting our children, and all children and staff, so that our efforts may bear the fruit of
creating truly faith-filled and excellent Catholic schools.
St. Joseph , Patron Saint of Families, and St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Patron Saint of Catholic
Education, Pray for us.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Amen.

Jesus Christ, you traveled through towns and villages “curing every disease and
illness.” At your command, the sick was made well. Come to our aid now, in the midst of
the global spread of the coronavirus, that we may experience your healing love.
Heal those who are sick with the virus. May they regain their strength and health
through quality medical care.
Heal us from our fear, which prevents nations from working together and neighbors from
helping one another.
Heal us from our pride, which can make us claim invulnerability to a disease that knows
no borders.
Jesus Christ, healer of all, stay by our side in this time of uncertainty and sorrow.
Jesus Christ, stay with us as we endure and mourn, persist and prepare. In place of our
anxiety, give us your peace.
Jesus Christ, heal us.

A New Year is unfolding.
Like a blossom with petals curled tightly
concealing the beauty within.
Lord, let this year
be filled with the things that are truly good
with the comfort of warmth in our relationships,
with the strength to help those
who need our help
and the humility and openness
to accept help from others.
As we make our resolutions for the year ahead,
let us go forward with the great hope
that all things can be possible
with Your help and guidance.
Amen

God, the source of every good gift, you have called us together as servants to do your will.
Grant us the light of your Spirit, to guide us in our responsibilities as a Regional Council.
May we work together in harmony for the common good.
May we listen to one another in a spirit of genuine respect.
May we encourage and reverence one another’s unique talents.
May we use the gifts of the Spirit in creative Christian leadership.
May we approach our decision making through discernment and prayer.
May we respond effectively to the needs of the children in our care.
God of Love You give us the gifts of the Holy Spirit, for the common good.
May your blessings radiate from us to others, in a new spirit of service.
We ask this through Jesus Christ, the Light of the World.
Amen

Dear God, in this room is different views,
different ways of expression, different emotional intensities,
and different roads that lead to conclusions.
May we combine clarity of mind with kindness of heart.
May we be impartial without bending to strong personalities.
May we sacrifice self-interest for the good of our students.
Guide our discussions and decisions.
May we do our work with love and clarity of vision for the
benefit of those we represent.
May your name be glorified through our efforts.
Amen

God our Father,
stamp us with your approval
for the work you have chosen us to do.
Be well pleased as we try to live our lives for you.
You have shown us your favour
by giving us your Spirit through Baptism.
The Spirit is now present in all that we do.
Help us to hear your voice as Jesus did.
Speak with us.
Speak through others to us.
And as we listen,
please give direction to the work we are doing,
and the confidence in ourselves to do that work.
Amen

O Holy Spirit, source of truth and grace,
for those entrusted with Christian development of children,
enlighten our minds, strengthen our wills, and fill our hearts
with generosity so that our homes, our parishes and our schools
may co-operate effectively with you, and with one another
in the exalted mission of Catholic Education.
We make our prayer through Christ, Our Lord.
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph pray for us.
Amen

Leader: Let our prayer arise before you
All: And may your love descend upon the world
Leader: Receive these prayers that we make to you with a listening heart
All: And send your Spirit to renew the face of the earth
Leader: Give us, God, eyes for seeing
All: And ears to hear your Word
Leader: Give us child-like hearts
All: That we may sing, dance play in your kingdom


Mark 10:13-16. This story is a story about liberation. In a society concerned with power and
status, Jesus shows a different way. In this story Jesus is faced with the weakest member of the
society of the day, the child. In the first century, children had no status. They were chattels that
belonged to their father. The closest friends of Jesus, the disciples were quick to dismiss
children from the gathering of the grown-ups. Jesus’ indignation is evident. To his disciples he
says – Let the little children come to me…The discipleship of equals, he says, must include
children and serve their needs, if we want Jesus in our midst.
To the children he extended a warm welcome by putting his arms around them
– you belong… I am never too busy for you!


For us to call ourselves “the Church” we must seek the unaccustomed stance of Jesus. It is to
stand, to preach, to serve and to play from the bottom up – at eye level with a child.

God of Miracles,
We give thanks for this day, for the people gathered here, and for Jesus Christ, our brother and
our Lord,
Who gives our life meaning?
Who directs the work of Catholic education and who reminds us that he is never too busy for
children.
Stay close to us, lest we lose our way, and our heart.
Grant us the gift of wisdom to work together and to proclaim the Gospel to the children
entrusted to us.
Make us desire your life in us, that our greatest joy is your love, so that we may be empowering
witnesses to those we serve.
Through the power of your Spirit, may we grow in courage, that our words may mirror your truth,
and that our actions may reflect the love we profess, right here and now.
We ask this in the name of Jesus.
Amen

Let us do loving things that surprise even ourselves.
Let us stop daily to talk to people, who need a good word,
Mend what is broken and touch up what needs to be loved.
Make us more aware of the tiny surprises
That is scattered like secrets all around us.
Let us notice such things as we have forgotten and
Those persons of whom we have grown weary.
May we see them in a new way
So that we have a new word for them
As we busily set out to do large tasks,
May we find more time for a small celebration.
Creator-God, give us the grace to live out each day as GIFT!
Amen.

Great Reflection to review with your children to show Jesus is
everywhere!

I saw Jesus this week.
He was wearing blue jeans and an old shirt.
He was shovelling the snow on the street,
He was alone and working hard.
For just a minute he looked a little like my
neighbour next door,
But it was Jesus, I could tell by his smile.
I saw Jesus last Sunday.
He was teaching a Children’s Liturgy class.
He didn’t talk real loud or use long words.
But you could tell he believed what he said.
For just a minute, he looked like our Sunday
school teacher,
But it was Jesus, I could tell by his loving voice.
I saw Jesus the other day.
He was at the grocery store talking to some
friends.
He then put his arms around them to comfort
them.
For just a minute he looked like the lady from
our church,
But it was Jesus; I could see the compassion
pouring out for a family who lost a Dad.
I saw Jesus yesterday.
He was at the hospital visiting a friend who was
sick.
They prayed together quietly.
For just a minute he looked like our parish priest,
But it was Jesus, I could tell by the tears in his
eyes.
I saw Jesus this morning.
He was in my kitchen making my breakfast.
He then fixed me a special lunch to take with me
to work
For just a minute, he looked just like my
husband.
But it was Jesus; I could feel the love from his
heart.
I saw Jesus today.
He was outside watching to be sure I was safe,
Then he said good morning and asked how my
day was going.
For just a minute he looked like my fellow
neighbour (classmate, council member)
But it was Jesus, I could tell by those caring
eyes.
I see Jesus everywhere…….
And for just a minute, I think he’s someone I
know,
But it is always Jesus…..will you see him today?

Seasonal Prayers

Dear Lord,
Please watch over our military today as they work to
keep our freedom every day. For the wounded and the
families of soldiers lost and also to keep the other
soldiers safe.
Please Bless them with abundant love,
For we know not the cost.
We pray to the Lord.
Lord Hear Our Prayer.
Amen.

Father in Heaven, our hearts desire the warmth of your love and
our minds are searching for the light of Your Word.
Increase our longing for Christ our Saviour and give us the
strength to grow in Love that the dawn of His coming may find
us rejoicing in His presence and welcoming the light of His truth.
God of power and mercy, open our hearts in welcome.
Remove the things that hinder us from receiving Christ with joy
so that we may share His wisdom and become one with Him
when He comes.
Father in heaven, the day draws near when the glory of your
Son will make radiant the night of the waiting world.
May the lure of greed not impede us from the joy which moves
the hearts of those who seek Him.
May the darkness not blind us to the vision of wisdom which fills
the minds of those who find Him.
We ask this in the name of Jesus the Lord.
Amen

By Robert Louis Stevenson
Loving Father,
Help us remember the birth of Jesus,
that we may share in the song of the angels,
the gladness of the shepherds,
and worship of the wise men.
Close the door of hate
and open the door of love all over the world.
Let kindness come with every gift
and good desires with every greeting.
Deliver us from evil by the blessing
which Christ brings,
and teach us to be merry with clear hearts.
May the Christmas morning
make us happy to be thy children,
and Christmas evening bring us to our beds
with grateful thoughts,
forgiving and forgiven,
for Jesus’ sake.
Amen.

A New Year is unfolding.
Like a blossom with petals curled tightly
concealing the beauty within.
Lord, let this year
be filled with the things that are truly good
with the comfort of warmth in our relationships,
with the strength to help those
who need our help
and the humility and openness
to accept help from others.
As we make our resolutions for the year ahead,
let us go forward with the great hope
that all things can be possible
with Your help and guidance.
Amen

Almighty and Everlasting God,
You have given the human race Jesus Christ our Savior as a model of humility. He fulfilled Your Will by
becoming Man and giving His life on the Cross.
Help us to bear witness to You By following His example of suffering and make us worthy to share in His
Resurrection.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son.
Amen.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,
God our father, source of all holiness, the work of Your hands is manifest in Your saints, the
beauty of Your truth is reflected in their faith.
May we who aspire to join in their joy be filled with the spirit that blessed their lives, so that
having shared their faith on earth may we also know their peace in your kingdom.
Grant this through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit
O God, the Creator and Redeemer of all the faithful, grant unto the souls of Thy departed
servants full remission of all their sins, that through the help of our pious prayers they may
obtain that pardon which they have always desired.
Thou Who lives and reigns in the world without end. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord.
And let perpetual light shine upon them,
May they rest in peace.
Amen

General Prayers

Lord, we lift our hearts to you.
As the dawn breaks, may we carry the unity we share into every
moment knowing that we are one with the risen Christ.
Lord, we lift our eyes to you.
As the sunrises, may this moment stay with us, reminding us to
look for the beautiful colours of promise in your word.
Lord, we lift our prayers to you.
As the dew air falls, may we breathe this morning in and know
that like the earth,
you sustain us, keep us and
work within us always.
And so, we lift our voices to
you.
We continue this month to
celebrate the greatest day in
history, when Jesus rose from
death, defeated darkness and
bathed the world in stunning
resurrection light.
May we ever live to praise you
and lift our hearts, eyes,
prayers and voices as we
remember the immense love
you have for each one of us.
All Saints, Pray For Us.
Amen.

Dear God,
In this season of Lent, we’re
reminded of our own
difficulties and struggles.
Sometimes the way has
seemed too dark.
Sometimes we feel like our
lives have been marked by
such grief and pain, we
don’t see how our
circumstance can ever
change.
But in the midst of our
weakness, we ask that you
would be strong on our
behalf.
Lord, rise up within us, let
your Spirit shine out of
every broken place we’ve
walked through.
Allow your power to be
manifest through our own
weakness, so that others
will recognize it is You who
is at work on our behalf.
We ask that you would
trade the ashes of our lives
for the beauty of your
Presence.
Trade our mourning and
grief for the oil of joy and
gladness from your Spirit.
Trade our despair for hope
and praise.
We choose to give you
thanks today and believe
that this season of darkness
will fade away.
Thank you that you are with
us in whatever we face and
that you are greater than
this trial.
We know and recognize that
you are Sovereign, we
thank you for the victory
that is ours because of
Christ Jesus, and we are
confident that you have
good still in store for our
future.
We thank you that you are
at work right now, trading
our ashes for greater
beauty.
We praise you, for you
make all things new. In
Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Dear God,
It’s difficult to fully let go of our anxiety, or
the world around us when we can’t see
evidence of all that you’re doing – when we
can’t understand or see your purpose or
plan. Today, we pause and remind
ourselves of our dependency on you, for we
know in our hearts that our circumstances
and futures are touched by your hands.
When we are struggling to see clearly and
make decisions, we are not alone and that
inner peace is something only you can
supply.
So today Lord, we purposefully, even
urgently, say again that we choose to
believe in you. We know that it’s often in the
most challenging times that you are most at
work. Thank you for being the one who
gives us the strength to help each other and
to see distinctly the choices we face. As we
scan our personal horizons, we know that
we also must look to you alone for the
power and possibility that is our future.
We ask for your guidance so that we might
walk fully in your path – a path that you
have blessed. We also ask for your face to
shine on us – individually, and as a team of
colleagues and partners.
Please bring to fulfillment all that you have
given us to do in the weeks ahead. Give us
a heart of wisdom to hear your voice; and
then make our footsteps firm. Please make
us strong through your favor and grace.
“Help us to grow each day as his followers,
with great love for one another, and great
love for our families. ”

A reading from the First Letter of John (1Jn
4:7-9,11-12)
Beloved, let us love one another, because
love is from God; everyone who loves is
born of God and knows God. Whoever
does not love does not know God, for God
is love. God’s love was revealed among us
in this way: God sent His only Son into the
world so that we might live through him.
Beloved, since God loved us so much, we
also ought to love one another. No one has
ever seen God; if we love one another, God
lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.

Jesus gave his followers a new
commandment to love one another, just
as he loves us. This is how we show we are
followers of Jesus – by our love for one
another. We show we are followers of Jesus
in our homes, by being patient and kind to
one another, by helping instead of fighting
and by caring for one another. Patience,
kindness, helping and caring are ways we
show we are followers of Jesus, and these
things make for a happy, peaceful home.
We show we are followers of Jesus in our
school by our kind words, by our respect
and by our good example. These things
make for a happy, peaceful school.

Lord God, we thank you for the gift of love
that you have poured out on us in Jesus,
your Son. Help us to grow each day as his
followers, with great love for one another,
and great love for our families. May our
growing love and kindness be a sign of
your love at work in our lives. We make this
prayer to you in Jesus’ name. And may
Almighty God bless us: Father, Son and
Holy Spirit. Amen.

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