By Most Rev. Richard W. Smith, Archbishop of Edmonton

Monday, May 12, 2014

Treasure and Protect the Gift

Yesterday the Church celebrated what we traditionally call "Good Shepherd Sunday". We listened to Jesus, the Good Shepherd, teach us that he has come from the Father so that we might have life in abundance. This wondrous gift of life is something to treasure and celebrate. Recent attacks on life through both violence and indifference underscore the need to do so.

A beautiful celebration of life occurred in Edmonton last Thursday. Hundreds gathered to hear speeches at our provincial legislature and City Hall and to march through the streets of downtown. Our action coincided with that of thousands of others in cities across Canada, united in our annual March for Life. The spirit among the participants - a great many of whom were youth! - was peaceful and joyful. Life is precious and we are ready to take any opportunity to celebrate it and speak out in its defence whenever it is attacked or threatened.

A violent and senseless attack on human life occurred the day after the march in the tragic murder of a priest in his rectory in Saint Paul, Alberta, about a three-hour drive northeast of Edmonton. At the time of writing this blog, the motive and other details are not known. What is clear is that a 32-year-old priest, who had made a sacrifice to leave his home country in Africa to serve us here, and who was appreciated by all parishioners as a kind and loving man, was brutally gunned down. Please pray for the repose of his soul, as well as for consolation for his family, religious community and the people he served. His alleged assailant was later killed, and we must hold him and his family in our prayers as well. Statements from the Archdiocese as well as from the Diocese of Saint Paul can be found at

On the very day of the march we witnessed an entirely different threat to life: indifference. One of our federal party leaders used the occasion to state that, henceforth, members of his Parliamentary caucus would have no choice but to vote "pro-choice" in any proposed legislation dealing with abortion. The obvious inherent contradiction in such a stance manifests rather confused thinking, to say the least. Worse, it unmasks a callous indifference to the most vulnerable among us - children in the womb - and a wanton trampling upon the fundamental human rights to life and freedom of conscience.

The March for Life demonstrates a growing willingness of citizens to speak out in defence of life and to celebrate its beauty. I pray that it continue to grow and bear fruit in real protection of God's gift of life at every stage of existence.

Monday, May 5, 2014

A Visit to L'Arche

This morning I had the opportunity to visit L’Arche Edmonton. For a long time I have admired this movement founded fifty years ago by the Canadian, Jean Vanier. It is dedicated to the care of persons with mental and other developmental issues, and offers them communities of love and support. Staff and volunteers are people of extraordinary dedication. It is clear they cherish deeply the persons entrusted to their care.

L’Arche Edmonton began forty-two years ago, and now operates six homes in the city, together with an administrative and programming centre. It is the latter I was privileged to visit this morning. After I was greeted and treated to coffee and cake, we all gathered together for the “morning circle”. We sang together, and then each one of us took turns offering prayers for one another and for whatever needs we wanted to bring before the Lord.

During the prayer I was struck by the number of times prayers were offered to God in thanksgiving. There was a lively sense of the goodness and providence of God, and that we can trust that God will – and does – give us great things, especially family and friends, and provides for all of our needs. When I arrived for the visit I was thinking that this kind of outreach is a beautiful example of the Christian call to go out to the “peripheries” with the joy and beauty of the Gospel. While this is obviously true, as I listened and offered my own prayers I found myself wondering: who really is on the “periphery” here? A self-reliant society such as ours places itself on the periphery, even outside, of the joy and peace that come from trust in God. This is a terrible alienation that gives birth to sadness and despair. At L’Arche I found persons who, in respect of communion with God and his people, are very much at the centre of things and are joyful as a result, even in the midst of quite remarkable challenges. We need their example. I am grateful to God for this world-wide movement, and in particular for their presence in this Archdiocese.

If you are not familiar with L’Arche, I invite you to get informed. You can visit them at‎.