PRINCE ALBERT — “Only when we love do we have the capacity to see the abundance of life surrounding us. The beautiful land here in Saskatchewan is an expression of love for me: the trees, the sky, it’s a sign of love for me,” said the Apostolic Nuncio to Canada, Archbishop Luigi Bonazzi, during his homily at the first mass shared in the Diocese of Prince Albert at John Paul II Collegiate School in North Battleford Oct. 4. This mass marked the beginning of the nuncio’s three-day journey across the diocese.
Approximately 600 religious, priests, parishioners, parents and teachers from the local deanery gathered in the school gymnasium for mass where Bonazzi spoke on love, faith and family life. He called love “an unending journey which starts every day,” and underlined the joys of family life.
Following the mass, the congregation gathered at the Knights of Columbus Hall for lunch, prepared by the North Battleford Catholic Women’s League. Bonazzi, happily surprised at the large gathering, recalled Pope Francis’ commonly used intention, asking those gathered to pray for him, promising he would pray for them in return.
The following day, the Sisters of the Presentation of Mary in Prince Albert held a mass in their chapel. Those in attendance included students, board members, trustees, principals, and representatives from four Catholic school divisions.
In his homily, the nuncio spoke of a cloudy day in Lithuania a few years earlier. Feeling under the weather, he headed to the chapel to pray. He spoke aloud and asked Jesus what he could do for him that day. He heard a voice in his head, asking, “Luigi, what are you saying? You are asking what you have to do for me? Please try to see what I am doing for you.” He said he wished for each person present to feel the same thing.
“In a new way . . . you open your eyes and you realize the life of God (is) surrounding you, entering and fulfilling you.”
After the mass, Bonazzi had lunch with the sisters, welcoming each one specially, giving a blessing and a smile. He spoke to them in French about how much importance he places on religious life. He spoke on humility, telling them how he thanked God, even for the times he made mistakes, and how it helped him to be more humble and attentive to others.
The nuncio’s next stop was École St. Anne School, where a group of children were waiting to welcome him. A meeting among four Catholic school divisions in Saskatchewan — including Lloydminster, Saskatoon, North Battleford and Prince Albert — took place in the newly built school’s gym.
Representatives from each division made a presentation describing their demographics, as well as the changing family structures and dynamics that challenged them as they strove to engage families in their communities. Agreeing that problems arising today are not those of 10 years ago, the nuncio encouraged each of the divisions to turn to Jesus to help them with the problems of today, assuring them of his continued support.
He affirmed that he supported them in their mission. He then blessed the school’s Bible and a rosary for each guest. Later that evening, a mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Prince Albert was packed full. The large choir included many youth from St. Mary High School .
During his homily, Bonazzi spoke about Jesus, the Good Samaritan. “When we turn to Jesus, he frees us with his charity. My life is like the Good Samaritan. Who has shown more mercy? Mercy is the very foundation the church lies on. Nothing in our mission and witness can be lacking in mercy; it must show the mercy of the Good Samaritan.”
He also spoke of the jubilee year, the Year of Mercy, which begins on this year’s feast of the Immaculate Conception Dec. 8.
“ ‘Mercy is the very foundation of the church’s life,’ “ he quoted from Pope Francis’ encyclical. “All of her pastoral activity should be caught up in the tenderness she makes present to believers; nothing in her preaching and in her witness to the world can be lacking in mercy. Everything the church does should be to show the mercy of the Good Samaritan.”
A wine and cheese social followed, catered by staff at the Prince Albert Diocesan Centre. St. Mary High School principal Mark Phaneuf acted as MC for the evening, introducing Prince Albert mayor Greg Dion and other dignitaries. Parishes from several diocesan deaneries presented donations for the Office of Papal Charities, the department of the Holy See that is responsible for acts of charity to the poor in the name of the Holy Father.
On the last day, Oct. 6, the nuncio visited Our Lady of Lourdes, St. Laurent Shrine, northwest of Duck Lake, where the congregation recited the Hail Mary and sang a song of praise for Mary.
The nuncio said a special thank you for letting him see more fully the culture in Canada. He explained that Jesus left us the eucharist so that we may be nourished by his real presence. Bonazzi asked the congregation why, before returning to heaven, Jesus did not leave us a real presence of his mother.
“Jesus did leave us himself in the eucharist, but Jesus wishes to see his mother in people. For me this is important: I always see Mary as not just someone I must imitate, but in a special way, I must be another Mary. Thank you for keeping alive the presence of Mary in this place. Let Mary live in you.”