SASKATOON — The 10th annual Bishop’s Dinner was held May 13 at the Cathedral of the Holy Family in Saskatoon.
Originally created as a fundraiser for the new cathedral, in recent years proceeds from the Bishop’s Dinner have supported a range of diocesan ministries, including migration, justice and hospital chaplaincy.
This year’s focus was on the new one-year Justice and Outreach Year of Formation (JOY) program that will begin in September. JOY will immerse participants in the mission and ministry of groups who are most involved with the poor and those living on the margins.
“Over 320 people attended this year, which is up from the 275 last year,” said Cathy Gilje, one of the organizers of the dinner, which this year was marked by a number of changes, including a change of venue from TCU Place to the Bishop LeGatt Hall at the Cathedral of the Holy Family.
“People told us they were looking for something less formal,” Gilje said. “This was also the wish of the bishop, going along with the vision of Pope Francis to tone down and simplify.”
Another big shift was that the Knights of Columbus took over most of the hosting and co-ordination this year. “It was a bit more work,” Gilje admitted. As a result of the change in format, ticket prices were lower, but the amount of money raised nearly doubled. Preliminary figures show that some $35,000 was raised.
Gil Wist, Grand Knight of Dennis Mahoney Council #8215, was the MC for the event. Wist said that he was glad the Knights of Columbus were able to collaborate with the diocese on the event, because of how closely the priorities that are funded by the Bishop’s Dinner parallel the values of the Knights of Columbus.
“Charity is our first virtue, followed by fraternity, and the theme of the Bishop’s Dinner was closely aligned with these virtues,” explained Wist.
During the dinner, Bishop Donald Bolen spoke about a number of issues and priorities for the diocese, focusing on the Gospel call to justice and outreach.
The bishop began by addressing recent news coverage that has drawn attention to the less-than-hoped-for results of the national Moving Forward Together Campaign conducted by the Catholic entities that signed the Indian Residential School Settlement Agreement. The effort fell well short of its $25 million goal, raising only some $3.7 million.
“As a church we respond, not with defensiveness, but with a genuine commitment to learn to walk together with indigenous people,” said Bolen. “The world is holding us to account,” he said. “They are looking for us to be a church that embodies Christ’s mercy.”
“There is a call to integrity from these worldly voices,” he continued. “Our message will be better understood when it is an embodied message.”
Bolen added that many in society resist or reject the voice of the church when “we stir their consciences, when we take moral positions that speak of the cost of upholding human dignity from conception to natural death and the thousands of places in-between where life is threatened.”
Bolen also spoke of the difficulty of speaking a Gospel message when we do not always live and witness the good news clearly and authentically.
Bolen provided a brief description of the JOY program that begins in fall 2016, grounded in Catholic social teaching.
He described the 10-month program as “hands on,” presenting a litany of topics to be addressed, ranging from poverty and refugees, the environment, hunger and international development, as well as health and elder care. He pointed out that many of the venues for the JOY program are partners in helping to form the Catholic community.
Bolen also spoke about a newly initiated Annual Day of Prayer for Reconciliation and Healing with Indigenous Peoples, initiated by the diocese and Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools, and plans to place a plaque in the Cathedral of the Holy Family recognizing that the building stands on Treaty Six territory.