SASKATOON — An evening mass and social gathering with the new bishop of Saskatoon concluded this year’s Catholic Students’ Week at St. Thomas More College (STM) in Saskatoon.
Observed across Canada Jan. 28 to Feb. 4, Catholic Students’ Week began with an annual Newman Retreat at St. Peter’s Abbey, facilitated by STM’s director of Mission and Ministry, Gertrude Rompré.
At the wind-up celebration Feb. 4, Bishop Mark Hagemoen of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon presided at the eucharist with Rev. Mark Blom, OMI. In his homily, the bishop explored the scriptural theme for this year’s Catholic Students’ Week, taken from Judges 6:14: “Go with the strength that is within.”
Hagemoen began by asking some big, existential questions, such as: “What is the end you have in mind?” and “What is the source of the strength, how long do you have it, and are you on your own in this?”
These are extremely practical questions, said Hagemoen, “especially when we are at our wits’ end, or run out of energy.”
The bishop pointed to the Scripture readings, including the first reading from the Book of Job, which tackles the question of suffering. “When you are doing everything right, as you understand what God wants of you, and things go wrong nonetheless, what is going on?”
Job appeals directly to the fundamental love of God, despite terrible and unexplained desolation, Hagemoen said. “I suggest one of the blessings of our Scriptures tonight on the theme of ‘go with the strength that is within you’ is that we see there is a strength that is present (and) persists, no matter what . . . despite — or maybe especially because of — dark times.”
The Gospel demonstrates that Jesus Christ’s strength “comes from a dynamic of intimate relationship with God, his Father, and in loving service to his sisters and brothers — there is an interplay of prayer and loving service.”
This is a strength that directs itself not just to 70 or 80 or 100 years of life, but to eternity, he added, sharing insights into the Paschal Mystery and its impact on the lives of individuals who may have seemed to be at the end of their strength. “That is the strength of Our Lord, who truly goes where no one has gone before.”
Newman Club executive members provided music for the celebration, and the college’s Knights of Columbus council sponsored pizza afterward. During the social gathering, four members of the STM Just Youth group spoke about their recent experiences attending a Justice Generation conference organized by Canadian Catholic Campus Ministry (CCCM) Jan. 26 — 28 in Montreal. Accompanied by Madeline Oliver of STM Campus Ministry, the student delegates from Saskatoon were Ana Meckelborg, Alyssa McCullough, Grace Rath, and Katherine Luneng.
The four delegates took turns describing elements of the Justice Generation conference, which included presentations on Catholic Social Teaching, as well as information about the work of Development and Peace/Caritas Canada.
Participants also visited the Kahnawake shrine of St. Kateri Tekakwitha, and a Mohawk Cultural Community Centre to learn more about First Nations spirituality and Truth and Reconciliation in the area.
Finally, a conference presentation about a Jesuit canoe pilgrimage of relationship and reconciliation in the summer of 2017 has inspired the four Saskatoon participants to consider the possibility of organizing a similar experience in Saskatchewan.