From the visits of Philippines Cardinal Tagle and the relics of famous saints, to the rejected TWU law school and the crippling abuse crisis, it was a complex year for Catholics in the Archdiocese of Vancouver. Here is a snapshot of some major local events and news items we brought you in 2018.
Free speech issues
From the controversial Canada Summer Jobs program to attacks on pro-life demonstrators, students, and crisis pregnancy clinics, 2018 was a year that included many heated debates on free speech rights.
Assisted dying debate continues
Assisted suicide was legalized in Canada in 2017, but the debate in hospices and care homes has continued. In 2018, various health care workers and volunteers said they felt “bullied” by the Fraser Health Authority, which insisted hospices provide assisted suicide even if the practice goes against the beliefs of staff or the organization.
St. Francis Xavier's arm arrives
The 465-year-old arm of St. Francis Xavier attracted huge crowds during a cross-Canada tour, including at stops in Vancouver and Coquitlam in late January. The arm was said to have baptized thousands in Asia in the 16th century and was brought to Canada thanks to the efforts of Catholic Christian Outreach.
Cardinal Tagle visits
Nearly 3,000 people filled Queen Elizabeth Theatre to see Philippine Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, described by some as the “Asian Pope Francis,” March 19. Speaking in Vancouver on a stopover from Los Angeles to Manilla, he discussed the value of families, relationships, and evangelism.
March for Life continues
Amid tensions over the Canada Summer Jobs controversy and attempts to silence the pro-life club at the University of Victoria, a large crowd of demonstrators took to the streets in B.C.’s capital May 10. Rally speakers included Archbishop Miller, Advokate executive director Jared White, leadership speaker Brett Powell, Right Now co-founder Alissa Golob, and campaigner against assisted suicide Tamara Jensen.
Celebrating 6,700 years of marriage
St. Matthew’s Parish was standing room only as 225 couples celebrated a combined total of 6,700 years of marriage May 13. It was the archdiocese’s first-ever Marriage Anniversary Mass, honouring couples with anniversaries in five-year increments from five years to 60+.
Churches in B.C.’s southern interior did what they could to help neighbours and businesses in Grand Forks, Christina Lake, Greenwood, Osoyoos, and other riverside towns after they faced sudden flooding due to rapidly melting snow, higher than average temperatures, and sudden intense rainfall in May.
Marian Conference makes a comeback
Six international speakers, including an exorcist and a rock musician, arrived in Richmond for a Marian Conference May 26. It was the first time Mary was in the spotlight in a big way here since the Marian conferences of the 1990s, and more than 550 people attended.
Sisters of St. Ann celebrate 160 years
A pioneering congregation is wrapping up its mission in B.C. The Sisters of St. Ann (who arrived in Canada in 1858) have served in education, health care, pastoral care, and other efforts on the west coast. Now, with dwindling numbers and an average age of 83, the congregation is winding down and making donations (worth several millions of dollars) to charitable groups who can carry on their mission.
TWU law school rejected
After a long legal battle over Trinity Western University's proposed law school, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled June 15 that the school’s Community Covenant discriminated against equal access to the law profession by LGBTQ students. The Supreme Court ruling was seen as a victory by LGBTQ activists and an attack on religious rights and freedoms by various advocates, including Canada’s former ambassador for religious freedoms Andrew Bennett.
In August, after fighting so hard for its Community Covenant, TWU decided to make signing the document no longer mandatory for students. The covenant remains in place for faculty and staff.
Sacred music reverberates
It was believed to be the first of its kind in the Lower Mainland: a Sacred Music Symposium that brought together musicians and vocalists for workshops, lectures, and a Pontifical sung Mass in the extraordinary form at Sts. Joachim and Ann Parish in July.
Catholics in the Diocese of Whitehorse pleaded for help after a wildfire destroyed a mission church, rectory, and many homes in Telegraph Creek, a small town in northern B.C. with about 300 residents.
Abuse crisis strikes
A grand jury report in Pennsylvania that accused more than 300 Catholic priests of sexual abuse this summer led to other dioceses launching own investigations of sexual assault by clergy and a public outcry for justice and transparency. Archbishop Miller expressed deep sadness over the allegations in the U.S. and announced in October that three attorneys are studying the Archdiocese of Vancouver’s confidential files and a 12-member committee is looking into ways to better handle alleged abuse cases and support victims here. Once these are complete, Archbishop Miller promises a full, public, pastoral plan.
Civil unions blessed
Sixty brides and grooms had their civil unions blessed by the Catholic Church in one big wedding ceremony at Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Surrey Aug. 25. It was the third such wedding of its kind in the Archdiocese of Vancouver.
Salesian convent opens
A community of Salesian sisters has moved in to the Lower Mainland, settling in at a convent at Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish. Italian Father Angel Fernandez Artime, the successor of St. Don Bosco, arrived to personally bless them in Surrey.
A new Catholic high school
About 20 years of planning for a new Catholic high school in Surrey finally came to fruition with the opening of the brand-new Saint John Paul II Academy Sept. 5. The school is temporarily operating at Star of the Sea Parish while construction is underway on a high school campus at 184 Street near 24 Avenue. The building is expected to be complete by 2020.
Mother Teresa relic arrives
A devotee of St. Teresa of Calcutta has reported miracles after venerating a first-class relic at Holy Eucharist Cathedral in New Westminster. The relic of Mother Teresa (a piece of her hair) was a gift to the community in 2017 but was placed on public display for the first time in 2018.
Legalization of recreational cannabis
The Canadian government officially made it legal to use recreational marijuana Oct. 17. In November, the Catholic bishops of B.C. and the Yukon responded to the legislation, saying that while using cannabis for medical reasons is morally permissible, smoking is a “serious health hazard,” and using cannabis for fun can lead to impairment, loss of good judgement, and immoral choices.
St. Romero canonized
The martyred Archbishop of San Salvador was officially recognized as a saint, along with Pope Paul VI and several other holy people, in Rome Oct. 14. Many Salvadorans in the Lower Mainland were moved by the news, including a Surrey resident who was St. Romero's driver for years.
Unsung heroes recognized
Twenty-six “unsung heroes” of the archdiocese (including longtime Eucharistic ministers, choir members, and other lay people who have showed extraordinary service) were honoured at a special Stewardship Awards ceremony Nov. 25.
Jews and Catholics unite
It was the biggest sign of unity between Vancouver Jews and Catholics in recent history: 250 people from both faiths gathered for a dinner and presentations by three scholars on the history and the modern celebrations of Hanukkah and Christmas Dec. 6.
Parish visits continue
Archbishop Miller spent almost one weekend each month at various parishes in 2018 to keep up with a promise to visit all parishes in the archdiocese. They were: St. Matthew’s, Holy Trinity, St. Andrew, Holy Spirit, Sts. Joachim and Ann, St. Francis of Assisi, Our Lady of Good Counsel, St. Francis de Sales, Immaculate Conception, and St. Edmund’s. That puts him at 11 completed visits out of a total of 77 parishes.