Event organizers call scotch-tasting fundraiser first of its kind in B.C.

VANCOUVER—Jesuit priests and scotch made for a lively pairing at the inaugural B.C. Jesuit Scotch Tasting Reception.

Event sponsor and organizer Tom Cooper said the fundraiser, complete with live music and samplings of three aged scotches, was the first of its kind. Participants sampled Royal Brackla Distillery’s 16-year-old Cawdor Estate, Jura’s Tastival 2016, and Glefarclas’s 21-year-old single Highland Malt.

“I’ve met a lot of Jesuits and I’ve always wanted to encourage them,” said the head of Vancouver-based Christian group City in Focus.

“I like the Jesuit work in Vancouver. I’ve had Jesuits help me run retreats, help me on City in Focus breakfasts, and they attend some of our events. This is a way for us to give back to what they do.”

Four Jesuit priests mingled with more than 100 supporters and scotch connoisseurs at the John Paul II Pastoral Centre Jan. 11. Among them was provincial superior Father Peter Bisson, SJ.

“On behalf of the Jesuits in Canada, and in particular for the Jesuits in Vancouver, thank you for participating in this celebration and this exercise in finding God in all things,” he said.

Father Bisson used the opportunity to share thoughts about healing societal, cultural, and religious divisions.

“We (Jesuits) have been relating to Indigenous people ever since we arrived in Canada 400 years ago,” he said.

In recent years the congregation has found the key to fostering better relations with First Nations people is to apologize . . . to “acknowledge our role in colonization, inappropriate connections between evangelization and colonization, our role in residential schools, and occasionally, our role in sexual abuse,” Father Bisson said.

“The key to that for us has been not to run away from the problems in a defensive and legalistic way, but to approach them in a pastoral way. These are our friends and colleagues and we need to stay friends, and therefore, we need to say sorry.”

Being vulnerable is a large risk but “has only led to new and better connections.”

Another way local Jesuits are attempting to heal divisions is to work to unite their English-Canadian and French-Canadian branches, which will officially happen in less than two years, he said.

Special guest Andrew Bennett, Canada’s first and only ambassador for religious freedom, was also invited to speak about being a Christian in a fractured, secular society.

“To be human means to recognize that Imago Dei, that image and likeness of God, in each person,” he said.

A conversation with a Ukrainian Catholic priest in a seminary years ago helped Bennett change the way he navigated division. He had been complaining that priests insisted on praying in Ukrainian every second week, despite the fact all of their students were native English speakers.

“He said something that has stuck with me ever since: ‘Andrew, you need to decide whether you love these people, with all of their nationalist hang-ups, their politics, everything, because that’s the Church. It’s also society, with all of its brokenness, hang-ups, division, confusion,’” Bennet recalled.

“We need to love people. We can only do that if we actually confess the Incarnation. Do we actually believe that God became man and we are called to see Christ in every person we encounter? That’s a radical calling.”

The social fundraiser ended with a live auction of four aged and rare scotches, with proceeds going directly to Jesuit efforts in Canada.