Chaplain at HMCS Prevost/Brescia’s Director of Campus Ministry to Receive the Diamond Jubilee Medal! – I could not be Prouder
This is the year of the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. Along with that celebration came an announcement from His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnson, Governor General of Canada, of the creation of a medal called the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal. Recipients of this medal are Canadians who have ‘made a significant contribution to a particular province, territory, region or community within Canada, or an achievement abroad that brings credit to Canada.’
On the GG’s webpage we read:
A new commemorative medal was created to mark the 2012 celebrations of the 60th anniversary of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s accession to the Throne as Queen of Canada. The Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal is a tangible way for Canada to honour Her Majesty for her service to this country. At the same time, it serves to honour significant contributions and achievements by Canadians.
I am proud to announce that one of those medals is coming under our roof. Lt (N) Catherinanne George, Padre at HMCS Prevost and Regional Chaplain in the Royal Canadian Naval Reserve will receive this honour on October 17, 2012 at a ceremony at HMCS Prevost. Catherinanne is being honoured for her service to the Naval Reserve, and its sailors, to the Navy Centennial Celebration in 2010 when she chaired the committee that planed celebrations for Windsor, ON, as well as for her service to the wider community in her civilian life as a University Director of Campus Ministry.
From the day I met Catherinanne I have been impressed with her passion for serving her country. She has been both a Regular Force and Reserve Navy Chaplain in the last 17 years. In that time I have been impressed with how very present she is to those committed to her care. Those who have known her as Padre George have great respect for her. She was nominated by sailors because she has served so many of them with love and with a genuine spirit. Mahatma Gandhi said – “The best way to find yourself, is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Those words are a fitting description of how I have witnessed Catherinanne discern who she is and what her ministry is.
Whether at as a Padre at CFB Borden, HMCS Hunter in Windsor, HMCS Prevost in London she has always served those to whom she is known as Padre. Whether at Assumption University or Brescia University College, Catherinanne has been discovering who God has made her to be by being so very present to the faculty, staff, and students in the schools in which she has been Director of Campus Ministry. Whether she has been serving as a clerk in a book store or a secretary in a fire hall, Catherinanne has served those around her with love. Her heart is big, and she will go the extra mile to see to it that those committed to her care know that they are loved – by others and loved by God.
I love Catherinanne’s faithfulness. She teaches me to have faith and to pray. I am most impressed that Catherinanne always looks for the best in others, even those who can be difficult. Thérèse de Lisieux wrote – “I know now that true charity consists in bearing all our neighbors’ defects–not being surprised at their weakness, but edified at their smallest virtues.” I can be guilty of being cynical, but Catherinanne will always remind me that my call is to seek and serve Christ in ALL persons – even those who can be difficult. She always looks for what is best in others, even if it causes her pain. That is what makes her an excellent Minister, a great Padre, a tremendous Chaplain, and a wonderful Director of Campus Ministry… and dare I say a supportive and loving wife!
I can think of no more deserving candidate for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal. I could not be prouder – Congratulations Catherinanne – I love you!
What a week it has been.
Last week I said farewell to a church family that we have been loved by and been in love with for nearly 14 years. Seven days later I was standing in front my new church family as one adopted and we were getting to know one another for the first time.
And what a wonderful Sunday it was. I found myself thinking of my friend Joe Pastovich who has often reminded me of the words of Tolkien from Lord of the Rings. Joe would say of last Sunday, “A star shines on the hour of our meeting.” A ‘Star’ did indeed rise on the hour of our meeting at St. Aidan’s. This ‘Star’ has not just risen and shone, but has promised to continue to shine on us as we discern each other’s gifts and how we might best use them to build the Reign of God in Northwest London. Scripture reminds us that this Star is to be with us as we journey together. This Star is the One of whom Jesus spoke: “I have spoken these things to you while I am with you. The Companion, the Holy Spirit (The Star), whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I told you. ‘Peace I leave with you. My peace I give you. I give to you not as the world gives. Don’t be troubled or afraid.’” There was no doubt in my mind that the Companion/Comforter/Advocate/Spirit/Star was with us and ‘shining on us’ as we came together for the first time as priest and parishioner this past week. From the kind welcome of the first attendees at 8 am to the gentle and kind welcome from our youngest prophets at the offering, to the fine serving of strawberries and ice cream, God’s love was reflected in the people of God in our community.
As wonderful as it was to behold that the Star rose to shine on the hour of our meeting, the Word hit us squarely between the eyes and reminded us that we need to get going. There is work to be done;
He instructed them to take nothing for the journey except a walking stick—no bread, no bags, and no money in their belts. He told them to wear sandals but not to put on two shirts. He said, “Whatever house you enter, remain there until you leave that place. If a place doesn’t welcome you or listen to you, as you leave, shake the dust off your feet as a witness against them.” So they went out and proclaimed that people should change their hearts and lives. They cast out many demons, and they anointed many sick people with olive oil and healed them.
It is clear to me that we have many gifts for ministry at St. Aidan’s and the potential for us to change hearts, and bring healing Love to our community is great. Great considering what we need to take is ourselves and little else. We are to simplify our witness and follow the way of Jesus. The Star that sustains us as we disciple wants us to remember the witness of Jesus who loved, healed, shared, proclaimed, feed, clothed, forgave, embraced, ate, drank, wept, laughed, suffered, celebrated, and lived among the people. We have been called to know that the Star that rose on the hour of our meeting now calls us to get busy and make the way of Jesus real in Northwest London. Are you ready…..?
Allah looks not at your figures, nor at your outward appearance but He looks at your hearts and deeds.
— Prophet Muhammad SAW
God doesn’t look at things like humans do. Humans see only what is visible to the eyes, but the Lord sees into the heart.”
— 1 Samuel 16: 7
I miss Wafa.
A dozen years ago I met a wonderful woman of faith named Wafa. She was an officer at HMCS Hunter in Windsor, ON. She became a wonderful friend to me and to my wife Catherinanne. Last week came the sad news that our friend Wafa had lost her battle with lung cancer. Since I have heard that news I have been reflecting on just how important Wafa was in my life. This year I completed a Thesis on Interfaith relationships. That document would never have been completed if it were not for the inspiration given to me so long ago by this fiery little Muslim Officer in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve. She is one of the reasons I am so impassioned to work toward better relationships between people of different faiths.
Wafa Dabbagh was a Palestinian woman. She was born in Egypt. She was raised in Kuwait and later served the Canadian Military at home and abroad, including in Jerusalem. She was an amazing woman. Wafa was the first woman to wear the hijab in the Canadian Forces. She was gregarious, loving, and had a gorgeous smile that brightened not just the room that she was in but the hearts of the people in her company. If you met Wafa and ‘liked her not’ (as Wafa would say) it said more about you and your attitudes than it did about Wafa. She disarmed the greatest of skeptics and cynics with narrow attitudes about women, Muslims, and head-coverings in a uniform. She was a delight. More than all of that Wafa was a woman of intense faith. She called me on almost all major Christian feasts to wish me Happy Easter, Merry Christmas, and even asked me once to tell her why Pentecost was an important feast in the Christian Tradition. ”Teach me about your Feast day Kevin,” she said with that broad smile. Wafa asked this as she prepared to come to my church to offer the Lord’s Prayer in Arabic as I was having it read in many languages on the Feast day of Pentecost. She said, “I love the words of the Lord’s Prayer and would be pleased to come and meet people of faith.”
Wafa welcomed us into her home, prepared great feasts for us all. She taught me to say Alhamdulillah after finishing a wonderful meal at her house. It means “praise to Allah,” she said, “or if you like – Thanks be to God.” She went on to teach me Inshallah (If God wills it), Assalamu Alaikom (peace be upon you), and many more. I once told her, that I wish I had the faith that she possessed. I told her that she was a powerful witness to me and an inspiration. I told her that Christians have much to learn from her as she provided such a strong witness of her faith to everyone she met. Wafa Dabbagh was a special servant of God’s making and she will be sorely missed by the military community, her neighbours, her faith community, her friends and her family. That being said, those of us who knew her were changed and made better for it. She left a great mark on the world. My world became much bigger after I met this diminutive Palestinian. She was small in stature and yet she left a tremendously large footprint of faith as she left us last week. Thank you Wafa for showing us that humility, good humour, kindness, compassion, and prayerfulness can be such a powerful refection of the Divine. We hope that we shall all meet again one day —- Inshallah.
READ AN ARTICLE ABOUT WAFA IN THE OTTAWA CITIZEN BY CLICKING HERE
“On with the dance! Let joy be unconfined;
No sleep till morn, when Youth and Pleasure meet
To chase the glowing hours with flying feet.” – George Gordon Byron
On Saturday last, Catherinanne threw an awesome party at Boston Pizza in honour of my graduation from McCormick last month. It was a great day. Many of you came and I was pleased to see of you. I wish there was more time to spend with each of you. It would be fair to suggest that we adopted the slogan, “Let Joy be unconfined.” It was a good and informal day of fun and frivolity… I think there may have been too many ‘glowing hours.’ That being said, I enjoyed every minute. Thank you Catherinanne for your kindness and love in throwing me such a great celebration — you have been such a great support in all of this. Thank you as well to Kirsten and Rob Haglund, owners of Boston Pizza — my favorite locally owned sports bar and restaurant for your help with a great party. Not to be forgotten — To Kelly and Jessica managers extraordinaire, you are the best — thanks for everything.
(my world was made complete when my fav locally owned Chinese Restaurant – Fong’s Villa sent the best Hot and Sour soup in the world to BP — Chinese food at Boston Pizza — you gotta love Margaret and Lucy!)
Now we move on to our plans for one more celebration. The parish of St. Mark’s by-the-Lake has planned a Roast as a farewell for me and Catherinanne. I would be most pleased to see our friends from within the parish as well as our many friends and partners in the Windsor Essex Community. Our church has grown in no small measure in these past years because of the the partnerships with have built. We look forward to seeing as many of those community partners together in celebration on June 22 at the K of C Hall on Lesperance. Tickets are $30 and can be purchased from the church office by calling 519 735 4921 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. As tickets were understandably restricted to parishioners only until this past weekend you should call or email early to get your seats as space is limited.
It is hard to believe that we are now down to four more Sundays before we move on to our next home to new challenges as rector of St. Aidan’s in London. As each week ticks by it is increasingly more emotional to think of walking out the door of St. Mark’s by-the-Lake for the last time as rector. I pray that you have opportunity to join us for these last few weeks of worship together. I hope we see as many of you we can before we depart. On July 1st we will have a Celtic Mass at 10:30 am with loads of music and loads of fun. Plan on being there for what will be a memorable time of worship.
This entire saying goodbye business can be tiring. At the same time, I am reminded of Winnie the Pooh’s words, “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” These next few weeks will no doubt remind me of how very lucky and how very fortunate I am to have something so special in my life. I will endeavour to take opportunity each day that I have left with the people of St. Mark’s to give thanks for the many ways in which God is made manifest in this wonderful community. May God give us good time together in these next few weeks.
I love it when people ask me where I met my wife Catherinanne. I like it because it gives me the opportunity to say, “I picked her up at a Roman Catholic Seminary!” I feel fairly confident in saying that I am the only man to have found a wife at St. Peter’s Seminary in London, Ontario. It makes for great storytelling too. I admit that of all the places to try to meet women, a RC seminary does seem an odd place to look. That being said it worked for me. The late great Bob Giuliano our professor of homiletics used to say, “The greatest thing to come out of Huron’s ecumenical evenings with St. Peter’s Seminary was Kevin and Catherinanne hookin’ up!” Those were good days. Hard to believe that it was 18 years ago that I was in the chapel at St. Peter’s for the first time. How curious I was when I met Catherinanne there that night. What was this fine lady doing in such a place? A few questions later, we were married. It has always been a special place to me because of that night and that chance meeting – or was it chance? But I digress!
This week St. Peter’s Seminary celebrated its centennial. There was a grand celebration on Tuesday evening that began with a Mass at the chapel and concluded with a wonderful dinner at the Great Hall on the Campus of Western University. It would be fair to say that outside of Vatican City that evening it would have been hard to find so many black suits and clergy collars anywhere on the face of our planet. It was a wonderful gala with fine food and drink and speeches befitting such an auspicious occasion.
How pleased I was to look up from my aperitif and see the friendly face of The Rev’d Dr. Bill Danaher, Dean of Theology at Huron University College. He was stopping by my table to say hello. Somehow that moment made me feel a little less alone. (That being said, I was kept in good company with long-time friend The Rev’d Larry Brunet a priest of the Roman Catholic Church who had taken up residence at our table.) Bill was in attendance to bring greetings to St. Peter’s on behalf of Huron. When he took the microphone a little later to congratulate St. Peter’s, Dean Danaher gave an eloquent and inspiring speech about theology and its importance in the life of the church. One statement jumped out at me more than the others.
“Theology is, as our greatest lights have taught us, a process and not simply a product… it is a journey & not simply a destination. Theology is ever in motion & satisfies us by increasing our longing for God.”
This brought me back to my days at Huron College nearly twenty years ago. Being honest, I would have to say that as a young man I think I came to Southwestern Ontario seeking a product. What I found was very much a process. I thought our beautiful Anglican Seminary at Huron College (as it was then known) was a destination. But Huron became a place of journey for me. What I realized while I was in process and on a pilgrimage with others, was that I have a longing for God that only increases when I engage in theology. The study of theology at Huron did not give me a parcel of knowledge to carry under my arm as I traipsed off to my first appointment in Labrador West. In fact it was quite the contrary. What Huron gave to me was a place to empty some of my baggage, lighten my need for firm answers, increase my willingness to ask, and deepen my hunger to be in communion with God and God’s people. Dean Danaher was very articulate and I was proud to have the Dean of my alma mater offer such thought-provoking and inspiring words.
I was nostalgic while on campus this week. I journeyed to a day that seems so long ago and yet in the paradoxical nature of these things, feels like it was just a day or two ago. We have journeyed many miles since those days. We have been engaged in theology at the parish level. It is so true that the more willing we are to explore theology with the people of God at the grass-roots level, the deeper the yearning people have for God. When I enrolled at McCormick Theological Seminary three years ago it was also another opportunity for me to seek a closer communion with God. What was so special about my time there was the surprising number of ways that I was able to engage theological discourse with God’s people in the church. Again, I was reminded of what a tremendous journey theology is and what wonderful places that journey can take us.
I have longed more for God because of how I have learned from people at Huron University College. That longing was increased in learning alongside the people of the parish of Labrador West. My yearning for God’s presence was increased in the many opportunities I had to learn in a near fourteen year period with the people of St. Mark’s by-the-Lake. In my colleagues at McCormick I found more pilgrims on a journey who loved seeking, asking, and longing. I feel confident that when I have opportunity to enter into theological living with the people of St. Aidan’s in London, my yearning for God will increase yet again. I am thankful for theology and the role it has played in bringing me closer to God and God’s people. I am thankful to Dean Danaher for reminding me of how much we take that process of living theology for granted.
Oh…. and I am thankful to St. Peter’s Seminary for one of its greatest graduates and one of the greatest pilgrims on the faith-filled journey — my wife!
“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” – Lao Tzu
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” – 1 Peter
This weekend was incredibly hard for very obvious reasons but it was also very liberating. I had been carrying around a lot of worry for a few weeks and that is never easy. So standing before a congregation that I love so dearly and delivering the news that I would leave St. Mark’s in July was difficult, but it feels so much better to have ‘the news’ out there.
One of the reasons that it is so much better stems from the first part of Lao Tzu’s quote above. Being deeply loved by someone gives strength. I could not imagine being more loved and feeling stronger than I do at this time. Like most at St. Mark’s, I have no clear vision of what the future holds. I know a little about the Christian community that I will be joining. Presumably, they know a little about me. But collectively we really do not know a lot about each other. So I am preparing to set out on a journey with Jesus as my Compass and my Guide. But make no mistake; I cannot be certain about where that journey leads. Judging by what I have seen so far, I suspect it will lead us to wonderful places of discipleship with a community that shares a zeal for mission and an interest in the transformative power of living the Gospel. Setting out on a journey with limited knowledge of where it might go requires strength and I am drawing that strength from being loved by so many. The people of St. Mark’s by-the-Lake responded so well to the news of my departure. In fact, when I finished my announcement that I would be leaving, I got a standing ovation! What does that mean? – kidding! The love and appreciation mean so much. We have received countless messages via Twitter, Facebook, email, and this thing called a phone – so much so that it is overwhelming. Then there were the messages sent by homing pigeons – kidding again! We have also been so surprised at the messages from across Windsor Essex from outside the church community. Also touching was the messages from those people of St. Aidan who await our arrival. It means so very much to be so very loved. Catherinanne and I thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the care and love that you have all expressed. I also want to express my gratitude for the messages that I have received from clergy within the Deanery of Essex and to the Clergy in the Deanery of Medway who sent messages in anticipation of my arrival in July.
The second half of the above quote is also instructive to what I am currently feeling. Loving someone deeply gives you courage. While it may difficult for some people to understand, the decision to depart from St. Mark’s at this time is not simply about what is best for Kevin or for Kevin and Catherinanne. This move is also about what is best for St. Mark’s by-the-Lake. I love this church and the people in it very deeply. That love for you is what gave ne the courage needed to decide to answer the leading of the Spirit and be stirred from my complacency and to allow this church to be stirred from its complacency. There comes a time when a church needs its leader to have the courage to make change happen. If the church leader is sitting in the comfortable pew that decision becomes a very personal choice. Coming to the conclusion that the Spirit was leading me to acknowledge that new leadership will be necessary for St. Mark’s by-the-Lake was tough – it is hard on my ego to acknowledge that a group of people who I love so much need a change in leadership. But loving so deeply has afforded me enough courage to heed the leading of the Spirit.
The parish response to this challenge is wonderful. I never really doubted that it would be any different. Winston Churchill said that “the pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” St. Mark’s by-the-Lake has always been a church of optimists. Over the last 14 years I have marvelled at the ability of the people of God in this church to find opportunity in every challenge. the Parishioners of St. Mark’s have been through leadership changes that have been less than pretty. In each and every challenge this church has faced, the people have come together and found great opportunity. I see these the months ahead no differently. The strong and dedicated people of this church will come together to make the best of this opportunity that has been presented.
Now we forge ahead together toward July 1, 2012. We will have many worship opportunities together at St. Mark’s and I encourage you to come out so that we might enjoy each other in the sacredness of liturgy and in the joy of community fellowship. There will hopefully be an opportunity to formally say farewell in the weeks ahead. Please feel free to come and see me with any questions or concerns that you have. Feel free to stop by the office and reminisce about the last thirteen plus years. I would welcome hearing from you.
“Now run along and play, but don’t get into trouble.’ George promised to be good. But it is easy for little monkeys to forget.”
These lines are from Curious George. He is the curious little monkey! The photo here is of a little friend Catherinanne gave me as a gift the day I started my doctoral studies at McCormick Theological Seminary. He is called “Back to School George.” He has a backpack and his lunch, a banana, is inside. Since she gave me this gift, my little friend George has travelled with me to every course in Chicago. He has attended each class that I have taken. Apart from writing a thesis, George has does most things necessary to be awarded a DMin at this May’s graduation.
When I write – he is with me. When I am reading he is with me. Some people have ‘good luck charms.’ I have a little stuffed animal called Curious George. Catherinanne thought it appropriate to give a man with the surname George, who was curious enough to go back to school this gift – she was right. He has been a faithful concomitant. When she is unable to be with me, I know that my sidekick is filling in for her. Now this has upsides and downsides. On the upside he is a better listener than Catherinanne. It is not that Catherinanne is not a good listener as much as Curious George NEVER interrupts me. Catherinanne does interrupt from time to time. Now the downside is that he NEVER interrupts me. He NEVER speaks. So unlike Catherinanne who has sage advice with my writing and work, George is more the strong silent type who prefers to leave me to my own devices.
That being said, George has been such a great help. For the past seven days I have been struggling with a little writers block. It was really getting me down. I would start to write and inevitably find myself “stuck.” What could be wrong? Then it all became clear in one horrific revelation. I received a letter…. (ok Facebook Message)
“We have your friend Curious George! We have kept him here for a week now. He is sad that you do not care enough to come looking for him. If you ever want to see your friend again, you will need to go to Boston Pizza on Manning Road and purchase an item from the Delicious Alternatives Menu.”
A RANSOM NOTE! I was alarmed! How could I have not missed my dear companion for a whole week? What has he been trough in the days that have passed? How many long hours did he spend in the cold confines of a dark oak cabinet? How often did he have to endure the words “cactus cut potatoes?” Tears filled my eyes. My faithful friend George has been missing and I was completely unaware. It turns out that I had left him there when I was last there writing a paper.
Despite the peril involved, today I set out to get him back and rescue him from the pizza stained hands of those ladies at Boston Pizza! It would take courage and a discerning eye to know what to order on that delicious alternatives menu. But I knew that if I concentrated and prayed hard I would find the intelligence and the courage necessary to find my friend and restore him back to my side. I sauntered into the Boston Pizza and requested my usual booth. My request was granted. Kelly looked at me with one part disgust and two parts determination. “Do you know that you left your friend behind? Did you even miss him?” Not long after he was returned to my side when I promised to make my regular order or Chopped Chicken Salad. When Jessica (George’s other snatcher) came in she came directly to me. “You are lucky that you ever got to see him again – He deserves better than you!”
I ordered a diet Pepsi, sat Curious George up in front of me, and began writing – writers block cured! Both me and George are looking forward to defending this thesis in March — but right now we have some writing to do!
Thank you to Jessica and Kelly for releasing George to me. You are the best captures for my little friend because you looked after him. [The whole gang at BP have been great to me during this time of study] I promise to never let him leave my side again.
Thank you Catherinanne for my friend…. he is a great reminder that I am loved and supported even when things get a little tough along the road. One of your best gifts ever!