Category Archives: Our Faith

2019 Paraguay Solidarity Tour

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Did you know about Chalice’s mission trips? It’s our joy to provide you with an opportunity to volunteer and experience life at our sponsor sites. Both you and those you meet will be enriched by a life changing exchange.

Our CMVAIL site in Paraguay has invited Chalice volunteers and staff to engage with the community of Villeta! Participants will meet and volunteer with site staff, sponsorship beneficiaries, and children at the nearby community center.

We’ve officially booked this as our 2019 Paraguay Solidarity Tour.

  • Dates:                          March 2-16, 2019
  • Location:                     Paraguay
  • Sponsor Site:              CMAVIL – Center of Maria Auxiliadora Villeta
  • Sponsors:                    If your sponsor child’s code begins with VIL, we will be visiting their site!

It is our goal to recruit a team of 15-20 volunteers.  We are primarily recruiting volunteers who have a heart for service. We are also recruiting volunteers who have experience in the following areas:

  • Information technology
  • Photography
  • Finance and savings
  • Wood and leather handicrafts
  • Public health
  • Family/child psychology and counselling
  • Social work
  • Teaching mathematics
  • Painting, artistic skills
  • Coordinating events for children

Our Canadian and Paraguayan volunteers, staff and families will share stories and dialogue to learn from one another, and collaborate in service projects.  Our Canadian team will invite others to support our mission by sponsoring a child from Villeta, and we will collectively raise funds to support the community served by our CMAVIL Site.

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The city of Villeta is located on the banks of the Paraguay River, and is known for being a port and industrial city. The Daughters of Mary Help of Christians have been engaged community social work (through CMAVIL) since 1964. They seek to respond to the needs found in each of the vulnerable families in the area.

Their work is strengthened by joining groups of people of good will through different projects, creating a network of entities and NGOs to support their work.

In spite of being considered an “industrial city,” many families struggle. Scarce job training, little government support, and a lack of support towards immigrants all contribute towards the cycle of poverty.

We work to ensure our 492 sponsored children through our CMAVIL site are able to grow up healthy and get an education. We further support the community with nutrition programs, medical care, and mission trips like our 2019 Paraguay Solidarity Tour. 

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For questions, comments, a detailed itinerary, or an application, please contact Joanne, our Mission Trip Coordinator, at 1-800-776-6855 or at joannealbrecht@chalice.ca. You can also read more about our Mission Trips and our Villeta sponsor site.

“The Reading Kite” inspires children in Chiclayo

 

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In Chiclayo, Peru, some children and their families live in remote, outlying shanty towns. These small towns don’t have the same resources that more populated areas might have, and often times, schools are under stocked. Children’s books are especially rare.

Every child should have the right to read. Thanks to the support from donors through our Gift Catalogue, our Chiclayo site started a program that allows children in remote areas to read, learn, and grow.

“The Reading Kite” is a program that hosts a travelling collection of over 300 quality children’s books. Each book was chosen carefully to promote important themes such as values, morals, self-esteem, achieving your dreams, respect for all people, and children’s rights.

The program is coordinated by a combination of university student volunteers and Chalice site staff. The books are brought into a classroom or community center on a rotating basis, allowing many children to experience the joy of reading.

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When “The Reading Kite” visits a group, the children are first taught how to respect and care for the books. A teacher, parent, or volunteer then reads out loud to the group. Children can then borrow a book and have free time to colour, read, and socialize.

Families are encouraged to read the books together with their children. This creates a wonderful opportunity for bonding, and greatly improves children’s reading comprehension.

“It’s important for children to have a space where they can read, imagine, create and study,” says Gladys Fernández, our Chiclayo site director. “The program continues to be an experience filled with entertainment as well as learning for many children and their families.”

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“The Reading Kite” benefits more than just our sponsored children. Anyone in need can access it, and it is permanently available for to our entire Chiclayo site and surrounding community to use.

“We deeply appreciate the constant support we receive to be able to keep offering this program to our children and their families,” says Gladys.

You can give the gift of books to another community or school in need through our gift catalogue.

Follow Chalice on Facebook and Instagram for daily updates from our sponsor sites, impact stories, and more.

Serhiy: from sponsored child to songwriter

 

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Serhiy was just 11 years old when he became an orphan. After their parent’s deaths, Serhiy and his brother were adopted by their grandparents, who brought them into their home with loving arms. They tried their best to care for the boys, but hardship and poverty made it difficult.

Serhiy was a shy, intelligent and quiet boy. In 2006, Serhiy was accepted into our sponsorship program. Someone saw Serhiy’s potential, and chose to sponsor him. With love and support, Serhiy began to come out of his shell. He discovered a deep love for music, and began practicing the piano at school.

Serhiy, driven by his passion, decided he would take a leap of faith and study to become a professional musician. He studied diligently at his music school, and practiced every single day. During all of these years, his incredibly supportive sponsor encouraged and inspired Serhiy through letters. He wrote Serhiy frequently, and told him that he could accomplish anything he put his mind to.

Today, Serhiy is a keyboardist in famous Ukrainian band. “Okean Elzy” tours across the Ukraine, and even sometimes travels abroad. Serhiy gets the opportunity to meet and collaborate with other talented musicians, all while doing what he loves. Serhiy doesn’t just play in the band- he is also the composer of many of their songs.

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Serhiy has grown from a shy boy to a confident young man now living his dream. He never would have been able to pursue music without the motivation he received from his Chalice sponsor. Having someone support and believe in him truly pushed him to pursue and develop his talent.

Like Serhiy, there are many children waiting for the chance to shine- they just need someone to reach out and recognize their potential. If you’re interested in making a difference in a child’s life, become a sponsor today. 

Follow Chalice on Facebook and Instagram for daily updates from our sponsor sites, impact stories, and more.

Finding Her Purpose Through God’s Grace

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Varalakshmi was a happy child with many dreams for her future. However, at age 15 she was diagnosed with an incurable skin disease that forced her to give up her academic studies and shattered her dreams for the future. Without an education, her mother tried to find a suitable marriage for her, but her skin disease made it difficult. Finally, a young man agreed to marry her, but she would learn too late that he harboured a life-changing secret.

Within one year of marriage, Varalakshmi joyfully gave birth to a baby boy, only to discover that they were both infected with HIV. Her husband was aware of his HIV status before marriage but did not reveal it to anyone and now Varalakshmi had to live with the virus and the stigma attached to it.

Her husband died shortly after the birth of their son, leaving Varalakshmi abandoned and devastated. Turned aside by her family and village, she and her son faced the social stigma attached to their HIV status alone. She was refused jobs and rental homes; she lost all hope and her health was deteriorating.

While searching for a way to make her life meaningful, Varalakshmi came in contact with a Chalice staff member, which was the beginning of a new phase of life full of hope and opportunities. Her son became a sponsored child and Varalakshmi committed herself to serve the children and adults in her community living with HIV and AIDS.

Now Varalakshmi is one of our field workers in Nellore. She has tremendous love for the sponsored children and children of parents living with HIV. She is passionate in communicating God’s compassion to them and sacrifices her time and energy to assist those living with HIV, ensuring they are accessing appropriate medical care and taking their medications. Mothers of our sponsored children find strong support in Varalakshmi and they seek her guidance for a healthy life. She also has a good relationship with government officials in the departments related to HIV. She is an effective counselor, offering referral services to those living with the virus and accompanying people to the hospital when needed. She is a fierce protector of many of our sponsored children living with HIV.

Through family counseling, Varalakshmi helps families overcome all obstacles and empowers them to lead their life with hope and courage, to face a society that excludes them. She accompanies children who are under antiretroviral therapy to ensure consistent treatment and prevent a relapse. She remains a bearer of hope and light to the people.

Varalakshmi is proud to have found her passion working for Chalice and continues to remain an instrument for translating God’s compassionate love and life to these disadvantaged children and persons living with HIV.

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The Epiphany: the Greatness of Jesus Revealed in his Smallness

A Christmas gathering in Santiago, Chile.

A Christmas gathering in Santiago, Chile.

“We travel all the way from the East, are you sure this is the place where the King of the Jews is born?”

“I am not 100% sure. We were told to follow the star. And the star stops here.”

“A messy manger? To pay homage to a child born in a messy manger?”

“Well, since we are here, might as well go in to have a look.”

“What Child is this who laid to rest on Mary’s lap is sleeping? Whom Angels greet with anthems sweet, while shepherds watch are keeping? So bring Him incense, gold and myrrh, come peasant, King to own Him. The King of Kings salvation brings, let loving hearts enthrone Him. This, this is Christ the King, whom shepherds guard and Angels sing. Haste, haste, to bring Him laud, the Babe, the Son of Mary.” (What Child is This lyrics)

Today, on this great solemnity of Epiphany, the Church celebrates the manifestation of Jesus to the world, represented by the encounter with the three wise men (magi) who traveled from the East, guided by the star, to see the newborn babe in the manger in Bethlehem. They are Gentiles, people from outside the Israelite nation. According to Cambridge Dictionary, Epiphany means: a moment when you suddenly feel that you understand, or suddenly become conscious of, something that is very important to you; a powerful religious experience. So what’s The Solemnity of Epiphany so important to us, what do we suddenly understand and what’s the powerful experience? First it doesn’t make common sense for the King of Jews to be born in a messy manger. A 4+ stars inn, at least. He must be a child more than of the rich and nobles. “In sight of all the peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and glory for your people Israel. … This child is destined … to be a sign that will be contradicted so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:30-35). I recall Pope Benedict XVI also said “God’s sign is that he makes himself small for us. . . . God made himself small so that we could understand him, welcome him, and love him” The Child is revealed for all of us, Jews and Gentiles, rich and poor.

“Arise, shine, for your light has come!” The opening words of the first reading (Isaiah 60:1) give us a command to follow. The star, the light the Child Jesus is for us all who search for peace, for salvation, and the meeting of Jews and Gentiles, believers and non-believers. God calls us together soaked in his love, and he calls us to become one family where peace and reconciliation reign. The light gives us faith, hope and love. How do we welcome our neighbours and friends who do not share our faith? Like the Magi, who make an extraordinary trip to pay homage to the newborn Christ, we are also invited to pay homage and are to be the heralds of the Good News, to proclaim that Jesus is born and there is freedom in Him who lived and loved, died and rose for us. Let us be overwhelmed with joy, and dare to invite others in.

Tomorrow, Monday, is the Solemnity of Baptism of the Lord. After that, the Christmas season will end and the Ordinary Time begins when the Baby Jesus will be 30 by then to start His mission. “I have come to call not the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32). The Baby Jesus is for all the poor, literally, physically and spiritually. He is a Child of the poor. I started my permanent deacon mission at double His age (60) to serve the needy and the poor. Soup kitchen, services at missions, hospital and old age home visits, etc. The sleeves of our dalmatics are so designed to be wide enough for ease in carrying supplies and food to the helpless and hungry. But now, ten years later, I, like a new born baby, cannot walk and talk. iPad is the only device for me to communicate. Google helps me to search and research for my weekly assignment, the reflection. I have been pondering everyday puzzling on who I serve now, and what’s next.

When I meditate on the nativity after mass on New Year’s day, I suddenly become conscious of: the greatness of Jesus revealed in his smallness, coming into the world as a helpless child born in the poorest conditions. Christ came in this weak state to help us to be at peace with our own helplessness and weakness. He wants to lift us up in all of the glory with which we have been created. His love and mercy are ALWAYS available to us! Christ being a Child of the Poor gives me comfort and hope.

“Helpless and hungry, lowly afraid, wrapped in the chill of mid-winter. Comes now among us, born into poverty’s embrace, new life for the world. Who is this who lives with the lowly, sharing their sorrows, knowing their hunger? This is Christ, revealed to the world in the eyes of a child, a child of the poor. Who is the stranger, here in our midst, looking for shelter among us? Who is this outcast? Who do we see amidst the poor, the children of God? … Bring all the thirsty, all who seek peace; bring those with nothing to offer. Strengthen the feeble, say to the frightened heart: “Fear not, here is our God!”. Who is this who lives with the lowly, sharing their sorrows, knowing their hunger? This is Christ,revealed to the world in the eyes of a child, a child of the poor.” (Scott Soper, “Child of the Poor” Lyrics)

By Deacon Raymond Chan, Chalice speaker and Champion

A child in Cochabamba, Bolivia is delighted by her new gift. Photo by Janelle  Witzaney

Gifts of Love and Thanks

Advent is an exciting time at Chalice because we see an outpouring of love in many different forms. This deluge of the heart is no accident, it is prompted by the anticipation of the Lord’s arrival. It is from our natural inclination of wanting to be close to Christ that we desire to share the gift of love with others. The beauty of expressing love is in our creation. The Lord has made each and every one of us an individual who shows our love in very different ways.

In his book Life is Worth Living, Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen says, “Nothing ever happens in this world that does not happen first inside human hearts.”  Naturally we look to prayer when we want to make something happen inside the human heart. Through prayer we are making a connection with the Lord which, in turn, connects us to all of His children. Prayers open hearts and can create tangible expressions of love.

When Chalice supporter’s hearts are moved to give, our hearts are also stirred. Deacon Danny MacDonald, our School and Parish Administrator says even a task as simple as opening the mail during Advent is deeply inspiring because we see the generosity of people.  Deacon Danny also said the love and generosity does not stop at our individual supporters. One parish wanted to encourage others to give donations for mosquito netting from our Chalice Gift Catalogue. In order to show their solidarity with our work, the parish covered their nativity scene in mosquito netting!

When the Three Wise Men visited Jesus after his birth, they brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. There is a major significance attached to these gifts because the Wise Men were not only acknowledging the importance of the birth of Jesus, but they were also giving gifts of love and thanks for the Son of God’s arrival. Living in Canada has afforded us the opportunity to be able to give gifts that express our gratitude for all of God’s blessings. When we share our blessings with others, we give gifts from the heart, letting the recipient know they are one of God’s children and they are loved. Chances are the recipient of that gift will experience a movement inside their heart that will allow them to pass the love on in a meaningful way.

The month of December, admittedly, is a very busy time of year, but it is also a time where our hearts are open and we are ready to celebrate Christmas. So go fourth and spread your gifts from the heart with others. Whether in the form of a kind greeting, lending an ear to listen or buying a gift – spread joy this Christmas and create tangible expressions of love.

By Heidi Hlubina – Parish Coordinator

Cover photo by Janelle Witzaney – Solidarity Tour Volunteer

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Advent: Savour the Wait, Savour the Chocolate!

I am not a patient person. It just doesn’t come to me naturally. I’m a true millennial, raised in a world of instant gratification, and I don’t like having to wait. As a child, I always had an Advent calendar, and being forced to eat only one little chocolate square per day was torture!

And yet there is wisdom in waiting. Advent chocolate was a special treat specifically because it involved patience and baby steps – if I’d eaten all 24 pieces at once, it would just have been a big chocolate bar, here and then gone. Instead, it left an impact on me because it was slow and deliberate. Advent calendars were a special treat because of the waiting involved.

Even now, as an adult, Advent leaves me impatient. It’s hard not to be excited for Christmas – time with family and friends, good food and good wine, presents galore. Without thinking, I sometimes find myself wishing for Advent to speed by. But like the little pieces of chocolate behind each window in my Advent calendar, each day and week of Advent brings a little piece of joy that should be celebrated.

I’ve come to value Advent as a time of spiritual renewal. The holidays are a hectic time of year, with shopping to do, lots on my plate at work, loved ones traveling. It’s easy to get caught up in the details – my budget for this gift, my coffee date with that person. Advent is an opportunity to slow down and focus on the One worth waiting for, the One whose birth is the reason this is a time of celebration.

As a kid, once I ate one of my chocolates, there was nothing to do for the next 24 hours except wait passively. But Advent is a different kind of waiting, an active waiting. We wait for Jesus by spending more time in prayer, by receiving the sacrament of Reconciliation, by giving generously to those in need. Waiting for Jesus is never sitting around, twiddling our thumbs – it’s spending more time with Him and living out His calling for us.

The miracle of Christmas – God the Father sending His only Son, divinity taking on flesh, all out of unconditional, overwhelming love for us – is one that needs preparation. Amid the busyness of December, set aside time to prepare your heart for the arrival of Jesus. If, like me, patience is not your strength, then filling your Advent with active waiting will help much more than chocolate rations!

By  Jenna LeBlanc, Sponsor Representative & International Department Administrator