Reflections from the Executive Director

Caring for our planet in little ways
March 28, 2023

As the Executive Director of one of the provincial Catholic health associations, I have the privilege of being invited to attend the Catholic Health Alliance of Canada Governing Council meetings. 

Once each year, those meetings include the bishops from all of the sponsored Catholic Health works from across the county. It is indeed an honour to be able to participate with people who are thought leaders from coast to coast on what it means to be a part of the healing ministry of Jesus. I never come back from one of those meetings without having learned something new.

This year, the learning came to me through two separate events. On the day of our meeting with the bishops, I was having breakfast with a few of the attendees and we were talking about Laudato Si’. One of the individuals spoke of so many people he knew in his home diocese who say, “there is nothing we can do”, “the problems are too large”, or “we need the government to find solutions”. It was disheartening for me to hear that, as I am sure it was for him as well, to hear those he knew to feel so defeated.

Later in the morning, we had a presentation from an emergency room physician, Dr. James Maskalyk, from Unity Health in Toronto. In 2020, Dr. Maskalyk was diagnosed with stage 4 lymph node cancer. After going through treatment and recovery, he has now returned to the work he loves with a new sense of purpose. He has decided, in addition to his ER work, to help other health care staff who are facing stress and burnout so that they might keep a holistic sense of heath as they confront the stresses of being at the front lines of caring for those with the most urgent needs for help. His presentation had a huge impact on me, not just because of what he was doing, but because after hearing the sense of helplessness at the breakfast meeting, I was now sitting in front of one person who has decided that he can make a difference and has set a course to do so. What if we all chose one thing we could do to make a difference in Laudato Si’, however small that may seem. One small step can lead to another. It can inspire a friend to join or to find their own project. It can grow to a neighborhood, to a town and so on.  If we all decide there is nothing we can do, it will probably be self-fulfilling.

There are clearly things that governments can do on large scales that will help. But it can’t be a “government only” initiative. Grass roots behaviour changes can have a huge impact on societies. So if you are thinking that there is nothing you can do, I encourage you to read the article on Laudato Si’ in this month’s newsletter. There is an article on the nine things each of us could do to start making a difference. If you can think of others that you have started doing, let us know and we can share your ideas. One step at a time, we can start to make the world a better place for our children.

“Before I die, I would like to….”
July 11, 2021

I came across this article and video while reading the article in La Civilta Cattolica. It made me ponder on how I would answer the question “Before I die, I would like to….”. Without much thinking, many of us might think “win a lottery”, “travel Europe”, “climb Everest”, “have grandchildren”. And for many, there may be a number of things they would like to experience. While I would certainly like to win a lottery or travel Europe, when I thought more deeply about the question, a response that resonated with me was “to be seen as a hero to at least one person outside my family”. Not for the fame or the glory but for the knowledge that I did something that was truly meaningful and that made a positive difference to someone’s life. That is perhaps why I have been drawn to my role at CHABC. When I delve even deeper on that thought, I now redefine my answer to include “help other people to be someone’s hero”.  

At CHABC, I am being given that opportunity through the Spiritual Care Series training that we promote to parishes. It is a program that prepares us to be there for those who are isolated, lonely and perhaps in the last stages of their lives. The program gives people the tools to make a difference, to bring comfort and maybe even joy to the lives of those who would otherwise spend their final years in loneliness and despair. So when we are successful with giving others this skill, I can feel content to know that while I may not personally be someone’s hero, I will be part of a movement that has created many heroes. I see that as a greater accomplishment.

If you are interested in the Spiritual Care Program, click here. If it appeals to you, speak to others in your parish and prepare to be heroes by organizing to bring the program to your area and learning how you can make a difference in the lives of others.

Bob Breen

Executive Director