{mosimage}Stretched thinner and thinner across Canada’s North, the church is losing touch with First Nations communities as First Nations communities lose touch with hope. Another wave of teen suicides in the James Bay region has left church leaders wondering how they can offer hope to young aboriginals when they have so little contact with them.

“It used to be that the churches had a real big involvement in the communities,” said Bishop Vincent Cadieux, bishop of the Moosonee and Hearst dioceses. “That’s less and less now.”

The challenge of parenting in a consumer culture

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{mosimage}TORONTO - When Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare 2 entered her teenage son’s vocabulary this year, Mary hit the panic button. First, she didn’t like that “all his friends” were playing this game with a mature rating, and second, she worried about the impact a controversial terrorist mission within the game might have on his developing mind. The arguments began.

“I didn’t know what to do,” said Mary, who’s name has been changed for this story. “My son is a great kid, he does really well in school and he just wants to play the game to unwind.”

Rich, educated not necessarily less active in religion

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{mosimage}TORONTO - A good education and a good job are no barrier to believing in a personal God, according to a University of Toronto sociologist.

But the American-born professor also warns that a close association between conservative, reactionary politics and religion is driving better educated Americans away from church, what Scott Schieman calls “the Sarah Palin effect.”

Daily Mass, rosary groups among the services offered by long-term care facilities

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TORONTO - Elodie Robichaud remembers well praying the rosary as a young girl and is pleased she is able to continue this tradition at Cardinal Ambrozic Houses of Providence.

Homes like Providence Healthcare help to nurture the spiritual lives of residents. Robichaud really appreciates that spiritual component of the community at the Toronto long-term care home. She considers the faith community there, which prays together and attends daily Mass, “family.”

“Being able to go to Mass every morning, it’s a big gift for us,” said Robichaud.

Robichaud, 86, and her husband Gaspard, 84, attend daily Mass and rosary group together.

The rosary group at Providence began about 25 years ago when resident Jack Scriven started volunteering. Scriven, 94, leads the group that has up to 40 people gathering every day at the chapel.

Healthy lifestyle gives seniors their best life

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TORONTO - Mirella Monte walks more than 6 km five days a week. She meets her walking group at 6:30 a.m. and then does a tour of the neighbourhood in about one hour and 10 minutes. Monte is one healthy 68-year-old.

“There’s a lot my children and my grandchildren can give me but I have something to give back too,” said Monte. “I can be an example to them in what I can do.”

Monte is the picture of good health. In addition to walking, she is on a bowling team and takes exercise classes for people over 50 when the weather is sub par.

Her healthy eating supplements her active lifestyle.

“We don’t buy any prepared food,” said Monte. “We cook our food.” In her household, they eat a bit of everything: lots of soup, vegetables, fruits and meat — although they seem to want less meat the older they get, she said.

Boomers take a new attitude towards retirement

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TORONTO - If retirement residences of the past were places to die, today’s are places to live.

Over the past quarter century, retirement living — once an omen of a loss of independence — has begun to take on a new face. As the baby boomer generation begins to flock to residences and homes, they will no longer associate retirement with isolation or dependence, but rather with a healthy lifestyle in an active community.

“We’re always trying to change the perception of aging,” said Maureen Scordamaglia, community relations manager at the Scarborough Retirement Centre in Toronto’s east end. “We want to show that just because you’re a senior doesn’t mean that everything ends.”

The centre’s programs back up that claim. From art, music and fitness classes to regular outings and parties, the centre allows retirees to “continue in senior years and be able to thrive.”

Padre finds military chaplaincy ‘exciting way to serve God’

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TORONTO - When Canadian troops return home from Afghanistan in late August, chaplain Francesca Scorsone will finish a six-month stretch of working the “most fulfilling job” she’s ever had.

“Padre” Scorsone, a military chaplain stationed at Kandahar Airfield, has been ministering to fellow members of the Canadian Army there since March. As part of the last rotation of air support to be deployed in Afghanistan, she provides a faith presence through liturgy and Catholic pastoral care, and, just as importantly, an open and sympathetic ear to all.

“A padre walks with the people that they’re with,” said Scorsone, referring to the traditional name of a military chaplain. “My role is to be a mentor, moral guide and someone who they can talk to when they need someone to talk to.”

It’s not an uncommon need given the occupational hazards. Troops come to Scorsone with their worries, fears and doubts, she told The Catholic Register by phone from Kandahar. Whether it’s concerns about family back home, questions of faith and ethics that arise while at war or simply a story that needs to be shared, Scorsone is there for support and advice. And while she’s not trying to convert anyone, her Catholic roots certainly shine through.

Youth in search of hope in Tulita

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TULITA, N.W.T. - On the edge of turning 22, Chad Bonnatrouge doesn’t drink, doesn’t smoke, hasn’t touched drugs, lives with his grandparents and sticks to himself. He graduated from high school in Tulita a couple of years ago and is uncertain what his next move should be.

He’s got family in Vancouver and they have invited him to join them. He’s been there once and is unsure whether he wants to go back. For now he stacks firewood and fetches groceries for his grandparents.

He volunteers for the Tulita Land and Financial Corporation. The volunteer hours qualify him for payments from the corporation, which administers funds from the 1994 Sahtu Dene and Metis Land Claim Agreement.

Sr. Celeste Goulet remembers how at his graduation ceremony the whole village roared in approval when Bonnatrouge’s name was called. Graduation for this quiet, lonely kid was perhaps not a sure thing.

Sr. Tromblay tries to bridge Tuktoyaktuk’s rich-poor divide

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TUKTOYAKTUK, N.W.T. - Kedra and Destiny Kimiksana got to try cherries for the first time at the Catholic mission house in Tuktoyaktuk with Sr. Fay Tromblay. Once they had been warned about the pits, I tried teaching them “Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor...” Of course the seven- and eight-year-old girls didn’t know what a tinker or a tailor was. In fact, beggar man and thief were also new vocabulary.

After a couple of tentative bites and discovery of the first pit, both girls decided cherries were pretty good. They also got to try a bit of avocado, which Tromblay added to their salad. Salad is something they only eat at Sister’s house.

They liked the avocado, but found it difficult to pronounce.

Kids in Tuktoyaktuk are familiar with traditional Inuvialuit foods. They love tingmiaq (goose), pipsi (dried fish) and muktuk (skin and blubber of a whale). They eat a lot of imiraq (soup made from caribou, goose or fish).

For generations, Sr. Celeste is connection to the Church

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TULITA, N.W.T. - When Sr. Celeste Goulet was nine years old her dad died. She grew up a fat, lonely kid in Guelph, Ont., who was paradoxically good at sports. Badminton was her game.

When she was first attracted to religious life, Goulet went looking for an order that ran an orphanage. By the 1970s there weren’t many of those left. Some mostly Polish Franciscans, the Felician Sisters, were the last women’s order in North America that still owned an orphanage.

By the time Goulet arrived in Tulita 32 years ago, the young sister had a degree in early childhood education and a conviction that what happens to children matters.

She spent a year talking over options with Tulita parents — do you want a day care or a pre-school? She carefully explained the difference. The parents opted for education that would increase their children’s chances of success in school.

Re-examining a 400-year relationship

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TULITA, N.W.T. - Felicia Bravard and her friends Brendan, Stacy and a girl too shy to give her name to a stranger are passing a summer day in classic teenage style. I found them moseying the gravel roads of Tulita sharing a joint at 10 in the morning.

They offered me a toke, an offer not often made to middle-aged Church journalists. I declined.

If Felicia was a third-generation Canadian with an Italian or Irish background, this would probably fall into the category of teenage misbehaviour — a phase. In a First Nations community in the North, where nearly every adult is either an active alcoholic or counting the weeks, months or years of their sobriety, the 10 a.m. marijuana is more troubling.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada is in fact trying to shape a different future for Felicia and her friends. The commission is in the midst of a five-year mandate to create a public record of the tragedy of Indian residential schools and to examine the ongoing fallout of a 130-year policy that separated 150,000 native children from their families. By witnessing the stories of many of the 80,000 survivors and documenting the cultural and societal devastation to families torn apart, the TRC hopes to cultivate reconciliation between aboriginal people and the rest of Canada. Over time, they hope to build a better life for teenagers like Felicia.