My last days of 2018 wound down in Calgary. CCO (Christian Catholic Outreach) held its annual Rise Up conference. Fr. John Luong, OMV vocation director, had arrived earlier and set up the booth.
My first adventure came after arriving in the evening of Dec. 28. My dumb phone didn’t work in Canada. How was I supposed to contact Fr. John and Br. Nate? Fortunately, my iPad Mini could tap the wifi in the airport. I messaged them through Facebook. I never moved so quickly to reach the car.
Br. Nate and I talked to the participants stopping by the booth. Some were rediscovering their faith and others were encouraged to do more. Maybe among them might be the next Oblate vocation. Fr. John brought the three relics (St. Faustina, St. John Paul II and St. Maximilian Kolbe) on loan from the St. Francis Chapel in Boston. Once people realized that we had the relics, they responded positively and brought friends to our booth.
Religious and clergy also stopped by, including a few Sisters of Merciful Jesus. This religious order was the one that Jesus told St. Faustina to create. The sisters told me that the room where the original Divine Mercy image was painted in Vilnius, Lithuania, had become a chapel. They have their first U.S. foundation in Pittsburgh. Next to our booth was one belonging to the Sisters of Our Lady Immaculate. Sister Mary Immaculata, SOLI told me that the congregation was working to re-evangelize Canada. Best to aim big.
I had two powerful moments. In the evening of the 29th, a woman came up seeking help for dryness during Adoration. I offered a few tips and she returned to Adoration. The next day, an organizer came and invited us to pray over the participants that evening. During our conversation, I mentioned the idea of unlimited Marian consecration. She was moved by my description of the three pillars. God was reminding me that I had gifts to share.
The last day of year, Br. Nate and I headed west to the Canadian Rockies. The looming, jagged peaks seemed to jump out of the high desert plains. The snow imitated the rock layers underneath. We stopped by a frozen lake for a photo.
The authorities required a $25 pass to Banff National Park. Because of cost and time, we stopped in Canmore outside the park. Everywhere I looked in the town, there was a majestic mountain view.
We checked out the shops and hung out at a cafe. Br. Nate and I headed to the airport for our flight. Originally, Br. Nate and I had a 15-hour layover in Ottawa for our return to Boston. But a few days before I tripped, I had realized that I could switch my flight to Newark and start my New York vacation early. Many phone calls later had made that change a reality.
My first day of 2019 began in snowy Ottawa and ended in balmy New York (uppers 50s and rainy). Let the new year begin.