At some point, all of us will be caregivers and will be in need of a caregiver.

Care givers are the invisible backbone of our health care system and provide over 80 percent of the care needed by individuals with ‘long-term conditions’.

2.3 million care givers are employed and must balance the competing demands of work and caregiving.

Caregivers also need to be cared for.

I witnessed firsthand the devastating effects of dementia on my father and the impact of care giving on my mother.  Even though my father was a model patient, it was still a full-time job taking care of him.  He needed care 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  At one point, my mother had to be hospitalized.  That was when she realized that as the caregiver, she couldn’t do it alone.

The caregiver shouldn’t need to feel that she or he has to be a hero, even though caregivers are heroes.  Their role in society is both indispensable and invaluable.

The number of Canadian caregivers has increased by over 5 million, from 2.85 million in 1997 to over 8 million in 2012.  In 2018, we can expect that this number has grown significantly.

At some point, all of us will be caregivers and will be in need of a caregiver.

If you know someone who is taking care of someone with dementia, please be sensitive, reach out and be kind.

November 4 – 10 is National Caregivers’ Week.

Find out more about Activities  and Resources

All statistics are from A Canadian Carer Strategy, published by Carers Canada 2013


A Tribute to the Franciscan Sisters in Jamaica

ICHS Campus

Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.

So said St. Francis of Assisi

True to this guiding principle, three Franciscan Sisters endured a long trans-Atlantic voyage from Glasgow, Scotland to serve in Jamaica.  This was in 1857, barely 20 years after the emancipation and abolition of slavery.  With only two shillings and six pence in their possession, the Franciscan nuns were not daunted by the challenges that lay ahead. For them, true to the teachings of their patron Saint Francis, with faith in God, they would start by doing what was necessary.  There was a need, a dire need to educate, to build communities, to proclaim the Gospel in word and in deed.

By January 1858, the Sisters opened the Immaculate Conception Academy, now Immaculate Conception High School and Immaculate Preparatory School.  Alvernia in Cross Roads was later acquired where the Franciscan Sisters established the St. Francis All-Age School, St. Joseph’s Teacher’s College and Alvernia Preparatory School.

Twenty years later, in 1879, when the Franciscan Motherhouse in Scotland was no longer able to send any more Sisters to Jamaica, the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany, New York, a young, fledgling Community, graciously responded to an appeal from the Vicar Apostolic of Jamaica.  In January 1879, three Sisters bravely set sail from New York Harbour to become the first American Sisters to undertake foreign missionary work.

In later years, the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany would establish other schools – St. Aloysius Primary, Marymount and Mount Alvernia High Schools, to name a few.  In the over 160 years in Jamaica, the Franciscan Sisters have extended their ministry to the vital areas of healthcare, feeding assistance programmes and community development projects in rural areas and in inner cities.

In a day and age when the success of educational institutions is measured by examination scores of the graduating cohorts, it is very easy to praise the performance of students without acknowledging the contribution of those who have laid the foundation and traditions in these institutions.

Beyond the academic excellence of ICHS, of which we are extremely proud, we the Class of 1978 fully understand that none of this matters without strength of character, where discipline, integrity and service to God and community are at the core.

We are the beneficiaries of the Franciscan Sisters’ mission to live the Gospel, to witness God’s Love in the Franciscan tradition of living in community and in harmony with all creation while joyfully serving others, especially those who are poor and marginalized.

Today, we salute the Franciscan Sisters for the role they have played in creating here at ICHS, an environment where goodness and honesty are exemplified and promoted, where excellence is encouraged and the potential of each individual is patiently nurtured, ensuring an enriching educational experience which in turn generates competent, virtuous and happy citizens.

While attending ICHS, we were provided with opportunities to reach out to those less fortunate.  We were inspired and encouraged to be good stewards of God’s creation, evidenced by the beauty of our school campus.  We were motivated to excel academically with the purpose of developing our unique talents to benefit the world.  We were taught Christian values and principles, essential to building our character and directing our ethical and moral choices.

We are eternally grateful for the Franciscan foundation and traditions here at ICHS.  In lasting tribute to the work and witness of the Franciscan Sisters, the Class of 1978 presents this painting of St. Francis of Assisi against the backdrop of our beloved school, and set in the natural beauty of our campus.

This tribute was read at a special event to honor the Franciscan Sisters during the 40th anniversary reunion of the Class of 1978, on Friday 29 June 2018 at the Immaculate Conception High School, Kingston, Jamaica.

Christ in me, the hope of glory! 





I’m coming clean.  I’m fessing up about the real reason why my ‘slow’ driving drives people crazy.

It’s because I have been ticketed for driving way above the speed limit three times.  All my fines have been paid and I no longer have demerit points on my driver’s licence.  I intend to keep my driving record clean.  So I’ve fallen in love with cruise control.  This is a lifetime commitment.

I refuse to drive above the allowable speed limit, even if irate drivers honk, swear and look at me sideways while they overtake me or bide their time tailgating me.

My decision to stick to the speed limit is more about being mindful and less about the fear of penalty of demerit points and fines.

If you ask me what exactly caused me to be speeding in Florida, Vermont and Montreal, I really cannot tell you.  My parents were in no hurry for me to pick them up in Florida.  The shopping trip to Vermont was on a lazy day in summer.  In Montreal, I was only 15 minutes away from a meeting that was to start in 40 minutes.


I have done some deep thinking about the life lessons I was being taught by the speeding tickets.  I realised that driving above the speed limit in each case was triggered by my wondering, wandering mind.  I was simply not paying attention.  I was not being mindful – not focusing my attention on the present moment.

Mindfulness is all about being in tune with ourselves, our surroundings and with people.

My musings have led me to two events in Jesus’ life, which have provided some important insights on the importance of mindfulness.

  • Be focused on ‘why?’

Asking ourselves why we’re doing what we’re doing is the first step to being mindful.   The answer to the ‘why?’ question is the source of personal inspiration and motivation, which keep us focused on what we are doing, even amid the myriad distractions around us.

In the eighth chapter of Luke’s gospel, Jesus is in the midst of a pressing, noisy crowd.  A woman with the issue of blood who has spent all her money on medical treatment to no avail, touches the hem of Jesus’ garment and is healed.  In the midst of all this chaos, Jesus suddenly becomes aware that His power to heal has left Him. He boldly asks, “Who touched me?”, so that the woman can come forward in faith, receive her blessing and that the onlookers can learn from this.  In this way, Jesus demonstrates that He is focused on His purpose to teach, heal and encourage people to live by faith, regardless of the noisy distractions around Him.

  • Develop emotional intelligence

Being in tune with ourselves and other people requires emotional intelligence.  Emotional intelligence is generally defined as our ability to be aware of our emotions and control them, while being mindful of the emotions of other people.

Going back to the eighth chapter of Luke, we see that Jesus was approached twice by Jairus, a well-known leader in the synagogue, with an urgent request for the healing of his daughter.  Jesus is aware of the emotional distress of this man of high standing and influence.  Before responding to Jairus’ plea, Jesus addresses the woman with the issue of blood.  She was in a state of fear for having boldly touched Jesus.  She also must have felt shame about her medical condition and for having to openly declare it in front of a large crowd. Jesus, understanding her emotional state, offers her peace and healing.  Her dignity is restored and she no longer has to feel shame or embarrassment.

Then Jesus turns to Jairus, who is humbled in front of a large crowd of common people.  Sensitive to the pain of a desperate father, Jesus reassures Jairus that his daughter will be healed.  Jesus then asks only three of his disciples, Jairus and the child’s mother, to be present when He performs the healing miracle. In this way, Jesus diffuses the sense of humiliation that Jairus must have felt as a religious leader in the midst of a crowd that is witnessing his emotional vulnerability.  Once Jesus heals Jairus’ daughter, He asks that she be given something to eat so that her physical needs are not forgotten in the midst of the rejoicing and emotional relief of her parents.

These events show us that Jesus was aware of the various emotional reactions of the people around Him, at a time when He could have easily become distracted and annoyed by a pressing crowd.  By being mindful of the emotional state of the sick woman and Jairus, Jesus was able to respond to their need with emotional intelligence, treating them with empathy, persuading them to have faith and to receive His peace.  In the end, everyone wins!

Bringing it all together

For quite some time, I have been practicing mindfulness through meditation.  Spending 10 minutes at the beginning of each day in silence while focusing on one central thought is making a world of a difference.  This practice puts me in tune with my emotions and the present moment.  Focusing on one centering thought helps to clear my mind of the clutter and noise of all the other thoughts that flow in and out of my mind.  On my best days, I find that I can act with a strong sense of purpose and greater emotional intelligence, focusing on two or three key priorities while working productively with other people.

Being mindful will always be a challenge.  

It’s natural for the human mind to wander and wonder.

As for my driving – well I have a little ritual whenever I get behind the steering wheel.  I take a few moments to remind myself to be fully present, alert and stay within the speed limit.  In fact driving is one of the best opportunities I have to practice mindfulness.

As for the honking, impatient drivers behind me, well I understand that they may have some good reason to feel the way they do.  Instead of driving them crazy, I simply pull over and let them overtake, when it is safe to do so.

Further reading

10 Tips for Mindful Driving

Three Content Marketing Lessons from a Speeding Ticket


Christ in me, the hope of glory!  That’s why glory matters. 




It happened in my final year in high school. I was standing at attention during the school’s assembly. Wanting to set a good example, I was following the no talking rule, even though some of my classmates were not. Every now and again, I asked them to be quiet. Being 5 feet 10 inches tall, I stood out above everyone else around me.

One teacher complained to the Vice-Principal about the bad example of the “chatty seniors” and identified me, “that tall one” as being the chief culprit.

The Vice-Principal reported me and my classmates to the teacher in charge of my class, who, without checking the facts, singled me out with a stern reprimand.

Shocked by the accusation, I went to see the Vice-Principal to explain what really happened. To my surprise, the Vice-Principal refused to accept my explanation, declaring that I was wrong to challenge the way in which she handled the incident. Although I did not ask for it, she said that she saw no need to offer an apology.

Even though this happened decades ago, I am still convinced that I was wronged.

But, I have forgiven.

I couldn’t have believed it then, but I have come to thankfully accept now, that the incident stands as one of the greatest learning moments in my life.

That, I will never forget.
Lesson #1: Courage comes with the risk of loneliness. Be courageous anyway.


Some people agreed that the Vice-Principal was being unfair, but I had to stand up for myself. There was nothing for anyone else to gain or lose by joining me to confront the authority of the Vice-Principal. For me, my reputation was at stake and I had to defend it.

Even when other people don’t realize that they have a stake in someone else’s plight or fight for a cause, it takes courage to defend a principle and make unpopular decisions.

Jesus, on the night He was betrayed, courageously confronted His fear of what was to come. While He was praying in the garden in Gethsemane, His disciples were sleeping. Peter later denied knowing Jesus. Yet Jesus endured a lonely death on the cross for the salvation of all humanity.

When we are alone or feel abandoned, forgiveness is the antidote to bitterness, anger and other destructive emotions that we are tempted to direct towards those who choose not to stand with us.
Lesson #2: We are acting at our level of awareness. We do better when we know better.

Do better

In retrospect, I realize that at the time of the incident, the Vice-Principal was working with an authoritarian view of her role and how students should relate to her. This may explain why she reacted defensively when I presented my perspective and suggested how the situation could have been handled differently.

Life is a journey of constant learning. Forgiving others becomes less difficult when we understand that not everyone is at the same place of understanding. As Paul says in his letter to the Corinthian Christians, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.”

Jesus’ warning: “Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you,” clearly reminds us that we must not hold people to our own standards. He encourages us to focus on our own self-improvement and to encourage others to be better and do better. Jesus set the example with the woman at the well. Labelled an adulteress and condemned to being stoned, she was encouraged by Jesus to come up to a higher level of awareness and to go and sin no more.
Lesson #3: Sometimes the scales of justice can’t be balanced. Let it go!


An apology from the offender may be gratifying to a bruised ego, but does the apology heal wounded emotions?

Can the regret expressed by a murderer restore the life of a loved one who was murdered?

In Luke’s gospel, Jesus provides the answer in a parable. “A moneylender had two debtors: one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they were unable to repay, he graciously forgave them both.” In short, not every offense can be settled with a payback.

The pain and anger I felt on that fateful day in high school was rooted in my intense disappointment in the Vice-Principal, who, until then, I had held in high regard. I now know that no one, absolutely no one, is infallible.

In my view, her refusal to apologize is the same as the man who could not repay his debt. Even if she did apologize, I would still be left with my bruised emotions.

The truth is we are in charge of our emotions. No one else can choose to free us from the pain and anger of a wrong that was done to us. Forgiveness heals our wounds and pays us back for what our offender can’t repay.
Forgiveness frees the forgiver!

How to raise funds for charity


Photo: YWCA Montreal team at Scotiabank Charity Challenge / Défi Caritatif Montreal 2015

I used to think that 13 was an unlucky number, but I changed my mind a few years ago.  A brand awareness survey found that 13% of non-client respondents were likely to do business with our company because it sponsored community events and charities they cared about.

Our corporate marketing team got lucky because the 13% result surpassed expectations, justified budget renewal and provided proof that our corporate philanthropy program benefited business goals.

According to Imagine Canada, a national charitable organization that represents the charitable sector, charities and non-profits receive around $2.8 billion from corporations.  The majority of corporations contribute to charities because they understand that healthy communities are good for business.

But corporate philanthropy is becoming more challenging.  And many of the more than 150,000 charitable organizations in Canada are down on their luck.

Thirty-eight percent of companies said that too many charities are trying to solicit money for the same cause.  Traditional cheque book philanthropy is rapidly being replaced by strategic partnerships that benefit both the community and corporate donors.

With shrinking government funding, charities are challenged to find the best way of raising funds from corporate and individual donors.   But this presents an opportunity for charities to find unique and creative ways to raise the funds needed for survival.

How to raise funds for charity?  Help corporations to be successful

A few suggestions that charitable organizations may want to consider…

Pride of association

Charitable organizations can support business by bringing together donors at in-person events to raise funds and network.  Out of this comes pride of association with like-minded peers who share the same concerns and commitment to the charitable cause.

  • A good example is the United Way of Ottawa’s GenNEXT Giving Circle.  United Way organizes networking and fundraising events and initiatives where young people can learn about the needs in their community, volunteer their time, and put their dollars to work where they will have the greatest impact.

Shared community of buyers and donors

Charitable organizations can also support client engagement and expand the number of clients for corporations.  By creating strategic partnerships charities and corporations can launch major events to promote products and build public awareness of the charity’s cause, with the intention of building a shared community of donors and clients.

  • A few years ago, The Salvation Army partnered with Montreal-based designers and staged a fashion show to raise funds for L’Abri d’espoir, a shelter for abused women and their children. The event was used to leverage the brands of the charity and of the fashion designers to create a shared community of buyers and donors who support the cause of protecting women from violence.   

Community and employee engagement

Apart from soliciting donations from corporations who care about their causes, charitable organizations should also ask corporations to volunteer their expertise.  Charitable organizations can organize employee volunteer activities that support employee engagement and strengthen teamwork.

  • According to Volunteer Canada, employer-supported volunteering (ESV) is emerging as a regular practice among many of today’s employers seeking to give back to the community. ESV activities and programs are a new “shared value” approach, helping businesses strengthen community relationships and improve employee engagement. They also give non-profits access to new resources and skills while allowing employees to refine and enhance their skills and expand their networks.

Sharing information for thought leadership

Charitable organizations are well-placed to provide valuable data and insights on the causes they advocate and the services they provide.  This information can be shared with thought leaders and persons of influence who have access to the podiums at thought leadership events.    Many chambers of commerce and think tanks host events attended by the audiences that are likely to become interested in the charitable organizations’ causes.  Through thought leadership, corporations can increase their reputation as experts in a particular industry or as key contributors to the quest for solutions in fields such as healthcare and economic development.

Adopt business practices

Although well-intentioned tactics can be used to solicit financial support, charities cannot rely on luck and goodwill.

The common element in all of these suggestions is the creation of relationships with the aim of engaging corporations in committed partnerships that lead to sustained support for charitable organizations.

Like for-profit corporations, charitable organizations must adopt business practices to increase awareness by creating differentiated messages and developing relationships that provide a mutual exchange of benefits.  This requires deliberate planning with the aim of achieving specific outcomes that are good for charities, businesses and communities.

Christ in you, the hope of glory!  That’s why glory matters. 

Standing Strong Through the Storm OPEN AND CLOSED DOORS*


*The text below is taken from Standing Strong Through the Storm (SSTS), a daily devotional message by SSTS author Paul Estabrooks. © 2011 Open Doors International. 

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9

The Bible has much to say about open doors but many times – even as Christians – we seem to face obstacles on our path and in our ministry. Blocked doors can be VERY frustrating. Yet God often uses closed doors to advance His cause.

 Bible teachers like Max Lucado remind us that God closed the womb of a young Sarah so he could display His power to the elderly one. He shut the palace door on Moses the prince so he could open shackles through Moses the liberator. He marched Daniel out of Jerusalem so he could use Daniel in Babylon.

And even Jesus knew the challenge of a blocked door. When he requested a path that bypassed the cross, God said no. He said no to Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane so He could say yes to us at the gates of heaven.

It’s not that our plans are bad but that God’s plans are better.

A prayer is circulating on the Internet that expresses it this way:

  • He asked for strength that he might achieve, he was made weak that he might endure;
  • He asked for health to do larger things, he was given infirmity that he might do better things;
  • He asked for power that he might impress men, he was given weakness that he might seek God;
  • He asked for wealth that he might be free from care, he was given poverty that he might be wiser than carefree.
  • He asked for all things that he might enjoy life, he was given life that he might enjoy all things;
  • He received nothing he asked for. He received more than he ever hoped for.

His prayer was answered!

Blessed man!

The shortest distance between a closed and open door is the distance between your knees and the floor. The one who kneels to the Lord can stand up to anything.


Today I will accept that my blocked door doesn’t mean God doesn’t love me. Quite the opposite. I’ll see it as proof that He does.


Thank You Lord that You know best and have even better plans for me and my service for You. Help me wait patiently for You to open the right door at the right time!


There is Enough for all of Us: My Views on Persistent Poverty, the Prosperity Gospel and Social Justice

Karen's mountains

It was in the dimming sunlight of dusk that I had a moment of enlightenment.

I was late for an appointment but lucky enough to find a parking space on a crowded street. Even though I had enough money to pay for the thirty minutes I needed, I didn’t have the right coins to put in the parking meter.  There were no shops nearby to ask for change, only people scurrying by.

Bewildered and frantic, I rushed up to a couple and asked if they could exchange my dimes and nickels for two quarters.

“Sorry,” he said, as I felt my racing heart sink.

“But here’s my receipt for forty minutes remaining on my space in the parking lot over there,” he continued.

“How much do I owe you for that?” I asked in disbelief.

“Nothing.  Please take it.  I’m sure you need it more than we do,” he responded.

In that instant, as I saw the remaining rays of sunset slide below the horizon, I could feel my heart warm with gratitude for Divine Providence.  I got more than I asked for, unexpectedly and right on time.

But my “aha moment” didn’t end there.

I made it to my appointment, but the person who I was to meet didn’t show up and my meeting was postponed to another day.  I chose not to be disappointed.

My takeaway from all this was that we can get more, even when we don’t need it as there is an inexhaustible supply of everything we need in the Universe!

There is ample evidence that there is more than enough for everyone in this world.

Abundance is more of a problem than scarcity

Oxfam reported that there is enough food to feed the world.  In fact the world produces 17% more food per person today than 30 years ago. The International Federation of the Red Cross reported in 2011 that there are 1.5 billion people worldwide classified as obese.  However, 925 million go to sleep hungry every night.  I can accept that nutrient-poor foods may be the main contributor to obesity.  The truth is that there is more food available in the world than we are led to believe. There is enough and more for everyone. The problem is the inequitable distribution of wealth.

Poverty is being alleviated, but…

The United Nations reports that the international community has made significant strides towards lifting people out of poverty, with extreme poverty rates cut in half since 1990.  However, the poorest 40 percent of the world’s population accounts for 5 percent of global income and the richest 20 percent accounts for three-quarters of world income.

Persistent poverty is real.  Breaking generational cycles of poverty continues to be elusive.

The divide between those who have more and those who have less or nothing at all is widening. This is happening in spite of the myriad people, initiatives and organizations undertaking projects to alleviate poverty.  Throughout the year, I receive all kinds of requests for donations ranging from money to build vital infrastructure to gifts in kind such as food, clothing and Christmas gifts.

Giving the excess from those who have to those who don’t have, doesn’t always bridge the divide

There are many willing volunteers who want to help, but they lack the knowledge and skills required to be effective. I’ve heard stories about water wells that don’t work after the foreign aid workers have left; poorly built walls that have to be redone; and gift toys that children have no clue about how to use.

Too often the gifts and donations of the “haves” do not empower the “have nots.”   

A constant stream of donations disempowers people and creates dependency on others.  In my own experience, most people in need want to develop their talents, find sustainable employment and become self-sufficient to support their families.

None of this darkens the revelations of my “aha moment.”

Religious teachings about prosperity

Some Christian religious denominations glorify poverty as an honourable spiritual and material state that is sanctified by God.  There are others who teach a “prosperity gospel,” claiming that excessive financial wealth and excellent health are always in the will of God.

I don’t find either of these approaches to be satisfactory as they can be used to oppress people in one way or another.

On one hand, glorifying poverty leads people to passively accept poverty and deprives them of the opportunity to make the required effort to achieve financial independence and a better standard of living. On the other hand, those who do not achieve financial success or are in ill-health may be led to believe that they are inadequate, sinful or not following God’s will.

While I don’t believe that God intends anyone to live in poverty and that there is nothing inherently wrong with wanting to have as much as we want and more, I believe that social justice has to be the guiding principle in the quest for personal and collective prosperity.

Social justice bridges poverty to prosperity

The inexhaustible resources of the Universe are available to all of us. It’s our commitment to social justice that will bridge the divide between poverty and prosperity.  Just like the man who offered me the parking receipt with the excess time he didn’t need, we should always think of ways in which we can use what we have and don’t need more of, to enable and empower others to get to a better place.

Christ in you, the hope of glory.  That’s why glory matters!