The Faba family and staff members of The Stock and Sauce Co. in Calgary participate in the “I am blessed” campaign by making 1,400 sandwiches for residents of the Calgary Drop-In Centre.

CALGARY — Grade 9 student Lidya Estifon was enjoying her lunch outside of St. Monica School in late January when she noticed a classmate without a coat. The temperature was -3 Celsius.

Without hesitation, Estifon, 14, removed her coat and gave it to the shivering girl. 

She says she was moved to help her schoolmate because of a campaign called “I am blessed” that has taken root in the Diocese of Calgary. 

The diocese launched the movement last November to foster an ethos of gratefulness and Christ-like giving to counteract a rising tide of consumerism in society.

“The concept of giving in ‘I am blessed’ is to say that we give not from a space of excess, but from a space of gratitude,” said Fr. Wilbert Chin Jon, Moderator of the diocese. 

“When we are truly aware of the blessings we have received from God, we experience overwhelming gratitude for the things we take for granted.”

Chin Jon adds that understanding the depth of our blessings encourages us to “look outwards to the people around us instead of inwards.”

More than 4,000 people viewed and shared the campaign video within the first seven days. Very soon, Catholics of all ages from the diocese’s 68 parishes began sharing “I am blessed” videos or photo posts on social media to convey how they are blessed, and how they could bless others with monetary donations, prayers or volunteering. These messages concluded with the hashtag #iamblessed.

The campaign was also accessible to church members who are not online-savvy as the diocese produced “I am blessed” postcards for parishioners to share. Hundreds of these cards were distributed.

Estifon became aware of “I am blessed” when staff members at St. Monica gave these postcards to students to share with others. She became immediately interested in participating out of a desire to demonstrate gratitude for her new life in Canada after she and her family moved from Sudan just seven months ago. 

“I am thankful for the ‘I am blessed’ challenge,” said Estifon. “I need to share my blessings, and I am sharing my blessings by helping other students learn English.”

Estifon is specifically aiding students who also speak the East African dialect of Tigrinya.

Lifelong Calgary Catholic Kari Faba joined the crusade for the same reason as Estifon. 

“It is important to celebrate the beautiful things that happen in our life. I think the best way to find our joy is recognizing those blessings and also giving back.”

The 50-year-old identified her relationship with God as her greatest blessing. She says her trust in her Catholic faith bore gifts, such as nine children with her husband, Phil, and a family business, The Stock and Sauce Co., which has been a fixture at the Calgary Farmers’ Market for more than 17 years. 

Faba paid her blessings forward by making more than 1,400 sandwiches alongside her family, friends and staff members to hand out at the Calgary Drop-In Centre, and her kids penned Christmas cards for the people staying at the shelter. 

Diocesan parishes and programs have also benefitted mightily from the campaign as $70,000 in online donations have been made over the past two months, including contributions from 52 individuals who had never given before. 

Alejandro Henao, the diocese’s executive director of finance and administration, says that prior to the campaign, donations could only be directed to diocesan ministries. 

“The most important success of this campaign was that, for the first time, we included parishes to the donations section of the website. A total of 33 donations were made (directly) to the parishes,” said Henao.

Ultimately, the initiative has been such a thorough success that the diocese plans to make “I am blessed” an annual campaign.