Oct 20, 2014

Conclusion of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family

Synod Fathers from around the world gathered in Rome from October 5-19, 2014. Photo from here.

Sunday, October 19 marked the conclusion of the Extraordinary Synod on the Family in Rome. 

The proceedings garnered a great deal of attention from Catholics and non-Catholics from around the world.

Below are excerpts from the Pope Francis' final address to the Synod Fathers and the Message of the III Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops.

Pope Francis' final address to the Synod Fathers
October 18, 2014
Click here for full text on the Vatican Radio website.

[The Synod] has been “a journey” – and like every journey there were moments of running fast, as if wanting to conquer time and reach the goal as soon as possible; other moments of fatigue, as if wanting to say “enough”; other moments of enthusiasm and ardour. There were moments of profound consolation listening to the testimony of true pastors, who wisely carry in their hearts the joys and the tears of their faithful people. Moments of consolation and grace and comfort hearing the testimonies of the families who have participated in the Synod and have shared with us the beauty and the joy of their married life. A journey where the stronger feel compelled to help the less strong, where the more experienced are led to serve others, even through confrontations. And since it is a journey of human beings, with the consolations there were also moments of desolation, of tensions and temptations, of which a few possibilities could be mentioned [...]

Personally I would be very worried and saddened if it were not for these temptations and these animated discussions; this movement of the spirits, as St Ignatius called it (Spiritual Exercises, 6), if all were in a state of agreement, or silent in a false and quietist peace. Instead, I have seen and I have heard – with joy and appreciation – speeches and interventions full of faith, of pastoral and doctrinal zeal, of wisdom, of frankness and of courage: and of parresia. And I have felt that what was set before our eyes was the good of the Church, of families, and the “supreme law,” the “good of souls” (cf. Can. 1752). And this always – we have said it here, in the Hall – without ever putting into question the fundamental truths of the Sacrament of marriage: the indissolubility, the unity, the faithfulness, the fruitfulness, that openness to life (cf. Cann. 1055, 1056; and Gaudium et spes, 48).

Message of the III Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops
October 18, 2014
Click here for full text on the Vatican website.

We, Synod Fathers, gathered in Rome together with Pope Francis in the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, greet all families of the different continents and in particular all who follow Christ, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. We admire and are grateful for the daily witness which you offer us and the world with your fidelity, faith, hope, and love.

Each of us, pastors of the Church, grew up in a family, and we come from a great variety of backgrounds and experiences. As priests and bishops we have lived alongside families who have spoken to us and shown us the saga of their joys and their difficulties [...]

[Family life] is sometimes a mountainous trek with hardships and falls. God is always there to accompany us. The family experiences his presence in affection and dialogue between husband and wife, parents and children, sisters and brothers. They embrace him in family prayer and listening to the Word of God—a small, daily oasis of the spirit. They discover him every day as they educate their children in the faith and in the beauty of a life lived according to the Gospel, a life of holiness. Grandparents also share in this task with great affection and dedication. The family is thus an authentic domestic Church that expands to become the family of families which is the ecclesial community. Christian spouses are called to become teachers of faith and of love for young couples as well.

Another expression of fraternal communion is charity, giving, nearness to those who are last, marginalized, poor, lonely, sick, strangers, and families in crisis, aware of the Lord’s word, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). It is a gift of goods, of fellowship, of love and mercy, and also a witness to the truth, to light, and to the meaning of life.

Oct 7, 2014

How will Francis affect the Synod?

As the Synod of Bishops on the family gets underway at the Vatican, all eyes remain on Pope Francis. Whose ideas will resonate with the pontiff? Will he steer the conversation of the assembled “Synod Fathers,” or will he maintain a quiet, listening presence?

This year’s gathering has piqued more media interest than recent synods. Much credit is due to the ever-unpredictable Francis, who has kept everyone on the edge of their seats since he assumed the Chair of St. Peter. A year and a half after the conclave, he continues to confound observers.

Salt + Light’s documentary The Francis Effect explains that, despite its many surprises, this pontificate hardly came out of the blue.

The introductory quote by German theologian Karl Rahner sets a bold thesis: Francis fulfills Rahner’s proclamation of “the period of Christianity as a fully world religion.” The case is supported by experts like church historian Fr. John O’Malley, who presents Francis as an embodiment of the Second Vatican Council’s intent to throw open the windows of the church to the world.

Beautifully shot and expertly edited, the film summarizes Jorge Bergoglio’s whirlwind first year as Pope, describing his concrete reforms to Vatican governance and finances. It also highlights the profound words and simple gestures that are inspiring legions of admirers to consider the Gospel anew.

Viewers with more conflicted feelings about Francis may feel their concerns are dismissed as mere grumbling. But while critics may debate his decisions, the film stresses that certain problems, such as the sex abuse crisis, can’t be solved overnight. The fascination with Francis won’t be enough to fill up the pews, either.

“The church somehow has to build on that credibility,” says CBC anchor Alison Smith. “It’s like he’s the headline, but the meat of the story is what’s happening in the broader reaches of the church.”

Those broader reaches, from Canada to Cameroon, are being represented at the Synod of Bishops this month. Whatever effect Francis has on them, and they have on him, the world is watching.

The Francis Effect can be purchased on DVD and Blu-Ray from the S+L website, or viewed online through Vimeo.

Kris Dmytrenko is a communications coordinator in the Archdiocese of Toronto's Office of Public Relations & Communications.

Oct 6, 2014

Faces of Our Faith: Manny Vargas, Assistant Foreman, Catholic Cemeteries and Funeral Services

Today we are featuring an assistant foreman with Catholic Cemeteries and Funeral Services. Manny Vargas is a husband, father to four and a new grandfather to a 5 month-old granddaughter. Manny is originally from Chile and came to Canada when he was nine.

Manny Vargas

1) How long have you been working for Catholic Cemeteries?  What does a typical day on the job look like for you?
I have been working here since 1994. My current position is Assistant Foreman at Holy Cross Cemetery in Thornhill. I organize the daily tasks for the labourers. It differs day to day. I very much enjoy meeting families on the cemetery grounds. I am always willing to lend an ear.

2) How does your team work together to ensure things run smoothly? How many people do you work with?
I like to think we work together like a soccer team whereby I am the coach. It is important to know your players and their personalities. For instance, you should pair a more experienced worker with someone who has less experience. You should rotate your players on a soccer team. Similarly, on the job you should rotate the staff so they are not always doing the same thing.  The number of staff varies based on the season.

3) How many hours does it take to prepare a plot for the interment before the family arrives?
To prepare a grave for burial takes many steps. It is of course very important to ensure the correct grave is marked and then check and double-check for accuracy. Digging a grave depends on factors such as the weather, ground conditions and depth. Most often, graves are dug the day before the burial. Ideally on a summer’s day in perfect conditions, it would take 30 minutes to prepare for and dig the grave.

4) What is something most people wouldn’t know about what goes on behind-the-scenes at a Catholic cemetery?
Most people wouldn’t know how much work is involved in preparing a grave for a burial.  Every grave I prepare I do to the best of my ability because I know that everyone deserves a respectful burial. After a family leaves a committal, the burial is in our hands and I treat each burial with the utmost care, respect and dignity. Everyone who dies deserves to have a decent, dignified burial.

5) Some might find being around death all day somewhat depressing. What gives you hope?
I am a Catholic and I believe in life after death. This is what gives me hope. Also, helping families keeps me positive.  

6) How has your view of death changed since you started working for Catholic Cemeteries?
I enjoy every day to the fullest. I have learned it is important to enjoy life because it is short.

7) What do you like to do outside of work?
Coach soccer. I like to work with troubled kids from broken homes. I have experience with soccer so I can work with kids to teach them what I know and it helps keep them out of trouble.

8) If you could have dinner with anyone in the world (deceased or alive), who would you choose?
I would dine with three people together: Pope Francis (I admire him because he is from Argentina which is the neighbour to Chile and he says many things which I can relate to), soccer great Lionel Messi and revolutionary Che Guevera (I admire him because he gave up his life for Latin America). We would dine on Chilean food and wine. The conversation would be about revolution, soccer, and peace and love. I have gathered the experts in each area. Che would talk about revolution, Lionel would talk about soccer and of course the Pope would talk about peace and love. We could come up with a solution to revolutionize the world using soccer to bring peace and love to all.

9) Who has been the most significant role model in your life?
My father. He was a strict man with good morals. He had a tough life and was a fighter to the very end. He passed away two years ago. I miss speaking to him about life, work, soccer, family. He brought me up with excellent standards and I admire him and thank him for that.

Oct 2, 2014

The power of prayer and pennies

This week bore special significance for St. Michael’s Cathedral. Most obviously, Monday was the feast of the Archangels—including St. Michael, the patron of the cathedral and our Archdiocese. Cardinal Thomas Collins chose this appropriate occasion to make a major announcement: that the Family of Faith campaign has surpassed the $40 million milestone.

What’s the connection? The Family of Faith campaign, which aims to raise $105 million, will profoundly impact many areas of our archdiocese—from developing youth ministries, to training Catholic leadership, to building new churches as our community grows.

The campaign will also safeguard the future of ​St. Michael’s Cathedral, which requires a significant restoration to maintain its beauty, safety and accessibility. An investment of $25 million will ensure it remains a well-maintained home and proud beacon for the Archdiocese.​
Our cathedral owes its life to sacrificial giving. In a historical backgrounder provided to the Archdiocese, Fr. Michael Busch, the cathedral rector, recounts how the fledgling Catholic community in Upper Canada managed to build one of Toronto’s most magnificent landmarks. Like the mid-19th century faithful, we are faced with the same question: what am I willing to give to ensure future generations can worship in this treasured space?
The Diocese of Toronto was erected in 1842 in the colony of Upper Canada in British North America. It was large and scattered, with parishes as far away as Thunder Bay. Its newly appointed leader, Bishop Michael Power, realized early on that there was a need for a central image, a symbol that would express the presence of the Roman Catholic Church and draw its scattered flock together. 
Using his own savings and the donations from the Irish Catholic community, Bishop Power purchased a plot of land in the northern edge of the young city of Toronto for the then considerable sum of £1,800. He then formed a building committee, headed up by two converts to Catholicism, the Hon. Captain John Elmsley and Samuel G. Lynn, who pledged their own personal fortunes as mortgage security. The rest of the funds were raised by the people who gave what they could through Sunday penny collections.
At the time this building was constructed there were very few Catholic families in Toronto, and yet they managed, through sacrifice and personal commitment to erect this beautiful cathedral. It speaks of their faith in God, and their trust that we who came after them would care for what they gave their lives to build. 
Excavation of the foundation was done by community labour -- people from all over the city came to help. Catholic and non-Catholic volunteers dug and hauled away 95,000 cubic feet of earth at virtually no cost to the cathedral. On May 8, 1845, the third anniversary of Bishop Power’s ordination, 4,000 spectators, representing a cross section of Toronto’s Christian denominations, huddled around the pit as Bishop Power blessed the cornerstone. 
St. Michael’s Cathedral has stood the test of time, surviving two major fires within the city’s core to become one of the city’s historical and architectural gems. Today, it is in need of repair and re-calibration so that it can continue to serve the future needs of the community.
Kris Dmytrenko is a communications coordinator in the Archdiocese of Toronto's Office of Public Relations & Communications. 

Sep 26, 2014

'App'-ropriate technology for evangelization

In recent weeks, two tech giants announced the release of new phones. The hype was significant, as industry insiders speculated about these devices for months.

Blackberry Passport. Photo from here.
iPhone 6. Photo from here.
The day before the release of Apple’s iPhone 6, people lined up, prepared to camp on mall floors or sidewalks and be among the first to purchase the new device.

It took only two days before the honeymoon was over and problems were discovered with this exalted device. It allegedly bends easily, the software is defective and it can’t be charged in the microwave.

The first man to purchase the iPhone 6 in Australia dropped it while being interviewed live on the news. The world let out a collective gasp of horror as we watched $800 worth of metal and glass hit the concrete.

The whole situation was a great reminder 
that the things of this world are temporary - sometimes very temporary, as the Australian iFan learned.

“Do not love the world or the things of the world […] the world and its enticement are passing away. But whoever does the will of God remains forever.” – 1 John 2:15-17
We shouldn’t let our happiness ride on things. Nonetheless, in 2014, smartphones, tablets and laptops can act as a means to achieving a greater goal; as a tool in the mission of evangelization. When it comes to technology, it’s not a question of “yes” or “no” but more a question of “how.” How can we use technology in our lives as Christians? How can it be used to glorify God or assist in ministry? How can it bring us closer to Him?In the world of smartphones, a number of apps have been developed to help Catholics in their walk of faith. Here are few you may want to check out:
  1. The New Mass App (iPhone and Android) – Developed by Cale Clarke, a Lay Pastoral Associate at St. Justin Martyr Parish in Unionville. Read more about it in one of our past posts.
  2. iBreviary (iPhone, iPad, Android, Kindle Fire, Blackberry 5, Webapp) – This is an electronic version of the breviary, which is used to pray the Liturgy of the Hours. Perhaps its greatest feature is it puts the daily prayers on one page, eliminating the flipping and confusion that often ensues for newcomers trying to navigate the traditional breviary.
  3. The Pope App (iOS, Android) – Get all the latest from the Vatican, including news, photos and videos. Includes full-text version of papal speeches and live-streaming of some events.
  4. Mea Culpa (iOS) – This app is an aid to help Catholics prepare for the sacrament of Confession with a very thorough examination of conscience.
  5. Laudate (iOS, Android) –This handy tool includes everything from daily Mass readings, the full New American Bible and the Catechism. It also includes Vatican documents, guides to praying the rosary and the Stations of the Cross and the whole gamut of all your favourite Catholic prayers (including Latin prayers). If you only have space for one Catholic app on your phone, this is probably the one to get.
For a more complete listing of useful Catholic apps, check out http://catholicapps.com/.

Here in the Archdiocese of Toronto, we are working hard to use technology and new media in the mission of evangelization, as outlined in our Pastoral Plan.

In the weeks ahead, you will notice significant changes to our online presence as we launch a brand new archdiocesan website. The new site is mobile-friendly and has new functionality to easily connect you with information. Stay tuned for more information!

In a discussion of faith and technology, it seems appropriate to end with the wisdom of Pope Francis, as presented in his message for the 48th World Communications Day:

“Good communication helps us to grow closer, to know one another better, and ultimately, to grow in unity […] The revolution taking place in communications media and in information technologies represents a great and thrilling challenge; may we respond to that challenge with fresh energy and imagination as we seek to share with others the beauty of God.”
Marlena Loughheed is a communications coordinator in the Archdiocese of Toronto's Office of Public Relations & Communications. 

Sep 12, 2014

What is a Synod of Bishops?

On October 5-19, Pope Francis will meet with bishops from around the world. The gathering, known as a "Synod of Bishops", will discuss "Pastoral Challenges to the Family in the Context of Evangelization."

What is a synod? How does it work? What will be discussed at this year's gathering? Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB tackles these questions below. The article was originally published by Crux, a new web initiative of the Boston Globe covering the Catholic Church, and has been republished with the permission of the author.

An MRI Into the Life of the Church
By Rev. Thomas Rosica, CSB 

Pope Paul VI conceived the Synod of Bishops in September 1965 as a sounding board to advise the pope on various aspects of the Church’s life. From the beginning they were consultative, not legislative.

So synods are less like Congress and more like an MRI into the life of the world Church. Over the years, these gatherings haven’t produced tsunamis of new dogma or overturned Church teachings, nor have they issued earth-shattering results. The majority took place during the long pontificate of St. John Paul II, and the final documents, called “Apostolic Exhortations,” clearly bore the mark of the reigning pontiff.

With the passage of time, the process grew tired with little chance for evaluation or renewal. Having participated at the last two synods as the English language media spokesman, it was evident to me something had to change, and under Pope Francis it has.

Within months of his election, Francis appointed a new General Secretary to head the Vatican’s Synod office, an Italian Archbishop and Vatican diplomat named Lorenzo Baldisseri. Francis made him a cardinal earlier this year.

The synod’s machinery was turned upside-down a year ago, in October 2013, after Francis met over two days with Baldisseri’s synod council, a body of roughly 15 prelates from around the world that includes Cardinals Timothy Dolan of New York and Donald Wuerl from Washington, DC, in the United States. Those who attended the meeting were astounded, and pleased, at Francis’ hands-on involvement.

As a result, the synod this October will be something new. It’s really a preparatory session bringing together presidents of national bishops’ conferences, heads of Eastern Catholic churches, and Vatican officials ahead of a larger Synod of Bishops on the family set for Oct. 4-25, 2015.

Although the number of participants this time is smaller, they include a dozen or more voting members named by the pope, three priests chosen by an umbrella group of men’s religious orders, a dozen or more expert advisers, about a dozen representatives of other Christian churches, and up to 30 observers – more than half comprised of married couples who will be encouraged to address the assembly.

For both the 2014 and 2015 synods, Francis wants to hear from the grassroots.

Last fall, he had the synod office send out a questionnaire to the whole Church on topics that included contraception, divorce and remarriage, same-sex marriage, premarital sex and in-vitro fertilization. The Vatican received responses from 114 bishops’ conferences and about 800 Catholic organizations.

Though the timing was problematic, given the short turn-around for responses, the process nevertheless ensured that the synod didn’t begin with abstractions but a real, direct knowledge of the cultural challenges sweeping across the globe.

There’s huge media interest in this synod, which hasn’t always been the case. Because it will study issues pertaining to marriage, family, and sexual morality – including those that are controversial both within and outside the Church – the themes are those that the majority of Catholics deal with every day in the real world.

Francis has also made clear he doesn’t want the synod just to be a talk-shop.

In an April 1 letter to Baldisseri made public by the Vatican, Francis said he wants the reformed synod to have real power to deliberate on major questions, just as it did in the early centuries of Christianity. It will be a body outside and above the Vatican bureaucracy, accountable to the pope but also to the bishops of the world.

During the first week of the synod, instead of reading speeches over several days as has been the custom in the past, bishops will have three or four minutes to summarize their texts. They’re supposed to focus only on one theme, and, perhaps include ideas or clarifications that have come from listening to their colleagues.

The second week of the synod will be taken up mainly by work in small groups organized by language. Instead of brainstorming propositions for the pope as in the past, the small groups will work, theme by theme, on amending the meeting’s summary report, which is likely to be used as the working document for the 2015 synod.

To manage this two-week adventure, Francis has named an all-star team of Church leaders from around the world. Cardinal Péter Erdo, archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest in Hungary, will serve as Relator General (more or less the chairman), and Archbishop Bruno Forte of the Archdiocese of Chieti-Vasto in Italy will serve as Special Secretary.

The three presidents, or daily moderators, of the synod are Cardinal André Vingt-Trois, Archbishop of Paris, France; Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, Archbishop of Manila in the Philippines; and Cardinal Raymundo Damasceno Assis, Archbishop of Aparecida in Brazil.

The Rev. Thomas Rosica, CSB, is CEO of Canada’s Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation. He has served as media attaché at two previous Synods of Bishops (2008 and 2012). Since February 2013, he is the English language assistant to the Holy See Press Office. For the October 2014 synod, he will be English language assistant to the Director of the Holy See Press Office. Father Rosica interviewed Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, head of the Synod of Bishops, earlier this year.

Sep 11, 2014

A meeting of Saints in Midland

Pope John Paul II arriving in Midland, Ontario.
Credit: © Concacan Inc., 1984.
Thirty years ago, John Paul II became the first Pope to set foot in Canada. Over the course of 12 days, the Polish pontiff travelled 15,000 kilometres—starting in Quebec City, continuing to the Maritimes, then heading westward to B.C., and concluding in Ottawa.

Along the way, St. John Paul II spent two days in the Archdiocese of Toronto. Highlights included praying in St. Michael’s Cathedral, greeting Polish Canadians in Varsity Stadium, and, ultimately, worshipping with 500,000 faithful at an outdoor mass in Downsview Park.

Some of the most poignant moments of his trip to our archdiocese took place north of Toronto. On September 15, he flew by helicopter to the Martyrs’ Shrine in Midland, Ontario, where he venerated the relics of the North American Martyrs, met with the elderly and handicapped, and pronounced a traditional Huron greeting at a liturgy of the Word.

This past Saturday, Catholics from across the archdiocese again flocked to Midland to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the visit. The website of the Martyrs’ Shrine recounts the festivities:

Celebration of the 30th Anniversary of St. John Paul II’s Visit
Another saint has walked these grounds!
The celebration of the 30th Anniversary of the visit of Pope St. John Paul II on Saturday, September 6 was a very joyful event, during which we gave thanks for his canonization and his visit to Huronia and the Martyrs’ Shrine 30 years ago. So many participants remembered with gratitude their experience and feelings going back to September 15, 1984. There were smiles on everyone’s faces as they recounted what happened that day.
Pope John Paul II visiting Sainte-Marie among the Hurons.
Credit: © Concacan Inc., 1984.
Over 600 people gathered to celebrate a 10:30 am Mass with Bishop John Boissonneau at the Shrine’s Papal Altar, originally built for the 1984 Papal Visit where the Pope addressed close to 80,000 people. Throughout the day, visitors toured the many monuments on the grounds and displays in the Filion Centre dedicated to this well-loved and longstanding Pope. The exhibits showcased special collections of memorabilia from the Martyrs’ Shrine Archives of St. John Paul II’s 1984 visit, including a third class relic, art, video and photographic displays. Another special collection presented for the celebration was an extensive travelling exhibit titled “St. John Paul II Pilgrimages on World Coins & Medals, and a Special Collection of St. John Paul II Canadian Memorabilia from His Visits to Canada”.
Thank you to everyone who joined us in celebration and who shared their reflections of St. John Paul II. A special thank you to the many volunteers of the 1984 Papal Visit who joined us and those who assisted in Saturday’s Eucharistic celebration, including Mary King and George MacDonald. We also greatly appreciate the choir of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish and the Knights of Columbus for participating, Mayor Scott Warnock of Tay Township for attending, and reporters from CTV Barrie and the Midland Mirror for covering this special event at the Shrine. Please enjoy this CTV Barrie News coverage of the all-day celebration.
Pope John Paul II venerating the relics of the Canadian Martyrs.
Credit: © Concacan Inc., 1984.
On September 15th, 1984, the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross, Pope John Paul II visited Martyrs’ Shrine and venerated the Martyrs’ relics. He spoke of the importance of the eight North American Jesuit Martyrs, as well as early Wendat Christian converts, both in the history of Canada and in the life of the Church. In the words of the Holy Father, the Martyrs and early Christian converts had a “house of prayer and a home of peace” here, and now Martyrs’ Shrine “stands as a symbol of the unity of Faith in a diversity of cultures.”

Aug 29, 2014

Go Old School at your New School

At 2,000 years old, the Catholic Church is what you might call "old school." But that doesn't mean you have to leave your faith behind when you head off to college or university this fall. 

On campuses across the country, campus ministries or chaplaincies exist to help you live those "old school" values in a practical way in your life as a modern-day student. You might also consider getting involved with a Newman Centre, Catholic Christian Outreach (CCO) or the Canadian Catholic Students Association (CCSA).

Keep an eye out for one of these groups on your campus and go old school at your new school.

Click on photo to expand and visit this page more information on contacting each group.

Marlena Loughheed is a communications coordinator in the Archdiocese of Toronto's Office of Public Relations and Communications.

Aug 25, 2014

Rise and shine, it’s that time!

See you in September” are the words of a popular song that is a June radio favourite. It speaks to the seemingly distant month that beckons a return to school. Questions absent from the breakfast table during the summer months return to homes across the province. Do you have your lunch? How about your backpack? Did you wash behind your ears? Stress  abounds as the return to school date approaches

As parents you have clear expectations for your child, but as Catholic parents you have additional responsibilities. School is about relationships for Mom and Dad—relationship with faith and relationship with teachers.

Relationship with faith

Parents, as the first and foremost educators of their child (Lumen Gentium 11, Second Vatican Council) set the example for the child by living our Gospel values as demonstrated by Jesus Christ. He is our guiding light. We pray as a family and participate in our parish liturgical celebrations. Our pastors nurture our spiritual journey through Sunday mass and celebration of the sacraments. School liturgies and prayer services within the life of the Catholic community not only celebrates God’s gifts, but also serve as an opportunity to join together at times of success and trouble. Parish, school and home form an essential triad in their faith development.

Relationship between teachers and parents

It is essential to understand that, as first and foremost educators, we are not the sole educators. Our partners in the process are our teachers. It is essential that we develop a respectful relationship with them built on respect. They are professionally certified and have the pedagogical skills. Trust must be established through communication which should be on going. When disagreements arise seek to understand not to judge. Clearly enunciate the concern from your perspective and exercise attentive listening.

Be a problem solver by pursuing a resolution through collaboration and consensus seeking. Remember that one is either part of the problem or part of the solution.

Participation in school activities enables you to move to engagement. Contributing as a parent helps demonstrate your willingness to assist teachers with their work. It models volunteering and sets a good example for the child.

When a parent sends their child to a Catholic school, they are entrusting the love of their life to the teaching staff. For that reason, it’s good to remember that the word Catholic emanates from the Greek word Kata holos, meaning welcoming everyone, including your child, as one made in the image and likeness of God.

There is a purpose in our children attending a Catholic school, as described in a publication by the Algonquin and Lakeshore CDSB: “The worthiest purpose of education is that learners might become fully alive human beings who help to create a society that serves the Bonum commune (common good)”.

Embrace the journey ahead and remember that, together with the Lord, we journey with the best!

Dr. Ashleigh Molloy (a.k.a. “Dr. Ash”) is director of the TransEd Institute and can be contacted at amolloy@transedinstitute.org

Aug 19, 2014

Delegation visits Typhoon Haiyan-affected communities in the Philippines

When Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines on November 8, 2013, parishes and schools in the Archdiocese of Toronto sprang into action, raising over $2.2 million for humanitarian relief (matched by the Canadian Government). While media coverage has moved on to other crises, reconstruction efforts continue. Development and Peace provides for the following report on a delegation of Canadian Catholics now visiting the Philippines to monitor the progress. For more updates, visit Development and Peace and the ShareLife blog Working Wonders.

A delegation representing several Catholic groups in Canada is travelling to the Philippines, by invitation of Development and Peace, to visit communities affected by super Typhoon Haiyan in November 2013. The delegation will witness firsthand some of the reconstruction projects being put in place by Development and Peace and its local partners to help communities recover from the devastation of the storm.

The delegation includes Most Rev. Michael Miller, Archbishop of Vancouver; Most Rev. Jean-Louis Plouffe, Bishop of Sault Ste. Marie; Pat Kennedy, President of Development and Peace; Arthur Peters, Executive Director of ShareLife Toronto; Fran Lucas, National Chairperson of Community Life of the Catholic Women’s League; Sr. Nida Fe Chavez, General Treasurer of the Sisters of St-Joseph of Toronto; and Patrick Fletcher, Senior Advisor for Theology and Social Doctrine at the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. The group will be accompanied by Development and Peace Executive Director Michael Casey; Programs Officer Jess Agustin; and Communications Officer Kelly Di Domenico.

On November 8, 2013, the Philippines was hit by Typhoon Haiyan, one of the strongest tropical storms on record. It caused the destruction of up to 90% of infrastructure in some cities and left an estimated 14 million people in need of aid. In response, Development and Peace launched an appeal that raised more than $13 million (CDN) for relief and reconstruction efforts. After providing for immediate humanitarian needs, the organization has now put in place a three-year reconstruction program that will support communities in rebuilding infrastructure, as well as strengthening community ties, bolstering local economies and helping communities develop greater resiliency to future disasters.

The delegation is travelling through the Visayas region of the central Philippines from August 16-25 and will be visiting some of the most-affected zones, including the city of Tacloban on the island of Leyte, as well as the islands of Samar and Cebu. In addition to meeting with several of Development and Peace’s local partners, including Caritas Philippines-NASSA, Urban Poor Associates, and Catholic Relief Services, the delegation will meet with Bishop Soc Villegas, President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines; Bishop Broderick Pabillo, President of Caritas Philippines-NASSA; and with his Eminence Luis Antonio Tagle, Cardinal of Manila.

“We are pleased to bring this delegation to the Philippines to witness the courageous work and resilient spirit of the local communities affected by this terrible disaster. It is because of the generosity and solidarity of Canadian Catholics and others who contributed to relief efforts that this important recovery work can take place,” said Michael Casey in anticipation of the visit.

Aug 14, 2014

Canadian Knights stand out at international convention

Did you know there are 56,000 members of the Knights of Columbus in Ontario alone? The fraternal order is prominent in parishes throughout the Archdiocese of Toronto, serving the needs of our communities through the principles of Charity, Unity, Fraternity and Patriotism. Their contributions were celebrated August 5-7 at a global gathering in Orlando, Florida. The Knights of Columbus provide the following report.

Cardinal Gérald Lacroix
The Knights of Columbus’ 132nd annual international convention honoured a number of Canadian Knights and councils and featured a keynote address by Canada’s Cardinal Gérald Lacroix, ISPX, archbishop of Québec and primate of Canada.

Nearly 90 archbishops and bishops — including 11 cardinals — along with scores of clergy joined approximately 2,000 Knights and family members. They came from North and Central America, the Caribbean, Africa, Asia and Europe for the three-day international convention in Orlando, Florida, guided by the theme of “You Will All Be Brothers: Our Vocation to Fraternity.”

Cardinal Lacroix gave the keynote address at the event’s opening dinner. He was joined at the convention by nine other Canadian archbishops and bishops, including Archbishop Paul-André Durocher of Gatineau, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. 

Globally, Knights donated more than $184 million and 70.5 million hours of service to charitable causes in 2013. The Canadian contribution was an all-time high of more than $30 million and 9,323,063 hours of service.

Of the Knights’ 70-plus regions, known as states, Québec placed first in the world in charitable donations for the fifth consecutive year, giving $11.4 million and nearly 1.7 million hours of service to charitable causes in 2013. Ontario came in second with $7.9 million.

When it comes to the amount of time volunteered per member last year, four Canadian jurisdictions were in the top 10. Prince Edward Island took first place with more than 135 hours per member. British Columbia was second with nearly 114 hours, while Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia rounded out the Canadian presence in the top 10.

“The generosity of our members in Canada is an inspiring example to every member of our organization,” said Supreme Knight Carl Anderson. “Their contributions help to improve the quality of life of those most in need. On behalf of our more than 1.8 million members, I congratulate them for their inspiring work.”

Founded in 1882 by Father Michael J. McGivney, who completed some of his priestly studies in Montreal, the Knights of Columbus has grown to more than 1.8 million members. The first Canadian council was established in Montreal in 1897 – just 15 years after the founding.

“This has been a special year for Canada,” said Anderson. He reported to the convention that the Knights’ Supreme Council, the Knights Québec State Council and the Canadian Association joined together to fund a new holy door – used only when the Church proclaims a holy year -- at the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Québec. The first Vatican-sanctioned holy door in North America, the massive bronze door bears the emblem of the Knights of Columbus.

The Knights also joined with the Church in Québec in celebrating the 350th anniversary of the Church in Québec, the canonizations of St. François de Laval and St. Marie of the Incarnation, and the Knights’ supreme directors made a special pilgrimage to pray at the tomb of St. Brother André in Montreal.

Many of the proceedings were broadcast on Salt + Light Television and can be found on social media with hashtag #KofCFL14 on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. More information is also available at www.kofc.org.

Aug 8, 2014

Cardinal Collins: Canada can do more to help Christians under siege in Iraq

Statement from Cardinal Thomas Collins, Archbishop of Toronto re: Iraqi Christians
August 7, 2014

Far away from the comfort of our television screens, tablets and newspapers, a tragedy continues to unfold in Iraq. Islamist extremists, intent on eliminating any trace of Christianity, have cast out tens of thousands of Christians, a people with an almost 2,000-year history in the region.

Shortly after I began my mission as Archbishop of Toronto, 7 years ago, the Archbishop of Mosul visited me and shared his hopes for caring for his community. He wanted to build a little school, and we tried to help him. He also told me of what his people were suffering even then. Now Mosul, one of the oldest Christian communities in the world, is devoid of any trace of Christianity. Churches have been desecrated and destroyed. Families have been told they must convert to Islam or die.

Scenes unfold daily of residents forced to flee their homes, stripped of their possessions, right down to the crosses around their necks, while others are murdered, martyrs literally laying down their lives for their faith. In 2003, there were an estimated one million Christians in Iraq; some suggest that no more than 150,000 remain today.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has stated that this persecution could be considered a “crime against humanity”. Iraqi Christians have been begging the world to help them. It is fair to question whether the world is listening?

From a distance, we ask ourselves, what to do? It is good that our Prime Minister has condemned this violence in Iraq. We can urge the Canadian government to use its full diplomatic influence to support the demands of the Archbishops of Mosul, led by His Beatitude Patriarch Mar Louis Raphael Sako. These faith leaders have urged the Iraqi national government to:

• Provide full protection of all religious rights and those of other minorities who wish to remain in their homeland.
• Offer financial support for displaced families who have lost everything.
• Compensate victims for damages and losses suffered by Christians, providing immediate shelter and educational facilities to those forced now to live in refugee camps.

In Canada, I appeal to our government to expand available spaces for Iraqi Christians seeking refuge in our country, and to remove any bureaucratic impediments to their reception. The Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto, through the generosity of our parishes, has sponsored 820 refugees from the Middle East, many Iraqi Christians, over the past three years. As the largest Canadian private sponsor of refugees from the region, we stand ready to welcome more, with parishes mobilized to facilitate sponsorship and settlement at a moment’s notice. Let us accelerate the process at once.

We would do well to follow the lead of countries like France, that have announced publicly their intention to provide asylum for those who are persecuted. Canada should take immediate action to provide a safe haven for those forced to flee their homeland. In Iraq, religious freedom is not just being tested; it is being assaulted.

As always, we join in prayer and solidarity with our Christian brothers and sisters in Iraq. In the words of Pope Francis, “Violence will not win over violence. Violence is won over by peace!” Let us pray for an authentic peace in Iraq and in so many other troubled places in the world.

FAQ: Christian persecution in Iraq

Earlier this week, Cardinal Thomas Collins released a statement calling for Canada to assist persecuted religious minorities in Iraq. Here are some answers to commonly asked questions about the unfolding tragedy.

QUESTION: What is happening in Iraq?
ANSWER: In June 2014, the Islamic State (IS), formerly called ISIS - Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or ISIL Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, had seized a large section of the country’s northern region including the city of Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq. Since the takeover, the militant group has given Christians an ultimatum: Convert, Flee, or Die. Christians were given up to July 19, 2014 deadline to choose. For those Christians who did not comply with the decree by 19 July, Isis warned that, "there is nothing to give them but the sword.”

QUESTION: How is this related to the symbol ن
ANSWER: This symbol ن is the letter ’N’ in Arabic, used by the Islamic State (IS or ISIS) to identify who is a Nazarene – another word for Christian. It has been drawn on doorways and in front of houses in captured Iraqi cities, allowing militants to quickly assert where the loyalties of the inhabitants lie.

QUESTION: Who is the Islamic State?
ANSWER: The Islamic State is the group that during the Iraq War was often referred to as “Al-Qaeda in Iraq.” The group claims it is an independent state with claims to Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. It was established in the early years of the Iraq War and pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda in 2004. The group has targeted military and governments of Iraq and Syria, but has also claimed responsibility for attacks that have killed thousands of Iraqi civilians. According to a study compiled by U.S. intelligence agencies, the Islamic State has plans to seize power and turn the country into a fundamentalist Islamic state.

QUESTION: How many Christians live in the Mosul region?
ANSWER: As of July 2003, about 35,000 Christians lived in the city of 2 million people. This number had dwindled to approximately 25,000 by the time of the Islamic State takeover, and only a few hundred Christian families remained in the city until recently.

QUESTION: What is the significance of Mosul?
ANSWER: Mosul is the ancient city of Niniveh, one of the holiest cities for Middle Eastern Christian groups. The city of Nineveh is mentioned in the Bible in Genesis, 2 Kings, Isaiah, Jonah, Nahum, Zephaniah, and Matthew. Along with its Biblical connection, the city reportedly contains the tomb of the Old Testament prophet Jonah. The Islamic State destroyed a mosque built upon the burial site on July 24, 2014 because the militants claimed the mosque had become a place for apostasy.

QUESTION: What happened in Qaraqosh on August 6-7?
ANSWER: The Kurdish forces abandoned their posts in Qaraqosh, Tel Eskof and Qaramlesh after a violent confrontation with IS. The largest concentration of Christians in Iraq was forced to flee for their lives. Less than 10,000 Christians (out of 100,000) remained in Qaraqosh and surrounding villages; the remaining 90,000 have left at night by foot, buses and private cars towards Erbil and other cities.

QUESTION: Where are the Christians now?
ANSWER: Most Christians in Mosul have fled 55 miles to the east, to the city of Erbil, the capital and largest city of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Erbil’s governor, Nawzad Hadi, has pledged to protect fleeing Christians and other minority groups. According to the United Nations, the territory is currently home to more than 2 million refugees and internally displaced people from Iraq and Syria.

QUESTION:What about local efforts?
ANSWER: Cardinal Collins has invited prayers as well as financial support for those who wish to join in solidarity with our persecuted brothers and sisters in the Middle East. In addition, more than 2/3’s of our 225 Catholic churches have been involved in refugee sponsorship over the last several years. 820 refugees from the Middle East, many Iraqi Christians, have been sponsored by churches in the Archdiocese of Toronto, making us the largest Canadian private sponsor of refugees from the region.

QUESTION: Are Catholic groups assisting Christians in the Middle East?
ANSWER: Yes. The Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) is a papal agency providing humanitarian and pastoral support for Christians all over the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Northeast Africa and India. They have offices in Jerusalem, Beirut, Lebanon and Amman, Jordan that work in Iraq and Syria with local dioceses and bishops and religious to provide humanitarian relief and ongoing support. Visit www.cnewa.ca for more information. The Archdiocese of Toronto will channel any funds collected through this papal agency.

For those parishes or individuals wishing to offer financial support, the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) has launched an emergency aid appeal. Those wishing to contribute may do so in the following ways:

  • Online through the Archdiocese of Toronto website
  • By phone through the Development office – 416-934-3411
  • Through the parish, making cheques payable to:
    • Name of Parish – Iraqi Christians (Parishes may use humanitarian relief envelopes and are asked to gather funds and send one parish cheque to the Development Office, made out to: Archdiocese of Toronto – Iraqi Christians)

Iraqi Christians: How you can help

Yesterday on the blog, we posted a statement from Cardinal Collins regarding the tragic situation impacting Iraqi Christians. It appeared in full on the Globe and Mail website Thursday and in the newspaper today. We encourage you to share the article through social media.

In addition to the statement, Cardinal Collins would like to draw our attention to the following initiatives:
  1. Please continue to offer prayers for peace, especially for those Christians suffering in Iraq. To that end, Cardinal Collins will also be hosting an interfaith “Prayer for Peace” service that will take place on Sunday, September 7 at 3 p.m. at St. Paul’s Basilica in downtown Toronto.
  2. For those wishing to offer financial support, the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) has launched an emergency aid appeal. You can contribute in the following ways:
    • Online through the Archdiocese of Toronto website.
    • By phone through the Development office at 416-934-3411.
    • Through your parish, making cheques payable to: "[Name of Parish] – Iraqi Christians."
  3. A group of Catholic, Orthodox and Assyrian churches are organizing a peaceful protest that will take place on Sunday, August 10 beginning at 3:30 p.m. at the corner of Front & Bay St. in Toronto. This is another opportunity to show our solidarity with those who have been persecuted.
We continue to pray for all those who are suffering in the Middle East. Thank you for sharing this important information with your friends, family members and fellow parishioners.

Media Advisory: Cardinal Thomas Collins Condemns Treatment of Iraqi Christians

Tens of thousands displaced in effort to cleanse Iraq of Christian presence

TORONTO (August 8, 2014) Christians at home and around the world are offering prayers and pleading with government leaders to recognize a crisis expanding daily in Iraq, where tens of thousands of Christians are being forced out of their homes, receiving death threats and facing increased persecution.

Cardinal Thomas Collins, Archbishop of Toronto, in a statement released August 7, urged the Canadian government to employ full diplomatic influence with its Iraqi counterparts to provide protection for Christians remaining in their homeland. At the same time, he pressed immigration officials to streamline applications for those escaping a region inundated with violence and unrest.

The Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto, through the generosity of its parishes, is Canada’s largest private sponsor of refugees from the Middle East, with 820 people welcomed from the region over the past three years.

Cardinal Collins described the atrocities faced by Christians in Iraq: “Scenes unfold daily of residents forced to flee their homes, stripped of their possessions, right down to the crosses around their necks, while others are murdered, martyrs literally laying down their lives for their faith.”

Toronto’s archbishop has encouraged parishes to join in solidarity with those suffering by:

  • Contributing to emergency aid efforts being coordinated by the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA), a papal agency offering humanitarian and pastoral support for Christians persecuted worldwide.
  • Joining in prayer and advocacy efforts. These include:
    • A peaceful protest in downtown Toronto organized by Catholic, Orthodox and Assyrian churches on Sunday, August 10 – 3:30 p.m. (originating at Front & Bay Sts., concluding at Queen’s Park)
    • Ongoing prayers in Catholic churches throughout the archdiocese
    • Participation in an interfaith “Prayer for Peace” service hosted by Cardinal Collins, taking place on Sunday, September 7 at Toronto’s St. Paul’s Basilica at 3 p.m.

The Archdiocese of Toronto is Canada’s largest diocese, stretching from Toronto north to Georgian Bay and from Oshawa to Mississauga. It is home to 1.9 million Catholics and 225 churches, with Mass celebrated in more than 30 languages each week.

Neil MacCarthy works as the Director of Public Relations and Communications for the Archdiocese of Toronto.

Jul 18, 2014

Faces of Our Faith: Marie Watts, Manager, Parish Operational Reviews

Marie Watts

1. How long have you worked for the Archdiocese of Toronto and what path led you to your current role as Manager of Parish Operational Reviews in the Accounting and Finance Department?

I have worked for the archdiocese for just over seven years. My work experience as a senior auditor with the Province of Ontario combined with the volunteer work I had done in my parish prepared me for the job.

2. What does a “typical” day look like in your job?

I am involved in the Parish Operational Review Program, risk management and parish support. I receive reports from reviewers who visit the parishes. Bill Dunlop, the comptroller, and I read the reports and draft a letter to the pastor advising of the findings and inviting comments.

I also receive telephone calls and emails concerning insurance issues such as “someone fell in the parking lot. Should we file a report?” or “could you read through this snow removal contract and see if it is OK?” Like all the staff in the Accounting and Finance department, I receive calls and emails about general accounting issues, and pretty well everything and anything.

3. What is the most interesting request you’ve received from a parish?

A few years ago, an author called requesting the rights to use an image in her book of a painting by William Kuralek, which was in Corpus Christi Church. We consulted with our solicitor (some people think I have all the answers, but I know better) and learned that although we owned the painting, the owner of the copyright was Mr. Kuralek’s Estate. The author was able to obtain permission from the estate. The painting, installed on a side altar, was Mr. Kuralek’s 50th anniversary gift to the church and was completed just months before his death.

4. What is one thing most people might not know about the world of accounting and finance in a Catholic diocese?

It comes as a surprise to many that from an accounting and finance perspective, the archdiocese operates as a business. The parishes are expected to operate as a business as well. This means we follow generally accepted accounting principles, the Income Tax Act and other federals laws, the Employment Standards Act and other provincial laws, and the bylaws of the municipality in which we are located. Being a church does not give us an out.

5. What is the greatest challenge and the greatest joy of your role in the archdiocese?

The greatest challenge and the greatest joy for me is helping a parish find the best solution to a particular problem. Sometimes the parish just needs confirmation they are headed in the right direction and sometimes we have to brainstorm together to come up with possible solutions. With 225 parishes in the Archdiocese of Toronto, no two parishes are exactly the same.

6. If you could spend a day walking in another person’s shoes, who would you choose?

It would be fascinating to be His Holiness Pope Francis for a day. Just think of all the interesting people he meets and the unconditional love sent his way. Of course, the downside is the stress and the enormous responsibility.

7. What is your favourite thing to do to relax after the big push to get through tax season?

I love going to art galleries with my friend. My mother was an artist, and it is amazing how much I learned from her about colour, composition, etc. Unfortunately, I did not inherit her talent.

8. Tell us about the time you met Mother Teresa.
I came home from school for lunch one day, I think that I was in grade six, and my mother informed me that I would not be returning to school that day (yay!). Instead we would be going to the airport to meet Mother Teresa. My mother had arranged a beautiful bouquet of flowers that I was to present to Mother Teresa and greet her with a line in Hindi. I remember waiting for a long time at the top of an escalator in the airport for Mother Teresa to clear customs and immigration. Suddenly, there she was, along with another sister from her order. She had a blue sweater over her arm and carried a tiny suitcase. She was not expecting the small crowd that greeted her. When she finally saw a familiar face, (a doctor who worked with her in Calcutta) in our group, she called out: “what are you doing here?” I gave Mother Teresa the flowers, forgot the line I was to say in Hindi and ended up carrying her sweater. We started walking to where the Catholic Register had arranged to interview her. Along the way I was introduced to a very tall man who kindly bent down to shake my hand – Jean Vanier. While Mother Teresa and Jean Vanier were being interviewed, I sat with my mom, the doctor and Pauline Vanier (Jean Vanier’s mom) and chatted. Madame Vanier gave me her autograph. My mom remembered to get Mother Teresa’s autograph for me that evening after a Youth Corps rally.

Marie recalls meeting Mother Teresa and Jean Vanier as a child.

9. Fill in the blank: A clean desk ______.

…means that all my work is done!