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

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

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 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!

Jul 14, 2014

Faces of Our Faith: Quentin Schesnuik, Manager of Planned Giving and Personal Gifts

Quentin Schesnuik
1)    Tell us about your role with the Archdiocese of Toronto. What is your current position and how did you end up where you are today?

As a financial advisor working in the banking industry, I got “hooked” on planned giving when I worked for a charity in downtown Toronto that dealt with inner-city poverty. I helped them to set up a planned giving program. When an opening came at the Archdiocese of Toronto, I jumped at the opportunity. I am now the Manager of Planned Giving and Personal Gifts for the archdiocese. It is a rare gift to work for the Church.

2)    What does a “typical” day on the job look like for you?

When my phone rings, I never know what is waiting for me at the other end. It could be a person who wants to gift a used couch, a rare stamp collection, or a million dollars of stock. The unpredictability keeps me answering the phone!

3)   Your job includes some interesting jargon. What is “planned giving” and what are “personal gifts”?

Planned giving is a gift made to the Church through a person’s will or estate plan. It can be a bequest of cash, a house or cottage, a life insurance policy, a car, etc.

A personal gift is one that you make during your lifetime. Examples include a gift of stock, mutual funds or bonds. We also assist our parishes with offertory enhancement programs such as pre-authorized giving and online donations using credit cards.

4)   How do the donations your office receives allow the Church to fulfill its mission?

We have the technical “know how” to convert a gift of property into cash that a parish or archdiocesan charity, such as ShareLife, can use to further its ministry. This must be done in accordance with Revenue Canada guidelines. For example, a person can have some old stock certificates sitting in a safety deposit box collecting dust. We can assist them to get the certificates cashed with the proceeds going to their parish to fund anything from the purchase of missals to catechetical materials for children. We then issue a tax receipt to the donor for the gift.

5)   What are some of the more memorable items people have donated to the Archdiocese of Toronto?

A person once called me saying they had a 150-year-old painting of our Lord they wanted to donate to the Church. As the call came from a reputable source, I went out to see the painting. The analysis was that it was indeed a 150 year-old painting, but it turned out to be a 150-year-old fake! The value went from about $1.2 million to about $2,500 in the blink of an eye.

Another memorable gift was a near-mint 1980s Jaguar car that only ended up being worth a few thousand dollars. The kicker was the purchaser wanted to know if we ever came across any 1980s Volkswagen Jettas. He said there was a big demand for them. It seems that a lot of construction people like to buy them as the same diesel that goes into their machines can also go into the car. The lesson I learn over and over is that all something is really worth is what another person is willing to pay for it. 

Quentin ponders the value of a painting from his office wall.

6)   What does “leaving a legacy” mean to you? What do you hope your legacy will be in our archdiocese?

To me, leaving a legacy means you leave the world a little bit better than when you entered it. Some people can do this by volunteering and others can do this with their financial resources. Either way, it always involves some level of self-sacrifice. As for my legacy, I think it will be to imitate the “hidden life” of Christ when he worked as an obscure carpenter in Nazareth. In 10, 20, 30 years from now when estate gifts come in, no one will know it was me who helped to set them up.

7)   As someone who works in fundraising, you know the small sacrifices that must be made in order to give to the Church. What’s one small thing you would have a tough time giving up?

Sugar. It goes way back to when I was a kid. I truly don’t understand people who can eat just one gummi bear. I don’t get them at all.

8)   You have gained a reputation in the Catholic Pastoral Centre for your engaging presentations. Tell us about some of your unique props.
I think the key to presentations is to begin with a concept that everyone likes and then use it to explain complex issues in a simple, yet fun and creative way. Lego lends itself well to this as a prop. You can make pretty much anything out of it. My seven-year-old son is a Lego fanatic. He constantly amazes me with what he builds. I stole the idea from him.

9)   What do you like to do in your free time?

I like to wrestle with my kids and do Internet research about really obscure, off-the-wall subjects or events.

10)   Which movie character do you most closely identify with and why?

I would say Frodo from the Lord of the Rings. The ring was his cross to bear. We all have our own crosses and each one of us knows what it is, even if others do not. The key is to finish the race with our cross still in hand. 

Jul 4, 2014

Cross-checking encouraged: Catholic youth take over historic hockey shrine

Over 2,000 high-school age youth are converging upon the Mattamy Athletic Centre in downtown Toronto, formerly known as Maple Leaf Gardens.

From July 4-6, 2014, high-school age youth from across Ontario and beyond will be introduced to the richness of Catholic faith through prayer, praise and reflection. Steubenville Toronto represents the largest Catholic youth gathering in Canada since World Youth Day 2002.

The inaugural Toronto event is one of 20 Steubenville youth conferences taking place annually across North America. Originating with an initial gathering of 1,000 young people on its Ohio campus in 1976, the Steubenville conferences have expanded to diverse locations over the past three decades.

Steubenville Toronto begins Friday with lively worship music, continues Saturday with inspiring talks and a stirring Eucharistic procession, and concludes Sunday with a jubilant Mass led by Cardinal Thomas Collins, Archbishop of Toronto.

The team of presenters have spoken to tens of thousands of youth around the world. They include dynamic host Bob Rice, soulful worship music leader Ike Ndolo, and popular speaker Jackie Francois.

Over 220 volunteers are contributing hundreds of hours of service at the event, which is sponsored by the Archdiocese of Toronto and the Office of Catholic Youth. For more details, visit

Kris Dmytrenko is a Communications Coordinator in the Archdiocese of Toronto’s Office of Public Relations & Communications.

Jun 20, 2014

World Refugee Day 2014

Around the world, people of all faith backgrounds are trying to escape situations of war, famine or persecution. Last week it was reported that 500,000 people fled Iraq's second largest city as Islamist forces took over. 

These stories of people fleeing areas of strife are becoming increasingly common and the need for asylum is ever-present.

Refugee camp in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Did you know that the Archdiocese of Toronto has an Office for Refugees (ORAT)? ORAT’s main focus is the Civic (Private) Refugee Sponsorship Program of the Archdiocese of Toronto, which has been in operation for over 30 years. In the past year, ORAT submitted applications to bring over 250 refugees to Canada, thanks to the help of parishes and institutions within the Archdiocese.
ORAT also helps foster a sense of community within the Archdiocese, as parishes and religious orders are asked to work together to help newcomers integrate into Canadian society.
More than 160 parishes in the Archdiocese of Toronto are sponsoring refugee families who have either arrived or will arrive soon in Canada.
In light of the World Day for Refugees, the pope has urged the faithful "to be close to these people, sharing their fears and their uncertainty for the future, and alleviating their pain with concrete measures."
Here are the Holy Father's comments from his weekly General Audience:
The day after tomorrow, June 20, is the World Day of Refugees, which the international community dedicates to those forced to leave their land to flee from conflicts and persecutions. The number of these refugee brothers is growing and, in these last days, other thousands of persons were induced to leave their homes to be saved. Millions of families -- millions -- sheltered in many countries and of every religious faith, live in their histories tragedies and wounds that will be difficult to heal. Let us make ourselves their neighbours, sharing their fears and their uncertainty for the future and alleviating concretely their sufferings. May the Lord support the persons and institutions that work with generosity to ensure hospitality and dignity to the refugees, and give them reasons for hope. Let us think that Jesus was a refugee. He had to flee to save his life, with Saint Joseph and Our Lady, he had to go to Egypt. He was a refugee. Let us pray to Our Lady, who knows the pains of the refugees, to be close to these, our brothers and sisters. Let us pray together with Our Lady for refugee brothers and sisters.
Marlena Loughheed is a communications coordinator in the Archdiocese of Toronto's Office of Public Relations and Communications. 

Jun 12, 2014

Faces of Our Faith: Ann Ray, Human Resources Assistant

Faces of Our Faith is a regular feature in Around the Arch that highlights the people who keep our archdiocese running behind-the-scenes. Today we introduce you to Ann Ray, the assistant to the Director of Human Resources. She has worked for the Archdiocese of Toronto for 11 years and hails from St. John’s, Newfoundland.

Newfoundlander turned Torontonian, Ann Ray.

1. Where are you from and how do you keep the spirit of your home province active in your life in Toronto? What was it like to move to Toronto?

I was born and raised in Newfoundland. My father was an RCMP officer and while I was growing up, my family was transferred to various locations within the province. I am no stranger to relocating, which may have prompted my courage to move to Toronto on my own when I completed university. I clearly remember the day in university when I was staring at a picture in Reader’s Digest of a bright and colorful downtown Toronto late night skyline, and thinking to myself, “That’s so amazing and beautiful. I’m going to live there one day.”

When I finally arrived in Toronto several years later, I remember observing how many skyscrapers there were and just how big the city was compared to my hometown of St. John’s. I had never seen such diversity in one place, so I experienced a little bit of culture shock at first. However, in staying true to my roots, I utilized my friendly and easygoing mannerisms to navigate my way towards adapting to my new surroundings and building a new home. And sometimes I will even throw in a little of my “Newfie accent” just for fun.

2. How do you feel God has led you to serve the Archdiocese of Toronto?

In 2000, after completing university, I moved to Toronto and began working in Accounts Payable for a web design organization. In 2003, the company downsized and I found myself scrambling to find another job. Two months flew by and the day came when I had to make a dreaded call to my mother to arrange a flight back home to Newfoundland because it looked like my stay in the big city wasn't going to pan out.

That night I said a special prayer to God to please help me find a decent job so I could stay in Toronto. Although I missed my family and friends back “on the rock,” I was not ready to leave just yet. The next day, I got a phone call from the Archdiocese of Toronto inviting me for an interview in their Accounting and Finance Department. It felt like a miracle had taken place and God was giving me one more chance to make a go of life in Ontario. When I was offered the position of intermediate accountant a few days later, I was both overjoyed and overwhelmed. I felt an even tighter bond with the Lord - He heard my prayer and answered in a special way.

In 2006, I moved to the Human Resources Department and I have been working as an assistant to the Director of Human Resources ever since. Next month I will celebrate my 11th year with the Archdiocese and feel truly blessed.

Ann and Human Resources Director, Marcel Goulet

3. Describe a “typical” day on the job.

I typically start my day with a brief meeting with my manager to discuss our plans for the day and the things we need to accomplish both as a team and individually. For the rest of the morning, I complete my tasks based on priority. But my pre-scheduled duties for each day rarely go as planned because in Human Resources there are always new assignments popping up or special situations arising that need immediate attention. It is an unpredictable and exciting environment that keeps me on my toes.

4. What is one aspect of your job that most people wouldn’t know about that you feel is integral to the overall function of the Archdiocese of Toronto?

I am responsible for the benefits administration for our Chancery Office staff and our active and retired diocesan priests. Their health and dental coverage and out-of-country travel insurance plays an important part in their daily living. When our priests go on sabbatical or study internationally, I ensure their travel/medical coverage is extended to protect them while they are away. 

Another aspect of our benefits program applies to priests arriving from foreign countries. I ensure they are provided with temporary health coverage until they are successful in obtaining provincial health coverage, in order to protect them in case of health emergencies during the waiting period. 

5. We know the Church is not just a physical building, but is a community of believers who worship together. The Church’s “human resources” are central to its mission. How does this principle guide your work?

I am a member of the team of “human resources” that is helping to strengthen and spread the Catholic faith within the community. Working in Human Resources makes that mission even more significant as I communicate with employees, clergy and the general public on a regular basis, serving as a front-line face of the Church. As I carry out my work, I am always mindful of how I communicate with and treat others. I maintain a level of respect, trustworthiness and care for each employee. I believe that it is not only my duty in my professional role, but it is also my duty as a faithful believer living among a community of people.

6. What part of your work brings you the most joy?

I get the most joy from knowing I am able to serve and support others through my role as Human Resources Assistant. I feel a strong sense of purpose, accomplishment and fulfillment when I can respond to the needs of Chancery employees, our parish lay members and clergy. It’s also really nice to work in a faith-based environment where I am surrounded by reminders of God’s presence in my daily life.

7. What is your favourite hobby?

My favourite hobby is acrylic painting. Although I haven’t had the time lately, when I do sit down with a brush and canvas, I find it extremely relaxing and rejuvenating. My body and mind feel at peace and it is such a great feeling when you have created a work of art that is your own piece of originality and flavour.

One of Ann's paintings.

8. What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

The best piece of advice I have ever received came from my father when he said, “Work hard, strive to do your best and you will get your just reward.” He still repeats that phrase to me to this day and I really appreciate it. I think about his words whenever life gets tough or I am having a hard time seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. It pushes me to see the big picture and never give up. I now catch myself passing on this advice to others as well.