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 SteubenvilleToronto.com.

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.

Jun 4, 2014

Leisure with the Lord: Bringing God into your Summer Plans

After what seemed like one of the longest and coldest winters in history, the sun is finally shining in the GTA. Parkas are packed away, the term “polar vortex” has disappeared from the nightly newscast and you are probably starting to plan summer adventures and activities.

With the warm weather comes a great opportunity to enjoy leisure time, which Pope Francis recommends as an important part of our lives as Christians. In 2010, then Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio had the following to say during an interview with Argentinian journalists: “Together with a culture of work, there must be a culture of leisure as gratification. To put it another way: people who work must take the time to relax, to be with their families, to enjoy themselves, read, listen to music, play a sport.”

Free as a bird this summer? How will you spend your leisure time? Photo by Marlena Loughheed.

Catholic Social Teaching also trumpets the importance of balancing work with rest, most notably ensuring that throughout the year, we take Sunday as a day of rest and worship.

For the vast majority of us, warm weather is a great excuse to enjoy some time outdoors. If you’re travelling this summer, you may be surprised to learn that even while trekking in the woods or heading into the heart of cottage country, you still may be within the geographically diverse boundaries of the Archdiocese of Toronto (here’s looking at you, Penatanguishene. You are far from Toronto but near to our hearts and united in worship!).

It’s important to remember that taking a break from your day-to-day life shouldn’t mean taking a break from God or skipping Mass. The Sunday obligation still applies, even in summer and when on vacation. In fact, our leisure time provides a great opportunity to set aside distractions and re-focus our priorities to put Christ at the centre of our lives.

Here are some resources to help make that happen:

Looking for a Mass time while you are vacationing? To find a parish close to where you are experiencing summer fun (if you’re still within the boundaries of the archdiocese), visit our Find a Parish page to search by region or postal code.

Our neighbouring diocese, the Diocese of Peterborough, is also a common vacation spot for people from the GTA. Check out their online parish directory (which includes a handy map of all parish locations).

Or, keep an eye out for the Ontario Catholic Directory at train stations, Travel Ontario booths, parishes and even some hotels around the province. This handy booklet has locations and Mass times for every parish in Ontario.

For all the parents out there who are looking for something to keep the kids busy this summer, you’ll be happy to know many of our parishes run the Totus Tuus Program. Since 2011, this summer camp program for kids in Grades 1-6 and 7-12 has operated in our archdiocese with the goal of sharing the Gospel and promoting the faith through catechesis, Christian witness and Eucharistic worship. To find out more, contact the Vocations Office.

If you’re still deciding how to spend your vacation or looking for a way to rejuvenate, why not spend some quality time with the Lord by going on a retreat? Retreats can be as short or long as you want. Some are guided and others are less structured. For a list of retreat centres in our archdiocese or further afield, visit our faith partners site and scroll to the bottom of the page. Contact the centres to explore all they have to offer.

Finally, summer provides a great opportunity to embark on pilgrimage. We have some great pilgrimage sites right here in our archdiocese. Did you know that approximately 105,000 pilgrims visit Martyrs’ Shrine in Midland every year? You could be one of them! Join one of more than 30 organized groups visiting the shrine this summer or visit on your own with family and friends. Check out their website for more details. You can also keep an eye on our online events page or your parish bulletin to learn of other Toronto-based pilgrimage opportunities to Quebec, Europe, the Holy Land and other locations.

Martyrs' Shrine. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

No matter where your plans take you this summer, Jesus wants to be along for the ride. Pray a rosary on your road trip. Bring a bible to the beach. Go to Mass in Muskoka.

From Toronto to Tiny, Brampton to Bradford and Whitby to Waubaushene, happy summer from the Archdiocese of Toronto!

Photo by Marlena Loughheed.

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

Jun 3, 2014

Month of Vocation Recap

Priestly ordinations on May 10, 2014.
Credit: Emanuel Pires/Archdiocese of Toronto
May represented the Month of Vocations in the Archdiocese of Toronto. The festivities were highlighted with the ordinations of five priests on May 10 and eight permanent deacons on May 24. Here is an index of all of our Month of Vocations posts, including our interviews with newly-ordained priests and deacons, along with a sister who recently took her final vows.

To learn more about the priesthood, visit the Vocations Office of the Archdiocese of Toronto.


Religious Life

Permanent Diaconate

May 31, 2014

Faces of Our Faith: Sister John Mary, Sister of Life

Throughout May, as the Archdiocese of Toronto celebrates the Month of Vocations, we are interviewing men and women who have answered the call to the priesthood, permanent diaconate or religious life. Today we meet Sister John Mary, SV, who took her final vows on August 6, 2013. She now serves as Superior of the Visitation Mission of the Sisters of Life in Toronto.

What excites you about your vocation when you wake up in the morning?

Every morning brings the possibilities of grace provided by the Holy Spirit. Aside from our fixed prayer times, it is always an adventure to see what the Lord wants us to do every day. It could be meeting with a pregnant woman in crisis, receiving a call from a woman who suffered an abortion years ago and is now seeking healing, speaking to young adults about their search for authentic love amidst our secular culture, meeting with potential new Co-Workers of Life who desire to support our mission, or receiving a heartfelt prayer request from the cashier at Home Depot! If my heart is open, I see the numerous ways our Lord wants to use me to bring His love and life into the world.

When you first felt a call to the religious life, was it scary? How did you overcome your fears?

Yes, my experience of being called to religious life definitely began with fear – fear of acknowledging the stirrings of the Holy Spirit in my heart, doubting that God’s plans were better than my own, confronting myself and my own weaknesses honestly, and fear of making a commitment. Over time I have experienced that only love casts out fear (1 John 4:18) and the freedom and joy that radical discipleship brings. The words of St. John Paul II at WYD 2002 in Toronto were a great source of encouragement to me in beginning my vocational discernment: “And if, in the depths of your hearts, you feel the same call to the priesthood or consecrated life, do not be afraid to follow Christ on the royal road of the Cross!”

For many people, you are their first point of contact with the religious life. What surprises them about you and your vocation?

Religious life, especially young sisters in habit, are a dimension of the Church most Canadian Catholics do not see. It is a privilege to be a witness of the joy of a religious vocation. I think the biggest surprise is simply that in this age, God is calling young women to Himself to serve His Church and His people. Such a life is possible and joyful. He could be calling your friend, daughter, co-worker or classmate. Pray for vocations!

What do you love most about serving the Church, particularly in the Archdiocese of Toronto?

I returned to Toronto in September 2013 after eight years spent mostly in the USA. It is very exciting to me to be part of building the culture of life in Canada, particularly because my vocation journey began at WYD Toronto. It is very inspiring to see how much renewal is taking place in the Church here. I constantly experience the hunger from the lay faithful, especially young adults, for the Gospel of Life.

Do you think you might be called to the religious life? Read our previous post on the Archdiocese of Toronto Blog, I Think God Might Be Calling Me to Religious Life.

May 30, 2014

I Think God Might be Calling Me to the Permanent Diaconate

Deacon Stephen Pitre is the Coordinator of Diaconal Ministries for the Archdiocese of Toronto. As we continue to celebrate the Month of Vocations, we asked him about the permanent diaconate, and steps a man can take if he feels God might be calling him to this ministry.

What are some qualities that are important to have as a permanent deacon?

Someone thinking about the permanent diaconate should always strive to be a humble servant. When we’re considering an applicant, we want to see that they are able to integrate their marriage and family life along with their work and community involvement. They should be men who want to grow in their faith life as well.

What would you say to someone who calls you and says “I’m not sure, but I think God might be calling me to the permanent diaconate?”

Any time someone calls us, we send them a package that includes a video about the diaconate, as well as a brochure and some articles from Cardinal Collins about the importance of the permanent diaconate.

In one of the articles, Cardinal Collins writes: “In calling someone, God speaks gently in the silence of the heart, through recurring thoughts of serving as a deacon, and also through the voice of others. Being called is an act of God…a person may think he is called to ordination, but the call is not real unless the bishop confirms it, for ordination is not a private thing, but rooted in the life of the whole community of faith.”

If a person is married and is discerning the diaconate, this isn’t a decision he makes alone. His wife needs to be fully involved too.

How does spiritual direction play a role?

Once someone becomes a candidate for the permanent diaconate, he is required to have a spiritual director. Spiritual directors can help with discerning the call to the permanent diaconate and also help with strengthening the faith life of each candidate. Once ordained, all deacons are required to keep attending spiritual direction.

How do you determine whether someone should enter St. Augustine’s for the permanent diaconate program? What’s the process?

Each applicant has a phone interview with me and fills out an application form with specific information. I gather this information and send it to St. Augustine’s Seminary, where an admissions committee reviews the information and selects applicants for an in-person interview. Both the applicant and his wife attend the interview.

If the admission committee accepts the applicant, he enters into a year of discernment called the “propaedeutic year.” During this year, he and his wife attend nine sessions that unpack the ministry of the permanent diaconate and ensure that he is called to this role within the Church. If all goes well and the time is right, he starts candidacy, which takes four years.

Why is it important to have a six year process from initial application to ordination?

Some of the men who call me are surprised the process is so long. But formation is too often mistaken as just being academic. Education alone is not enough. Some of our applicants have PhDs in theology, but they still have to go through the same process as everyone else. Formation involves the human, intellectual, spiritual and pastoral aspects of the Catholic faith. You can find more information on the program on the St. Augustine’s Seminary website.

Why should a man consider the permanent diaconate?

In our promotional material, Cardinal Collins has a great quote: “Each one of us must discern how God is calling us to serve the Church. Deacons play a vital role in evangelizing both to the gathered and scattered in our community. Their ministry is of great importance to our Archdiocese, answering the call of Jesus to love and serve.”

How can someone contact you?

You can reach the Diaconate Office at 416-924-3400 x 304 or x 305. Our email is diaconate@archtoronto.org.

May 28, 2014

I Think God Might Be Calling Me to Religious Life

Fr. Chris Lemieux is the newly appointed Director of the Vocations Office of the Archdiocese of Toronto. As we continue to celebrate the Month of Vocations, we asked him about the steps women can take if they feel God might be calling them to the religious life.

How frequently does the Vocations Office hear from women? How do you respond to their calls?

Most of the contacts we get are from men, but we do get women calling us, too. Just like with a man who calls me about the priesthood, if a woman calls me inquiring about religious life, I’ll ask for her to come in for a meeting so that we can have a short talk.

What do you say to someone who calls you and says “I’m not sure, but I think God might be calling me to be a nun?”

I arrange a meeting with her so that I can talk to her in person. Meeting with someone can give me an initial sense of whether or not she should inquire further into the process for discerning religious life. If it isn’t where she’s called, that’s perfectly fine.

Where do you direct these women?

Over the past five months I’ve been building up relationships with the various vocations directors of religious communities in and around the Archdiocese of Toronto. We’ve got a lot of women’s religious communities, each with their specific charism and community life. They’re much better equipped to speak about their particular way of life, so what I do is contact the vocations director of one of the communities so the community can help the woman continue to discern.

Of course, I don’t end the process there and forget about them! I like to check in from time to time to make sure the discernment process is going along well, and ensure the woman is headed in the right direction.

Does your office have information about Come and See weekends for women?

Yes, the vocations directors from the various religious orders often share their Come and See weekend dates with me so that I can pass the information along to the women I speak with. I think Come and See weekends are great and I invite women to contact the communities they’re interested in.

What do you want to say to those women who are on the fence about whether or not to call you?

It takes a lot of courage to call me. I’ve been putting a lot of focus on getting out to parishes and meeting people. When you can put a face to the name, it makes it easier to give me a call. Also, I’m not in the recruiting business. My role is to determine what the Lord’s will is for that person’s life. If it isn’t God’s will for her to be a religious sister, that’s okay. But always take that first step and give me a call.

How can a woman interested in religious life contact you?

The number at the Vocations Office is 416-968-0997 and the email address is vocations@vocations.ca

May 26, 2014

I Think God Might be Calling Me to the Priesthood

Fr. Chris Lemieux is the newly appointed Director of the Vocations Office of the Archdiocese of Toronto and resides at Serra House, a priestly discernment house in Toronto. As we continue to celebrate the Month of Vocations, we asked him about the steps men can take if they feel God might be calling them to the priesthood.

What are some qualities that you look for in a man thinking about the diocesan priesthood?

I would say, first and foremost, he should have a love for Jesus Christ and for the sacraments. He should want to be a disciple of Christ and to follow Him. The priesthood should be attractive to him. The joy of serving others is also a key part, but this is something that may grow over time, and can be hard to assess at the beginning.

How do people usually contact the Vocations Office?

It’s split 50/50 between phone calls and emails. Also, people are starting to connect more through our website. Some people might also reach out to us through social media. It’s all a part of the way things are changing and people are connecting, and we’re starting to adapt to respond to that change.

What do you say to someone who calls you and says “I’m not sure, but I think God might be calling me to the priesthood?”

I ask him to come in for a meeting so that I can talk to him in person. Sometimes I’ll drive out to where he is. It takes a lot of courage for a man to contact me in the first place and to admit that God might be calling him to the priesthood. The meeting is to get an initial sense of whether or not this person is called to the priesthood. If he’s not, that’s okay.

In our first conversation, I ask him about his background. I like to get a sense of where he’s coming from and what his family life is like. I also ask him to describe how he feels called and what sorts of things are taking place in his life. Our conversations usually require more than one meeting and, as time progresses, deeper conversations start to happen.

How does spiritual direction play a role?

Almost immediately after I speak with someone, I encourage him to seek spiritual direction. I give him suggestions based on his needs and his spirituality. So if I notice that he would benefit the most from Ignatian spirituality, then I would direct him towards a Jesuit spiritual director. Of course, it’s much more difficult if someone is in a remote part of the diocese. In those cases, I usually recommend that he attends spiritual direction with his parish priest.

How do you determine whether someone should enter Serra House? What’s the process?

As a man becomes better known to me, I’ll build a relationship with him. It’s key I know whether or not he would be a good person to lead others to Christ. Leadership is important. Of course, there are several years of formation, so he doesn’t need to have all the skills and qualities already, but there needs to be that potential and signs he can grow into the role of a priest. There are certain academic requirements, because studies are required. It doesn’t mean he has to be a stellar student, but he has to be able to keep up with his courses. I make sure the man is someone who strives for balance and has the desire to learn and grow spiritually. Also, I need to make sure that he’s entering of his own free will and not because of someone else’s pressure. He needs to respond freely to God’s call.

What do you want to say to those men who are on the fence about whether or not to call you?

It definitely takes a lot of courage to reach out to me. I’ve been putting a lot of focus on getting out to parishes and meeting people. When you can put a face to the name, it makes it easier to give me a call. Also, I’m not in the recruiting business. My role is to determine what the Lord’s will is for that person’s life. If it isn’t the diocesan priesthood, I can help put them in touch with the vocation director at any of the religious orders. And if they aren’t called to the priesthood at all, that’s perfectly fine. But always take that first step and give me a call.

How can someone contact you?

The number at the Vocations Office is 416-968-0997 and the email address is vocations@vocations.ca.

May 23, 2014

Faces of Our Faith: Paul Ma, Candidate for the Permanent Diaconate

Throughout May, as the Archdiocese of Toronto celebrates the Month of Vocations, we are interviewing men and women who have answered the call to the priesthood, permanent diaconate or religious life. One such individual is Paul Ma, who will be ordained as a permanent deacon on Saturday, May 24 in St. Paul’s Basilica. He has been appointed to serve at Saviour of the World Parish in Mississauga, Ontario.

In your experience, what are three key qualities that a deacon needs to have?

First, a deacon is someone who knows he is the beloved of the Lord and does not need to do anything to prove that. Second, as a servant, he serves only to allow God’s love to flow through him freely, without hindrance. Third, through his service, whether he’s preaching the Gospel, serving the needy or ministering at the altar, he is deepening his personal relationship with the Lord.

Your wife is a partner in your ministry as a deacon. How did you go about discerning a vocation together as a married couple?

The Lord speaks to our hearts individually, so my wife Maria and I each must answer His call freely as individuals. If the Lord calls me to serve him as deacon, then my wifes call must be consistent with that. We’ve often been surprised by the consistency of the Lord’s inspiration. He gives us signs of his calling—namely, the growth of our love for each other. We know we must answer that call with a “yes” as a husband and wife.

You’re nearing the end of a long process of discernment and formation. What have been some highlights of this four-year program?

There have been many highlights: the chanting of morning and evening prayer at St. Augustine’s Seminary; the guidance from dedicated teachers, mentors and spiritual directors; the prayerful support of friends; and the growth of love in our family, which includes our three children Theresa (19), Emmanuel (12) and Adalia (8).

How has your experience ministering to others deepened your own relationship with God?

During the formation program, I was placed at the Open Door ministry to serve those who drop in for help. Sometimes they need bread, a pair of shoes, baby diapers, or they just ask me to pray with them. Ministering to others humbles me and opens my heart, which makes me grow in my personal relationship with the Lord.

Do you think you might be called to the permanent diaconate? Contact the Diaconate Office of the Archdiocese of Toronto to learn more.

May 20, 2014

Faces of Our Faith: John P. Brown, Candidate for the Permanent Diaconate

Throughout May, as the Archdiocese of Toronto celebrates the Month of Vocations, we are interviewing men and women who have answered the call to the priesthood, permanent diaconate or religious life. Today we feature John P. Brown, who will be ordained as a permanent deacon on Saturday, May 24 in St. Paul’s Basilica. He has been appointed to serve at St. Ignatius Loyola Parish in Mississauga, Ontario.

When did you first sense that God was calling you to the diaconate?

Reflecting on it now, I am sure there was a gentle tugging on my sleeve as early as high school. Life distracted me until March 2010 when, suddenly but undeniably, I realized I was being called to serve. Six months later, in September 2010, and after a whirlwind of applications, assessments and interviews, I started in the Diaconate Formation Program at St. Augustine’s Seminary.

What role does your wife play in your ministry?

My wife has supported me unfailingly throughout my diaconate journey and continues to do so. She is my voice of reason. She keeps me grounded. She provides me with strength and insight when I am struggling with unsettling events in my ministry. She also participates in her own ministry as a neonatal intensive care nurse.

Your ministry takes place alongside your full-time work, in addition to your responsibilities to your family. How do you balance it all?

Faith, trust, discipline and love. I have been busy for as long as I can remember and I have always striven to keep my life balanced – constantly exercising body, mind and spirit in appropriate measure. My faith has carried me through the difficult times, my trust in God has given me the strength to persevere, discipline has kept me on track and the love of others has sustained me.

As a deacon, you received a theological formation at St. Augustine’s Seminary. How has this education shaped your approach to ministry?

My education can be more aptly described as an enlightenment. It has helped me understand and embrace more fully the simple but profound need to follow Christ’s example by being present to and serving others with humility.

Do you think you might be called to the permanent diaconate? Contact the Diaconate Office of the Archdiocese of Toronto to learn more.

May 15, 2014

Faces of Our Faith: Father Michael Simoes, Newly Ordained Priest

Throughout May, as the Archdiocese of Toronto celebrates the Month of Vocations, we are interviewing men and women who have answered the call to the priesthood, permanent deaconate or religious life. Today we meet Father Michael Simoes, who was ordained as a priest this past Saturday, May 10 in St. Michael’s Cathedral. He has been appointed as associate pastor of St. Isaac Jogues Parish in Pickering, Ontario.

When was the first time you recall feeling a call to the priesthood?

The first time I remember feeling a call to the priesthood was when I was 12 years old. A new pastor came to the parish and showed me an ideal of the priesthood. I felt at that moment a certain nudging in my heart. In the secret of my heart I replied, “I can do that.” This thought brought peace, joy and love to my heart.

Who has inspired you the most in your vocation journey?

There have been many priests and religious who have inspired and encouraged me. If I was to pick two that stand out it would be Monsignor Paul Zimmer and Friar Guy Gartland, SA. Their fidelity to Christ inspired me and their fatherly words encouraged me along my vocation journey.

What do you expect will be the most rewarding and challenging aspects of serving as a priest?

I expect the most rewarding part of serving as a priest will be being with the people of God in the parishes that I am sent to serve—to be with the people in their celebrations and also to be with them in their sorrows. I expect the most challenging aspect of serving in a parish will be the times when I think I have failed the people through my own personal sinfulness.

What’s one piece of advice you would give to a young man who thinks he might be called to the priesthood?

Get a spiritual director. We do not walk the journey alone. We need companions and spiritual guides to assist us in listening to the Holy Spirit. It is in being open to the Holy Spirit and knowing his movements in our heart that we can discern our vocations with clarity.

Click here to download an audio podcast of Father Michael Simoes’ vocation story, which he presented at the Ordinandi Dinner on March 4, 2014. Do you think you might be called to the priesthood? Visit the website of the Vocations Office to learn about discernment programs in the Archdiocese of Toronto.