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Around the Arch
Jan 21
Email Impersonation Scam Targets Our Parishioners

​In recent days, the Archdiocese of Toronto has received reports from parishioners who have gotten suspicious emails supposedly from our priests or staff members. These email attempt to start an online conversation or they have a suspicious document attached to the message. 

These emails are not from the Archdiocese of Toronto. Online fraudsters are impersonating members of the archdiocese and we ask you to be on the lookout for online scam attempts.

For this fraud effort, it is helpful to look at the sender’s information to determine if an email is legitimate or not. The fraudster is unable to access the email accounts of our priests or staff, so they are using other email services to impersonate archdiocesan clergy and employees. For instance, the name in the “from” line will seem familiar, but the email address listed after the name will not be that person’s usual account. Or the “from” line will list the familiar person’s regular email address (instead of their name), but the email address listed after it will be another address entirely.  

If the sender information seems odd or if the message is out of character for the sender, do not reply to the message or download any of its attachments. Please report the email to the sender at a known email address or by phoning them. 

If we are vigilant with our online security, these fraud attempts should stop soon.

Jan 15
Learn More about ‘The Songs of the Angels in the Book of Revelation’

Everyone is invited to participate in an upcoming virtual class on "The Songs of the Angels in the Book of Revelation" offered by St. Augustine's Seminary's Lay Spiritual Formation Program. 

On Saturday, January 23, 2021 from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., Monsignor A. Robert Nusca, pastor of Holy Rosary Parish in Toronto and former rector of St. Augustine's Seminary, will share some of the insights he gleaned while writing his dissertation on the Book of Revelation. 

This rich lecture will help us better understand the message of this often misunderstood piece of Scripture. Msgr. Nusca will show that St. John offers us a hopeful message about the coming of a new world in the Book of Revelation. Indeed, St. John calls on us to help bring God's Kingdom to Earth.

The class costs $25 and will be offered via Zoom.

To register for "The Songs of the Angels in the Book of Revelation," please click here. You are encouraged to register as soon as possible, as attendance is limited so Msgr. Nusca can answer questions.  

To hear Msgr. Nusca discuss the Book of Revelation, you can listen to a series of his previous talks, which are posted on SoundCloud.   

Jan 08
Our Mission Through Baptism

​Fr. Michael McGourty is the pastor of St. Peter’s Parish in Toronto.

Over the years, many people have asked me a very simple question when we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord: “Why was Jesus baptized? If Jesus is sinless and the Son of God made flesh, why does He need to be baptized?”

The reason why Jesus chooses to be baptized is connected with who Jesus is. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. Jesus has become one of us in order to show us the way to salvation and how we are to live in order to be saved. He is baptized, in order to show us that through baptism we are called to share in the life of the Holy Trinity. 

Jesus is anointed by the Holy Spirit before He begins His public ministry to show us that when we are anointed by the Spirit in the Sacraments of Initiation, we too share in His mission. Just as in baptism the Father declares Jesus to be His beloved Son, so, too, through our baptisms the Father claims us to be His beloved sons and daughters. 

As Jesus took up His ministry after His baptism and after being anointed by the Spirit, so, too, are each of us given a mission within the Church through our baptism and our anointing at confirmation.

There is a very powerful theology of the Church that describes the relationship between the events of Christ’s life and the call each of us receives in baptism and confirmation. This is called “The Theology of the Mystical Body of Christ” and it goes all the way back to the Apostle Paul. The beauty of this theology is that it articulates how we are called to continue Christ’s work in the world today. 

One of the best examples of this reality is seen in the two-part work of the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles, both are written by the Evangelist St. Luke. In the first part, the Gospel of Luke tells how the Father sent Jesus into the world to reveal God’s salvation and forgiveness of all people. Then, in the Acts of the Apostles, after Jesus ascends into Heaven on Pentecost Sunday, the members of the Church were anointed to continue Christ’s work in the world. In the Acts of the Apostles, the Church continues Christ’s saving work and spreads His mission throughout time and space, bringing His saving message to all people. 

This reality raises the themes of discipleship and stewardship, which I would like to reflect on here.

The Body of the Church

Today, as we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, we are reminded that just as Christ had a mission from the Father, so do each of us through baptism and confirmation. Through these sacraments we are members of the Church — the Body of Christ.

A few years ago, I spoke to my parishioners about a pastoral letter that Cardinal Thomas Collins, Archbishop of Toronto, had written to discuss the responsibility that each Christian has for the Church because of the gifts that he or she had received from God through baptism and confirmation. The word that the Cardinal used in this letter to describe this responsibility is “stewardship.” 

God has given us the gifts of time that makes up the duration of our lives, our talents and abilities, and the created things and treasures that life allows us to enjoy. For this reason, the gifts that we speak about rendering back to God consist of time, talent and treasure.

Throughout the pandemic the people of my parish have showed themselves to be extremely generous in volunteering for the Ministry of Hospitality and our cleaning teams. Between the two lockdowns, each Mass was covered by excellent volunteers who greeted people outside of the church and acquainted them with the safety protocols and seating arrangements that had been made to keep people safe. Between Masses, so many volunteers were excellent at keeping our parish disinfected and safe. Thank you very much for all who assisted with this ministry. Those who volunteered for this ministry will be greatly needed again when our churches re-open in the near future.

With the future in mind, I would like to return to the themes of stewardship and discipleship.

The pandemic has made it so obvious how much the parish depends upon the ministry of parishioners to be a thriving and vital community. During these days when we are not able to be together and operate as a normal parish community, I would like you to please consider how you might be fully engaged and involved when we return to normal operations. During the pandemic, some of our regular volunteers moved away or decided they were unable to continue in certain ministries because of age or health conditions. Once this lockdown is over, our community will need many volunteers to once again get us active and thriving. 

None of This Is Possible Without You

When Cardinal Collins first started speaking about stewardship in this diocese, he stated that he wanted to focus on the aspects of time and talent. In the wake of this recent pandemic, I feel that it is also necessary to focus upon the very unpopular aspect of treasure. Since the pandemic has limited our regular Sunday Masses, collections and the parish’s normal way of collecting funds has been greatly impacted. As there are no regular Sunday Masses, we have not been able to collect money at the parish as we normally did. Those funds allowed us to pay the bills and employ our parish staff.

During the pandemic, the parish has asked parishioners to consider switching to pre-authorized giving. This allows you to contribute each week to the upkeep of your parish community, even if you are unable to come to Mass. If you are able to support your parish at this time, please consider doing so and know that it is greatly needed and appreciated.

Just as so many parishioners volunteered to assist with hospitality and sanitizing the church between Masses after the first shutdown, so too many have donated very generously to assist the parish through this difficult time. While we had to reduce some staff and office hours, the parish continues its basic operations through this lockdown. I wish to thank everyone who has donated so generously in order to keep the parish going through this difficult time.

I clearly understand that this is a difficult financial time for many families (on top of all the other difficulties in our lives presently). If your situation does not make it possible to contribute to the parish at this time, please do not feel any pressure to do so. The first obligation is always to home and family. And please do not hesitate to call if you require assistance from the parish.

Called to Discipleship

Jesus is baptized and anointed by the Spirit for only one reason: to show us how we are to live and who we are to be as His anointed people. 

Just as the Father declares Christ to be His beloved Son, so, too, through baptism and confirmation, we are also raised to become the beloved daughters and sons of the Eternal Father. As members of the Body of Christ, the Church, we all have a mission because of our baptisms and because we have been anointed by the Spirit and acknowledged by the Father as His beloved children. 

The word that best describes the responsibility that is given to each of us as gifted members of the Church is the word that Jesus Himself uses when He sends His disciples out to baptize — we are called to become His “disciples.” 

Let us pray, that in the coming months and years, we may each embrace the spirit of discipleship and stewardship that will allow us to bring vitality to our community as we share the gifts of time, talent and treasure that God has given to us to use during our lives.

Again, my heartfelt thanks to all who have supported their parish throughout this difficult time. Let us look forward with hope to the day that we are able to worship together again. Please, begin to think about how you can be involved as we return to normal operations. In order to keep us operating until then, any support that you are able to give to your local parish throughout this pandemic is much appreciated and certainly necessary.

May God bless you and your families and keep you safe throughout 2021.

This reflection based on the readings for the Solemnity of the Baptism of the Lord- YEAR B: Isaiah 55: 1-11; 1 John 5:1-9; and Mark 1:7-11.

For Cardinal Collins’ letter on stewardship, please click here.

Dec 23
The Gift of St. Joseph: Changing the World from the Shadows

​Rebecca Spellacy is the Associate Director of Liturgy in the Office of Formation for Discipleship in the Archdiocese of Toronto. 

On December 8, 2020, the Holy Father, Pope Francis, issued an apostolic letter, Patris Corde (With a Father’s Heart), on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of Saint Joseph as the Patron of the Universal Church. In the letter, Pope Francis offers his “personal reflections” on St. Joseph. Pope Francis reflects on how, especially now during the pandemic, we see that people who often go unnoticed in their life and work are actually “praying, making sacrifices and interceding for the good of all.” 

“St. Joseph,” the Holy Father remarks, “reminds us that those who appear hidden or in the shadows can play an incomparable role in the history of salvation. A word of recognition and of gratitude is due to them all.” 

The majority of the letter consists of the Pope reflecting on the various aspects of the fatherhood of St. Joseph. Each paragraph of the letter could provide some wonderful readings for personal or group reflection.

Also on December 8, it was decreed that the faithful would have the ability to obtain a plenary indulgence. One of the conditions listed is that the faithful participate in the Year of St. Joseph on those occasions and manners indicated by the apostolic penitentiary (you can find more information on those occasions and manners here). 

One of the ways to be granted the indulgence is to recite any legitimately approved prayer or act of piety in honour of St. Joseph on the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. The Feast of the Holy Family falls on the Sunday after Christmas, this year that is Sunday, December 27, 2020. On that feast day, we often reflect on the role and importance of the family, but this year, in a special way, we are given the chance to contemplate the role and importance of St. Joseph and to ask for his intercession. 

St. Joseph’s intercession is often sought for workers, those without work, refugees, migrants, the sick and the dying. In other words, we look to St. Joseph as someone who intercedes for those who often go unnoticed in our world but who nevertheless play an important role in the history of salvation – much like St. Joseph himself.

During this time of uncertainty, of heartache, of hardship and of struggle for many, we are given the great gift of St. Joseph and his prayers are a reminder that even those who struggle while hidden away from our view are important. 

As we pray to St. Joseph and implore his protection and guidance, we can remember in some practical ways those with whom St. Joseph has a special care:

Pope Francis ends his apostolic letter with a prayer to St. Joseph. On the Feast of the Holy Family and throughout the Year of St. Joseph, perhaps we can all make this prayer part of our prayer life:

Hail, Guardian of the Redeemer,

Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary. 

To you God entrusted his only Son; 

in you Mary placed her trust; 

with you Christ became man. 

Blessed Joseph, to us too,

show yourself a father 

and guide us in the path of life. 

Obtain for us grace, mercy and courage, 

and defend us from every evil. Amen.

Dec 14
More on the Bioethics of COVID-19 and the Vaccine

Moira McQueen is the director of the Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute (CCBI). Bambi Rutledge is the administrator of the CCBI.

Every week, the CCBI publishes a COVID Bulletin, which helps the public understand the latest developments in the pandemic through the lens of Catholic bioethics. Below is the latest COVID Bulletin, which is published here with the CCBI’s consent.

December 11, 2020

Dear Friends of CCBI,

Congratulations to Margaret Keenan, a 90-year-old woman from the UK and first person to be vaccinated against COVID-19 (at least as far as has been publicly recorded)! Now that the first approved vaccine has been administered we can begin to have hope that this pandemic will gradually disappear, and that our usual social lives can resume. It was encouraging to see someone in that age group being among the first to receive the vaccine, given the numbers of those over 80 who have died from COVID-19, not only in long term care homes. Let's hope that society has been jolted into recognizing that older people are just as important as any other age group: we were in danger of losing that view, for all our talk of rights and equality.

On the subject of older people, the blog from the CMAJ highlights the difficulties people encounter when visitors and family are not allowed to visit. Dr Shruti Gupta from Sunnybrook writes: "One key decision hospitals made early in the pandemic was to restrict visitors to keep patients and staff safe. Every day in my practice as a palliative care physician, I have been faced with the devastating effects of this necessary policy on patients and families." The sad scenes Dr Gupta has witnessed highlight the tension between keeping people safe and the grief of families at not being able to be with a loved one whose death is imminent. She reminds us of the emotions physicians and staff also experience at these times, and this, unfortunately but inevitably, fits with reports on the rising numbers experiencing mental health problems - another result of the pandemic which needs much more attention. Dr Gupta: "Health care facilities must build programs to support grief and bereavement for patients’ families who have lost their loved ones during this time. Clinicians must remain mindful of the vulnerability of our patients and their families in these difficult circumstances and, at the same time, find a way to cope with our own feelings of grief and loss that often accompany these situations." A short video from "The Agenda" hauntingly illustrates the above viewpoint, with good commentary from a palliative care doctor, a geriatrician and a journalist. 

The Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales issued a statement on the ethical use of vaccines which is similar to that of the bishops of Western Canada which we explained in last week's Bulletin. I've received questions about such ethical use from several sources and have referred them to the teaching on this issue by the Pontifical Academy of Life (PAL). The English and Welsh bishops write: "Each of us has a duty to protect others from infection with its danger of serious illness, and for some, death. A vaccine is the most effective way to achieve this unless one decides to self-isolate." I think it bears repeating that they, like the bishops of Western Canada, say: "Some have questioned the use of the Astra Zeneca vaccine since it has been developed from cell-lines originating from the cells of an aborted foetus in 1983. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the Pontifical Academy of Life have expressed the view that one may in good conscience and for a grave reason receive a vaccine sourced in this way, provided that there is a sufficient moral distance between the present administration of the vaccine and the original wrongful action ... In the COVID-19 pandemic, we judge that this grave reason exists and that one does not sin by receiving the vaccine." 

Of course, as we said last week, we do have a moral duty to seek vaccines which are not sourced from such cell lines, but the PAL clarifies that IF these are not available and we want to be vaccinated, remoteness from the source justifies our taking the vaccine and that we do not sin in doing so. These are not easy matters to reflect and decide upon, and we welcome your questions and comments. The updated chart explaining the ethical status of vaccines can be found here, showing the use/non-use of unethically sourced cell-lines in many of the vaccines developed, some of which are now approved. I think it a great relief that the Pfizer vaccine to be used in Canada counts among those that are ethically sourced. 

From vaccines to 'Toffifee?' Here's a sweet story forwarded to me by Bambi. A Canadian Tire owner, Malcolm Jenkins from Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, claims that his location "... sells the most Toffifee in the world — and he has the hardware to show for it. There's no other store in the world, in the known universe of a charted galaxy, that sells this much Toffifee. So I said, 'Well, that should be worth a trophy,'" said Jenkins. Two weeks later, he actually received a trophy in the mail from the company that manufactures the chewy Christmas treat." Here's the deal: "The store's claim to fame also benefits local charities as they donate one dollar from every box of candy sold. This year, the funds will go to help build a new hospice in the province." Toffifee, anyone?

And now from hospices to stables! This beautiful picture from the Vatican Museums reminds us of the stark simplicity of Our Saviour's birth, and shows the Infant Jesus radiating light — the light towards which we reach out during Advent, during these days of repentance and hope. Pope Benedict XVI is quoted at the end of the short article as having said at Midnight Mass, Christmas, 2007: "In the stable at Bethlehem, Heaven and Earth meet. Heaven has come down to Earth. For this reason, a light shines from the stable for all times; for this reason joy is enkindled there…" The light shines...for all times! Come, Lord Jesus! 

Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!

For a life of prayer, let us pray to the Lord! (Pope Francis' intention for the month of December,

Moira and Bambi

Dec 08
The Ethics of the COVID-19 Vaccine: A Catholic Bioethical Perspective

EDITOR’S NOTE (DECEMEBER 10, 2020): Health Canada has approved the Pfizer vaccine, which based on current information does not use abortion-derived cell lines in its design/development or production. Some of its laboratory confirmatory testing has used abortion-derived fetal cells and some has not. The CCCBI considers it to be an ethical vaccine.  

​Moira McQueen is the director of the Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute (CCBI). She is also the most recent winner of the Christian Culture Gold Medal Award bestowed on her by Assumption University in Windsor, Ont. Bambi Rutledge is the administrator of the CCBI.

Every week, the CCBI publishes a COVID Bulletin, which helps the public understand the latest developments in the pandemic through the lens of Catholic bioethics. Below is the latest COVID Bulletin, which is published here with the CCBI’s consent. This is a rich text that contains many links to sources that would worth reading in-depth. Today the United Kingdom began its COVID-19 vaccination program and many other countries will soon follow, so this is an excellent time to read this helpful resource for considering the ethics of our actions during the pandemic. 

December 4, 2020

Dear Friends of CCBI,

This week we lead with the pastoral letter issued by the bishops of Alberta and Northwest Territories on the ethics of using vaccines for COVID-19. Last week we began to talk about how vaccines are made. The use of fetal tissue and embryonic material made many of us wary of being complicit in the act of abortion or of unethical research. Would it be better to avoid using vaccines made from such body parts, where the child or embryo was destroyed through direct killing, where we would seem to benefit from that killing later, albeit indirectly?

The bishops follow Catholic teaching in explaining that we should use ethical vaccines, those which have no such components, IF they are available. They carefully explain that if they are not available, then, in light of the seriousness of this pandemic, we should use vaccines that are available, even if they contain some material derived from cell lines or tissues derived from aborted fetuses or destroyed embryos. The Pontifical Academy of Life says that the level of cooperation in this evil is remote, and that Catholics should protect themselves, their children and society by using these vaccines. It reminds us, as do the bishops, that we should use ethical vaccines when they are or do become available - an important moral point to keep in mind.

An article from Grandin Media further explains the rationale the bishops used in reaching this conclusion in their pastoral advice.  

Another view of vaccines, which I find troublesome and reminiscent of fake news, shows that some people cast doubts on the safety of the vaccines. I question their motives: is this truly their main concern? Is it really about safety? Will they take vaccines once they are shown to be safe, or are they being obstructionist? I'd like to give them the benefit of the doubt, but they really must be clear about their motives. Then we can perhaps concede they have a point. Safety is important! We all want safe vaccines, but it seems we do not all truly want to take vaccines for COVID-19!

While we wait for vaccines to become available, a watchword for us is to keep on doing what we have been doing, no matter how difficult that will be. A slogan from the UK that appeared on everything from T-shirts to shop windows several years ago is "Keep calm and carry on!" While a slight caricature of the famed British 'stiff upper lip' in facing adversity, it is actually quite wise. After all, what else is going to work? Panic? Throw caution to the wind after all the gains that have been made? We're too sensible for that! I believe the 'Boomer' generation can lead the way here, since on the whole they don't have the same inclination (or opportunity?) to have large gatherings in which to socialize and be 'party-hearty.' They miss their friends, their families, their Church gatherings and important activities, but they keep on going. We include an article from the National Post, "The COVID-19 Endgame," encouraging that approach as necessary AND our best hope. I also appreciate the sentiments expressed in a letter to the editor of the same newspaper about the current raft of what are called 'freedom riders': "Grow up: the virus is the immediate collective threat, not your contrived concerns about your individual freedoms."  

This statement stands on its own, since it is so stark and tragic: on Wednesday December 3, the US recorded over 2, 800 COVID deaths in one day, with 100,000 hospitalized on the same day. We need to pray for our neighbours in the US in a special way, as well as for all countries.

The European Conferences of Catholic Bishops (COMECE) issued a document on December 3 called, The Elderly and the Future of Europe,  suggesting ways forward, post-pandemic, for better care and better health care for the elderly. One chapter stood out for me: "The fragilities unveiled by the Covid-19 crisis," including discrimination, elder abuse and loneliness. So much to do, but so much is possible to do! Our Canadian bishops wrote a similar document earlier this year, They Still Bring Forth Fruit in Old Age: A Lesson on Caring in the Midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic. It also discusses the care needed by our elderly citizens, particularly in light of the crises in Canadian long-term care homes. These topics clearly link bioethical, social, religious and justice elements, all of which need to be pursued in those fields as well as theologically, nationally and globally.

Pope Francis wrote an opinion piece on COVID-19 for the New York Times, "Pope Francis: A Crisis reveals what is in our Hearts." Needless to say this is an interesting piece. He writes: "...These are moments in life that can be ripe for change and conversion. Each of us has had our own 'stoppage,' or if we haven’t yet, we will someday: illness, the failure of a marriage or a business, some great disappointment or betrayal. As in the Covid-19 lockdown, those moments generate a tension, a crisis that reveals what is in our hearts." He continues:" In every personal 'Covid,' so to speak, in every 'stoppage,' what is revealed is what needs to change: our lack of internal freedom, the idols we have been serving, the ideologies we have tried to live by the relationships we have neglected." 

In this time of Advent, a time of hope and a time of conversion, his message of hope and the Church's ever-present message of hope and forgiveness can help to situate us in this crisis in a forward-looking way in our hearts, in our need for conversion and forgiveness. Cardinal Collins frequently says this expressive prayer during his daily homilies and urges us to say it: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, have mercy on me, a sinner!"

Our Lady, Health of the Sick, pray for us!

"For a life of Prayer!" (Pope Francis’s intention for December.)

Moira and Bambi

Nov 30
New St. Michael’s College Program Teaches Interfaith Dialogue

​Since 2019, the Diploma of Interfaith Dialogue has been fostering discussion amongst members of the world’s major religious traditions. This new, unique joint venture from the Faculty of Theology at St. Michael’s College in the University of Toronto and the Office of Interreligious Dialogue, Archdiocese of Toronto is open to people of all faiths and it doesn’t require potential students to have a university degree to apply. 

Below, Fr. Prakash Anthony Lohale, Director of Interreligious Dialogue at the Archdiocese of Toronto, and Anthony De Feo, Program Coordinator for the Diploma of Interfaith Dialogue, tell us more about this special learning opportunity.   

1. Why was the Diploma of Interfaith Dialogue started in the first place?

As we know, the city of Toronto is a melting pot of various cultures, traditions, faiths, beliefs and values. The growing need for dialogue and conversation amongst those of various faiths, particularly between Catholics and people of other faith traditions, has always been an important area where the Church continues to encourage us to engage with our neighbour. A city as diverse as Toronto is an ideal place for engaging interreligious conversation. 

With the introduction of the Diploma of Interfaith Dialogue, we can give students that opportunity, regardless of where they are coming from. Here at St. Mike’s, we are able and entrusted to carry forward the work and mission of the Scarboro Missions: The empowering of the laity.   

2.  Why is the Office of Interreligious Dialogue from the Archdiocese of Toronto collaborating with St. Mike’s on this interfaith diploma?

This idea of having a course on interreligious dialogue was germinating in my mind during the 2018 Parliament of World Religions in Toronto. But the archdiocese could not host this course on its own. However, St. Mike’s has the facilities and the staff, and some staff members there approached me with the idea of an interfaith diploma course. The Ecumenical and Interfaith Office also wanted to empower the laity to create Parish Interfaith Ecumenical Representatives (PIER) in each parish. Our goals were similar, so we started working together! Each year we will invite and encourage at least two parishes to send participants to the course. Hopefully, in the years to come we will have PIER’s from many parishes in the archdiocese. 

3. What are some of the big-picture ideas or skills that students learn during their time in the program?

One of the things our students are introduced to is the spirituality of the many faith communities in Toronto and the surrounding area, bringing a greater understanding and appreciation for one another’s traditions. One of the ways this is highlighted in the program is through the course instructors. We have been very thoughtful in reaching out to the broader community to find the right fit for experts who teach our courses. 

Another skill the students learn is the ability to communicate with those that may have a different point of view than they do, which brings about a fruitful discussion amongst our students and can lead to greater appreciation for another’s culture and/or faith tradition.

4. Is there a course or two that you are personally particularly excited about? 

Many of our students have enjoyed the “Sacred Architecture” course. The instructor is very thought-provoking in his lectures and uses multimedia in a way that engages the students with various physical places of worship and architectural pieces, without even leaving the classroom. 

The capstone courses, including “Christian Perspectives on Ecumenism and Interfaith Dialogue,” were well received. I also found a very good response to the course on “Principles and Practices of Dialogue.” 

5. How will the winter 2021 classes operate with COVID-19 likely still being part of our lives then?

Unfortunately, we have had to make the hard decision to move our physical classes to a virtual format, much to the understandable disappointment of many of our students. They quite enjoyed the ability to dialogue and converse with one another, which is sometimes more difficult online. However, the students have already adjusted quickly to this different way of learning, and we continue to hope that we will be able to meet in person once again soon.

6. People reading this blog maybe wondering, “Are there people like me taking these classes?” Can you tell us a bit about the students who have been part of previous classes? 

I think that because no prior education is required to take this diploma, it opens up the possibility of many people from all walks of life learning more about interreligious dialogue, whether you are a teacher, a professional, a ministerial leader or just someone who is interested in learning about other faith traditions. We have a multitude of various students who take our classes: Some for personal knowledge, some for the benefit of their work and some who just want to continue learning. I believe that if you are wondering, “Is there anyone like me taking these classes?,” the answer is a definitive yes!

7. For anyone who is interested in applying to the Diploma in Interfaith Dialogue after reading this blog, what practical information do they need to know now? 

For anyone who may be interested in applying to the diploma or those who may want more information, please just send me (Anthony) an email and we can set up a time to discuss the program. You can also find it at the link below. We hope to welcome you to our program!

To learn more about the Diploma in Interfaith Dialogue offered by the Faculty of Theology at St. Michael’s College in the University of Toronto, please visit its website here

Nov 19
Statement from Cardinal Thomas Collins re: Bill C-7 (Medical Assistance in Dying)

Note: The statement below includes content from an earlier communication, released in February 2020, when Bill C-7 was introduced in an earlier session of Parliament.

The current COVID-19 pandemic has taken the lives of more than 11,000 Canadians. During this health emergency, we have also identified a crisis of isolation and neglect for the elderly and marginalized. It is deeply troubling that at a time where we need, more than ever, to find innovative and thoughtful strategies to protect the lives of the most vulnerable among us, we are making it easier to hasten their deaths. 

The federal government has, once again, introduced new legislation expanding the eligibility criteria for euthanasia. The inaccurate term, medical assistance in dying (MAiD), is currently used to describe what is more accurately called euthanasia or assisted suicide. Pain medication and other resources and procedures can be used effectively to medically assist people who are dying, but that is not what MAiD means. It means giving a lethal injection to people who are not dying, so that they will die.

Those who oppose euthanasia expressed concern in 2016, when it was first legalized, that once the state legally provided death for some, it would only be a matter of time before the criteria for that would be expanded. This was dismissed as a slippery slope argument; we were told that “safeguards” would protect the most vulnerable. Now, just four years later, we are far down the slope, and the criteria for euthanasia have been radically expanded. 

In recent weeks, thoughtful statements asking for a pause or changes to the legislation have come from more than 70 religious leaders, 1,000 doctors, 150 lawyers and 100 disability rights’ groups or advocates. One would hope that concerns from this cross section of Canadians would compel our legislators to recognize the profound impact expanded access to euthanasia will have on our country. Yet the sprint to allow greater access to lethal injection for more vulnerable Canadians continues. 

There is no longer a requirement that the person receiving euthanasia be terminally ill. Under this legislation, any serious incurable illness, disease, or disability would render one eligible for euthanasia. Additionally, without any further study or direction from the courts, the new legislation would legalize euthanasia where consent is obtained by an advance directive. This is a new chapter of death on demand. Canada has cast aside restrictions at a far quicker pace than any other jurisdiction in the world that has legalized euthanasia. 

As our legislators and country consider Bill C-7, we should be mindful of the following:

  • Under the proposed legislation, disabled Canadians with no terminal illness will now be eligible for lethal injection. People with disabilities already face substantial challenges and discrimination relating to employment, housing, appropriate medical care and support. Their lives matter. They should never be seen as a burden to our society. We should be alarmed that those who have struggled for decades to be treated with equality may well be pressured, whether from family, friends or even their own health care professionals, to “ease their burden” and end their lives. These people need assisted living, not assisted death. 

  • In 2016, the government indicated that before any new legislation would be introduced, there would be a thorough five-year review of the impact of euthanasia in Canada – no such review has taken place. Yet the government moves forward without such critical analysis, even though it is reported that since 2016 at least 13,000 people have died from lethal injection. 

  • Where is the political will to push forward on palliative care for all Canadians? Only 30 per cent of Canadians have access to quality palliative care even though we know that pain and loneliness are among the biggest fears of those who are suffering. Palliative care can address these issues. If all Canadians had access to quality palliative care, fewer would seek lethal injection. Instead of developing an overall culture of care, we are rushing towards death on demand. The same doctors who are trying to care for their patients will now be called on to endorse euthanasia for them. 

Those who feel that their life no longer has value must be assured by all of us that this is absolutely not the case – there is dignity within each human life, not just when we are young, healthy and able, but even more so, when we are fragile and vulnerable.

It is up to every Canadian to foster a culture of care and love for one another. The answer is not assisted death in its many forms; it is accompanying our family, our friends and even strangers to assist them in life, recognizing the inherent dignity of every person.   

Cardinal Thomas Collins  
Archbishop of Toronto 
November 2020

Nov 13
Remember Persecuted Christians This Red Wednesday

​On Wednesday, November 18, 2020 Aid to the Church in Need asks you to stand in solidarity with the world’s persecuted Christians as it marks the third annual Red Wednesday. 

The Archdiocese of Toronto will do its part to raise awareness of this global plight. 

Red Wednesday is an opportunity for us to remember that Christianity is the most persecuted religion in the world. Christians are the victims of 75 per cent of the world’s religiously motivated violence and more than 300 million Christians live in countries where discrimination and persecution are a daily struggle. 

At 7 and 9 p.m. EST on Wednesday, November 18, Cardinal Thomas Collins, Archbishop of Toronto, will join Sister Micheline Lattouf of Lebanon and the archbishops of Montreal, Vancouver and Abuja, Nigeria for a virtual evening of listening, reflecting and praying.

You can join in on this virtual evening by registering here.  

Also, on Red Wednesday, St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica in Toronto will be illuminated in red lights to join hundreds of buildings around the world that use this as a powerful symbol of the suffering of persecuted Christians.

To learn more about persecuted Christians, you can watch this webinar that the Archdiocese of Toronto hosted in September, which featured Marie-Claude Lalonde, National Director of Aid to the Church in Need Canada.   

Nov 03
New Online Mental Health Services Are Available for Catholic Adults

The Southdown Institute has a long history of helping the clergy of the Archdiocese of Toronto. But during the COVID-19 pandemic, the institute is using the internet to reach out to the Catholic laity who are experiencing mental health and spiritual challenges.

Sr. Susan Davy, Communications and Outreach Officer at The Southdown Institute, explains how the organization hopes to help the people in the pews.  

1. For those who have never heard of The Southdown Institute before, what do they need to know about your organization?

The Southdown Institute is an independent, accredited health care organization that has operated in the Greater Toronto Area since 1966. We have many programs and services, including: a 14-week residential program for clergy and vowed religious; clinical and candidate assessments; outpatient services; education; leadership consultation; and outreach. 

While our focus continues to be the provision of mental health services to clergy and vowed religious (and, more recently, lay pastoral ministers), we are also aware that many of the Catholic lay faithful may need our psychological and spiritual support. This is why we have created new online mental health resources, for both ordained and lay alike.  

2. Southdown is calling these new resources for the laity, “Community Wellness Services.” What are you hoping to achieve with this new initiative? 

Our intention is to reach a greater number of people and help them work through the many pressing psychological and spiritual challenges of our times. The many online psycho-educational and group offerings address issues of grief, stress management, loneliness, isolation, anxiety and spiritual concerns. 

This will all be done in a safe, trusting and confidential environment. The online Community Wellness Services is provided through a secure virtual platform.

3. Why do you think this program is especially needed now? 

As we continue to navigate our way through the COVID-19 pandemic, we are aware of the toll these challenging times are taking on all of us. There is a growing sense of fatigue being experienced by many. Under these circumstances, paying attention to our mental and emotional health is of the utmost importance – now more than ever. 

Since its foundation, Southdown’s programs and services have evolved to respond to the needs of the present moment. Expanding our mental health services to the online world to reach even more members of the Catholic faith community is in keeping with that tradition.    

4. Who can take part in the Community Wellness Services? 

The online webinars and small group meetings are available to the Catholic adult population, ordained and lay alike. Interested individuals are encouraged to learn more about each offering and to register for the online webinars by visiting:

Select webinars are available in French and Spanish.  

5. What are some of the things that you have planned for the early days of the Community Wellness Services?

Community Wellness Services offer an exciting variety of interactive psycho-educational, spirituality and psychotherapy groups, including: 

You can learn more about these, and more, upcoming sessions of the Community Wellness Services at The Southdown Institute by clicking here to download a flyer.  

There is nothing wrong with admitting that you are struggling. This is especially true during the pandemic, which has upended our lives in so many ways. If you could use help, please click here to learn more about the Community Wellness Services at The Southdown Institute. 

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