The call to service is a key element of Catholic education in Ontario, recognized during Catholic Education Week from May 6 to 11. This year's theme, "Renewing the promise," is based on the scriptural theme in Acts 2:39: "For the promise is for you, for your children and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him."
This heart for service was at work recently in the Archdiocese of Toronto through the Service Week pilot project, run through the Archdiocese of Toronto's Office of Catholic Youth and ShareLife. Over the course of one week, 20 students from three parishes in the Archdiocese of Toronto – St. Patrick's Parish in Markham, St. Francis Xavier in Mississauga and St. Marguerite D'Youville in Brampton – spent five days living together at St. Joseph College School in Toronto.
The days were devoted to volunteering at various ShareLife agencies. The students spent time learning about the social teachings of the Catholic Church and going out on street patrols to deliver food and supplies to the homeless. Participants were also able to support a self defense workshop at the Loyola Arrupe Centre for Seniors, sort clothing and food at Canadian Food for Children and make beds at Good Shepherd Ministries.
"The mission trip was such an amazing experience – not only to meet so many blessed people and be humbled by seeing those with less, but also to be able to talk with them and see that they're just like us," says Kaila DoCouto, a student participant from St. Patrick's Parish. "I hope I'll be able to do this again, as it was a truly moving experience."
There are countless opportunities for the 300,000 Catholic school students in the Archdiocese of Toronto to serve their local communities. Thousands of these young people eagerly take up that call to service during Catholic Education Week and throughout the year, actively "renewing the promise" passed down to us all through the traditions of our faith.
We are grateful for their service hearts and the other benefits they receive through their Catholic education.