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Around the Arch
Jan 15
Reflecting on the Joys and Challenges of Five Years of Marriage

Norman and Marissa Tapangco have been married for 17 years and have three kids ages 16, 14 and 6. They are active members of both Worldwide Marriage Encounter and Couples for Christ, and are a certified natural family planning couple teaching for Serena Canada. In light of Marriage Sunday taking place on February 9, the couple reflects on the joys and challenges they faced five years into their marriage.  

1. You've been married for 17 years, but let's look back at the five-year mark in your marriage. What joys were you experiencing after five years of marriage?

Five years into our marriage, we were already blessed with our second child. This was the year we were stabilizing financially and relationship-wise, and our children were getting sick less often! We had jobs that let us to support our family, including sending both our children to daycare and enjoying some simple pleasures. We had some sense of relief in terms of our family's future.

2. Can you describe some of the challenges your family faced five years into your marriage that you didn't experience as newlyweds (and may not experience today)?

This was the year Marissa's dad was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. We needed to be with her parents quite often to offer emotional support and assist with medical appointments as well as everyday needs. 

While trying to help Marissa's parents, we had to start establishing a consistent routine for the children as they were starting school.

It was hectic but we just went with the flow.

We also found ourselves thinking of either moving closer to Marissa's parents or just moving in with them in order to ease the back and forth and achieve a consistent routine for the children. Unfortunately, this did not come to fruition before her dad passed away. 

3. What kind of impact did children have on your marriage? 

Our first child was a honeymoon baby. This put a lot of stress on our new marriage. Marissa was grieving that her plan to go back to school was not going to happen. We were not prepared at all for this life change. We did not even know how to live together, never mind raise a child. Our jobs were not so stable and we did not have much of a financial cushion. Concerns of job stability and child care costs became major stressors that affected our relationship.

4. How did faith strengthen your family after five years of marriage?

Our faith in God was very instrumental in keeping us together. We both were heavily involved in a religious community prior to getting married and continued to be members after we became husband and wife.

We valued the sacrament of marriage and held onto God's teachings about love, forgiveness and service. We made efforts to access supports such as marriage retreats and prayer groups when times were rough.

Even today, we repeatedly try to improve our communication and address attitudes or behaviours that displease each other. Most importantly, we try to make prayer a consistent practice in our household.

5. Do you have any advice for couples journeying together through this stage of marriage?

Marriage is a covenant that we make not only to our spouse but also to God. When times get rough, it is helpful to look beyond how we feel or what we think about the situation. We need to try to realize what God would like us to do and how He would like us to respond to what is happening. Forgiveness and respect are key regardless of how upset we may feel. 

The Celebration of Marriage Mass will take place on Sunday, February 9 at St. Isaac Jogues Parish (1148 Finch Ave., Pickering) at 3 p.m. Cardinal Thomas Collins, Archbishop of Toronto, will preside. All couples are invited to attend but seating will only be reserved for couples celebrating their 25th, 40th, 50th and 60+ wedding anniversaries. For details on Marriage Sunday, including the Celebration of Marriage Mass, please visit

Jan 03
Deacon Robert Kinghorn: ‘Meeting Jesus in His Many Disguises’

Robert Kinghorn is a deacon in the Archdiocese of Toronto. In his new book, The Church on the Street, he invites readers to walk with him as he ministers in a Toronto neighbourhood known for drugs, prostitution and homelessness. Below, he provides insights on his street ministry.

1. How did you come to start your street ministry?

It all started in 2003 when I was driving through downtown Toronto at 1 a.m. to drop off someone at their home. It was a wet night and the lighting was much too dim to properly see the street corners where shadowy figures stood negotiating a prostitution deal. Others were clearly on drugs as they purposefully walked while waving their arms as if to swat away imaginary flies.

"The people of the night," I thought to myself. "This is their existence. So where is the Church?"

I knew that the Church was in the drop-in centres such as Good Shepherd Refuge, St. Francis Table and Yonge Street Mission, caring for those who could find shelter there. But where was the Church on the street at 1 a.m.? 

It was this simple thought that found me two years later asking permission — first from my wife and then from Cardinal Thomas Collins — to walk these streets at night as my diaconal ministry.

My plan was as simple as that; to walk the streets each week at the same time and in the same area. Not as a social worker distributing money, clothing or food. But as a friend who would listen to the cares, dreams and hopes of the "people of the night" and perhaps through this, help them believe that God indeed loves them just as they are.

 2. What are the greatest challenges you face while ministering on the street?

Ministry on the street is the same as all ministries of presence. The rules are simple: Show up, listen, don't judge, don't fix.

One of the greatest challenges is continually reminding myself that the only "success" in this ministry is for me to continue showing up. That's it! If I start having an agenda, then I have lost the script that was laid down by Jesus many years ago and I will quickly burn out. If my agenda is to get people to stop doing drugs, to give up prostitution or to "come to Jesus" (whatever that means), then I will burn out quickly.

I have never heard anyone on the street say, "I am sure glad I am on drugs" or "I always wanted to grow up to be a prostitute." They don't want to be there and don't need me to tell them that. But for sure they need and want someone who will listen to them and accept them so they can see hope in their lives and one day leave this all behind.

Part of the "showing up" is committing to the ministry regardless of whether the temperature is plus 20 degrees or minus 20 degrees, since those on the street on these nights often have few other options.

I have often been surprised by the times I have met someone that I have no recollection of meeting, but they say, "I know you. I have seen you out there."

3. What is the most rewarding part of working with those on the streets? 

The rewarding part of this ministry is finding that people will accept me, share with me and allow me to be their friend.

One night, I was concerned about the way a man who was under the influence of drugs was coming towards me. But a drug dealer from the area intervened, telling me, "Don't worry, we will look after you and will not let anything happen." With that, in a flurry of expletives, my protector told the man in no uncertain terms that he was not wanted there.

On another occasion, a lady who often chatted with me on the streets, asked me what was wrong since I did not seem like myself that evening. She was a well-known addict and we had previously had many good conversations about her life. I told her I had just got off the phone with a friend who was dying of cancer and he said it was probably our last talk as he felt his end was very near. She said, "I keep forgetting that you are human too and need my support at times."

4. How has your perception of people on the street changed after your years of ministry?

After coming to know the life stories of the people I am with, I find it surprising that they still believe in God. Perhaps they hold onto a faith because they can no longer believe in people who have let them down so often.

In Matthew 25:40, Jesus said, "Whatever you did for one of the least of these sisters or brothers of mine, you did it for me." Although I cannot always do it, I have come to see in my quieter moments the face of Jesus in some of these people on the street. I have a deep admiration for the way they can rise again and still believe when they have been beaten them down so often by childhood trauma or mental illness.

Fr. Greg Boyle, who has worked with gangs in Los Angeles for over 25 years, put it best, "Here is what we seek: A compassion that can stand in awe at what the poor have to carry rather than stand in judgment at how they carry it."

 5. Can you suggest ways that our readers could be of assistance to those living on the street?

So often we meet people begging on the street and we wonder what we can do to help them. I would call your readers back to the simple ministry of presence, "Show up, listen, don't judge, don't fix."

Giving money or not is up to you. I don't, because that is not why I am on the street (in fact, it could be dangerous for me if I became known for giving out money). I always say that you can get anything on the street — drugs, a woman, a man, a knife, probably a gun if you asked around — but what people cannot get on the street is someone to listen to them. I would suggest that if there is someone you pass, then just look them in the eye and say "Hello, my name is ____. How are you today?" If you pass them regularly and do this each time, then there is a chance that a friendship will evolve.

Alternatively, if you have time, volunteer at a shelter such as the Good Shepherd. There you will start to meet people on a regular basis and start to understand their life through their stories.

There you will meet Jesus in his many disguises.

To purchase a copy of, The Church on the Street, please visit:

Dec 23
ShareLife and St. Michael’s Homes Offer Hope to Men With Substance Use Disorders

In 2019, ShareLife raised about $15 million to support 43 agencies that help our neighbours who are facing difficult times in their lives. One of those agencies is St. Michael's Homes, which provides holistic recovery programs for men with substance abuse challenges.

Robin Griller, Executive Director of St. Michael's Homes, explains how donations to ShareLife make a life-changing difference to men who are overcoming substance abuse disorders.

1. Can you describe the work done by St. Michael's Homes?

St. Michael's Homes provides support for men in the early stages of recovery from substance use challenges. We currently have five programs:

  1. Engagement Program: We work with men waiting to be admitted to our residential programs. A weekly engagement group and individual staff support prepare participants for admission into our treatment or housing programs. This individual support includes things like helping clients in accessing crisis and stabilization programs (such as detox or crisis beds), assisting men in accessing medical care and resolving problems with their prescriptions. The goal is to help men stabilize their lives so they can focus on getting well once they are in our residential programs;

  2. Residential Treatment Program: We offer a 30-day Treatment Program and an up to 60-day Extended Treatment Program. Individual care plans help clients achieve their treatment goals. We offer individual counselling sessions, meditation and a range of psycho-educational groups. Group sessions cover a range of topics: grounding techniques; education on substance use, mental health and stigma; and social and spiritual elements of recovery. Groups in the Extended Treatment Program are much smaller so the men can cover these topics in more depth.

  3. Transitional Housing: Our Matt Talbot housing program is a transitional housing program, offered in two buildings. One building houses a one-year program for men who have been through a Residential Treatment Program for substance use. The other building houses an up to four-year program for men whose co-occurring mental health challenges and histories of homelessness mean they require a longer period of support. The programs help the men stabilize in community living so they can start rebuilding their broader lives. If these men in recovery do not establish a joyful and meaningful life after substance use, they will struggle to sustain their recovery, so we help them reconnect with family, return to education and/or employment and identify their long-term housing location.

  4. Aftercare: We have one Aftercare worker, funded by Ontario Trillium Foundation for three years, who provides individual support to men leaving our residential services.

  5. Psychotherapy: Our psychotherapy program provides individual psychotherapy for 25-30 men. We have up to six part-time psychotherapists doing this work. Among the team are two therapists with backgrounds in spiritual or religious counselling who are available for individual work with men who self-identify as wanting those supports.

2. How is St. Michael's Homes' approach to addiction recovery different than what is used by most other programs?

We are different from other addiction services in a number of ways. Our program is based on a holistic psycho-social model of recovery that recognizes:

  1. Addiction is usually a consequence of other challenges (trauma, mental illness and so on);
  2. Recovery is an existential choice. People in recovery from substance use disorders are facing the need to choose living rather than avoiding the pains of life through substance use;
  3. People need holistic recovery rather than a narrow focus on the substance use;
  4. Recovery is not a straight line. People come in and out of use so our job is to support men through relapses and other difficulties.

    Some of the ways in which our program is quite different from other programs include:  
  1. We work through relapse where possible (many programs discharge after a relapse);
  2. We work with men on their external challenges (legal, medical, housing and so on) while they are in our treatment program so they are set up for success when they leave;
  3. We support the full range of addiction medicine supports — including methadone and suboxone — and we have an on-site physician at our treatment program every week;
  4. We do not encourage separation from real life during treatment, other than the expectation that clients will take time off work for their recovery. Our clients have cell phones, family and loved ones are in contact and they can go home regularly. If men can't manage their every day lives with our support, how will they do so without our support?
  5. A spiritual component is among the pillars of our recovery program, for those who are interested. For men who are interested in a spiritual component to their treatment, we help them explore what spiritual paths would be helpful for their recovery. One of our staff who provides individual counselling to men whose recovery is spiritually focused; he is both a registered psychotherapist and a published theologian (he is Catholic who converted following decades of ministry in another denomination).

3. Do you have a success story that you can share with us?

James (not his real name) grew up in Toronto, married young and had a child. He had a steady job and he had bought a house.

When James's marriage broke down, so did his happiness. James faced depression due to the loss of the marriage and not being able to see his child. He found himself jobless and alone.

The emotional turmoil that came with these problems led James to drugs. The drugs were an escape, allowing him to forget his problems. He was only happy when he was high.

James fell into a cycle: Find a low paying job, work for the first pay cheque and then get high on drugs until the money ran out. Each turn through the cycle ended in a worsening low that had James praying for death.

With his family's support, James completed a treatment program. However, afterwards he found himself without a support system in place and he ended up relapsing.

Back in the cycle of addiction, James's life revolved around unhealthy relationships. Isolated from his family, he once again thought about suicide. But the arrival of a second child made him think about his family and forced him to seek help.

He joined the treatment program at St. Michael's Homes and worked diligently on his recovery. After completing treatment, he entered the Transitional Housing Program. With his support system in place, he was able to work through issues with his family and build a new life.

James has been supported in helping his sick father and reconnecting with his mother, sisters and youngest son.

With the help of St. Michael's Homes staff he has come to realize that relapse is often part of recovery and has worked through stressful periods, learning how to recognize and avoid triggers. James has focused his energies on stabilizing his life, volunteering in the house and eventually returning to work.

James knows hope exists and says, "Help is there, but it's up to you to do the work. Nobody does it for you."

4. How does support from ShareLife help St. Michael's Homes do this work?

We couldn't accomplish our work without ShareLife. The housing program is the focus of Sharelife's funding. We have support from the Ministry of Health to pay for the buildings and administration. But ShareLife dollars pay for the staff who provide individual supports to the men in our housing program and the group activities (both therapeutic and social!) that make this a warm and supportive home environment. ShareLife ensures we are able to provide good food, bedding and all the other material things our men need as they move into a new life of recovery from substance use disorders.

Watch this video to learn more about ShareLife and St. Michael's Homes.

Thanks to your generosity, ShareLife can support agencies that live the Gospel mission in our community. Click here to support ShareLife and receive a charitable donation tax receipt.

Dec 18
Parish’s Crèche Collection Shows Our Connection to the Nativity

On the First Sunday of Advent, Pope Francis wrote an apostolic letter on the importance of Christmas crèches, also known as nativity scenes. His Holiness explained that crèches are a great family tradition that helps us reflect on how God "became one of us, so that we in turn might become one with Him." Pope Francis also encouraged crèches to be displayed in public places, such as schools, hospitals, workplaces, prisons and town squares as a way of transmitting our faith.

Fr. Roy Roberts, pastor of St. Elizabeth Seton Parish in Newmarket, shares insights on his collection of 83 Christmas crèches that he puts on display every year.

More than a decade ago, I was at the very multicultural parish of St. Francis de Sales in Ajax. We celebrated this diversity with international potlucks, displaying national flags and eventually we stumbled on the idea of acquiring and displaying nativity scenes from as many countries as we could get. 

Theologically it expands the notion that Christ was born in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago to the idea that Christ is still being born today in each and every culture.

  Malawi crèche, pictured above. (Photo courtesy of Fr. Roy Roberts) 

Our crèche criteria was: it had to be authentically from the place it represented; and it had to somehow depict something unique about that culture and its peoples. 

Over the years the Internet became a great source for getting international crèches. And people would write to their family and friends in various countries requesting crèches or they would bring them back from their travels. 

When I left St. Francis I carried the same idea to St. Elizabeth Seton in Newmarket. When St. Francis discontinued the celebration, I was able to get a head start on the collection here in Newmarket. Now we are up to 83 scenes and counting! 

Crèche from the Dominican Republic, pictured above. (Photo courtesy of Fr. Roy Roberts) 

We like to set them up after the Fourth Sunday of Advent but as our collection has become larger and more elaborate, we now start constructing the scenes after the Third Sunday of Advent. They remain up until the last Sunday of Christmas, typically the Baptism of our Lord (Sunday, January 12, 2020).

We don't advertise the crèche display outside the parish but word of mouth — especially in small towns — has spread pretty quickly and people from around the area will pop in.

It is a highlight for the parish and it is magical to watch families pointing out the various scenes from their country of origin. It is a great unifying celebration and it expresses our Eucharistic communion in a new and vivid way. 

It is hard to pick a favorite now that there are so many of them. Each crèche has its own story, which makes it intriguing and special. However, I do think our crèche from Malawi is exceptional. The artistry of the carving is exquisite. 

Also, the crèche from the Dominican Republic has a special place in my heart. It was donated by the students from Archbishop Denis O'Connor High School in Ajax as a thank you for the parish's support of their endeavors. 

Feel free to visit this Christmas!

Dec 13
Christmas Trees for a More Caring Community

​During this Advent season, many of us will stand comfortably next to a Christmas tree gazing out at the chilly weather.

On these days, volunteers at Toronto's Out of the Cold program will serve homeless people who need shelter from the winter conditions. And one family will continue their mission of getting "into the cold" to raise much needed money for Out of the Cold.

Bobbi Johnston-Flanigan runs a Christmas tree lot at St. Peter's Parish in Toronto's Annex neighbourhood, alongside her siblings Corey and Lucas. Last year they donated $35,000 of their proceeds to Out of the Cold, an interfaith community program that began in 1988 after students at St. Michael's College learned that a local homeless man had died in the cold weather.

"It really is of benefit and great service to the community," Johnston-Flanigan said.

"Knowing that the less unfortunate among us can receive care and dignity through the proceeds we raise is heartwarming for us."

It all started 28 years ago, when Bobbi's father Sonny started selling trees at one location with the hopes of  raising money for charity.

The family has since acquired two more tree lots. Her mother Cathy and aunt Irene run a lot in the east end of Toronto, while a family friend runs another location on St. Clair Ave. West.

Bobbi and her family are happy to be back at St. Peter's for a third time now that a restoration project at the parish is nearly complete.

Fr. Michael McGourty, pastor at St. Peter's Parish, is thankful for their presence.

"They are a gift to our community and we are thankful for their great service and work," he said.

Through the years, Bobbi has seen what a blessing it is to sell Christmas trees at the parish.

Bobbi recounted how her father, Sonny, has volunteered with the Out of the Cold program for the last 25 years and was the driving force to give back, without expecting anything in return.

"Dad opened the Christmas tree lots with the intention of donating back and being as generous as he can," she said proudly.

"His children — both my brothers and I — are excited by the task of carrying on his legacy and continuing to donate."

Over the years, Sonny and the family have raised over $500,000, with proceeds going to help Toronto's homeless community.


Bobbi is confident they will reach their target of $30,000 by the end of this holiday season. As of December 5, they have pulled in about $7,125.

For more information on their efforts or to buy a fresh tree or wreath of your own, visit Sonny's Christmas Trees on Facebook.

Dec 06
Finding Time for Prayer This Advent

If you're looking for a way to fit prayer into your daily routine, the Pray As You Go app may be the solution for you. Using a combination of music, Scripture and reflection questions, it aims to help you grow in your relationship with God. Avid user Frédéric Barriault explains below how incorporating this tool into his daily routine has transformed his prayer life.

1. Why did you start using the Pray As You Go app?

As a professional, a Catholic and as someone who is deeply committed to spiritual and social issues, I have found that taking care of my spiritual life on a daily basis is vital for me. Weekly Mass is great, but daily silent prayer is often better. Especially when silence is scarce — which is often for me as the father of two young boys, who is committed to many Christian social justice struggles and who also happens to be a communications officer for the Centre justice et foi, one the apostolates of Jesuits of Canada.

Needless to say, I'm always busy, yet I remain joyful and committed. I'm often exhausted both physically and spiritually. I wasn't exactly struggling in my prayer life before I started using the app, though I needed to discipline myself to make better use of those rare moments when I'm truly alone, by myself, in silence. I needed to force myself to disconnect from everything (especially my phone), so I could to turn to God to nurture my drained, strained and dried out interior life.

2. How has the app helped you fit prayer into your life? When do you use it?

I needed something like the bells of Angelus to remind me of my religious duties. I realized that I could make better use of the rare moments I am alone and in silence — often that is when I'm on the bus or subway on my way from home to work.

3. How does the sensory experience of the app enhance your prayer? (the music, the readings, the visuals) 

The developers of Pray As You Go had the great idea of using these excellent musical bridges in the form of lyrical or liturgical chants that harmonise perfectly with the Gospel of the day. These musical interludes let me, once again, dive more deeply into myself, taking me out of the outside world and allowing to speak more freely with the Lord.

4. Do you have anything else that you would like to add?

I should also point out that Pray As You Go is deeply rooted in the dynamics of the Spiritual Exercises. Before or after reading the Gospel, the app often uses voiceovers to lead exercises inspired by the composition of place that was so dear to Ignatius. These exercises help us use our imagination to inwardly "see," "feel," "taste" and "touch" the Word of God and follow in Jesus' footsteps. Pray As You Go also bridges contemplation and action, asking us to first let ourselves be called by a word, phrase or verse that was just read. We can then make that thought the object of our heart-to-heart prayer discussion with Jesus. We can ask Him to bless us as we live out the Word both in our actions and in the callings of the Holy Spirit.

Frédéric Barriault is a lay collaborator at the Centre justice et foi (Justice and Faith Centre), the social analysis center of the Jesuits of Canada. He is also a historian, communicator and committed Christian.

Nov 08
10 Years of Communion with Catholics from an Anglican Tradition

On Friday, November 15, there will be a Votive Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Michael's Cathedral Basilica for the 10th anniversary of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI's Apostolic Constitution Anglicanorum coetibus.

Below, Joseph DeCaria, Administrative Contact at The Catholic Parish of St. Thomas More, weighs in on its lasting impact.

1. For those who aren't familiar, what is Anglicanorum coetibus?

Anglicanorum coetibus: Providing for Personal Ordinariates for Anglicans Entering into Full Communion with the Catholic Church is the full name of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI's Apostolic Constitution.

Published on Nov. 4, 2009, it allowed for the creation of diocesan-like structures for Catholics of Anglican tradition to retain elements of their heritage and common identity. The pope made it possible for liturgies and sacraments from the Anglican tradition to be used by Catholics.

As the Holy See stated, this was done "to maintain the liturgical, spiritual and pastoral traditions of the Anglican Communion within the Catholic Church, as a precious gift nourishing the faith of the members of the Ordinariate and as a treasure to be shared."

2. Ten years later, is Anglicanorum coetibus still relevant?

On its 10th anniversary, Anglicanorum coetibus, is more relevant than ever because it expresses "realized ecumenism." It reveals how true unity in the Catholic Church can still permit a diversity of expression, including some elements that grew up in the Anglican world after the Reformation. This is an historic act of generosity on the part of Pope Benedict.

Since its publication, three personal ordinariates have been set up: in North America, the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter; in the United Kingdom, the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham; and in Australia, the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross.

In Toronto, the ordinariate is manifest in The Catholic Parish of St. Thomas More, located in the Roncesvalles neighbourhood.

In 2015, Pope Francis approved, Divine Worship: The Missal, as an official form of the Roman Rite, alongside the Ordinary Form and Extraordinary Form. This missal captures the beauties of the language in the Book of Common Prayer and the English Catholicism that found its way into the Anglican prayers and collects.

Having our own missal is a sign we are definitely here to stay. 

While the ordinariate communities are often small and far-flung, they are growing and busy evangelizing not only former Anglicans, but also former evangelicals and those from other Protestant denominations. Even lapsed Catholics often find their faith revived by attending our services. 

3. What does entering into full communion with the Catholic Church mean?

Many Anglicans consider themselves catholic, but those of us in the ordinariates realize you cannot be a capital "C" Catholic without being in full communion with the Bishop of Rome: the Successor of St. Peter.

We have come to understand the necessity of the Papacy as a sign of unity for the whole Church. We have also come to understand the need for a final authority — that it's the Pope's role is to guard and defend the Deposit of Faith handed down from the Apostles who were the eye-witnesses of Jesus Christ. We know what it is like to be in an ecclesial community where there is no final authority and every doctrinal matter is up for a vote. It's the difference between building your house on a rock or on shifting sand.

4. What is the appeal for an Anglican to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church?

The appeal for an Anglican — or for anyone — to enter into the full communion of the Catholic Church is the realization that this is the visible church Christ founded, and that one's salvation depends on being part of Her. Many former Anglicans found the beautiful teachings in their tradition impelled them towards the unity that Christ prayed for before his crucifixion. In addition, Anglicans can discover in the ordinariates the tradition and practices that much of the Anglican Communion abandoned for more modern forms of worship. 

5. Is there anything else you'd like to add about this milestone anniversary?

We urge Catholics to visit us and experience the rich treasures we now share with the wider Church. We are now joyful members of the Catholic family and we welcome everyone to our services. Mass is offered every Sunday at 12:30 p.m. at 263 Roncesvalles Ave., Toronto.

We are so grateful for this amazing gift of Anglicanorum coetibus and the eternal security that membership in the Catholic Church brings.

For more information on the local celebrations for the 10th anniversary of Anglicanorum coetibus, please visit

Oct 17
Sr. Carmelina Tarantino: Toronto’s First Saint?

To mark the end of the first phase of investigation into the possible canonizing of Sr. Carmelina Tarantino, Cardinal Thomas Collins will preside at the 4 p.m. Mass this Sunday, October 20, at St. Leo's Parish at 277 Royal York Rd., Toronto.

Sr. Carmelina could very well become Toronto's first saint. Born and raised in Liveri, Naples, Italy, she immigrated to Toronto in 1964, at the insistence of her siblings who were concerned about her health. Doctors suspected she had a rare form of cancer and gave her months to live. Sr. Carmelina, however, lived for another 24 years – bedridden in hospital, where she counselled thousands about their daily trials and tribulations.

Fr. Claudio Piccinini, Sr. Carmelina's confessor and spiritual director, weighs in below on her lasting impact.

1. How did you come to meet Sr. Carmelina?

On September 23, 1973, Fr. Luigi Malorzo, CP, and I participated in a radio call-in show called, "Let's Talk About It Together," on CHIN Radio. Not being able to answer all the callers, we gave the monastery's phone number so listeners could call us there. Sr. Carmelina was one of the listeners and she called me from her bed at Riverdale Hospital where she had been suffering from cancer since 1969. She called to compliment me on how I addressed faith issues.

Sr. Carmelina Tarantino, left, pictured with her spiritual director Fr. Claudio Piccinini. (Photo by Guido Capotosto) 

2. How did you become her spiritual director?

I was deeply impressed with Sr. Carmelina's acceptance of her great suffering and I asked to meet her. During that meeting we spoke about our lives and what we were doing. Out of this conversation, Sr. Carmelina heard the scope of Società Unita - The United Society and Teopoli which is meant to promote family unity and to better fulfill our Christian vocation. She became a member and volunteered by spreading the news to her numerous family. 

On New Year's Day 1974, I decided to spend the whole afternoon at the hospital in Sr. Carmelina's company. I brought the book Journal of a Soul: The Autobiography of Pope John XXIII and other religious reading materials.

In 1976, I called Sr. Carmelina to see how she was doing. I felt bad because I realized that we had not been in touch since January 1974. I met with her the next day. During that conversation, knowing that she was writing a diary, I asked if I could see it and she agreed. She presented me with the diary and there I learned for the first time that on June 2, 1975, Jesus had come to see her. I felt the need to ask Sr. Carmelina to ask Jesus whether or not I should be involved in her life. As a result of this discovery, I became her confessor and spiritual director.  

3. What kinds of miracles did you see unfold at the hands of Sr. Carmelina?

As someone who was intimately involved with Sr. Carmelina's life, the first thing that comes to my mind is how day in and day out in that hospital room Sr. Carmelina accepted her suffering and used that acceptance for the greater glory of God and His mysterious love for every one of us.

This understanding was verified by other things that happened outside of her life. For example: an incident that took place in West Springfield, Massachusetts, where I was stationed at Our Lady of Sorrows Monastery.

A lady came to speak to a priest at our retreat house. I noticed that she was really distressed and was crying uncontrollably. She told me that she had come from her family doctor who had told her that she was never going to have a child because, as she put it, the doctor said there was no room in her womb to host a child.

She continued to cry uncontrollably. Not being a doctor, I really could not say much about what she had shared with me. I simply tried to say that she needed to have faith in God because if God meant for her to have a baby, she will have a baby.

As I said this, knowing that I could not help the lady in any significant way, I thought of Sr. Carmelina.

I mentioned to the woman that I had a friend in Toronto and I would ask her (Sr. Carmelina) to pray for the woman. I do not know exactly what she heard but she must have thought it was positive because she wiped her eyes, stood up, took her purse and was ready to leave.

I went to my room, called Sr. Carmelina and tried to explain this woman's situation to her. I asked if she could pray for her because of the tears she was shedding. Sr. Carmelina told me that she would pray for the woman.

About a week later, I called Sr. Carmelina and she told me to tell the woman that she would have a baby.

I was not surprised at what Sr. Carmelina was telling me. But I was concerned about calling the lady and telling her without any doubt that she would have a baby. I told the woman to trust in God and be grateful.

About a couple of months later, the woman came back to the retreat house wanting to speak to the Italian priest with a beard. I happened to be the only one fitting that description. There we were in the same room we were in previously but this time she was not crying. She proceeded to tell me that she was coming from her family doctor and the doctor told her she was expecting — even though the doctor did not believe it.

The doctor told her that he hoped the birth would be by cesarean so he could see where this baby was because, according to his conclusion, there was no room for the baby in her womb.

Nine months later, the woman was hospital about to have her baby by cesarean birth. Her husband was waiting outside of the operating room when its doors swung open, the doctor came out still wearing his operating uniform, approached the man and asked him, "Do you believe in miracles?"

The husband answered, "Yes, I do."

"Well, you just received one," The doctor concluded. "You are the father of an eleven pound baby."

The doctor walked down the corridor shaking his head incredulously.

I saw the baby a few days later and he was a big baby. Many years later, I saw the young man again and he was towering over his mother at over six feet tall.

There is no question in my mind that Sr. Carmelina intervened in a very beautiful and miraculous way. Such incidents happened more than 30 times when I stopped counting them.

4. What was Sr. Carmelina like?

I would describe Sr. Carmelina as prayerful, patient, welcoming, prudent, selfless, determined, strong and courageous. 

5. She lived in pain for 24 years. What kept her going throughout that suffering? 

She was deeply aware of the presence of God in her life and she knew that whatever happened to her was willed by God. She desired to respond to God's love by suffering in union with Jesus on the Cross.   

6. What is the greatest lesson Sr. Carmelina taught to those around her?

Her patient suffering and constant trust in God's will gave those who visited her the desire to imitate her courage and accept whatever happened in their lives as God's will for them. It's important to understand and I quote: 

"For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his." Romans 6:5 (NRSV)

Even if we have never been called to suffer, the fact that we know that one day we will die will make us suffer. Suffering is a straight channel to God's heart. 

Sep 23
Healthy Relationships With Technology For Catholic Families

Patrick Sullivan is a Catholic lay evangelist, speaker and creator of Me & My House, a DVD series that offers advice to parents who are raising their children in the faith. He and his wife, Kyla, have eight children. In the post below, he tackles the topic of how parents can help their kids have a healthy relationship with technology.

According to a report on the "Digital Well-Being of Canadian Families," 43 per cent of parents surveyed reported that their biggest source of conflict with their children across all ages is excessive use of screen time.

The report highlights some of the worries that parents have about their children using digital technology, including them encountering sexual content, violent content and cyberbullying.

As if raising a child in the faith wasn't challenging enough before smart phones!

Technology is a tool like many others but our interaction with it is not predetermined. In other words, technology may be used for entertainment or communication or research or simply to perform a mechanical function. That being said, parents need to decide when and in which ways they want their family to interact with any technology.

To guide those decisions, I find it helpful to keep three points in mind:

1. You are your child's original hero. Long before they eyed screens filled with various pajama wearing figures, your kids looked to you to see the best way to live. And even though they have grown, your kids still look to you to understand the best way to interact with technology. In short, practice what you preach. If you don't want your kids being entertained by a flickering screen for hours on end, then your actions need to be a model of a healthy relationship with technology.

2. If you can't discuss it, try not to digest it. This may seem obvious but your kids do not have the same reasoning and filtering systems that you do. While you can consider the merits of any message provided by any media at any time, your children do not exactly have that luxury. So make this your goal. If you cannot watch the program or game or show and discuss what you find there with them, then it is off limits to your kids. 

3. Have that very adult conversation about addiction in child-friendly tones. Our kids need to know that their behaviour can and often does lead to unhealthy habits, the kind we can have difficulty changing. So let them know and bring it up often. If our habits with technology are proving that we are beginning to love the creations more than the Creator, then it is time to take a break. 

To read Patrick's previous reflection on the theology of parenting, click here.

Sep 05
Rebuilding a Church…with Toonies?

​The Martyrs' Shrine in Midland, Ont., continues to be a place of pilgrimage and prayer for the thousands of faithful who come here from around the world. They worship in Canada's only national shrine outside of Quebec, built to honour the Jesuits who were killed in the area in the 1640s.

But in its 93rd year, the shrine faces an incredible challenge which it is working to overcome.

The Martyrs' Shrine, together with the Jesuit fathers and local community, are hoping to raise a significant amount of money to cover the cost of a new specialized dry-air fire suppression system that is required for the church to remain open to the public.

When the church was first completed in 1926, it was adorned with wood, stone, glass and gold. Its very design sought to express the mission of St. Jean de Brebeuf and his companions.

The church, however, was never insulated and is not heated throughout the winter months. The shrine has thus identified a pressing need this year: A new fire suppression system, including replacing its pipes that are at the end of their life.

Memories of the historic fire at Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral on April 15, 2019 has pushed the shrine to be pro-active in their efforts, hoping to avoid a situation where the church — which is mainly built out of wood — has to be shut.


Fire suppression systems channel water to sprinklers throughout a building. It will cost upwards of $225,000 to replace the current system, which was installed in 1980.

That sounds like a lot of money, but if every pilgrim who came through their grounds contributed an extra $2.00 on top of their admission fee, the shrine would have enough money by the end of the season to begin this significant project.

Allex Laurin, Manager of Marketing and Communications for Martyrs' Shrine, spoke about how the shrine has a responsibility to care for the incredible beauty and history that has been left to them to preserve.

"The shrine continues to be a living legacy for many people, especially the martyrs who have gone before us," he said.

"We are excited about this Toonie Challenge and hope that many of our benefactors and supporters will participate enthusiastically."

Laurin remarked that the campaign is picking up momentum and that many have contributed throughout the season. Some benefactors, as well, have opted to demonstrate their support with larger donations.

"We are grateful and look forward to a successful result."

Besides the fire suppression system, there is much more to maintain and look after. The shrine has identified more opportunities to rebuild and expand on the mission of the martyrs' in the years to come.

For more information about the Martyrs' Shrine, its programming throughout the year and their ongoing Toonie Challenge, visit 

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