Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
Sign In
Around the Arch
Jul 11
Marylake’s Rosary Path: A Visual Guide

The post below is the first in our summer travel series – chronicling local day-trips in the Archdiocese of Toronto that will get you out of the house and deepen your faith.

If you're looking to venture off on a day trip in the Archdiocese of Toronto this summer, Marylake is a faith-filled oasis located amidst the serene backdrop of nature 30 minutes north of Toronto. Run by the Augustinians in King City, Ont., it is touted by its founders as being the site of "the world's largest living rosary."

Here are some of the highlights of a visit to Marylake:

The Rosary Path – which officially opened in 2016 – is a 1.5 km walkway winding across an open field that follows the outline of rosary beads that are large enough to kneel inside. 



In front of the beads that kick-off each decade, there is a board outlining the mysteries of the rosary – offering a visual as you walk and pray. 



Alongside the Rosary Path runs the Stations of the Cross – brought to life through stained glass panels. The artist behind the panels, Toronto-based Stuart Reid, travelled to Germany to make the glassworks. Bonus: You'll likely spot some local wildlife (see goslings below). 



As part of the Stations of the Cross, there is an empty tomb – which is a visual representation of the tomb from which Jesus rose from the dead. The Resurrection comes to life through the beautiful stonework. 



The grounds are also home to the Marylake Shrine of Our Lady of Grace. 


Marylake is a great local mini-pilgrimage spot if you’re looking to slow down and enjoy the tranquility of nature. It was a welcome reprieve from city life and offered the most creative way I've ever prayed the rosary. The grounds – including a vast picnic area – and shrine are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day. Parking costs $10, which support the ministry of the Augustinians at Marylake, including grounds maintenance. For more information on Marylake, please visit www.marylake.com.

Jun 26
Five Summertime Activities to Help Bring Children Closer to God

As summer gets underway, parents start thinking of fun and educational things they can do with their children. If you are looking for suggestions, Anna Boyagoda, Co-ordinator of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd for the Archdiocese of Toronto, has some thoughts. She shares below her top five Catechesis of the Good Shepherd-inspired activity ideas for kids on summer vacation.

The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd (CGS) is a Montessori-style method of catechesis that responds to a child's silent request: Help me to come closer to God by myself. In the CGS, a catechist works to respond to this request by preparing an environment for the child — a special room at a parish — where everything is just their size, where all materials are handmade just for them and where they are free to work at their own pace, all the while being exposed to Scripture passages and moments of the liturgy. This room, called the atrium, is made to help them come closer to God. Since its inception in Italy in the 1950s, the program has spread to 37 countries  with 2,500 children participating in Canada. 

1. Planting Seeds

Summer is the perfect time for planting seeds. As you watch the seeds grow, reflect on the nature of God's Kingdom and the mystery of life, and how these two things are interconnected. 

Read the Parables of the Mustard Seed and the Growing Seed together (Mark 4:30-32; Mark 4:26-29). 

2. Care of the Environment

Summer is also the perfect time to focus on the "care of the environment," an important Catholic and Montessori principle, that develops concepts of stewardship and communal life. 

Outside the home, provide opportunities for gardening, watering, sweeping, raking.

Inside the home, provide opportunities and child-sized materials for:

    • Washing a table or countertop
    • Dusting
    • Sweeping the floor with a broom and dustpan
    • Mopping the floor
    • Vacuuming
    • Polishing wood furniture
    • Polishing shoes
    • Sorting laundry by colour
    • Hanging laundry to dry
    • Folding washcloths
    • Sewing on buttons
    • Washing dishes
    • Watering houseplants

The above flower-arranging exercise can help children to have a better understanding of the value and importance of caring for creation. (Photo by Anna Boyagoda)

3. Baking

How can you be like leaven in the Kingdom of God this summer? Take time to bake bread together. Reflect on how we must participate in the building of the kingdom, but that only God can bring growth. Are there acts of service that you can perform in your own neighbourhood that might be like leaven for God's Kingdom? 

Reflect on the Parable of Leaven (Matthew 13:33).

4. Outdoor Time

Spend time at the beach or in the woods; look for delightful shells and rocks that speak to us of the many gifts of the Heavenly Father. Ask, who has prepared all this for me?

Reflect on "the God who gives" and the covenant relationship through 1 John 4:19, Isaiah 46:3-4, Jeremiah 31:3, John 15:11, Romans 1:20. Pick a different passage for reflection each week for a month.

5. Planting

In August, plant a flower garden for our Blessed Mother in honour of the Feasts of the Assumption and the Queenship of Mary.

Research the Marian legends connected to each plant, so that each one carries a story. Consider planting:

    • Yellow Flag Iris, the flower of light! (the flag of Quebec is based on a banner honouring the Virgin: the white cross symbolizes purity; the blue background, heaven; and it's marked by the Fleurdelisé of our Lady)
    • Lavender (Mary's Drying Rack: during the flight to Egypt, Mary dried Jesus' clothes by hanging them on a little grey bush, it burst into bloom with fragrant lavender)
    • Lily-of the-Valley (known as Mary's Tears) 
    • Purple Flag Iris (known as Mary's Sword of Sorrow)
    • Daisy or Carnation (Mary's Roses)
    • Pansy (Our Lady's Delight)
    • Violet (Our Lady's Modesty)
    • Lady's Mantle (Our Lady's Mantle)
    • Bleeding Heart (the Heart of Mary)
    • Foxglove (Virgin's Glove)
    • Fuchsia (the Earrings of our Queen)
    • Rosemary (Mary's tree or Bouquet)

Try to find an inexpensive statue of the Blessed Mother that you can place among the flowers and plants to make it a true Marian garden.

If you like these suggestions, consider giving the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd a try. For a list of parishes with CGS programming, please visit: http://bit.ly/AtriumsArchToronto.

Jun 13
The Theology of Parenting: Father’s Day Edition

Patrick Sullivan is a Catholic lay evangelist, speaker and creator of Me & My House, a DVD series that offer advice to parents who are raising their children in the faith. He and his wife, Kyla, have eight children. With Father's Day around the corner, we asked Patrick to share his top Catholic parenting tips.

1.  What are your top tips for raising a child in the faith?

The first tip is more or less a reminder that though our faith is something we all hold in common, faith is also deeply personal. This means that although it is extremely important for parents to pass on the faith (its creeds, its liturgical life, its salvation history), our children also need room to meet God in their own way.

Which leads to tip number two: Ask your children often, "Who are you praying for and how are you praying for them?" The first question ensures that your child understands your fundamental belief that a child's prayers matter. And the second question drives home the point that there are ways to communicate with God outside of the usual time and prayer method.

So you might say to your three year old, as we do with our Caleb who just turned three this past May, "Caleb how do you pray for grandpa?" And when he is not sure what I mean by 'how' we follow-up with an example like, "When I pray for Hannah, I like to walk around in our garden and say, 'thank you Jesus for my little girl.'" Now at his age, Caleb may still follow that with a physical prayer action — such as squeezing his hands together and closing his eyes or any number of things — but our child is now learning slowly and effortlessly that the Catholic faith requires a personal response from each one of us, and he is free to explore that with the help of those who love him.


2. It's Father's Day this weekend. What do you think fathers, in particular, offer to the family?

Fathers have the awesome gift of revealing a truth about God that is little discussed today: That God is both powerful and playful. Think about what this means. Through their relationship with the mother, especially in the early years, the child is already learning that there exists a love that is all encompassing, an ever-present comfort, which of course speaks volumes about this Trinitarian God.

But, through a child's eyes, the father's love can sometimes be more intimidating. His love comes through a lower vocal range and it is 'rougher' as both the body and possibly calloused skin leave fewer places to 'cuddle-up' than that experienced with mommy.

Be that as it may, as the child grows and experiences daddy through many playful interactions, countless acts of tenderness and care, the child learns that this love is also powerful and playful.

It is through fatherhood that we once again have a chance to encounter what the ancients saw quite clearly: That the divine life (and, indeed, the divine One Himself) is dangerous. And yet, as Abraham learned millennia ago, everything we love, everything we are and hope to be, even our very lives, are safe with God.

So this is what every dad offers the family. Simply by being himself, simply by loving his wife and children in the way that he understands and feels in his bones, he teaches the next generation about the love of God in a truly paternal way, and that is an awesome gift. 

3. What advice would you give to someone who feels he is struggling to be a good father?

I would say, "You're not alone." When we realize the immense privilege of being a dad, the task can seem overwhelming and sometimes nearly impossible. But remember, God has chosen you for these particular children. Being a good father is not about letting your strengths outdo your weaknesses, or about becoming a 'better' father than those around you. It's about finding ways to show your kids that you love them. Do that and you will be a dad after God's own heart.

4.  Do you have a favourite Catholic dad joke?

There are so many good jokes that Catholic dads tell. Here is one I love sharing with the little kids:

A father was reading Bible stories to his young son. He read, "The man named Lot was warned to take his wife and flee out of the city, but his wife looked back and was turned into a pillar of salt."

His son asked, "What happened to the flea?"

Jun 04
Working to End Human Trafficking

Msgr. Edmond Putrimas, Associate Pastor at Resurrection of Our Lord Parish in Etobicoke, Ont., has been part of a Vatican commission studying human trafficking over the past five years. During that time, he has been working closely with the Archdiocese of Vancouver to help raise awareness of the issue. He's now setting his sights on helping to educate parishioners in the Archdiocese of Toronto. Below, he shares his journey to date.

My awareness of human trafficking began seven years ago when I was invited to the Vatican by the Archdiocese of Westminster (London, UK). As the Lithuanian Bishops' Conference delegate for Lithuanian Catholics abroad, I had a desire to learn about the increasing number of Lithuanian human trafficking victims in London and other regions in the United Kingdom.

Shortly after this invitation, with the blessing of Pope Francis, Archbishop of Westminster Cardinal Vincent Nichols began an anti-human trafficking movement called the Santa Marta Group

The purpose of the Santa Marta Group is to co-ordinate the anti-human trafficking activities of the Catholic Church, governments, police services, diplomats, politicians and non-governmental organizations. This way they can to curb the epidemic of human trafficking and better assist victims by integrating them back into society.

It is a pleasure to support the initiatives of Evelyn Vollet and Sister Nancy Brown in the Archdiocese of Vancouver, who in the spirit of the Santa Marta Group, are leading a movement to counter human trafficking. Their focus is on raising awareness of the victims of prostitution, not only in their own diocese, but they're also reaching out to other dioceses across Canada.

The greatest preventive measure against human trafficking activities is information — especially for youth — explaining the risk factors that can lead to becoming trapped in the cobwebs of human slavery. Equally important is the need to inform the public that there are different types of human trafficking and that the victims of each type require help.

The United Nations defines human trafficking as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons by improper means (such as force, abduction, fraud or coercion) for an improper purpose, including forced labour or sexual exploitation.

Realizing the potential of the Santa Marta Group, I helped establish this movement in Lithuania, with the support of the Lithuanian Bishops' Conference. We've had great success. For instance, in 2018 a Lithuanian film producer released a documentary film called Mulai (or Mules in English — the documentary is in Lithuanian but there are English subtitles). It chronicles the many Lithuanian "mules" (someone who smuggles drugs across borders) who are being held in prisons across South America. We were able to visit Peruvian prisons and interview some Lithuanian nationals who were convicted as "mules."


A prisoner being held in a Peruvian prison who was convicted of being a drug mule. (Photo courtesy of Mulai

Unfortunately, these prisons hold a number of Canadians who are convicted of the same crime.

Many people don't realize that "mules" are victims of human trafficking and usually are not drug users themselves. They were lured into smuggling drugs by "drug lords" who made false promises of substantial monetary rewards. Once they agree to participate in such illegal activities, there is no way out.


Msgr. Edmond Putrimas, on-site at the Peruvian prison during filming, where he met with imprisoned drug mules who he says are victims of human trafficking (Photo courtesy of Mulai)

Pope Francis has repeatedly urged Catholics around the world to pray for the victims of human trafficking and, through awareness, bring an end to this scheme, which generates multi-million dollar profits for traffickers every year.

Here in Canada, human trafficking is a very real issue. But since Canada is such a large and diverse country, it is a challenge to implement the Santa Marta Group movement here. But to start tackling this problem, every diocese and police service needs to define the forms of human trafficking that are plaguing their region and then join other local organizations in creating a Santa Marta Group. 

To learn more about human trafficking and slavery, please read Pastoral Orientations on Human Trafficking, a document published by the Vatican. It's the first step on the journey of awareness, as education leads to action.

May 21
Patron Saints 101

The Catholic veneration of saints is a distinctive and frequently misunderstood aspect of the Church. Why does Catholicism have such an attachment to the saints? How does a particular saint become connected to a place, vocation or situation? John Paul Meenan, assistant professor of theology at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College, explains.

The Church canonizes some of her faithful as 'saints' — those who lived a Christian life more perfectly, practising charity in a 'heroic' way. This is done for two reasons. First, so they may act as exemplars for the rest of us on how to live a Christian life more perfectly, above and beyond the bare minimum. Second, the saints also act as intercessors, so that we may pray to — or more properly through them — to the Triune God, so that "Christ may be glorified in His saints" (2 Thessalonians 1:10).


Every canonized saint may also act as a 'patron' of some aspect of the Christian life, whether this be for particular places, dioceses, parishes, needs, purposes, vocations or anything else that may be required for salvation.

For more official purposes, such as for the patron of a diocese, these patrons are chosen through the Holy See — specifically the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments — in dialogue with the diocese and the local church. The saint decided upon is usually in accord with its people and history. For example, my own diocese of Pembroke, in eastern Ontario, was first populated by Irish immigrants; hence, the choice of Saint Columbkille, the great missionary who brought the Faith from Ireland into Scotland via the isle of Iona (a small island that was once the burial ground of kings but is today a popular Catholic retreat location).

The Holy Father may also choose patrons, such as: Our Lady of Guadalupe as patroness of the Americas, as well as the unborn; Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati as the patron of youth; Saint Thomas Aquinas of Catholic schools and education; and so on.

Then there are the not really formally approved patrons who are adopted by custom and tradition, such as, Saint Veronica, as the patron of photographers, for the perfect 'icon' left on her veil. There is also Joseph of Cupertino, patron of test-takers, a struggling seminarian, who knew only one Scriptural passage for his final exam before ordination; and wouldn't you know, it was just the very one the bishop providentially chose!

Parents choose a patron for their children, in the name they bestow at baptism, which should laudably be the name of a saint, or at least not "foreign to Christian sentiment," and, years later, the same young people choose their own confirmation sponsor to help guide them through life. I would add the custom of adopting the saint on one's baptismal day — our spiritual birthday, along with our natural one — as fitting intercessors and exemplars. Of course, we should add our guardian angel, whose names, as Samson's parents were told, are 'mysterious,' for powerful they are indeed.

Then we may choose our own patrons saints for all that life entails, for our houses, our schools, our sports teams. Quebec, the most historically Catholic of our provinces, is filled with towns, cities, villages and streets named after saints. These are now often, ironically, decided by secular municipal councils across Canada; hence, why there are fewer saints connected to recently-named Canadian places. Although there is a back road I know of, which, by vote, was not long ago named after the Sacred Heart.

We may even choose patron saints for a particular occasion, such as: a journey; a marriage; expectant mothers (Saint Gerard!); a funeral; a hike; a get-together; or a pilgrimage. There are the popular go-to saints, such as: Anthony for lost objects; Jude for desperate causes; Peregrine for cancer patients; Joseph for the universal Church and a happy death; Our Lady, well, for just about everything!

In this fair dominion, we should develop a devotion to Saint Joseph as the patron of Canada. We should also recognize the eight Jesuit martyrs — Jean de Brébeuf and his companions — as our nation's secondary patrons. Then there is, of course, the mighty Saint Michael looking over the Archdiocese of Toronto, its cathedral and all of its apostolic work.

In this time of grace, we should adopt patron saints for all our needs, for the whole panoply of saints are waiting to hear from and intercede for us. For the kingdom of God is not far off, but all around us, in our very midst.

And, I might add, a blessed Easter season to one and all. Christus surrexit vere, alleluia!

May 10
National Week for Life and Family Spotlight – The Damianopoulos Family
National Week for Life and Family runs from May 12 to 19. The Damianopoulos family – Rich and Pam, alongside their four children ages 8, 5, 4 and 2 – reflect below on what raising a family in the faith looks like in the Archdiocese of Toronto.

1. What does a typical day look like for the Damianopoulos family?
 
Very full! Hectic mornings getting ready for work/school and busy evenings with dinner, homework and bedtime routines. Despite the busyness, we try to keep focused through prayer. We have set prayers like grace before meals and morning prayer. But we also have spontaneous prayers during the day like “God help me with this child” during a showdown with a toddler or encouraging an older child to pray to St. Anthony when something is lost. We always end the day with family nighttime prayers. Everyone gets a chance to give thanks for a blessing, pray for someone or ask for God’s help.  We also light a candle to help keep the kids focused and remind us that Jesus is present (although it can be challenging to stop our youngest from blowing it out and singing “Happy Birthday”).


 
2. This year’s theme for the National Week forLife and Family is “Listening to the Gospel as a Family.” How do you see that play out in your family?
 
We hear the Gospel at Mass and also when reading children’s Bible stories together. We then try to incorporate Gospel values into everyday situations. For example, a gentle reminder that the Golden Rule is “do to others as you would have them do to you” and not “do to others as they have done to you” when faced with the “he/she did it first!” explanation.
 
3. What does your family do to witness living out the Gospel outside of your home? What is your involvement in your parish or the broader community?
 
Rich is a lector at Mass and also ran for Catholic school board trustee. We participate in food drives/fundraising at school and at the parish. We encourage our children to live out the faith. One mom recently told us that, given the choice of all the girls in her class, her daughter would choose our eldest as her best friend because her child knew our daughter would stand up for her when in trouble. Another example is when eating out, it’s often our four-year-old son who reminds us to say grace. 
 
4. What do you do to encourage your kids to make faith and a relationship with Jesus a priority in their lives as children?
 
We liken it to any important relationship they have here on Earth (friends, grandparents, etc.) and how the more time you spend with the person, the closer you get. We explain that prayer is spending time with Jesus. We also make accessible faith-based books, music and videos. It’s so sweet to see one of our little ones immersed in a baby’s Bible or one of our older ones dancing around the house singing the lyrics from a Catholic YouTube video.
 
5. What is the greatest joy and the greatest challenge of Catholic family life?
 
The greatest joy: Seeing the faith take root in our kids. One of the cutest things is seeing our two-year-old say “Shesus” and blow kisses to anything that resembles a cross.
 
Greatest challenge: Living and teaching the faith in a world that is hostile towards it. One mom “jokingly” complained to us that she now has to take her daughters to church because they heard that our daughters go, so they want to go, too.
 
6. What is your advice for other families looking to incorporate faith into family life?
 
Attend Mass as a family – it makes a difference when everyone is on board. Make it relevant by incorporating it into everyday life – say a quick prayer for safety before leaving on a road trip. Pray as a family and involve the kids – invite one of the kids to lead grace before meals. 
May 08
Living Jean Vanier’s Vision: Finding Friendship in a L’Arche Community

Beth Porter is the author of Accidental Friends: Stories from my Life in Community, a book that chronicles her experiences living in a L'Arche community, along with her interactions with Jean Vanier, with whom she worked on educational projects. In L'Arche communities people with and without intellectual disabilities live and learn together with dignity.

1. What was the most rewarding part of living in a L'Arche community?

For me, there were two very rewarding parts of living in community: the feeling of living life with authenticity and the friendships I share. I have developed friendships with people who are very different from me in some respects, but also amazingly welcoming and "whole," and who call me to be in the present moment with them. 

(Photo courtesy of L'Arche Canada)

2. What initially motivated you to join L'Arche?

I heard Jean Vanier speak to university audiences in the 1970s and was moved by his message, which was inspired by the Beatitudes, and by his ability to be intensely present. (A friend commented, "He has eyes like vacuum cleaners!")

I was also drawn by Jean's spirituality and his practical wisdom in his early books. In 1980, when I read Community and Growth, it struck me that Jean knew how to create stable, caring communities rooted in the values expressed by Jesus. I decided to visit the L'Arche Daybreak community in Richmond Hill, Ont., near where I was living. That was in 1980. I soon returned and stayed! 

3. You worked with Jean Vanier. What was that like? 

After 2000, I worked with Jean and Greg Rogers of the Toronto Catholic District School Board and the ministries of education in Ontario and Alberta to bring Jean's message to high school students. Jean loved being with young people. He sent WE Day messages urging students to change the world for the better and to do this with others. When he visited, he spoke to a large student forum and we made two short films of students in conversation with Jean about their future. We usually communicated via the Internet. In later years, Jean invited my editorial input on some items. He incorporated suggestions and was always guided by what was most pastoral.

4. Can you describe how you witnessed Jean living out his guiding principles in community?

Jean was a man of prayer. When he was visiting us or I was in France, very early, before others were up, I would notice him in the chapel immersed in silent prayer. Jean would be intensely present to whoever he was speaking with. I think his habit of prayer helped him in this. He trusted God and was not distracted.

He grew and mellowed over the years, and he became more deeply convinced that the world needs the L'Arche message: that each person, whatever their ability, has a gift to contribute.

He remained in touch with what was happening in the wider world. The last time I visited him, soon after an election here, he opened by asking, "So, how is Canada?" 

Apr 24
Christian meditation – An invitation to listen

Fr. Stephan Kappler is the CEO and chief psychologist at Southdown, a centre dedicated to helping religious and clergy with addictions and mental health issues. Below, he shares an overview of Christian meditation and how it can help us to connect with God.

 1. What is the goal of Christian meditation?

As Catholics, we turn to the teaching of our Church to learn about our faith. In the Church's teaching, namely in the Catechism of our Church, we are reminded that three expressions of personal prayer are recognized: vocal prayer, meditation and contemplative prayer. While many of us grew up well-versed in vocal prayers, the practice of meditation and contemplation is still something that many Catholics are just discovering — or perhaps re-discovering. Prayer is never just a "sheer multiplication of words," as Jesus reminds us, but an invitation to seek closer union with God. In vocal prayer, we are in active communication with the Lord, talking to/with Him, but in meditation we are invited to listen. Psalm 46:10 states, "Be still and know that I am God." God is our refuge, our light, our strength. Meditation is the practice of being still, the practice of listening with our heart, and knowing that God and God's love are real and present in our lives.


2. How does a Christian meditate?
 
Meditation engages "thought, imagination, emotion and desire," the Catechism tells us. In other words, it is a beautiful, holistic prayer that wants to engage all of our senses. Find a comfortable place — indoors or outdoors — give thanks to God for the moment, listen, breathe and be attentive. Seek a long, intimate and loving look at God. Use the beauty of nature, the words of sacred Scripture, the glow of a candle, the light radiating from the Blessed Sacrament, or anything that speaks to your heart and sharpens your awareness so as to bring you into closer union with God.
 
3. What is the role of the mantra, Maranatha?
 
The well-known Maranatha is an Aramaic word from sacred Scripture, which means "the Lord is coming." Like any mantra, it is a sacred word that is recited continuously in the heart and in the mind. The repeated nature of that word draws us into the power of the Holy Spirit and ushers us into the heart of Jesus. "Be still and know that I am God" can be one of those mantras. A person would focus on the words, "be still and know that I am God…be still and know that I am…be still and know…be still."
 
4. What are the benefits of Christian meditation – both spiritually and physically?
 
As a priest psychologist, I have seen the physical, emotional and spiritual benefits of meditation. Closer union with the Sacred, increased intimacy with God and a deeper relationship with Jesus all help ground a person in love. Reduced anxiety, improved mood, a growing attitude of gratitude and reduced stress are among the many benefits.

Apr 03
A Catholic convert's art-inspired journey

​Kalore Cao remembers the moment that sparked her interest in Catholicism.    

"Visiting the British Museum and encountering the ancient religious paintings made me believe there is a spirituality that is beyond human understanding and the materialistic world," says Cao, who was baptized into the Catholic Church in 2015. Cao's family is mainly influenced by the Buddhist faith and Chinese communist values. "From that point onwards seven years ago, I started thinking about the meaning of life and got interested in the faith."

This experience with religious art marked the beginning of her journey to Catholicism, which led her to the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) program at Our Lady of Fatima Shrine in Scarborough.


Iconographer Marianna Savaryn, left, stands with Kalore Cao, right, at the Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies at the University of Toronto's St. Michael's College, where Cao studied iconography techniques. 

Every year, a convert's road to the faith culminates in their being received into the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil. In 2018, approximately 1.500 people became Catholic in the Archdiocese of Toronto. 

For Cao, art is the common thread woven throughout her path to Catholicism. She is currently studying illustration at OCAD University, and learned to create illustrations of icons under guidance from the Discalced Carmelite friars in Canada.

"The Provincial Delegate of the Discalced Carmelites order, Fr. Dominic Borg, introduced and encouraged me to write the icon as it is the 'window to heaven' that brings divine knowledge to the people. I enjoy sharing the faith through the images as they convey the direct message, which is a great tool for Gospel proclamation."

It was also the Church's focus on charity that appealed to her. "The dedicated religious sisters who sacrificially undertook so many social works in society greatly attracted me to Catholicism. By imitating their charitable deeds, I believe more justice can be brought to this world."

Looking forward, Cao is exploring the possibility of offering activities for Catholic students at her university.

"Converting to Catholicism is not the end of the spiritual journey, but a milestone of the truth-seeking process."

Mar 20
Exploring the connection between faith and mental health

​Fr. Stephan Kappler is the CEO and Chief Psychologist at Southdown, a centre dedicated to addressing the needs of religious and clergy around addictions and mental health issues. Below, he shares the path that led him to Southdown, along with the impact of faith on our mental health. 

1. Can you share with us your journey to Southdown?

My journey started many years ago in Munich, Germany. I attended the Seminary of the Archdiocese of Munich-Freising. I eventually used an approved year abroad to enroll at the Franciscan School of Theology in Berkeley, California, where I quickly fell in love with the diversity, multi-cultural character, and actively-lived faith of the Catholic Church in the U.S. I was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Oakland on May 28, 1994. I returned to university and earned a doctorate in Clinical Psychology. For the last five years, I managed my own clergy-focused mental health practice in Oakland, while ministering as pastor at an urban parish. When the call came from Southdown, I felt very blessed to take on leadership of such a well-known, high quality organization that serves clergy and religious in Canada, the U.S., and around the globe.


2. Why is a place like Southdown important?

Catholics love their hard-working, faith-filled, dedicated priests, deacons, religious sisters and brothers, and seminarians. With fewer numbers, and with the ever-present, manifold stressors, help and support is very much needed. When professional support is required, a safe, welcoming, and holistic place like Southdown is an essential piece in seeking health of mind, body, and spirit.

3. How can faith help to improve mental health?

Over the past fifteen years, research consistently tells us that individuals who practice their faith, who are actively on a spiritual path, live healthier lives. Faith helps us with a sense of purpose and meaning, a deep sense of resilience, a sense of belonging to a community, and with overall trust in life.

4. How can Catholics weave faith-based tools into their daily routines for improved mental health?

Taking time for prayer, fostering an attitude of gratitude, living a mindful life, practicing loving kindness toward self and others, meditation, prayerful journaling, using the psalms as a mantra in moments of anxiety (e.g. Psalm 27: The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?), and making time to recognize God's unconditionally loving presence are useful steps for healthy mental/emotional health.

5. Anything else to add on the link between faith and mental health?

Seeing meaning and purpose in our lives is key; knowing we are not alone on our journeys is key; feeling loved and accepted is key. Our Catholic faith tells us: God loves us unconditionally. That love we experience in the presence of Our Lord Jesus, our companion on this life's journey. Holding on to Our Lord's embrace can help us through any dark valley.

1 - 10Next