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Around the Arch
Aug 02
Helping Middle Eastern Christians

Carl Hétu, Canadian national director of CNEWA (Catholic Near East Welfare Association) – an organization that is devoted to working with the poor and marginalized through the local Church – shares his insights below on the current realities in the Middle East.

What is the current situation for Christians in the Middle East?

Daily life for Christians in the Middle East has been difficult. Things took a turn for the worse in 2003 during the invasion of Iraq by the U.S., Great Britain and their allies. Iraq spiraled into internal tribal conflict and anarchy. Christians were stuck in the middle – often being victims of threats, kidnapping, torture and assassination. As a result, approximately 1.2 million Christians were forced to leave the country since 2003. Some 250,000 Christians remain in Iraq today. The unresolved Israel-Palestinian conflict has also caused economic and political hardships. Only 55,000 and 1,100 Christians remain in the West Bank and Gaza, respectively. In Syria, the civil war has practically destroyed the country. Christians have certainly not been spared from the violence. The Christian population has gone down to 1 million from 2 million since 2011. More are fleeing. In Egypt, attacks on Christians are common. We believe that some 400,000 have left the country in the last seven years. Christians live in greater security in Jordan and Israel; but there has been a recent rise in internal tensions.


An Iraqi father at the Saint Anthony Community Health Centre in Lebanon, supported by CNEWA, which Hétu visited on a trip to Lebanon last spring.  

How does your most recent trip to Lebanon in April compare to your last visit to the region?

The Lebanese people seem anxious, tired and increasingly frustrated. The population of Lebanon is 4 million. There are more than 1.3 million Syrian and Iraqi refugees, plus 500,000 Palestinian refugees, in the country. The impact on the local economy and social services is overwhelming. Local aid organizations are exhausted and lacking in resources to support refugees but also there is an increasing number of Lebanese people who are getting poorer, losing their jobs and in need of support. It's a very alarming and potentially volatile situation.

How does CNEWA Canada plan to use Canadian donations to help affected Christians?  

CNEWA is blessed to have three offices in the region and some 30 devoted staff who work with the local churches on a daily basis to tend to the many social service-related and spiritual needs of the local populations. This is our strength and, through them, we can ensure that funds are used wisely and effectively.  

Is there anything else that you feel it's important for Canadian Catholics to know about the realities on the ground faced by Christians in the Middle East?

Some people wonder why it's important to support Christians in the region. The reason is simple: wherever the Church exists you will find people working to build up the kingdom of God on earth. When Christians are forced to flee, or weakened in their vocation, the local community tends to experience a reduction in social services and, oftentimes, instability. As religious freedom is threatened across the globe, Christians in Canada need to keep watch on events in the Middle East. What happens there is not isolated to their region. Helping Christians in the Middle East also strengthens our own faith and determination to live in a better world with peace for all.

For more information on CNEWA's year-long campaign to raise awareness on the struggle of Christians living in the Middle East, or to support CNEWA's work, please visit http://bit.ly/CNEWAMiddleEastDonations.

Jul 23
Two irreconcilable concepts of human sexuality

​In light of the 50th anniversary on July 25 of the papal encyclical Humanae Vitae, Sr. Helena Burns, FSP, shares her insights on its enduring importance. Burns regularly travels across Canada and the U.S. to bring Theology of the Body workshops to youth and adults. 

Let's talk about sex

We can't talk about contraception and Humanae Vitae until we talk about sex. There are two purposes of sex that are inseparable: love (union) and life (procreation). If we separate them we are "using" a human person, which is never in accord with human dignity. There are two other purposes of sex within marriage as well (that also tie our sexuality directly to God): a foretaste of heaven and a way to heaven (marriage is a sacrament; sacraments get you holy; sex or "the marital embrace" is a big part of marriage and consummates the marriage; the marital embrace is doing physically what marriage vows do verbally).


It started in the garden

I always think of Eve when I think of contraception, primarily the Pill: "But it's just a little piece of fruit!" ("But it's just a little pill!") So what's the big deal whether we use artificial contraception (against God's Word, natural law and Church teaching) or Natural Family Planning (acceptable)? Isn't the goal the same: to prevent pregnancy? Isn't Natural Family Planning (NFP) just "Catholic birth control?" Yes and no. No.

The end doesn't justify the means

The goal of contraception and NFP might be the same, that is, to avoid pregnancy (although NFP is also used to achieve pregnancy whereas contraception is always to prevent), but the end doesn't justify the means. Contraception is doing something: having sex during a woman's fertile time, while thwarting one of its inseparable purposes at the same time (life). Natural Family Planning is not doing something: abstaining from sex during a woman's fertile time so that the marital embrace will always be "open" to both love and life when it happens. Contraception and NFP are equally effective, around 97 per cent if done accurately.

Atomic truth bomb

Let's start with what is probably the biggest truth bomb regarding the very great differences between contraception and NFP: John Paul II calls them "two irreconcilable concepts of the human person and of human sexuality" (Familiaris consortio, 32). Whatever can he mean? For years – although I accepted Humanae Vitae (the Church's 1968 reaffirmation of her 2,000-year-old rejection of contraception and abortion) as infallible Church teaching – I really didn't understand it, nor could I explain it to anyone else. For a fallen mind (humanity after the Fall), what should be obvious often isn't. It wasn't until I discovered John Paul II's "Theology of the Body" that not only Humanae Vitae made sense to this former radical feminist, but the entire Catholic Faith begin to make sense through this very concrete, sacramental lens.

Yasssssssssss

Although the Church has always had a pro-woman, pro-man, pro-child, pro-family, pro-life, body-positive stance with regard to contraception and abortion (Remember, whenever we say "no" to something, we're saying "yes" to something else.), when Humanae Vitae was issued, it caused not only an uproar among the faithful, but a well, rather "unfaithful" reaction: it was rejected and Catholics used contraception anyway (the Pill was invented in 1960).

Pope Paul's predictions

Now. We should obey God, His Word, His Church and right reason, even if we don't fully understand--while we delve deeper. (St. Anselm called this "faith seeking understanding.") But that didn't happen. So here we are, 50 years later, reaping the bitter fruits that Paul VI predicted would come to fruition if society wholeheartedly embraced contraception: promiscuity/marital infidelity/breakdown of the family; increased objectification of women; governments mandating/promoting anti-life policies; thinking we can do anything with the body as raw material instead of treating it as sacred.

How is Humanae Vitae pro-woman?

Humanae Vitae is pro-woman because it is attentive to and respects a woman's psyche, body and her cycles. The man has to also be attentive to a woman's psyche, body and her cycles. Women have cycles: monthly fertility cycles. Women are not always available, that's the lie of male domination, porn, prostitution, a misunderstanding of Scripture and contraception.  

It's not about "artificial"

You will never hear me use the word "artificial" before the word "contraception." That's not the problem. It's not artificial vs. natural means. Catholics love true progress. We love science and medicine and technology and we use them all the time...in accordance with human dignity: hearing aids, pacemakers, operations, medicine, etc. There is nothing as 'natural" as an "artificial" arm. Why? Because a prosthesis takes the place of a missing/disabled arm and does what an arm does. Contraception does not do what a healthy, functioning system in the body does (namely, fertility). It does the exact opposite and turns a healthy, functioning body system into an unhealthy, malfunctioning system, often over long periods of time.

God is so merciful to us that now we have the science (biology and social sciences) that proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that what God told us is good for us actually is, and what God told us is bad for us actually is. The physical, spiritual, psychological, relational and societal effects of contraception are damaging and destructive. The physical, spiritual, psychological, relational and societal effects of NFP are healthy and empowering. I'm going to quote only one statistic here that should make all of us sit up and pay attention and want to know everything we can about NFP: the divorce rate of NFP couples is 1-2 per cent.

RESOURCES:

NFP-Toronto (Billings Method):
https://toronto.naturalfamilyplanning.ca
New documentary by former pro-abortion radical feminist and atheist: www.SexualRevolutionMovie.com
Best books on Humanae Vitae, Theology of the Body, contraception and NFP: www.tinyurl.com/topTOBbooks

Jul 13
A support for the nursing community

​At the end of June, the Canadian chapter of the National Association of Catholic Nurses officially launched, with a Mass at the Newman Centre in Toronto. Below, President-Elect Helen McGee – a psychiatric nurse and Advanced Practice Clinical Leader – explains the organization's mission and why this type of support is needed for Canadian nurses. Her opinions do not represent those of her employer.

 1. What is the association's mission?

The association supports and strengthens the vocation of nurses and other health professionals within the apostolic tradition of the Catholic Church. It invites health practitioners to anchor their personal lives and professional practice in the Word, nourished through the sacraments, and in witness to Christ – bearing testimony to Him by aligning their lives and practice with Catholic teaching.

 2. How does membership benefit Canadian Catholic nurses?

Our association links Canadian health professionals with support and resources that promote our mission. Members may also become actively involved in affirming Catholic moral teaching with us through service, education, research, member formation, public discourse, or development and fundraising.  

3. Why is fellowship important for Catholic nurses in Canada at this time?

It is always important to integrate our Catholic identity, prayer and sacramental life with moral challenges in professional practice. Recent developments, such as legalizing assisted suicide in Canada, present urgent challenges in clinical and academic settings. Catholic health professionals need safe spaces and support to deal with their current isolation and moral distress.  

4. How has the battle over conscience rights impacted nurses?

Catholic nurses need to promote patients' health and preserve life when confronted with practices that are intended to terminate life. The current battle over conscience rights shows that we need the support of colleagues, prayer and participation in the sacraments to effectively navigate academic and clinical settings. 

5. 
How has the nursing field changed for Catholic practitioners– and how does the association respond to these changes?

Nursing practice always involves moral issues but recent requirements to participate in or refer patients for medically induced death challenged us to contribute to public discourse from a Catholic perspective through writing, speaking and participation in the legislative process. Our association supports members as they develop effective strategies to achieve accommodation of their moral decisions and continue to care for patients in the context of legal but morally controversial procedures.

For more information on NACN-Canada, or to become a member, email nacn.canada@gmail.com

Jun 25
The spirituality of aging

​Sr. Mary Rose Marrin, CSJ, was inspired to start a Ministry with Maturing Adults based at St. Mary's Parish in Barrie in 2007 after noticing the 50+ demographic had been underserved for so many years. She holds a certificate in Spiritual Gerontology, an emerging discipline which deals with the inner emotional and spiritual needs of the senior adults. In light of Seniors' Month, Sr. Mary Rose shares her insights on the 'spiritualty of aging.'

1. Why are the 'maturing years' (50+) a vital period for spiritual growth?

Throughout most of history, aging has been viewed in terms of diminishment and decline. In the 1970s, gerontologists began to study not just the deficits of aging but also the undeveloped potentials of the aging process. Their research showed that the spiritual dimension was a major undeveloped potential. In fact, they concluded that as we mature, our potential for spiritual growth increases. The nature of this potential is in an increased capacity for awareness, consciousness, insight, and wisdom – wisdom as understood as grasping the meaning of life, of getting a glimpse of life from God's perspective. As one person said, "Sometimes, it takes a lifetime just to get it." This potential is not just for the benefit of the individual but for society. It is the vocation of the elder to remind the world of what is really important in human life. With the current unravelling of society, the role of the wise elder has never been more urgently needed. We do not become wise simply by growing old. Karl Rahner wrote: "Aging is a vocation and a mission. It is serious business and runs the risk of radical failure." 

2. What are some activities that seniors can undertake on a daily basis in order to encourage their faith development and enhance their zest for life?

Maturing adults need to develop a sense of personal responsibility for their ongoing growth throughout the aging process. There is a tendency towards entitlement; that somehow others are responsible for taking care of me. Related to this entitlement and our culture's obsession with entertainment, there is a tendency to approach every offering in terms of what I will personally gain from it. This needs to be balanced by an attitude of: What can I contribute?

Some specific activities might be:

  • Spending some time each day in stillness: being present to oneself, to nature, to music, to the Spirit of God
  • Reach out to someone every day in person, or by phone or email
  • Join a group
  • Participate in activities at your parish
  • Develop interests which keep you feeling 'fully alive'
  • Listen to the news and chose one current need which touches you. Pray for that situation today.
  • Do a few minutes of good reading each day. Be attentive to what speaks to you.
  • Take time at the end of the day to be grateful for the gifts of that day.

 
3. Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Ageism is very strong in our culture. This is a very real challenge. The general stance is to resist and deny the aging process. There is also a tendency to think that any outreach to seniors is directed to the frail elderly. Active seniors do not want to be associated with frailty. As well, parish ministry tends to focus on the celebration of sacraments and sacramental preparation. The celebration of the Eucharist is central. However, once adults become empty nesters they often tend to have less contact with the parish and can easily slip away. The ministry is addressed not only to the inner core of regular participants but must reach out to all levels of participation – and non-participation. On a positive note, any evidence of insight gained is a cause of joy. Seeing parish communities reach out to each other is a source of joy and energy.

For more information on resources and support for seniors in the Archdiocese of Toronto, please contact Sally Amaral at the Office of Formation for Discipleship at samaral@archtoronto.org.

Jun 08
Food for body and soul at St. Ann’s

​At St. Ann's Parish in downtown Toronto, visitors receive spiritual nourishment – and food, should they be in need.

Since 2005, the parish has run a community food bank under the coordination of parishioners Carlos Carreiro and his wife, Colette. Supporting this husband-and-wife team are 46 volunteers – family, friends, fellow parishioners, students from the Newman Chaplaincy Centre at the University of Toronto, Holy Name Parish and groups from local elementary schools.

At present, the St. Ann's Food Bank serves 700 clients every month – but that number is rising slightly, says Carlos. He cites housing costs as one of the key factors affecting families.

"(The food bank) takes some of the pressure away from being able to afford to feed yourself or your family," adds Carlos, who works in the property management industry and volunteers about 12 hours per week to help keep the food bank running. "We also provide a stable source, so that people can count on us being there for them on a regular basis."

Located in the parish basement, the food bank receives donations  from multiple sources, including Daily Bread Food Bank, Second Harvest Food Rescue, St. Francis Table, Bridgepoint Health Centre, school food drives, local neighbourhood drives, individuals and volunteers.

The food bank is open every Saturday from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m., or until the last client leaves. (Every week, clients go through a brief screening process, he adds.)

Looking forward, Carlos hopes there will be a day when the food bank won't be needed. "However, our goal is to continue to be able to provide food and an equitable place for those who need our services."

To get involved and volunteer at St. Ann's Parish Food Bank, please contact Carlos at cancarr58@sympatico.ca


May 31
A Catholic’s guide to voting in the provincial election

​With the June 7 provincial election on the horizon, there are resources available to help parishioners in the Archdiocese of Toronto make an informed choice as they head to the polls.

In recent weeks, Cardinal Thomas Collins issued a letter on key issues related to the sanctity of life for Catholics to keep in mind when casting their vote.

Cardinal Collins has appealed to parishioners to consider their candidates' positions on palliative care, conscience rights and the protection of faith-based facilities.  

Here are some fast facts:

- Only one-third of Canadians have access to palliative care
- In Ontario, while doctors and nurses are not forced to provide a lethal injection to patients, they are required to provide a referral, which can be equally offensive to those who object for religious reasons
- Many faith-based hospitals and treatment centres do not wish to participate in euthanasia/assisted suicide; no health care facility offers every procedure, so it is alarming to suggest we would start with one that will kill those who are sick

To learn more about euthanasia and conscience-related rights issues, please visit www.archtoronto.org/euthanasia.

As well, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Toronto has issued the Catholic Charities Ontario Election Guide 2018 to help Catholics assess their candidates' positions on a wide spectrum of issues.


The Guide focusses on our responsibilities as citizens and government's responsibility to respect and support life. The Guide looks at tough issues facing the most vulnerable families and individuals in society and the Catholic social service agencies providing support, as well as highlighting Catholic Social Teaching. Additionally, there is a handy Candidates' Report Card with suggested questions for candidates in your riding.

The Ontario Election Guide looks at 10 key areas:

1. Social Services
2. Poverty (Focus on Children and Families)
3. Income Security (Precarious Employment and Poverty)
4. Employment Justice (Precarious Work)
5. Basic Income
6. Homelessness (Adequate, Accessible, Affordable Housing)
7. Healthcare (Improving Core Health)
8. Vulnerable Groups
9. Indigenous
10. Palliative care

To view the guide, please visit http://bit.ly/CatholicCharitiesOntarioElectionGuide.

Voting is our civic duty, yet voting rates are notoriously low. About half of all voting-aged Ontarians vote in elections: 48 per cent voted in 2011 and 51 per cent in 2014.

Ontario's Catholic Bishops remind us that "Catholic Social Teaching continually keeps before us our responsibility for the common good and for the poor with whom Jesus identified in a preferential way; that is why elections are conscience moments for people of faith" and "it is inconceivable that people would consciously decide not to vote."

St. Thomas More, patron saint of politicians, pray for us! 

May 25
Reflections on the Month of Mary

Given that May is the month of Mary, Fr. Peter Galadza, Director of the Metropolitan Andrey Sheptytsky Institute of Eastern Christian Studies in the University of St. Michael's College, shares insights on our Blessed Mother.

1. Why do Catholics place such a strong reverence on Mother Mary?

Luke 1:48 recounts how Mary herself said, "All generations will call me blessed." This is because her connection to the living God is so intimate. You can't bear in your womb for nine months the very Word of God and not be special. Paradoxically, we moderns have sometimes lost sight of this. For Christians, the biological is of immense importance. God works concretely in the here and now of human bodies. But what ultimately makes this special is Mary's life-long response to this honour – her humility. In that same verse from Luke, she specifically says that the Lord has regarded – taken notice of – her "lowliness." This characterizes her whole life. In this she is like her Saviour, who raises us up by lowering Himself to the depths of Hell. And so, Mary is revered because she constantly points to salvation. In my own Ukrainian-Byzantine tradition, Mary is almost never depicted without her Son. A very common Byzantine icon that most Roman Catholics know is the "Hodigitria," – "the one who shows the way." Mary's hand points to Jesus – the Way. "It's not about you," she is saying. "It's not even about me, even though I have been blessed in such a miraculous way."


2. Why do we honour Mary in the month of May?

In the Latin West, May's connection with the renewal of nature was baptized, as it were. Springtime associations with the divine go back to pagan times. Latin Christians took this fecundity (fertility) theme and transformed it to celebrate the one who brings forth everlasting life. This happened during the mediaeval period and the entire month of May began to take on prominence in the 17th century. But Catholics of the Byzantine Tradition – and not even all of them – adopted this custom only in the 19th century. In the Eastern Catholic Tradition, the period of focus on Mary is in the run-up to the feast of the Dormition (Assumption) on August 15.

3. What can Catholics do to celebrate the Month of Mary?

Allow me to suggest something different – coming from my own Eastern Catholic tradition. In addition to everything else you might customarily do to focus on Mary this month, go to the website https://www.catholic.org/prayers/prayer.php?p=249, where you will find "The Akathist Hymn to the Blessed Virgin Mary." The theology is amazing, and the poetry is exquisite. On several occasions St. John Paul II – not to mention other popes – had the Akathist chanted at special events in Rome.

4. How can Mary help us in our daily lives?

So often even the best Christian loses sight of God's tenderness. Mary, who has fully become a "partaker of the divine nature" (II Peter 1:14), envelops us in this maternal "facet" of the Divine. When I experience such tenderness and mercy on a daily basis, I can't help it but share with those around me.

May 15
The call to Consecrated Virginity

​First, Mary Bastedo got to know Jesus through the L'Arche community. As a result, she followed a call to celibacy – not through a religious order, but rather, through the Order of Consecrated Virginity.

Bastedo is one of 10 women in the Archdiocese of Toronto who has been consecrated to the Ordo Virginuum since the first local consecration in 1983. Across Canada, about 50 women are following this call, says Bastedo, who assists locally with the formation and discernment process for women contemplating this ecclesial vocation. France and Italy have the highest number of vocations to the order, with 620 and 600 respectively.


Unlike most orders of women religious, according to the Rite of Consecration to a Life of Virginity for Women Living in the World, there is no particular service or spirituality imposed upon the consecrated virgin's time. They live and work in the community as members of general society, rather than as part of a religious community. They are guided to spend time in works of penance and of mercy, in apostolic activity, and in prayer. As well, they are strongly advised to recite the Liturgy of the Hours daily and are committed to praying Morning and Evening Prayer. The Code of Canon Law states: "She is betrothed mystically to Christ and dedicated to the service of the Church." Outwardly, this bond is symbolized by a ring that she wears.

"I find it a privilege to be walking with other women who are discerning the call to consecrated virginity," says Bastedo. "I've experienced the peace that's given through the consecration and the fruitfulness, too."

In the Archdiocese of Toronto, the rite is celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop John Boissonneau, who meets with the women twice per year. In addition, the women also attend a Mass celebrated by Cardinal Thomas Collins every year and meet with him afterwards.

"At our gatherings, after Mass, the women have an opportunity to share with other members of the order aspects of their life and any significant developments in their vocation," says Boissonneau. "I mostly listen and enjoy with them a cup of tea or coffee. They are guided by their spouse, Jesus Christ, and their individual spiritual directors."

Consecrated Virginity does not have an apostolate or activities or an agenda other than the women being in love with Jesus Christ as His bride, says Boissonneau.

"Its witness is mostly hidden and their presence mostly unnoticed. There are few human metrics to measure its importance, except to proclaim in faith that first and foremost it pleases God and in our culture – when it becomes known – offers an alternative vision. The purpose of the order is the former."

For Bastedo, part of the beauty of the Order of Consecrated Virgins is that the women can live out missions that are unique to the individual areas to which God is calling them. Her own mission involves assisting those with intellectual disabilities, who can't walk or talk, after studying occupational therapy at the University of Toronto. Over the years, she lived her call within L'Arche. But other consecrated virgins work in parishes and in fields ranging from nursing and accounting to teaching.

"The experience of the Order of Consecrated Virginity is one of holy simplicity and with little need for organization, strategies and planning," adds Boissonneau. "When you are deeply, exclusively and contemplatively in love with Jesus, that is the end in itself."

May 02
Celebrating service during Catholic Education Week

​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.

Apr 18
Behind the Bench: John Paul Farahat

​For generations, music has had the power to stir people's faith.

According to the Church teaching in Sacrosanctum Concilium, music is "more holy in proportion as it is more closely connected with the liturgical action, whether it adds delight to prayer, fosters unity of minds, or confers greater solemnity upon the sacred rites." (112)

Throughout the Archdiocese of Toronto, we're blessed to have many organists (as well as music directors and cantors) who give of their time selflessly to ensure our liturgies are full, conscious and active.

This new series in Around the Arch will profile several organists and musicians from our four pastoral regions within the Archdiocese. These artists will share their diverse backgrounds, as well as interesting stories and personal highlights of their important work as musicians in the life of the Church . In this edition, we feature John Paul Farahat, a seasoned organist and musician in the Central Region.
Farahat2.jpg

1. Tell us about your musical journey and how it led you to where you are today as an organist.

I attended Saint Michael's Choir School for 10 years, from Grades 3 to 12. In my last year of study at the Choir School, following nine years of piano, I made the decision to take private organ lessons. From the first lesson, I was certain that the organ would always be a part of my musical life. I continued my studies at the University of Toronto Faculty of Music, first as a harpsichordist, and then as an organist, acquiring the degrees of Bachelor of Music in Performance and Master of Music in Performance in organ. I'm now completing my Doctor of Musical Arts degree in organ, through which I am researching and writing about the life and improvisations of world-renowned Canadian organist Victor Togni (1935 - 1965). 

I've been blessed with incredible mentors, and incredible opportunities over the years. Among them are playing solo organ recitals at Saint Paul's Cathedral and Westminster Abbey in London, England, Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, and Saint Patrick's Cathedral in New York City. All of them deeply spiritual experiences, which will stay with me forever. 

My day-to-day life, I think, is quite exciting, fulfilling and spiritually enriching. I am the Director of Music & Principal Organist of Saint Basil's Catholic Parish at the University of Saint Michael's College, and I also play occasionally at Saint Michael's Cathedral Basilica at the 9 p.m. Sunday Masses.

2.  Where do you continue drawing inspiration from as you continue your vocation as a church organist?

I draw immense inspiration from two sources: the people I encounter, work with, and minister to through music, and the traditions of the Church. Knowing the ways in which music ministry allows and facilitates deeper worship for the people who I minister to - that is important to me. And we are so blessed with such rich and diverse musical traditions in the Church. 

3. Why should the everyday Catholic have an appreciation for the organ and/or anyone who plays?

The Second Vatican Council, in the 1963 document Sacrosanctum Concilium, spoke beautifully of the importance of the organ in the life of the Church. Indeed, the organ is uniquely equipped to support congregational singing. Because of the way organs are built, the sound does not dissipate or decay until the organist lets go of the keys. So it's very natural for sustaining singing, whether it be with the softest melody or the most exuberant and joyous chords. Not only that, but the huge range of the colours in the sound of the instrument - that is something very special, and uniquely different in every pipe organ. 

4. What is your all-time favourite piece on the organ?

That's a difficult question. I have a new favourite piece almost every week, but…there's an organ symphony by the French composer Charles-Marie Widor entitled Symphonie Gothique. It was completed in 1895 and is based on the Gregorian chant Introit (or Entrance antiphon) for the Mass of the Day on Christmas: Puer natus est nobis. It is absolutely sublime, transcendent music.

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