Beginning at the Mustard Seed on the east side of downtown Toronto, 32 people raced around the city as they competed in Faith Connections’ Amazing Race, fashioned after the popular reality TV series.
Before leaving the Queen Street East property each team had to complete a challenge to earn a card which contained the location of the next challenge, where the steps were repeated. Challenges included specific photos, gathering information to answer historical questions and physical feats.
Along with tasks the racers found members of the Sisters of St. Joseph at the nine stops on their journey, each of which holds some significance to the religious order’s history in the city. Among these are St. Michael’s Hospital, which the sisters founded, an early orphanage on Jarvis Street, the old House of Providence site and St. Joseph’s College School.
“By taking part participants will discover surprising facts about both our city and some of the many Toronto institutions founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph,” said Sr. Mechtilde O’Mara, Faith Connections’ ministry director. “Faith, culture, creativity and initiative all come together in this very special amazing race.”
Teams had four hours to complete the journey, which concluded at the Sisters’ residence on Palmerston Boulevard where pizza, wine and beer were served.
Prizes were awarded to the top four teams. They included gift cards, Fontbonne Ministries mugs and tickets to the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Although Aishwarya Varhese’s team didn’t place among the top four the 28-year-old occasional teacher with the Dufferin-Peel Catholic school board did walk away with something valuable — new friends who share the same faith.
“It is very important to be able to connect with people, and to keep growing, in faith,” she said.
Finding such friends within her parish in Brampton hasn’t been easy.
“It is difficult because we don’t have a young adults group there. However, events like this help,” she said. “You just need to know where to look.”
Varghese’s teammate Devina Notowibowo said the opportunity to make Catholic friends is what attracted her to the event.
“My faith is very important to me and it is important to me to have friends of the same faith to share ideas and to just grow together,” said Notowibowo, also 28.
Yearning for Catholic companionship is a common cause for young adults who seek out Faith Connections’ events, said program director Vanessa Nicholas-Schmidt.
“Many people who come to Faith Connections come because they are lonely ... in their faith,” she said. “Many young adults that we encounter have a core group of friends but those friends may not be of a Catholic or Christian background. They don’t necessarily know a lot of people in their faith tradition.”
That’s why the Sisters of St. Joseph founded Faith Connections back in 2005.
“They saw young adults as a population in spiritual need,” said Nicholas-Schmidt.
She said people who come to a Faith Connections event often indicate that the social interaction and forging of new friendships was the highlight of their experience.
Varghese is one of those people.
“Getting to know more young adults in the community ... does really help you grow in faith,” she said. “It is fun and it keeps you engaged in your faith.”