Luc Rinaldi, The Catholic Register

Luc Rinaldi, The Catholic Register

Luc Rinaldi is a freelance writer from Toronto. He studied journalism at Ryerson University.

NEWARK, N.J. - It was just past 10 p.m. when a dozen young adults pulled up in two minivans at Newark Penn Station. Nervously, they began to walk around the station, bagged meals in hand, saying “midnight run” to anyone who looked like they could use one.

For Meg Fraino, the organizer of this group of young Catholics on Salesian Gospel Roads (GR), the poverty in Newark was a new yet familiar site — she began her work with the Salesians in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Between Newark, New Orleans, Haiti and other sites, Fraino has attended or directed eight different Gospel Roads programs, week-long service retreats for young people. The latest was GR Newark, which ran from June 25 to July 3 and hosted 15 university aged young adults from Toronto and across the United States.

Gospel Roads is a three-stage program that has grown from a single service trip in South Orange, N.J., in 2001. The first stage is offered about six times a year across the United States for high school students as an introduction to service, while the second is a smaller, more refined experience for university aged youth offered twice a year. The third level takes place in Haiti and Mexico, where the service is needed most.

TORONTO - On Wednesday, July 13, I participated in Street Patrol, a weekly volunteer program to feed the poor and homeless of downtown Toronto. The initiative, which has run for 16 years, is based out of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church and commonly consists of a group of between 20 to 40 youth and adults. Participants gather at the church with sandwiches and other food, and walk through the downtown core, searching for those who could use a meal and a smile. The following is a log of my experience that evening.

4:08 p.m. – I’m standing in front of the Loblaws cheese section, frantically searching for Kraft Singles. I’ve already picked up a loaf of bread and some cold cuts for the sandwiches I’m about to make and give to the poor downtown. But I can’t seem to find the cheese I’m looking for. Provolone it is, then.

4:44 p.m. – After heading home, I begin to put together the sandwiches. Short a couple slices of bread and left only with the ends, I tell myself that I shouldn’t give anything to the homeless that I wouldn’t eat myself. Since I won’t eat those, neither will they. But perhaps my dad will. I sneakily switch them for a couple of slices from another loaf in the kitchen.

5:41 p.m. – I’m back at Loblaws after realizing that I still need paper bags for my “bagged” meals. They only sell them in packs of 100 — I have eight meals. I buy them anyway.

The past three years haven’t been easy for the Magnificat Charismatic Prayer Community, but that hasn’t stopped the group from dreaming big.

After losing its spiritual director and half of its members, it might seem like the community would pack it in. But instead, the prayer community is working towards turning its home, Regina Mundi Retreat Centre in Queensville, Ont., into the national shrine of the Divine Mercy.

“Divine Mercy is really the heart of Scripture,” said Fr. Matthew Robbertz, spiritual director of the Magnificat community. “God came to save us, and everything is made of His mercy.”

The Divine Mercy devotion is followed by more than 100 million Catholics worldwide, and it owes much of its popularity to Pope John Paul II. Until he began to spread the word of the devotion, the Divine Mercy was unknown to — or even rejected by — many Catholics. The devotion began with St. Faustina, a Polish nun who lived in the early 1900s. She had many visions of Jesus and Mary, which she described in a diary that would later be published. Her writings, originally widely condemned, would inspire the Divine Mercy devotion, which asks for the mercy of God and the ability to show mercy to others.

Rebekah Boscariol plans to swim across Lake Ontario for Sick KidsWhen she was eight, Rebekah Boscariol wanted to swim across the Pacific Ocean. And while it’s not quite her childhood dream, Lake Ontario – which Boscariol will cross on Aug. 5 – is still no small feat.

Boscariol, 17, will swim from Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., to the Toronto Lakeshore this weekend to satisfy a long-time yearning to do a solo distance swim and to raise money for the cardiac care unit at SickKids Hospital, a familiar locale for the Boscariol family. Rebekah and two of her five younger siblings have stayed at SickKids, including her 4-year-old sister Sophia, who had a successful heart surgery there in July.

In 2009, when a friend from Boscariol’s swim team mentioned the story of Marilyn Bell – the first person to ever swim across Lake Ontario – Rebekah decided she wanted to emulate the accomplishment.

Her mother, however, wasn’t so anxious to have her 14-year-old daughter swim more than 50 km.

Three hundred Catholic women from across Ontario met from July 10-13 in Hamilton for the 64th annual Ontario Catholic Women’s League Provincial Convention, where Marlene Pavletic of Thunder Bay was chosen as the new provincial president.

This year’s four-day conference, which concluded with the election of a new provincial executive including Pavletic, was themed “Centred on Faith & Justice — Led By The Spirit." Held at the Sheraton Hotel in Hamilton, the convention offered representatives of the CWL, which has 54,000 members in 13 dioceses across Ontario, a chance to reflect on the past year, deepen and celebrate their faith and set their goals for the future.

Those goals consisted mainly of this year’s three resolutions, each focused on health. The resolutions, submitted by Ontarian dioceses, aim to provide clean water for First Nations communities, limit sodium use in food and raise awareness of colorectal cancer. These resolutions, which were passed at the provincial level, will be submitted to the national CWL, which will gather Aug. 14-17. A final set of resolutions will be chosen at the national convention and set as initiatives for the CWL over the next year.

TORONTO — Free the Children, the international children’s rights group founded by Craig and Marc Kielburger, has denied a web site allegation that their charity supports abortion.

“The policy of the organization has never changed or wavered,” said Marc Kielburger. “To be very clear, Free The Children is apolitical, and does not promote abortion, nor has it ever.”

Kielburger was forced to respond to allegations published by LifeSiteNews that accused the organization of taking a “direct stand in favour of abortion.”

The accusation was based on two fact sheets that briefly appeared 13 months ago on Free The Children’s web site. The documents criticized the Conservative government’s failure to include abortion funding in the maternal health care initiative it presented at the G20/G8 summits in 2010. The most contentious sentence read: “There is a consensus that family planning, including abortion, is crucial to reducing maternal deaths and improving the economic status of women in the poorest parts  of the world.”

TORONTO — After more than 30 years with Serra Club, Mario Biscardi has been awarded the Harry J. O’Haire Award for exemplary dedication to the organization and its mission of promoting and fostering vocations to the priesthood and religious life.

The award, the club’s highest honour presented annually to one member of Serra International, pays homage to Biscardi for more than three decades of service to the club, which includes the formation of five different Serra Clubs and the founding of the annual Ordinandi Dinner in Toronto, among other accomplishments.

Biscardi received the award, named after the first president of the Serra Club, on July 8 in Ottawa during this year’s Serra International convention.

“It was just a tremendous shock,” said Biscardi, who lives in Toronto. “It’s a real honour and privilege. But you can’t help but feel humbled and modest.

TORONTO - “No snail mail: Who cares?” read a newspaper headline on the morning of June 3, when Canada Post began its rotating postal strikes. It may have been a sentiment shared by many Canadians, but certainly not by registered charities.

For them, it was a “nightmare,” according to Jim Hughes, president of Campaign Life Coalition (CLC), a pro-life charity that simply wouldn’t be able to operate without mail donations.

“We rely upon donations of up to $5,000 a day in order to keep our doors open,” said Hughes, adding that, conservatively, CLC lost $75,000 worth of donations as a result of the strike.

Donations that weren’t sent in June were not made once postal workers were sent back to work on June 27, he said. Instead of having regular contributors “double up” their gifts, the donations were simply lost.

Archbishop Francis John Spence, former archbishop of Kingston, died peacefully in his Kingston, Ont., home on the morning of July 27 at the age of 85.

Archbishop Spence, a former president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), served as a priest for 61 years and as a bishop for 44. In 2002, after two decades of leading the archdiocese of Kingston, he retired.

“As an archdiocese, we thank God for the gift of Archbishop emeritus Spence and his unfailing service and witness throughout the years of his priesthood and episcopacy,” read a statement from the archdiocese of Kingston.

Archbishop Spence was born in Perth, Ont., in 1926. After his ordination in 1950, he spent two years as an associate pastor at Kingston's St. Mary’s Cathedral, where he was the secretary to the archbishop of Kingston. In 1955, Archbishop Spence earned a doctorate in canon law from the Angelicum University in Rome after three years of study. After returning to Kingston, he fulfilled a variety of responsibilities and attended the Second Vatican Council, until his appointment as a bishop in 1967.

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