Luc Rinaldi, The Catholic Register

Luc Rinaldi, The Catholic Register

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

Ignatian spirituality, the foundation of the largest religious order of men in the world, had humble and unusual beginnings: three lay students sharing a dorm room at the University of Paris.

But these were no ordinary students. The first was Ignatius of Loyola, a converted soldier who had encountered God in a vision, and the other two were as deeply rooted in their faith as he. In that dorm room, Loyola led Francis Xavier and Peter Faber through the Spiritual Exercises, a 30-day prayer pattern he had developed. That same pattern is still used today, and is at the core of the Society of Jesus.

“The Spiritual Exercises becomes a means of knowing, experiencing, understanding and growing in intimacy with Jesus Christ,” said Fr. Bernie Carroll, S.J., director of the Martyrs’ Shrine in Midland, Ont. “You come to the end of it and realize God is in everything.”

The term social justice may seem inseparable today from images of building schools in Africa, defending the rights of the oppressed and lobbying in the corridors of power. The image it likely doesn’t provoke is that of Luigi Taparelli D’Azeglio, the 19th-century Jesuit who coined it.

Social justice, widely used to describe the promotion of human rights and dignity of every person, was introduced in 1840, but only recently has it taken such a large role in both the secular and religious world.

Even the Jesuits, its architects, have only developed a modern understanding of social justice in the last quarter century.

On the 400th anniversary of their arrival to Canada, the Jesuits are thinking 500 years ahead.

The Old Growth Forest Project, an initiative of the Ignatius Jesuit Centre of Guelph, Ont., is a replanting effort that, over half a millennium, will restore 100 acres of clear-cut land north of Guelph into the type of forest that greeted the first Jesuits in the area 160 years ago.

The project is intended to help promote spiritual development and ecological education in keeping with the spiritual values of Jesuit founder St. Ignatius Loyola. It is just one example of how Jesuit social justice is being expressed through ecology.

“We understand that the root of the ecological crisis is a spiritual crisis,” said Fr. Jim Profit, S.J., executive director of the centre. “It’s important to have people of faith address these issues from a spiritual perspective.”

TORONTO - For six years, the Toronto Commandery Foundation has been trying to find a site for a hospice that will allow terminally ill people to die with dignity.

But as the foundation has discovered, though everyone seems to agree on the need, no one wants to address it.

The foundation, a charity established with the co-operation of the Order of St. Lazarus, has spent its entire existence searching and negotiating for a site in North York to host a 10-bed end-of-life care facility. Though unsuccessful so far, there are no plans to stop looking any time soon.

“We’ve got all these oncologists saying we need a hospice, but there’s just nowhere for them to go,” said Jacqueline Wood, director of the foundation.

The Toronto Commandery Foundation was created out of this need, shared by a vast majority of Canadians. According to the Canadian Palliative Care Association, three-quarters of the 220,000 Canadians who die every year are in hospital or long-term care, while only 15 per cent have access to palliative or hospice care. On average, the cost of a bed in a hospice per day is $439, while a bed in a hospital or long-term care is nearly double.

TORONTO - When Canadian troops return home from Afghanistan in late August, chaplain Francesca Scorsone will finish a six-month stretch of working the “most fulfilling job” she’s ever had.

“Padre” Scorsone, a military chaplain stationed at Kandahar Airfield, has been ministering to fellow members of the Canadian Army there since March. As part of the last rotation of air support to be deployed in Afghanistan, she provides a faith presence through liturgy and Catholic pastoral care, and, just as importantly, an open and sympathetic ear to all.

“A padre walks with the people that they’re with,” said Scorsone, referring to the traditional name of a military chaplain. “My role is to be a mentor, moral guide and someone who they can talk to when they need someone to talk to.”

It’s not an uncommon need given the occupational hazards. Troops come to Scorsone with their worries, fears and doubts, she told The Catholic Register by phone from Kandahar. Whether it’s concerns about family back home, questions of faith and ethics that arise while at war or simply a story that needs to be shared, Scorsone is there for support and advice. And while she’s not trying to convert anyone, her Catholic roots certainly shine through.

MIDLAND, Ont. - Madrid wasn’t the only place where Catholic youth were gathered in force on a rainy, hot August weekend.

At Martyrs’ Shrine in Midland, Ont., another group of young Catholics made its own pilgrimage. And while it didn’t boast World Youth Day’s attendance of nearly a million and a half pilgrims, the Office of Catholic (OCY) Rally was still alive with the faith of the young. The annual rally, which ran from Aug. 19-21 this year, brought together about 600 Catholic youth ages 14-35 for a high-energy weekend of prayer, music, celebration and fun.

“It gives them a chance to feel like they’re connected to the universal Church,” said John Dawson, program co-ordinator and music director of the OCY. “Young people all over the world are celebrating at the same time.”

In fact, as pilgrims in Spain were walking the Stations of the Cross on the evening of Aug. 19, so were the young people in Midland — separated only by the six-hour time difference. Masses were celebrated at the same time of day, by Pope Benedict XVI in Madrid and Toronto Archbishop Thomas Collins in Midland. The two events also shared the same theme, “Planted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith.” The rally truly had WYD pegged down to a tee, even right down to the thunderstorms on the Saturday. But the Midland pilgrims — like those in Spain — didn’t let harsh weather dampen their spirits.

TORONTO - Toronto hosted 620 delegates of the Catholic Women’s League from Aug. 14 to 17 as they gathered for the 91st annual CWL National Convention, themed “Centred on Faith & Justice.”

The four-day conference, held at the Toronto Marriott Downtown Eaton Centre Hotel, presented four new resolutions that will be initiatives of the League in the coming year. The resolutions include prohibiting practices involving the destruction or manipulation of human embryos, providing support for children of missing and murdered aboriginal women, creating a national organ and tissue donation and transplantation registry, and mandating caffeine warning labels on energy drinks.

The resolutions were chosen from a group of more than a dozen proposals that had risen through the diocesan and provincial councils to the national level from parishes across the country.

TORONTO - Chris Fung was born and raised Catholic, but it was through art that he discovered his faith.

That art is about to take centre stage at Fung’s upcoming show, Our Best Is Now: How. The exhibit, which runs from Aug. 16-28, will feature more than 100 pieces from Catholic artist Fung, his sister Janine and cousin Nigel.

Catholic and artist weren’t always titles Fung held or coveted, though. At one point, he didn’t plan on being either.

In his teens, Fung broke away from his faith as “the grass was greener anywhere else.” But when a friend committed suicide, Fung began his journey back to his Catholic roots, whether he knew it or not. To pass the time, he began drawing, though he had no experience with art outside high school art classes. Over time, it became more and more important to him, and the faith seemed to find its way into his art. Now, 12 years later, for the first time his work will be on display at a downtown Toronto art gallery.

TORONTO - When 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 crossed on Aug. 6 — is still no small feat.

Boscariol, a 17-year-old student at Markham's St. Augustine Catholic High School, swam from Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., to the Toronto lakeshore, where she was welcomed by a roaring crowd of supporters as she touched land for the first time in 15 hours.

"I was really happy that I was done and thankful that it's over," said Boscariol shortly after completing the swim, amidst a slew of family, friends, reporters and cameras. "And I just can't believe that I just actually did it."

Boscariol, among the youngest of the 55 registered swimmers to have crossed Lake Ontario, finished only 23 minutes shy of the current women's record. Exhausted, she admitted she was disappointed she didn't beat the record with her time of 15 hours, 33 minutes and 15 seconds.

But she had more motivation than just breaking a record.

TORONTO - Since the days of Terry Fox, it’s not uncommon to find people walking, running or cycling across Canada. What’s unorthodox about the Crossroads walkers is that their cause is life.

This summer, a group of Catholic university age students has been trekking across the country via highways, country roads and city streets, donning t-shirts that read “Pro-life” in large, capital letters. The group, totalling 13 young people from across Canada and the United States, began the 2011 Crossroads Pro-Life Walk in Vancouver on May 21. After traversing six provinces, they will arrive in Ottawa on Aug. 13 where their three-month journey will end with a pro-life rally. The group passed through Toronto July 30-Aug. 1, where they were joined by about 50 local supporters.

“We have to keep awareness of the plight of the unborn and their mothers in the forefront of our complacent society,” wrote John Paul Meenan, a professor at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy, who walked with the group for two weeks. “Crossroads provides just such a witness for life, for the unborn, their mothers and fathers, and all those who may be ignorant of the great and inestimable dignity of each and every human being as a person made in the image of God.”

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