Chaplain at his best relating to the student

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  • October 5, 2013

TORONTO - Linton Soares believes that a school chaplain can be one of two things for their students.

“You can be an event planner or you can be present to that student in the activities that they do,” said the chaplain from St. Patrick Secondary School in Toronto’s east end.

Soares believes that too often chaplains become more caught up with planning Masses, retreats and other school events for the student body as a whole rather than focusing on the individuals.

That’s why Soares, who’s also the religion department head and active teacher, on top of being a new father, originally got behind the bench on the basketball court while working at Neil McNeil High School.

“When I became a teacher I noticed that at the school that I started at there was a real need and a real desire for those to be involved on a different level with students,” said Soares. “A lot of the students that were involved in senior basketball were the ones that were at risk. I was happy that they came out so I could kind of get to know them better and to see why they were struggling.

“That’s what I really used coaching baseball and basketball for many years to do.”

According to Soares being behind the bench lets students see the human side of him by removing the classroom element from their relationship.

“Coaching gets you away from the curriculum base of things and it puts you in a spot where students really want to be,” he said. “Coaching a team, or being involved with a team as an assistant coach or whatever, really allows you to know the player outside of the classroom on a really personal level.”

It is that ability to connect with students through sports that had Soares jumping at the opportunity to coach the St. Patrick’s baseball team when he moved to the school last year.

Building relationships in this way allows Soares to not only connect with his players on a personal level but also their friends who regularly stop by his office after hearing about how he’s made a difference in a player’s life.

And it is not just at risk student athletes who are benefiting from Soares’ presence at St. Patrick’s.

“The student who is gifted who is on the honour roll is in my office just as much as the student who has been caught for trafficking drugs.”

Soares, who’s visited by 35 to 40 students a day for a variety of reasons, said today’s students have a deep yearning for something more than the curriculum from their schools. With so many students coming from “broken family units,” said Soares, often they are left searching for adults to fill voids in their lives and the best place to find them is at school.

“A lot of our students are yearning for something more than just academia and what they are yearning for I believe is a space where they can ask those questions about faith,” he said. “A lot of the times when students come into the office, it could be about various issues but it usually turns into a conversation really about their baptismal call. As a chaplain you are feeding the soul.”

Although Soares has borrowed from his time as a youth minister at St. Timothy’s parish as well as his education at the University of Toronto to fill his spiritual coaching playbook, the 30-yearold said everyone is equipped to do what he does.

“Everyone is equipped to have this role as a chaplain,” he said. “Unfortunately a lot of the times chaplaincy becomes an eventplaning gig.”

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