OTTAWA - When Ottawa Archbishop Terrence Prendergast left Montreal for Toronto on Aug. 13, 1961 to begin his novitiate in the Society of Jesus, he admitted shedding some tears aboard the overnight train.

“I think it was just leaving my parents and my friends,” he said. “I knew I wasn’t going to be back for some time.”

But he awoke the next morning to a new adventure and a sense of joy that has accompanied him, with a few exceptions, ever since.His life as a Jesuit has taken him from Toronto to Montreal, on to Halifax, Regina and Ottawa with sabbaticals in Rome and Jerusalem. A Scripture scholar, he has moved from teaching high school students to teaching university students and seminarians in Toronto, Halifax and Regina, and to teaching the faithful at large in the episcopacy, first in Toronto as an auxiliary bishop, then to Halifax and Ottawa as archbishop.

“My life has been very happy,” he said. “Even with a few crisis places, basically it’s been happiness every day.”

TORONTO - The right of Catholic schools to remain faithful to Catholic teaching on matters of marriage and sexuality will be respected under Ontario’s new equity and inclusive education policy, says Education Minister Leona Dombrowsky.

“There’s no question that in Catholic schools, they have the constitutional right to teach their faith in their schools and that has not changed,” Dombrowsky told The Catholic Register.

But Dombrowsky also said all school boards will be required to provide support groups for gay students. “We’ve made that very clear as a government,” she said. “It’s not an option for school boards on whether or not they will have a group to support students dealing with issues around sexual orientation.”

Although such support groups are often called gay-straight alliances, Dombrowsky said Catholic schools are not required to use that name. There has been considerable objection to importing the gay-straight alliance terminology because of concerns that the name implies acceptance of the gay lifestyle.

TORONTO - A Toronto-based parent group is crying foul over comments made by a Toronto Catholic board superintendent which they claim makes light of Catholic parents' concerns about the board's new equity policy and “appear to mock the teaching of authentic Catholic doctrines.”

The Ontario Catholic Parents' Association criticized remarks by superintendent Patrick Keyes to Xtra, a gay and lesbian magazine. In a June 22 article, Keyes was quoted as saying, “every time a teacher spoke about homosexuality they had to also say to students, ‘By the way, you’re intrinsically disordered.’ ” OCPA is seeking an apology from the board.

"I cannot envision any Catholic teacher ever saying what Keyes imagined," said Teresa Pierre, spokesperson for the OCPA. "This is a caricature of what the catechism teaches, and it is unacceptable to find it attributed to an administrative officer charged with handling the Church’s doctrines in a respectful manner.”

Pierre added that “the catechism does not teach people that people are disordered by homosexuality, only that the acts are disordered.”

The Toronto Catholic District School Board is looking for a new school building at Dante Alighieri Academy as opposed to the addition the province wants to fund to alleviate overcrowding at the Toronto high school.

The board will be making a business case to the Ontario Ministry of Education this month for additional funding for a new building for students at the current site near Dufferin Street and Lawrence Avenue West, said local trustee Maria Rizzo.

The TCDSB is seeking at least $12 million on top of the $16.4 million allocated by the province for an addition so that Dante Alighieri will be able to accommodate all of its 1,300 students at a single site. For years, Rizzo said students have been dispersed over three locations, with the board renting space at Bathurst Heights Secondary School, Sir Sanford Fleming Academy and the Columbus Centre.

TORONTO - Long-time pro-life activist Linda Gibbons called for Canadians to stand up against abortion and protest the curtailing of pro-lifers’ freedom of expression on abortion at the June 25 Toronto Pro-life Forum hosted by Campaign Life Coalition.

Gibbons said a “critical indignation” was needed to protest Canada’s abortion laws that are “promoting crimes against humanity.”

She also slammed the 1994 Ontario Supreme Court injunction barring pro-life activists from picketing, sidewalk counselling and interfering with access to abortion services or the “economic interests” of downtown Toronto clinics, a law that has led to her being arrested 20 times and imprisoned for 10 of the past 17 years.

“They are interfering with my freedom and I am offended by that,” she told the crowd of 185 participants at the Hotel Novotel who attended the two-day conference.

“In a free society, freedom of speech is a critical element. Why are we arrested for words when acts of murder are committed there?”

Unions, strikes and lockouts have dominated headlines and preoccupied the government as Canada eases into summer. So how many sermons are being preached about the right of workers to unionize? How often do Catholics recall the teaching of successive popes that workers have a right to a just wage that will provide for their families and old age?

Windsor and District Labour Council chaplain Fr. Bill Capitano — Fr. Cap down at the union hall — is convinced those sermons need to be preached.

“You might lose some people, but I think you would gain more,” Capitano told The Catholic Register. “The Church is talking about decent, living wages and the right to unionize. Maybe I’m dreaming, but I think that would be good for the Church.”

Beginning with the Canadian Auto Workers’ brief strike against Air Canada in mid-June, the Conservative government has taken an aggressive stance against strikes which Labour Minister Lisa Raitt said threaten the economy. The CAW and Air Canada decided to arbitrate their pension dispute before back-to-work legislation could take effect. Legislation imposed on Canada Post and its locked-out workers has saddled workers with lower pay raises than the employer had initially proposed in bargaining. Meanwhile, the Public Service Alliance of Canada is predicting a bitter fight over government plans for job cuts.

TORONTO - Beloved mother, friend and “passionate advocate for Catholic education,” Toronto Catholic District School Board spokesperson Mary Jo Deighan died peacefully with her family by her side at Mississauga's Trillium Health Centre on June 17. Mrs. Deighan, 54, battled cancer on and off for the last two years.

Neil MacCarthy, spokesperson for the archdiocese of Toronto, said in an online post that he admired Mrs. Deighan's courage in battling cancer. This came at a challenging time for her and the board. As spokesperson, she fielded tough calls after the board was taken over by the province in 2008.

“During difficult days for the TCDSB, Mary Jo battled not only complex communication issues but her own personal health challenges yet always had time for colleagues and maintained a watching brief on issues as long as was possible,” wrote MacCarthy.

“I can still recall with embarrassment reaching her by cellphone on an 'urgent' matter only to learn that she was in the midst of a chemotherapy treatment, IV in arm and cheerfully reassuring me that it was no problem to call as her treatments went on for the better part of the day and it was an opportunity to catch up on phone calls and e-mails,” McCarthy recalled.

He said Mrs. Deighan approached her role as a ministry.

TORONTO - Toronto Catholic school trustee Frank D'Amico has apologized for "insensitive" remarks he made concerning a family of undocumented immigrants trying to enroll a child in a Catholic school, and assured people that the Toronto Catholic District School Board does not turn away students because of their parents' immigration status.

The embattled trustee made the remark in response to calls from immigrant advocacy groups to make him an "example" of a "zero-tolerance policy (against) racism'" at the TCDSB during a June 23 special board meeting.

"I sincerely regret the recent statements that have been reported in the media. They were insensitive and the comments reported do not reflect the Toronto Catholic District School Board policies on the admission of students," D'Amico told the audience in a prepared statement.

Social Planning Toronto raised its concerns at the meeting regarding an e-mail D'Amico wrote about undocumented students. Social Planning Toronto is a non-profit advocacy and research group of 150 community organizations and includes Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Toronto,

All Toronto area Catholic School boards managed average or better than average pass rates on province-wide standardized literacy tests this year.

Students in the York Catholic and Dufferin-Peel Catholic board scored above the provincial average of 83 per cent.

Eighty-eight per cent of Grade 10 YCDSB students who wrote the Ontario Secondary School Literacy Test for the first time were successful. Also, more students with special education needs wrote the test compared to last year and the students experienced a five per cent increase in achievement.

“Our test scores continue to be among the highest in the province and this is something we are proud of,” said Elizabeth Crowe, chair of the YCDSB. “However, at the heart of those scores is the great teaching and learning happening in our schools. Our schools are clearly engaged, vibrant hubs of activity, focused on student achievement.”

At the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board, 85 per cent of DPCDSB students were successful. This is the fifth year in a row that Dufferin-Peel Catholic District Students exceeded the provincial average.

Toronto Catholic student trustees are calling for the establishment of gay-straight alliances and “anti-homophobia education” in Catholic schools.

In a report tabled at the June 16 meeting of the Toronto Catholic District School Board, student trustee Natalie Rizzo  recommended implementation of an “inclusion and belonging week” in September. Rizzo said anti-homophobia education “is not sex education” and recommended it for all religion classes in elementary and high school.

The report, prepared by the TCDSB Catholic Student Leadership Impact Team, said that anti-homophobia education is in keeping with a mandate in Catholic education “to promote equality, democracy, solidarity, for a just, peaceful and compassionate society.” It also said anti-homophobia education would create a safe learning environment for all students.

In May the TCDSB passed an equity and inclusive education policy that included provisions against discrimination based on sexual orientation and said all types of social or cultural discrimination was unacceptable in its schools. Amendments have been proposed to that policy that would place even greater emphasis on the right of Catholic schools to operate according to Catholic religious beliefs.