Features/Features

{mosimage}TORONTO - From the catwalk to the classroom, former fashion model Judi Vankevich is a role model of good manners for kids.

Vankevich, a.k.a. the Manners Lady, is a mother of three and former beauty pageant contestant who says learning manners was a staple in her family when she was growing up in Mississauga.

“I realize that Canadians have a worldwide reputation for having good manners,” she said.

Canadian Catholic School Trustees honour retired archbishop Joseph MacNeil

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{mosimage}Edmonton Archbishop-emeritus Joseph MacNeil will be honoured in June with Canada’s top Catholic education award.

MacNeil is to receive the Justice James Higgins Award. Sponsored by the Canadian Catholic School Trustees’ Association , it recognizes exceptional service in Catholic education.

Grant empowers Dufferin-Peel youth

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{mosimage}MISSISSAUGA, Ont. - Thirty-five Dufferin-Peel Catholic schools were excited to receive a total of $78,594 through the Ministry of Education’s Student Voice Program this month.

The program, now in its second year, provided financial aid to Grades 7 to 12 students at more than 850 schools across Ontario this year.

With the funding, the Dufferin-Peel schools will be able to move forward with 73 projects to help students become more engaged in learning and interacting with their communities.

Golden Rule hits class

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{mosimage}TORONTO - Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  

It is a simple and logical instruction that transcends many of the world’s religions, ethical codes and cultures — and one that is now being used in Toronto-area classrooms to help form a common bond between diverse groups of students.

“The Golden Rule preaches unity,” said Canadian filmmaker Tina Petrova. “You may have a different skin colour or a different label on your religion, but under God we are all the same.”

Carroll drops appeal of dismissal

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TORONTO  - Former Toronto Catholic school trustee Oliver Carroll has dropped an appeal of a court decision which found him guilty of conflict of interest charges and led to his removal from the Toronto board.

“At end of the day, it’s really about Catholic education. There’s no point in having this replayed every two months for the next year,” he told The Register.

St. Jerome's does e-mail fast

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{mosimage}On the campus of the university that helps fuel the world's instant communication addiction - e-mail all the time and everywhere courtesy of Blackberry phones - it might be something like heresy. But for St. Jerome's University staffer Jim Robson, giving up internal e-mails for a day is actually a spiritual exercise.

St. Jerome's had its first No E-mail Day Feb. 11 and held another March 11. The idea is that by fasting from internal e-mails, workers will be encouraged to actually talk to one another, said Robson.

Religious belief keeps anxiety at bay

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{mosimage}TORONTO - Maybe the bus ads should read, “There probably is a God, so stop worrying and get on with your life.”

A team of Toronto scientists has found that believers perform better in certain mental tasks because religious people are less likely to experience anxiety when they make a mistake. People who believe in God worry less.

“We suggest that religious conviction buffers against anxiety by providing relief from the experience of uncertainty and error, and in so doing, strengthening convictions and narrowing attention away from inconsistencies,” wrote psychology professor Michael Inzlicht and his team of researchers from the University of Toronto and York University in an article called “Neural Markers of Religious Conviction” published in Psychological Science on March 4.

Trustees trying to regain public's trust

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{mosimage}TORONTO  - Catholic school trustees say they are taking steps towards rebuilding trust among themselves and with the public.

“We need to be able to talk with each other and try to rebuild the trust that we once had,” said Angela Kennedy, who was elected chair of the board on Jan. 22 but has not been able to take her seat.

A public display of trustee infighting led provincially appointed supervisor Norbert Hartmann to delay the appointment.

People are not for sale

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{mosimage}TORONTO - While in Bangkok Jenny Cafiso met a woman who was happy to be in a prison cell with 50 other people.

“It was a relief. It was the only way to sort of get away from the clutches of these people,” recalled Cafiso, director of Canadian Jesuits International — an agency that supports the international missionary work of English Canada’s Jesuits.

Stem cell breakthrough doesn't calm ethical storm, yet

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{mosimage}TORONTO - A major breakthrough in stem cell research may take the science of regenerative medicine beyond the stage of turning human embryos into raw material for medical procedures, but at least one Catholic ethicist wants to know more before she declares the end of ethical wars over the research.

Toronto's Dr. Andras Nagy of Mount Sinai Hospital announced a new technique for creating pluripotent stem cells that can develop into most other types of human tissue. Nagy's method of turning just about any cells (skin cells, blood cells, etc.) into stem cells avoids the use of spare embryos from in vitro fertilization and bypasses previous techniques that used viruses to turn back the clock on adult cells.

Celebrating excellence in our schools

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{mosimage}Dear Readers,

In Ontario’s Catholic schools students, teachers, trustees, parents and administrators walk by faith, not by fear. The gallery of excellence on the following pages is testament to what faith can do with us, among us and for us.

There is a spectre of fear hovering over our history. Before Confederation immigrant Catholics knew the Anglican-controlled school system was a mechanism for their assimilation by the Protestant establishment. They knew very well the establishment held Catholic newcomers in contempt. At Confederation the danger of assimilation was real enough for Catholics to fight a political battle to ensure their education rights in the basic law of the new country.

As Catholic education rights were maliciously and illegally undercut after the First World War, Catholics relied on a secret weapon — religious sisters and brothers who would give their lives to ensure a Catholic education and to preserve the culture and spirituality which sustains the church. As high school became the new standard for a basic education after the Second World War, Catholic parents made financial sacrifices to give their children the necessary education in a Catholic context.

Winning the political and legal battle for full funding in 1984 and for more equal funding in 1998 hasn’t erased the spectre of fear. Today, Catholics worry about the bureaucratization of Catholic education, the focus on testing and measurement at the expense of free enquiry and intellectual growth, a funding formula that leaves boards in a financial straight jacket, falling enrolments everywhere but the suburbs surrounding Toronto and the failures of leadership which have become an embarrassment to us all.

Excellence is not founded in fear. Nor is it the product of worry. Examine especially the young faces in these pages. The excellence they have achieved is founded in faith, hope, love and charity.