{mosimage}TORONTO -It’s “discriminatory,” “demoralizing” and should be taken down.

At least that’s what an Ontario Catholic parent group is saying about a new government web site called “School Information Finder.

Brian Evoy, president of the Ontario Association of Parents in Catholic Education , said the web site allows parents to choose schools based upon some discriminating indicators such as the percentage of students from lower-income families and those who don’t speak English as a first language. Provincial test scores are also a criteria.

Capturing the Catholic spirit of Quebec’s maritime region

{mosimage}GASPE, Que. - Nothing prepared me for the incredible variety of Catholic churches to be found in the maritime region of Quebec.

Turning south on 132 after visiting Miguasha Park, we drove to where the highway meets Chaleur Bay. In Carleton, a sign pointed to Mont St-Joseph. We drove along a trail which wound up high in the heavens, 555 metres to be exact. We were barely able to discern the mission’s outline in the thick fog. The site was founded by Carleton’s St.-Jean-Baptiste Society in 1878 when it erected a cedar cross, covered in white iron, to protect parishioners and save them from the sea’s dangers. That cross stood until 1918. That year, the statue of St. Joseph was taken in procession from the parish church up a rough trail. In 1935, inspired by Carleton’s parish priest, Abbe Plourde, the construction of a chapel began. Once completed, it became a popular pilgrimage site, due in great part to the Sisters of Charity who had a convent and school in Carleton. Pilgrims come here to pray in the beautiful oratory of the Blessed Virgin. There’s a museum and art gallery here, including an unusual crèche scene in which The Star of Bethlehem is a sea anemone and Baby Jesus rests on a mushroom.

Archdiocese of Toronto helps launch school-based faith initiative

{mosimage}TORONTO - The Gospel, liturgical worship and community witness will be the pillars of a new three-year faith initiative at the Toronto Catholic District School Board.

Toronto’s Archbishop Thomas Collins was scheduled to be the keynote speaker at the April 15 launch of “Nurturing Our Catholic Community through Word, Worship and Witness.”

Dufferin-Peel film warns of dangers of gang life

{mosimage}MISSISSAUGA, Ont. - When gunfire interrupted a funeral and killed Darren Watts’ friend, it was a wake-up call about gangs for the 19-year-old high school student.

“Beware of the company you keep. They can lead to your downfall,” he said during an interview at Ascension of Our Lord Catholic High School in Mississauga.

Watts is describing the message of Mouse, a short film on the dangers of gang lifestyle. He plays Clutch, a fictional gang leader who preys upon a 10-year-old  whom he nicknames “Mouse” and convinces to steal and sell drugs for him and the gang.

Mary Ann Robillard chosen as Toronto Catholic School Board's newest trustee

{mosimage}TORONTO - The Toronto Catholic District School Board has a new trustee but the same old problem, says a Toronto Catholic parents group.

Murielle Boudreau, chair of the Greater Toronto Catholic Parent Network, says appointing Mary Ann Robillard, a former trustee and one-time assistant to Oliver Carroll, to the seat vacated by Carroll is like appointing her old boss.

Toronto Catholic District School Board budget cuts for special ed programs

{mosimage}TORONTO - Close to 6,000 students enrolled in the Toronto Catholic District School Board’s special education programs will suffer from the upcoming reassignment of 67 teachers, says the head of the teachers’ union.

“How can you remove 67 teachers and not expect it to have a detrimental impact on the neediest students?” said Anthony Bellissimo, president of the Toronto Elementary Catholic Teachers , adding there is a waiting list to get needy students into special education classes.

The Passion of Christ in Toronto

Twice each year Catholics demand vivid, compelling images of Jesus. In Advent we set up creches in our churches and on our coffee tables to enact the drama of Christ’s incarnation. In Lent we turn our faces to the cross and endure with Jesus the tragic walk to the summit of Calvary.

Station 1

1. Jesus Condemned
In 2002 the world watched as World Youth Day transformed downtown Toronto with the stations of the cross on a huge scale. But the rehearsal earlier that afternoon were also moving, winding its way through a busy workday in ordinary clothes.

We do it every year. Every year we are happy when we see the little cows and donkeys, shepherds and angels, Mary the new mother and Joseph the worried father. Every year we grieve as Jesus falls the first time, the second time and the third.

This is not an exercise in biblical scholarship. Our creches confuse the nativity stories in Luke and Matthew. The stations of the cross include details of legends not found in any Gospel and leaves out important elements of Gospel accounts of Jesus’ execution.

Equitable financing sought for Ontario schoool extracurricular activities

{mosimage}TORONTO  - The Ontario Student Trustees’ Association says students don’t have equal access to after-school activities in the province.

In a January 2009 report called “Equitable Education? The Cost of Extra-curriculars in Ontario’s Schools,” the association recommended that the provincial government and school boards adopt a standardized fee system in Ontario and address the lack of access to after-school activities by students who can’t afford to participate.

“A substantial part of education is neither free nor equitable. The rich receive the benefit of experience while the poor receive a no-frills education; the wealthy can afford to participate in extracurricular activities while the poor cannot,” the report said.

South Pole trek aids Hamilton Catholic schools

{mosimage}A trek to the South Pole helped raise $101,595 for schools within the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board.

Four Hamilton, Ont.-area businessmen — Peter Turkstra, president of Turkstra Lumber, Steve Stipsits, owner of Branthaven Homes, Fred Losani, CEO of Losani Homes, and Mark MacLennan, director of manufacturing for The Econo-Rack Group Inc. — set out on their South Pole for Kids adventure in December in support of 35 charities that would provide help to underprivileged children. They raised $550,000 to support local causes.

Losani said they chose charities where they knew the money would go directly to helping the children. The Catholic school board had been particularly pleasant to work with after the group’s 2006 fundraising trip to the North Pole which Losani, Turkstra and Stipsits had completed with two other men, raising a half-million dollars.

$600 million pledged for Ontario schools

{mosimage}TORONTO - It’s a $50-million cut for computers and textbooks, but $600 million more for Ontario’s publicly funded school boards next year.

 Although declining enrolment and the economic downturn are leading to cuts in computer and textbook funding, Catholic education groups say students will benefit from the Ontario government’s commitment, announced in the March 26 budget, to more funding for public schools.

“These are difficult economic times for all sectors and I appreciate the steps the government has taken to maintain its support for effective initiatives around numeracy, literacy and secondary student success,” said Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association president Paula Peroni.

Earth Hour celebrated in Toronto area schools

{mosimage}TORONTO - Catholic schools in the Toronto area joined millions of people worldwide in turning off their lights for Earth Hour March 27, but for many, the practice is a daily routine.

In the York Catholic District School Board, 18 elementary schools have been monitoring their energy consumption by classroom, with students rushing to turn off lights, computers and other appliances when a special warning LED “Save Energy” sign warns them of over-usage. The initiative is part of the board’s Eco Champion program launched last year.

“So far these schools have saved 10 per cent of their total consumption on a yearly basis,” said Norman Vezina, the board’s senior manager of environmental services. “It’s amazing the impact they’ve had — you walk into (one of those) schools and you can’t leave a light on because students are chastising you.”