{mosimage}TORONTO - Rev. Paul Bong Kyu Choi is not your grandfather’s kind of Calvinist. He’s definitely not Scottish, nor Dutch, and seems quite uninterested in the sort of dogmatic absolutism that translates into rules against dancing or contempt for Catholics trafficking in hocus-pocus spirituality and mystery.

The pastor of Toronto’s Holy Mountain Presbyterian Church is from Korea, where 19th-century Calvinist preaching swept the Asian nation and became the first widely successful brand of Christianity there. He is also working on his PhD thesis under Jesuit Father John Dadosky at Regis College. The Knox College student chose a Catholic thesis supervisor to deepen his understanding of iconic 20th-century Catholic monk and spiritual writer Thomas Merton.

People are not for sale

{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

{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.

Religious belief keeps anxiety at bay

{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.

Where have good manners gone?


{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.

Vatican and Britain unite in call for new development bank

{mosimage}When G-20 leaders gather in London April 2 to try to fix a broken global economy they will have to deal with a challenge their host, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, laid out on the front page of  L’Osservatore Romano Feb. 19.

Brown’s manifesto in the Vatican newspaper followed a meeting with Pope Benedict XVI in which the son of a Presbyterian minister and the supreme pontiff discussed the role of morality in keeping capitalism on track.

No easy answers with end-of-life care

{mosimage}TORONTO - There are no easy and pat answers on the difficult question of artificial nutrition and hydration for patients with little brain function and less hope of recovery, bioethicist Moira McQueen told a packed lecture hall at the University of St. Michael’s College March 25.

“Moral theology is quite humble about its findings. It demands moral certainty but not absolute certainty,” McQueen said in delivering her half of the fifth annual Cardinal Ambrozic Lecture in Bioethics for the Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute. McQueen is executive director of the institute.

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.

Future looks brighter for these Afghan refugees

{mosimage}TORONTO - Toronto’s Catholics have nearly tripled the number of refugees they’re bringing to Canada, but more parishes need to volunteer if the archdiocese is going to sustain the new level of refugee sponsorships.

In 2008 parishes and religious orders in and around Toronto sponsored 147 families who can’t return to their homelands for fear of war, persecution and chaos. That’s up from 51 in 2007. The number of parishes involved in sponsorship grew to 28 in 2008, up from 22 the year before. There are 32 parishes, out of 224 in the archdiocese, so far on board for sponsorships in 2009.

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.

L'Arche's 'laboratory for living'

{mosimage}RICHMOND HILL, Ont. - L'Arche is important if we think our humanity is important. It's founding principle and most basic commitment is L'Arche founder Jean Vanier's idea that we can be more human.

L'Arche Daybreak , the second of 130 L'Arche communities worldwide and the first established in North America, turns 40 this year. The community will celebrate this milestone with a May 12 gala at the Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts just down the street from the community's eight houses, its Dayspring Chapel and all its programs.