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.

Cancer claims life of TCDSB spokesperson after two-year battle

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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 trustee apologizes for "insensitive" remarks about undocumented immigrants

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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,

Literacy test score success

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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.

Student trustees endorse gay-straight alliance

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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.

Fathers are guardians of the family and Church

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TORONTO - Lukasz Petrykowski is a Catholic apologist and lawyer who worries about the type of world his two boys will face when someday they become husbands and fathers.

Being a dad in the 21st century is like fighting a cultural battle against the gradual feminization of men in society, he says. He believes fatherhood is at a crossroads that threatens families as we know them today.

Petrykowski calls this a crisis of fatherhood. It stems from a gender debate about whether gender is merely “social construction” or is a God-given biological reality. Radical, feminist thinking suggests it is the former, a notion Petrykowski refutes.

He doesn’t subscribe to what he calls the “metrosexual myth.” The so-called metrosexual man is concerned with fashion and appearance, and incorporates a feminine nature to his masculinity which can include wearing makeup, nail polish and other beauty adornments previously only seen on women. Petrykowski and other Catholic dads say a way to address this crisis is through their Catholic faith and by holding steadfast to the traditional notion of fathers and husbands as guardians of the family and the Church.

Men and women parent differently: sociologist

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OTTAWA - Children yearn to have a close relationship with their biological parents and they thrive when they are raised by their own mom and dad, an American sociologist told a family conference.

Contrary to popular belief, the gender of parents is relevant to a child’s outcomes in life, he said.

“Everything I have to say would have been common sense to my grandma,” Brad Wilcox from the University of Virginia told the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada annual conference.

“Now we have elaborate social science to prove grandma was right.”

Wilcox, a marriage and cohabitation researcher, said children do best when both parents participate in child rearing. He describes that as a counter-cultural and sometimes controversial statement in a society that endorses several different parenting models.

Cultural changes are undermining marriage

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OTTAWA - Cultural changes in recent decades have caused marriage and fertility rates to plummet, according to an American professor.

University of Texas at Austin professor Mark Regnerus told the recent Institute of Marriage and Family Canada (IMFC) conference that young people are told “there’s no rush,” and that one must “be your own person” before marrying.

As a result, marriage rates have dropped in all age groups, but precipitously in the younger age groups. The percentage of men aged 20-24 who have never married “has just exploded” since 1970 when only 35 per cent of men in that age group had never married. Now almost 89 per cent have not married. The next age group, 25-29, has also jumped from 10.5 per cent never married in 1970 to 62 per cent.

Among men who marry under the age of 24, religion is “most important” to 44.7 per cent  and “very important” to 25.1 per cent, he said. Fidelity and monogamy are also rated highly.

Regnerus noted the ages of 20-29 are years of peak fertility for women.

Property sales are key to settlement

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ANTIGONISH, N.S. - For those looking for property in northern and eastern Nova Scotia, there are deals to be had.

The agent representing the diocese of Antigonish, the Chaisson Group, lists 58 properties at www.churchpropertysales.info, 16 of which have already sold. Most of the properties are lots or acreage.

If the diocese got its asking price for every property it would make $7,775,600. The asking prices for the properties already sold comes to $1,604,000.

Selling the properties is a key part of the overall strategy to raise $18 million by November 2012 in order to satisfy settlement agreements with victims of clerical sexual abuse.

The diocese is asking $264,900 for a waterfront home in Iona on Lake Bras d’Or, two hours drive from Antigonish. But a more typical property is 2.5 acres on Bayfield Beach Road in Antigonish for $125,000.

From bereavement to a new plan

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ANTIGONISH, N.S. - Since arriving as the bishop of Antigonish in November 2009, Bishop Brian Dunn has spent a lot of time listening and he’s learned how important listening is to his job.

“We need to discern the movement of the spirit,” he said. “We need to revitalize the concept of consultation.”

This agonizing, slow process of listening to as many people as he can — hearing their anger, disappointment and grief — isn’t just a practical strategy for building consensus and making sure as many Catholics as possible feel they’re part of the diocese’s future direction. Dunn believes listening is a spirituality that provides insight into what the Church is.

“I’m convinced that consultation and a spirituality of communion is it. I think that’s the only way,” he said.

It’s not the approach everyone expected from the canon lawyer whose administrative past has included stints as a member of the college of consultors and associate judicial vicar of the marriage tribunal in Windsor-Grand Falls, Newfoundland. But 20-months in, nobody in Antigonish can credibly accuse Dunn of narrow, rule-bound legalism.

Yarmouth’s Church suffers with town

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YARMOUTH, N.S. - On Norbert LeBlanc’s street there are three houses for sale. They’ve been for sale long enough for the realtor’s signs to start fading and growing rust. House prices in Yarmouth dropped 11.9 per cent between the first quarter of 2010 and 2011, said the Nova Scotia Association of Realtors.

Southern Nova Scotia’s unemployment rate was 12.7 per cent in April, down from 15.9 per cent a year earlier, according to Statistics Canada.

What’s left of the diocese of Yarmouth — a diocese that hasn’t had a bishop since Bishop James Wingle was appointed to St. Catharines in 2001 — now has to raise money to pay for sex abuse settlements past and future by selling real estate.

But it’s not as grim a prospect as you might think, LeBlanc told The Catholic Register.