TORONTO - If retirement residences of the past were places to die, today’s are places to live.

Over the past quarter century, retirement living — once an omen of a loss of independence — has begun to take on a new face. As the baby boomer generation begins to flock to residences and homes, they will no longer associate retirement with isolation or dependence, but rather with a healthy lifestyle in an active community.

“We’re always trying to change the perception of aging,” said Maureen Scordamaglia, community relations manager at the Scarborough Retirement Centre in Toronto’s east end. “We want to show that just because you’re a senior doesn’t mean that everything ends.”

The centre’s programs back up that claim. From art, music and fitness classes to regular outings and parties, the centre allows retirees to “continue in senior years and be able to thrive.”

Toronto school board implements elementary school uniform policy

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TORONTO - When eight-year-old Isabella Gouveia walks into St. Francis of Assisi Elementary School to start school this month, she — along with the rest of her classmates — will be sporting a new navy and white uniform.

And so will all students in elementary schools as the Toronto Catholic District School Board implements its uniform policy for all elementary schools. Currently, high schools have a uniform policy in place.

The board passed the “dress code for pupils policy” on June 23. Schools that have an existing uniform policy or dress code can continue with that dress code.

TCDSB chair Ann Andrachuk said the board has always had an “appropriate dress code policy” which prohibits clothing with logos, short shorts and “anything that promoted hatred.” The new policy takes it one step further with a uniform policy for all elementary schools.

Passion to learn, dedication lead to perfect marks

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TORONTO - For top scholar David Marrello, the secret to a perfect report card is rooted in a passion for learning and dedication to his work.

Marrello capped his high school career at Toronto’s Bishop Allen Academy by earning a perfect 100 per cent in all of his classes (Advanced Functions, Calculus and Vectors, Chemistry, Economics, English, Physics and Religion) for the 2010-11 school year.

From here he moves on to post-secondary studies at York University’s Schulich School of Business this September. He earned York’s President’s Scholarship Award for his high school accomplishments.

Marrello divulged one of the secrets to his success.

“I believe in quality over quantity,” he said.

On homework, Marrello spent from two to four hours every day, keeping an 8 p.m. curfew on studying.

Oakville mother recognized for her volunteer efforts

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TORONTO - Oakville Catholic parent Michele Sparling is this year’s recipient of the Father Mazerolle Award from the Ontario Association of Parents in Catholic Education.

The award honours a lay or religious volunteer who supports the goals of OAPCE and has contributed substantially to the Catholic education community through at least two years of volunteer service.

Sparling, a mother of two, credits her family, including her mother, Betty, and grandmother, Catherine, for inspiring her to get involved in her community. She said that volunteering in Catholic education is important because “it’s where my kids are.”

“It’s also the way I was brought up. I was brought up that you give back,” said Sparling. “It’s something I can do that helps add value for not only my kids but other kids.”

Pals tie as top students in York Region

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Engineering enthusiasts Harris Chan and Shums Kassam tied for being the top York Catholic District School Board scholars, ending their high school careers with a near perfect 99.6 per cent average.

Both are students from St. Robert Catholic High School. The pair of classmates and friends are enrolled in the same engineering program at the University of Toronto this fall.

Chan and Kassam were part of St. Robert’s International Baccalaureate program. As students in the IB program, they formed study groups with their peers to examine and analyse course material.

An interesting note on Chan is that despite being colour blind, he has the ability to solve the Rubik’s Cube in less than 10 seconds. He once held the North American record with the fastest official time at 7.33 seconds. At his school, Chan co-founded the table tennis club and tutors students in math, science and physics.

Pro-life web site aims at high school students

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TORONTO - A new Toronto-based web resource is seeking to establish the first national network of pro-life high school student clubs.

Student Life Link (www.studentlifelink.ca) is a joint project of the Toronto Right to Life Association and National Campus Life Network. It was first launched in March, with a student conference being planned for this school year. It provides a network and resources for high school students to form and develop pro-life clubs in their school.

Paul Klotz, executive director of Toronto Right to Life, said Student Life Link is “planting seeds” to help build a pro-life culture in Canada and will “help (students) prepare for what they will face in university and the anti-life ideology they would encounter.”

There are a few pro-life clubs in some Greater Toronto Area high schools. But this would be the first time that a network and formal connection between high school pro-life clubs would be established.

Seeking a voice for Catholic voiceless

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TORONTO - Citing the absence of a Catholic parents’ voice in the debate over Ontario’s equity policy for schools, a Toronto-based group of parents was formed to get the opinions of Catholic parents heard in the corridors of power.  

Teresa Pierre, spokesperson for the Ontario Catholic Parent Association, said the group was formed about three months ago in Toronto because Catholic parents’ voices were silent during the recent acrimonious debate on the Toronto Catholic District School Board’s equity policy and wasn’t being addressed by other parent groups.

“We have some remaining concerns addressed in amendments still to be considered,” Pierre said.

In May, the TCDSB passed an equity and inclusive education policy that included provisions against discrimination based on sexual orientation. It also prohibits any form of social or cultural discrimination 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. These will be voted upon at the Aug. 31 board meeting.

Padre finds military chaplaincy ‘exciting way to serve God’

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TORONTO - When Canadian troops return home from Afghanistan in late August, chaplain Francesca Scorsone will finish a six-month stretch of working the “most fulfilling job” she’s ever had.

“Padre” Scorsone, a military chaplain stationed at Kandahar Airfield, has been ministering to fellow members of the Canadian Army there since March. As part of the last rotation of air support to be deployed in Afghanistan, she provides a faith presence through liturgy and Catholic pastoral care, and, just as importantly, an open and sympathetic ear to all.

“A padre walks with the people that they’re with,” said Scorsone, referring to the traditional name of a military chaplain. “My role is to be a mentor, moral guide and someone who they can talk to when they need someone to talk to.”

It’s not an uncommon need given the occupational hazards. Troops come to Scorsone with their worries, fears and doubts, she told The Catholic Register by phone from Kandahar. Whether it’s concerns about family back home, questions of faith and ethics that arise while at war or simply a story that needs to be shared, Scorsone is there for support and advice. And while she’s not trying to convert anyone, her Catholic roots certainly shine through.

Youth in search of hope in Tulita

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TULITA, N.W.T. - On the edge of turning 22, Chad Bonnatrouge doesn’t drink, doesn’t smoke, hasn’t touched drugs, lives with his grandparents and sticks to himself. He graduated from high school in Tulita a couple of years ago and is uncertain what his next move should be.

He’s got family in Vancouver and they have invited him to join them. He’s been there once and is unsure whether he wants to go back. For now he stacks firewood and fetches groceries for his grandparents.

He volunteers for the Tulita Land and Financial Corporation. The volunteer hours qualify him for payments from the corporation, which administers funds from the 1994 Sahtu Dene and Metis Land Claim Agreement.

Sr. Celeste Goulet remembers how at his graduation ceremony the whole village roared in approval when Bonnatrouge’s name was called. Graduation for this quiet, lonely kid was perhaps not a sure thing.

Sr. Tromblay tries to bridge Tuktoyaktuk’s rich-poor divide

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TUKTOYAKTUK, N.W.T. - Kedra and Destiny Kimiksana got to try cherries for the first time at the Catholic mission house in Tuktoyaktuk with Sr. Fay Tromblay. Once they had been warned about the pits, I tried teaching them “Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor...” Of course the seven- and eight-year-old girls didn’t know what a tinker or a tailor was. In fact, beggar man and thief were also new vocabulary.

After a couple of tentative bites and discovery of the first pit, both girls decided cherries were pretty good. They also got to try a bit of avocado, which Tromblay added to their salad. Salad is something they only eat at Sister’s house.

They liked the avocado, but found it difficult to pronounce.

Kids in Tuktoyaktuk are familiar with traditional Inuvialuit foods. They love tingmiaq (goose), pipsi (dried fish) and muktuk (skin and blubber of a whale). They eat a lot of imiraq (soup made from caribou, goose or fish).

For generations, Sr. Celeste is connection to the Church

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TULITA, N.W.T. - When Sr. Celeste Goulet was nine years old her dad died. She grew up a fat, lonely kid in Guelph, Ont., who was paradoxically good at sports. Badminton was her game.

When she was first attracted to religious life, Goulet went looking for an order that ran an orphanage. By the 1970s there weren’t many of those left. Some mostly Polish Franciscans, the Felician Sisters, were the last women’s order in North America that still owned an orphanage.

By the time Goulet arrived in Tulita 32 years ago, the young sister had a degree in early childhood education and a conviction that what happens to children matters.

She spent a year talking over options with Tulita parents — do you want a day care or a pre-school? She carefully explained the difference. The parents opted for education that would increase their children’s chances of success in school.