TORONTO – When Julia Corridon arrived in Toronto five years ago, she found herself being referred, through a shelter, to an unexpected beacon of hope in the form of the Furniture Bank.

Daily Mass, rosary groups among the services offered by long-term care facilities

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TORONTO - Elodie Robichaud remembers well praying the rosary as a young girl and is pleased she is able to continue this tradition at Cardinal Ambrozic Houses of Providence.

Homes like Providence Healthcare help to nurture the spiritual lives of residents. Robichaud really appreciates that spiritual component of the community at the Toronto long-term care home. She considers the faith community there, which prays together and attends daily Mass, “family.”

“Being able to go to Mass every morning, it’s a big gift for us,” said Robichaud.

Robichaud, 86, and her husband Gaspard, 84, attend daily Mass and rosary group together.

The rosary group at Providence began about 25 years ago when resident Jack Scriven started volunteering. Scriven, 94, leads the group that has up to 40 people gathering every day at the chapel.

Healthy lifestyle gives seniors their best life

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TORONTO - Mirella Monte walks more than 6 km five days a week. She meets her walking group at 6:30 a.m. and then does a tour of the neighbourhood in about one hour and 10 minutes. Monte is one healthy 68-year-old.

“There’s a lot my children and my grandchildren can give me but I have something to give back too,” said Monte. “I can be an example to them in what I can do.”

Monte is the picture of good health. In addition to walking, she is on a bowling team and takes exercise classes for people over 50 when the weather is sub par.

Her healthy eating supplements her active lifestyle.

“We don’t buy any prepared food,” said Monte. “We cook our food.” In her household, they eat a bit of everything: lots of soup, vegetables, fruits and meat — although they seem to want less meat the older they get, she said.

Boomers take a new attitude towards retirement

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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.