Sheila Dabu Nonato, The Catholic Register

Sheila Dabu Nonato, The Catholic Register

Sheila was a reporter for The Catholic Register from 2008-2011.

A graduate of the University of Toronto's international relations program (M.A.) and Carleton University's School of Journalism (M.J.),  she has worked at The Canadian Press, CBC Ottawa, The Toronto Star, The Jordan Times and IRIN Middle East.

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.

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 ( 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.

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.

Archbishop emeritus Austin-Emile Burke passed up a promising career pursuing the Canadian dream in the National Hockey League to take a shot at another goal: to become a priest.

Archbishop Burke died peacefully on Aug. 12 at Evans Hall, Parkstone Enhanced Care. He was 89.

In his 61 years of priesthood, including 23 years as bishop of Yarmouth, where he was born, Archbishop Burke far exceeded his goals, says Halifax Archbishop Anthony Mancini.

Archbishop Burke's pastoral approach endeared him to parishioners during his years in Yarmouth, Mancini said.

“He was one of their own, very much appreciated by the people there,” said Mancini. “He was like a native son,” referring not only to Archbishop Burke's pastoral ministry but also his Acadian heritage.

TORONTO - The right of Catholic schools to remain faithful to Catholic teaching on matters of marriage and sexuality will be respected under Ontario’s new equity and inclusive education policy, says Education Minister Leona Dombrowsky.

“There’s no question that in Catholic schools, they have the constitutional right to teach their faith in their schools and that has not changed,” Dombrowsky told The Catholic Register.

But Dombrowsky also said all school boards will be required to provide support groups for gay students. “We’ve made that very clear as a government,” she said. “It’s not an option for school boards on whether or not they will have a group to support students dealing with issues around sexual orientation.”

Although such support groups are often called gay-straight alliances, Dombrowsky said Catholic schools are not required to use that name. There has been considerable objection to importing the gay-straight alliance terminology because of concerns that the name implies acceptance of the gay lifestyle.

TORONTO — In Catholic Marriage: An Intimate Community of Life and Love, Dr. Patricia Murphy presents a booklet to help engaged couples preparing for the sacrament of Marriage.

“Sometimes it seems that the world has gone wedding crazy. Turn on the TV any evening and there is a good chance you will find a reality show dedicated to some aspect of planning the perfect wedding,” writes Murphy, an assistant professor of moral theology at Toronto’s St. Augustine’s Seminary.

The book invites engaged couples to look “beyond ‘Bridezilla’ ” and the myth of the “perfect wedding.” Instead, couples can look forward to their preparation for marriage by discussing important issues such as their future family and building a strong foundation for a lifetime commitment rooted in love and faith.

Murphy talks about marriage as a Christian vocation and life-long “commitment to love.” She also introduces couples to the beauty of the Catholic Church’s teachings on family and marriage as an “intimate community of life and love.”

TORONTO — He was a man of principle who wasn’t afraid to stand up for the rights of the unborn, say friends of long-time Toronto pro-life activist Dr. Ray Holmes.

Dr. Holmes, 93, passed away peacefully at home surrounded by family on July 8. His funeral was held July 11 at St. Joseph’s Church in Brampton, Ont.

Campaign Life Coalition national president Jim Hughes called Dr. Holmes a friend and mentor for over 30 years and a “generous and kind man.” During his last hours, Hughes and his wife visited Dr. Holmes where his family gathered to pray for him.

“He clenched my hand just as strongly as he had the first time I met him. He was a man of determination and faith,” Hughes said.

Witnessing the courage of Christians helping Jews in Nazi-occupied Holland during the Second World War inspired Canadian social justice pioneer Gerald Vandezande's faith and anti-poverty work.

A co-founder and the first director of the Ottawa-based Citizens for Public Justice, Mr. Vandezande passed away peacefully at his home on July 16. His funeral was held on July 21 at Pine Hills Visitation Centre in Toronto.

For four decades, Mr. Vandezande worked in public policy development and political advocacy. He was awarded the Order of Canada in 2001. His ordepioner citation described him as a “powerful and respected voice for social justice.”

Long-time friend Mark Vander Vennen recalls one of his last conversations with Mr. Vandezande who reminisced about his early influences.

“(The war experience) had a big impact on him. He saw first-hand some extremely courageous things done in resistance to the Nazis by Christians in the name of the Gospel,” said Vander Vennen, executive director of the non-profit Shalem Mental Health Network. “That had a life-long impact on him, including the defense and hiding of Jews.”

TORONTO - Bishop Paul Marchand, S.S.M., of the Diocese of Timmins, Ont. died of natural causes on July 23 while on summer vacation.

A “humble” priest with a collaborative pastoral approach, Bishop Marchand headed the Diocese of Timmins at a challenging time of declining numbers of parishioners and priests in the community.

“He was a very collaborative-oriented person. He really believed in the role and responsibility of the laity,” said Fr. Pat Lafleur, rector of Timmins' St. Anthony of Padua Cathedral.

“He was in a difficult position because we have a shortage of priests up here that is rather pronounced,” he added.

There are currently about 14 priests, at least half of whom are from outside the diocese, Lafleur said.

During his tenure, Marchand had to make difficult decisions such as closing five parishes because many residents were moving out of the community and there was a decline in church attendance and vocations to the priesthood.

TORONTO - A Toronto-based parent group is crying foul over comments made by a Toronto Catholic board superintendent which they claim makes light of Catholic parents' concerns about the board's new equity policy and “appear to mock the teaching of authentic Catholic doctrines.”

The Ontario Catholic Parents' Association criticized remarks by superintendent Patrick Keyes to Xtra, a gay and lesbian magazine. In a June 22 article, Keyes was quoted as saying, “every time a teacher spoke about homosexuality they had to also say to students, ‘By the way, you’re intrinsically disordered.’ ” OCPA is seeking an apology from the board.

"I cannot envision any Catholic teacher ever saying what Keyes imagined," said Teresa Pierre, spokesperson for the OCPA. "This is a caricature of what the catechism teaches, and it is unacceptable to find it attributed to an administrative officer charged with handling the Church’s doctrines in a respectful manner.”

Pierre added that “the catechism does not teach people that people are disordered by homosexuality, only that the acts are disordered.”