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.

Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School BoardTORONTO - It wasn’t an ordinary March Break trip for Maria Masucci and her sons, Christian and Michael.

Masucci, a superintendent with the Dufferin Peel Catholic District School Board, took Christian, 11, and four-year-old Michael to the diocese of Jacmel in Haiti, where signs of the January 2010 earthquake are still all too obvious.

Masucci says the purpose of the trip was to breathe life into her kids’ lessons of faith by helping one’s neighbour.

Christian said he made new friends who taught him how to be grateful and “not to take simple things for granted.” In between soccer games, the St. Michaels’ Choir School student sang hymns for students at Le Bon Pasteur Elementary School.

Michael chimes in that he “wants to be a bishop in Haiti” when he grows up.
Natalie Rizzo with one of the street children from Calcutta’s Loreto Day School Sealdah. (Photo courtesy of Natalie Rizzo)NIAGARA FALLS, Ont. - In the joy and resilience of the street children of Calcutta, Natalie Rizzo found her faith deepened and her passion for helping others awakened.

Rizzo, the student trustee for the Toronto Catholic District School Board and a student at Toronto’s Cardinal Carter Academy for the Arts High School, travelled to India last year with the Loretto Sisters as part of an outreach service trip. The program was offered through the TCDSB’s “Adventure Learning Experiences.”

“It was a humbling experience to connect and share educational opportunities with the street children,” she said of her time volunteering at Calcutta’s Loreto Day School Sealdah.

“My passion for social justice was very much heightened, (along with) the idea of responsible citizenship. When I got back from India, I wanted to run for student trustee and speak on behalf of the marginalized,” Rizzo, 18, told The Catholic Register at the recent Lighting the Way student conference in Niagara Falls.
Leonardo Defilippis, star of Vianney. (Photo courtesy of St. Luke Productions) TORONTO - A one-man play showcasing St. John Vianney’s message of hope is coming to the archdiocese of Toronto in early May.

Vianney, starring Leonardo Defilippis, will be performed at five parishes throughout the archdiocese, beginning May 2 at Brampton’s St. Marguerite d’Youville Church and wrapping up at St. Isaac Jogues Church in Pickering on May 6. In between, it will be performed at Woodbridge’s St. Clare of Assisi (May 3), St. John Vianney in Barrie (May 4) and Toronto’s St. Andrew Kim Church on May 5.

The play brings a message of hope during a time of great challenge for the Catholic Church, said Defilippis, who is also founder and president of St. Luke Productions.

“It highlights the Church in a very special way. It brings out the importance of the priesthood and role of the priest for the people and what is the role of the people for the priest,” he told The Catholic Register.
Toronto opera singer Robert Pilon, who is a parishioner at Blessed Sacrament parish. (Photo courtesy of Robert Pilon)TORONTO - The room falls silent as Toronto opera singer Robert Pilon sings the first lines of the Les Miserables classic “Bring Him Home.”

Pilon, who for three years starred as Phantom in Toronto’s Phantom of the Opera, has performed this song and other classics at many galas for the Caritas Project, a Catholic charity that works with people recovering from drug and alcohol abuse. The organization also supports people with mental health issues and behavioural problems.

Pilon’s volunteer work with the community reflects a successful musical career that is now geared towards helping others and working with charities. He is also involved with Toronto’s Blessed Sacrament Church, where he is a parishioner.

“It is a place of faith. I offer my services at Easter and Christmas to Blessed Sacrament Church so I can thank God for my gift,” he told The Catholic Register.
Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ AssociationTORONTO - The Catholic Board Council of the Ontario Student Trustees’ Association has released a new social justice report urging Catholic students to become active in organizations promoting justice and service to marginalized groups.

“(The report) is trying to get the message across that social justice is such an integral way of making Catholic education come alive,” said Olivia Suppa, president of the Catholic Board Council.

“Let us live as Jesus wanted though nurturing the growth of Catholic leadership, and through opening our eyes and hearts to serve the victims of injustices in our communities, our country and our world,” according to the online report entitled “Social Justice: Inspiring Active Citizenship in Catholic Education.”

Members of the Catholic Board Council prepared the report over two years, with input from Catholic student trustees from across the province. The trustees call for an “active” component in the religion curriculum based “on our call to act as responsible stewards of humanity.” It also “encourages that local and global initiatives, outreach programs and positions related to social justice be included in religious education in the classroom, as well as integrated into the cultural life of the school community.”
Chris D’Souza, former equity and diversity officer with the Dufferin Peel Catholic School BoardTORONTO - A vocal group of Catholics loudly expressed its concerns that the Toronto Catholic school board’s draft equity policy could undermine Catholic teachings on same-sex relationships.

About 120 people attended the first equity policy public consultation at St. Mary’s Catholic High School April 18 and heard four panellists speak on the equity policy, including Chris D’Souza, a former equity and diversity officer with the Dufferin Peel Catholic School Board.

The McGuinty government introduced its equity and inclusive education strategy prohibiting discrimination based upon race, religion, gender and sexual orientation in 2008. Boards are expected to implement equity policies this school year.  

The Toronto Catholic District School Board’s draft policy states that the board “gives pre-eminence to the tenets of the Catholic faith” which are “congruent and compatible with the protections entrenched in the Ontario Human Rights Code, the Constitution Act 1982 and confirmed in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”
Shabhaz Bhatti's brother, Peter, spoke of his family's shock and grief. He believes 'Pakistan has lost its Martin Luther King'.TORONTO - The life of slain Pakistan minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti is an inspiration to all Christians to live in the footsteps of Jesus, said Toronto Archbishop Thomas Collins at an April 16 Memorial Mass at St. Andrew's Catholic Church.

"We look to the example of great heroes like Shahbaz Bhatti to show us the way, to share the light of Christ by what they say, how they live and their life of sacrifice," Collins told about 1,800 people, including some politicians and members of the Pakistani community from different faith groups, who packed the church.

The challenge is "not to be complacent but be inspired" by Bhatti's martyrdom, he said.

Bhatti was gunned down on March 2 by Taliban militants who claimed responsibility for the assassination because of Bhatti's vocal opposition to Pakistan's blasphemy laws. Bhatti spoke out against religious discrimination and openly supported the release of Asia Bibi, a Christian mother of five sentenced to death for alleged blasphemy. He said the blasphemy laws are being used to prosecute innocent people from minority religious groups in the country.
Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield addresses students at Marshall McLuhan Catholic High School April 11. Hadfield shared his experiences of space travel and preparations for his next mission in 2013. (Photo by Sheila Dabu Nonato)TORONTO - Hearing Col. Chris Hadfield’s space odyssey, students at a midtown Toronto high school say they were inspired to aim high to achieve their goals.

Seventeen-year-old Marshall McLuhan Catholic High School student Eric Zucchetto was one of more than 1,000 cheering students who heard about the Canadian astronaut’s adventures in space at an April 11 school assembly.

Zucchetto said he was struck by Hadfield’s determination to succeed. And just as Hadfield has made Canada proud through his achievements in space, the Grade 12 student said he wants to do likewise on the soccer pitch.

“I want to represent Canada, too, just like how he represented Canada as an astronaut,” Zucchetto said.
Maggie Banga during one of her earlier service missions in Honduras. She and husband Mark are currently in Ethiopia. (Photo courtesy of the Bangas)Toronto missionaries Mark and Maggie Banga arrived in Addis Ababa in the middle of the hustle and bustle of Ethiopia’s capital city where cars and minibuses crowded the streets and waves of the city’s 3.5 million people filled the sidewalks.

“The air is thick with exhaust and smoke. Our first days were really overwhelming, despite the fact that we have visited very poor countries before,” Maggie recalls in a blog post.

The Bangas left their jobs in Toronto to spend the early years of their married life as a missionary couple.

“The walk to our minibus is heart-wrenching. There are forgotten people everywhere, orphans, single moms, cripples, elderly and especially people in desperate need of medical care,” Maggie wrote.

Before heading to Ethiopia last year, the Bangas spoke to The Catholic Register about their call.
Sr. Theresa Ongo became a Missionary Sister of St. Peter Claver in Toronto after a harrowing escape from her native Vietnam. (Photo by Sheila Dabu Nonato)TORONTO - At 13, Sr. Theresa Ongo of the Missionary Sisters of St. Peter Claver escaped in the dark of night and rode a rickety wooden boat from Vietnam to eventual freedom in Canada.

She escaped Vietnam in 1987 with her uncle on a boat that had a legal a capacity of 20 but carried more than double its limit. The seas were treacherous and food was scarce, Ongo recalls. Everyone on the boat received only a spoonful of water and condensed milk each day.

“On the boat, I felt I was at the end of my life,” she said.

What kept her going was praying the rosary her mother gave her before she left.