Rehab centre puts Catholicity front and centre

  • September 26, 2008
{mosimage}WOODBRIDGE, Ont. - Vita Nova is one addictions rehabilitation centre that isn’t shy about its Catholic colours. On the staircase wall of the building’s main entrance hangs a large painting of a young woman, head in hands, with a statue of Mary in the background facing away.

Franca Carella, the centre’s founder, explains that the painting, the handiwork of a former client at the Woodbridge centre, expressed the artist’s struggle with faith while battling addiction — in her case, the belief that Mary had turned her back on her.
"In Vita Nova's philosophy, we begin by seeing a broken individual and trying to put him back together to what he was meant to be," Carella said.

Carella believes so strongly in the importance of faith in addictions rehabilitation that this summer she began fund-raising to build a Catholic chapel on the centre's grounds. The chapel could be used for quiet reflection by anyone seeking to reflect and pray regardless of religion.

"I feel that the chapel is needed here – that has been in my dreams – and we have put on paper what this place should look like," she said.

Carella said she has wanted to have a chapel on the grounds since she and her husband first founded Vita Nova in spring of 1987, but building a residence and other facilities and providing quality programs has taken priority.

In June, she decided it was time. Carella has already raised more than $21,000. Despite a need for thousands more, she said she believes they could get started by next summer.

Vita Nova welcomes 100 clients daily, including the 26 residents that the centre accommodates on the grounds. It has a sports field, an indoor swimming pool and a gazebo, among other things. Vita Nova has 15 full-time and part-time staff including two psychotherapists. The centre also welcomes the help of a physician who volunteers Saturdays to examine clients' physical health.

The program leads clients through several common approaches to rehabilitation: lectures, small group discussions, different therapies – art therapy being one – domestic chores, personal and family counselling and later on they can receive career counselling as well.

Carella doesn't allow the Catholic faith to slip to the background. A Catholic priest celebrates Mass for clients every week in one of the building's small recreation rooms. Carella said 65 to 75 per cent of the clients are Catholic and many of the residents attend Mass and the other spiritual or religious activities and events.

Catholic clients are encouraged to take classes every Friday evening, where a priest takes them through a variety of topics regarding the faith. Every Sunday, Mass and Confession are offered.

For those who might reject the notion of religion, Carella said she at the very least encourages them to participate and recognize the importance of having a relationship with God and serving Him.

For Carella, the importance of God in the centre's success is a given.

"Personally, I believe that nothing is possible without God," she said. "Without faith I probably would have died in my childhood."

Carella said her father, a count in a former Italian city which is now part of Croatia, was killed when she was young and she spent years in concentration and refugee camps. The belief that somewhere, somehow, there were greener pastures kept her going.

Canada had her green pastures, she said, and enough reasons to give back to her fellow men and women.

Vita Nova operates almost completely on the basis of financial donations, Carella said. The Ministry of Health provides funding for the day program and the United Way provides enough funds to pay the salary of one counsellor.

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