Martin Mark, director of the Office for Refugees Archdiocese of Toronto. ORAT is hosting a refugee settlement workshop at Our Lady of Sorrows parish Oct. 26. (Photo by Michael Swan)

Parish refugee workshop offered Oct. 26

  • October 18, 2013

Toronto - The Office for Refugees Archdiocese of Toronto is hosting its next refugee settlement workshop Oct. 26 for parishes with an interest in helping relocate people fleeing some of the world’s most troubled areas.

The workshop will be held at Our Lady of Sorrows Church in the city’s west end. The aim is to educate parishes and parishioners on how they can aid refugees. 

“The settlement workshop, or sometimes what we call resettlement training workshop, provides training for parishioners who are interested in sponsoring refugees in the diocese or those who are already involved in sponsoring refugees to give them resources and information about services, (and) also to help answer any questions... especially for those who are presently involved in resettling newcomers within the diocese,” said Luciano Moro, ORAT outreach worker.

He added that the workshops are interactive, will guide participants on different refugee resettlement issues and will share best practices.

ORAT offers these workshops at least four times a year, though individual parishes or multiple parishes can join together to request a workshop if they have about 10 to 20 interested people.

About 70 per cent of parishes in the archdiocese of Toronto have refugee committees.

“In the archdiocese of Toronto, we have about 225 parishes and from this number about 160 parishes have refugee committees, resettlement committees, groups who are already either involved in helping refugees who are under the sponsorship program or they are planning to select their own refugee and to do the fundraising and all the preparations to welcome a newcomer,” said ORAT director Martin Mark. 

“This (workshop) is for parishioners who are interested to learn how to help newcomers, how this program works, what role they can play, how they can co-operate, how they can share experience.”

The archdiocese has an agreement with the immigration ministry to initiate and sponsor refugees to come to Canada. A Canadian embassy overseas in the refugee’s country will process the case, so if they are approved, the refugee will have permanent resident status once they arrive on Canadian soil.

The workshops prepare parishioners for the work they do that fosters a successful sponsorship.

“At the end of the sponsorship, which is one year, we want to make sure there is an active citizen or landed immigrant in Canada who knows how to be financially independent, how to use different services and how to participate in the society,” Mark said. 

Moro says ORAT actively reaches out to representatives of relevant agencies, like Catholic Cross-Cultural Services and others funded by ShareLife, to send representatives to the workshops to share with participants information about the services they offer.

Mark said Moro’s workshop will cover what professional programs and services are available for newcomers, such as obtaining a social insurance number, health insurance, a library card, bank accounts, employment and language training.

For example, “a lot of service providers are members of ShareLife, members of Catholic Charities,” said Mark. “If in your area there is service available from a Catholic Charities member agency — we have excellent co-operation with them — then we use that service for the benefit of the newcomer, for the benefit of society.”

“Additionally, we look into inviting the school board, Catholic school boards, to tie information about the services for children who also arrive here as newcomers, as refugees, so families know how to access those services as well,” Moro said. 

The Oct. 26 workshop will take place at 3055 Bloor St. West from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. For more information, visit

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