Students in Catholic schools across Ontario will take part in a province-wide Mass, among other activities, to celebrate the first ever Ontario Catholic Student Youth Day on May 7. Photo courtesy of Toronto Catholic District School Board

Ontario marks Catholic Student Youth Day May 7

  • May 1, 2015

TORONTO - The efforts of a few is bringing acknowledgement to all Catholic students as the province prepares to celebrate the first Ontario Catholic Student Youth Day on May 7.

“This event really goes to show the deep provincial support among our Catholic partners in Ontario,” said Joe McLeod, president of the Catholic Board Council of the Ontario Student Trustees' Association and the York Catholic school board's student trustee.

This time last year McLeod, along with vice-president Quinn Scarlett from Thunder Bay, put forward a proposal to the Ontario Catholic School Trustees' Association (OCSTA) to hold a province-wide event during Catholic Education Week.

Discussions began as the two associations sought how best “to promote and embrace Catholic youth throughout the province,” said McLeod.

“We arrived at the idea of a day dedicated to Catholic youth which would include several Catholic features,” said Scarlett.

The event aims to “unify the Catholic youth in the province,” more than 600,000 strong, he continued.

“It's not every day you get to witness 29 Catholic school boards come together to celebrate such a powerful event," said Scarlett. “What a beautiful demonstration of the power of youth's voice.”

Highlights of the day are a province-wide Mass, greetings from the respective local bishop and the viewing of a video produced by the student trustees containing messages from various famous alumni and other high-profile figures.

“Our partners on the Catholic board council of the Ontario Student Trustees' Association are doing their part to create a supportive environment,” said Premier Kathleen Wynne in the video. “Ontario is a province built on inclusion and that spirit begins right here in our schools. That is what education is all about, creating opportunities.”

This acknowledgement pleased the Archdiocese of Toronto, which assisted in producing the video, which can be found on YouTube (search Ontario Catholic Student Youth Day).

“We are grateful for the support of the government,” said Neil MacCarthy, archdiocese spokesperson. “We are proud of the role that publicly funded Catholic education plays in strengthening our community and the province.”

Calgary Flames captain Mark Giordano, Enrico Colantoni, Fr. Henry Carr alumni and star of the television series Flashpoint, and comedian Rick Mercer also voiced positive opinions on Catholic education.

Mercer said Catholic education provides students with a unique experience which, when combined with the curriculum, offers Catholic students a great advantage in the days to come.

“Young people ... are responsible for shaping the Canada of tomorrow,” said the host of the Rick Mercer Report, “(and) the combination of experience and education will give each and every one of you a tremendous advantage.”

Brian O'Sullivain, director of the OCSTA, said working with McLeod and Scarlett gives him reassurance about the future of Catholic education.

“It has been my pleasure to see the leadership shown by Joe and Quinn in spending the year organizing this event,” he said. “Engaging youth in Catholic education is an integral part of the future sustainability of our faith. With leaders like Joe and Quinn, I feel the future of Catholic education is in good hands.”

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