Development and Peace’s Luke Stocking speaks to students taking part in A Catholic Call to Serve before they head out to volunteer with charitable organizations. Photo by Geoffrey Lee

Day of service connects students to Catholic community

  • October 15, 2015

TORONTO - About 150 high school students took to the streets of Toronto to answer the annual A Catholic Call to Serve (ACCTS).

Twelve schools from the Toronto Catholic District School Board sent student leaders to volunteer their time and energy to different charitable organizations across the city as part of ACCTS Day.

The ACCTS program began around 2008, organized by the board’s Catholic Student Leadership department. Geoffrey Grant, head of the department and superintendent of education, said students are always so energized after their volunteer experience.

“It makes them witnesses for social justice,” said Grant. “They are really energized. They get it, they see it and then they become the leaders back at the local level.”

Only a handful of students from each school are chosen to participate in ACCTS each year. Students who participate are usually from Grades 10 to 12 and are often leaders in their school’s chaplaincy team.

Lisa Malcolm and Joe Bucci, religious education/family life resource teachers and organizers for ACCTS, said this day of service is meant to encourage students to connect with the larger Catholic community. Many of the students had never done volunteer service like this before and organizers hope they will be encouraged to do more from now on.

“I was involved in Street Patrol and the kids (in my group) had never even been downtown,” said Bucci. “Seeing homeless people going to them, looking at them, making eye contact with them and just talking to them as a real human and friend... I was just amazed that the kids had such energy and such spirit and such enthusiasm when they went.”

Grant said that after ACCTS day, many of the students come back to the shelters, clinics and community centres that they visited. Many students also go back to their chaplaincies to raise money and awareness in their schools and parishes.

“This program has grown exponentially. We started with three to four schools,” said Grant. “It’s catching on and it’s igniting the Catholic imagination of the kids to really be empowered to go out there and be really active in their community.”

The students began their day at Holy Rosary parish in midtown Toronto with introductions and Mass. Trustee Jo-Ann Davis welcomed the students and talked to them about why service is an important part of Catholic education.

“For me, Catholic education isn’t limited to 8:30 to 4:30,” said Davis. “It’s about not only what you do at school, but what you do outside of that school and how your faith informs your decisions.”

Luke Stocking, Central Ontario animator for the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, was this year’s keynote speaker. He talked to the students about the importance of protecting the environment and supporting refugees.

“It was really great because a couple of the places that we went to there were refugees... so it was a nice tie in,” said Grant. “A lot of our schools are fundraising with their parishes for refugees as well.”

This year, ACCTS partnered with 10 organizations from across the city, including Development and Peace, Mustard Seed, Good Shepherd, Romero House, Street Haven, Safehaven and Adam’s House. Some groups volunteered at fertility clinics and other groups also went out for Street Patrol.

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