Cosmo Femia, third from left, and twin brother Damiano founded the Daughters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary club at Loretto Abbey Catholic Secondary School to empower students like Victoria and Olivia Marinelli to serve those in need of help both locally and globally. Photo courtesy Olivia Marinelli

A Marian dream is put into action

By  Angelica Vecchiato, Youth Speak News
  • December 2, 2020

Clothed in traditional blue and white garments, radiating a great light and youthfulness, the Mother of God appeared to Cosmo Femia in a dream, beseeching in imploring words: “You have a big responsibility, all those souls in your hands; will you bring them to my Son?”

Bewildered and frightened, it was a recurring dream for the Italian-Canadian educator, one that led him to found the Daughters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (DIHM) club at Toronto’s Loretto Abbey Catholic Secondary School several years ago.

“Why did I have this dream? I do not know,” said Femia. “I do not feel I am worthy or deserve this great honour. Are there people more worthy to do it? Absolutely. The fact is, it was asked of me by Our Lady and I had to respond.”

With his co-founder and twin brother Damiano, along with teacher moderator Antonio Manco, the club has expanded from three students to over 200, making DIHM one of the largest clubs at the all-girls academy.

Femia, the religious department head and chaplain at Loretto Abbey, said he owes the club’s to its founding ideas.

“Our motto is that we are the servants of the poor, hands and feet of Jesus Christ,” he said. “When the girls grow up to fulfill positions of leadership, it doesn’t matter that they achieve material success, but what really matters is the type of person they will be on the inside. DIHM teaches the girls to show their love of Christ through the way they live their life and I think that is what is most attractive about it.”

The DIHM club calls its members to lead a life of service through acts of charity for the needy, at home and abroad. DIHM takes part in various charitable endeavours locally, and internationally has raised funds to build solar panels in Tanzania and has hosted a barbecue in partnership with St. Peter’s Parish in Vaughan, Ont., to raise funds for medical and school supplies for the poor in the Dominican Republic, among many other deeds.

Victoria Marinelli, former 2018 DIHM president and Loretto Abbey alumna, reminisces fondly of her experience.

“Running the club is an ongoing project,” said the 20-year-old who is now a student at the University of Toronto. “Our biggest initiative, pasta night, takes nearly a year of planning. Closer to the date of the event, we get together with executives to discuss both monetary and food donations. Then facilitating the actual night is a big responsibility because it means co-ordinating 300 guests, our donors and student volunteers. It is really a leadership role because you are involved hands on with the sponsors.”

Marinelli’s 18-year-old sister Olivia, an Abbey alumna and 2020 president of the DIHM club, said the club also produces noteworthy fruits locally.

“Many Grade 9s join the club and they form solid friendships for their high school years and beyond,” she said. The club “allows us girls to see a Christian club’s values in action.”

Manco raves about the Femias brothers’ leadership and guidance.

“It’s not often that you hear beautiful faith stories from such devout people,” said Manco. “The Femias embody the true meaning of discipleship as they don’t lead the group of students but instead join as equals on their faith journey.”

The dream goes beyond the halls of Loretto Abbey.

“If COVID has taught us anything it is that we need Mother Mary and Jesus in this world,” said Femia. “It would be a fulfilment of my dream and truly a miracle if we were to have a club like DIHM in each school across the city, targeted at student leadership to promote the morals and values of Christ.”

(Vecchiato, 16, is a Grade 11 student at Loretto Abbey Catholic Secondary School in Toronto.)

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