Ukrainian refugees are pictured in a supermarket that was turned into a refugee center in Korczowa, Poland, March 8, 2022. Cardinal Konrad Krajewski, the papal almoner, visited refugees in the center. CNS photo

Angel Foundation steps up for war refugees

By 
  • March 18, 2022

To meet the anticipated needs of the expected influx of refugee children fleeing Ukraine, the Toronto Catholic District School Board’s Angel Foundation, Loretto Fund plans to increase its annual budget from $5,000 to $50,000.

Coming up on its 10-year anniversary, the fund founded by Sr. Evanne Hunter of the Loretto Sisters was intended to assist refugee and newcomer families to acclimatize to life in Canada. The fund provides financial assistance to help with everything from basic needs, nutrition, accommodations, leadership activity fees, school uniforms and more. The aim, says John Yan, executive director of the Angel Foundation, is to ensure finances are not barriers to student achievement and success.

Toronto is a city built on newcomers and refugees, from the days of the Irish potato famine to the post-war influx of Italians, Ukrainians and Poles and continues to this day.

“Ukraine is primarily a Catholic country, so many of those refugees who come to Canada would probably end up in Catholic schools and they’ll have these kinds of special needs,” said Hunter, who reports there are several Loretto Sisters currently serving in Ukraine.

“For us, it’s important right now to take care of that because of our connection with our sisters in Ukraine. It seems like a great way to celebrate the 10th anniversary (of the fund).”

More than just another fundraiser, for Yan the situation in Ukraine hits very close to home.

“It’s kind of near and dear to my heart because I myself am a refugee,” said Yan. “I arrived (in Canada) at the age of three during the civil war in China. I grew up in Regent Park (in Toronto). When we landed at Pearson (International Airport) my dad had three dollars in his pocket. Because of the generosity of charities like the Knights of Columbus I remember all the helping hands that we’ve received from the community when we settled. This is just following through on that great Canadian legacy of helping people in need, particularly here in Toronto.”

Loretto Abbey Catholic Secondary School, which was founded by the Loretto Sisters, remains very connected to many of the sisters’ causes. The school makes an annual contribution to the fund and has raised up to $20,000 in a single year. Recent weeks have seen the school turn its focus to supporting Ukraine.

Principal Anne Bellissimo says the school carries the responsibility as Catholics carrying the Loretto name to help newcomers in need.

“The role of all Catholic schools is to stand with each other and support when we see there is a real need,” said Bellissimo. “Although the Loretto community is not predominately Ukrainian, like all the schools in our board, we’re doing every little bit that we can. Sometimes when a friend is in need you drop everything and you go do what you’ve got to do to help.”

The Loretto Fund works closely with students leaders across the board particularly at the three schools with strong historical ties to the Loretto Sisters: Loretto Abbey, Loretto College School and Mary Ward Catholic Secondary School.

Yan is honoured to see the legacy of social justice continue at Catholic schools across the city during these difficult times.

“It’s been awe inspiring,” said Yan. “It’s been humbling. You talk about walking in the light of Jesus but clearly these students and teachers clearly get it.”

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