Left, Fr. Kappler. Right, Fr. Machacek. Photos by Michael Swan

Hope motivates Southdown

  • May 18, 2023

In the name of mental health and the healing ministry of the Church, the Southdown Institute gathered a bushel or two of its best friends at the Joseph D. Carrier Art Gallery in Toronto’s Columbus Centre for its annual fundraising dinner on May 11.

It was the first time Southdown had been able to hold such a dinner live and in-person since the pandemic struck in 2020. It was also an opportunity for Nativity of Our Lord senior pastor Fr. Michael Machacek to tell people what the Catholic mental health facility has meant to him.

“My time in Southdown was a time of learning and healing. Learning about myself,” Machacek told about 80 diners. “This may have been one of the most pivotal moments in my priesthood, the opportunity to learn so much about mental health.”

That a reset was necessary wasn’t what surprised Machacek. That the process of healing would enrich his life and bring him closer to the people he serves was the hidden treasure.

“It’s not just what happens to us. It’s what we then bring to the community,” he said. “I owe a big debt of thanks to the Southdown Institute and when I was approached around 2010 to join the board of directors, I absolutely said yes.”

In fact, Machacek has written Southdown into his own will.

The accredited mental health clinic that can accommodate up to 20 inpatients offers treatment for mental health and addictions to clergy, vowed religious and lay ministers in the context of faith. The institute goes by the motto, “Healthy ministers for a healthy Church.”

The mercy and healing that Southdown strives for in treating patients is what all Catholics would want for their Church, said Southdown’s president and chief psychologist Fr. Stephan Kappler. 

“That is when we’re at our best,” he said. “When we’re motivated not by fear, but by hope — hope that we draw from our risen Lord Jesus.”

The dinner honoured two Toronto Catholics with trees to be planted in their name on the grounds of the facility near Bradford, north of Toronto. The awards went to the just retired Archbishop of Toronto, Cardinal Thomas Collins, and to long-serving Southdown board member Joanne De Laurentiis.

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