From left, Maureen Leon, board president of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Toronto, scholarship winner Ronald Perinpanayagam and Agnes Thomas, executive director. Photo courtesy Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Toronto

Charities’ scholarships focus on special service

  • October 19, 2023

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Toronto is deepening its commitment to support postsecondary learners by awarding five new scholarships — valued at $5,000 apiece —  starting in 2024.

Applicants for these awards will be youth or adults seeking a diploma, degree or further professional development in special services sectors such as social work and community development.

The Sisters of Service Scholarship will be bestowed to two newcomers who have come to the Greater Toronto Area to learn and work. Another prize, yet to be named, will be offered to a recipient studying palliative care or gerontology. One candidate will earn the Indigenous Community Youth Leadership Scholarship. As for the Lifelong Learner Scholarship, its title suggests an exemplary mature student has the inside track of being chosen.

Michael Fullan’s legacy — Fullan was executive director of Catholic Charities for 29 years — is being honoured with the non-profit with the new Michael Fullan Community Service Awards.

Recipients of these $1,000 awards will possess a distinguished track record of work in the special services sector or as a meaningful servant of a local community. Specifically, the selection committee will look for individuals with 10+ years’ experience, youth or young adults demonstrating volunteerism excellence and difference-makers in a minority community.

“These new awards and scholarships represent a good-news story,” says Catholic Charities executive director Dr. Agnes Thomas. “It is gratifying to be able to recognize those who make such important contributions to our neighbours with a sign of our appreciation, while these new scholarships reflect the importance of encouraging and supporting communities historically underrepresented in the social services world, as well as encouraging those who are keen to respond to the growing need for elderly and end-of-life support.”

Catholic Charities also named Ronald Perinpanayagam and Carmen Underwood as the two 2023 recipients of the Father Paul Lennon-Doreen Cullen Social Work Scholarship (worth between $1,000 and $5,000), which was introduced in 2013. Both are completing online Master of Social Work program at the University of Windsor. The former is in his second year and the latter in her first year.

A supporting letter for Perinpanayagam’s candidacy stated, “he has a natural charisma which attracts, inspires and supports confidence in people of varying age groups and developmental stages.”

Perinpanayagam, who has worked as a Master of Social Work placement student with the Journey Home Hospice, is passionate about end-of-life care, gerontology and social services management. He relayed to The Catholic Register why he felt drawn to this field.

“I think I have always felt a special call to support individuals who are most in need,” said Perinpanayagam. “Social services remind me of the corporal works of mercy and being able to give back to the world in service. Knowing that we commit so much of our time to our work, I have always wanted to align the work that I would do with the areas of life I found to be meaningful, important and impactful.”

Perinpanayagam received his scholarship while attending a special celebratory Mass and reception on Sept. 27. He is still discerning his future professional path but hopes his further education at the University of Windsor will help him one day become a leader in supporting initiatives championing “health equity, equality and improvement.”

Underwood, currently working for the North Simcoe Youth Wellness Hub-Catholic Family Services of Simcoe County in Midland, Ont., appreciates being awarded the scholarship and shared her career aspirations.

“I am young, so I am open to different experiences. Right now, I work in youth mental health. I want to continue supporting this (demographic) in the future,” she said.

In Underwood’s application essay, she said “as human beings, we need to work together and have supports accessible to everyone who values human dignity, respect, equity and social justice.”

A backer of Underwood wrote in a letter that “clients appreciate her sincerity, authenticity and approachability, and her actions always align specifically with the teachings of solidarity, working for the common good and preferential treatment for the poor.”

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