Michael Fullan's legacy at Catholic Charities will be honoured with a new award in his name. Register file photo

Charities’ award honours Fullan’s legacy

  • May 4, 2024

When the time of recognition finally arrived for one of the leading figures in social work in Toronto Catholic circles for nearly three decades, the man who had committed a large part of his life to assist so many took the selfless route. 

“I don’t like talking about it,” said Michael Fullan, former executive director of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Toronto (CCAT). “I really didn’t, and to an extent, still don’t want or need that attention.” 

Whether Fullan wants it or not, his body of work is being remembered through a new award to be given out by CCAT this September, the Michael Fullan Community Service Award(s). 

Despite initially not wanting to draw any unneeded attention to himself, Fullan conceded the award that has taken his name is a humbling honour he is happy will shed light on difference-makers in the community.

While the award is dedicated to Fullan through name, it will also highlight individuals whose actions mirror Fullan’s over 29 years leading Catholic Charities. The award will recognize achievements in the human services sector and meaningful service to a local community within the Archdiocese of Toronto. 

Agnes Thomas succeeded Fullan at Catholic Charities after working with him for years while with Catholic Cross-Cultural Services. Thomas praised Fullan and his accomplishments. 

“We would like this award to be a beacon of hope and inspiration for people who are dedicating their lives to this sector and for those committed to the core values and principles of social work and social service practices that are rooted in the universality of what we do and what Michael did,” she said. 

The award is broken into three categories. The first will highlight outstanding contributions of an individual with 10 or more years of experience in the human services sector. The second will be for a child or youth up to 29 years of age who has shown commitment to serving a local community and the final looks to showcase an individual who’s made an exceptional difference to a minority community. Each award will be accompanied by a $1,000 prize. 

“All of the sectors chosen are things very important to Michael,” said Kaye Quan, staff lead for CCAT’s Scholarships & Awards Committee. 

Honouring Fullan’s decades-spanning work at CCAT comes on the back of his retirement in early 2023. With a year having passed, Fullan himself has taken time to look back on his career supporting meaningful work across downtown communities and beyond. 

“Our job was to identify the most pressing social needs in the community and to develop resources and strategies to be able to address them through our member agencies,” Fullan recalled. “I often said that no two days were the same, and even though the challenges could be daunting at times, I never felt alone. I always felt great support not only from the hierarchy but from that spirit within the agency of us doing the work together. It was a wonderful place to be.” 

An award with three distinct categories is a fitting representation of the work that Fullan took on as an executive director at CCAT, with the retiree often balancing an ongoing fight to improve public systems while still taking care of the individuals being affected. Whether it was children, women, the homeless, people with disabilities or seniors, there wasn’t an area of public service that Fullan did not have a lasting impact on. 

“My end goal is to serve the poor, and if you keep your eye on the ball and your work becomes all about service, you can’t go too wrong,” Fullan said. “It is also about improving systems, while good people are doing wonderful things to try to keep people from going hungry or being outside, I think with more effective social policy in a country as rich as we are and with the resources we have, there should not be anyone going hungry.” 

Not one to take full credit, Fullan also noted that he was fortunate to work for an organization with a strong Catholic background, allowing him to amplify the important work that the Church has always done. 

“I don't think we pat ourselves on the back enough as a Church and I know we are humble people on that, but the Church has led the way in terms of social service,” he said. “The Church has always been present and I think about the good work of the Sisters that founded our hospitals, schools and our social service agency. Without that wonderful input, we wouldn't have what we have today and so I was the beneficiary of being able to inherit that system and continue that good work as it changes over many many decades.” 

The deadline for nominationsis May 15. The full list of awards and scholarships and how to submit nominations can be found at https://ccat.ca/scholarships-and-awards/

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