Ordinandi Dinner reaches out to students

By 
  • February 19, 2010
{mosimage}TORONTO - With more than 1,700 tickets sold and 400 high school students expected to attend, this year’s Ordinandi Dinner will be the biggest in its 19-year history.

Among the 1,700 guests for the March 2 dinner will be Toronto Archbishop Thomas Collins, several priests and hundreds of Catholics from across the archdiocese.

The dinner has grown over the years and has had to move venues because of the increased numbers. For the past seven years, the event has been capped at 1,330 people because of the previous venue’s size. The event will now be held at the larger Pearson Convention Centre.

Key to the popularity of this year’s event, which sold out five months in advance, is the greater outreach to schools, organizers say. Celeste Iacobelli, chair of this year’s dinner, said the event is expanding its student program by encouraging more high school students to participate. So far, 28 Catholic high schools will be sending at least 325 student representatives. Students from university chaplaincies in Toronto are also expected to attend.

Iacobelli said this student outreach is part of “recreating the culture of vocation awareness.”

“Unless you’re exposed to it, it’s not something youth are aware of,” Iacobelli said.

The dinner’s focus is on the men who will be ordained to the priesthood in the near future and having them speak about their vocation stories.

Some of the event’s funds will be directed to St. Augustine’s Seminary and the Serra Foundation to promote vocations.

Mario Biscardi, who founded the Ordinandi Dinner, said the event has been successful over the years in encouraging men to enter the priesthood. Fr. Hansoo Park is one such person. He attended the dinner 12 years ago when he was discerning a call in his early 20s, and it left a lasting impact. Hearing stories of conversion as well as the everyday lives of the candidates to the priesthood encouraged him to pursue God’s call to become a priest.

Park, who is now director of Serra House, a Toronto discernment house for men contemplating religious life, said sending out the message to youth is key.

“It’s important for high school students to see that these men aren’t extraordinarily different from others. They’re ordinary guys,” he said.

According to Biscardi, this year’s ordinandi, some of whom are in their late 20s and 30s, will be making a “powerful statement of their lifelong commitment.” 

The Ordinandi dinner began in 1991.

The event’s highlights are the speeches by the men being ordained to the priesthood. It is being organized by five Serra Clubs in the Greater Toronto Area.

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