Devoted to St. Theresa for 75 years

By 
  • September 25, 2008
{mosimage}TORONTO - Mary White-Reel remembers when St. Theresa’s Shrine of the Little Flower parish was the only parish in her area. In fact, she had to be baptized at St. Augustine’s Seminary because the church was not yet built.

“I remember when we first came here, there were only three or four families (in the parish),” she said.
Now celebrating 75 years, the parish, based in Scarborough, is still her spiritual home base along with about 1,000 parishioners. The parish celebrates four weekend Masses, including one Sunday Tridentine Mass. It is also a destination for those with a special devotion to the Little Flower, a devotion White-Reel has herself.

“I pray to her for everything — even if I’m looking for something in the house,” she said.

St. Theresa’s offers all-day exposition of the Blessed Sacrament on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. It also holds an all-night vigil beginning on Fridays.

Fr. Florentine Rajaratman, St. Theresa’s pastor, said it bolsters his own faith and the faith of his parishioners to see there is always someone praying in the church during those times.

“The faith of the people here is incredible,” Rajaratnam said.

To highlight its jubilee year, the parish has begun installing 17 stained glass windows throughout the church, sponsored by families. The eventual plan is to outfit all the windows in the church with stained glass, offering a colourful depiction of the 20 mysteries of the rosary, the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit and the seven sacraments. The smaller windows above the church’s two side doors would depict red roses — St. Theresa’s calling card.

Through the years, the parish has seen several of its members become priests and religious brothers and sisters. Danny Bourne, now president of St. Vincent de Paul for all of Toronto, found his interest in this society at St. Theresa’s when he joined the parish’s local chapter 20 years ago.

“It is a neighbourhood that has a good slice of the city’s diversity,” he said. “And people are sensitive to the needs of others.”

Bourne, who was also baptized in this parish, said one of the highlights of being a parishioner has been the partnership with Scarboro Foreign Missions, which is headquartered just a few hundred metres east of the church.

“When we’ve been between pastors, we’ve been assigned to Scarboro Foreign Missions and that’s been a great learning experience for us,” he said. “They bring a fresh perspective to their homilies of what it’s like to be Catholic living in cultures all around the world.”

Bourne said he enjoys the parish despite the fact that it is small. A lot of people know about it and come on pilgrimage to the shrine — opened in 1933 by then parish priest Fr. Ambrose O’Brien — which connects them with many Catholics from across the city and even the world.

“It’s not a textbook shrine,” he said. “It’s amazing how there are people who come from out of the country to search us out because they have a devotion,” he said. “She’s such an inspiring patron to have for our parish because she speaks to simplicity and I think a lot of people can relate to that.” 

For the parish’s 75th year, events are being planned for every month beginning with a celebration Mass Oct. 4 celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop Richard Grecco. A Jubilee Gala Dinner is set for Oct. 17. For information, call (416) 261-7498.

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