The CanningsTORONTO - The camera zooms in on new mom Lisa Canning who beams with enthusiasm as she talks about energy-efficient decor with Toronto TV host Marilyn Denis.

The 26-year-old interior decorator was one of the experts on CTV’s inaugural The Marilyn Denis Show last month.

Aside from running her own interior design business, she talks enthusiastically about how motherhood has helped her mature in her Catholic faith as she and her husband, Josh, raise their two children.

“When I became a mom for the first time, something shifted quick in me that I am completely responsible for the soul of this person. When I saw (my son) in my arms, I realized I have a huge responsibility,” she said.

Faith has been central in the Cannings’ marriage and parenthood. The Cannings are former student campus ministers at the Newman Centre at the University of Toronto. (Josh is now Newman’s chaplaincy co-ordinator.)

Assisted suicide hearings criss-cross Quebec

GATINEAU, Que. - As Quebec marked Suicide Prevention Week Jan. 30-Feb. 5, the province’s Select Committee on Dying with Dignity held hearings here testing support for legalized euthanasia and assisted suicide.

The irony did not escape Linda Couture, who directs Living With Dignity, a grassroots, non-religious organization that has been monitoring the hearings as the committee travels across Quebec.

The committee made up of members of Quebec’s National Assembly (MNAs) has been holding public hearings in cities across Quebec since September. Couture has attended most of them. The committee wraps up its hearings at the end of February and will then work on a written report.

Egypt's protesters want their slice of the future

OTTAWA - Egyptian protesters are mostly males aged 25-34 who are highly educated, plugged into the world’s social media and networks but frustrated because they can’t find work, said Carl Hétu, national secretary of CNEWA Canada (Catholic Near East Welfare Association).

“They are now asking for their share,” he said, noting the plight of young people is similar in countries all over the Middle East.

The issue in Egypt is whether the Muslim Brotherhood, a radical Islamist group, will try to appropriate the movement, he said. But the Muslim Brotherhood is not the only player, he added, noting that the elite of Egypt “will not let go” and will be faithful to President Hosni Mubarak.

Catholic vote turns tide Conservative way

Stephen HarperOTTAWA - As the Conservative Party celebrates its fifth anniversary in power, it is recognizing a major reason for the success: a swing in the Catholic and the ethnic vote away from the Liberals.

It’s quite a change. It wasn’t so long ago that the Liberals could count on the Catholic and ethnic vote overwhelmingly going its way. In fact, a 2005 study by André Blais of the Canadian Political Science Association found that in the preceding 40 years, Catholics in English Canada were 18 per cent more likely than non-Catholics to vote Liberal.

But that changed when Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the Conservatives were elected in 2006 to a minority government, and returned two years later.

Justice council shows bite taken by Tories’ new prison policy

Prison graphicBuilding on an October letter from Whitehorse Bishop Gary Gordon to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the Church Council on Justice and Corrections is trying to galvanize opposition to Conservative justice and corrections policies by showing how much it’s going to cost to jail people for longer periods.

The council, which includes the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops among 11 national churches, sent its own letter to Harper just before Christmas. It repeats Gordon’s argument against tough-on-crime legislation.

“Your policy is applying a costly prison response to people involved in the courts who are non-violent offenders, or to repeat offenders who are mentally ill and/or addicted, the majority of whom are not classified as high risk. These offenders are disproportionately poor, ill-equipped to learn, from the most disadvantaged and marginalized groups,” said the letter.

Canadian social change is court driven

OTTAWA - Whether it is marriage, conscience rights, parental rights to educate their children or hot-button issues like prostitution, the real battles are taking place in the courts rather than in Parliament, say those on the front lines.

Catholic Civil Rights League president Phil Horgan said that changes to social policy are no longer coming from the legislative framework where politicians persuade their fellow citizens in elections and then get the support of other legislators to pass changes into law.

When the state does enter into areas of social policy — like Quebec’s Ethics and Religious Culture course and the recent related prohibition on religious instruction, prayers or songs in day cares run by religious groups — it has become almost impossible to combat that kind of secularism in legislatures.

Canada’s bishops invite young people to a life of chastity

OTTAWA - Canada’s Catholic bishops have issued a countercultural message to young people inviting them to lead lives of chastity.

“Today, chastity is often mistakenly associated with being old-fashioned, with a fear of passion or with sexual inhibition,” said the eight-page pastoral letter to young people on chastity issued Jan. 27 by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Episcopal Commission for Doctrine. “But in reality it is much more than simply the absence of sexual relations.

“Chastity calls for purity of mind as well as body,” the document stresses. “If we are not working to develop a pure heart or a pure mind, then our bodily actions will reflect this. If we have no control over our desires or passions, then we cannot be trusted in either the big or the small things.”

Canadian students rally at American pro-life march

Students from Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy in Barry’s Bay, Ont., joined an estimated 400,000 American pro-lifers at the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 24.

Organized by the pro-life group at the Catholic liberal arts college, 20 students and three staff members attended the march and with the opening prayer vigil Mass held at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

“We walked, prayed the Rosary, prayed the Divine Mercy Chaplet and sang chants,” said second-year student Kathleen Dunn, president of the school’s pro-life group. “It was really amazing to be a part of it.”

Social spending an investment in future, Catholic Charities says

Rose of Sharon TORONTO - When Ontario Finance Minster Dwight Duncan receives the pre-budget submission from Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Toronto, he’s not going to be surprised by the spending priorities of the 28 agencies Catholic Charities funds. But Catholic Charities hopes to catch Duncan’s attention with their reasons for increased social spending.

Catholic Charities agencies serve Toronto communities by supporting teenaged mothers, helping the deaf, caring for young people with developmental disabilities, providing day care and counselling couples and families in crisis. They want Duncan to put money in service of the poor. They’re asking for:

  •  a $100 a month healthy food supplement to welfare payments to try to reduce reliance on food banks for 375,000 people every month who visit an Ontario food bank;

  •  raising the Ontario Child Benefit for low-income families to $1,500 by 2013. The $1,100 OCB is scheduled to rise to $1,310 by 2013;

Long-time employee investigated in $500,000 St. John’s theft

ST. JOHN’S, Nfld. - The trusted friend and colleague who saved Archbishop Martin Currie’s life two years ago is being investigated in the theft of more than $500,000 from the archdiocese of St. John’s.

The archdiocese has laid a complaint with the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary over cheques Bill Power wrote to himself. An employee of the archdiocese for 38 years, Power was the comptroller and business manager for the archdiocese who also managed the business of the Catholic cemeteries.

Canadian Catholics respond to flooded areas

As mud and water claim lives and homes around the world, Catholics in Canada are exploring ways they might help.

Floods have claimed 680 lives in Brazil and left 21,500 homeless in the worst natural disaster to hit South America’s largest country in 40 years. In Australia floods have killed 30 people, 20,000 have been forced out of their homes and 60 towns submerged in the western state of Queensland. Colombia was hit with mudslides just before Christmas that killed 301 people, injured 292, destroyed more than 5,000 homes, damaged over 300,000 homes and flooded 1.32 million hectares of farm land.