TORONTO - Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Toronto has begun celebrations of its 100th anniversary.

The organization functions as an umbrella charity for Catholic social service agencies in the province of Ontario. In it’s inaugural year the charitable organization funded eight agencies, a number that has since grown to 29 serving about 250,000 people.

“We make a real positive difference in the lives of people,” said Michael Fullan, Catholic Charities’ executive director for the past 19 years. “Often when there isn’t hope we help to re-instill that ... hope.”

These agencies include Providence Healthcare, Covenant House Toronto and Natural Family Planning Association. Among those who benefit from these agencies are impoverished youth, the elderly and those suffering from illness ranging from disabilities to substance abuse issues.

“Those most at risk of falling through the cracks of the service agencies is typically where the Catholic agencies have been responding,” said Fullan. “(They’re) the most vulnerable in society.”

Currently Catholic Charities injects about $8.5 million into the province’s social service network. While most of the money comes from ShareLife, Fullan said a lot of outside funding comes as a result of Catholic Charities’ contributions.

“Our funding is like a catalyst to attracting other funding,” he said. “Governments and other funders recognize the contributions that the Catholic agencies make.”

During his speech at the 33rd Annual Cardinal’s Dinner on Oct. 11, Toronto’s Cardinal Thomas Collins made a point of acknowledging the milestone year for the organization started a century ago by then Archbishop Neil McNeil.

“When it comes to helping others, whether it is those suffering from a natural disaster across the ocean, or those closer to home, faith-based organizations are the first in and last out,” said Collins, adding that centenary celebrations will culminate with a special Mass next September.

Collins praised both the agencies supported by Catholic Charities and parishioners whose donations make the agencies’ work possible.

But Catholic Charities is more than a money allocator.

“Catholic Charities historically had a direct contribution to the development of the present universal health care system in this country,” said Fullan. “That’s something that we should be very proud of.”

That kind of government lobbying continues today, although the area of attention has shifted. Catholic Charities is currently attempting to have the government address child poverty, affordable housing and social service funding.

“We’re trying on the systematic level to make changes that need to happen,” said Fullan. “We’re making some people expendable in our culture and there’s something very wrong with that.”

What the next 100 years will look like for Catholic Charities is unclear to Fullan. What he does know is that demands will change, as always, and Catholic Charities will respond, as always.

Published in Canada: Toronto-GTA

TORONTO - More low-income people are using parts of the health care system that are under the most stress, including the emergency departments and mental health services, a recent study from Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital has found.

“Mental health is very common in our society and we have very little outpatient care and very little community care relative to what’s actually needed for the population,” said Dr. Rick Glazier, one of the lead authors of the study. 

Published in Canada: Toronto-GTA