St. Joseph the Worker Oshawa Office Manager Mary Lou Elliot and volunteer Technical Coordinator Bill Kudryk test the recently installed video conferencing equipment funded through the Family of Faith. Photo by Krys Dmytrenko

Are we there yet? Drafting a spiritual roadmap for growth in a modern age

By  Marlena Loughheed, Catholic Register Special
  • May 25, 2017

The Archdiocese of Toronto has come a long way in 175 years but the journey is far from over. Future years will see more parishes, more ministries and a vibrant Cathedral Square, connected not only in spirit but interconnected by technologies that will link St. Michael’s Cathedral Basilica with parishioners stretching from Oshawa to Midland to Oakville.

Cardinal  Thomas Collins has used the analogy of a “roadmap for the journey” to describe the archdiocesan Pastoral Plan which charts the way ahead. The image of a roadmap seems fitting for a region clogged with traffic. But this roadmap, published in 2013, isn’t about navigating slowdowns. Quite the opposite. It provides an optimistic vision for the many places the Cardinal wants his flock to travel as a Catholic community.

The map is detailed, with routes as numerous and creative as the people it will impact. It has five core objectives: invigorating parish life to make parishes places of welcome and hospitality; cultivating a culture of vocations; evangelization of society using modern technology; expanding Catholic outreach in justice and love; and emphasizing the role of the Cathedral as a sign of our mission.

“Our plans for family life and parish vitality involve taking the vision articulated in the Pastoral Plan and bringing it to life,” said Racquel Sevilla, associate director for Family Life and Parish Vitality in the Office of Formation for Discipleship.

Her office provides support to formation programs being initiated by parishes. One type of support is the provision of grants through the Family of Faith campaign to help parishes hire lay pastoral associates. Similarly, campaign funding has gone to 21 parishes to hire youth ministers.

Raising awareness of family life and issues is another aspect of the plan. Eventually, the archdiocese intends to establish an Office of Family Life to oversee and grow these efforts.

A major objective of the Pastoral Plan is to use technology to help connect almost two million Catholics across the archdiocese’s vast geographic reaches. Video conferencing hubs have already been installed at the Archdiocese offices, St. Augustine’s Seminary, St. Michael’s Cathedral and St. Joseph the Worker parish in Oshawa. Six more will go into parishes in Barrie, Woodbridge, North York, Scarborough, Etobicoke and Brampton.

drafting spiritual roadmap modern age webA model of Cathedral Square, part of the archdiocese’s plan for the future. (Photo courtesy of Concrete Pictures Inc.)

The network will allow people in multiple locations to meet and hold joint training sessions. For example, staff at the archdiocese office will be able to conduct training sessions for catechists across the region through video links at the nearest conferencing hub or from just about anywhere on their laptop.

When the equipment is installed at St. Michael’s Cathedral, people will be able to participate remotely in Lectio Divina with Cardinal Collins or witness other cathedral events, such as the annual ordination of new priests. The objective is to bring more people into the daily life of the Church by implementing technology in ways that save time and money.

An exquisitely renovated St. Michael’s Cathedral, re-opened last September, is an integral part of the Pastoral Plan. The cathedral is a spiritual oasis in the city’s busy downtown core, providing space for peaceful prayer and reflection. The cathedral is a spiritual oasis in the city’s busy downtown core, providing space for peaceful prayer and reflection. Within easy walking distance to the financial district, Dundas Square, Ryerson University and City Hall, the cathedral emphasizes the important place of faith in the public square.

As renovations to the cathedral’s lower level continue, several proposals are being considered to transform the lands adjacent to the cathedral into a “Cathedral Block,” a downtown centre of Catholic life. These plans include rebuilding St. Michael’s Choir School, erecting a centre for evangelization to hold meetings and conferences, creating piazzas and gardens, and possibly building a Catholic residence for students attending Ryerson University or a seniors’ residence.

“We live every moment in a spirit of gratitude, looking for ways to use fruitfully all that has been given to us, in the service of God and neighbour,” Cardinal Collins says in the introduction to the Pastoral Plan. The past four years have been an exciting start on the road to this destination of greater service to what the Cardinal calls the “scattered” and the “gathered.”

The map is in hand and an exciting future is on the horizon.