Vanessa Santilli-Raimondo, The Catholic Register

Vanessa Santilli-Raimondo, The Catholic Register

Vanessa is a communications coordinator in the Office of Public Relations and Communications for the Archdiocese of Toronto and former reporter and youth editor for The Catholic Register. 

You can follow her on twitter @V_Santilli.

TORONTO - Bo has a passion for food. And thanks to Cooking for Life, a new culinary arts program for homeless youth offered at Covenant House, he can pursue this passion.

"The program has got great potential for employment opportunity and it's helped me so much with my kitchen skills, my knife skills and safety in the kitchen," said the 24-year-old, a member of the program's first graduating class.

The program's public launch took place June 29 at the downtown youth shelter's newly renovated kitchen, which was made possible with the help of federal government funding. MP John Carmichael, David Garcelon, executive chef at Toronto's Fairmont Royal York Hotel, and Ruth daCosta, executive director of Covenant House, all addressed a crowd of about 50 people.

"Participants learn the professional conduct required to work in a fast-paced restaurant environment," daCosta said. "Graduates can earn a safe food handling certificate and receive support to find a job. They will be better equipped to cook for themselves when they move out on their own."

TORONTO - Christians should be lobbying their Members of Parliament to put pressure on countries that exercise torture, Jesuit Father Valerian Shirima told a small group gathered at a 12-hour prayer vigil held by the Toronto chapter of Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture (ACAT).

Commemorating the United Nations’ International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, about 15 people attended the vigil at the University of St. Michael’s College, which ran from 7 p.m. June 25 to 7 a.m. the following morning, for various lengths of time.

“We are collectively praying together, meditating and thinking of victims of torture,” Stephen Scharper, director of ACAT-Toronto, told The Catholic Register.

ACAT is an ecumenical organization that campaigns for the abolition of torture throughout the world and lends support to victims. First established in Paris in 1974, the organization is now active in 30 countries. The Toronto chapter was founded in October 2010 by Scharper with help from his PhD student, Simon Appolloni.

TORONTO - A study from researchers at St. Michael’s Hospital has found that female prisoners who did not participate in a drug treatment program after their release were 10 times more likely to return to prison within one year than those who did.

Published in the June issue of the American Journal of Public Health, the study showed that more than one-third of women  who didn’t participate returned to prison within six months, said Flora Matheson, a medical sociologist at St. Michael’s Hospital who led the study.

“The good news story is that if we can get women into the program and keep them there, then they have a great chance of success,” said Matheson, a scientist in the hospital’s Centre for Research on Inner City Health who collaborated on the study with the research branch of the Correctional Service of Canada.

Researchers examined the Community Relapse Prevention and Maintenance (CRPM) program, developed as part of a continuum of treatment of women offenders under federal supervision in Canada. CRPM is the after-care component of Women Offenders Substance Abuse Programming (WOSAP), which was implemented by Correctional Services Canada in May 2003. The community based program is offered to women on parole.

OSHAWA, Ont. - While some youth raise funds at their parish by having bake sales or car washes, the youth in St. Gertrude’s Life Teen Band decided to do something a little different: they recorded a CD.

And on June 4, the band celebrated the launch of Sing with a Joyful Heart with a concert at St. Gertrude’s parish in Oshawa. All funds raised from the concert and CD sales will support the parish’s new Edge and Life Teen programs, parish-based youth ministry programs designed to help youth learn more about their Catholic faith and develop a deeper relationship with God.

“We hope this CD stays with the band members as they leave high school, get further education  and eventually enter the work force, get married or enter religious life,” said Eamonn Doyle, band leader. “And hopefully the CD will act as a reminder of how their faith grew during the process of making this.”

The CD is made up of 14 songs — with half sung by the entire group and the other half sung by soloists.

TORONTO - The Fellowship of Catholic Scholars is seeking scholarly papers to be discussed for its annual conference this October.

Six of the scholastic works will be chosen for discussion at the conference to be held in Toronto. The theme for the Oct. 15 conference is “The Catholic Mind and the Prophetic Voice of the Arts.” The scholars’ group is looking for papers that delve into topics such as the vocation of the artist, the relation between imagination and artistic production, culture as a part of evangelization and esthetic pleasure.

“Generally speaking, it’s a critical engagement and dialogue with society, in this case, with respect to the arts,” said Andrew Fuyarchuk, a member of the fellowship’s executive.

Fr. Giorgio Di Cicco, former Poet Laureate of the City of Toronto, will be keynote speaker.Already, the conference has a good slate of speakers, but more submissions are needed. Proposals will be accepted until the end of June. And you don’t have to be a member of the fellowship to submit a paper.

TORONTO - Tiffany Harrington spearheaded a school initiative to send sleeping mats made out of plastic milk bags to orphans in Haiti. Her efforts saw 12,000 milk bags — and counting — collected, which are then crocheted into the mats.

This community spirit helped Harrington, a Grade 12 student at Monsignor Paul Dwyer Catholic High School in Oshawa, Ont., win one of 20 TD Bank Scholarships for Community Leadership. Harrington, Miranda Dela Cruz, a Grade 12 student at Francis Libermann Catholic Secondary School in Scarborough, and Wei-En Wong, a Grade 12 student from St. Robert Catholic High School in Thornhill, are the only winners from Toronto-area Catholic schools.  

Each of the 20 scholarships is valued at up to $70,000, which includes up to $10,000 per year for tuition to a post-secondary institute in Canada and up to $7,500 for living expenses and books. In addition, winners are also offered guaranteed summer employment with TD over their four years of school.

The diocese of Peterborough and Trent University have signed a memorandum of understanding to help further discussions and set guidelines in establishing the future Sacred Heart College, a Catholic liberal arts college in Peterborough.

"It's important that now after a couple of years of discussion with Trent that we've entered into an understanding whereby both the future Sacred Heart College and Trent University are going to co-operate on establishing a relationship that will allow us to grant credit for courses," said Fr. Joseph Devereaux, chancellor of the Peterborough diocese, of the future university college which will be located in the basement of Sacred Heart parish.

The memorandum says that the college and Trent agree to "work together to explore the potential for delivery of distinctive and complementary educational opportunities," such as transfer credit recognition and degree completion pathways.

Rwandan Fr. Ubald Rugirangoga saw 80 family members and 45,000 of his parishioners killed in the Rwandan genocide, but has been able to forgive the perpetrators. (Photo by Katsey Long)During the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, Fr. Ubald Rugirangoga lost 80 members of his family and 45,000 members of his parish. He later found the people who murdered his family and despite the pain they inflicted on him, Rugirangoga was able to forgive them for their crimes.

And then he went one step further — he paid for the education of the daughter of the man who murdered his mother. Otherwise, the girl would have had no opportunity of going to school.

Rugirangoga said he has discovered the secret of peace is through forgiveness.

And so, he set about creating the Centre for the Secret of Peace in Rwanda as part of his vocation to bring peace, reconciliation and forgiveness to the Rwandan people.

“I want to build a centre of peace because I am engaged in the peace process after the genocide in Rwanda,” Rugirangoga told The Catholic Register.

When he arrived from Germany in 1951, the then 20-year-old Heribert Michel planned to stay in Canada for three years. He wanted to get work experience as an organist and choir director and learn a new language after graduating at the top of his class from Germany’s prestigious Regensburg Academy of Church Music. His uncle, a priest, expected him back in Germany to be the new organist and choir director when reconstruction of their parish, destroyed during the Second World War, was complete.

So much for those plans. Sixty years later, Michel remains in Canada. After meeting his wife, Suzanne, he chose to stay, settling in Peterborough, Ont., where the couple raised four children and now have 10 grandchildren.

The diocese of Peterborough is celebrating Michel’s six decades of service through his music ministry. On May 21, an anniversary Mass was to be held at St. Peter-in-Chains Cathedral, officiated by Bishop Nicola De Angelis, with a reception to follow. Among the special guests expected are MP Dean Del Mastro, MPP Jeff Leal, papal knights and Fourth Degree Knights of Columbus.

TORONTO - Coinciding with the World Day of Prayer for Vocations, the downtown Toronto chapter of the Serra Club will be holding its fifth annual vocations fair May 14-15.

“It’s an opportunity to promote vocations to the priesthood and consecrated religious life and to affirm those who have responded to this call,” said Zinnia Milburn, the club’s vice-president of vocations and vocations fair co-ordinator.

Different religious orders such as the Loretto Sisters and the Capuchin Friars will have booths set up to talk about the good work they do. As well, various Catholic lay organizations such as the Focolare and World Marriage Encounter will also be participating.

Taking place at St. Augustine of Canterbury parish in Toronto, this year’s theme is “Bring the light that shines to the world.”