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.

MADRID, SPAIN - Fr. Rob Galea brought a crowd of about 5,000 pilgrims to their feet at the gathering of Canadians here Aug. 16, the opening day of World Youth Day.

Galea, a newly ordained priest and singer, serenaded the thousands with Taio Cruz's hit pop song, "Dynamite," along with a song he wrote about finding his vocation. The audience responded by waving its many flags, singing along and cheering.

What will young people do with their lives? "Jesus is telling you to jump and He'll catch you right before you hit the ground," Galea told those gathered. "We only live life to the fullest if we live the will of God."

The gathering of Canadian pilgrims was hosted at Palacio de Desportes, which is acting as the Love and Life Centre — a home for English-speaking pilgrims in Madrid. The Love and Life Centre is co-hosted by the Knights of Columbus and the Sisters for Life. Fr. Thomas Rosica, CEO of Salt + Light Television, was the event organizer.

About 200 Jesuits and their lay collaborators gathered at Martyrs’ Shrine in Midland, Ont., from July 27 to 31 to “remember and renew without counting the cost.”

The congress for the Jesuits in English Canada celebrated the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first Jesuits to Canada on May 22, 1611.

“We decided that we would use this celebration not only to remember this foundational event but also to gather all the Jesuits from English Canada plus those who work with us in significant roles in our ministries across the country,” said Fr. Erik Oland, a member of the organizing committee which began meeting about two years ago to plan the congress.

In addition, a substantial delegation of French Canadian Jesuits and one member of the Hungarian Jesuits in Canada were in attendance.

TORONTO - Krystal Pereira was a pilgrim from Abu Dhabi who came to Toronto for World Youth Day in 2002. Almost 10 years later, she is gearing up for World Youth Day in Madrid as a Canadian pilgrim.

And just as her home has changed over the years, so has she. Her goal this time around? To have an open mind and heart and to be ready to learn from the experience.

“My last World Youth Day experience was kind of like a gas station for my life,” said Pereira. “It fuelled me up with hope and excitement to face the next part of my life. So I guess I’m looking for a refill.”

Pereira won’t be the only one. She will be joined by an estimated one-million pilgrims at the gathering together of Pope Benedict XVI with youth and young adults from around the world. The 11th international World Youth Day officially begins Aug. 16 and ends Aug. 21.

TORONTO - Catholic Cemeteries’ Annual Mass for the Faithful Departed offers families who have lost loved ones a great source of spiritual strength, said Amy Profenna.

“By celebrating the Mass on the grounds where their loved ones are interred, it’s very special and very emotional for a lot of people,” said Profenna, manager of marketing and public relations at Catholic Cemeteries of the Archdiocese of Toronto. “The Mass plays a unique role in the resolution of grief.”

Taking place Aug. 17 at 7 p.m. at seven different cemeteries throughout the GTA, Profenna is expecting more than 12,000 people to attend the annual outdoor summer Masses. Catholic Cemeteries has been holding the Masses for about 24 years — and they typically fall close to the Feast of the Assumption.

By celebrating the Annual Mass, Catholic Cemeteries aims to fulfill its mission as a vehicle of compassion to the bereaved, said Profenna.

TORONTO - Fr. Jose Maria Naranjo took his mission as an Ardorini Missionary of serving people in rural areas seriously. As chaplain of the seasonal Mexican workers labouring in the Holland Marsh lands north of Toronto, he ran a weekly Mass in Spanish.

“When they were losing their faith or depressed, he was there for them,” said Ricardo Boscan, national president of the Hispanic Cursillo Movement. “And that definitely did a lot for this group of people.”

Fr. Naranjo passed away July 31 after months of battling cancer. Only 42 years old, he was in his 11th year of the priesthood with the Ardorini Missionaries. He was pastor of St. Mary Margaret parish in Woodbridge, Ont., where he had previously served as associate pastor and administrator.

Born in Colombia, he came to Canada in 1994 with the sponsorship of Fr. Eugene Filice, local superior of the Ardorini Missionaries. Fr. Naranjo studied philosophy at the Immaculate Conception Seminary in Colombia and theology at the Toronto School of Theology.

TORONTO - Fr. Thomas Rosica, CEO of Salt + Light Television, has been appointed president of Assumption University in Windsor, Ont. He begins his term effective Dec. 1.

But Rosica will not be leaving Salt + Light Television and will now oversee the future direction of both Assumption University and the TV network he founded.

“I will be assuming my new responsibilities at Assumption University in Windsor in December in addition to the work at Salt + Light Television,” he told The Catholic Register. “In fact, Salt + Light will be a key instrument in bringing some new life to Assumption University,” something he sees as an exciting challenge.

Assumption University is an independent Catholic university federated with the University of Windsor.

TORONTO - An Ontario Court of Appeal ruling that makes it harder for doctors to withdraw life support when such a decision goes against a patient's family's wishes is "fabulous" news to the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition.

Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the coalition, said the June 29 ruling in the case of Hassan Rasouli was exactly what the coalition was hoping for.

"Doctors were interpreting their power as being that they could withdraw treatment without consent and that they only required consent to treat," said Schadenberg.

The withdrawal of life support now requires the consent of a substitute decision maker — and if that's not satisfactory to the doctor, he or she must go to the provincial Consent and Capacity Board to try to have the decision overturned, said Toronto lawyer Gardner Hodder, who represented the Rasouli family.

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.