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.

For the first time, several pro-life groups on university campuses in British Columbia held Life Week simultaneously to bring the abortion debate to their peers.

“They debated the morality of abortion and whether abortion should remain legal,” said Anastasia Pearse, western campus co-ordinator for the National Campus Life Network. Jojo Ruba from the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform debated the pro-life side while various philosophy professors took the pro-choice side.

Amanda Foster, 21, wants to go to World Youth Day Rio in 2013. But after hearing the cost estimates for the trip, she’s reconsidering.  

“I can’t believe the prices are so high,” said Foster, who was a part of the Archdiocese of Toronto’s Office of Catholic Youth (OCY) trip to Madrid last August, organized through Tour Design.  

TORONTO - In the Bible, there are many women reaching out and evangelizing, says Catholic writer Dorothy Pilarski.

To encourage the same kind of leadership today, Pilarksi is holding the third annual Dynamic Women of Faith conference on March 24.

“I want to introduce women that have a lively faith so others can be inspired by these leaders,” said Pilarski, author of the provocative book Motherhood Matters.

Jerome is a young man with post-traumatic stress disorder who attempts to cope by self-medicating with marijuana. Diana is suffering from depression and has low self-esteem. And Melanie is a youth caregiver whose mother has schizophrenia.

These are a few of the characters in performances by Elevated Grounds, an organization that uses song, dance, drama, music and spoken word to educate and bust the stigma surrounding mental health.

“We are hoping to show the stresses and issues that affect mental health are present in the everyday life of young people and the important thing is to become aware of these stresses and seek help,” said Leyland Gudge, Elevated Grounds’ program manager, mentor and elder.

TORONTO - The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has recently encouraged a more widespread effort to get apologetic material into the hands of Catholics, but Toronto’s St. Benedict’s parish is way ahead of the game.

Eliseo Zompanti started the St. Benedict’s Catholic Apologetics and Bible Study group a year-and-a-half ago at St. Benedict’s parish. He said apologetics — being able to explain and defend the faith — is like a 2,000-year-old armoury that the Church has amassed.

STAMFORD, CONN. - They say silence is golden. Well, silence is also tough. I learned just how challenging it is to be completely silent during a young women’s retreat with the Sisters of Life in Stamford over the Feb. 10-12 weekend.

Going into the retreat, I knew there were going to be periods of silence. But I didn’t quite know the full extent of it. Following our first talk of the weekend on the theme “Love Never Fails,” the sisters informed us — to my dismay — we would start our silence after compline, or night prayer. We’d break the talking fast the next day with dinner at 6 p.m. About 20 hours, with talking only allowed within the context of confession and Mass.

TORONTO - Assassinated Pakistani minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti gave his life for human rights, freedom and democracy. And to mark the one-year anniversary of his death, family, friends and supporters will gather to mark his legacy.

On March 2, International Christian Voice — the Toronto-based human rights organization run by Peter Bhatti, Shahbaz’s brother — is holding a memorial dinner at the Woodbine Banquet and Convention Centre in Toronto. Among those expected to be in attendance are Cardinal Thomas Collins, retired Pakistani Archbishop Lawrence Saldanha, who now lives in Toronto, and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, along with representatives from human rights organizations and community leaders.

TORONTO - Fr. Tom McKillop, who dedicated much of his life to youth ministry, passed away in Toronto Feb. 15. He was in his 84th year, his 48th year in the priesthood.

"I was on fire with enthusiasm, I had finally found my niche," Fr. McKillop was quoted as saying in The Shepherds' Trust newsletter about his work with youth.

TORONTO - Canadian Jesuits, with help from some high school students, are preparing to poke a little fun at themselves through a dinner-theatre production.

Jesuits Served Right: A Jesuit Dinner Theatre will be performed at Toronto’s Brebeuf College School Feb. 25. The project is part of the Jesuits’ celebration of 400 years in Canada.

RICHMOND HILL, Ont. - Artist Antonio Caruso’s Catholic faith has influenced him from a very young age. And as a sculptor and painter, it has had a strong impact on the artist he became and the various religious subjects he pursues.

Growing up in a very religious family in Italy, he lost his father when he was only 13 years old.

“But I always had visions of my father through Jesus,” said Caruso, who moved to Canada permanently with his family in 1995. The artist now lives in Woodbridge, Ont.