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.

About 23,000 Ontarians have signed a petition demanding Ontario stop funding medically unnecessary abortions, said Alissa Golob, youth co-ordinator for Campaign Life Coalition.

“And it’s still growing,” Golob said of the most recent numbers released March 26.

The petition is part of a two-year initiative to convince the provincial government to defund abortion in Ontario. Launched in October with the Defund Abortion Rally at Queen’s Park, the initiative includes pamphleting every riding in Ontario at least once with defund abortion literature, doing individual picketing outside MPP offices and lobbying.

Petitions were received from every riding in Ontario, said Golob.

“We’re currently in the process of giving them over to politicians. And then, as we get them in and gather another 20,000, we’ll do it again until we achieve success.”

The purpose of the petition is to send a message to Queen’s Park that this is an issue constituents are concerned about, she said.

“There is an army of people behind this campaign and it’s not just a small campaign led by some young people that isn’t worthy of their notice.”

An Abacus Data poll released last fall found 91 per cent of Canadians were not aware at least $30 million of public money is being spent annually to fund abortion procedures.

“I think it’s logical, whether you’re pro-life or not, that we shouldn’t be funding an elective procedure that’s medically unnecessary.”

Golob estimates the campaign will exceed about 50,000 signatures by the end.

“People don’t know about the funding of abortion in Ontario, which is why the education process is so important.”

Upon returning from a Sisters of Life retreat in Connecticut, I decided my Lenten resolution would be to incorporate 20 minutes of prayer into my daily routine.

Finding it hard to fit prayer time into a hectic schedule, one of the sisters told me it might be helpful to get creative in my prayer life in order to better understand how God is speaking to me. So, along with the regular Hail Marys and Our Fathers, I started reading random Bible passages and keeping a journal to better open the lines of communication.

To say Cristina Di Corte was not feeling well would be an understatement. After experiencing bad abdominal pains and vomiting, her doctor thought she might have acid reflux, irritable bowel syndrome, celiac disease or even an eating disorder.

But after visiting a specialist, Di Corte received some very different news. “Your gut doesn’t work,” he told her.

“The muscles around my digestive system don’t function properly so if I eat, it stays in my stomach for a very long time. Eventually, it starts to rot and it ends up making me sick,” said Di Corte, 22, a graduate of St. Joseph Secondary School in Mississauga, Ont.

If all Ontarians were as healthy as those with higher incomes there would be 231,000 fewer disabled people and about 3,300 fewer deaths per year, found a recent study from researchers at St. Michael’s Hospital.

The final chapter of the six-year long POWER Study examining health equity was released last month from researchers at St. Michael’s Hospital and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES). The POWER study (Project for an Ontario Women’s Health Evidence-Based Report) examined access, quality and outcomes of care across the province for the leading causes of disease and disability and how they varied by sex, income, ethnicity and where one lives. The 12-volume study cost $4.3 million and involved 60 researchers.

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.