Helping our community for more than three decades

By  By Michael Mcbride, Catholic Register Special
  • March 12, 2009
{mosimage}For more than 30 years, the Lenten season has been marked in a special way in the archdiocese of Toronto, with thousands of Catholics demonstrating their faith through a massive act of charity known as ShareLife.

In March 1976, then Archbishop Philip Pocock attracted the attention of the country with a major announcement about the Catholic Church in the archdiocese. Based on principles of faith, the archbishop removed Catholic Charities from the mainstream appeal. In making this announcement, he said, “I am prepared to take the responsibility of sustaining the services of Catholic Charities to the community.” Thus, ShareLife, the annual charitable appeal of the archdiocese of Toronto, was established.

Today, we recognize that this courageous decision put Gospel values into action. By founding ShareLife, Archbishop Pocock created an organization grounded in faith with an explicit mandate to respect the sanctity of life at all stages.

It is a great honour to serve as the chair of the ShareLife Advisory Board. Over the past 10 years of my involvement as a volunteer board member, I have been blessed to see the impact of our Catholic charity at work in the community. We are, collectively, making a significant difference in people’s lives. 

Many times I have been asked what ShareLife does. This year 33 agencies and 10 grant recipients will receive more than $13.1 million from funds raised in our various campaigns to help support their important work. These agencies provide service to families in crisis, people with special needs, the elderly, immigrants and refugees, children and youth. Guided by our Catholic values, ShareLife-funded social service agencies provide these services to people from all walks of life, regardless of religious affiliation.

Gifts to ShareLife also support the formation and education of our clergy and deacons. In addition, we allocate funds to support those in need in developing countries through the work of the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, the Pastoral Mission Fund and Canadian Food for Children. Dr. Andrew Simone, at Canadian Food for Children, has told us ShareLife funding provides more than two million meals for hungry children each year — an incredible achievement that should make us all proud!

Over the years I have heard many stories that demonstrate the impact of the ShareLife campaign: a mother who has escaped from a marriage marred by domestic violence and is now able to support others going through similar situations; a man who has successfully battled addictions and asks that we “tell those kind people that their donations have made a difference; thank you for saving my life”; a priest or deacon who is ordained through St. Augustine’s Seminary and shepherds a parish in our archdiocese; or a deaf child who is now able to communicate with their family …. The list is endless.

You may be aware of someone who has been touched by a ShareLife agency — a friend, a relative, maybe someone sitting in the pew next to you at your parish. Or perhaps you know someone who could use some help. I’m thankful that ShareLife agencies have been there for those who have needed help and I’m dedicated to ensuring they are there for those who will need help in the future.

This year, our agencies are facing increased demands due largely to the severe downturn in our economy. Many are responding to the new circumstances with renewed dedication. For example, the Centre for Workers’ Families has been established by Catholic Family Services of Durham to assist families who will be affected by the automotive layoffs in that area. It’s just one of the creative and effective ways that ShareLife funding is making an immediate difference for those who need help. By all accounts, their numbers will continue to grow for months to come.

In the words of Archbishop Thomas Collins, “Now is the time when greater generosity is needed from all of us. I urge everyone to contribute more generously than ever to ShareLife.”

As we undertake our personal Lenten journey this year, remember that Archbishop Pocock left the archdiocese of Toronto with an incredible gift; an organization that demonstrates the unity and strength of Catholics in responding to the neediest of our society. This year we honour his legacy by establishing the Archbishop Philip Pocock Society. As we move toward the first collection weekend of the campaign (March 28-29), let’s pray that our efforts will result in a successful ShareLife campaign this year.

To learn more or make a gift to ShareLife, visit

(McBride, a lawyer and parishioner at St. Clement’s parish, is the chair of the ShareLife Advisory Board.)

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