Launched in 1976 by Archbishop Philip Pocock, ShareLife turns 40 this year.

40 years of Catholic mercy and compassion

  • February 25, 2016

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

Jesus gave us the Beatitudes to remind us that we are called to show compassion to our brothers and sisters in Christ. The eight Beatitudes, from the Gospel of Matthew, provide an opportunity to reflect on how we live out these values in our daily lives.

The Catholic Church in Toronto has a long history of showing mercy to others. In the 1850s, Bishop Armand de Charbonnel, the second bishop of Toronto, invited the Sisters of St. Joseph to Toronto, leading to the establishment of what is now known as Providence Healthcare. For more than 160 years, the Church has played a prominent role in the social-service infrastructure of the Greater Toronto Area and South Simcoe.

The Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Covenant House, Scarborough Hospital and so many other important institutions trace their beginning to initiatives of the Catholic Church. The mercy shown by these institutions and agencies is reflected in local parish initiatives, the annual ShareLife campaign, humanitarian relief appeals and most recently Project Hope, which raised close to $4 million to help resettle more than 100 refugee families in Canada. The Catholic community has continuously demonstrated that it can accomplish much when it works together.

This year marks a milestone in those efforts. On March 19, 1976, Toronto Archbishop Philip Pocock announced that eight Catholic agencies which had received funding from the United Way would instead be supported through parishes and schools of the archdiocese. So confident that he was making the right decision, Pocock declared, “I am prepared to take on the responsibility of sustaining the services of Catholic Charities to the community.” It was a bold statement, but the commitment made that day has been sustained for 40 years through support of the annual ShareLife appeal in parishes, schools and the corporate community.

ShareLife is more than an annual collection of funds — it is a mechanism for the Catholic community to show mercy to more than 114,000 brothers and sisters in Christ across the Toronto archdiocese and countless more around the world.

Over the past 11 years, I have visited the agencies that receive ShareLife funding and also had a chance to see our outreach work in the Philippines. In each instance, the “why” is not hard to find. When we hear of a family that receives counselling after the death of a parent, an individual so desperate for alcohol that he was drinking hand sanitizer before turning his life around through the DARE program at the Good Shepherd Centre, a priest being ordained through St. Augustine’s or Redemptoris Mater seminaries, or a child who receives not only religious instruction but also a meal through the Sisters of Our Lady of Carmel in the Philippines — we see how ShareLife is truly bringing the message of the Gospel to those in need. It becomes a bridge between the pulpit and the street.

This year, ShareLife agencies have been allocated $13.2 million, with the majority of the money to be raised through the 2016 ShareLife parish campaign. This represents an increase of more than $700,000 in funding for new programs. The majority of these funds will go to Catholic Charities to establish new seniors outreach initiatives in Peel and Simcoe, counselling for young mothers who have experienced trauma and other mental health issues, and support to maximize shared services between agencies to increase efficiency while reducing administrative overhead costs. To learn more about these and other ways that ShareLife funding is making an impact, visit sharelife. org or follow us on twitter (@ sharelifecan) and Facebook (

Now it is up to the Catholic community to continue its generous support of the work of these agencies. The first collection in the annual parish campaign takes place on the March 12-13 weekend. Donations are also accepted online through our web site. Every contribution, regardless of size, will help make a difference.

Through 40 years of ShareLife, and more than 100 years of generosity before that, Toronto’s Catholic community has always been at the forefront to provide social services to those in need. In this Year of Mercy, a meaningful way to be merciful to others is to support the ShareLife campaign — to “bless those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, so they can be filled.”

(Peters is the Executive Director of ShareLife.)

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