Online classifieds have become a popular method of buying and selling, but online purchases can be risky. First, there’s the problem of not knowing the person you’re connecting with online, and whether they can be trusted.

Published in Youth Speak News

One of the hardest things about moving to a small town is integrating into the community. After my last column was published, I was offered a job in northeastern Alberta and found myself moving to the town of St. Paul. It’s the centre of the diocese and at approximately 6,000 people it’s the smallest municipality I’ve ever called home.

Published in YSN: Speaking Out
February 13, 2015

Voting with faith

This week wraps up election week for the University of Waterloo’s Federation of Students, or FEDs, as we call it. It’s been a busy two weeks of smiling, shaking hands, social media campaigns and general lack of sleep for the candidates. I can’t help but wonder if any of it is appreciated, or even noticed, by the majority of students on campus.

Published in YSN: Speaking Out

The London Diocese is taking advantage of the overwhelming popularity of Pope Francis to spread a prayerful message.

Published in Canada

TORONTO - When establishing or editing a personal profile online, consulting your inner Catholic can keep you out of trouble.

Published in Youth Speak News

VATICAN CITY - Social media need to promote more logic, kindness and Christian witness than bluster, star-status and division, Pope Benedict XVI said.

Published in International

TORONTO - Peter Aguiar wants to have Toronto’s Catholic students talking about netiquette this year.

Published in Canada: Toronto-GTA

The Waterloo Catholic District School Board thinks the answer to cyber-bullying isn’t punishment policies but bands on cellphones — blue rubber bands.

Published in Canada

BRAMPTON, ONT. - Nine high school students in Brampton learned this week that while talk may be cheap, tweeting isn't.

"Over the weekend it came to the attention of the administration at the school that some disparaging, offensive and totally inappropriate comments were directed at specific teachers at St. Marguerite d'Youville School," said Bruce Campbell, director of communication for the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board. "The school investigated and found nine students involved in a Twitter discussion."

While Campbell wasn't able to say exactly how the school became aware of the comments, he did say in the past students, parents and staff members have brought similar comments to the attention of school administration.

In this case the remarks made ranged from sexually explicit comments to messages of violent aggression directed specifically at three of the school's teachers — two female and one male.

Punishments varied in severity based on the degree in which each student participated in the "extremely derogatory" conversation. The nine were sent home Nov. 21, with five students receiving suspensions — two students hit with seven-day suspensions, the others with two-day suspensions.  

"The remaining two students, who's remarks were the most outrageous, received seven-day suspensions, they have to write letters of apology and they have been removed from the classrooms of those teachers whom these disparaging remarks were directed," said Campbell. "Peel police were actually called in to speak with a couple of them regarding the tone of the remarks. No charges were laid but two students were given a warning."

Campbell said none of the students were known for causing trouble in the past.

"These were good kids who made a bad decision."

Although the board is still developing a policy specifically regarding social media, these comments fall under the Catholic Code of Conduct's section on conduct injurious to the moral tone of the school.

Campbell said there is a good lesson to be learned out of all of this, which the school's principal has been echoing in the morning announcements during Bullying Prevention and Awareness Week in Ontario.

"Bullying, cyber-bullying or any kind of bullying is wrong," said Campbell. "Once you use social media it's not a conversation directly between you and two or three or four friends; it's out there.

"Regardless of whether it's during the day, off time, the weekend or in the summer, if somebody makes remarks directly related to somebody at the school — whether it be faculty, staff, admin or student — they should be aware that that has impact on the moral tone of the school and if we find out about it we're going to act on it."

Published in Canada: Toronto-GTA

Organ donation is a generous gesture that celebrates life and says to the recipient: “I’m glad you are alive,” said Christa Morse.

Facebook users in the U.S. and U.K. are now able to put their organ donor status on their Facebook wall, alongside their religious and political views. Soon that option will be coming to Canada and other countries. When that happens, Morse will gladly sign up.

Published in Youth Speak News

“I wish to register a complaint.”  This famous opening line of the Dead Parrot skit by Monty Python, I hereby appropriate to register a blanket complaint concerning cyberlouts.

Cyberlouts come in a variety of guises, including those who persist in using cellphones when I am trying to speak with them. Faced with such rudeness in private conversation, I can (and do) walk away. No big deal.

Published in Guest Columns

No doubt, some people will be offended by this column. Seems whatever is said about Catholicism offends someone these days. Even the most benign comment is challenged. Instead of listening to and discussing other points of view, there is a tendency to shout at those who see things differently.

Think I am exaggerating? Take a quick spin on blogs, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and elsewhere and you’ll easily find the shouting, name-calling and misunderstandings. (Just Google “Catholic faith arguments” or “contraception” or “women priests” as starting points and then simply click away.)

Published in Robert Brehl

VATICAN CITY - Amid the deluge of information and nonstop chatter in today's media, the church needs to help people find safe havens of silence, Pope Benedict XVI said.

Far from being the enemy of calm and quiet, social media and the Internet can lead people to virtual sanctuaries that offer silent reflection, thoughtful dialogue and true meaning in life, he said.

"Attention should be paid to the various types of websites, applications and social networks which can help people today to find time for reflection and authentic questioning, as well as making space for silence and occasions for prayer, meditation or sharing of the word of God," he said in his message for the 2012 celebration of World Communications Day.

Published in Vatican

TORONTO - For a generation wired to the Internet via smartphones and laptops, the Gospel can easily be forgotten in the information overload. To prevent this, the Catholic Chaplaincy at York University (CCY) started To the Top, a web series of Catholic videos for youth.

“Many young people are spending many hours in front of their computers,” said Joseph Zambon, 25, CCY pastoral assistant and cast member of To the Top. “We, the Church, need to break into these places and make sure that young people are hearing the Gospel message. Otherwise, they will be swept away into a secular culture.” 

Launched in fall, To the Top was founded by Dwayne Santos, 21, a concurrent education student at York, as a way to educate both Catholics and non-Catholics about the faith.

Published in Youth Speak News

As cliché as it may sound, the famous phrase “Ignorance is bliss” can be highly relevant to modern society. Many of us fail to recognize the surplus of blessings we have been given and focus more on what we lack.

If you have a Twitter account, the essence of our ignorance can be seen in the tweets of FirstWorldPains. The account satires the pains of developed countries by tweeting various complaints that many find relatable. Tweets like “It’s nice outside, but my Internet doesn’t reach far enough to the backyard for me to watch Netflix on my laptop” and “The chips I’m eating are too wide for my mouth” grace the newsfeed every other hour.

Published in YSN: Speaking Out
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