OCY honours outstanding youth leaders

By 
  • May 14, 2010
Kelden FormosaMARKHAM, Ont. - Catholic youth leadership is alive and well in the archdiocese of Toronto.

The Office of Catholic Youth’s yearly banquet highlighted Catholic leadership, and gave a video look into the lives of six phenomenal young leaders from parishes throughout the archdiocese to the record crowd of 550.


Timothy Keslick, a Brebeuf College student and Catholicity program founder, Andrew Santos, the youth minister at St. Justin, Martyr parish, Daniel Francavilla, founder of ACCESS Charity in Brampton, Ont., Niro Francispragasam, student president of the Young Spiritans at Neil McNeil High School, Arianna Comella, a Grade 10 youth leader at St. Padre Pio parish in Woodbridge, and Kim Ibana, student president of the Canadian Catholic Students’ Association and administrative assistant to the chaplaincy at the University of St. Michael’s College in Toronto, were honoured for their contributions to their community.

“It’s difficult reaching out to each and every young person in the archdiocese of Toronto but if we can identify ones that are taking leadership roles and encourage them to continue to do so and honour them and give them a little boost for their efforts, then that’s something that’s very valuable for our faith community,” said Christian Elia, OCY director.

Elia said OCY was recognizing the comprehensive model of youth ministry in which young people are encouraged to fulfill their baptismal promise to live the faith and act as examples for others in four settings: parish, school, community and home.

Santos, recognized for devoting countless hours to his parish despite his heavy university workload, said he can’t wait to take a group of 15 teens to the next World Youth Day in Spain. To him, youth ministry is important because it means trying to love, act and serve like Jesus and teaching others to do the same.

Comella, 15, who has been active in her parish since Grade 4, said taking on responsibilities with the Padre Pio parish youth group was something positive to put her energy into.

“It’s something I feel is a place where you belong and teens can have fun and are not out creating mischief,” she said.

Francavilla, who just completed his second year of graphic design school, said ACCESS Charity, which he founded four years ago at the age of 16, has helped him put into practice the belief that risk taking is the only way to grow and give God the space to provide. ACCESS Charity provides needy children in the developing world with school uniforms and school supplies, and educates youth across North America about realities in the Third World.

“ACCESS Charity is one thing that really helps keep me rooted in my faith,” he said.

For Francispragasam, a Grade 12 student who has led his Young Spiritans group in raising $20,000 for Haiti, and is a youth ministry co-ordinator at St. Boniface parish, leadership is a simple need to give back with the gifts that God gave him.

“I’m not just going to go to church and end it there,” Francispragasam said.

For most, it’s also a matter of giving back for all that they received.

Ibana said she remembers well her first year at the University of St. Michael’s College. She had a hard time adjusting, felt lost and walked into the chaplaincy practically in tears.

“The school was so big and if I didn’t have the chaplaincy I would be lost,” she said, emphasizing that’s the reason she works so hard now to promote Catholic chaplaincies across Canada.

Auxiliary Bishop Vincent Nguyen gave a keynote address and said the four pillars of a young person’s life, school, parish, home and community, together form the foundation of their formation.

“In the same way, these areas are not just opportunities to give, but to receive,” said Nguyen. “Every time you engage in the world with that special enthusiasm which is yours, you open yourself up to the new opportunity to encounter Christ Jesus our Lord in the sacraments or in those around you.”

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