York chaplaincy creates family atmosphere

By  Daniel Telech, Youth Speak News
  • October 12, 2007
TORONTO - In a corner of the seemingly far-removed fourth floor of York University’s Student Centre lies a precious and sacred gem known as the Catholic Chaplaincy at York University (CCY).  It’s a site that is a second home for many a student at York.

Established in 1974, CCY now boasts some 1,200 members and affiliates. Both a drop-in centre and chapel, the chaplaincy is more fittingly a family of faith than a location.

{sidebar id=1}There are five members on the pastoral staff: two priests, two pastoral assistants and one part-time administrative assistant.

Fr. Allan MacDonald, CC, and Fr. Roger Vandennaker, CC, have been guiding York’s Catholic chaplaincy for three and two years, respectively. They are both members of Canada’s newest community of priests, the Companions of the Cross.

Registered as a club by York University, MacDonald sums up the chaplaincy as “a parish where the majority of the people are under the age of 25.” The chaplaincy recognizes family and faith as two chief priorities, and these fundamentals permeate all of its proceedings. The focus on family allows for the existence of such a natural and supportive milieu.  

“They’re all like brothers and sisters and I’m the father,” jokes MacDonald while reflecting on the environment at CCY.

“CCY provides a safe haven of real love. Had it not been for CCY, my faith and relationship with Christ would have likely remained feeble and immature,” said student chaplaincy president Rachel MacDonald.

The music ministry program is also on the rise at CCY.  

“In liturgy we strive to bring back the sacred, especially when living in a concrete jungle — particularly through the use of music,” said MacDonald.  

The use of Latin in Masses is also being incorporated for a more traditional feel.

Religious vocations are always something to be proud of for a Catholic institution, and CCY is no exception. Women in the chaplaincy have been joining the convent steadily, while less frequently men have been discerning whether to enter the priesthood. Among these women are Lizette Romero, who joined the sisters of Our Lady Immaculate in Cambridge, Ont., and Karolina Wilcznska, who will join the Carmelites in St. Agatha, Ont.

Toronto Archbishop Thomas Collins celebrated the Sunday evening Mass at York University on Sept. 30. Sunday Mass is held regularly at 7 p.m. at York’s Scott Religious Chapel, as well as Monday through Friday (excluding Thursday) at 11:45 a.m. in room 453 of the Student Centre. Thursday Mass is celebrated at St. Bernard’s Convent, 685 Finch Ave. W., at 7:30 p.m., followed by an hour of eucharistic adoration with contemporary praise and worship music.  

With Masses fitting even the most obscure of schedules, it’s simple how CCY fills the spiritual needs of its members. Some students even come to Sunday Masses with their entire families.

Each year the size of the chaplaincy grows, but its space does not.

“The chaplaincy in the Student Centre is not large enough to accommodate all the events and students who wish to participate,” said Macdonald. “Always being too full is a nice problem to have, but as the population of the university and surrounding area continues to rise, now is the time to make plans to obtain space to meet our future needs.”

For more information about the Catholic Chaplaincy at York University visit www.yorku.ca/catholic or call (416)736-5369.

(Telech is a first-year theatre and philosophy student at York University.)

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