New group ministers to an overlooked demographic

By  Sara Loftson, The Catholic Register
  • April 13, 2007
TORONTO - Maria Shymonovych moved to Toronto from Ukraine two years ago after visiting the city in 2002 for World Youth Day.
“I came back. I was disappointed. Where are all these people, where are they? I thought Toronto was full of Catholics,” she said.

It wasn’t until the 30-year-old Catholic school teacher started attending monthly Civitas meetings that she found some of those young people.

Civitas is where Shymonovych goes to network, bond over challenges in the work force and learn how to promote faith in society.

“Their presentations are high level professional, spiritual, intellectual. It’s the best you can get in Toronto,” she said.

Luke Jalsevac, a 28-year-old bond broker, is one of 10 people who founded the group to “challenge young professionals to grow intellectually and spiritually in Christian solidarity to build the civilization of love.”

Civitas is inspired by the life and teachings of the late Pope John Paul II who challenged youth to build a new culture founded on truth. The group does this by bringing young professionals together in a social and intellectual setting to discuss topical issues.

“There’s nothing that’s geared toward post-university that would help us grow in our faith and give (us) the same support as in university,” said Jalsevac.

He said the challenges facing young professionals are unique.

“How do we live out our faith in a secular context? How do we build our careers, balance a family, our finances?”

It’s important “to hear a strong consistent message and know you are not alone,” added co-founder Christine Taylor, a 30-year-old innovation manager for Unilever. “The team environment and solidarity is important. To continue your education is your responsibility as a Catholic.”

The first two meetings were hosted at Salt + Light Television, but very soon the group grew beyond capacity with more than 75 people in attendance.

The evening begins around 6:45 p.m. with Mass at St. Basil’s chapel, followed by mingling between sips of wine and mouthfuls of appetizers at Fr. Madden Hall on the University of St. Michael’s campus at the University of Toronto. Then a notable speaker gives an hour-long presentation. Past guests have been Fr. Tom Rosica, CEO of Salt + Light Television, Anthony Schratz, lawyer and historian, and Camille de Blaise, co-founder of the Centre for Life Principles in Washington. The next meeting on April 26 will feature Anna Halpine, president of the World Youth Alliance, a group that promotes human dignity at the United Nations.

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