Catholic students at the Newman Centre at the University of Toronto hosted an all-night adoration called Nuit Benoit or “Blessed Night” during the city’s Nuit Blanche or “White Night” festival. Photo by Jean Ko Din

Youth bring Christ to all-night arts fest

By  Jean Ko Din, Youth Speak News
  • October 5, 2012

TORONTO - Bright lights, booming music and large crowds — there is no party quite like Nuit Blanche. For one night each year, the streets of downtown Toronto erupt in celebration of the city’s rich arts culture. This year the city’s Catholic community joined the party.

The Newman Catholic Students Club (NCSC) from the University of Toronto facilitated an all-night adoration at St. Thomas Aquinas Church Sept 29. They called the event Nuit Benoit, which translates to “Blessed Night.”

“Something on your heart? Spend some time with Christ,” read a small whiteboard easel on a quiet corner at St. George Street and Hoskin Avenue, inviting passersby to enter the church from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m.

“This is the Year of Faith, the year of evangelization,” said Christina Alaimo, NCSC president. “We want something that can draw people’s attention. We want them to be seduced by Christ.”

Nuit Benoit is NCSC vice president Natasha Milavec’s brain 

child to counter the events of Nuit Blanche as part of the group’s new initiative.

Milavec recalls hearing the creak of the church’s large wooden doors and watching an adorer step out.

“He looked like he was just filled with the Spirit,” said Milavec. “He said that if he had known that this was here, he would’ve come sooner. I think that is what is most satisfying about this event. People’s faces just looked other worldly when they came out.”

More than 100 people attended the event and adored the Blessed Sacrament throughout the night. Many also participated in praise and worship and received the sacrament of Reconciliation.

As Nuit Benoit worked to act as a retreat from the city, the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) saw the evening as a platform to display its message to the community. Four exhibits were featured over the night.

John Notten, a teacher at Mary Ward Catholic Secondary School, presented an art piece for the third year in a row. This year’s piece, The NeXt Desk, was displayed at the Distillery District as part of Thom Sokolsky’s project, Dada Reboot. It is a 13-foot wheel of 20 classroom desks. “It’s mobile, interactive and interconnected,” said Notten.

The NeXt Desk is a symbol representing a new vision to integrate 21st-century technology more seamlessly into the school system.

“The notion of traditional education has been unchanged since the Industrial Revolution,” said Notten. “But in the 21st century, technology is forcing us to re-examine how we educate our kids today.”

Notten’s students understood the state of change in their own way. They called it “the state of flux.” Each student took a piece of a car and transformed it into something that represented their experiences. These individual pieces were then reformed on Yonge and Gould Street as the Fluxmobile.

“It’s a huge honour for the students. I’m so proud of them,” said Notten. “It took my whole life to get my art featured at Nuit Blanche and these 16- and 17- year-olds already have one.”

A second installation from Mary Ward, supervised by Marissa Largo, was located at Wychwood Theatre. Paralandscape is an art piece where people were instructed to take hold of a white parachute as images from Google Earth are projected onto the cloth. As the images shift, they shook the cloth to skew the landscape for “an interactive globetrotting adventure.”

St. Joseph’s College also had its own art piece called the Magic Window. Students collected 35mm unused slides from across the school board and projected them through the windows of their school. This “stained-glass quilt” displayed 50 years worth of traditional curriculum against the modern frame of the building.

(Din, 21, is a third-year journalism student at Ryerson University in Toronto.)

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