Grade 10 students from St. Jean de Brebeuf Catholic High School dance with special needs clients at St. Jude’s Academy of the Arts. Photo by Jean Ko Din

St. Jude’s youth retreat celebrates 10 years of ministry

By  Jean Ko Din, Youth Speak News
  • January 11, 2013

TORONTO - At first, it was awkward. The Grade 10 students from St. Jean de Brebeuf Catholic High School weren’t really sure what to do, so they stuck to the perimeter of the room. The St. Jude’s special needs clients, however, weren’t as shy. They swayed their hips and pumped their fists to music that praised God.

Eventually, the St. Jean de Brebeuf students warmed up to the praise and worship party.

A girl stepped out from the wall of students. She walked behind the wheelchair of Samantha King, a St. Jude’s client, and suddenly a conga line formed. The St. Jude’s clients became excited as the Brebeuf students begin to join in, one by one.

The students were part of a retreat with St. Jude’s Academy of the Arts. The academy is a day program offered to intellectually challenged adults and is celebrating 15 years of service to adults and 10 years of youth ministry.

St. Jude’s holds day retreats for an average of 300 students per week, like the retreat held for the Brebeuf students. After a decade of ministry, St. Jude’s has reached out to more than 100,000 students from across the Greater Toronto Area.

Students learn about social justice, especially as it affects people with disabilities. In spending time with the clients, they are able to see how “joyful and full of love” the clients are.

Together they make rosary bracelets for their arts and crafts session — which are then sold to schools to raise funds for the program. They also participate in a dance class with the clients and a theatre improv session.

At the end of the day, the clients and students come together in the music room for a praise and worship concert led by the St. Jude’s staff.

“I think it’s a good time to bring our Catholic faith to our kids,” said Angela Carboni, executive director and founder of the program. “Blindness of the soul is the worst thing you could have. Kids need to see that there is more to this world.”

Carboni created the youth retreat program as a way to teach students the basics of their faith. During her retreats, Carboni talks about the eternal battle of good and evil, the importance of God’s legions of angels and the holy lives of the saints.

“Every one of these saints are like us. I want to show the kids that they are also called to sanctity,” said Carboni.

She admits that students are usually shy in the beginning, but believes that they crave to know God. A part of that is being able to see Christ in “the innocence and simplicity” of the clients’ souls.

“(The clients) are the joy of my life,” Carboni said. “This beautiful place that has a power of its own.”

For more information about St. Jude’s Academy of the Art, go to

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


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