Faith Connections volunteers take part in Street Patrol to feed the homeless on the streets of downtown Toronto in 2019. Photo courtesy Faith Connections

Faith Connections puts bow on 16-year legacy

By 
  • October 27, 2021

Catholic young adults gathered one last time, virtually, Oct. 25 to bid farewell to the Faith Connections program operated by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Toronto.

The 16-year legacy of this fellowship ministry catering to spiritually-yearning 19-39-year-olds was saluted during one last Theology on Tap evening of learning, fellowship and sharing. The farewell celebration was titled “Nudged by the Spirit: The Journey Continues.”

Sabrina Chiefari, the interim director of Faith Connections since 2019, said there were multiple layers to this event.

“We wanted to not only celebrate and pay attention to what the young adult ministry was, but also recognize the support of the program by the Sisters of St. Joseph all throughout its history,” said Chiefari. “It is a big fond farewell that also highlights the work the Sisters will continue to do going forward.”

Sr. Georgette Gregory, congregational leader for the 170-year-old order, wrote in a farewell letter to Faith Connections that “we look forward to accompanying young adults in new ways and especially hope to offer opportunities to explore and discern where one’s calling may lie.”

It was determined last spring that Faith Connections would end its run. Chiefari distributed a survey to a large group of young and old stakeholders to determine if it should continue being championed and nurtured by the Sisters of St. Joseph.

This survey revealed Faith Connections was not an essential commodity at this time. 

“While the quality of the programs was still good, young adults are finding their needs met in other ways. Sixteen years ago, when Faith Connections first started, there really wasn’t a young adult ministry. Now there are five or six programs peppered throughout the GTA. These programs are more accessible geographically speaking,” she said.

Chiefari bolstered this point with her own life experience. She has been on the Faith Connections event mailing list since 2007, but there was a solid 10-year interval where she couldn’t attend a single gathering in Toronto’s downtown core because she lived in Vaughan north of the city.

Though her interim director position is at an end, Chiefari will forge forward with the Sisters of St. Joseph as creation care animator. Some of the public events Chiefari hopes to execute when COVID-19 restrictions dissipate will model Faith Connections’ Hike & Prayer and Christ & Culture, but open to all age groups, she said.

She also envisions young adults being active participants in social justice or vocation events.

Vocations were emphasized during farewell event speeches delivered by Julie Cachia and Leah Watkiss. The two keynote presenters work for the Sisters of St. Joseph as vocation animator and ministry director for Social Justice, Peace and Creation Care respectively.

“Vocations are not just determining whether or not you are meant to be a priest or a religious person,” said Chiefari. “We want to reach out and ask (young people) if they feel a calling or if they feel like they are having a tough time putting your finger on it, perhaps this is a way to engage.”

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