Tuesday, July 28, 2015

ToT West: Unwrapping the Truth About Human Trafficking

by Alycia Rodrigues
St. Mary's Parish, Brampton, ON

At our most recent Theology on Tap West, we learned a great deal about the reality of human trafficking... the blinders came off and, consequently, many who were in attendance at the event were inspired to help better inform the public about this important issue, particularly at the upcoming Pan Am and Parapan Am Games in Toronto this summer through an initiative called GIFT Box. We were among those inspired to help and don't doubt that some of you will be, too.

Human trafficking is to be deceived or taken against your will, bought or sold and transported into exploitation; forced labour or sexual exploitation, domestic servitude, forced marriage, forced begging, or forced removal of organs. It is a growing problem around the world and, contrary to popular belief, that includes right here in Canada... in the GTA.

GIFT Box is an interfaith initiative, it is a walk-in piece of public art that looks like a large wrapped gift that is covered in the types of promises that are used to deceive victims of human trafficking. Inside, visitors are offered the opportunity to learn about the realities behind these promises that lure people into trafficking situations. The GIFT Box will be located at the corner of King and Church in downtown Toronto during the Games, on the grounds of St. James Anglican Cathedral.

Volunteers are needed to be at the box every day during the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games. Led by a team captain, volunteers will talk to people who visit the box and answer questions, and hand out materials. Volunteers are required to attend ONE 3-hour training session which will equip them to handle common questions and to direct people to additional resources. Training sessions will be held at the Mary Ward Centre (70 St. Mary Street, Toronto) on June 18th from 1-4 p.m., on June 21st from 1-4 p.m., and on June 23rd from 6-9 p.m. Additionally, volunteers are asked to cover a minimum of 8 hours (which can be completed all at once or spread out over a few days).

We hope that you will consider offering some of your time, but if you can't, your prayers for the victims, traffickers, and activists are plenty! For more information and/or to register as a volunteer, please visit www.faithalliance.ca

Thanks to Faith Connections and the OCY for bringing this important cause to our attention. Together, we can #UnWrapTheTruth about human trafficking.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Theology on Tap East: Euthanasia in the Shadow of the Supreme Court Decision

St. Bartholomew Parish, Scarborough, ON

The Supreme Court of Canada’s unanimous decision earlier this year to legalize euthanasia as a constitutional right set the stage for yet another successful edition of Theology on Tap East on Thursday, May 21st.

Journalist Charles Lewis met with an enthusiastic group of young adults at The Bear Pub in Pickering to discuss the issues that we now face in light of this decision and what we can do as Catholics, Christians, and as a caring society to make a difference.

Guest speaker Charles Lewis
As the former religion reporter at the National Post, Charles Lewis is a familiar name to many Canadians as a veteran journalist with several years of experience under his belt. Now retired from the industry, Lewis dedicates his time and efforts to spreading the word on the issues surrounding Canada’s changing views on euthanasia. Lewis explained that the Canada we have come to know and respect, for its unwavering belief in protecting human lives and its vulnerable, is about to drastically change and sadly, it’s not for the better.

Doctors across the country will soon be able to lawfully end human lives via what is now being referred to as ‘physician assisted death’ or ‘death with dignity’, which bodes the question, what will happen when their primary mission to care for our sick is thus diminished?

Lewis dove right into answering this question in his talk, providing statistics from across the globe in support of his argument.  He began by explaining that the legalization of euthanasia in Canada is not a Catholic issue, but rather a global one. Though we are solid in our faith, it goes beyond what we believe. It’s a question of humanity.

He continues on to express that deep down we all know that there is something very wrong with accepting euthanasia, but we allow it to occur out of fearfear of the unknown and fear to take a stand and speak out. The past has proven that when we, as an organized group of people, try to preach against death, we are seen as interfering. Attitude and fear is what is killing us, explains Lewis. We worry more about how we are going to be viewed rather than the real issue at hand.

As Canadian Catholics, more than 12 million strong as of 2013, and with even more extensive numbers when we combine with Christians as a whole, we should be able to make a difference and have a voice. We, as North Americans, have all the freedom in the world, yet our timidity holds us back. We are afraid to express our faith despite not being threatened for our beliefs.

Lewis, who is unwell himself and on medication to control his pain, has not given up hope and chooses to find the blessings even in the dark days by laying it all at the foot of the cross. It’s time we do the same.

Instead of supporting euthanasia, which can be presumed if we choose to do nothing says Lewis, we need to invest in better hospice care, as well as to find ways to better aid in pain management.

Here are a few other things that we can do to make a difference:

•       Talk to your priest about it.
•       Pray, pray and pray some more.  Then, tell others to pray about it too.
•       Write to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other MPs – vote the not-withstanding clause. This will give us some time to develop an opposition.

As the future leaders of our Church, we need to take action now. Let our voices be heard.

For photos from this event, click here.
For information about future events, please visit our website at ocytoronto.org.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

ToT West: Discerning & Living Out Your Vocation

by Ann Gallano
Merciful Reedemer Parish, Mississauga, ON

Our Vocations Panel: Michael & Vanessa Nicholas-Schmidt,
Fr. Chris Lemieux, Sr. Teresa Joseph, and Enza Lamberti.

“We all want to serve Christ” is the common ground for all the vocations. This statement was discussed by Vanessa Nicholas-Schmidt on behalf of the special guests representing the different vocations who each shared their discernment and vocation stories during the Theology on Tap West on Monday, April 13th. The special guests were Vanessa and Michael Nicholas-Schmidt who talked about their marriage, Fr. Chris Lemieux who discussed priesthood, Sr. Teresa Joseph who shared about being a religious sister, and Enza Lamberti, who explained her vocation as a consecrated virgin. 

Vanessa and Michael stated that one of the greatest blessings of their marriage was the grace of the sacraments, especially as they prepared for their marriage. Discernment for them was like taking one step at a time and they felt peace. They described discernment as taking more and more steps closer to God and you arrive at where you are called to be.

Fr. Chris shared how he loves hearing vocation stories and recognizing authentic signs about other's desires to serve Christ. For him, the most important things in discerning are sacramental life, prayer, and most of all having the heart to serve.

Sr. Teresa emphasized the ultimate significance of having a relationship with God in any vocation. She added that this can be developed through prayer, time spent at the Blessed Sacrament, and living a sacramental life. She also said that “Whatever gives you peace, you take that step. Otherwise, you are forever discerning.”

Enza briefly explained about the vocation of being a consecrated single and she pointed out that everyone is called to live a consecrated life whatever your vocation is. She described how raising her niece, Desiree, has reflected her own growth towards the faith and helped her uncover who God is calling her to be.

There are obstacles on discernment and living out your vocations. Sr. Teresa stated that even if you say “yes”, it doesn’t stop there. The evil one will keep tempting you. You can’t have everything you want but in the end “it is not about me, but about God”, according to Michael. How would you know where God is leading you to? The answer is different for each person. Fr. Chris said it best when he says: “Trust God – If God calls you there, you’ll be there.”

For more photos from this event, go here.
For information on future events, visit our website at ocytoronto.org

Saturday, December 13, 2014

ToT West: Same Sex Attraction and the Catholic Church

by Meaghan D'Souza
St. Patrick's Parish, Mississauga, ON

On Monday November 10th, Sister Helena Burns, fsp (Daughters of St. Paul) eloquently spoke at Theology on Tap West about the Catholic Church’s perspective on homosexuality. Before beginning, she reminded the audience to remember the big picture – God’s unconditional love for us.

Sister Helena began her presentation by addressing the notion of labels such as gay, lesbian, transgendered, bisexual and queer. She highlighted that these labels merit a difference between individuals who are living a homosexual lifestyle and those who are living a heterosexual lifestyle. The aforementioned labels reduce an individual’s dignity as a child of God because they only acknowledge one’s sexual orientation rather than addressing one’s complete identity. Instead, we should replace the term “homosexuality” with the term “same sex attraction” only in reference to the partnership between two people. As a result, one’s identity does not become completely dependent on their sexual orientation.

Sister Helena Burns, fsp
Sister Helena briefly addressed Pope Francis’ views on same sex attraction by explaining that it is in one’s best interest to “see the person (before the rule).” All individuals are made in the image and likeness of God, and should be treated with respect and equality. In an interview, Pope Francis outlined that “if they accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them? The tendency [to homosexuality] is not the problem...they’re our brothers.” This statement has been misinterpreted by the media to mean that Pope Francis accepts homosexuality. However, when reading this quotation within its correct context, Pope Francis explained that if individuals in a same sex partnership accept leading a life of Christ’s teachings, they will strive to be chaste despite one’s feelings or inclinations. Furthermore, Pope Francis described that individuals should not judge others merely based jon their same sex attraction.

Sister Helena concluded that the Catholic Church will never tell individuals to change their sexual orientation. She distinctly highlighted the notion of “treating people like people” by emphasizing that “God loved us while we were sinners” (Romans 5:8). All individuals are sinners and should not base their judgments on the person rather than the objectiveness of an action. Same sex attraction is complex; however, individuals must be accepted with dignity and love. After all, we are all children of God called to love one another.

Sister Helena encouraged individuals searching for more information on this topic and others to go to: www.tinyurl.com/TOBresources or http://couragerc.org/

Friday, October 31, 2014

ToT East: How to be a Discerning Voter

by Alison D'Souza
Precious Blood Parish, Scarborough, ON

Should we consider all politicians to be untrustworthy? Should we be cynical of politics as a whole? At the October 23rd Theology on Tap East at the Bear Pub in Pickering, Bishop William McGrattan (from the Diocese of Peterborough, ON) tackled these and other misconceptions in his address about the importance of voting preceding the October 27th municipal election.

The night started off with a statement that surprised me: Bishop McGrattan noted that we as Christians should “recover a legitimate respect for those involved in politics.” His statement stood in contrast to the often heavy-handed criticism of politicians that I’ve seen in the media, as well as uncharitable personal attacks that have often accompanied voting periods. His statement reminded me about the dignity of the politician who is, first, a human being made in the image and likeness of God; in this way, we’re called to be charitable people even when we don’t agree with a politician’s platform. But, as Bishop McGrattan explained, there’s yet another reason for why respect is needed, and it relates to the dignity of politics itself. 

Bishop William McGrattan
The political profession is a noble one, said Bishop McGrattan and, properly understood, it’s “the enactment of justice.” In other words, politics serves the cause of justice in its concern for individuals, and especially the common good. The political profession thus expresses “a noble form of love.” The bishop urged us, therefore, to set the tone when it comes to promoting a respect for the political profession and those who are in office. Bishop McGrattan’s statements helped deepen my understanding of the political profession as one that is worthy of pursuing and encouraging others to pursue since it’s a way to do God’s will in love of our neighbour. 

That said, how does one choose the right candidate? Because reason alone cannot perfectly inform our decision-making, Bishop McGrattan noted that faith can greatly guide our reason. That’s not to say that the Church imposes Herself on politics, but rather that She assists us in “how we decide on particular issues and [how to choose] the right candidate.” The Church helps us form (and inform) our conscience so that we may make good decisions.  

Practically speaking, how could the Church inform our decision-making when choosing candidates? Bishop McGrattan left us with eleven principles from the Ontario Conference of Catholic Bishops document entitled Taking Stock - An Examination of Conscience.
These principles include, for example, a consideration for the dignity of human life, the common good, and the stewardship of the environment. He reminded us, however, that there is a hierarchy of values among the principles in that some issues hold a greater weight of value than others, for instance, issues that deal with human life.  Of course, a candidate may not fill all eleven of these criteria, but we are “encouraged to support the one who can fill these principles as much as possible.” Thus, we were called not to withdraw from voting whether because of a single issue or because we’re cynical about politics, but to use our faith to guide us in choosing, according to our conscience, the best possible candidate to serve the community.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A Night of Worship: Audrey Assad, Bellarive, and Joe Zambon in Toronto

by Stephanie Ferraro

Music is one of the most beautiful and magical things in the world. Not only can it stir feelings deep within and draw upon one's emotions, music also has the ultimate power to bring people together. On the evening of Tuesday, September 16, 2014 I had the incredible opportunity to embrace all that music has to offer and more. The experience on a whole was inviting and healing, and the presence of God was certainly felt by all.

JOE ZAMBON (photo by Jason DeHetre)
Joe Zambon started the evening off with a soulful performance and his warm smile. His thoughtful lyrics and passion for performing showed through during his set. I noticed, instantly, how amazing Joe’s guitar playing was. The soothing sound of his vocals, paired with his own intriguing lyrics echoed in the theatre of St. Michael’s College School and made for an incredible folk-style performance. Before launching into his song titled, I Just Want Peace, he explained to be as if he had just “cut open his chest and pulled out his heart”. It’s a beautifully written song that he wrote while reflecting on one of his favourite passages about Jesus and the Samaritan woman; a story that spoke to him in many ways. He explained how the well in the passage represents the place we go to, to draw life from over and over again. He went on to say that for the woman, the well represents relationships and Jesus proposed to her a relationship that is much more satisfying in body and spirit. “From the inside first and flowing to the outside,” Joe mused. “I think Jesus was proposing to this woman, ‘I can give you peace, something that will satisfy you.’” Beautiful song. Profound message. Outstanding performance.

Bellarive stole my heart with their uplifting performance. Uplifting, to me, is one of the best ways to describe it. Audrey, who introduced the band, asked the audience to remain standing for the set and Bellarive certainly got the crowd moving. More passionate performers!! Yay! One of the most satisfying things for me, especially as a performer myself, is to see someone LOVE what they do, and Bellarive showed just that. Not only their love for performing, but also their love for God. For those who haven't heard of them, you must take a listen to their music! It’s the kind of music you want to rock out to in the car, but does not lack amazing lyrics with profound messages.

BELLARIVE (photo by Jason DeHetre)
I loved the little bits of spoken words that were added into the set by singers, Sean and Melissa. “Each and everyone of us, even if you don't realize it, we’re here for the same purpose. We this unbelievable opportunity to be apart of something bigger than ourselves. The grace of God invites us here tonight,” Sean explained. He invited the crowd to join in singing their songs, and asked them to think about the words they were singing because they are prayers. Their rendition of In Christ Alone was personally my favourite, as well as their final song Calling On Fire, a song based on God’s chosen identity throughout the scripture being fire.

Both Bellarive and Joe Zambon gave incredible performances and surely gained plenty of new fans after this wonderful evening, including myself!

As I mentioned before, I am a performer and some of my favourite songs to sing, not only at my local parish, but outside of the church as well, are by Audrey Assad. I’ve been listening to her for about 5 years and many songs such as Restless and Winter Snow have become staples in my repertoire. I feel so blessed to have had the chance to watch her perform live only a few feet away from me.

Audrey Assad began her set with her song Death, Be Not Proud. I have so much respect for artists who can sound identical on stage to how they do on their tracks. Her vocals were nothing less than perfection. The clarity in her voice is soothing and makes you never want to stop listening! She continued her set with a cover of John Mark McMillian’s song Death In His Grave. One of the things I love about Audrey’s live performances, is she's always at her piano. Playing and singing at the same time is a gift, people! (In my eyes it is, anyway!) She sang Good To Me next; one of my personal favourites off her new album. She taught it to the crowd which resulted in the entire theatre singing in unison: what a beautiful thing to experience. She explained that the song, like many of the songs on Fortunate Fall (her album), were inspired by Psalm 23. “I love singing from the psalms”, she said. Lead Me On comes up next, another favourite of mine, (I have a lot of favourites) especially because of the gorgeous piano solo featured in the song. Audrey then leads into her own version of Better Is One Day creating a medley of the two songs. Audrey went on to sing a new song called Lamb Of God and then another song from her album called, Humble. Audrey then went on to sing her own rendition of More Of You and I Will Exalt You in another medley. I am a huge fan of the song More Of You by Colton Dixon and it’s message. The message being that if all we need is God in our lives and in our hearts and if we allow Him to, He will show us the way and make us who we are meant to be.

AUDREY ASSAD (photo by Jason DeHetre)
Audrey continued with a stunning rendition of I See You. Even writing about the concert makes me want to relive it all over again!  She sang Love is Moving and Do You Speak and her band left the stage quietly. I took a moment during Audrey’s set to look at the people around me. It was so touching to see the emotion people felt while listening to her sing her praises and share these moments with her. The very last song she sings is Lord, I Need You, a crowd-pleaser indeed, because I was certain there wasn't one person in the audience that didn't know every single word. Audrey exited the stage and left the last chorus to the audience. There was a genuine sense of unity among the crowd as they sang in harmony (musically and figuratively). Tears were shed by many, and the room was overwhelmed with sweet praise and God’s presence in every one of us. This Night Of Worship was surely one filled with beauty.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Relationships and Sexuality - How Does God Fit In?

On June 25, 2014 at Jack Astor’s Bar & Grille in Scarborough, Dr. Josephine Lombardi spoke eloquently to about 90 young adults about sexuality and relationships and how God fits into the equation. She said that to be in good relationships with others, we need to strive to become our best selves which includes having a relationship with God who loves us and created us. 

Dr. Lombardi shared with us many different ways in our lives that lead to authentic freedom which is truly knowing God. This is what Christ wants for us all. God wants us to be perfect in our wholeness as we are all created in His image and likeness. He wants us to be the best version of ourselves.
Dr. Josephine Lombardi
Assistant Professor
Pastoral & Systematic Theology
St. Augustine's Seminary

It was explained by Dr. Lombardi that we are all called to holiness with Jesus, and leading a life that will transform us to a glorified body when it's time to meet the Lord. Making mistakes is part of the growing pains, but through the blessings and grace of reconciliation, we can repent and go back to Christ.

Whether our vocation is to be called to marriage, the priesthood, the single life, or a religious life, we can all walk in the path of His ultimate plan. 

 - Cati Carnovale