Friday, July 20, 2012


Several weeks ago I was invited, for the first time, to give a graduation address.

I have always had a special place in my heart for the Cardinal Carter Academy for the Arts community. Over the past 6 years they have been an amazing partner with Development and Peace - fundraising, carrying out our annual education campaign, and much more.

Good times with the Cardinal Carter Community

It was an honour to receive the invitation to keynote their 2012 graduation ceremony. A brief excerpt: 

Do you know what my favourite quotation is? My wife spent 50 hours cross-stitching it into a gift for me, "The World Will Be Saved By Beauty." This was the assertion of the great Russian novelist Dostoyevsky.  I believe him.  Share the beauty you have to offer with, literally, everyone. 
Never before in history has it been so easy to share. (at this point I produced my blackberry, snapped this photo and posted it to facebook) And yet, at the same time, it has never been so difficult to share - to reveal to others our search for who we are, why we are here, and what we owe as brothers and sisters to one another. To truly share in this way, in a world that increasingly is closing itself off in fear requires strength of heart, as the Psalms say.

One person who does exemplify this call to share in a meaningful way is Marilyn Grace. She is the teacher/chaplain at Cardinal Carter who invited me to speak. This was her last graduation ceremony as she retired at the end of the year - Thank-you Marilyn for all the young people whose lives you have touched.

Speaking of graduation... of July 1st, I began a one year leave of absence from my position as the Central Ontario Animator. For the next 12 months I will be serving Development and Peace as the Deputy Director of In-Canada programs on a maternity leave contract.  My new position is responsible for the entire network of animators across Canada - a team of 14. Therefore, you will notice that the tag-line on the Mustard Seed Muse has accordingly changed - so too will the content of my posts. Reflections and Reports will take on a National rather than regional flavor.

This message will be sent out across list-serves operated by members in my three dioceses: Toronto, Kingston, and Peterborough.  To all of you reading this who have been part of my journey as animator these past six years, thank-you. Working with you in the cause of the Gospel call to Solidarity has given me a solid foundation for the year ahead. My very first trip into the field as the animator remains vivid for me. It was the October 2006 education campaign workshop at St. Joan of Arc Parish in Toronto. I had yet to officially begin my responsibilities as animator. We began the training in prayer. I knew I was home. The chance to freely express my Faith and its meaning in my search for a better way of living with one another and with all creation is a blessing. Not everyone gets to both find and live their vocation in life.

Some shots from the field - 2006-2012

Please pray for me as I make this short sojourn to a place where my view will widen from Central Ontario to all of Canada. I look forward to continuing to share with you all on the road ahead as it stretches out for me in both directions - west to the Pacific and east to the Atlantic - from sea to shining sea.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Meeting Xavier...

Brother Xavier Plassat
Brother Xavier Plassat almost didn't make it to Canada from his remote village in Northern Brazil. With animated gestures he mimics the explosion of glass from the blown out windows of his bus. It was hit by a large truck during his 7 hour ride to the airport and consequent three-flight trip to Canada.  He explains his voyage to me at the home of the Dominican Friars in Toronto where I meet him for the first time.  He is here for a two-week speaking tour.

He hasn't slept for two nights. And yet his front-line activism freeing slaves from charcoal and sugarcane operations has obviously given him a fortitude for God's work. His eyes are clear and blue, his manner playful and spirit light. Yet the burdens of the poor with whom he works in the remote regions of Brazil are clearly also his own.  God has moved him to give his life to this important work - to free the slaves, to release the captives.

Brother Xavier has arrived in  Canada. Over the next two weeks he will be sharing stories of his work as the coordinator of the Anti-slavery and human trafficking program of D&P partner, the Pastoral Land Commission
"This is our secret weapon" he says, giving me a little fold-out accordion card with a cartoon on it. His program produces tens of thousands of these cards and give them to poor workers everywhere to help them avoid falling into the trap of slavery.  There is a place to put their names - for many, it functions as their only source of ID. There is a place to write down basic information: "my work contract starts:______ ends:______ it pays:____" Often this information is not written down or agreed upon with the employer and worker and thus they end up trapped.  The back contains numbers of people they can call if they are forced into slavery or slave-like conditions.

His first presentation is this Saturday at 2pm in Bracebridge and I am really looking forward to it!

Finding out when he's coming to a place near you and come and meet him too! More info HERE

Monday, January 23, 2012

2753 Drops in the River

How long does it take to count 2753 drops that make up a river? Four hours and Thirteen minutes (minus 25 minutes for lunch).
Water Drop 2753.
For some time now I've wanted to know exactly how many drops are found in the river that is at the focus of our local D&P River of Justice Project. Today I found out.

I've always been a fan of creative prayer and meditation and spending the time today to enumerate each drop of the river was certainly that.

Each drop contains the reflection of a person who has taken the time to record a thought, prayer, picture, pledge, or story regarding the importance of water in the life of our human family.

2011 Bottled Water Free Day rally at the Catholic Education Center, Toronto
Drop by drop we are creating a culture that sees water as the God-Given gift that it is and thus protects it for the common good. This culture is one which celebrates and protects our tap water while avoiding bottled water (which is sold for private profit). I felt such a sense of gratitude for each person who is a part of this river, people ranging from age 4 to 84.
I have publicly committed to growing the River of Justice until all the Catholic school boards in the Central Ontario region are have a bottled water free culture that is enshrined in board policy. So far ALCDSB has acheived this goal and TCDSB is well on its way!

Bottled Water Free Day is March 15th 2012. Consider having your school join the River of Justice project if you haven't already.  Check out the new project page on the Mustard Seed Muse