OUR VISION: THE SPIRIT OF ASSISI
St. Bonaventure Parish, the Franciscan Friars and Secular Franciscans working together to respond to the spiritual hungers of the community by becoming as oasis of peace, prayer and service; a little bit of Assisi in Toronto.
We are a community of believing people, who have chosen St. Bonaventure as our spiritual home within the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto. Together, inspired by the Franciscan Spirit, we seek to live and proclaim the Gospel of Christ in our daily lives by becoming a holy people and serving our sisters and brothers for the Glory of God.
It is important to register as part of our parish community.
- Registration certifies you as a member of our parish.
- It is a great way for you to begin to learn about our parish community and support the many parish ministries.
- Only registered parish members can celebrate the sacraments of Baptism, First Reconciliation, First Holy Communion, Confirmation and Marriage at St. Bonaventure
We prefer that young adults register individually, even if they are still living with their families.
You can pick up a registration form at the back of the church when you come to Sunday mass or complete this form at home. Return the form by placing it in the offertory collection basket.
INQUIRING ABOUT THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
Join our Inquiry Program to learn more about Christian life as a Roman Catholic. In addition, to weekly enquiry meetings, we invite you to participate in the life of our community and worship with us on Sundays. We ask that only Catholics share in Communion. If you decide to be baptised and become a member of the Catholic Church you will participate in a formative and education process; the Catechumenate. Christians of other denominations who are baptised and would like to become Catholic are not re-baptized but make a Profession of Faith after suitable preparation.
St. Bonaventure participates in the Volunteer Screening Program of the Archdiocese of Toronto. Screening helps maintain a safe environment for those who are active in our ministries and those to who rely on our ministries, especially the young and vulnerable.
Franciscans are inspired by, and follow the example of St. Francis of Assisi . Born in 1182, St. Francis was noted for his desire to imitate Chris t and to live the Gospel with passion. Francis founded a community of men called the First Order (Friars) in 1209. He assisted his good friend, St. Clare of Assisi in founding The Second Order; a women’s community known as the The Poor Clares. Francis was concerned that all Catholic men and women, married and single, be able to live the Gospel more earnestly and he started a Third Order which is a community known today as the Secular Franciscans. Our Secular Franciscan fraternity meets at 7:30 p.m. on the third Monday of each month in the Parish Centre for spiritual nourishment and support through prayer, ongoing formation in Franciscan spirituality, discussion and fellowship. Visitors are always welcome. The Franciscan spirit sets the tone vision, ministry and spirituality for the broader community at St. Bonaventure in Don Mills.
The friars at St. Bonaventure Friary belong to the Order of Friars Minor Conventual. They are part of a regional group of friars known as the Province of the Immaculate Conception. The principle purpose of the friars is to witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ by their lives in community. The life of the friars includes praying together daily in the morning and in the evening. They share a common dinner, time in recreation and the day-to-day of life, very much like a family. The friars are engaged in a variety of ministries including parish ministry, working with homeless women, education, canonical consultation, pastoral counselling, spiritual direction, prayer ministry and publishing. Find out more about life as a friar or our spirituality by visiting franciscans.org.
The history of the parish of St. Bonaventure is almost the history of Don Mills, since construction of the church began just a few years after the 1953 birth of the suburb − ‘Canada’s Finest Planned Community.’ Catholic families were prominent among the first to move into Don Mills, and the need for a parish church was soon keenly felt. In January 1956, the Archbishop of Toronto, His Eminence James Cardinal McGuigan, placed the members of the new parish of Don Mills in the care of the Franciscans − Order of Friars Minor Conventual. There was as yet no church, rectory or school. The 200 or so Catholic families of Don Mills mostly attended St. Gabriel’s church and school in Willowdale.
|From that time on, things moved fast and joyfully. It is no exaggeration to say that the atmosphere was one of contagious excitement, with parishioners getting a real taste of what it meant to be pioneers, to go forth and blaze a path in what until a few years before had mostly been unpaved tracks and sparse habitations. The 1960s were a period of great activity in the church and saw the development of many societies and organizations, including the Catholic Women’s League, the Holy Name Society, the Knights of Columbus, the parish choir, and various sports and social groups. As the 25th anniversary publication describes the events of 1957-63: ‘In the beautiful church, and under the guiding hand of Friar Kieran, the congregation began to witness and participate in the full splendour of the liturgy. There was an increase in spiritual programs, greater involvement in charitable and benevolent causes, and outreach to the broader community. The pastor’s great love for music was reflected in many ways.’ That legacy continues to the present day: St. Bonaventure has a well-deserved reputation as being a church of music. Friar Kieran was assigned to another pastorate in 1963 and sadly would die two years later.
He had worked hard for six years and had set the new parish on a steady course. He was succeeded by Friar Cecil, whose good-natured presence and intimate knowledge of the parish and its people helped create a populist persona about him. People felt they could relax with Friar Cecil and not be quite so hard on themselves.
|Nevertheless, Friar Cecil frowned on any backsliding with regard to the eternal truths as they concerned love and justice, the sanctity of life and the importance of the family. Friar Cecil had the uncanny ability to relate to ordinary people and it has been said that some of his best ministry was done walking down the aisles in the local Dominion store talking with people. In 1970, Friar Cecil was transferred to Endicott , NY . Parishioners here were sorry to see him go, for he had played an important role in the development of St. Bonaventure.
A familiar figure in the Don Mills community in general, his amiability helped draw the parish family close together and he was always a warm favourite with the children at the school. The Dominion store never really was the same after he left!
The appointment of Friar Briant Cullinane as pastor in 1970 was very well received, since he had already been a lively, energetic part of the parish team for more than seven years. Nobody worked harder than he did, though it’s fair to say he pushed many parishioners to try! And they did try, since Friar Briant showed himself to be a truly inspirational leader, capable of getting the best out of his flock. The Franciscan community was very vibrant and various friars lived among us including Friar Raymond Sobocinski and George Sabol. They and Friar Regis Rodda were also involved in the establishment of our “daughter” parish of Blessed John XXIII. In his 13 years with us (6 as pastor) Friar Briant helped create a warm spiritual home that was also the focus of many social and sporting interests. Friar Briant led the renovation of St. Bonaventure’s Church and expansion of the Parish Centre. He brought an exceptional level of care to this project which resulted in the excellence and beauty of our parish facilities. St.Bonaventure became the jewel of the Archdiocese. Friar Briant’s farewell party at the parish hall in 1976 (he was elected Vicar Provincial of the Franciscan Order, for his province) is remembered as a joyous occasion tinged with more than a little sadness. It was attended by just about the whole parish as well as fellow priests, well-wishers and clergy of other denominations. It would come as no surprise when, shortly afterward, Friar Briant was elected Minister Provincial of the Immaculate Conception Province of the Franciscan Order. Friar Tobias Klein followed Friar Briant and would serve as our pastor until 1982. His pastorate was very sensitive to contemporary issues, with increased emphasis on outreach ministries and greater use of the parish council to oversee pastoral directives. He was instrumental in acquiring the Casavant pipe-organ for the parish. It was a welcome addition to the church’s liturgy. It is hard to imagine St. Bonaventure without it. Of note at the friary were also Friars Michael Smyth, Reg Sweeney and Canice Connors. Friar David Collins became the next pastor. This was truly a homecoming for David and a sign of blessing on the local community: one of its own had become the pastor! As someone who grew up in the parish, he had a good understanding of what the parish needed. A closer relationship between the school and church staff developed, and the youth group became active again. The Renew program strengthened the community in many ways. Some of these faith sharing groups still meet today on a regular basis. The local Franciscan community included Friar Michael Smyth, the treasurer of the Order in Canada. Bro. Michael, as he was known to most, had an exceptional capacity to connect with people in the parish, especially those who were newcomers. These warm relationships led this most simple and frugal friar to visit such farflung places as Africa , including Egypt . Another important member of the community was the associate pastor, Friar Tom Saunders. Tom was a tall, handsome, imposing man who had faced many struggles in his life as a friar, especially as a missionary in Costa Rica . Friar Tom was quite open and honest about the painful moments of his life. This led many of our parishioners to finally face some of their own “demons” and work toward a healing process. Tom was also very passionate about bringing the Gospel to life. This led him to initiate the dramatic presentations of the Passion on Good Friday and the Nativity during the late Advent Season. Through these events Friar Tom created a sense of real welcome, and many people were drawn to, or back to, the Catholic Church. The years 1985 and 1986 stand out as being particularly eventful. In August 1985, Friar Rick Riccioli joined the local friary after finishing his undergraduate studies. He was to spend a “fraternal apostolic” year in the community and work in the parish. It was also the year that the community experienced the sudden death of Friar Tom Saunders and then later the death of Friar Tobias Klein. Toby, as the friars called him, fought valiantly against his cancer but in April left us. The periods of pain were also mingled with great joy as the parish hosted the Ordination to the Priesthood of Friar Mark Steed in 1987. This was the first, but not last, presbyteral ordination to take place at St.Bonaventure. A very youthful Friar John Ruffo arrived in 1988 after serving in Québec. He came with energy and an amazing game of tennis! He carried on with the Chris tmas pageant and the parish picnics, which by now had become traditions at St. Bonaventure. The parish was a welcoming space for all. An interesting presence among us was that of Friar George Sandor. Friar George was living in the friary while working on his doctorate in Medieval Studies. The friars remember him as a caring presence and an exceptional host and chef. Many of our young people found in him a compassionate confidant and mentor. His passion for St. Francis and St. Clare and all things Franciscan was instrumental in our parish’s renewal. During that time Friar Phil Daley arrived as a deacon and was ordained a priest in 1989. Friar Phil was especially noted for his music ministry, which forever changed St. Bonaventure. Sadly he left the friars and active ministry. Many years later he resumed his ministry as a diocesan priest in Manitoba . In June 1990, the friary and parish hosted the presbyteral ordination of Friar Rick Riccioli. It took place on the evening of Pentecost in the midst of a huge summer wind storm. The opening hymn at the liturgy “Send Down the Fire,” had many believing that this was actually happening as the roof seemed to groan, creating the impression that it was about to come loose.
The ordination was presided by the Most Reverend Edward Grosz, the auxiliary Bishop of Buffalo and Secular Franciscan, who inspired everyone with his warmth and humour. This liturgy and many others were videotaped by Bob Brooks, the Emmy Award winning professional who helped create the parish’s collective memory and whose photographs are abundant in 50 th Anniversary book, along with those of Richard Valenti and Richard Rix. Friar Joseph Madden became pastor in 1992. Although he was pastor for a short time, the parish was blessed with his spiritual guidance. He inspired many with his passion for the Sacred Scriptures and his commitment to issues of justice and peace. He was assisted by Friar Peter Knaapen, whose quiet strength and counsel were appreciated by so many. In 1994, Friar David Collins returned as Pastor. This time his ministry as pastor was in addition to his ministry as Provincial Custos (major superior) of the friars in Canada . The friary included Friars Michael Smyth and Boniface Reinhart; and later Ed Debono, Phil Kelly and Austin Williams. Parish life continued to flourish. It was also around this time that Tobias House was finally realized. Tobias House is about providing housing and support services for people with physical disabilities so that they can live independently. Two locations were built in Toronto : at Coxwell and Danforth; and at Church and Carleton. In 1996, Friar David Suckling, a friar in First Vows, came to minister at St. Bonaventure as part of his formation program. He lived at St. Anthony Friary on Madison Avenue and came up to Don Mills every day. Friar David was previously married to Margaret and together their home was one that welcomed children of all kinds; their own, their foster children and those with significant physical disabilities. It was after Margaret’s death that David − a father, grandfather, great grandfather − joined the Franciscan Order. His life experience made him an instant hit with the schoolchildren at St. Bonaventure, and he became a valued member of the pastoral team. On September 20, 1998 , Friar David made his Solemn Profession of Vows at St. Bonaventure into the hands of The Very Reverend David Collins, the Provincial Custos of the Friars. In 2001, Friar Rick Riccioli became Associate Pastor, while living at the downtown friary on Madison Avenue. Soon afterward, in 2002, World Youth Day came to Toronto . The Franciscans and St. Bonaventure, under the leadership of Friar Ed Debono, hosted FrancisFest, one of many festivals which were part of WYD 2002. Franciscans of all sorts, men and women, lay and religious found a home here, and the spirit of Francis and Clare was seen to be very much alive among us all. St. Bonaventure’s ability to host these events was in part due to the amazing people of all ages who gave more than 100% of themselves. Three people in particular stand out as truly amazing, both for their assistance with FrancisFest and to the parish over many years: Mrs Karen Abbott, parish secretary, Mr. Tony de Melo, long-standing custodian; and his able assistant, Mr. Luigi Gabriele. These three did much to help the friars shine and the parish to excel . The events of the summer of 2002 led many of the friars to re-imagine the potential of their ministry at St. Bonaventure. This would lead to the vision of the Spirit of Assisi … bringing the peace, prayer and service associated with St.
Francis to our community … a little bit of Assisi in Toronto . Part of the renewal of St. Bonaventure included building a new friary that was better able to sustain a larger community, with members at various degrees of mobility. Plans were also made for the new Ministry Centre to be the hub of parish activities.
||Friar Richard Riccioli became Pastor in September, 2003, and Friar Mark Steed joined the local community. Friar Mark brought his many years of training and experience in spirituality and adult education to respond to the need expressed by parishioners for a deepening of their faith. Friar Boniface Reinhart, who had served faithfully as Associate Pastor and whose passionate preaching inspired so many to return to the faith, moved on in ministry to provide weekend assistance to the exploding population of a Mississauga parish and to Prayer Ministry in our own midst. The Ministry Centre opened in 2004. With it came a new sense of ownership among the parishioners. The Parish Pastoral Council led a renewed approach to ministry and leadership, which resulted in the hiring of a Parish Manager to oversee the facilities, finances and personnel issues of the parish. This challenging position in our community was assumed by Mrs. Connie Durante. In 2004, Karen Abbot the parish secretary retired. A new yet not-so-new face appeared in the person of Jeanette Williams. Jeanette, who had grown up in the parish as one of the “ Bell ” family, now returned to take on the role of Pastoral Associate. The two of them were assisted in the transition by one of our founders, Mrs. Mildred Cope.
An important development during this time was the establishment of Don Mills’s own Community Food Bank supported by the local churches. This was in addition to the wonderful work already being done to provide food to the Good Shepherd Centre and our monthly collection for Dr. Simone. Another project brought to life at St. Bonaventure was that of the Friends of St. Francis. This group of parishioners has sought to respond to the issue of homelessness in Toronto by providing transitional housing for homeless women who also have problems with addictions or mental health issues. In June, 2006, Friar Tom Purcell was hired as the Executive Director of St. Clare Inn . This modest home is but the first step in the response to St. Francis’s challenge: “Preach the Gospel always; if necessary use words.” Finally, the following appeared in St. Bonaventure’s 25 th Anniversary publication, in 1981: ‘St. Bonaventure’s crosses the threshold into its second quarter-century as a mature, cosmopolitan parish − enriched by 25 years of spiritual guidance in the Franciscan tradition. When the parish celebrates its Golden Jubilee in 2006, may the Pastor and parishioners of that day say of us, their predecessors: “What they did, they did exceedingly well!”’ Without doubt we may say that they did more than exceedingly well. What they did was exceptional and serves as a fitting tribute to their selfless love of God, community, commitment, duty, compassion and social justice. We must be grateful to them for helping to launch and guide one of the most dynamic and community oriented churches of modern times. Importantly, they based their structure on the three pillars that represent the timeless values of St. Francis: spirituality, community and service. Today’s parishioners may benefit from that legacy and fulfil their own obligation to build an even stronger church for future generations of Catholics in the Franciscan tradition − a church that continues to reach out to the world with a sense of willing compassion.
ST. BONAVENTURE’S ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH , Don Mills , Ontario , Canada
THE BEGINNINGS: by Gerry Collins
ST BONAVENTURE - FRIAR, SCHOLAR, CARDINAL
|St. Bonaventure was born John di Fidensa in 1217 in the town of Bagnoreggio, about 100 km north of Rome , son of the local doctor. His parents were devout and it seems his mother had met Francis of Assisi as he went about his ministry. At the age of 11, Bonaventure became seriously ill. His mother prayed to the spirit of Francis, who had died two years earlier, to intercede with God on her son’s behalf. Later Bonaventure would write, “I was saved from the jaws of death by Francis’ intercession.” Bonaventure studied at the local Franciscan friary, moving to the University of Paris at the age of 17. There he performed brilliantly, without compromising his natural humility. He must have looked on with interest when, in 1236, the professor who held the chair in theology at the university, the Englishman Alexander of Hales, joined the Franciscans.
The move gave the Order what amounted to official status yet sowed seeds of discontent among those who favoured simplicity over intellectual development. Bonaventure joined the Franciscan Order in 1243, staying on at the university as a teacher and writing several volumes of insightful theological works. His objective, analytical mind meant that he was often asked to arbitrate matters of dispute. He taught his fellow Christians that the more we enter into union with Christ, the nearer we move toward the contemplation of God. In one of his sermons he refers to Francis as “utterly Christ-like and configured to him” − the ultimate compliment from a man who believed that conformity to Christ leads to the heart of God. In 1254, Bonaventure became Master of Theology and director of the Franciscan School in Paris . Just three years later, the friars elected him Minister General of the Franciscans in the hope that he would heal the growing rift in the Order over intellectual development. By 1260 Bonaventure had written a new constitution that attempted to help the Order attain unity and earned him the unofficial title of second founder. He continued his studies and administered the Order, making regular trips to Italy to report to the Pope and perform ministry work. In 1273 Pope Gregory X appointed him a cardinal, an honour he reluctantly though obediently accepted. He died suddenly in 1274 and was canonized in 1482, his feast day being July 15. The depth and passion of St. Bonaventure’s theology follows in the tradition of St. Augustine , seeking always to increase the intensity of the spiritual life. But while Bonaventure esteemed the use of one’s intellect to reflect on the mysteries of faith, his famous work, Soul’s Journey into God, teaches that human wisdom pales in comparison to the mystical illumination which God freely offers to the faithful Christian. By allowing oneself to be illumined by rays of spiritual light, one was enabled, in his words, “to return to the Most High, and rejoice in God’s love, as revealed in Christ.” St. Bonaventure’s spiritual intensity resulted in the title ‘Seraphic Doctor’ being conferred on him by Rome . His prayer for the thanksgiving after Mass is both a gem of devotion and a triumph of poetic beauty. It begins with a direct appeal to Christ and exhorts us to do all things to the praise and glory of God’s holy name, “with humility and discretion, with love and delight, with readiness and affection, and with perseverance to the end.” More than 700 years later, those words may still serve as a source of inspirational guidance to us all. As Friar Theodore Lash, OFM Conv., Provincial Custos, expressed the sentiment in his letter of congratulations to the parish on its 25th anniversary in 1981: “May St. Bonaventure ever continue to prosper and thrive in promoting the glory of God, the sanctification of His people, and be the source and inspiration of those seeking the Lord with sincere hearts.”
PARISH FINANCIAL SUPPORT - 'PAY IT FORWARD'
The “Pay It Forward” concept was made popular by Catherine Ryan Hyde’s book and movie of the same name. The basic notion is that we should not pay “back” a favour we have received but rather pay it “forward” by doing a favour for others and that these favours will grow exponentially causing positive ripple effects in the world.
It makes sense to apply this notion of “paying it forward” to the very first One who blesses us with life and all the good things we have. From a Christian perspective “Pay it Forward” can become a way of living each day in gratitude for all the blessings that God has given to us. The Bible tells us over and over that God is the Creator and Giver of all gifts. It is our responsibility to show our gratitude to God for these gifts, by passing the blessings on to others.
What does that look like?
A Christian who “pays it forward”:
- Receives God’s gifts gratefully
- Cherishes and tends them responsibly
- Shares them in justice and love
- Gives generously
Sharing our gifts and paying them forward means giving generously of our time, talent and treasure. We give to God by sharing with our Church and with those in need. Time and talent can be shared by becoming involved in parish life, volunteering and offering a helping hand. Treasure can be shared by making a conscious effort to make a financial gift to God first, before we buy the things we want.
We are so blessed!
A real sense of gratitude challenges us to pay it forward in gratitude to the One who has blessed us. When we give to others in thanks to God, only after all of our personal spending, we end up throwing Him the loose change or having nothing left at all to give. When we pay it forward, first, we are making a gift of faith, trusting that God will provide for our needs. We are truly putting ourselves in God’s hands.
1. Pay It Forward Sunday after Sunday
We are blessed with a parish, a church and a property that has been built up and nurtured by friars and parishioners before us. Many of them worked long and hard and sacrificed to pass on to us what we have today as a Christian community. We have a beautiful place to pray, praise God and celebrate the important moments of our lives such as baptisms, communions, confirmations, weddings and sadly funerals. We have a community which assists us through these moments, that cares for our children and attends to our sick. Our parish church feeds our souls with nourishment that keeps us going through the ups and downs of life. We are the heirs of all these blessings.
All we do as a parish is paid for by parishioners. We do not receive any money from the Archdiocese of Toronto. In fact, like all parishes, we pay 15% tax on all our Sunday offerings to support poor parishes and the services of the Archdiocese.
There are three ways you can continue to share our blessings with others.
- Automatic Debit : you can arrange for a debit to be made to your account once a month to support the parish. The advantage of this is that you don’t have to look for envelopes or manage cheques. The parish also benefits because it receives a regular flow of donations to support its ministries throughout the year. Download our enrolment form for more information.
- Sunday Offering Envelopes : the parish will provide you with envelopes in which you can make your offering (cash/cheque) for every Sunday of the year and for special collections. and place it in the collection basket at mass.
- The United Way : The Archdiocese created ShareLife, an organization which better reflects our Catholic values and raises funds for many of the charities in Toronto. St. Bonaventure wholeheartedly supports ShareLife, however some employers provide donation matching programs solely through the United Way . United Way donors can direct donations to any registered charity in Canada . If you support the United Way , consider directing your contribution to St. Bonaventure Church, Charitable Registration number 10791 0259 RR0036.
2. Memorial Opportunities
There are special moments in life when we want to express particular gratitude to God. When someone passes away and we want to remember the blessing they were to us, it is customary to make an offering of something special for the church. This is true of times of great joy as well such as the birth of a child or a promotion at work. Consider a memorial gift of sacred church furnishings that the parish needs to celebrate such special moments. Contact the Ministry centre at 416-447-5571 if you would like to offer a sacred objects to our parish church.
A very effective way to both thank God for the blessing you have received and to pay it forward is to remember your parish in your Last Will & Testament. You can designate the parish as a beneficiary of a specific sum or a portion of your estate. You can even bequeath securities and investments. These may be left to the parish as a general gift or for a specific purpose such as the Maintenance Fund. We would be happy to assist you with this. The legal name of the parish is: St. Bonaventure Church, Charitable Registration number 10791 0259 RR0036.
4. Maintenance Fund
The parish has a special “Maintenance Fund” in place to help us pay for extraordinary capital expenses such as a new roof and boiler or other necessary repairs. A maintenance collection is taken up once a year but some parishioners contribute to this fund more frequently. Contributions made to “St. Bonaventure Church – Maintenance Fund” are not taxed by the Archdiocese. All contributions are eligible for an income tax receipt.