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St. Mary Chaplain recognized for outstanding service

A secondary school chaplain known for his zealous promotion of students and staff has found himself on the receiving end of an award.

Don Hall, Chaplaincy Leader at St. Mary Catholic Secondary School, was presented with the 2022 Brian J. Halferty Chaplaincy Award in a surprise visit by executive members of the Catholic School Chaplains of Ontario (CSCO) on May 6. The award, named after CSCO founder Brian J. Halferty, is presented annually to a high school chaplain who goes above and beyond the regular demands of his role.

Since 2004, “Don has made, and continues to make, a significant impact on our school community,” said St. Mary Principal, Anthony Macaluso.

“Whether it’s leading the prayer and liturgical life of the school, mentoring and supporting students in community initiatives such as We Are Silent and our St. Joseph’s Villa letter campaign, or his years of working with our DREAMS program to support our brothers and sisters in the Dominican Republic, Don’s leadership and Christian witness make him an extremely worthy recipient of this honour, and we are proud to see him recognized in such a fashion.”

Students have always been at the heart of his ministry.

Parents Debbie Ciotti-Bowman and Dan Bowman described Chaplain Don as a “standout” to their four children during their high school years at St. Mary.

“His door was literally always open to the students, and he was there to greet students right from the beginning of their Grade 9 year.”

His unconditional acceptance and encouragement enabled students to grow into leaders, they added.

“He was always interested in their ideas for projects that would promote care, love and faith in the school community and beyond.”

The Bowmans also praised his work with the DREAMS (Dominican Republic Education and Medical Support) program.

“The encounter between two cultures and lifestyles and what was shared in both directions between the two was, and still is, life changing for our children and all participants.”

Hall represents what Chaplaincy Leaders are all about, said Superintendent of Education Julie Angiolillo: “supporting others on their faith journey to encounter Christ, immersed in the teachings of the Catholic Church, Gospel values, and Catholic Social Teachings.”

“Specifically, his passion for the preferential option for the poor, solidarity, and the dignity of the human person is evident in his commitment to the culture of life and the many DREAMS trips he facilitated.”

“Chaplain Don lives and loves by example and is to be commended for his dedication to the HWCDSB students and staff. He invites all to join in serving others, most especially those in most need.”

For a man focused wholly on others, the recognition was, admittedly “the shock of my life,” said Hall.

In humble words of acceptance, he credited CSCO for their leadership and guidance in shaping the chaplaincy work he and other high school chaplains do in schools. He also thanked the St. Mary’s staff, administration, and students “for giving me the privilege, the blessing to be a chaplain.”

“There really could not be a more deserving winner of this recognition then Don Hall,” reflected Director of Education David Hansen.

Congratulating the St. Mary’s Chaplain on his meritorious award, he noted, “his ministry in supporting students and staff at St. Mary’s Catholic Secondary School is beyond exemplary. His passion for supporting the marginalized of our world and his commitment to the promotion of a culture of life is a model for each of us who have the pleasure to know and work with Don.

“The best ‘teachers’ are those who teach through action – that is Don,” added Hansen. “He is a blessing to his school community and to our school board.”

Award presentation:

St. Mary Chaplain recognized for outstanding service
From left to right: Lorenzo Campanelli, Vice-President, CSCO; Don Hall; Andrew Hall: and St. Mary Principal Anthony Macaluso.
From left to right: Lorenzo Campanelli, Vice-President, CSCO; Don Hall; Andrew Hall: and St. Mary Principal Anthony Macaluso.

St. Mary Chaplain recognized for outstanding service