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David Walsh: Community Service and Basilian Compassion

October 16, 2023

Amidst the escalating housing crisis, a surge in homelessness has become a situation which calls for a collective, compassionate response rooted in the principles of community, and guided by the teachings of God and the gospels.

This is the type of approach undertaken by local community leader David Walsh, who has been working alongside Basilians to combat the crisis of shelter and housing, particularly for refugees and groups high at risk of inequality. David is a Catholic businessman with a background in commercial real estate, so he has been able to bring his expertise to working as a board member with several non-profit housing organizations.

“My first contact with the Basilians happened at the Newman Center, back when the Basilians were still in charge of it. I attended Bible study there. The Basilians were always very friendly and always made sure that students and everyone on campus felt welcome.”

At that time, David was introduced to a community of individuals dedicated to spreading the message of compassion, love, and service. Over the years he has spearheaded the creation of numerous housing projects for individuals who are homeless and refugees, his most recent involvement being “CRISIS IN OUR CITY – Faith, Hope & Solidarity”, a project created by a number of churches, intending to raise awareness, and contribute to services & assistance to create housing for refugees and asylum seekers who are arriving in Toronto.

“It is important to live in harmony, and follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit,” David said. His deep-rooted faith and spirituality have been a driving force behind his unwavering dedication to community solidarity efforts. Amongst the Basilians, Father Bob Holmes CSB, stands out as an individual that heeds the call of the Holy Spirit.

“Bob Holmes is known as a prophetic figure by many in our community. His involvement in The Blue Scarf movement and his support of Aboriginals and the Peace Movement has been very inspiring.”

In his 80s, Father Holmes continues to be an active member of the world of social justice, his work resonating with everyone who knows him. Presently, Father Storey CSB, shows active support for “Becoming Neighbours” – an organization created to provide a companion program which matches immigrants and refugees with members of Roman Catholic women and men religious congregations.

David rented space from the Basilians at 95 St Joseph for the past 3 years, until the building had to be vacated for the redevelopment.  The 5 rooms that David rented were used for community projects and to support initiatives of new Canadians, such as those of the Hispanic Canadian Heritage Council and an agriculture project started by refugees from El Salvador.

David’s connection to the Basilians and The Newman Center ran even deeper. He was not only a member of the community, but he also celebrated life’s most significant milestones there. “I got married at the Newman Center, and my children were baptized within its walls.”

What motivated David to work with the community and aid those in need was a sense of empathy, and a deep connection with humanity’s vulnerability. He speaks of “the vulnerability of God,” a concept that underpins his entire philosophy. David believes that God, in his infinite wisdom, made himself vulnerable to human suffering. It was during a bible study of the Old Testament scriptures with Fr David Katulski at the Newman Centre that God’s vulnerability was revealed to David – how the Israelites, and we in our own times, keep disappointing God, yet God is always faithful to us. David sees God’s vulnerability as an invitation to be compassionate, kind, and supportive, not just in words but in action; and the Holy Spirit is always there to support our efforts.

David Walsh’s contributions to social justice are not limited to a single center, group, or project. His outreach extends to the larger community, helping the homeless, supporting local charities, and participating in numerous initiatives aimed at making the world a better place. He continues to inspire others to live in harmony with the Holy Spirit and to work for the betterment of our communities.

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