For the past 29 years, Michael Fullan’s official title has been Executive Director of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Toronto (CCAT).
But his colleagues, his friends, and the many people he engages with daily know his real vocation is that of teacher. Anyone who comes in contact with Michael walks away having learned something, whether it is about Catholic Charities’ procedures and current government social policy, the Church in Toronto over the past several decades, how to diffuse a tense situation with a dose of charm, patience and a little bit of humour, or just what it means to be a decent person who lives his faith daily.
For decades, Michael, a social worker by training, has been a leader in the archdiocese not only because of the authority his title carries but also because he leads by example. As someone who embraces not only the Gospel but also the Catholic Social Teaching that flows from Scripture, he is an example of faith in action, a man who understands that “love your neighbour as yourself’ means not just thinking warm thoughts but also rolling up your sleeves, calling on your particular talents and labouring in the vineyard (a parable he cites frequently) to help build the kingdom of God.
Michael’s first day with Catholic Charities was September 27, 1993, a day of great significance for him because not only is it the anniversary of the founding of CCAT, but it is also the feast of St. Vincent de Paul, Catholic Charities’ patron, as well as the anniversary of Michael’s marriage to his wife, Frances.
In the intervening years, Michael has worked tirelessly to help the people on the peripheries of society because he knows the needs, some days, can seem bottomless. He has consistently inspired people to be ahead of troubling trends in society. Rather than simply bemoan the rise of medical assistance in dying (MAID), for example, he has lobbied to improve and increase palliative care services for those with chronic and life-limiting illnesses. And he was already heavily involved in increasing programs for the elderly by the time COVID-19 arrived and revealed, in horrifying ways, the plight of so many of our older people.
He has consistently thought creatively about how to help as many people as possible and garnered respect of all who encounter him due to his humble, kind, and caring personality. And when CCAT marked its 100th anniversary in 2012, Michael engaged in the celebrations as if he were honouring a beloved family member.
In a statement announcing Michael’s retirement as of the end of this month, CCAT Board President Maureen Leon called Michael a bridge builder between member agencies, the board and those CCAT serves.
“His unwavering dedication to those in need is an inspiration to everyone who has had the good fortune to work with him,” she said. “He has consistently approached his role with patience and good humour, bringing out the best in people, allowing them to do their best for the people we serve.”
He is all of these things, of course, as well as a loving husband, a dedicated father of three and grandfather of eight, a dear friend to many and a man of great faith.
Michael, you will be missed.
Good health and Godspeed.