Ayotte Brothers Establish Fund for the Study of Faith and the Environment at St. Paul’s College
Fund will support the Jesuit Centre for Catholic Studies as it promotes and expands programming related to Catholic teaching on sustainability and the ecuminical and inter-religious nurturing of our common home.
In November of 2019, two brothers, Brian Ayotte and Gerry Ayotte presented to their alma mater, St. Paul’s College, an enthusiastic proposal for developing an academic platform at the Jesuit Centre for Catholic Studies by which faith, science, and environmental justice would be explored. This would augment research by those at the Arthur V. Mauro Institute for Peace and Justice while including sensitive and respectful dialogue with our First Nations communities. The catalyst for their idea was Pope Francis’s encyclical, Laudato si (“Praise be to You”) and the recent declaration by the Jesuits of the Universal Apostolic Preferences which marked as one of their principal priorities, Care for our Common Home “with Gospel depth, for the protection and renewal of God’s creation.”
Brian Ayotte (SPC’62 ’66) and his wife Gail (†), both physicians, moved to Salmon Arm British Columbia in 1980. There, Brian, served as a cardiologist and as the Chief of Staff for both North Okanagan Region and the Shuswap Lake General Hospital. Gail’s career focused on geriatrics. In 2012, Brian was awarded the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal for “his contributions to the healthcare community as President of the Shuswap Hospital Foundation, Director for the Shuswap Hospice Society and Director for the BC & Yukon Heart & Stroke Foundation.” After their retirement, Brian and Gail transferred their leadership skills into community building activities such as the Salmon Arm Refugee Coalition.
Gerry (Ged) Ayotte (SPC’71) and his wife Cammie (SPC’70) moved to the Vancouver area in 1986, eventually settling in nearby Abbotsford. Gerry served as chaplain and counsellor in the field of Justice Services. Gerry was well educated in the Jesuit tradition. After graduating from St. Paul’s College at the University of Manitoba, Gerry went on to receive a M.A. in Counselling Psychology at Gonzaga University in Spokane and later received a Master of Theological Studies from Seattle University. During his formative years he was heavily influenced by the former Chaplain of St. Paul’s College, Fr. Raymond Roussin SM, who later became Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Vancouver in 2004. For Gerry’s work in the area of criminal justice in BC and Canada, Pope Francis conferred on him the Pro Ecclesia et Ponitiface medal in 2013.
Both brothers arrived in Winnipeg from Swan River, Manitoba. Their education with the Jesuits began at St. Ignatius School, followed by St. Paul’s High School, and then St. Paul’s College. They remain close to the Jesuit community and the influence of St. Ignatius.
Ayotte Fund for the Study of Faith and the Environment Endowment Fund, established by the Ayotte Family, will support the Jesuit Centre for Catholic Studies as it promotes and expands programming related to Catholic teaching on sustainability and the ecuminical and inter-religious nurturing of our common home. This will be specifically directed to three related areas:
- To provide funds to support the delivery of a course offered by the Jesuit Centre for Catholic Studies as part of the undergraduate BA Minor in Catholic Studies. In this course, students will examine the holistic role of the Church relative to the environment, including ecology from the perspective of a variety of religious traditions, Indigenous points of view, and contemporary Catholic teaching. An important aspect of the course will entail an examination of Pope Francis’ second papal encyclical Laudato si’ (“Praise be to You”) in detail, including Catholic ideas regarding the uses and abuses of our common home and how these ideas intersect with the larger social role of the Church.
- For students taking the above course, there will also be an undergraduate student award, including a monetary prize, for the best term paper submitted. Upon request, and with the student’s permission, the prize-winning paper will be featured on the Jesuit Centre’s website along with other St. Paul’s College publications.
- The Jesuit Centre for Catholic Studies and the St. Paul’s College community will organize an interdisciplinary biannual public forum in partnership with those of Catholic and different denominations and faiths, the Environmental Sciences, Indigenous communities, and Peace Building communities, including those working at the Arthur V. Mauro Institute for Peace and Justice. The symposium will examine “the Common Good” in context and investigate how environmental justice relates to larger issues of social justice in both the Church and the broader community. The proceedings will be broadcasted live and be accessible across the globe via the Internet. Should there be sufficient interest in the community, an edited collection of papers will be published by the Jesuit Centre for Catholic Studies.