The power of faith in action

The power of faith in action

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Heather Laura Clarke

They reached out to people who needed a bit of kindness and now they’re being celebrated for turning their faith into positive action in their communities.

Imam Abadallah Yousri and the late Robert Stapells have both been honoured with The Honourable Mayann Francis Faith in Action Award 2019.

The award honours exceptional individuals whose work is driven by their religious commitment to the faith tradition to which they belong.

Atlantic School of Theology (AST) presents The Honourable Mayann E. Francis Faith in Action Award each year. Reverend Neale Bennet, President of Atlantic School of Theology says this year’s award winners, Yousri and Stapells, have “significantly benefited the wider community through their outreach efforts.”

“Something that can be really distinctive about faith-driven community leadership is that these people served as vital leaders and provide great benefit to the wider community,” says Bennet.

For 11 years, Stapells was involved with the Rector’s Lunch, a weekly outreach program delivered through St. Paul’s Church at Grand Parade. Starting at the sounding of the noon gun, the lunch is essentially a big family meal where everyone is invited — most of whom have no other connection to the church.

Lovingly known as Bob, Stapells organized the volunteers, led the food service, listened to guests’ stories of their struggles and served as a skilled advocate and problem solver.

In addition to his work with the Rector’s Lunch, Stapells worked closely with Metro Turning Point and other organizations “based on the conviction that he should share the blessings he received from God with those who were at risk.”

Imam Abadallah Yousri has shown his community leadership not only through his work, but also his compassion for others. After a family of Syrian refugees in Spryfield suffered a house fire that killed all seven of their children and injured their father, Imam Yousri demonstrated admirable empathy and strength in the many hours he dedicated to Mrs. Barho, serving her spiritual needs and advocating on her behalf.

In addition to his tireless devotion to others, Imam Yousri has implemented new programs at the Ummah mosque. They include a blood drive with Canadian Blood Services, a partnership with the Department of Community Services that is registering Muslim families to foster and adopt children and a partnership with local churches and Muslim youth that is providing support to the homeless.

Imam Yousri says it was “a very lovely moment” when he was presented with The Honourable Mayann E. Francis Faith in Action Award at the AST gala in May — calling it a surprise, but also a push to do even more.

“One of my main goals has been to build bridges between different groups and different communities in order to bring people together,” says Imam Yousri. “As time goes by, we realize we need this more and more.”

It’s the first time someone from the Muslim faith has won The Honourable Mayann E. Francis Faith in Action Award and Francis was thrilled.

“I hope the award continues to bring people together and serve as an example of what it means to have a healthy community of people who are involved and take care of one another,” says Francis. “We’re not all going to be here forever, so it’s good to know there are young people excited about using their faith for good and developing their communities.”

Bennet says Francis herself is a remarkable example of a leader using her faith to make a positive impact on her community and AST is grateful she generously allows them to use her name for The Honourable Mayann E. Francis Faith in Action Award.

Francis says the award demonstrates the importance of strong ethical leadership, which is important for faith communities as well as leadership in business and government.

Nominations are now open for The Honourable Mayann Francis Faith in Action Award 2020 and the award is open to Atlantic Canadians whose work driven by religious commitment benefits a community and improves the quality of life for people.

“Take a good look at your community and think about who should be recognized for building it up through faith,” says Francis. “The Honourable Mayann E. Francis Faith in Action Award is about setting examples for how we make our communities better.”

For more information on
The Honourable Mayann Francis Faith
in Action Award, please visit

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