Catholic Education Sunday is a time that allows us to remember how fortunate we are in this province to be able to offer publicly funded Catholic education. Our schools provide our children with an environment where they can learn to be witnesses to the love of Christ, and to keep their eyes ever on Jesus. Since our Faith and our living cannot be separated, our Catholic Faith permeates everything we do as educators.
This year, Holy Spirit Catholic Schools will remain focused on our Faith Plan, Growing in Faith Together (GIFT). Our guiding image for this plan is a beautiful tree that will be revealed over three years. The aim of the plan’s first year was to be “Rooted in Christ,” developing a greater understanding of the foundations of our Faith. This encouraged purposeful study of the Gospels and an appreciation for Christ’s enduring love through the Eucharist. Our second year inspires us to “Grow in Spirit” together. Expanding on our knowledge of Jesus through Scripture, we hope to know Him more deeply in our hearts by nurturing this relationship through prayer.
In celebrating the gift of Catholic Education in Alberta, we are grateful to both God and our provincial parish family that loves us, supports us, and stands up for us. Please continue to pray with us and for us. Along with our students, our families, our staff, and our parishes, we look forward to a beautiful year of Growing in Spirit together!
On September 23, we celebrated the 50th Anniversary of Canadian Martyrs Parish. It was a joyous event capping off a year of special events and planning. The choir, under the direction of Andreas and Kathryn Berko, was jubilant in song. Kathryn composed The Mass of the Canadian Martyrs, while Caroline Panlilio composed the Responsorial Psalm.
Bishop McGrattan spoke eloquently about a church building and its relationship to the community over 50 years. He reiterated the Gospel message: “…the first will be last and the last shall be first” [Matthew 20: 1 - 16] At the beginning of the 50 years, the parishioners built up the parish memories with many sacraments performed; and now the newest parishioners continue on!
Following the Mass, parishioners and guests attended a dinner and gathering at Varsity Community Hall where we enjoyed speeches and parish entertainment along with the St. Francis School Jazz Ensemble. With 250 people present, the mood was celebratory and included much visiting among parishioners, past and present, including pastors. Fr. Vincent’s address traced the pioneer spirit of the Canadian Martyrs to the parish’s first priest Msgr. Joseph Le Forte and other founding parishioners, some of whom were present. Quoting Msgr. Le Forte from the 10th Anniversary, “…through it all the families of Canadian Martyrs formed a strong community of faithful and loyal people that work together in a most remarkable manner…” In a toast to the priests who had served, and continue to serve as the parish’s pastors, being men who had brought life to the inanimate building – no matter how beautiful – and the visible results of 50 years of their dedicated, visionary hard work, all rose in their honour and in thanks to those pastors absent or whom have gone before us.
The Closing Hymn at the Mass echoed the 50th Anniversary theme: “We are a pilgrim people, we are the Church of God. A family of believers, disciples of the Lord. United in one spirit, ignited by the fire. Still burning through the ages, still present in our lives.”
Sister Elizabeth Lynch has been a member of the Sisters of St. Ursula of the Chatham Union for 63 years. Growing up in what is now called the district of Cliff Bungalow, she attended Holy Angels Elementary and Junior High School and St. Mary’s Girls’ High School in Calgary. Since her profession and training to be a teacher, she has been missioned to Ridgetown, ON, Rockyford, AB, and Edmonton. She taught elementary grades over a course of 19 years and then moved into pastoral ministry in Stratford, ON, Drumheller, AB and Calgary. In Calgary she also served as a diocesan chaplain in long term care and worked with AHS in Chaplaincy at the Alberta Children’s Hospital.
It was 1921 when the first Ursuline Sisters came to the Diocese at the request of Bishop McNally. Two were from the USA, one from Chatham, ON and a postulant was from Toronto. The superior was Sr. Angela Sidley. The order was independent of other Ursuline communities and was officially called Calgary Ursulines, a corporation unto themselves. They established the first English speaking novitiate in Western Canada.
The Sisters taught in St. Anne’s, Holy Angels and Sacred Heart Schools and in later years at St. Charles, St. Paul, Forest Lawn, St. Margaret’s and St. Francis High schools. They also had a music school in Calgary. In 1929, they were asked to send Sisters to Rockyford. There they taught at St. Rita’s and had boarders from the country during the week.
In 1934, the Calgary Ursulines were amalgamated with the Chatham Union of Ursulines. Young women who entered from the West travelled to Chatham for their religious formation. The Sisters in our diocese opened a convent in Drumheller in 1935 to respond to the bishop’s request for social workers in that town. They also taught music and kindergarten. For many years Ursulines gave catechism classes to students of public schools on Saturdays and did the same in various country places during the summers.
Sr. Elizabeth, the last Ursuline of Chatham in our diocese, will be leaving Calgary in mid-November. We thank Sister and all of her congregation who so generously served southern Alberta.
In the hilarious television program Mr. D., the titular character expounds a basic philosophy about teaching. “Mark the smart kid’s exam first and use it as an answer key.” He explains in another episode about the mentoring of practicum students – basically, throw them into the deep end and take a day off. In his standup routine he once told a group of teachers, “I saw a seminar recently, Engaging Students in the 21st Century. It was cancelled. You can’t engage them anymore! Teachers saying, ‘I’m not going to that! That’s impossible.’”
Needless to say, Mr. D. is not actually a role model for us as teachers, though in the way of great parody, he often builds on real situations to make his humour more identifiable. While all of us no doubt prepare diligently for each class, it’s true to say that the workload for teachers is at times overwhelming. And teaching isn’t just about the material anyway. As teachers everywhere understand – it’s how you present information, and how you connect to your students, that can be the difference between failure and success. All this is compounded by the different learning needs and styles of the students themselves. Clarity for one individual can be gobbledygook to another.
For all of these reasons, I think that teaching is one of the toughest gigs on the planet. And yet the world over, masochists keep presenting themselves to take on this challenge. Why? I truly believe that most individuals turn to this remarkable profession because they want to make a difference in the lives of others. Teaching, in the context of a faith tradition, can be even harder. We live in a secular society, and the dynamic messaging of today’s technology, and the contradictory information that flows to our children, is overwhelming.
The Calgary Catholic Education Foundation (CCEF) is one organization that understands the challenge for both teachers and students. Founded in 2008, CCEF is a charitable organization that raises funds for schools in need – innovative educational experiences, technology, literacy projects, and educational environments – to ensure that no child is left behind. And once a year, on Catholic Education Sunday, the organization rallies to raise funds through parishes and the community to help support educational opportunities and initiatives that are otherwise not funded. I’m proud to say that this year our Bachelor of Education students will be playing an active role in helping to promote the Foundation’s objectives, and indeed that one of our Education students, Vanessa Bitoni, is on CCEF’s Board of Directors. Together I am sure that we will work together to ensure that this is one of the most successful years to date for CCEF.
Our job is not just to educate, but also to do this with passion, so that we can help students find theirs. Aristotle once said, “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” To which I think we can all say: Amen!
In honour of the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of our Blessed Mother at Fatima, schools within the Medicine Hat Catholic Board of Education, as well as the Catholic Education Office, consecrated their buildings, staff and students to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. This initiative follows the consecration of our country and dioceses by bishops and parishes by priests earlier this summer.
Director of Religious Education of Medicine Hat Catholic, Jill Wilkinson, assisted administrators of various schools, with parish priests, to officially consecrate the schools in prayer services during the month of October. At St. Michael’s School, students were reminded of the story of the three shepherd children of Fatima and the appearances of Our Lady urging them to pray the rosary for the conversion of souls. Students and staff prayed the rosary followed by a special consecration prayer and school blessing by Fr. Tomy Manjaly.
Our Catholic Faith is so rich in meaningful traditions, which are imperative for our children to experience. The story of Fatima and the examples of St. Jacinta, St. Francisco and soon to be canonized, Lucia, help students to understand our devotion to Mary and how God chooses even children to spread his salvation throughout the world. The consecration celebration held at St. Michael’s on Tuesday, October 10, was part of the school’s ongoing devotion to our Blessed Mother which consists of a weekly rosary making club and rosary lunch club.
We have such a tremendous freedom in our Catholic schools to educate our children in meaningful, life altering experiences. This was one such moment that I pray will remain with our students and staff throughout their schooling experience and in years to follow.