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.”
Catholic schools are privileged to share in the saving mission of the Church by providing education in the faith. Cultivating wisdom and virtue by nurturing truth, goodness and beauty, students come to know, glorify and love God. In addition to educational content, these attributes are taught and learned through the practice of the faith and learning opportunities, which integrate instruction with service.
The Truth that we share is Jesus Christ and it is expressed in knowing the truth of God’s love and mercy for each person and by fostering a relationship with Jesus Christ. In the Calgary Catholic School District, students grow in truth through such activities as Youth for Christ, Alpha, pilgrimages, retreats, liturgies, prayers, devotions, and by participating in the sacraments.
Knowing the truth of God’s love, students discover their inherent goodness, learning that they and all people have been created in the image of God who alone is good. Goodness is expressed, according to Pope Francis, by drawing near to others. We see this exemplified in schools in many different ways. One school prepared an image of a large cross made up of paper hands of different tones to demonstrate that all people are created equally and must be treated with dignity and respect. One school provided items for newborns while others spent time with seniors or with the L’Arche Community.
Recognizing that all people have dignity, students experience and know beauty by serving others. Service is fueled by joy that gives hope and affirms the work and action of the Holy Spirit. Each school community thoughtfully selects service activities that provide students with service learning opportunities to help them grow in faith. In Calgary Catholic, students have served others through a variety of activities such as food, clothing and coin collections, justice fairs, breakfast clubs, being in solidarity with the homeless, and more. Some schools integrated quotes from Pope Francis’ book, Dear Pope Francis, to reinforce responsibility to care for one another.
By fostering faith through truth, goodness and beauty, Catholic schools perform an invaluable service. In the Calgary Catholic School District, we work to share the Good News of the Gospel with our students, who can then, in turn, share this with the world.
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.
In 1992, St. John Paul founded the World Meeting of Families (WMF) that takes place every three years in a different country. Pope Francis has chosen Dublin, Ireland, for the 2018, World Meeting of Families, a festival of witness to the love of God revealed in Jesus Christ Under the motto “The Gospel of the Family: Joy for the World”.
Families and individuals will come from all over the world to gather in Dublin from August 21 – 26 to share their experiences and create new ones. You are invited to join them. For more information go to http://wmof2018dublin.com/