Speaking of Catholic Education in Alberta. Published by the Alberta Catholic School Trustees Association SPRING 2005

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1 THE CATHOLIC DIMENSION Speaking of Catholic Education in Alberta Published by the Alberta Catholic School Trustees Association SPRING 2005 Teaching faith is a timeless endeavour Here s a little history pop quiz: In what year did Catholic education begin in Alberta? The answer is not a simple one word statement. In fact, it requires some explaining. Did you know... The oldest school in the Lakeland RCSSD No. 150 is also the district s newest school. Confused? Read on. The newest addition to the Lakeland Catholic family is Holy Family Catholic School in Waskatenau, which opened in September The school was opened after the district s boundaries were expanded to include the counties of Thorhild and Smoky Lake. The building that houses the school was built in 1933, making it the district s oldest school building. St. Joachim Catholic School, The correct answer is France. Imagine sailing across the Atlantic to an unknown place called Edmonton to start a Catholic school. The sisters were definitely on a mission and the parents of that time were grateful for their efforts. The sisters began teaching 23 students at the newly formed St. Joachim Catholic School. The Grey Nuns were also instrumental in establishing Catholic education in the province. Three Grey Nuns sisters came to Lac Ste. Anne in 1858 to teach and nurse the sick. In 1863 the sisters, along with seven orphans, moved from Lac Ste. Anne to a convent in St. Albert. The convent became the first hospital-orphanage-school west of the Red River. The history of Catholic education in Alberta and the Northwest Territories dates back more than 100 years, which is when Alberta joined Confederation. This year, Albertans are celebrating the province s centennial and Catholic education is a significant part of that centennial history. Pinpointing the exact date as to when Catholic education came about is hard to do, but one thing is for sure, it has been around a little longer than a century. In 1849, Father Albert Lacombe, a Quebec missionary, trekked westward and by 1856, he had set up a mission in St. Albert and brought an Oblate novice to the area to open a school for the children of Fort Edmonton. This was the first regular school to be opened west of Manitoba. Bonus question: In what year was the Northwest Territories Act passed enabling the establishment of public and separate schools? It is one of those answers that likely only Constitutional lawyers and historians have committed to memory. The correct answer is By 1884, the first Schools Ordinance was introduced and the Lacombe Roman Catholic Separate School District No. 1, in honour of Fr. Albert Lacombe, was established in The name was changed in 1911 to Calgary Roman Catholic Separate School District No. 1. Today Catholic education maintains the same mission that it began with more than a century ago-the formation of the whole child with Christ as the centre of the school curriculum. Early Catholic schools were mainly taught by religious sisters. It was the education programs offered by the sisters that were so enticing to parents. In addition to the three R s (reading, writing and arithmetic), students were also immersed in such subjects as music, art and religious education. Complete the following sentence: In October 1888 three sisters from the Faithful Companions of Jesus sailed from to open a convent and school in Edmonton. Catholic education in the Northwest Territories also had its beginnings with the missions established by religious orders such as the Oblates, Faithful Companions of Jesus and Grey Nuns. Education was included as an obligation in treaties signed by the Canadian government with First Nations in Alberta and the Northwest Territories in the earlier part of the century. However, the promise of education remained largely unfulfilled for many years and it was church institutions which began filling this void. Circle the correct answer: Which is the oldest Catholic school district/ authority in the province? Greater St. Albert CRD No. 29 Calgary RCSSD No. 1 Red Deer CRD No. 39 Conseil Scolaire Catholique et Francophone du Sud de l Alberta All of the above. The correct answer is B. Calgary RCSSD No. 1 was established 120 years ago. On the other end of that spectrum is Conseil Scolaire Catholique et Francophone du Sud de l Alberta, which just got started four years ago. Red Deer CRD No. 39 celebrates 97 years as a district. On paper Greater St. Albert CRD No. 29 is only 10-years-old, but it was formed from an amalgamation of several surrounding school districts including the Thibault Roman Catholic Public School District No. 35, which dates back to the late 1800s. Final jeopardy question: How many separate Catholic school districts are there in Alberta and the Northwest Territories? Yes, this is a trick question, so take a few moments before answering. Your final answer should be 17. Although the Alberta Catholic School Trustees Association has 23 member boards, these boards are not all classified separate Catholic districts or divisions. ACSTA members include 17 separate Catholic districts/divisions, four francophone regional authorities, which operate Catholic francophone schools, one cont. on next page CATHOLIC DIMENSION ARCHIVED EDITION

2 Catholic public board (Greater St. Albert Catholic Schools) and an education regional division (St. Paul ERD No. 1) which has a joint public/ separate board. In the end it really doesn t matter how you scored on this history lesson. The important lesson needed to be learned is that Catholic education has been as much a part of the history of our province as the oil sands and the railway. This history is important because, as all great and wise history teachers have taught us, it helps us to better understand who we are today and gives us the tools to prepare for tomorrow. Catholic education continues to prepare our students for tomorrow by allowing them to walk with Christ today. Faith is the mission of our Catholic schools-it is our identity and what makes us unique. Faith is what will carry our schools into the next millennium and continue to make it an essential part of public education in Alberta. Did you know... The newest school in Yellowknife is more than five times older than the oldest school run by the Calgary-based Conseil Scolaire Catholique et Francophone du Sud de l Alberta. The francophone school in north Calgary, ƒcole Saint-Marguerite-Bourgeoys is four years old, and is the Conseil s oldest school. However, it is still 21 years newer than ƒcole St. Joseph School in Yellowknife. Did you know... The oldest school in Holy Family CRD No. 37 is St. Mary School in Fort Vermilion. It was first established in the early 1900 s and was by and large a residential school housing Native students from the nearby reserves. It took in local students on a boarding basis when their parents left to go on the trapline. The school bloomed with activity in its early years and at one time housed 250 students in Grades Did you know... The newest Catholic school in all of Alberta is Our Lady of Fatima School in Calgary which opened in February (The picture above was taken in October 2004 during the construction of the school.) They ve come a long way! Some ACSTA member boards are celebrating their 10th anniversary this year. A few are still years away from that, while others have celebrated 10th anniversaries many times over. Although many of the districts may appear as though they were only established in the last few years, they were actually formed from the amalgamation of surrounding districts and, in fact, have been in existence for decades. The following is a list of how long our Catholic school districts have been providing Catholic education to children in their communities. Calgary RCSSD No years Christ the Redeemer CSRD No years Conseil Scolaire Catholique et Francophone du Sud de l Alberta 4 years Conseil Scolaire Centre-Est No years Conseil Scolaire Catholique Centre Nord 11 years Conseil Scolaire du Nord-Ouest No years East Central Alberta CSSRD No years Edmonton CSSD No years Elk Island CSRD No years Evergreen CSRD No years Fort McMurray RCSSD No years Grande Prairie RCSSD No years Greater St. Albert CRD No years Holy Family CRD No years Holy Spirit RCSRD No years Lakeland RCSSD No years Living Waters CRD No years Lloydminster RCSSD No years Medicine Hat CSRD No years Red Deer CRD No years St. Paul ERD No years St. Thomas Aquinas RCSRD No years Yellowknife Catholic Schools 54 years The Eucharist, Light and Life of the New Millennium Pope John Paul II Alberta is celebrating its centennial and to mark this important milestone in our history, this edition of the Catholic Dimension is dedicated to a celebration of Catholic education and its impact on the province over the last 100 years. Since Catholic education is grounded in our faith, it is providential that we are also celebrating the Year of the Eucharist. At the 48th International Eucharistic Congress held in Mexico in 2004, the Holy Father declared that the Eucharist shall be celebrated from October 2004 to October To celebrate the Eucharist is in essence to give thanks for the great gift that Christ has given to all humanity. This celebration of our faith at the beginning of the Third Millennium is a fitting tribute not only to Jesus, whose memory we honour every time we partake of the Eucharist, but also to the legions of faithful who lived before us and who, by example, teaching, and story, handed on our Catholic faith. Cover to Cover Catholic education becomes instinctive Rosaleen McEvoy, Chair ACSTA Communications Commitee Celebration of important milestones in our public and private lives is a particular human trait (no other species that I know of engages in this behaviour). As Catholics we are called to be a celebrating people. As we celebrate Alberta s centennial this year we are also called to acknowledge the extraordinary impact that religion has had on the formation of the province. Religious orders not only built the first churches, but also many of Alberta s first schools and hospitals. A century ago, Alberta did not have any of the modern amenities it enjoys today and so the enormity of the task and the immensity of the faith of those first nuns and priests is truly awesome-they led the way and set the example. Catholic education is an indispensable part of the fabric of Alberta today due in large part to the obscure early efforts of those quiet and faithful individuals. They were all heroes. Every Catholic school in Alberta is a testament to and a celebration of their faith. Educated by nuns for the first 10 years of school in Ireland, I took their existence for granted. Sisters from a variety of religious orders were integrated into our local communities and since they wore the habit they were a very obvious and public symbol of belief in God. There was something about seeing the nuns and priests going about their daily activities-teaching, nursing, shopping, going to the library, chatting on the street- that, for me anyway, created an awareness of God s grace being everywhere. Now in Ireland, as in Alberta, a paradigm shift has taken place and there are fewer nuns and priests and those that are around are indistinguishable from the rest of us. Today is not like yesterday, but I sure miss their visible presence in our midst and their absence has taught me a valuable lesson-never to take anything or anyone for granted because every good thing and every good person is a gift from God. With fewer people entering formal religious orders, handing on our Catholic faith intact to future generations will present challenges. These challenges, though different, are no less enormous than those faced by the first missionaries to our province. Fortunately, our faith foundation is sound and Catholic education is valued. With example, teaching, and story, we, the obscure and faithful laity, shall build Bethlehem everywhere and in doing so, truly celebrate the life and light of the new millennium-the Eucharist. As we celebrate Alberta s centennial this year we are also called to acknowledge the extraordinary impact that religion has had on the formation of this province. The Catholic Dimension is published bi-annually by the Alberta Catholic School Trustees Association. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the Association. The Catholic Dimension is distributed to Catholic school trustees, superintendents, secretary-treasurers, bishops, Catholic post-secondary institutions, Knights of Columbus, Catholic Women s League, Catholic parishes and friends of Catholic education in Alberta and the Northwest Territories. Comments, submissions, suggestions and Letters to the Editor are welcomed by the Editorial Committee. No reproduction of any part of this publication is premitted without permission of the Communications Committee. For more information call the ACSTA office at (780) or THE CATHOLIC DIMENSION ARCHIVE SPRING 2005

3 Speaking With One Voice Let s count our blessings today We are companions on the journey. We are a pilgrim people. Many of my favorite songs speak of the faith journey that we all travel. In this year of celebration of the 100th anniversary of our province joining Confederation, it is important that we in Catholic education pause to look back on that journey. We need to see where we ve come from so that we can fully appreciate where we are today and then look forward at the future opportunities that we have. As we reflect on our past, we can count the many blessings we enjoy today. In Alberta we are all aware that Catholic education adds a choice and faith dimension to our public school system. We have fully publicly funded Catholic schools in Alberta, along with the Northwest Territories and two other provinces in Canada, Saskatchewan and Ontario. How did we get so lucky? We have to return to the early history of this province, back as far as 1875, when the Northwest Territories Act was being drafted. We can credit the early visionaries, who had the passion and forethought to ensure that this early legislation enabled and enshrined the rights of the religious minority to faith-based education through the right to establish separate schools. The Alberta Act of 1905 re-affirmed this constitutional minority right. Many individuals must be remembered with thanks as we consider our long history. Pioneers across this province exercised their rights and formed Catholic school districts, in four mile by four mile squares of land. As they formed their school districts and built their Catholic schools, early missionaries and religious orders came to this area. Many of the fledgling schools would not have survived were it not for the dedicated teachers, usually religious sisters, who taught in small prairie schools and lived under poor conditions with little or no pay. We have to acknowledge this special mission fulfilled for the most part by the women of our church. Working together as family, school and parish, Catholic education flourished in those early days. Marilyn Welsch ACSTA President With the continued commitment and support of those three parties, family, school and parish, Catholic education today is a vibrant and vital part of Alberta s public education system. In some ways, things haven t changed that much. Formation of Catholic districts is still going on as dedicated and faith focused individuals attempt to access their rights to ensure their children have the opportunity to go to a Catholic school. Our Catholic teachers and administrators still respond to the Church s mission and challenge their students to live as Christ did. And our schools still need the prayers and support of our parish communities. Perhaps the story of Catholic education in this province began with the rights we are blessed to have enshrined in our constitution and provincial act. However, Catholic education exists in this province today because parents continue to choose Catholic schools for their children, Catholic teachers continue to respond to their vocation of sharing the faith, and individuals across Alberta still offer their skills and talents to sit as trustees to govern the system. We truly must count our blessings. One blessing that we appreciate is the support and involvement of our church community. Our nuns, priests and bishops continue to pray and support Catholic education across the province. And the rest of the Catholic community, the lay community, are the people who hold the sacred trust of Catholic education for the future. It is their interest in our students and endorsement of our schools that will ensure that Catholic schools continue to serve our parish communities in helping to pass on our faith to our young people. Please take some time to pray for those involved in Catholic education. Pray that our school system will continue to offer authentic Catholic education to those who choose to attend our schools. One hundred years from now, as our descendants gather to celebrate 200 years of confederation, they will remember our efforts as they count their blessings. National leaders gather to ask for God s grace Their ideas on how the country should be run may differ, but Canada s political leaders gathered one morning in April for a common purpose-to pray. The 40th Annual National Prayer Breakfast was held on April 7 in Ottawa and brought together NDP Leader Jack Layton, Conservative MP Peter MacKay, Liberal Party of Canada Whip and MP Karen Redman, and Odina Desrochers of the Bloc Quebecois to pray for the nation. This year s breakfast was attended by more than 450 people, including ambassadors, members of parliament and senate, and other national leaders. The annual event gathers such dignitaries in a celebration of a faith, and in a spirit of meditation and prayer for the nation. As indicated on the invitation, the event seeks to encourage men and women throughout the world to recognize their privileges and responsibilities under God. The prayer breakfast, in addition to featuring a speaker each year, also includes readings from the Bible, articulated by each of the four parties represented in the House of Commons. The event attracts people from various faiths, a true gathering of religious communities and leaders. This year s participants included Conservative MP Stockwell Day who served as the event s MC, the Honourable Dan Hays, Speaker of the Senate and the Honourable Peter Miliken, Speaker of the House of Commons. ACSTA President Marilyn Welsch was invited to the event by the Honourable David Kilgour, MP for Edmonton Millcreek-Beaumont. A practicing Christian, Kilgour was chair of this year s event. I really appreciate the invitation from Mr. Kilgour, said Welsch. It was wonderful to take part in the National Prayer Breakfast and see our parliamentarians put aside their political agendas to come together to pray for Canada. Focusing on this year s theme, God s Grace, were speakers Catherine Williams-Jones and retired Detective Sergeant Douglas Lang. Williams-Jones is the Director of Operations and founder of NOW (New Opportunities for Women) Canada. The organization operates safe houses for young women on the streets, as well as a life skills program and other services to help them get their lives back on track. Lang is a retired member of the Vancouver Police Department. In his 30 years with the Department he served in various roles including narcotics undercover coordinator, member of the sex offender squad, and managing the Downtown East-Side and the Vice Unit. Lang is currently co-producing a documentary about children and young women involved in Vancouver s sex trade. The two speakers inspired all those present with their very personal and passionate stories of being open to God s grace and how that openness changed their lives, said Welsch. Parliamentarians spoke of their need to pray for grace as they faced a major decision or discussion in the House. All people of faith need to pray for our leaders just as we ask them to pray for our country. SPRING 2005 THE CATHOLIC DIMENSION ARCHIVE

4 Alberta has been around for 100 years. Our Catholic teachers in the province may not be able to make that claim, but many of them have been around for at least a few decades. In this edition of the Catholic Dimension some of these long-time teachers share their thoughts on Catholic education and the role it continues to play in the public education system. We also have teachers who are new to the classroom sharing their thoughts on what Catholic education means to them. There is much to celebrate in our province and there is much to celebrate in our Catholic schools, including the teachers, many of whom are often the first mentors of faith our students encounter. Sharing faith everyday By Jaclyn Delhommeau East Central Alberta CSSRD No. 16 As a new teacher, I feel blessed to be teaching in a Catholic school. The atmosphere that surrounds you on a daily basis is one that is filled with faith and love. It is this atmosphere that helps make coming to work each day enjoyable and helps make teaching a very rewarding experience. The faith and spirituality shared amongst the people in my Catholic school is not only shown and shared during a daily religion class, but it permeates throughout the whole day. Being able to come to work and openly share my ideas and faith with others makes me realize how blessed I am to have the job that I have. Although teaching has its challenges, the fact that I can openly look for the Christ child in each and every student helps me work through the challenging times, and see that God can be found in each one of us. The privilege of being able to openly talk about God and his love for us is something that I not only enjoy, but also something that my students enjoy. It is a most rewarding experience when I hear my kindergarten students openly talk amongst themselves about the fact that God lives in each of them, and about how much Jesus loves us. Hearing these young innocent children comfortably discussing their faith with each other shows me just how much faith surrounds the people in our small Catholic school. I feel that I have support from my administrator and staff, but also an added support from my parish community. Having parish support and working together as a school and church helps us educate our young people in knowledge and spirituality. I feel fortunate to be teaching in a Catholic school. Jaclyn Delhommeau is a Kindergarten teacher at Christ-King School in Stettler. This is her second year as a teacher. Nurturing the unique talents and abilities By Brenda Lim-Fong Greater St. Albert CRD No. 29 I believe Catholic education, with Jesus Christ at its center, involves teaching the whole child-body, mind and soul. It allows us to share with students the love and truth of God within a community rooted in spirituality. It empowers students to achieve their full potential in order to meet the challenges of life, to serve their community, and to journey in faith with God. Catholic education is a celebration of our faith to love and serve others. As educators and members of the faith community, we are stewards entrusted to help young people develop and maintain a loving relationship with God. I believe that teaching by example, modeling Catholic values, Head of the Class Teachers celebrate Catholic education and through prayer, we have a positive impact on young people and help them develop spiritually as well as intellectually. Catholic education is a continuing process that not only serves to shape the future of the student and help them develop into successful, mature and responsible citizens, but also enables students to make moral decisions throughout life. It is through an understanding Hey, is that Galileo standing next to St. Francis of Assisi in the back and sharing of our Catholic row? In a Catholic school, Christ is a part of every classroom and beliefs and written scripture subject including Franco Chiacchia s Math 10 Pure AP class at St. that help us promote values Francis High School in Calgary. Chiacchia s students are shown here such as honesty, generosity, during their Pi (3.14) Activity Day. compassion and forgiveness. Our service projects, which include raising money for the Sleeping Children Around the World organization and Coinspiracy for Kindness, are examples that help to promote increased global and social consciousness. Through our words, actions and interactions, it is important for us to celebrate the Spirit of Christ by nurturing and embracing students unique talents and abilities. Not only is it necessary to provide a positive, safe environment that fosters learning by incorporating challenging curricula and accommodating different learning styles, but also one that reflects the Catholic faith, and inspires learning so that children can mature into knowledgeable and confident people. I think Catholic education serves to foster children s knowledge, growth and practice of their faith as well as enables students to make moral decisions and live successful, productive lives. Brenda Lim-Fong is a second-year Grade 5 teacher at J.J. Nearing Elementary School in St. Albert. Last year she won the Edwin Parr Award, a provincial award for outstanding first-year teachers. Sticking with God even when life changes By Margaretrose Willms Red Deer CRD No. 39 Over the years, I have seen a number of changes in our Catholic schools. Catholic schools today are constantly faced with the challenge of validating why they exist. In many ways this has made us take a good look at our schools and evaluate and understand What is a Catholic School? The answer is simple-a Catholic school is a Christ-centered learning environment. My career as a teacher in Red Deer started in l982 and I have seen several changes over the years. Many of the changes we have faced have been faced by all schools in Alberta. Some of the issues include increased responsibility and class sizes, and changing philosophies. Our schools constantly rise to the challenge. Some changes specific to Catholic schools, however, are very obvious, and I believe, have made Catholic schools stronger. The following are three changes I have witnessed in our schools: Students, parents and teachers have an increased awareness of what a Catholic school is. There is also an increased focus on faith development and permeation of faith in the curriculum. We still have room to grow in this area, but through the years we have grown considerably. Focusing on faith development has not hindered academic success, but rather has enhanced it. When you enter one of our schools you know that you are in a Catholic setting because there is a large number of visual reminders, that is, symbols of our identity. There are faith banners and artwork, prayer centers and displays that are constant reminders that our schools are Christcentered. When St. Francis created the first nativity scene, it was to remind people of the importance of the birth of Christ. The symbols in our building serve a similar purpose. There is a difference in the atmosphere cont. on next page THE CATHOLIC DIMENSION ARCHIVE SPRING 2005

5 of Catholic schools, particularly through visual reminders and actions. Technology has changed a great deal over the years. With increased technology, our world has become smaller. When disaster strikes around the world, students hear of it immediately. Social justice issues and awareness of them have certainly changed over the years. Students are truly developing a social conscience and it is obvious when you see the number of activities students get involved in to make a difference in the life of people locally and those throughout the world. For Lent our school was involved in collecting pennies for orphans in Hogar BelŽn in Peru. All classes were encouraged to participate. It was emotional watching a class of 19 high school students decide they wanted to make a difference. They collected pennies from anywhere they could and ended up with a total of more than $210 in pennies. There are constant activities taking place to raise social justice awareness and our students rise to the challenge through such activities as fundraising activities, blood drives, food drives and service projects. Our Catholic schools have changed over the years. As a teacher and a parent of five children who attend Catholic schools, I hope to continue to support this change and validate the need for Catholic schools to exist. Margaretrose Willms is vice-principal of Holy Family School in Red Deer. She has been a teacher for 15 years. Students walk with Christ in math, science, English... By Franco Chiacchia Calgary CSSD No. 1 Today s educators, within the Catholic milieu, are the fortunate heirs of a rich cultural tradition that can send forth today s students into the future with confidence. Our schools adopt the names of saints or distinguished people of the past to inspire and guide our students in the preparation for tomorrow. The community of St. Francis High School in Calgary has adopted the name of St. Francis of Assisi for he was an ambassador of the light of Christ. The school strives to emulate his example; this is a difficult faith to maintain. It can be maintained with great effort, discipline and passion. These are virtues of character and mind that are cultivated within the triad that nurtures each student-home, school and church. The name given to our school is not perfunctory. Our motto is Pax et Caritas (peace and charity). Thus, St. Francis walks hand in hand with Christ in religion class, and together with Galileo in math class, Einstein in science class, Shakespeare in English class, Rousseau in social class, and Michelangelo in art class. Students are constantly reminded to enact the Peace Prayer of St. Francis, Lord make me an instrument of Thy peace. Catholic students feel inspired by the richness of their history and tradition. Their strength in dealing with today s difficulties comes from the examples of yesterday s spiritual leaders. Our students are challenged to rely on their past to continue into the future with integrity and conviction. Franco Chiacchia is a mathematics teacher & student council advisor at St. Francis High School in Calgary. He has been teaching for 30 years. Honour worth of students By Crystal Zeyha Grande Prairie RCSSD No. 28 My husband Trent and I are both first year teachers. Last year, as we looked for teaching positions we were asked the question: why do you think Catholic education is important? For us, the answer has evolved since then into something less philosophical and more practical. As we ve spent time with our students, we ve seen the importance of Catholic education in practice. How different is a child s experience of life when his or her teacher sees that child as a gift-a unique and specially created being? How different are children s eyes when they see others as gifts-as uniquely and specially created beings? Catholic education provides children with a people-centred context for learning and for life. This creates concrete benefits for our students. They learn to ask whether something is good for us as people-not just whether it is possible. They learn that they are full of dignity and worth, and that helps them to make good decisions. Catholic education gives children a coherent and consistent message about life because all of their teachers are working together to teach SPRING 2005 through the lens of faith. Catholic education gives children the opportunity to come to school and know that within the walls of their school, they are with a faith community. Our students know they will spend their days with adults who honour the dignity and worth of children, and with adults who expect children to show each other the respect due to any of God s children. This is the environment that we are privileged to teach in each day. Without Catholic education we would lose something very important. We would lose the opportunity to create places where we can live the same faith in community and the opportunity to show young people, through our own example, that living faith is possible. Crystal Zeyha teaches the high school Integrated Occupational Program, Religion, and English Language Arts at St. Joseph Catholic High School in Grande Prairie. Trent Zeyha teaches grade 5/6 (home room) & 7/8 (math & science) at St. Mary s Catholic School in Sexsmith. The Zeyhas are both first year teachers. Faith Cannot be Taught but Rather Caught By Kerry Carr Edmonton CSSD No. 7 When considering how teaching has changed over the last 30 years, we need only to look at how society has changed. Our culture has undergone an extreme transformation of beliefs, values, attitudes and roles. These changes have without a doubt seeped into the make-up of our schools and altered ideas on teaching and receiving education. With all the new issues we have created in society, along with the many varied technologies that vie for our students attention, I am often asked why I chose to be a teacher, especially a junior high teacher. I grew up and received my education in Catholic schools. A child s reasoning is such that he/she believes that what is truth for him/herself is universal to all. Thus, I did not necessarily view my education as different or special until I decided to pursue education as a career and came to realize how special and important the work of Catholic education is. There is something extremely unique and powerful about the open discussion and celebration of one s faith. To be able to practice our Catholic beliefs and traditions at school, and to work to ground students in something more than worldly interests and hopefully instill in them a desire to keep learning and growing in their faith is both a daunting and humbling experience. Faith cannot be taught, rather it needs to be caught. This can only happen if students are immersed and practice their faith in a day-in, day-out manner. Thus, when I applied for positions upon graduation, my heart was really in being a teacher in a Catholic school. I wanted to work within a system where I could openly express my faith and work to provide for my students the same experiences as I had been provided with in my education. Thus when I am asked why I wanted to be a teacher, especially in today s society, with all the changes that have occurred, I reply, Because of the opportunity. The opportunity to work with students in a faith-filled environment, the opportunity to share my faith with them and also the opportunity to provide a safe environment where each student is able to realize their potential. Kerry Carr teaches Grade 7 at St. Clement School in Edmonton. This is her first year as a teacher. Looking to Jesus for Inspiration By Jennifer Ewanchyna Calgary RCSSD No. 1 As a relatively new teacher in a Catholic school, my perspective of Catholic education continues to develop and flourish. Through my own experiences I have found that religion is not just a subject, but a way of life in a Catholic school. My faith continues to grow and expand in ways I never expected. My role within the school community is to model the teachings of the Catholic faith in how I treat my students, colleagues and parents. I know that it is important to not only teach my students about God, but to also guide them in the development of their own relationships with Him. I am blessed to have had the opportunity to spend the first year of my cont. on next page THE CATHOLIC DIMENSION ARCHIVE

6 teaching career at St. Dominic Elementary School, which is a part of the district s Catholic Community of Caring. The goal of the CCC program is to create a school environment that will help all students develop positive values. At St. Dominic we strive to incorporate five values-trust, responsibility, respect, caring and family-while promoting our Catholic faith. As part of the CCC program our school participates in BFG (Big Family Group) activities at least once a month. Each BFG is composed of two to three students from each grade level and at least one teacher. The groups participate in various activities and projects that help students to develop the five values while promoting our Catholic faith. This school year, our theme has been WWJD (What Would Jesus Do). Students are encouraged to choose appropriate words and actions according to how Jesus would handle a similar situation. As a school community, we regularly participate in celebrations throughout the liturgical calendar. These events are opportunities for us to reflect, pray and celebrate as a family. I have been privileged to receive support and encouragement from the district level through professional development opportunities, mentorship from the administration team at St. Dominic, and guidance from a grade team partner. It is within the Catholic school that we are able to openly communicate, participate and celebrate our relationship with God so that we grow and learn together both academically and spiritually. Jennifer Ewanchyna is a Grade 5 teacher at St. Dominic Elementary School in Calgary. This is her first year teaching. Empowering Students to be Leaders of Faith By Donna Schwandt Lloydminster RCSSD No. 89 Reflecting on Catholic education in our community over the last three decades is a gift to treasure. Jesus, our teacher, modeled teaching as a profession built on a wealth of relationships. I treasure the relationships built with the families in our community, for it is through these relationships that our faith is taught to the children entrusted to our care. We have witnessed growth in our community over the years. A new Catholic church, an increase in the number of elementary schools from one to four, and the addition of a high school were significant milestones in our community because each event demonstrated the growth and strength of the Catholic faith. There have been many changes within our education community-textbook to resource-based learning, new teaching methods, new resources, learning styles, collaborative team work, and advances in technology-the list goes on. As educators, we cannot do everything for the children, but I believe one of the most important cornerstones of our Catholic schools is that we are a faith community built on relationships. Children, parents and staff are all called to share in our mission to educate the whole child. We share our faith, build character and inspire children to learn to Love the Lord with all their heart, all their mind and all their strength. The home is where the seeds of faith are first developed and nurtured, and where children learn to build trusting relationships. The classroom is where we continue to present the teachings of the Church to the children through the catechism of the Church, and by praying together, singing, reading the Bible and unpacking the Good News-What is God telling us? What is God asking us to do? What will I do to demonstrate my understanding of the Gospel throughout the week? Daily prayers are an integral part of our day, for it is through prayer that we build our relationship with God. Celebrating the lives of the saints, fostering an awareness of virtues shared through stories, activities and displays centred on the liturgical year are critical in developing the whole child. Every day we build the foundation for the future of the children as we strive to model Christian virtues. The church, where we worship as community, is also where we celebrate liturgy. With the help of family members and the parish priest, we celebrate the Eucharist-the source and summit of our life in Christ. As we share these special relationships with the children, we empower them to be leaders in our faith community. Children serve in the ministries at church as greeters, lectors, choir members and altar servers. We experience a worshipping community, which helps the children to develop knowledge of the Catholic faith, live their faith through the Sacraments, and learn to make wise decisions as future leaders of our communities. As an educator, I believe our Catholic community is dedicated to sharing our faith, preparing liturgical celebrations, helping students to develop their moral character, leading the children to prayer, and educating the children to carry on the mission of the Church. There have been changes within our community and society, but I will always treasure some of the most important aspects of our faith-the sense of mission, the diversity of the children, the respect, the joy, the laughter, the smiles, the thoughtful words and the relationships. We are called to love and serve the Lord, which empowers us to teach our children our faith, as well as build and strengthen our relationship with God and Jesus Christ. The enduring traditions of the Catholic faith have continued to remain the heart of Catholic education. Donna Schwandt is a Grade 1/2 teacher at St. Joseph Elementary School in Lloydminster who has been teaching for 31 years. An Abundance of Ways to Celebrate By Alice Nemeti Edmonton CSSD No. 7 It does not seem that long ago that I walked my class to church for Friday confession. We collected money for the Holy Childhood Association and nuns wearing habits taught in our schools. When the school no longer had a role in preparing the children for group confession and communion I was somewhat worried as I thought that many of our students may never receive the Sacraments of Reconciliation or Eucharist. I love what we do in our schools today. We celebrate our faith with a passion. We make known our Catholic identity. We live our faith. We practice our faith. We are proud to be Catholics. Today we are blessed at being able to participate in celebrating our faith in many ways. Each morning the students create and say their own beautiful and touching prayers over our network. Other prayers such as the Our Father, Hail Mary and the Apostles Creed are student led. All students participate in daily prayer and religion classes. We always involve the students in the preparation of faith celebrations and encourage full participation when the school gathers together in song and prayer for special events such as the opening of the school year, Thanksgiving, Remembrance Day, Advent, Christmas, Stations of the Cross and the year-end graduation of the Grade 6 students. During Lent and Advent prayer bags go home with each student allowing families to participate at home during these holy seasons. We have prayer corners in the school and yearly religious themes. We are also fortunate to have almost weekly visits to St. Thomas More Church, which is part of our religious studies. Mary the Mother of God is remembered at the school through the rosary, which is led over our the network, during the month of May. The school staff participate in religious celebrations at the beginning and end of the school year. We also participate in the district wide school opening Mass at the Winspear Centre and attend the district s faith development day. At Edmonton Catholic Schools, we pray together and we stay together. We have come a long way. Preparation of the sacraments is still part of our religion class, but not to the degree it used to be. It is left up to parent initiative to have their child partake of the sacraments at the church. I have faith in God and in our church leaders to support our work in showing God to our students. We truly have come a long way. Alice Nemeti is a Grade 3 teacher at St. Agustine Elementary School. She has been teaching for 43 years. Faith Not Measured by Popularity By Keri Polansky Living Waters CRD No. 42 Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches Galatians 6:9 Jesus Christ taught us what it meant to be a great teacher, not just a teacher of knowledge, but one of passion, care and ultimately love. It is through our belief and understanding of Christ that Catholics unite in a religious community. As a second year teacher I find it a privilege to serve as a purveyor of faith and knowledge, as well as to be a member THE CATHOLIC DIMENSION ARCHIVE SPRING 2005

7 of a Catholic school community. I believe Catholic education allows the teacher and students more freedom within the classroom. On any given day, my students may be inclined to disagree, seeing their faith only as one of rules and expectations, but what they fail to see, hidden in all the biblical cannots, are the religious cans. Inside a Catholic school and within a Catholic classroom students can discuss their faith, learn about others beliefs, and examine how religion has shaped the world, without fear of persecution by their peers. A commonality and a faith base are created from which the students are free to explore and question who they are and what they may long to become. As a teacher I find it inspiring to thoroughly examine a biblical allusion in a piece of literature, to look at how the author s faith helped shape his/her theme and social commentary, and to parallel that faith to the beliefs I share with my students. I feel passionate about my faith, and to examine faith in all facets of A sense of Catholic community is bred through sharing and support. It is in the Catholic educational system that students are fortunate enough to share experiences. Even if students have different economic backgrounds and social status, they unite in their faith through celebration and mass. Mass is a place where students are equal and all titles are erased; there are no popular crowds, no jocks, no cheerleaders-only believers. These believers, are the future of our Catholic community and our world, so it is important to constantly show them what religion can provide-love, hope, and family. Keri Polansky teaches high school level English and religion at St. Joseph s School in Whitecourt. This is her second year teaching. Presence of Christ Challenges Students Full Potential By Sarah Frey Red Deer CRD No. 39 Not every province in Canada has the blessing and privilege with a publicly funded Catholic school system, which raises questions as to its necessity. What is it that makes the Catholic school system a great enough treasure that it should be protected and appreciated? The answer is rich soil. What a Catholic environment allows to grow and develop is fruit of the Holy Spirit, things that simply cannot grow without the life-giving water of Jesus Christ. In a secular world where noise and confusion abound, children, especially adolescents, are rarely given the opportunity to sit quietly and reflect on those tough, deep questions they are beginning to ask and struggle with. Allowing Christianity in the classrooms means that students are not only allowed to ask, why, but they are encouraged to explore Catholic teaching to find direction and answers. It is specifically for this reason that religion classes, morning prayer and class discussions are made an imperative norm in Catholic schools. This stands as a stark contrast to the world in which we live which preaches moral relativism and breeds confusion in the youth who are hungering for truth. The late Pope John Paul II knew this well as he preached so lovingly for the youth of the world to seek out the deepest desires of their hearts, through which they would find the truth of God s love and mercy in Jesus Christ. Allowing Jesus into the classroom has the power to transform a school because suddenly students have a reason for being good, studious and respectful. Christ becomes the reason behind everything, like changing a selfish, competitive attitude into a team approach, seeking to strengthen all the members involved. Christ transforms the pointless pursuit of marks into a positive challenge to develop one s natural gifts to their fullest potential. Without God in the picture, students miss out on the meaning, beauty and design they inevitably discover while studying cultures, languages, math and the sciences. He becomes the reason to learn and practice bitter lessons like bravery to resist peer pressure and invite lonely students into one s group of friends or forgiveness and praying for those who wrong us. What is perhaps even more noticeably unique in a Catholic school setting is that all members of the school, including administration, staff, students and families, are encouraged to be in an active and growing relationship with Jesus Christ and the Church. There is an effort made to nourish the spiritual needs of everyone involved through Masses, retreats, prayers, celebrations, classes, speakers and an openness to discussion, Scripture and prayer. Is there more that could be done? Definitely. We need to constantly include in the curriculum the the tools that students will need to live and defend their faith. However, the soil is rich and the opportunities are many for God to work amongst us. Why is Catholic education a cause for excitement for the faithful? Simply put, it is rich in opportunity. With Christ at the helm of the school, the youth of today find refuge and guidance in a lost and confused world. With Christ as their rock, they will be able to follow Him with faith and courage, bringing hope to our world for a solid, honorable and bright future. Sarah Frey teaches high school level courses at St. Matthews Catholic School in Rocky Mountain House. This is her second year teaching. Legally Speaking Long before Alberta was even a Province The first formal European education to reach what is now Alberta arrived with the Catholic missionaries. In 1838, Fathers Blanchet and Demers arrived at Fort Edmonton, in 1842, Father Thibault founded the first Catholic mission at Lac St. Anne and was joined in 1844 by Father Bourassa, who later founded missions at Lesser Slave Lake and Grande Prairie. In 1845, Father de Smet resided in Edmonton while he acted as peace maker between the Blackfoot and the Flatheads. These Oblate fathers were joined in 1853 by Father Remas and each were involved in the introduction of Catholic education in what is now Central and Northern Alberta. However, the first missionary to introduce formal schooling was Father Albert Lacombe who arrived at Lac St. Anne in 1852 and immediately began instructing both adults and children. In 1857, Bishop Tache founded a native school at Lac la Biche, under the control of three Grey Nuns-Sisters Grienette, Daunais and Trisseur. By 1859, three other Grey Nuns, Sisters Leblanc-Emery, Lamy and Jacques-Alphonse, had arrived at Lac St. Anne and the first boarding school, with 42 students, was opened. That allowed Father Lacombe and Father TachŽ to establish a mission in St. Albert in The first regular school west of the Red River Colony was established at Fort Edmonton in 1862 by Brother Scollen, soon followed by the normal schools in St. Albert in 1863, under the tutelage of Father Grouard, Brother Alexis and a number of teaching sisters from Lac St. Anne, and in Fort McLeod in In the 1860s, the separate school question was a prominent issue in the political debate leading to confederation, which could not have been achieved Kevin P. Feehan Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP Barristers and Solicitors passed. without the protections granted to separate schools in Section 93 of the Constitution Act, Section 93 conferred on the provinces the exclusive power to make laws in relation to education. However, it was the D Arcy McGee amendment of 1864 and the Alexander Galt amendment of 1866, embodied in subsections 1 through 3 of Sections 93, which was recognized by the Supreme Court of Canada in Reference re: Bill 30 as the political compromise, the solemn pact, which made confederation possible. As Sir Charles Tupper said in the House of Commons:... without this clause, without this guarantee for the rights of minorities being embodied in that new constitution, we should have been unable to obtain any Confederation whatever... On June 23, 1870, Rupert s Land and the Northwest Territories became part of the Dominion of Canada and shortly thereafter the Northwest Territories Act, 1870 was Upon addition of Rupert s Land and the Northwest Territories to the Dominion of Canada, a report was prepared on education in the new area by Bishops Tache and Grandin. They reported that by June 1871, there were five elementary schools in full-time operation, and 15 missionary priests and nuns providing education in those schools. In 1875, the second Northwest Territories Act established formal state-sponsored education in the area that is now Alberta. It provided that the majority of the ratepayers of any district or portion of the Northwest Territories could establish a public school and that the minority of ratepayers, whether Protes- cont. on the next page SPRING 2005 THE CATHOLIC DIMENSION ARCHIVE

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