EDMONTON - Catholic high school students in Alberta may soon begin to learn about the main world religions, from Judaism to Hinduism.
A course on world religions developed for Ontario high schools is currently being piloted in Alberta and might hit the classrooms as soon as it is adapted and receives approval by Alberta Education.
For the past few months World Religions: A Canadian Catholic Perspective has been piloted in six classes, by seven teachers and 165 students from around the province.
The pilot project aims to, among other things, provide feedback on what parts of the course should be cut or adapted to meet Alberta teaching standards.
The course, as it is, is too long for Alberta standards and a team of consultants is adapting the course.
Char Deslippe, who helped write the original Ontario course, along with Kathy Inglis of Sylvan Lake, are heading up the team.
"You can't teach everything (in this course); there is just too much in this textbook to cover," explains Deslippe, a consultant with the Diocese of Victoria and the Alberta Catholic School Trustees' Association.
"So what we were invited to do is identify what should be a priority."
Deslippe's team has cut a third or more from the original Ontario textbook, preserving essential material and making some sections optional.
"I'm finished (with the adaptation) but now we have to take a look at whatever feedback we get from the teachers (who are currently piloting the course) at the end of June."
Deslippe said the new course manual will set priorities on what Alberta teachers can teach.
Currently all Catholic high schools in Ontario are using the course and Alberta is coming on board this fall.
"I think there will be quite a few more schools teaching it in September," Deslippe said.
Once the adaptations are approved by Catholic trustees and the Association of Superintendents, the course will go to Alberta Education for approval.
Commissioned by the Assembly of Bishops of Ontario, the world religions course explores each religion from a Catholic perspective and analyzes some rituals that are important in each religion, Deslippe said.
She said the course explores some of the basic tenets of major religious faiths - Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Sikhism, native spirituality and Catholicism - and depicts similarities or dissimilarities with Catholicism. It also explains interreligious dialogue going on between the Church and other religions.
"What we are trying to say is there is some truth in all religions and that's what we are trying to look for: What is the truth of this faith?"
Deslippe helped write the book and to do so "I looked at all kinds of documents from Vatican II and what is Vatican II telling us about world religions and what the Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us.
"Well, it tells us that we want to be open to all faiths and we want our students to learn about them as well as their own," Deslippe continued. "Obviously that is from a Catholic perspective. We want to help kids to understand that not every religion is the same."
Why is this course important? "It's important because in the 21st century and in this culture our students need an understanding of the role that religion plays in our growth as humans in terms of being a whole person."
They must also understand "that other people have a spirituality as well, even though it might not be expressed in rituals the same as our Catholic faith is."