EDMONTON — Father Roger Keeler, pastor of St. Michael Resurrection Parish, made a parallel between upcoming sessions on Catholic education and the popular TV program, Antiques Roadshow.
On the show, a grandmother will have an obscure item that has been collecting dust on a bookshelf for years. Family members, pondering its value, take it to an appraiser and discover that the item is actually worth $20,000. It holds intrinsic value and is worth protecting.
Keeler hopes people will draw the same conclusion regarding Catholic education.
“We have something so precious and we simply take it for granted. Our intention is to take a look at the gift, and celebrate the gift, and fully understand what it is we’ve got here,” said Keeler.
A series of sessions put on by St. Michael-Resurrection Parish is examining the challenges, success stories and beacons of hope, while rousing some passion for Catholic education.
In the spring, news broke of a petition circulated by David King, a former Alberta education minister. King is petitioning to disestablish Catholic education in the province.
The sessions at Resurrection Church are about loving and nurturing Catholic education, not about political activism.
“This started as a grassroots stirring, and so it’s not coming from fear. It’s coming from the grassroots of the parish council of a small parish,” said Janet Campbell, a former school principal who chairs parish council.
After speaking with Archbishop Richard Smith and various school representatives, Campbell said everyone was “thrilled to bits” that someone was finally taking a leadership role in this.
The parish council wants serious dialogue regarding the future direction and preservation of Catholic education. Valuing Catholic education is embedded in the beliefs of St. Michael-Resurrection parishioners. Teaching and educating their children are important components of what it means to be Catholic.
“We wanted a serious conversation about Catholic education. We wanted to better inform parents, students, the wider Catholic community, teachers and trustees about why Catholic education is important,” said Campbell.
The parish council established a series called, Catholic Education: Preserving the Privilege and Ensuring the Future. About 60 people from within the parish attended the first meeting in May.
Two more sessions are scheduled for Oct. 5 and Nov. 16, both from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the church, 10555-50A St.
Speakers at the sessions will include Edmonton Catholic Schools superintendent Joan Carr, lawyer Kevin Feehan, Bishop David Motiuk and school principal Debbie Rowley. Moderating both sessions is Dr. John Acheson, Ward 75 trustee.
“We want very much to make sure that we never lose sight of the tremendous gift that we have in Catholic education across Canada,” said Keeler.
“I am afraid that a lot of people do not recognize the preciousness of this gift. Learning about that gift and celebrating that gift enables us to use the gift well and preserve it.”
The October session will focus on the “what” of Catholic education, its history, tradition, purpose, mission and meaning.
The November session will turn to the “how” of Catholic education, dealing with making it authentic and alive in the local schools. Their intention is to stay positive, and not turn to fault-finding or making it into a “grump session.”
Depending on the support for the two sessions, a possible next step is to bring in a keynote speaker for another session in early 2012.
For more information, contact the parish office at 780-468-4071.