Superintendent Joan Carr (lower Right) says many students love Catholic Schools because they learn about God there.

WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ

Superintendent Joan Carr (lower Right) says many students love Catholic Schools because they learn about God there.

October 17, 2011
RAMON GONZALEZ
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

Catholic schools provide an opportunity to teach God and to introduce young people to a living relationship with the living Christ.

That’s how Bishop David Motiuk, the bishop of the Ukrainian Eparchy of Edmonton, attempted to answer the “what” of Catholic education — the main focus of a forum on Catholic education held at St. Michael-Resurrection Church Oct. 5.

The event, organized by the Capilano-area parish, dealt with Catholic education history, tradition and purpose.

Other speakers were Edmonton Catholic superintendent Joan Carr, lawyer Kevin Feehan and Sandra Bannard, president of the Alberta Catholic School Trustees’ Association. About 130 people attended.

Feehan, a longtime legal consultant for ACSTA, dealt with the history of Catholic education, saying Canada would not have come into existence in 1867 but for the question of Catholic education.

“It was the fundamental compromise that was forged by the Fathers of Confederation that brought the country together and allowed us to form the country that’s Canada.”

Feehan said Alberta would not have come into Confederation in 1905 without a guarantee for Catholic education.

Kevin Feehan

Kevin Feehan

“The courts have recognized that Catholic education is required to be radically, fundamentally different in its theology, in its philosophy, in its practice, in its whole permeation of Catholic values and the development of the child as a whole person.

“For 130 years our forbearers defended those rights; let’s not fail to do the same.”

MEETING CHRIST

Motiuk, introduced as a great friend of Catholic education, described Catholic schools as a place where young people meet Christ and said Catholic education provides an opportunity to permeate everything from the moment that the bell rings.

“It doesn’t end at the end of the day but continues day in and day out for those important formative years of our young people.”

Sandra Bannard

Sandra Bannard

“Everything that we do by our example, by the material that we teach, by how we live, everything permeates what we do in our Catholic schools.”

Catholic schools are known for high academic achievement. “But there is another area in which we are high achievers and that’s this ability (we have) to instill good moral values within our youth,” the bishop said.

Carr, the ECS superintendent, said the heart and soul of Catholic education is Jesus Christ who proclaims the good news that God wills for us the fullness of life.

“Our Catholic schools are sacred spaces for learning. We say that when you enter our schools you are on holy ground and our responsibility of teaching is a very sacred one.”

Carr said when she visits the schools and asks students what they love about their Catholic school their responses inevitably include reading, math, science, gym, art, music, their friends and, of course, recess.

Joan Carr

Joan Carr

“You might be pleasantly surprised to hear that our children also say: ‘I love my school because we learn about God. God is everywhere around us. Right here in my classroom. He is always with me.’”

Catholic schools in Edmonton are part of the saving mission of the Church, she said.

“At every milestone of learning, Christ is there, igniting a child’s curiosity and desire to learn. In Catholic schools, students hear the good news of Jesus Christ. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, students are challenged to live the good news of this Gospel message in their daily lives.”

Catholic schools in Alberta currently serve 142,000 students in about 364 schools, with the highest concentration being in the metro Edmonton and Calgary areas, noted Bannard, the ACSTA president. Roughly one in four students in Alberta are educated in a Catholic school.

Bishop David Motiuk

Bishop David Motiuk

Only Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario receive full public funding. Operations, maintenance and capital projects are fully funded in these three provinces. British Columbia and Manitoba receive between 50 and 60 per cent of operations costs.

TUITION FEES

Newfoundland and Quebec lost provincial funding in the 1990s. Only private Catholic schools exist in the Maritime provinces.

“Parents who send kids to Catholic schools outside Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario face tuition fees ranging from $2,500-$7,000 per child,” said Bannard.

The ACSTA president said Catholic schools consider it highly important to prepare students with the knowledge, skills and attitudes they will require to compete in the 21st century.

ENGAGED CITIZENS

“But more than that, Catholic education is concerned with preparing our students for the world that awaits them beyond their time on earth.

“Essentially we are educating students to be contributing, engaged citizens in this world with an eye to the greater eternity that awaits all of us. That’s countercultural and very unique.”

The next forum on Catholic education at St. Michael-Resurrection will take place Nov. 16 and will deal with the “how” of Catholic education.