Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
May 18, 2009
John Paul Bible School a Prairie Jewel that must be given new life
John Paul II Bible School in Radway has been an enormous gift to the Church in Western Canada, especially Alberta. Over the past 25 years, it has formed hundreds of young people in the Catholic faith and today large numbers of those people are dedicated to building God's kingdom. They do it through Church-related jobs, through parish-based ministries and through Catholic family life. The Church in Alberta would be immeasurably poorer if John Paul II Bible School had never existed.
The school has survived on a wing and a prayer as well as incredible dedication by a small number of people. Understandably, it has had weaknesses and St. Paul Bishop Luc Bouchard rightly decided to have a visitation team report on how the school could better carry out its mission. The team's report made 36 recommendations for sweeping changes at the school.
The five-member board (only four members when you don't include the bishop) that oversees the school decided it cannot implement the recommendations for financial reasons and because doing so would radically alter the nature of the school. It decided instead to close the school.
The board was wrong in all three decisions.
One can see that this small group, whose only motivation lies in helping young people get a taste of life in Christ, feels overwhelmed by the task laid out for it.
But then the school has done little to ask for the help of the Alberta Catholic community. It may think it has asked. But it hasn't . . . at least not properly. If it did ask, it would find a reservoir of people willing to help it by serving on the board and by donating financially.
Further, if it took a dispassionate look at those 36 recommendations, it would find that they do not undermine their own vision for the school. If implemented – and they must be implemented for the school to continue – they would enable the school to better carry out its mission.
Contrary to the opinion of those involved with the school, the report does not recommend turning the Bible school into an academic institution. It wants it to remain a year of formation, but formation that explores a fuller breadth of the Catholic tradition than that represented by the charismatic renewal. It would not abolish the charismatic nature of the school; it would refine it.
John Paul II Bible School should not close permanently. It should, as the report recommends, take a year or two of sabbatical to restructure itself. It should start by establishing a larger board of directors with a wide range of competencies.
Then it should go to the Catholic community and ask for money to support the school and pay its staff living wages with benefits. It should develop a program in line with the report's recommendations and when it reopens, begin to flourish even more than it has in the past.
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