Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 10, 1999
Schools build Catholic identity
New 'Manifesto for Catholic Education' provides guide to schools' mission
By By LELLA BLUMER
Special to the WCR
For the past four years, the Edmonton Catholic school division has been looking for a way to articulate its Catholic identity.
On May 3, trustees released a report which may be a giant step toward achieving that goal.
The Religious Dimension of Education in Edmonton Catholic Schools - A Manifesto for Catholic Education was presented to the board at its public meeting in Vegreville.
The report "attempts to describe the religious foundation for the living out, the witnessing, the manifestation of our Catholic identity in all our endeavours."
In the words of board chair Ron Zapisocki: "It puts life to what we do in our schools."
"I think it reaffirms that Catholic education is more than just a place to go to school. Catholic education has a much deeper mission and purpose."
There are four elements to the report, written by religious services consultant Patrick McDonald.
It begins by outlining eight characteristics of the Catholic identity: community, tradition, humanness, sacramentality, rationality, spirituality, justice and hospitality. It then links each characteristic to Catholic education and discusses the implications.
For example, under "sacramentality," the report explains: "The ideal of a Catholic school is to educate its members into a world that is sacred and holy because it is God's creation." A strategy to develop sacramental awareness could be to encourage responsible stewardship of resources.
The third part of the report identifies signs that would indicate whether Catholic schools in fact reflect the Catholic identity.
A Catholic school in which social consciousness is fostered within the curriculum and through the celebration of programs such as Share Lent would reflect the "community" characteristic.
Finally, the report sets out "exhortations", or possibilities for action. Some are already happening, such as an annual district-wide faith development day, and the "regular blessing of daily work and meals."
But the report also suggests establishing a chaplain position for each family of schools, and working with the archdiocesan and eparchial liturgy offices to formulate policies for celebrating the eucharistic liturgy and for intercommunion.
Religion services coordinator Father Stephen Wojcichowsky makes it clear the report is a work in progress.
"The exhortations are a springboard for anyone to take action; whoever has the capacity of moving it along should take it on and look at more possibilities.
"It's going to involve all of us working together."
Wojcichowsky says school principals throughout the division have seen the first part of the document, and have been invited to submit their responses. Based on those submissions, the report will be refined.
He's pleased by the reaction so far. "We're really hearing from the grassroots and it's very exciting."
The next step, Wojcichowsky says, is to continue discussing the report with trustees and administration to get further direction.
From there, he says, the intent is to invite the entire Catholic education community into the process.
"We may not work through the document itself page by page, but we will take the essence of it to a number of groups," including school councils, he says.
"I hope this document will open doors and empower people, rather than stifle them."
Zapisocki says the report will "most definitely" lead to action on behalf of the school division.
"I think actions are going to surface, those actions are going to have to be prioritized, and then we will have to address what might be lacking or diminishing for whatever reason.
"It will be up to the board, administration and staff to plan the actions to fulfill our mandate of Catholic education."
For example, Zapisocki says, the report "recognizes our need as a school division to ensure that our staff are in accord and in support of our mission."
That sends the board a message, he says, "that we had better make appropriate provisions for our staff so that they can live out and fulfill our mission."
Most importantly, Zapisocki says, the report will help the board and the entire Catholic community to "reaffirm Catholic education."
"There are things that affront Catholic education - the political climate, cost efficiency, funding and so on.
"We must be very vocal and demonstrate clearly in our performance that Catholic education is providing for young Albertans, preparing them for life, and preparing them to live life more fully."