Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 14, 1999
Grads found more than faith
Bible school students also learned to love and listen
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
They came to John Paul II Bible School to learn the basics of their faith. They got much more than that.
They also learned how to love others, how to listen to others and how to communicate with others.
Fifty Bible School graduates paraded to the podium of the Radway Agri Centre June 6 to receive diplomas and certificates from the 15-year-old school.
About 450 people attended Mass and graduation ceremonies. All graduates gave a glimpse of what their highlight for the year was with most saying they had learned to love the way Jesus did.
Thirty-seven students from across Alberta, Saskatchewan, British Columbia and parts of the United States graduated from the Bible School's first-year diploma in sacred studies program.
TobyLauren Noster, an 18-year-old from Derwent, Alta., joined the program to get a more solid foundation in her faith.
When she came to Radway she realized she needed more than that. "I had a lot of walls built up that I needed to let Jesus tear down."
Through living in community with other young people and studying Church history, Scripture, the sacraments and a bit of psychology, Noster came out a changed person, her walls torn down by Jesus.
"I've learned how to love and I learned what love is," Noster said. "Love is a choice, it's a commitment.
"It's also a process that we go through and I've learned that I am a lovable person and I learned how much I truly do love other people and how to show it to them."
She called her first year at John Paul "a year of discernment which gives me something to base the rest of my life on, a starting point. (Coming to the Bible school) is the best decision I've ever made."
What will Noster do next? "I'm open to whatever God is calling me to," she said. Right now her interests are in the arts - music, writing and drama.
Michael Lees, a 19 year-old from Grande Prairie, came to Radway to experience "a manifestation of God and to experience his power and love."
That's what he experienced. "Being at Bible School has changed my life and God really caught my heart to his love and I know that he'll always be there to help me out," he said in an interview.
Lees also learned that "God's mercy is always greater than our sins and it doesn't matter how many times we fall he'll always be there to help us back up."
He also learned how to communicate with others and with God through prayer. "I think I've really got a solid grounded foundation to the rest of my life."
This summer Lees will work with Catholic Adventure Ministries and next year he'll join Behold the Lamb Ministries, a full-time ministry that travels throughout Western Canada giving talks in schools and parishes.
Ann Bellemare, 19, of Cold Lake, came to Radway straight from high school. "I came here because I wanted a foundation in my faith. I wanted to understand what it means to be a Catholic."
Now she claims to have a better understanding of the Mass, the Church's feasts, the saints, the sacraments and prayer. "Now I'm starting to learn how to love others and to find Christ in everything, not just to look on appearance but to look and to seek and to show love and understanding."
Like Lees, Bellemare will join Behold the Lamb in August. "I'll be spreading the Gospel, sharing what is the core of my life, which is Jesus."
Michelle Hopegood, 23, was one of 10 mostly young people who graduated from the school's second-year diploma program, which mainly provides leadership formation. The Kelowna, B.C., woman, soon to be married to another school graduate, did her first year at Radway four years ago.
"I believe the Lord led me back to the Bible school through a series of incidents throughout my life," she told the WCR. "I was out in the world working, teaching piano and I decided to come back to the Bible school to grow more in the Lord and to share my experiences with others."
Through an outreach program offered to second-year students, Hopegood learned "how to listen to others without having to solve their problems."
As soon as she gets home, Hopegood will join the music ministry team at Kelowna's Immaculate Conception Parish. She also plans to join Embracing Hope, a singing ministry currently being formed.
Over the past 15 years, John Paul School has turned out priests, sisters and countless lay ministers.
The key to the school is that "the Lord is in the house," John Connelly, the school's associate director, said in his address to the graduates.
He called them to "be a light in the darkness" and to spread God's message of love and hope to the world.
"Be aware that God is with you," he said. "Be aware that God loves you everyday, 24 hours a day."