Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of December 13, 1999
Educators draw inspiration
Day-long workshop focuses on faith development
By LELLA BLUMER
Special to the WCR
Catholic educators from across the Edmonton Catholic school division shared a day of music, drama and inspiration at the Shaw Conference Centre Dec. 3.
Close to 3,000 teachers, administrators, and support staff from 82 schools in Edmonton and two schools in Vegreville took part in the division's third annual faith development day. They were joined by dozens of pastors, as well as district trustees, three former superintendents and central office staff.
Organizers and participants agreed the best part of the day was the fact that they were all there together.
"It's beautiful," beamed Suzanne Szojka, a grade 4-5 teacher from St. Martin's School in Vegreville.
"This gives us a chance to talk about being Catholic and share what we are.
"The drama is really powerful, the talks are geared right to us, and the whole day just calls us up to be the best we can be."
The idea of bringing everyone together in the same room to hear the same message at the same time creates "a new Pentecost," says Father Stephen Wojcichowski, coordinator of religion services for the school district.
That's something that was sorely needed three years ago when the idea of a division-wide faith development day was born.
"We were settling into the reality of cutbacks. We really needed to get together to talk about where education was going, and focus on who we are," Wojcichowski said, adding that this is more than a one-day event. "You wouldn't believe how often people come back during the year to what they've experienced here."
What they experienced Dec. 3 was upbeat music performed by their own choir and music ensembles, powerful drama performed by their own actors, a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Thomas Collins and Ukrainian Bishop Lawrence Huculak, and a series of inspiring talks by Father Erik Riechers, a familiar face to Catholic educators.
Riechers' message was clear: to "open the door to Christ" for the next generation, Catholic educators must welcome others the way Christ welcomes us.
"Christ never sets any preconditions to an encounter with himself," he said. "The kingdom is already here before repentance, before conversion . . . and you may already enter without having your act entirely together."
It's important to remember that God does not prejudge us, he added. "He takes the time to know us. He is interested enough in us to ask us to give an account of ourselves."
It is the task of every Catholic educator, whether a teacher, support staff, or parent, "to be a gateway unto wonder, unto mystery, and unto faith."
What defines us is our call to participate in the work of revelation, by showing others, especially our children and students, that they make a difference.
Speaking with the WCR afterward, Riechers indicated every member of the Catholic community can "participate in the revelation" by speaking positively about Catholic education and Catholic teachers to each other and to the public.
"By speaking well, you encourage improvement, and you foster it."
Catholic education can be problematic and it can be messy, he admitted. "But it's a nice problem to have," he said. Many parents in Newfoundland who gave up the right to Catholic education a few years ago would dearly like to have it back.
Superintendent Dale Ripley echoed that sense of gratitude in his comments, reminding those present that "we are blessed" to have the opportunity to come together and talk about a shared faith.
And it was reinforced by teacher Szojka's reflection on the day: "It made me proud of what I do, and makes me want to go back and do it even better."