Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of January 17, 2000
Schools open door to Christ
Holy doors symbolize students' journey to Jesus
By ANH HOANG
WCR Staff Writer
The gymnasium doors opened at Ecole Secondaire Ste. Marguerite d'Youville Jan. 12, and the wish for every student who walks through them is to discover themselves in the journey they are taking.
This was the message expressed by Archbishop Thomas Collins as he was joined by Oblate Father George LaGrange of St. Albert Parish, in opening the school's "holy door."
The double doors, which lead into the school's gym, served as a symbol of an entryway into a journey with Christ. It is the same symbol that the holy door at St. Peter's Basilica, which was opened Christmas Eve, in Rome represents.
And it is the same symbol that other holy doors in churches, schools and homes in the archdiocese represent.
Along with Marguerite d'Youville, all Catholic schools in St. Albert and several in Edmonton have had holy door opening ceremonies.
"The more they see it (in their parishes, home and schools), the more they will be connected with it and what it means," said Dawn Kirvin, religion consultant for the Greater St. Albert Catholic Regional Division.
Edmonton Catholic Schools have also been busy opening holy doors. Schools such as St. Alphonsus, St. Gabriel, St. Angela and St. Theresa have had or are planning holy door activities.
Patrick McDonald, a religious education consultant with Edmonton Catholic Schools, sees the holy door theme that many schools are embracing as a strong symbol of the Catholic faith.
"(Students) probably grasp the symbols better than the (direct) message," McDonald said.
The symbolism that lies in a holy door is the same symbolism that can be placed on any door, said Tom Cameron, assistant principal at St. Alphonsus School.
"The idea of doors throughout history have always had an impact on us," Cameron said. "They're closed to keep you out or opened to welcome you in.
"I want (the students) not to be afraid of a door. A door can be opened and we can discover new things."
The sign of the holy door draws on Jesus' words in John 10:7, "I am the door." Christ is the doorway into a life of communion with God.
In a 1998 document announcing the holy year, Pope John Paul wrote, "The focus on the door is to recall the responsibility of every believer to cross its threshold.
"To pass through the door means to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord."
The first holy door was opened at the Basilica of the Most Holy Saviour in Rome in 1423. To begin the current jubilee year, Pope John Paul is opening holy doors at Rome's four major basilicas.
In St. Albert, Emilie Keane, principal of Marguerite d'Youville said, "Doors are gateways from one room to another and they allow people to enter a different place from which they come.
"The doors can be compared to our hearts. Sometimes our hearts are closed. As we begin a new millennium, we are presented with a perfect opportunity to open our hearts and to make a conscious effort to meet the needs of others around us."
Collins expressed the need for students to take a break from their often-hectic study and reflect on their own journey to Christ.
"The most important questions we are asked when we cross the borders into another country . . . is 'Who are you?' 'Where are you from?' and 'Where are you going?' These are questions that are important in our life.
"These are the deep questions in life. We need to stop and reflect on the deep questions."
Through what should have been a joyous event, the death of student Ryan Ziehlke, Jan. 10, cast a somber mood.
"It did change the tone," said teacher Louise Shervey.
But Ziehlke's death and Collins' call to reflection are intertwined, said Shervey.
The archbishop "talked about stopping and taking that time to reflect. A lot of the students now have that chance to reflect on who (Ziehlke) was and what he left behind."
A baptismal candle was blessed by Collins and LaGrange and from it, tapered candles were lit and given to each student, who then sang This Little Light of Mine.
The ceremony was an eye opener for Angelena Dolezar, 14, who knew little of the significance of the holy doors. But she had no problem relating to the message from Collins and Keane.
Dolezar, a Grade 9 student, looks "to be more active" this jubilee year. "I want to do more and get more involved in things."
Having the archbishop and LaGrange open a holy door should have greater impact on the students than if it had been a brief in-class event, said Shervey.
"If we make this an important event, (students) will see that it is important."