Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 6, 2000
Parents discuss schools' identity
Worshop aims to strengthen classroom Catholicism
By ANH HOANG
WCR Staff Writer
Catholic education has a history of more than a century in Edmonton.
But with issues such as fundraising and shared school facilities arising for Catholic schools, west side trustee Debbie Engel saw the need to revisit this history.
"There's all kinds of issues facing us as parents and educators," Engel said. "It's important for us to talk about how these issues affect us. Are we morally doing the right thing, following our Catholic teachings?"
Engel hosted a workshop, Understanding the Foundation for the Role of Parents in Catholic Education, Feb. 23. The event, held at Good Shepherd Church, attracted almost 100 parents and school staff and administrators.
"We have to see where our responsibilities lie as Catholic parents," Engel said. "We have to look at who we are and where we're going."
The focus of the workshop, said Engel, was to increase the participants' understanding of their Catholic identity, clarifying the link between this identity and the schooling of Catholic children and to highlight the responsibilities of parents in the school system.
"Parents are a very important part of a child's education," Engel said. "We want more parents involved.
"We hope to have more of these workshops in other parts of the city."
The inaugural workshop was a success, said Engel, who encouraged her fellow trustees to host similar events in their wards.
City lawyer Kevin Feehan spoke on the history of Catholic education in Alberta, which preceded the public system by several years. Feehan sits on the Catholic Social Services board and is assisting the Catholic school system defend its taxation rights.
He was followed by Patrick McDonald and Father Stephen Wojcichowsky, religious educators with Edmonton Catholic Schools.
"What does it mean to be Catholic today?" McDonald asked the crowd during the workshop. "This is very difficult today to answer."
McDonald said the difficulty in answering such a question does not lie in a loss of faith but rather a lack of guidance.
"We may not be lost in our faith," McDonald said. "But sometimes we may not be able to give right directions."
Characteristics of the Catholic identity have changed throughout the ages, said McDonald. Today, in the third millennium, the Catholic identity can be recognized in eight characteristics - community, tradition, humanness, sacramentality, rationality, spirituality, justice and hospitality.
These characteristics are also outlined in the school district's Religious Dimension of Education in Edmonton Catholic Schools.
Wojcichowsky said the characteristics define a Catholic's identity as a child of God. "This is who we are and who we teach," he said.
Catholic education is unique because these features of Catholic identity are interwoven in the schools and classrooms, said Wojcichowsky.
Subjects such as math are not looked at as just numbers, but can be seen in terms of infinity, something beyond numbers.
"To look at science and see the hand of God in it, . . . that is part of our Catholic identity," Wojcichowsky said.
In understanding and recognizing the Catholic characteristics, Engel said she hopes parents will take the information "and implement it in their schools."
"It's important to see how these traits (Catholic identity) influence how we face issues in our schools," Engel said.
Parent Adele Carson said she sees many of these traits at her children's school, St. Justin's Elementary. Her main concern, however, is not so much a loss of Catholic identity in the classrooms, but getting parents to do more than just send their kids to school every morning.
"It's usually the same parents doing things in the schools," she said. "We need more parents to get involved with things like this (workshop)."