Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 9, 2002
Catholic education faces threat from within - Ripley
Catholic schools taken for granted, he says
By RENATO GANDIA
WCR Staff Writer
Superintendent Dale Ripley told close to 3,500 teachers and staff of Edmonton Catholic Schools (ECS) to "Wake up to the fact that Catholic education in Canada and in Alberta is in grave danger of becoming extinct."
The superintendent believes the greatest threat to publicly-funded Catholic education in Alberta comes from within, as opposed to the belief that it comes from the provincial government or their public school colleagues.
"Put simply, it comes from us," Ripley emphasized in a talk at the ECS opening liturgy at the Winspear Centre, Aug. 30.
Catholic educators need to be aware of the attack that is occurring against Catholic education throughout Canada, he said.
Taking the gift of Catholic education for granted and losing the distinctiveness of Catholic identity meant Newfoundland and Quebec lost their Catholic education systems.
Ripley is convinced the same symptoms are present in Alberta.
"It is alarming that Catholic educators are unable to articulate and promote a relevant and challenging vision of Catholic education to both the Catholic community and to the greater public of this province." he said.
"We need to ensure Catholic education does not die from within due to a lack of commitment and passion by many of those currently involved with the Catholic educational system."
Another serious threat is the fact "many Albertans simply do not see the value of having two publicly-funded educational systems and see the situation as economically inefficient."
Ripley also underlined the inability of Catholic education to prepare Catholic teachers to teach in a Catholic educational environment.
Universities only offer secular teacher preparation.
To remedy this, ECS has worked with St. Joseph College on campus, and now requires all teachers to have two courses in Catholic theology to be granted a continuous contract.
The superintendent also emphasized the inability of many Catholic educators to live, demonstrate, and articulate the distinctness of Catholic education in schools.
Whether a teacher or trustee, a secretary or superintendent, a plumber or a principal, a carpenter or a custodian, they must realize that to work in a Catholic educational environment means to live their work lives in a way that serves as an example of a high standard of conduct set by Jesus Christ, he said.
Ripley also stressed the serious threats posed by the disintegration of the home-school-parish relationship.
Patricia Clancy-Novosel, president of ECS teachers association, told the WCR, the message of the superintendent is a reiteration of her message last June in their publication called Intercom.
"I thought it was an important message and I am pleased he did."
Principal Jeff Johnson agreed, saying, "I'm right there with him. We must be really aware of what we are all about and how precious our Catholic faith is."
Clancy-Novosel, an English teacher from Holy Trinity School, said, "One of the ways that we try to maintain our Catholic identity is through permeation where in all of our lessons we are aware of faith dimension.
"And because faith is part of who I am, it comes out naturally. It would be difficult for me to teach in the public school system, because I would have to hide a part of myself."
Clancy-Novosel is also convinced that the message from the school must be followed up at home.
Archbishop Thomas Collins, who presided at the Mass, told the teachers and staff, "The Gospel should permeate in everything we do in Catholic education.
Bishop Lawrence Huculak of the Ukrainian Eparchy, proclaimed the Gospel and was also a major concelebrant along with 19 priests.
After the archbishop's homily, teachers and staff renewed their commitment to Catholic education and to the students they will serve. In particular, they renewed their commitment to live according to the Gospel and to honour the trust given to them by the parents of the students.