Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 25, 2002
Boards back bishops' letter
ACSTA president wants boards to be united in solidarity
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
WCR Staff Writer
Alberta's Catholic school boards have come out strongly in support of the province's bishops' pastoral letter on shared school facilities and may soon issue a statement of their own.
The announcement was made at the annual general meeting and convention of the Alberta Catholic School Trustees' Association (ACSTA) at the Westin Hotel Nov. 16.
In his annual report to the convention, ACSTA president John Krol, who was re-elected for a second one-year term as president, told delegates the ACSTA board of directors had approved unanimously Nov. 15 a motion endorsing the bishops' pastoral letter opposing the sharing of school buildings between Catholic and public schools.
And he said an ACSTA position paper on the issue would be ready sometime in mid-December.
Krol's announcement led to the removal of two separate motions on the issue, one demanding the association reaffirm and clarify its position on shared facilities, another calling for a review of the ACSTA's covenant on joint use of facilities.
Krol said the board of directors' endorsement of the bishops' letter is significant "because it means we stand behind the bishops.
"Personally I think it's very important for Catholic boards to work with the public boards and to work as community partners, but when it comes to sharing facilities, it is important that Catholic education has separate facilities so we can permeate the whole day with the religious aspects of Catholic education," he said in an interview.
Increasingly joint use of facilities is being promoted as a fiscally responsible solution to providing schools where they are needed. As a result, some Catholic schools are now sharing facilities with public schools across Alberta.
In their Sept. 4 statement, the bishops clearly oppose the sharing of facilities arguing the practice will hinder the permeation of the faith in Catholic schools. The statement forced boards to confront the issue but, according to Krol, it hasn't being easy to come out with a final position on the issue because not all boards interpret the statement the same way. "Everybody interprets it differently."
At the convention, Krol urged trustees to read and reread the bishops' pastoral letter on shared facilities.
The bishops, for their part, have not being shy in explaining their position. On Nov. 2 Archbishop Thomas Collins, Calgary Bishop Fred Henry and 50 representatives of Catholic districts from all over the province met to discuss this issue.
The ACSTA executive put together a draft position statement and then passed it on to the directors for feedback. "We have lots of feedback. So much so that I had envisioned that we would have a concrete vision or a position statement by now, but it just hasn't happened," Krol told the convention.
"It is important that Catholic education has separate facilited so we can permeate the whole day with religious aspects of catholic education."
- John Krol
But he said endorsing the bishops' statement is a big step because it shows they "are committed to the Church as far as Catholic education." The next step, he said in the interview, is to work with the bishops to clarify their position "because some people see the bishops' letter as being more open than others."
Krol urged ACSTA delegates to provide further feedback as soon as possible. "With that feedback we will draft another position paper and take it to the Alberta Bishops on the third of December," he announced, adding that a final "executive position paper" will be circulated to the board of directors hopefully by mid-December.
And when the paper is ready, the ACSTA will speak with a "unified voice," Krol said, noting the ACSTA's executive will be preparing statements and media releases "that we can give to the board of directors to help them when they are talking to the media."
He said the ACSTA's goal is not to impose or interfere with the workings of individual boards, but to show unity. "We continue to support the local autonomy role of our member boards. However we also have a role to stand united in solidarity."
That unity is already being shown. On Nov. 15, the same day the board of directors decided to endorse the bishops' letter, the ACSTA executive told the Commission on Learning, a nine-member provincial panel currently doing a review on the state of the province's education, that Catholic schools need to maintain separate facilities from their public counterparts.
"This opposition to shared facilities is not about rejecting an outside culture, but embracing a faith formation which requires a designated and separate environment to ensure cohesion, unity and growth," the ACSTA told the commission. The statement was part of a more extensive presentation on the role of and constitutionality of Catholic education in Alberta.