Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 29, 2003
Catholic education needs 'hurricane efforts'
By ANH HOANG
Special to the WCR
Pallottine Father Erik Riechers braved Hurricane Isabel, which swept across the Eastern seaboard in mid-September, to speak to 100 parents from across Alberta.
Then he asked these same parents what "hurricane efforts" were they willing to make for Catholic education.
"If anything goes wrong with Catholic education, it is not the blame of the curriculum," said Riechers. "It is not the blame of the teachers or schools. It is because we did not make these hurricane efforts."
Riechers was the keynote speaker for the ROOTS Conference at the Grey Nuns Regional Centre, Sept. 19-21.
Riechers based his talks on the document Build Bethlehem Everywhere: A Statement on Catholic Education. He was instrumental in writing the document, which was published by the Canadian Catholic School Trustees' Association (CCSTA) last year.
Riechers has long been a staunch advocate for Catholic education. He is the chaplain for CCSTA and speaks internationally on what is needed to preserve Catholic education.
He began the first of four talks repeating the need "to speak of God to our children," using language that has meaning to them. He cited Harry Potter and J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, popular novels which became blockbuster hits, as examples of how parents can turn these "fictions into the reality of God for their children."
"We need to let our children experience God in everything they do," said Riechers. "Let the things they relate to speak to them of God. Harry Potter, we may or may not like it, but this is a sacramental moment for (our children). The Lord of the Rings is a great example of Catholic sacramentality.
"Sacramentality is the only tool we have for evangelization."
Riechers also weaves his own personal stories throughout his talks. These stories, the majority of which involve his mentors - the priests who taught him and the parents who were instrumental in his own Catholic education - brought tears and laughter to the audience.
He encouraged participants to understand the will of God, not just the love of God, and to pass this on to their children.
"It is not enough for us to know (God) loves us," said Riechers. "It is his will to love us. Let our children know our will, that we love them . . . regardless of their beauty, talents, strengths. God is interested in you, not your height, beauty or talent. Teach your children that."
He also reiterated the need to live the faith at all times. Using Canada's prime minister and other Catholic politicians as examples and the policies they have implemented which resist traditional Catholic teachings, Riechers said Catholics must learn not to "divorce faith from life."
"Separate faith from life and it is no longer faith. Faith is not theory; it's a way of life.
"One way to keep faith in life is to be mentors to the next generation. Live the faith and show them how you live it. Mentoring is the way we build Bethlehem everywhere."
Organized by the Alberta Catholic School Trustees' Association, the event encouraged parents to discover ways to support Catholic education and preserve it for future generations. The ROOTS acronym reflects the event's objectives, which are to:
This is the first time the ROOTS Conference has been held at a provincial level in this format, which included a series of talks by the keynote speaker, group sharing and one-on-one sharing times.
- Affirm the Role of parents as the primary educators of their children;
- Explore Opportunities for Catholic school councils to enhance the Catholic identity of their schools;
- Encourage each Other to live out and celebrate our faith;
- Work Together in service to the Catholic school community; and
- Share the mission and vision of Catholic Education.