Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 3, 2003
Pupils learn what Jesus would do
Education comes deftly woven into the tapestry of faith
By RAMON GONZALEZ
"We have a greater opportunity to make a difference in the lives of the kids."
- Bill Tonita
"That's something you can't do in other districts."
How is Our Lady of the Angels different from others schools? "Probably the first component that you would notice if you came here would be the daily prayer that happens throughout the school over the intercom each morning," Bell said. "We also have weekly assemblies where we come together as a school to pray as well as Masses and celebrations in the gym for special events."
The school staff also prays with the students in times of trouble and turns to Jesus Christ when it comes to disciplining children or giving them direction.
"Our school encourages behaviour that fits the model that we have in Jesus," Bell said. "I think we are very lucky and very blessed to have a school where Christ and his virtues are upheld."
Red Deer's Joe Lepage, vice principal of St. Francis of Assisi Middle School, a school with 440 students from Grades 6-9, sees Catholic education as "an opportunity for us to bring up these young boys and girls in the faith and make sure that they understand and that they learn to know Christ and learn to know his message and the importance of integrating it into daily life."
Added Lepage: "I think Catholic education does more than just say 'You go to church on Sunday.' It says that following Christ's example and learning his message is a daily expectation - that when you follow his example and learn his teaching your life is so much more rewarding."
How does a Catholic school do all of that?
"Catholic schools are twinned with local parishes so you have your parish priest who comes in and gets to know the students," he said.
"Furthermore, all the teachers are expected to model the faith and (as staff) we are loving and we are forgiving and we are kind and we try to model the behaviours and the values that we believe the children should understand about Christ."
At St. Francis, "We start the day with prayer, we pray before meals, we celebrate Mass and we celebrate the liturgy of the Word so we honestly and openly talk about God and his impact in our lives," Lepage said.
Jamie McNamara of Red Deer's Notre Dame High, population 1,036, says the role of Catholic education is to bring Christ to children. "We as much as we possibly can try to make faith and Christ's teachings and Christ's values and Christ's beliefs a part of everything we do everyday," he said.
"We start our morning with a prayer and we encourage our students to show reverence towards that prayer. We also do grace during the course of the day and we encourage our staff to incorporate Jesus' teaching in all subjects," whether it is science, social, math, religion or health.
"We have icons all throughout our building and all the things that we do on a daily basis reflect our faith and remind our students that we are a Catholic school and that we are providing not just an education but a Catholic education."
At Notre Dame High, the permeation of faith works in practical ways, according to the principal. "There is a level of respect, there is a level of reverence, there is a level of interaction that is different than in a public school," he said.
"I think Catholic education is first a part of the mission of the Church and its main role is to promote the formation of the whole person and to lead children to God," said Laurette Setterlund, principal of St. Anthony's School in Drayton Valley, a K-12 school with 560 students.
"When we look at teaching children we look at the whole person and, as teachers and administrators, we always keep in mind that we are teaching the whole person and that that person is a child of God as well. And we do that by hopefully making them feel welcome and loved."
Catholic schools provide students with a place in which they can encounter Christ, continued Setterlund.
"And I believe that's our mission, to lead them to Christ and to God so it hopefully makes an impact on some part of their lives. And I think Catholic schools also provide students with a place where they feel welcome and loved."
Another thing that sets Catholic schools apart is that they are Christ-centred, Setterlund said. "And that Christ-centredness is what influences all that happens within the school building. In Catholic schools our words and deeds, or our words and action, should speak as loudly as the symbols of crosses and stained glass that visually set us apart."
"The purpose of a Catholic school is to evangelize and bring children closer to God," said Hugh MacDonald of Edmonton's Cardinal Leger School, which has 360 students in Grades 7, 8 and 9.
"On a daily basis and in all of our subjects we are able to engage in the discussion of our God and that's what sets us apart," he said.
"We give these children a footing and a basis to reflect on for the (rest) of their lives and we try to provide them with not just the words of Catholic education, but also the walk of Catholic education."
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