Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 1, 2004
Holy Spirit extols its faith
New Elk Island School weaves Catholic belief into its surroundings, activities, curriculum
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
The 12 fruits of the Holy Spirit will be woven into the mission statement of Elk Island Catholic Schools' newest school once staff have a chance to catch their breath and proclaim a charter.
Open only two months, Holy Spirit Catholic School in Sherwood Park has already raised more than $800 for cancer research and held a food bank collection during a Thanksgiving celebration. The school has struck a religion committee to plan more celebrations and is busily preparing projects to assist other kids through the Holy Childhood Association. It eventually hopes to help the homeless with charity drives.
Holy Spirit's 12 fruits
Principal Brian Mittelsteadt mentioned that peace, patience, faith, kindness and charity, naming a few of the fruits, permeate the hallways and classrooms every day through the hearts, minds and hands of staff and students who create the Catholic setting. He said the 378 students at the K-9 school have been tremendous in expressing their spirituality.
"We follow the standard curriculum and most of the resources we have are from the Canadian Council of Bishops," said Mittelsteadt, a former principal at Pope John XXIII School in Fort Saskatchewan.
"But the faith dimension of our school, to us, is much more than just the religion classes, which are an extremely important part of what we do. We tend to use our faith in how we interact with each other in the hallways and on the playground.
"Being a new school, we are trying to build that strong sense of Catholicity by beginning each week with an assembly that involves readings and prayer. It might be a reading for the day or a reading from the previous Sunday's Gospel."
The assemblies build a sense of community in the school with the Catholic identity. They involve everyone - even a Grade 1 student will get up and do a reading.
Archbishop Thomas Collins attended and blessed the school last month at an assembly of staff, students and parents. He then went to each classroom and blessed them individually.
"We always emphasize to our students and their parents that this is a Catholic environment. I think the archbishop's blessing helped to reinforce that fact. It was a very significant celebration."
It is important that the students be active participants in celebrations. Mittelsteadt wants them to understand they are the main focus and that they can make a difference in the world.
Sense of social justice
"Even though they are young, we want to build within them a sense of social justice. We want them to understand we have many things that make us much more fortunate. Because we are that way, the children are told it is our responsibility to reach out to those who are less fortunate."
The students learn that being poor does not solely mean having little money or few possessions.
A person can be poor if he has few friends. Holy Spirit uses that aspect in playground behaviour by encouraging the children to reach out to other kids who might need them to be a friend.
Holy Spirit is located within the two-storey Trillium Centre on Clover Bar Road, which is also home to Lakeland Ridge Public School (K-9) and the provincially mandated Edmonton and Area Child and Family Services.
All three are connected by a long hallway. The concept of the building is to serve youth and families in the community.
The school is also a regional career technology centre for all Catholic junior highs in Sherwood Park and two neighbouring schools in Strathcona County. Some 940 students come through Holy Spirit every week.
No facilities are shared between the Holy Spirit and Lakeland Ridge, except for one CTS lab.
Holy Spirit vice principal Audrey Chomik knows the key component of instilling faith into a child.
"What we have stressed among ourselves is that we have to be good models for the students," she said. "We have said this from the beginning, and we can now see it coming together. A parent told me recently that she could not believe the difference in the halls at the other end of the building."
A chapel is centrally located on the main floor so that its presence is continual as students walk by. Mittelsteadt had a hand in the design. The chapel is fitted with sliding doors to open up to both floors for large gatherings, or closed for moments of more intimate prayer.
"I have always said to people that public schools do a fine job," Mittelsteadt said. "But we do a lot more in terms of the social, emotional and faith development of children. You can bring the faith dimension into so many things. It isn't something that is foreign or something we pluck out of thin air. It's just the way we do it. It is real."
Letter to the Editor - 11/08/04
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