Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 12, 2007
Transform the world through education -– Fr. Mike Dechant
Three thousand attend Edmonton Catholic Schools' annual Faith Development Day
By RAMON GONZALEZ
"In the kingdom of God there are no winners or losers, only winners."
- Fr. Mike Dechant
About 3,000 Edmonton Catholic teachers and support staff gathered at the Shaw Conference Centre to hear Dechant's message of love, compassion and forgiveness. The five-hour event also included prayer, performances by African and Aboriginal drummers and a Mass presided by Father Gregory Bittman.
Dechant said the story of the Seattle Special Olympics, one of several stories he told during his two presentations, reflects part of what the kingdom of God is about.
"In the kingdom of God there are no winners or losers, only winners. But on the way there we have to stop and lift somebody up."
The priest urged Catholic educators to respond to life the way God would respond - with love and compassion.
"As educators, as formators of human minds and spirits, we are both in an honourable and a privileged place in the lives of many kids," he said.
"It's a sacred place; we standing on holy ground, passing the fire and the energy of the burning bush.
"It's a generous place to both give and receive at the same time. Yes, from these kids, what a blessing they are in our lives too. It's a healing place to be instruments of peace and forgiveness."
Dechant noted that the overriding theme of these past three series of faith development days in the Edmonton Catholic school system is that "there is a desire, a hope and a dream that we can transform the world through Catholic education."
When he asked the staff if they believed that, the staff responded with a loud "yes" and thunderous applause.
- WCR photo by Ramon Gonzalez
Student drummers from the Ben Calf Robe School performed for the school staff.
"Believe that it can happen and it can happen," the Oblate said.
"So the question that we have to ask ourselves (collectively) is where are we right now as an education system.
"Do we as a community reflect the kingdom of God?
"If we don't see - through the eyes of faith - that we are standing on holy ground and that each person before us is a burning bush, then we can't hope for anything better," he warned.
"We lose, or don't get, the sense of the sacred or the spiritual and the mystery of life fades away.
"And we (also) lose our sense of joy and wonderment and play."
The kingdom of God is right here right now and we need to believe that, the Oblate said.
"Believe in it. Hope for it to unfold and make it unfold."
There are three kinds of people in this world: those who make things happen, those who stand watching things happen and those who scratch their heads wondering what the heck is happening.
"You need to be the ones that make things happen because God sees us as part of the unfolding of his kingdom," he said.
"That's the bottom line: God is constantly using you and me to unfold his kingdom.
"God is constantly using you and me to unfold his kingdom."
- Fr. Mike Dechant
"He could do it on his own; he doesn't need our help, but you know that's not his plan. That's not the way he does things.
"He says 'I need you together.' And you saw the image of that young (handicapped) girl who stops and tries to pick this big boy up and she can't lift him.
"That's the clue. The wonder of that story is that the others responded and they came back to lift him up so that they would win together."
"And so the kingdom of God needs people, needs disciples who are ready and willing to say yes; people with courage, people with character, people with strength and stamina, people who walk the talk but with joy.
"If you are happy to be in love with God, it needs to be reflected in our eyes. If that young girl is willing to stop and pick up her fellow runner, can you imagine what God is willing to do for us?"
The kingdom of God needs people who want to learn and to grow - "to become the person God has designed you and me to be," the Oblate said.
Only people like this will be able to impact the lives of the young people who come into the school system in a significant way, the priest said.
"Christ is here embodied in our community.
"Do you want to be part of a community like this? If you do, you have to do it with passion and energy."
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