Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 26, 2007
Students meet Jesus at Catholic schools
If they don't, they turn into spiritual shoppers
- WCR photo by Alicia Ambrosio
Fr. Stefano Penna told Catholic School trustees that like the prodigal son, spiritually-starved youths turn into adults who do not know the Lord.
By ALICIA AMBROSIO
WCR Staff Writer
The attack on religious-based education during the recent Ontario election campaign is a "foreboding of what may come" in Alberta, says Calgary Bishop Frederick Henry.
Religious based education is being attacked by a confused society and "this is not the time to hang our heads and rely on constitutional guarantees," Henry said.
Henry, previously a bishop in two Ontario dioceses, made these comments Nov. 16 at the opening of the Alberta Catholic School Trustees' Association convention.
During the recent Ontario general election, Progressive Conservative leader John Tory called for funding of all faith-based schools, or none at all. The majority of Ontarians opposed Tory's proposal and he lost the election to Liberal Dalton McGuinty. Henry said he was troubled by the obvious prejudice against faith-based schools.
"All education is faith-based to some extent. We acknowledge it more openly," he said. "Agnostic and atheist belief should not be the only religion endorsed."
Henry said if a similar attack on faith-based schools arises in Alberta, the ACSTA will have the full support of the Bishops of Alberta.
"We'll fight with you, we'll cry with you, we'll support you."
Father Stefano Penna, the evening's keynote speaker, told the trustees the attack on faith-based education is not new, but is as deeply entrenched in Canadian society as the tradition of faith-based education itself.
He said to remember, "Catholic trusteeship is not about human speaking, but God speaking. It's all in vain if the Lord doesn't build the house."
Penna related Catholic schooling and trusteeship to the story of the prodigal son, which he illustrated using a print of Rembrandt's painting of the same name. Today's society is a society of people who want everything and want it right now, he said. "We're like a voracious appetite."
Not only have children learned from adults, he said, but schools have been shaped around "equipping them to be strong in a world all about me, me, me."
"We have a society of young people who want to maximize their youth."
These children eventually awaken, like the prodigal son when he realizes that he has given everything up and has been left with nothing, Penna said.
"They become spiritual shoppers. We made them spirit hungry, cynical." he said. These children and students become adults and teachers who do not know the Lord - "they come back to haunt us."
That is where Catholic schools come in, Penna said.
"Catholic schools are events, they are an encounter with Jesus.Catholic schools are the Father, running towards us with open arms. He takes the broken and transforms them, remakes them. In the Father's arms they find safety. Catholic schools are about this."
Penna also said teachers project the condition of their soul onto their students. In a Catholic school the teacher does this intentionally. Catholic school trustees, instead, project the condition of their souls on the whole of the organizations they are called to shepherd.
"The condition of our souls is sinful and forgiven. Our souls are the condition of the schools we are called to serve."