Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
February 9, 2009
MacNeil honoured for work in Catholic education
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON - Archbishop-emeritus Joseph MacNeil is to receive Canada's top award for contributions to Catholic education.
MacNeil, archbishop of Edmonton from 1973 to 1999, will receive the Justice James Higgins Award at the June convention of the Canadian Catholic School Trustees Association in Victoria.
The award is given annually "to a person or group that has displayed exceptional leadership, commitment and vision to the cause of Catholic education in Canada."
The announcement that MacNeil, 84, will receive the award was made at Edmonton Catholic Schools' annual faith development day Feb. 3.
In a letter nominating MacNeil for the award, Joan Carr, superintendent of Edmonton Catholic Schools, said, "The archbishop has a special place in the hearts of our students, staff and parents.
"In his capacity as archbishop emeritus, he continues as an exemplary role model for students and for all who desire to be authentic followers of Christ."
Carr noted that MacNeil "deeply treasures" Catholic education and devoted much of his ministry to work in Catholic schools, adult education and at Newman Theological College.
Previous winners of the Higgins Award include Cardinal Emmett Carter of Toronto, Mr. Justice Emmett Hall of Saskatoon, and Lois Burke-Gaffney and Yolande Gagnon, both of Calgary. The only other Albertan to receive the award was the late Oblate Father Clement Kindervater.
A three-minute video presentation at the faith development day showed comments from students and teachers at Archbishop MacNeil Elementary-Junior High School in Edmonton, where MacNeil is a frequent visitor.
"He is always willing to help everyone," said one student. "Archbishop Joseph MacNeil is a real role model," said another.
Muriel Dunnigan, a former senior administrator with the school district, paid tribute to MacNeil's efforts to help teachers and parishioners understand the effect of the Second Vatican Council's teaching on Catholic education.
The archbishop did important behind-the-scenes work with both provincial politicians and trustees, Dunnigan said.
"He exercised his leadership in a quiet, supportive, non-confrontational manner which in turn fostered a high level of trust," she said. "He knew how critical it was to develop relationships with people to garner understanding of and support for Church teachings."
Marguerite Bilodeau, MacNeil's long-time secretary, noted his work on a wide variety of fronts for Catholic education.
During his tenure the Alberta bishops began to publish an annual letter on Catholic education and MacNeil issued his own letter prior to the elections of school trustees, she said.
As president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, MacNeil promoted Catholic education across the country, Bilodeau said.
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