Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 15, 2008
Bible school structures evolved over 25 years
WCR FILE PHOTO
Ernie Chauvet in front of the Bible School
SPECIAL TO THE WCR
There is no doubt that one has to accept the closing of the John Paul II Bible School as a reality, but as a founder of the school I must admit that there is sadness in my heart, a sadness that is probably shared by the 850 graduates of the school.
I clearly recall events of some 25 years ago that led to the school opening and some of the challenges we faced. At the time we were losing many of our quality young people to other Christian churches and the thought came to myself and others, "Rather than complain why don't we form a Catholic Bible school for our own people."
I was superintendent of the school the first seven years and later served as director for nine years.
Bishop Raymond Roy, bishop of St. Paul at the time, had a heart for youth, evangelization and a trust in the laity. He believed that ordinary lay people, through their Baptism, should take an active part in evangelization and he was able to entrust them in directing such a school.
He didn't feel threatened by the "charismatic" component of the school and supported the board's efforts to incorporate a strong prayer element in the program.
In his years as bishop of St. Paul, Roy oversaw the Catholic teaching content of the school. He allowed the John Paul II Bible School in his diocese with the Alberta Catholic Charismatic Renewal assuming overall responsibility.
Every year he would spend time at the school to interview the students, get to know them while teaching on the paschal mystery.
When Bishop Thomas Collins replaced Bishop Roy as head of the diocese, he invited the school to send representatives to the deanery meetings to build up support for the school.
For the same reason he recommended the bylaws of the society be changed from a board chosen by lay people to a board of seven, of which three were named by the Catholic renewal, three by the St. Paul Diocese and one by the Edmonton Archdiocese.
These changes didn't hinder the growth of the school. For nine consecutive years, a tremendous team and myself increased enrollment for the school. My last year as director, in 2005, we graduated 87 students in our first and second-year programs, which were hosted on two campuses.
When Bishop Collins became archbishop of Edmonton, Bishop Luc Bouchard replaced him in St. Paul. At the second meeting of the John Paul II Society, he as bishop assumed the chairmanship of the board.
It thus changed from an independent Catholic institution in the Diocese of St. Paul, to a Catholic institution of the Diocese of St. Paul. Policies then had to be changed which unknowingly, over time, affected recruitment of students.
Financially, during my 15 years of involvement, we never ran a deficit in the school's operations. Due to infrastructure expansion needs, Bishop Roy did lend the John Paul II Bible School Society money from the diocese of which about $100,000 remains to be repaid. The diocese does own the John Paul II Bible School buildings and land.
On the academic level, most of the teachers at JPII had their degrees and a passion for Christ and the Catholic Church. The teachers endorsed our approach to the JP II as mainly a school of the heart.
Many of our students later successfully pursued theological studies at Newman College or other Catholic institutions. Additional fruit can be seen by the fact that some 50 per cent of graduates went on to give another year to the Lord in ministries such as NET USA, NET Canada, NET Australia, and founded LEAP ministry here in Alberta and Living Water Ministry in Scotland.
Graduates also are found in many youth ministry programs all over Canada and the United States. Several graduates also became religious, nuns and priests.
JOYS AND STRUGGLES
We encouraged the students to embrace their gifts, hurts and talents. We challenged them to invite God to enter all those areas of our lives.
We journeyed with ordinary people, sought to understand their struggles and joys. We loved them where they were at in the moment and invited them to bring Christ into their situations.
We offered a Franciscan spirituality using the likes of Jean Vanier and Henri Nouwen to guide us.
The results of our school of the heart are beyond expectations as the graduates having truly become leaven in the Church and have been bringing the Father's love to those around them. All the staff who have worked at the school and I are truly proud of our graduates and how they have enriched the Body of Christ.
Subsequent to the recent visitation report on the John Paul II Bible School, Bishop Bouchard, exercising his privilege as the chef shepherd of the diocese, and through the graces of his function, has decided to shut down the school.
Let's move on in our service to the body of Christ and seek new ways to evangelize.
(Ernest Chauvet is a founder and former director of John Paul II Bible School in Radway.)