Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
May 31, 2010
'Catfish' ready to net kids
Youthful priest will work as full-time school chaplain
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON - Father Mike "Catfish" Mireau says he's been given "a marvellous opportunity to demonstrate the joy of our faith."
The youthful priest will become the full-time chaplain for the Edmonton Catholic School District in September and hopes are high that he can help at least some of the 35,000 students in the district develop a greater love of Jesus and closer ties to the Church.
"My biggest goal would be knowing that more kids are participating in their faith and in the Church," Mireau said in a May 26 interview.
Debra Engel, chair of the school board, sees Mireau's appointment as a big step forward in a district where 75 per cent of students don't attend Church and few receive all of the sacraments.
"He's a young priest who really connects with young people."
Engel tells of the enthusiasm for the faith that her own daughter received in a Confirmation class led by Mireau nine years ago. "She still talks about how Father Mireau brought the Gospel to life for her."
The priest's appointment is part of a realignment of religious education services within the school district. Its religious ed department at the central office is being cut from four to three positions (including Mireau's new spot).
The two religious education consultants with focus their work on helping consultants for other subjects integrate the faith into the curriculum. "It's going to be everybody's responsibility to weave the Catholic faith into the curriculum," Engel said.
The changes will help the district cut costs, she said. "But our biggest priority is to deliver a Catholic education that gives kids a lifelong relationship with Christ."
That's Mireau's priority too. "I'm hoping to be able to foster a deeper relationship with Christ and the Church with the young people who attend our Catholic schools," he said.
Ordained in 2002, Mireau is himself a graduate of Edmonton Catholic Schools. He earned a master's degree in mathematical physics before entering the seminary.
Since ordination, he has served in several parishes and is currently pastor of St. Angela Merici and St. Pius X parishes in Edmonton. After beginning work as district school chaplain, he will continue to provide weekend assistance in Edmonton parishes.
Mireau says his deepest passion is working with young people. His appointment will free him from administrative duties in a parish. "It frees up my time to do what I most love and what I see is most needed in the Church."
He will spend 30 per cent of his time as the school chaplain at St. Francis Xavier High School in the west end.
Engel said it also means closer ties between the school district and the Edmonton Archdiocese, one of the goals the district set in improving its religious education.
The district has also established a relationship with Fathers Shayne Craig and Stefano Penna, president and dean of Newman Theological College respectively, to provide theological "coaching" as necessary, she said.
But there's no question she sees Mireau's appointment as the most promising change in the realignment of religious education in the school district. She expects he will help generate enthusiasm for the faith among students. "It's not a silver bullet. We've got 35,000 students and it's a start."
Mireau, for his part, says he hopes to plant seeds that will sprout into strong faith in students' lives. And he will be relying on teachers and others to help in that process.
"Jesus didn't do it all himself," he said, noting that even the Saviour called on the apostles and others and gave them the power and responsibility for spreading the faith.
Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 -- Western Catholic Reporter
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.