Archbishop urges teachers to let students know Jesus is real

Archbishop Richard Smith celebrated a year opening Mass for Edmonton Catholic School staff on Sept. 3.

WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ

Archbishop Richard Smith celebrated a year opening Mass for Edmonton Catholic School staff on Sept. 3.

September 14, 2015
RAMON GONZALEZ
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

The role of Catholic educators is to lead students to Jesus, says the archbishop of Edmonton.

Speaking at the school opening Mass of Edmonton Catholic Schools, Archbishop Richard Smith said every student and staff member in the Catholic system should know Jesus is real and that in him, God's power and God's love and mercy are real.

In his homily, Smith spoke of an encounter with a young boy during a school visit. As he wandered around the school, the archbishop came face to face with a Grade 4 student. The boy stopped dead in his tracks and dropping his jaw, exclaimed, "Oh my gosh, you are actually real."

"In everything that we do, we want to help our students make that very same exclamation, not about the archbishop but about Jesus," Smith said.

"We want every one of our students to know, each one of us to know, that Jesus is real. He is alive, he is present and he seeks interaction: And when we encounter Jesus, everything changes."

Smith said, "Clearly, there is no greater gift that we can give our children than to lead them to that point, where in their encounter with Jesus Christ they say, 'You are actually real.'"

Teachers, administrators, custodians, librarians and many others filled the Winspear Centre for the Sept. 3 Mass.

Prior to the Mass, the staff watched two short, locally-produced films that lifted their spirits and also heard from Superintendent Joan Carr and others.

"A new year is always a new beginning, a new journey, a new adventure: It is new hope and new possibilities as we strive for what we call the extraordinary in Edmonton Catholic Schools and in Catholic education," Carr said.

She thanked the Edmonton Archdiocese and the Ukrainian Eparchy for supporting Catholic education in the city. Carr also announced the theme for the 2015-16 school year will be Life of Grace, Journey of Love.

DEEP WATER

At the Mass, the archbishop elaborated on the Gospel reading: "Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch."

"What Jesus said to Peter he says to each of us," he said. "The deep waters in which our beloved students find themselves swimming often through no choice of their own are multiple and at times very difficult to navigate.

"I think of the deep waters of family difficulties or the deep water of the questions and messages circulating today around human sexuality and bioethical issues.

"I think of the deep and often polluted waters of cyberspace or those deep waters of the culture of moral relativism that is causing such confusion and despair."

Recently, Smith visited a school and was told children of refugee families were among the students.

"So just think of the deep waters of trauma which they are grappling with because of the terrible displacement that they have to live with," he said.

"To enter into these deep waters, to put out into those deep waters we do not have to travel far because as you well know those very same deep waters flow into our schools as the students walk through the doors."

EMBRACE MERCY

He called on the staff to address and confront the issues which students face "with the clarity and the love and the mercy of the Gospel so that they are caught up in the Church's embrace of compassion, mercy and love.

"So as we launch into this school year, let's launch out in Christ, with Christ and from Christ into those deep waters, aware of the mission that is ours - to bring the light, the joy, the beauty of the Gospel to our beloved children and

together know that Jesus is very real and present with us."