February 4, 2013

John Acheson’s article, “Catholic education battles secular push in today’s society,” (WCR, Dec. 17) brought many memories to mind.

One poignant one I want to share. It was late May. Grade 12 graduation was over. A colleague phoned on a Saturday morning to inform us of the sudden death of a Grade 12 student. An unsuspected infection around his heart proved fatal. I was shocked and quickly realized our students would be likewise upon hearing the news.

An invitation went out over the intercom on Monday for students interested in planning a liturgy to gather in my room at noon. There was standing room only at lunchtime.

With the help of resources provided by our religion consultants, we prepared a liturgy. Students chose music, Scripture readings and planned for a symbolic gesture that would surround the grieving parents with the love of God made visible in the students themselves.

Not once did we worry about “correctness” – political or otherwise. We entered into the natural rhythm of the liturgy.

It was wonderful to witness these young people finding consolation in their faith. Religion 15, 25 and 35 were content courses and the school environment nurtured their faith development.

Over 600 students joined Tom’s parents in the gym for that liturgy. There were many tears but also much laughter as we learned how to live with grief. The topic was not on the curriculum but because we were in a Catholic school, our students experienced some important lessons on how to live.

It’s hard for me to believe that this took place almost 20 years ago. I realize that there are tremendous curriculum demands on students and teachers nowadays.

However, I hope and pray that the richness of the gift of Catholic education will not be diminished to the point that the only difference between the two systems is the name.

Charlotte MacDonell