Superintendent of Holy Spirit Catholic School Division

Tag: #IBelieveinCatholicEd

School Opening Message, 2022

I consider it a privilege to welcome our division to a new school year as superintendent of schools. This is my first in-person welcome address, since becoming Superintendent in 2020. I want you to know that I truly see this as a privilege; one that has been bestowed upon me by God, because He qualified me. That is a very BIG privilege.  

Having finalized our previous faith plan in June, our new Three Year Faith Plan, entitled, Arise, Pilgrims of Hope, was a result of significant consultation with many community stakeholders and is profoundly appropriate and inspiring, given the context of the past 2 ½ years.  As a Catholic community, we have hope because we believe in God and we have one another to support us along the way.  In essence, this is what has gotten many of us through these recent demanding times.  But, we are versatile & strong people.  BJ Morbitzer, in his poem, A Time to Believe, highlights the many things that inspire us to believe and to have hope.

To believe is to know that every day is a new beginning.

Is to trust that miracles happen, and dreams really do come true.

To believe is to see angels dancing among the clouds,

To know the wonder of a stardust sky and the wisdom of the man in the moon.

To believe is to know the value of a nurturing heart, the innocence of a child’s eyes

And the beauty of an aging hand, for it is through their teachings we learn to love.

To believe is to find the strength and courage that lies within us;

When it’s time to pick up the pieces and begin again.

To believe is to know we are not alone,

That life is a gift and this is our time to cherish it.

To believe is to know that wonderful surprises are just waiting to happen, 

And all our hopes and dreams are within reach.

If only we believe.

In a Catholic education system, we are blessed to be able to live, celebrate and proclaim our faith, while AT work.  We must never lose sight of this beautiful gift.  We are strong and adaptable people whose sights are always on our primary interest – the children and students we serve, whose resilience will be supported by the nurturing and thoughtful staff in all positions throughout our school division.  That is how our learners will be cherished and reach their fullest potential, as so aptly noted in our vision statement.  There is no question that this will be difficult work, especially in light of the disruption in learning that the past couple of years have presented.  There will be setbacks and hurdles to cross and most definitely there will be uncertainties and frustrations.  However, we have hope and as long as we place our trust in God and humbly ask Jesus to walk with us on our journey, we will have absolutely nothing to fear.  We are called to arise and be agents of change to do the right thing, because it is the right thing to do. 

While our world of Catholic Education has seen many challenges of late, there are some great opportunities that have been presented to all of us.  We know fairly well what we have to do and almost always realize how to do it.  However, in our vocational calling as employees in this Catholic school division, how often do we reflect upon the why?  Why do we do the things we do in our division?  Simon Sinek reminds us to examine our why, our purpose, our vision before we venture into what we do.  Is it to provide a robust Catholic Education rooted in the Gospel values of Jesus Christ?  Is the overall intention of our collective work to provide experiences that motivate our students to be faith-filled and to become contributing members of our greater community who will inspire others to live and proclaim their faith? If so, we are providing new and exciting experiences for them.  According to Brené Brown, professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, “When we open our minds to new experiences, we find joy, belonging, creativity, authenticity, and love.”

Now is the time to dive deep into our very purpose – to ignite a passion for developing and fostering strong personal relationships with our students so as to pave the way for their success, knowing that each person’s journey is uniquely different.  Now is the time to accept the ongoing challenge to be the unique person God created you to be.  Because I believe in each one of you, I want to share with you this very fitting and multi-pronged invitation, similar to what I shared with you a year ago. Given the important work we do, in the many facets of education:

  • (I invite you to …) Take calculated risks.  If you win you will be happy, if you lose you will be wise.
  • (I invite you to …) Embrace new opportunities and challenges
  • (I invite you to …) Ask great questions
  • (I invite you to …) Share your talents, for as Maya Angelou once said, “I believe that every person is born with talent.
  • (I invite you to …) Express your vulnerability.  “It is not about winning or losing.  It’s having the courage to show up when you can’t control the outcome.” (Brené Brown) and finally
  • (I invite you to …) Continue to be faith-filled, for we learn in Matthew 21:22, “And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” 

I leave you with Bettina Van Vaerenbergh’s poem, “The Time is Now”.

We have but a short time on this earth,

So value your life for what it’s really worth.

Your life has purpose – God sent you on a mission.

To live, to love, to learn – Is His commission.

The world needs you. Believe me, it’s true!

Some things need doing, that only you can do.

Character matters; be your own person,

Your own original self, not someone else’s version.

Develop your talents; they are unique.

Use your time well; listen only to positive critique.

Go after your dreams.  Be bold.  Be brave.

Swim against the stream; it’s more than okay.

The time is now to find your passion.

Time waits for no one, so get into action.

To be free of regret in your old age,

Never ever forget to fully live today!

May the Lord continue to bless each one of you as you begin this new school year – refreshed and renewed.  It is going to be a GREAT year.  Remember, we need YOU and YOU and YOU.  

Catholic Education – A Rich Blessing

Catholic Education Week is celebrated annually in our province. This year it is being held from May 10th to May 14thin and the theme is, “Those who hope in the Lord shall renew their strength” from the Book of Isaiah (40:31). It is during this week that we recognize the critical role that Catholic schools play in providing a publicly funded faith-based education to Alberta students. 

Like residents in Ontario and Saskatchewan, Alberta’s families have the constitutional right to choose a publicly funded Catholic education for their children.  Today, more than 180,000 Alberta students are blessed to be educated in Catholic schools. Catholic education remains revolutionary on both  individual and societal levels, and strong as a result of the support and participation of our families and communities.  Choose it for you. Choose it for the world.

Catholic education endeavours to achieve many goals, among them being to provide students with personal and social spiritual formation while fostering high academic achievement.  It invites our youth to see each other, and all those around them, as their sisters and brothers in Christ. The unity resulting from this common lens calls all students to respond to those in need.  This outlook of compassion helps young people to search for the common good and to bring Christ’s love and hope to others, locally and globally.

To guide and instruct our direction as a faith community, Holy Spirit Catholic School Division creates an overarching Three-Year Faith Plan.  Not that anyone would have anticipated this worldly context when the current Three-Year Faith Plan was developed and written a few years ago, but our theme for this year, Transformed by the Journey, could not have been more fitting and appropriately identified.  This past year has caused each of us to be transformed in our own faith journey, while simultaneously calling us to be grateful and gracious in all that we do.  It is often during times of challenge that we are forced to be mindful of the many blessings and graces that have been given to us unconditionally.  As a result, among many things, it demands that we: 

  • provide opportunities to creatively engage our learners,
  • examine our instructional practices, and
  • find new and innovative ways to collaborate with colleagues. 

As our Holy Father, Pope Francis, stated in August of last year, “The pandemic has given us a chance to develop new ways of living.” How about that for a profound, yet simplified, statement of purpose?  We will not be returning to the days of old, or to what has become known as a hopeful restoration to a ‘NEW-NORMAL’ — for many things will never be the same.  We need to continue to look for opportunities in this ‘NEW-NOW’ environment. There are certainly challenges ahead on many levels, but equally there are many golden opportunities waiting to be explored.  Let us graciously embrace them with a grateful heart and, in doing so, never cease to see the face of Christ in everyone we meet.

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