Superintendent of Holy Spirit Catholic School Division

Tag: journey

Opening Address for 2021-22 School Year

Most of us here today have shared the journey that has brought us through the end of the 2020-21 school year and all that precipitated from the pandemic, through the uncertain yet somewhat more relaxed summer, to this brink, namely the opening of the 2021-22 school year. I feel the same excitement as you feel to greet our students when they return because we are looking forward to getting back on the learning track! I share in the anxieties and worries that we all have about the continuation of in-school learning, albeit in a different context.  Right now, however, I am choosing to focus on something else that we share and I ask you to do the same. The contextual development through the pandemic represents an opportunity calling to each one of us. The opportunity is to recall and reaffirm our priorities, employ graciousness, kindness, compassion and gratitude and move forward confidently anyway, certain that the transformative power of GOD our Father is at work. He is in charge as we move TOGETHER on our JOURNEY!

Last year we celebrated the many facets of our faith while being transformed by the journey.  We have certainly ventured far and wide in the process.  Today marks the beginning of our togetherness and unity as we move forward and how very appropriate this is, given what we have experienced in the past 17 months.  We have learned to be malleable and to adjust and tweak what needed to be done, but the bottom line is that we persevered in spite of the many challenges and obstacles.  Most importantly, learning continued for our students, thanks to the tireless efforts of our teachers and by extension, our greater support staff.  Yes there were many interruptions along the way, but had it not been for the unceasing and relentless commitment of our entire school and divisional staff, we would not have achieved the milestones that we did.  We continue to create learning environments that allow each of us to live, celebrate and proclaim our faith.

Our educators, in particular, have proven that perseverance and dedication beget resilience and results.   Some of the greatest learnings we experienced of late include the need to best reach ALL learners.  At-Home-Learning and learning from home have paved the way to the creation of our E-Learning Program that will allow students to learn and grow in an environment different from the conventional four-walled classroom.  While this platform of learning is not necessarily suited for all students, it does provide opportunities, for a variety of reasons, that these learners would not have otherwise experienced and mastered.   

We are strong and adaptable people whose sights are always on our first interest – the children, whose resilience will be supported by the nourishing and cherishing staff in all positions.  That is how our learners will reach their fullest potential, as so aptly noted in our vision statement.  There is no question that this will be very difficult work.  There will be setbacks and hurdles to cross and most definitely there will be uncertainties, frustrations and fears.  However, as long as we place our trust in our loving Father and humbly ask Jesus to accompany us on our journey, we will weather this and ANY storm.   We are called to be agents of change to do the right thing, because it is the right thing to do. 

I’d like to leave you with a poem by John Read, entitled “Inner Strength”.

Inner Strength

It’s only through mistakes we make we learn where we went wrong. It’s only when we’re far from home we realize where we belong.

It’s only when we close our eyes our dreams seem clear and bright. It’s only in our darkest hours we truly see the light.

It’s only when we lose our way we pray to the stars above. It’s only through times of grief we learn the true meaning of love.

It’s only when all hope seems lost and our weary journey seems so far, When all the world’s against you, we learn how strong we really are.

All things are sent to try us.  We must strive and give our best. I KNOW God is watching over us, and he guides us in our que​st.

My hope for each of you is that you will continue to accept the ongoing challenge to be the unique person God created you to be and I pray that you will be blessed, and receive the graces and the fortitude to do His work here on Earth.   I leave you with an invitation similar to what I left with our new teachers, at their orientation earlier this week.  

  • (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 …) Make your mark on our collective work to support all learners
  • (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.” 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.” 

Thank you and may the 2021-22 school year be fruitful and rewarding for each of us.  GOD BLESS.

Who are the Superheroes in your School?

Over the past year, there has been no shortage of news stories around the critical and absolutely necessary endeavours of front line workers in the many sectors of our society. Nurses, doctors and the myriad of healthcare workers in the medical profession certainly are atop the list, for without them, our environment would be unimaginable. Workers in food stores and other identified essential service businesses have been relentless in their pursuits to provide the necessities of life. We also know how school administrators, teachers and the variety of support staff in our schools have gone the extra mile to ensure that our students are safely guarded in a welcoming and loving learning environment. They have made learning come to life in creative and engaging ways in a very different learning context. There is no question that these people are real heroes. 

Those of us in the education system know that superheroes are not just those fictitious characters who wear capes and swoop in to save the day. I am always most impressed when it is our students, the young people we serve each and every day, who take on the role; when they inspire those around them by going well beyond that which is expected, when their strong work ethic, attitude and effort are undeniable. It is for this reason that the Holy Spirit Catholic School Division has initiated a special means of recognizing the missionary work that is carried out by the dedicated and hard-working students in our schools.  

The stories that have come back to us are heartening. We’ve heard of many students who act as peacemakers on the playground, encouraging the inclusion of peers and classmates in a variety of activities. Another small group of students organized a special fundraising activity and donated all of the proceeds to a charity that supports individuals in need. A third example involved a single student writing messages of hope to every schoolmate in the building. Just this past week, one of our grade one teachers delivered a special gift to our office that contained carefully illustrated and coloured posters with uniquely crafted messages from her creative-minded students. Special messages included, “We love you”, “You are just right” and “Thanks for being you” to name a few. One even said, “Just keep swimming!”  What an uplifting experience that was for everyone here at our Catholic Education Centre. It is people like this who make all the difference in our schools and communities. In spite of all the current difficulty and challenges in our world, we don’t have to look far to intentionally see young learners making our world a much better place. 

True superheroes lie in our students. We all recognize as educators that students learn well from their peers so when students go out of their way to make this world a better place, it is particularly important that we encourage and support them. Children and youth, at all ages, who make kindness their priority, who are empathetic towards others or who graciously see the selfless need to extend gifts of time, talent or treasure to others understand that we are called to be our brother’s keeper. We must be intentional to make and seek out these acts of kindness, whether overt or subtle, and appropriately recognize them.

Catholic Education Sunday – November 2020

Serving Holy Spirit Catholic School Division as Superintendent of Schools, we are a regional division that serves students in Bow Island, Coaldale, Lethbridge, Picture Butte, Pincher Creek, Taber, and surrounding communities.  

Catholic Education Sunday, traditionally acknowledged in early November, is an annual event that celebrates the importance of the truly remarkable gift of publicly funded Catholic Education.  Alberta is only one of three remaining provinces in Canada which offers a Catholic education that is publicly funded.  Our Catholic schools provide engaging educational learning opportunities for our students with a curriculum that is permeated by our Catholic faith.  Each year, more than 180,000 students are blessed with the opportunity to be educated in our Catholic schools, where our faith is passed on to our students.

This year’s theme is grounded in scripture – Isaiah 40:31 where we learn that, “Those who hope in the LORD shall renew their strength.”  Hope is a very impactful virtue. In the Alberta Bishops’ Pastoral Statement of the Impact of COVID-19 and the Call to Christian Renewal, this time is described as a “time for bold creativity and life-giving transformation for all.”  In the context of our current pandemic, Catholic philosophies and practices offer students and staff hope, comfort and safety.  There has never been a greater need to evangelize than now and Catholic education does that very thing.  

Currently, Holy Spirit Catholic Schools has moved into year two of our Three Year Faith Plan – Making our Mark – the Journey of an Intentional Disciple.  This year’s theme, Transformed by the Journey, draws our attention to our calls to action of being grateful and being gracious.  While on this journey, our faith focus is to use the many gifts that God has bestowed upon us and to see the face of Christ in everyone.  In the very context of our current reality, we have so much for which to be grateful and more so than ever before, we must be gracious towards each other.  This creates and sustains the hope we each have.

Jesus is the author of our hope and He writes it in humility, kindness, poverty, forgiveness and compassion.  He writes it in His Way, in the example He sets for us to follow.  We grow in hopefulness when we follow Him, through discipleship.  What the world needs now is hope.  It is impossible not to have hope when you view the world from the Catholic perspective.  Catholic Education is more relevant today than ever before because it offers the hope with which we need to be strengthened, as well as to live to sustain and improve our world.  As noted by Pope Benedict in his encyclical in 2007, people who live in hope live differently.

On this Catholic Education Sunday, I ask for your continued prayers so that our students are energized with hope and become stronger intentional disciples of Jesus.  Thanks to your prayers and support, millions of people learn about and appreciate the value of Catholic education, which is an evangelizer of the teaching of the one, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.  Thank you for being part of our family.  Happy Catholic Education Sunday and may God continue to bless each and every one of you.

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