Faith in service to others
"I have one life and one chance to make it count for something... My faith demands that I do whatever I can, wherever I am, whenever I can, for as long as I can with whatever I have to try to make a difference." Jimmy Carter
Service to the community to help build a more kind and just world is an integral component of Catholic education. When our schools carry out service-learning or social justice projects, it always presents the opportunity to learn more about putting our faith into action to address social issues and inequalities that exist locally and globally.
Our schools engage in many social justice projects throughout the year as part of their Christ centered learning experience. We collect information about this learning at the end of the school year. Last year, our schools undertook 1,263 social justice projects, learning about and serving 68 different causes or organizations!
Our Annual ECSD We Care Challenge is a highlight of our social justice as all our sites are invited to participate. Schools and departments hold bike-a-thons, raffles, bottle drives, dress-up days, movie days and many, many other fun and fantastic events to raise funds for the Edmonton Catholic Schools Foundation's Dreams for Kids Campaign and Catholic Social Services' Sign of Hope Campaign.
The generous support from our students and staff means that children in our own schools will benefit from programs offered by the ECS Foundation in areas such as school lunch and snack programs, support for mental health issues, programming for socially and educationally disadvantaged young children and many other areas. Their support also means that families in the greater Edmonton area will have access to programs supported by the Sign of Hope Campaign, such as the LaSalle House shelter for women, or the McDaniel Youth Program for young people living with FASD.
This year, our schools raised a combined total of $194,811.51 to support both organizations. Our Division staff donated a total of $37,063. Our grand total for the We Care Challenge for this year is an amazing $231,874.51. And, of course, the learning about care for others that occurred during the Challenge is priceless. Well done!
Catholic Education, Kindergarten, and Baby Jesus
Every once in a while, a school sends me a video to glimpse the wonderful things that are going on in our classrooms in Edmonton Catholic Schools. I received just such a video from the St. Matthew Kindergarten class recently. The video has the students acting out the story of the birth of Jesus, beginning with the Annunciation. Without a doubt, the video is delightful, adorable, humbling, inspiring….the list of adjectives goes on. After my initial cuteness infusion, I paused to reflect on what this video actually represents for our children. It clearly demonstrates the beauty of Catholic education. Our children get to learn and grow in the context of their Catholic faith. The video is far more than a dramatization; it is language, art, collaboration, communication, literacy, inquiry, and so much more.
This is the gift that parents give their children when they choose Catholic education. Christmas becomes more than presents and concerts and parties. As our little actors share at the end of their masterpiece, Christmas is about saying “Thank you God for baby Jesus!” Please enjoy the video by clicking here.
I wish you all a blessed Christmas and all the best in 2020!
One of the many beautiful aspects of Catholic education is that we are a community of faith in the Body of Christ. Membership in our community is enduring. We see this with our students and staff alike. It is so delightful when our former students come back to visit. We get the opportunity to catch up on life and to see the exciting pathways that they have chosen as they grow and flourish.
It is also so wonderful when we connect with our former colleagues. Our work "families" play such an important role in our lives. We care for each other, support one another, and even challenge each other to be the best version of ourselves just like our home families do.
Edmonton Catholic Schools is so pleased to launch our new Staff Alumni Website to provide a way for our former staff to stay connected to the Division. You can access it from www.ecsd.net by using the Staff tab and looking under Staff Website Links, or by clicking here. Staff alumni can sign up for emails that are relevant to them, register to participate in an oral history interview, and keep up on what's happening in ECSD.
I encourage you to visit this very special website to see some of the offerings for our alumni, and, of course, please share it with any former colleagues that you keep in touch with!
Read-In Week is one of my favorite times of the year. Certainly, we focus on literacy every day of the school year across multiple subjects but Read-In Week is a week when we focus on the love of books and stories as an ongoing part of life. Schools across ECSD will have guests from all walks of life coming into classrooms to share their favorite books with students.
In my youth, I would visit the public library as often as possible and check out the maximum number of books allowed. Our librarian very generously gave me a higher maximum over time because I was there constantly. To this day, I read voraciously for both professional learning and personal enjoyment.
Edmonton Catholic Schools is a proud participant in the Edmonton Public Library-Library Card Program. Every one of our students (and their teachers) can receive an EPL card for free. They can then receive a free card for The Alberta Library, which grants them access to 49 libraries across the province, including the U of A libraries.
Reading opens up new frontiers for the mind, and I wish you all a glorious Read-In Week, and all the weeks that follow, enjoying the magic of books!
There is such an excitement in the air at the beginning of the school year. For students and staff alike, the start of class fills us with a sense of endless possibilities. A new year means new learning, relationships, opportunities, and responsibilities. There is such a paradox in this new growth and change beginning just as Mother Earth slows down in warm autumn days.
The start of the new school year in our Catholic educational community is always one that is marked by giving thanks to God and offering up our petitions for an uplifting and fruitful year. Our Division leaders began this year’s journey of Walking Together in the Light of Christ in late August with a full day of learning that included a Eucharistic Mass. Just last week, our staff gathered in 5 churches around the city to renew their commitment to Catholic education and to sit at the Lord’s Table.
Each of the 44,571 students who have joined us for the 2019-20 school year will have the opportunity to begin their year of growth and learning by celebrating their membership in the Body of Christ. Celebrating our relationship with God is at the heart of who we are, and this is why #ECSDfaithinspires!
It is that time of year when our thoughts are drawn to the upcoming days of rest and rejuvenation; the days where we have opportunities to slow down and spend more time with our loved ones enjoying the gift of Creation. I wish you all a glorious summer filled with many opportunities to walk together in God’s love with your family and friends!
God of the seasons, You paint the world in a glorious array of color in summer.
We wake up to a pink sunrise and a green world filled with blossoms of all kinds.
Gardens are flush with lovely flowers.
Trees are magnificent in their glory, their branches growing ever upwards toward the sun-filled sky.
Each summer you take our breath away with the beauty you bestow upon us.
May we appreciate and be energized by the spectacular color and majesty of your Creation.
May we, your children, recognize and celebrate the beauty of the earth that you created, And the time you give us to be renewed and refreshed and grow closer to you every year.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
(adapted from Words for the Journey)
World Catholic Education Day, Vocations, and Jesus’ Schools
As we celebrate World Catholic Education Day, I cannot help but pause and think how lucky I am that I get to live out my vocation serving, as our District Chaplain Father Glenn McDonald calls them, Jesus’ schools. Certainly we will all stop and reflect upon the gift to our children of being able to go to school and learn in an environment where Jesus and His message are at the centre of all that they do, but for all of us who work in Catholic education it is much deeper than that.
Many, many people in society commit their work to the service of Christ, but they do not have the same grace that we do in Catholic schools of being able to work overtly and explicitly in His name. We not only get to talk about God’s love for us and the significance of the gift of Jesus as a natural part of our work, we are actually unable to truly fulfill our mandate unless we become an encounter with Jesus for others on a daily basis.
So, on World Catholic Education Day, let us be grateful that our children get to learn in Jesus’ schools, and let us be especially grateful that we get to live out our vocations in Jesus’ name by bearing witness to His love every day!
Caring for Each Other
There are several important events that are taking place at this time of the year that highlight the importance of us taking care of each other in the workplace. April 28 was the National Day of Mourning, a day in which we pause and reflect upon all of those who have lost their lives to workplace injury and illness. Our staff wore Day of Mourning stickers to honor the lives of our fellow workers. Implicit in this commemoration is the message that we need to care for ourselves and for our colleagues in the workplace. I am always reminded of the wisdom that no-one plans an accident, so care and caring is crucial in creating safe and healthy workplaces.
May 1 is the feast day of St. Joseph the Worker. We learn from Joseph that the humble act of carrying out our work in loving ministry to those in our care plays a role in Salvation. Through his tender ministry, he nurtured Jesus and taught him the dignity to be found in his work as a carpenter. This feast is one which reminds us all of the dignity that is to be found in all of our work and which we should honor each other for. I would like to express my gratitude to all of our staff for the ministry of your work, done with great love, to serve our students and families, our colleagues, and Catholic education!
May 1 also marks Hats On! For Mental Health Day. It is an important day for dialogue, not only with our students, but with each other, about recognizing the importance of positive mental health and supporting each other in our journeys. Alberta Education sends the following message to us:
On Wednesday, May 1, 2019, Albertans are invited to take part in Hats On! For Mental Health and wear a hat to raise awareness of the importance of positive mental health. Schools can participate by encouraging students and staff to wear hats and engaging in conversations focused on understanding mental health and the importance of removing the stigma associated with mental illness. You can learn more about Hats On! For Mental Health by visiting canwetalk.ca, a website sponsored by the Alberta Teachers’ Association and the Canadian Mental Health Association that includes a variety of mental health resources for schools.
Advocating for Catholic Education
You will often hear us talk about the gift of publicly funded Catholic education in Alberta. It is a gift in two specific ways. Firstly, Catholic education is a gift in its richness and attention to human formation. The focus is not just on the mind, but on the spirit and the body and every other dimension of being. Catholic education honors the sacramentality of each child as one of God’s own people.
The second aspect of this gift in Alberta is that it is publicly funded. Since long before Alberta was a province, Catholic education has been supported and funded by the government. This is a right that most other provinces and territories have lost, and that many communities around the world have never had. We can’t be complacent and assume that even though it is a right that is grounded in legislation, that the legislation can’t be changed. We need only look across our country to see that the right to publicly funded Catholic education is not guaranteed in the future.
It is critical that we advocate loudly and joyfully about this special gift. We can do that by sharing the great news of the incredible work that goes on in our schools every day, and we can do it by asking questions of our candidates as the upcoming election approaches. We are suggesting that you ask every candidate in your riding the following questions:
- What actions will you take to ensure that publicly funded Catholic education continues and is protected in Alberta?
- What actions will you take to ensure that Catholic school districts in our riding and in the province get the required funding for new schools and for modernizations and maintenance so that our students can have adequate, safe, and healthy learning spaces?
- What actions will you take to ensure that school districts get proper funding for every student?
Also with respect to advocacy, our District is part of the Grateful Advocates for Catholic Education, GrACE, network. The mission of GrACE is to inspire, invigorate and embolden the spirit of Catholic education in order to unite, engage, educate and communicate with one voice on its behalf. GrACE is a partnership of stakeholders resolutely committed to Catholic education within Alberta. Each Catholic jurisdiction in the province is assembling a highly committed team whose members include Trustees, Superintendents, clergy, parish staff, parents, members of the Catholic Women’s League and Knights of Columbus.
Every day is a celebration of Catholic education. Let us be grateful for our blessings and commit our support to sharing the great work of our schools!
Dear brothers and sisters, the “lenten” period of forty days spent by the Son of God in the desert of creation had the goal of making it once more that garden of communion with God that it was before original sin. (Message of His Holiness Pope Francis for Lent 2019)
Each year, Pope Francis shares a message with us to help us prepare our hearts along our Lenten journey. His wisdom is abundant in assisting us to walk with Jesus through the desert in order to ready ourselves to embrace the unconditional gift of love that we receive through His passion, death, and resurrection.
When we think of Lent, the acts of fasting, prayer, and almsgiving are at the forefront of our thoughts. Our Holy Father offers us this counsel on those acts and how they relate to our lives:
Fasting, that is, learning to change our attitude towards others and all of creation, turning away from the temptation to “devour” everything to satisfy our voracity and being ready to suffer for love, which can fill the emptiness of our hearts. Prayer, which teaches us to abandon idolatry and the self-sufficiency of our ego, and to acknowledge our need of the Lord and his mercy. Almsgiving, whereby we escape from the insanity of hoarding everything for ourselves in the illusory belief that we can secure a future that does not belong to us. And thus to rediscover the joy of God’s plan for creation and for each of us, which is to love him, our brothers and sisters, and the entire world, and to find in this love our true happiness. You can read Pope Francis’ complete Lenten message by clicking here or visiting the Vatican website.
May you have a beautiful Lenten journey through the desert to the garden of communion with God!