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This year, for just the second time in history, we were blessed to have the successor of St. Peter visit our home and province, Alberta. 

The Holy Father came to us with a somber and humble purpose: to support the process of Reconciliation being undertaken in this country. He came here to listen firsthand to ‘hold a synod’ or ‘walk together’ with the Indigenous peoples of Canada [1]. In undertaking this journey Pope Francis follows the example of Christ in a most fundamental way; that, in the person of Jesus, God physically came to walk among us. He loves us, He wants to listen to us and be close to us. 

In keeping with the spirituality of the ongoing Synod, and following this historic visit, the provincial Catholic education partners – ACSTA, CCSSA, GrACE, and the Bishops of Alberta – have decided to adopt the theme Walking Together in Catholic Education for the duration of the 2022-23 school year. Just like Pope Francis, we are all called to imitate Christ. The Holy Father tells us to “be shepherds with the smell of sheep”; therefore, we should ‘walk’ with the people we serve through our work in Catholic education – especially those with whom we seek reconciliation.

Of course, attempting to imitate Christ requires steadfast faithfulness to our God. This year the Congregation for Catholic Education issued the instruction The Identity of the Catholic School for a Culture of Dialogue, which states, quoting Pope Francis: “We cannot create a culture of dialogue if we do not have an identity”. To accompany and complement our 2022-23 provincial theme, then, we have also selected the following Scripture passage from the Book of Micah (chapter 4, verse 5):

 

          As for us, we will walk

          In the name of the Lord our God forever and ever.

 

While walking together we heed the words of the prophet Micah by remaining faithful and obedient to our God, as our Lord Jesus Christ exemplified so perfectly (Matthew 5:17). 

On behalf of all the provincial Catholic education partners, we sincerely look forward to Walking Together in Catholic Education with you throughout the 2022-23 school year! 


 Notes:

[1] "To hold a ‘synod’ means to walk together.” 4 October 2013 Address of Pope Francis at the Cathedral of San Rufino in Assisi. 

“For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 1 Cor. 1:18

I feel that our lives are like a ship in rough seas, and, though we hold strong to the rudder, the seas toss and turn us endlessly. Just when we feel we are in control, another wave blindsides us and we struggle to regain a sense of direction. For those of us who believe in the power of God, it is that power that maintains our lives, anchors us to something solid, and provides a rudder in stormy seas.

As part of the global Church’s preparation for the 2023 assembly of the Synod of Bishops each diocese throughout the world has summarized their experience of the first phase of reflection and dialogue on Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission (“synodal process”). It was a process of prayer, listening, and dialogue in each local Church guided by the Holy Spirit. In the Assembly of Western Catholic Bishops (AWCB) Synod Synthesis report the importance of faith education, formation and catechesis. “Access to Catholic Schools is varied from province to province, but where schools exist, they are generally expected to be responsible for catechesis. Greater collaboration between parish and school is needed to assist parents in assuming this role.” In order to achieve this goal, the report states, “suggestions focus on improving faith formation in Catholic schools, strengthening the connection between schools and parishes, and supporting school teachers in living their faith”.   

This past year I had the remarkable opportunity to be part of the Diocese of Calgary’s synodal leadership team.  The task was enormous; the way forward was uncertain and the learning curve was straight up!  Though this territory was uncharted for me, I was inspired immediately when I read the Vatican documents explaining the synodal process.  The goals were aspirational and shared through the language of scripture and faith.  I was moved.  I was hooked!  I remember thinking to myself (and saying to others), “How do these guys at the Vatican have the ability to really ‘get us’?  To understand what we need and long for?  How do they express it in words that clarify God’s love and the mission of the Church in such an effective way?’’