In The News

ACSTA Executives, Directors, and staff attended the Canadian Catholic School Trustees’ Association (CCSTA) AGM and Convention in Calgary last week, along with members from over 90 school boards who represent more than 850,000 students.

Attendees prayed and worshiped together, heard from a variety of keynote andimg_1567.jpg breakout speakers, discussed national resolutions, and broke bread over the course of their three and a half days together.

Hosted by the Calgary Catholic School District, the event spanned three days of discussions, keynote speeches, and fellowship. It beganimg_1672.jpeg with an inspiring address by Father Cristino Bouvette titled “Reconciliation is Possible: The Contribution of Catholic Education towards Reconciliation with our Indigenous People,” highlighting the role of Catholic education in fostering reconciliation.

On Friday, attendees were treated to thought-provoking sessions by Ian McCormack and Dr. Bob Murray. McCormack’s presentation, “Who’s Driving the School Bus,” explored leadership dynamics in educational settings, while Dr. Murray’s talk, “Maintaining the Gift of Catholic Education in an Era of Political Polarization,” addressed the challenges and resilience of Catholic schools amid contemporary political tensions.

That afternoon, attendees could choose from a range of topics presented by notable speakers, including Janelle Reinhard, Dr. Peter Baltutis, Kevin Warriner, Father Paul Moret, Dr. Bryan Szumlas & Cynthia Launière, and Dr. Caroline Maillet-Rao.

The day's activities concluded with a social event at Calgary’s Heritage Park. This evening of dining and networking reinforced the sense of fellowship and shared purpose that defines the CCSTA.img_1834.jpg

Saturday’s program featured Kate Mallon from Grateful Advocates for Catholic Education (GrACE), who delivered a compelling keynote on “The Courage to Lead” in Catholic education. In addition to reviewing the current state and history of Catholic Education in Alberta, Mallon emphasized the importance of strong leadership in navigating the challenges facing Catholic schools and highlighted GrACE's role in advocating for the system. Her talk was followed by the formal AGM, where members voted on key resolutions and discussed pivotal issues impacting Catholic education. The meeting concluded with a Mass and procession at St. Mary’s Cathedral celebrating the feast of Corpus Christi, during which the CCSTA Board of Directors received a blessing from Bishop William McGrattan of Calgary. img_2035.jpg

With this year’s event in Calgary over, attendees are already looking forward to the 2025 convention in Halifax, Nova Scotia, promising another opportunity to celebrate and strengthen the bonds within the Catholic educational community across Canada.

ACSTA is represented on the CCSTA Board of Directors by our President, Kelly Whalen and also by ACSTA’s Past President, Harry Salm, who is currently serving as CCSTA’s Vice President. 

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Each year, the Alberta Catholic School Trustees’ Association (ACSTA) has the privilege of hosting two distinct spiritual retreats, designed specifically for theimg_1301.jpg Catholic education community.

These retreats, anchored by a thoughtfully chosen theme, offer participants a meaningful journey of spiritual growth and reflection. This year's theme was “Rooted in Faith.”

The SPICE (“Sharing Purpose in Catholic Education”) retreat brings together Catholic school educators from across the province to prayerfully explore current issues in Catholic education.

422605162_990419185997360_3769260724592404279_n_1.jpgSPICE 2024 was led by speaker Dr. Brett Salkeld, author, father, theologian and former teacher.

Dr. Salkeld’s talks covered a range of topics, from identifying the purpose of education (from a Catholic vs. secular perspective), to how one integrates a Catholic worldview across each and every subject. 

Through his engaging talks, he highlighted practical strategies for educators to infuse their teachings with Catholic principles, ensuring that students receive a holistic education that nurtures both their intellectual and spiritual growth.

img_0707.jpgWhile similar to SPICE, the ACSTA Blueprints retreat is tailored to Catholic school administrators and trustees.

This year’s speaker was Dr. Bob McCarty,  former Executive Director of the National Federation for Catholic Youth Minister in Washington, DC., as well as lecturer at the University of Dallas and the Catholic University of the Americas.

His talks explored contemporary cultural challenges facing the Church in relation to young people, maintaining a spiritual lens, living a grace-filled life, and nourishing one’s faith journey in connection with othersimg_1219.jpg.

Both retreats were opportunities not only for faith formation and professional development, but also celebration and fellowship.

Daily Masses,  group prayer liturgies, and music were integral parts of the retreats.

img_0945.jpgFormal banquets were held to recognize and celebrate the CCSSA Excellence in Catholic Education award recipients, many of whom attended as participants.

Overall, the ACSTA hosted over 300 participants at the SPICE and Blueprints retreats, bringing together individuals from all corners of Alberta’s publicly funded Catholic education system.



We look forward to seeing everyone again  at SPICE and Blueprints 2025! 


 ACSTA was pleased to welcome over 30 MLAs and 50 trustees from 13 Catholic school divisions to the 2024 MLA c3a4494 reception on April 15, 2024.  

The evening commenced with a prayer led by ACSTA's Bishop liaison, Archbishop Richard Smith. Following a land acknowledgment by Trustee Donna Duda (Holy Family Catholic Regional Division), ACSTA Kelly Whalen delivered welcome remarks emphasizing the unifying force of our Catholic faith and the distinctive approach to education embraced within our schools. 

 "In our schools every student is cherished as a child of God, their inherent dignity celebrated and honored." He underscored the remarkable achievements of Catholic school divisions, including their strong performance on the Alberta Education Results Reports (AERR), not only in terms of academic results, but also in  c3a4501facilitating Welcoming, Caring, Respectful, and Safe Learning Environments as well as a high degree of parental involvement.

Following President Whalen’s remarks, Premier Danielle Smith conveyed her appreciation for the dedication of educators, parents, and students in ensuring an exceptional education within our systems. 

 c3a4508"Our government remains committed to collaborating with you to deliver an outstanding education aligned with your values," she assured attendees, going on to outline initiatives aimed at expanding parental and student choice, modernizing schools to alleviate enrollment pressures, and investing in classroom supports – particularly in addressing complex needs and mental health challenges.

NDP Opposition Critic for Education Amanda Chapman started her remarks by recounting a story about her first encounter with ACSTA Director Mary Martin (CCSD). Chapman commended Martin's warmth and professionalism, expressing admiration for her dedication to service. She emphasized the NDP's steadfast support for public education, citing its inclusivity and the many choices it offers Alberta families.

“It is not just me who believes in the role of Catholic Education in Alberta, my colleagues here tonight, my party leader, Rachel Notley, c3a4523 and the entire NDP team stands in support of public education because public education is about accepting all children regardless of their abilities or disabilities and public education is able to offer so much choice for Alberta families.” Chapman stated, “We will continue to advocate for public education and for better funding of all of our public education projects. The work that you do is so valuable and I want to thank you for doing it. For your faith, for your schools, for your teachers, and most of all for your students.”

 The ACSTA MLA Reception is an annual event that picture1.jpgprovides an opportunity for Catholic Education trustees to foster new relationships, as well as to engage in open dialogue and build support for Alberta’s publicly funded Catholic Education System. 

ACSTA is a non-partisan advocacy organization, representing 24 Catholic school trustees to the governments of Alberta, Yukon, and the Northwest Territories. Our mission is to celebrate, preserve, promote, and enhance Catholic education, fostering collaboration and advocacy for the benefit of our students and communities.


Two weekends ago we hosted our 2024 Catholic Education Symposium at Corpus Christi Parish in Edmonton. 

Nearly 140 members of the Catholic Education community, including trustees, superintendents, principals, teachers, school chaplains, members of the clergy, and university students  all joined together to discuss a vital question: 

How do we support the formation of teachers in our schools so that they can serve as faithful Catholic witnesses for our school and model for our students? 

Setting the tone for the event, His Grace, Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton, gave a talk on the calling of every one of us to be missionaries: “There is more than enough missionary work in our schools to last us more than a lifetime” he remarked, underscoring the critical need for ongoing formation across all levels of the Church.

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Later that evening, Dr. Matt Hoven (an Associate Professor at St. Joseph’s College) highlighted existing initiatives in faith formation for teachers that already exist. Dr. Hoven challenged attendees to reflect on what this conversation means for their respective schools, urging a proactive approach tailored to their unique contexts.

Saturday kicked off with virtual talk from Dr. Roisin Coll, Professor of Catholic Education at the University of Glasgow in Scotland. Her talk explored the significance and merit of a Catholic school system and the pivotal role our teachers play in the faith formation of students. She touched on how there exists an eagerness in the Catholic Education community to learn, to be disciples.  “This is such an opportunity” she stated.img_0164.jpg

Paul Corrigan and Ryan Ledene then underscored the importance of exemplary witness, stressing the collective effort necessary for this challenging yet achievable endeavor. “Is this an impossible mission? No. But it's a difficult task and we need everyone to work together.”

 Nika Aalbers, a second year Education student from St. Joseph’s College put it beautifully, “There is hope for the future. Hope for future educators, hope for the students that we are addressing the concerns and trying to make a system that is most equitable to everybody.”  

Echoing this sentiment, Mike Landry, Chaplain for Evergreen Catholic School Division stressed the centrality of personal encounters with Christ, a recurring theme we heard throughout the sessions. “I think the thing that I'm considering a lot is how, in several different sessions, the question of someone's personal encounter with Christ seems to be so critical.”

Andrée Norbert-Bennet (Assistant Superintendent for Conseil Scolaire Centre-Nord) summed it up perfectly: “Nous avons vraiment pu ressortir de très bonnes idées de stratégies concrètes mais aussi vraiment se rappeler que c'est dans l'expérience, c'est dans la relation avec Dieu avec Jésus qu'on trouve vraiment la foi.” 

“We were really able to come up with some very good ideas for concrete strategies but also really remember that it is in the experience, it is in the relationship with God with Jesus that we really find faith.” img 0120

So, now what?

img 0076In her opening address, our Vice-President, Dawn Miller, articulated the aspiration for the weekend: “that we will have the tools necessary to develop a guiding framework for our School Boards on this topic.” 

Dean Sarnecki, Trustee for Elk Island Catholic School Board and ACSTA Director, has taken up the mantle of developing this guiding framework document. 

ACSTA looks forward to sharing the findings of the report with all our members and the broader Catholic education community later this year!

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Publicly-funded Catholic education in Alberta received strong words of support from both provincial parties at ACSTA’s reception for MLAs last Tuesday night in Edmonton. 60 representatives from 15 Catholic school divisions, as well as approximately 30 MLAs from both parties were in attendance – including the Premier, Opposition Leader, Minister of Education and Education Critic. 

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The event began with an Opening Prayer led by Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith, followed by a treaty land acknowledgement and remarks from ACSTA President Harry Salm:

“The constitutional protection for Catholic education was one of the original minority protections – along with those held by our francophone and indigenous brothers and sisters – that allowed for the birth and development of the pluralistic society we have today,” President Salm stated. “In this province, over 173,000 of all students are educated by the Catholic school system. We should always keep in mind that this is an intentional decision made by Albertan families.”

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In addition to acknowledging the toll that COVID had taken on the education system, NDP Party Leader Rachel Notley emphasized the importance of providing sufficient funding to Catholic schools: “In my view, public education – whether the public system, the Catholic system, the Francophone system – needs to be well-funded, so we can continue to support our kids.” 

“And I also look forward to the opportunity to work with you more in the future about how we can deliver the best public education - and the best Catholic public education system here for our kids across the province.”

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UCP Education Minister Adriana LaGrange spoke to the importance of choice in education, as well as the distinctive nature and value of faith-based education: “I’m so proud of our government's commitment to ensuring parents have the ability to choose a publicly-funded Catholic education for their children.”

“Catholic education is a constitutional right that many parents and students choose to exercise in our province.”

ACSTA represents 24 Catholic school trustees to the governments of Alberta, Yukon and the Northwest Territories with the mission to celebrate, preserve, promote, and enhance Catholic education. The MLA Reception is an opportunity facilitated by ACSTA for Catholic school trustees to engage with and educate provincial legislators about the history, constitutional protections, and current significance of Catholic education in Alberta.  

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