In The News

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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