Article by Fr. Steve Morrisey
It really is a great gift to be able to experience so much of our wonderful country. It is often said, with a smile, that we are “Redemp-TOURISTS” and sometimes that may be true but there is so much more to that simple expression than a smile and laugh. If I could, for but a brief moment, I would like to share a little of what travelling across this great country has provided for me. That is, I would like to reflect briefly on the faith I have received from my family, as well as from some very memorable clergy and educators.
As I lived in Newfoundland for 6 years, I learned an awful lot. I learned about some wonderful people who have seen and experienced many truths. Now that I call the Prairie’s home I hope that learning continues, and I have every reason to believe it will. Both regions of our Edmonton-Toronto Province and the communities of St. Mary’s and St. Teresa’s hold so much in common. They both share a common history, and I would like to mention a recent shared moment in that common history. Earlier on this year, in August of 2011, The Greater Saskatoon Catholic School District was blessed with a wonderful message from a Redemptorist from St. John’s, Newfoundland.
As this current school year began, Fr. Leo was invited to share an opening address to the Catholic School Community of Saskatoon, SK. An article about that address has found its way into the “Prairie Messenger” of September 14, 2011 (see below for article) and as we all strive to promote vocations in our world, I believe that address has to find its way into all of our hearts. The opening school address centered around the idea that Catholic education (and if I may add, opportunities to share our faith) will disappear if we don’t speak up. As the article and Fr. Leo say, “Use it or lose it”. These simple words from John Crosby as he spoke about the railroad are very true when speaking about sharing our faith.
The address to the Greater Saskatoon Catholic School Community reminded us that, “Complacency at so many levels is an inadequate response”. Those were just a few of the words that were spoken as the 100th Anniversary of the School district was marked. We need to “never take for granted what we have” and we have a rich history which we all need to keep alive.
In 1732 our rich Redemptorist history began. It is up to each one of us, associates, novices, students in formation and vowed members of the province and the congregation to keep the history of Catholic education alive and moving forward. It is up to each one of us to share what we have received, “Compassion”, “Contemplation” and “Community” with each other and with Christ.
Don’t take Catholic education for granted: English
By Kiply Lukan Yaworski
SASKATOON — Never take Catholic education for granted, urged the keynote speaker at an opening celebration for the Greater Saskatoon Catholic School district’s 100th year of operation.
Rev. Leo English, CSsR, of St. John’s, Nfld., gave an overview of the 1998 loss of publicly funded Catholic education in his home province and the impact on the community.
“We took what we had for granted. This is an all-too-common practice, Saskatoon,” said English. “Do not take what you have for granted, because there are storms everywhere.”
English outlined some of the contributing factors that brought about the demise of Catholic schools in his home province, including the “soul piercing and gut wrenching” revelations about sexual abuse by clergy, and a complacency that assumed the constitutional rights to Catholic education were untouchable.
“Complacency at so many levels led to an inadequate response,” English said. “Work and pray for a genuine political involvement from committed Catholics at every level of government,” he urged.
English, a Redemptorist priest who served for several years at St. Mary’s Parish in Saskatoon, also addressed the nature of Catholic education, which he described as a process of holistic formation that helps in navigating the stormy seas of life.
“A well-rounded individual on the prairie or on the banks of Newfoundland must have an internal compass connected to a belief system larger than all of us,” he said.
Catholic identity is grounded in the Paschal Mystery, English told the educators, administrators and support staff. “It is about who we are, baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus, so as to rise to the newness of life with him,” he said.
“This is the lens through which we must look at life. Our own story must be an experience of a bigger story.” That bigger story is also the story of our Catholic faith, tradition, ritual, sacramental life, Scripture, Eucharistic belief and practice, he said.
“Do we know where we come from?” he challenged. “Not as a theological pursuit, but as a personal quest?”
English urged all those involved in Catholic education to ground their lives in faith. Faith has “less to do with finding answers and more to do with finding the grace to live with questions,” he said.
In addressing the question, “What can I do to foster Catholic education?” individuals may wrestle with a number of scenarios, including a mistaken belief that this is “only a job” as opposed to a call from God.
“The teaching vocation is fundamentally about example and the life we lead,” English said, encouraging all those involved in Catholic education to pursue a relationship with a loving God and to work at deepening their understanding and experience of their Catholic faith.
“The quality of our living and the way we treat each other” is critical in our faith journey, he said. “Never let it be said that Catholic education imploded by cynicism, infighting and spite.”
English urged educators to take advantage of faith enrichment resources, including a Catholic newspaper, a tri-stream Lay Formation program, adult faith education at the Catholic Pastoral Centre, and the offerings at Queen’s House of Retreats. In promoting the resources, English quoted Newfoundland politician John Crosby’s words about the railroad: “Use it or lose it.”
“Coming from a land where none of these resources I mentioned exist, I remind you that you have a treasure at your fingertips,” English said.
“Offering hope is our greatest challenge and our gravest need in the never-ending reality of change. To offer hope, we must desire hope and be a source of hope to other people.”
Permission was granted by The Prairie Messenger to re-print this article and photograph, which appeared in the September 14, 2011 edition.