Growing Forward with a vision and plan was the root theme at this year’s Alberta Catholic School Trustees’ Association’s symposium.
In an effort to highlight its past successes, the ACSTA organizing committee wanted to have the participants look at what’s currently happening in its Catholic school hallways and develop a long-term plan that reflects and grows from these successes.
“The sense of the committee was that the focus needed to be on not how great we have been and the good stuff we are doing today – and there is much to celebrate which we do regularly – but where are we going and how might we move that way in planned and visionary manner,” explains ACSTA Executive Director Dean Sarnecki.
To get the conversation started, the ACSTA welcomed keynote speakers Archbishop Michael Miller (Archbishop of Vancouver) as well as the University of Lethbridge’s Dr. Reginald Bibby to the podium.
His Grace outlined “what is authentic Catholic education?” and, according to Mr. Sarnecki, the first talk described the five essential marks or characteristics of Catholic education: Christian Anthropology, Permeated with a Catholic worldview, Faith-infused curriculum, Christian Witness, and Animated by Communion and Community.
“He followed this with a talk on how do we assess Catholic schools on their authenticity. He used the Catholic School Standards as an example of an assessment tool that could be used and adapted for Catholic schools in Alberta to determine their Catholicity,” explains Mr. Sarnecki.
Meanwhile, Dr. Bibby outlined the sociological and personal issues he felt important in understanding the situation of Catholic Schools in Alberta. Bibby’s data indicated the strong health of Catholic communities in Canada and Alberta and provided an optimistic view of the potential for growth and evangelization of Canadians and the vital work of Catholic schools in this growth.
Dr. Bibby’s second session dealt with specifics of the need for ministry as a means of evangelization and how schools can become a key tool in the rebirth of parishes and communities. People long to be part of a community that nourishes body and soul and the Catholic school can be the mechanism that unites parishes and families. Parishes need to recognize the essential role of schools in the process of evangelization.
Symposium participants then had the opportunity to discuss these ideas and use their own expertise to further develop ideas and inspiration for Alberta’s Catholic education system.
The participants got together for group work sessions, which enabled them to reflect on their own experiences and then enter into dialogue with the material presented by the speakers. From these recommendations and strategies were suggested to “Grow Forward” with our schools and parish communities.
“An abundance of evidence and materials were gathered through the group work and the opportunity for individual responses and the analysis of this will be an ongoing project,” says Mr. Sarnecki, adding that the goal of the symposium was to gather data and mine the collective wisdom of the group to look to strategies to help us face the near future and to continue to build on the excellent work and system s in place to move together, not haphazardly, but with a plan. “Once the data is analyzed we will be providing Catholic education partners in Alberta with a working document to assist and carry forward this discussion at the local level.”
When the ACSTA received nearly double the registrations than originally predicted, Mr. Sarnecki says the symposium was a success in that it had representation from the entire Catholic community.
“The group included representatives from 22 of our 23 schools divisions, leadership from two Catholic colleges, representatives from the Knights of Columbus and the CWL, and three deacons, seven priests and three bishops,” he says. “The speakers provided much to think about and the group work was energetic and lively.
Overall, we were very pleased with the event and look forward to using the material gathered to further grow Catholic education in Alberta.”