Bonaventure Fagan is humbled by being named CCSTA’s Justice James Higgins Award recipient for 2015.
But his outstanding contributions to Catholic education, service and faith spurred numerous nominators for the award to extoll Fagan for being an exemplary person who has led the cause of Catholic education and Catholic community all through his life, working tirelessly during his career spanning 40 years.
Fagan says it’s a great honour to be recognized, but admits he doesn’t feel deserving. “In truth, such an award is not something one aspires to,” he said. “I suspect if you were to ask every single winner of the Higgins Award, they would say that they did not feel they deserved it. I feel that way. So, I recognize the honour of the award and thank my nominators for their efforts in this regard and the CCSTA board for their decision.”
Fagan said he continues to be involved in Catholic education because he feels it’s the most wonderful opportunity for young people.
“Achieving to capability, striving for excellence, working with government, being open to the good that society provides, self-identification with graduation outcomes – these, among other goals, serve in the mix of education. But they are only as meaningful as we live that unified commandment that Jesus spoke of: ‘Love God with all your heart and all your mind and all your soul, and love your neighbour as yourself.’,” he said.
Fagan is known for his respectful nature, combined with a characteristic gentle and empathetic manner. Quick to praise others for work well done, Fagan completed much integral work of his own during his career – and is still contributing.
Catholic education has indeed been a lifetime dedication for Fagan. After graduating from the Catholic system in the Placentia, N.L. area, Fagan went on to achieve his doctorate in education. He taught at the high school level in Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and also served as the Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum for the Placentia/St. Mary’s School Board in Newfoundland.
He is perhaps best known as a high-profile supporter of Catholic education while holding the position of executive officer of the Catholic Education Council of Newfoundland. The Council challenged the government for the retention of denominational education in the province throughout the 1990s. When the movement began by government to take away constitutionally-protected rights of Roman Catholics to their Catholic schools, Fagan worked tirelessly and effectively to put forth clear defence arguments.
He is now recognized in the highest regard as an administrator and role model for teachers across Newfoundland and Labrador. Even in retirement, he continues to be actively involved in Catholic education, not only as a leader at the national level but also a founding member of the original board that re-opened St. Bonaventure’s College as an independent Catholic School in the Jesuit tradition. He also served as Co-ordinator for Newfoundland, and Roman Catholic Independent Schools Association, Atlantic Region for 11 years. He still supports and advances the presence of St. Bonaventure’s in the province.
Fagan also has ties to CCSTA, serving as a board member, executive member and later president of the association.
In the same vein, Fagan is now chair for the 2015 CCSTA conference, being held in Newfoundland and Labrador this June. He said that receiving the award during his home conference will be a special event for him on numerous levels. “The fact that Justice James Higgins lived in Newfoundland Labrador is truly icing on the cake,” Fagan said.