When nearly 300 people get together in one room for three days to discuss one item, things tend to get interesting. And so they did at the CCSTA’s Conference, “Catholic Education: A National Conversation”.
The event took place in downtown Ottawa last week, where trustees, supervisors, principals and educators gathered and reflected on Catholic Education, particularly how the New Evangelization plays an integral role in the school hallways.
With 290 delegates, four keynote speakers, three liturgies, one youth panel and a homegrown song, conference chair Gerry Bibby says the event couldn’t have been executed any better.
“I was very pleased with the flow, prayerful atmosphere and ambiance of our time. The speakers were well received and their talks were connected for participants to have a better understandings of the what, why and the how of the ‘New Evangelization’. Thus, the conversations were very meaningful and purposeful,” he says. “Our guests were engaged in the total purpose of the conference from the time they entered the space through experiencing the atmosphere, liturgies, music, speakers, conversations and hospitality.”
Friday’s opening keynote speaker was Bishop Claude Champagne, who spoke about the New Evangelization and how it is critical to speak and engage with youth at their level. Sr. Maureen Sullivan followed later that day, whose energetic approach had the whole room engaged while she asked some tough questions about the New Evangelization and how the Vatican II’s message can come forward in our schools.
CCSTA Executive Director John Stunt says Sr. Maureen’s keynote was a memorable moment.
“One of the highlights for me was Sr. Maureen’s rendition of ‘This Girl is on Fire’ when speaking of the need to be in touch with the Holy Spirit. It was so clear to me that the Holy Spirit was indeed present through her,” he explains.
On Saturday morning, Fr. James Mallon made the main point the main point. His message encouraged the guests to return to the main message of Christianity and to become disciples and walk the walk of our faith. He also pushed school leaders to do things differently in the schools to encourage faith awareness and conversation among the student body. For instance, if a monthly school mass doesn’t always engage the students, change it up. Instead, host a retreat or have group discussions. In essence, his message was to find ways to connect to the youth to allow them to become apostles.
Meanwhile, Fr. Routhier asked the simple yet intriguing question: Who is responsible for evangelizing?
“Our speakers were excellent as they provided a number of views on the New Evangelization for us,” says Mr. Bibby. “I feel that the participants perceived that we had conversations with our presenters previously to ensure a smooth transition of the theme of the conference. The questions posed for discussion further built on their understanding. Along with the well-designed spiritual moments, individuals were invited to experience learning at their own level of familiarity.”
CCSTA Past President Paula Peroni and Director Jerome concluded the event Saturday afternoon. They shared the reflections provided by the conference delegates following each keynote. The pair then asked some further questions for the delegates to reflect upon when leaving the conference.
With the Conference theme titled, “Witnessing to the Hope Within Us”, CCSTA President Ted Paszek says the conference’s five-year history has truly become a culmination of the three national conversations as envisaged prior to the original 2008 conference.
“The progression of planting, nurturing and harvesting the seeds of a renewed vision of Catholic education resulted in new hope that we can grow as a Church in Canada,” he says.
For more information about the delegates’ reflections following the keynote address, click here.