From trustee meetings to classroom settings and everything in between, our entire Canadian Catholic Education structure has been heavily impacted by this ongoing Covid-19 Pandemic. Without a doubt, trustees have found themselves having discussions and making decisions that they never could have foreseen when they began the 2020 school year. Teachers were thrown into new territories of learning while trying to factor in the many needs of their students and families. Principals have been trying to bring leadership and order to an evolving situation with little assurance that there’s an end soon in sight. Needless to say, many of our ideas of education were thrown upside down and challenged to the very core.
We now find ourselves only a few months away from the two-year mark of the onset of the Covid-19 Pandemic in Canada – and the struggle certainly continues for teachers, Principals, trustees and all involved in our Catholic Schools. Online meetings, school policies and dealing with outbreaks are all still part of this 2021/2022 school year. School leaders are learning to adapt to a constantly-evolving situation and adjust to this lingering sense of uncertainty.
While these past two years have presented new and unforeseen problems, we can confidently say that suffering is nothing new to the human race. One glance at history reveals this pattern of humanity navigating seasons of profound uncertainty and problems which seemed to have no solution. Alongside this long list of difficult seasons in history are endless stories of people who turned to their faith to find peace amidst difficulty. How can Catholic Schools in Canada be part of those stories by finding authentic, lasting peace during this tumultuous season? How can we preserve and maintain this peace in our schools?
We know that despite everything, one fundamental component of Catholic Education has not changed: the mission of guarding and passing on peace. A distinguishing factor of our schools is that we follow the way of Christ, who promises to give peace to those who seek it from him. How do we continue this fundamental mission in our Catholic Schools this year? How do we allow this season to be one marked not only with trial and difficulty – but with a sincere faith and authentic peace?
Perhaps It’s Nothing New
In these days where we spend so much of our time trying to think up new ways to deal with the issues arising daily, let’s take a moment to remember the tried and true traditions; the traditions which sustained the faith and peace of those who have gone before us. Let’s allow our Catholic Schools to be places in which the gaze is focused on God – the Prince of Peace – who time and time again promised to give peace to those to trust in him.
In praying and discerning about these questions, trustees, principals and teachers have an incredible opportunity to bring peace to the 850,000 students entrusted to our Canadian Catholic School system. The profound opportunity awaits all of those involved in Catholic Schools to courageously ask (& prioritize!) the question,
“How do we find peace?”
P R A Y E R
Prayer might seem obvious – but sometimes the most obvious solutions are first to be forgotten. There’s nothing more ancient than prayer, however, this simple and age-old ritual of turning our inward gaze to God can be more powerful and transforming than all of our newest, most innovative ideas combined.
Even Jesus himself often took time to pray and turn his attention to his Father in heaven. He also repeatedly encouraged his followers to pray and to resist the tendency to be anxious about the world.
Like all of those who have suffered tumultuous seasons of history before us, prayer is at the heart of finding peace. Peace can be found through the surrender of prayer.
Prayer begins in our personal lives when we spend time aside each day to turn our eyes to God who promises to give peace. Prayer can be at the heart of every meeting and discussion happening at boardroom tables across the Country. Whether it be a meditation and reflection on scripture, a time of silence, or a moment of petitioning God, prayer can be a profound way to welcome peace into every aspect of our Catholic Schools.
S A C R A M E N T S
The same sacraments which carried Christians through many difficult seasons in the Church’s history are the same sacraments in which we can find refuge now. Sacraments teach our students that God is not distant from us, but here among us. These beautiful rituals, preserved in our Catholic faith, are meant to allow us to enter into the presence of God – and what can bring more peace than the presence of God?
Some of the most incredible seasons in the history of the Church are full of stories of people gathering in the midst of profound suffering, to celebrate the Eucharist together and finding hope .Celebrating the Eucharist together or offering the Sacrament of Reconciliation is fundamental in restoring peace to our schools.
C O M M U N I T Y
The reality is that these past two years have brought with them much pain and suffering. As we move forward as a Catholic Community, it’s essential that we remember that many among us are suffering and carrying heavy burdens. Whether it’s increased anxiety, loss of work, health problems or fatigue, we need to be present to one another’s pain. Showing up to meetings with an abundance of mercy for each other’s suffering, being present to the reality of the impact this pandemic has had on our fellow trustees, staff, students and parents – this is the beginning of “bearing one another’s burdens”. When this authentic community is lived out by those in leadership of our Catholic Schools, it will be a witness to our students of what a Christian Community looks like – and how it can be a space of peace in these days. If the stories throughout history have taught us anything, it’s that each season of suffering brought a unique opportunity for stronger communities. Our Canadian Catholic School Communities have the opportunity to be stronger now than ever – and that begins with being conscious of the burdens being carried by those around us.
Let’s continue to hold one another in prayer as we go about the work of Catholic Education this year. May each school be a safe-haven of peace amidst this current storm and may our students find lasting peace through the faith handed on to them. After a long journey of educating in this pandemic, may this particular school year be noted for courageous faith and the restoration of peace in our schools.