When Greg McNally first arrived in Winnipeg last month for the 2013 CCSTA AGM, one word came to mind: family.
As the 2013 recipient of the Justice James Higgins Award, McNally attended the annual conference to accept the award. The former CCSTA Executive Director and retired Director of Education says he has always felt the Canadian Catholic education community gives a warm welcome to every person involved, ultimately forming a family-like atmosphere across the country.
The AGM was no exception.
“As soon as we got to Winnipeg, we were received as part of the Catholic educators’ family,” said McNally.
His own family, including his wife, Laurie, and eldest daughter, Beth, along with her husband and three children, also attended the AGM to witness his award acceptance.
“To have them share in the experience was so meaningful,” he explained. “They, too, felt so welcomed and were made to feel special.”
The CCSTA’s Higgins Award is presented annually in memory of Canadian Catholic school trustee and jurist, the Honourable Justice James Higgins. It reflects recognition of an exceptional contribution to Catholic education in Canada.
Nominated by the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario, McNally spent 40 years working in education. In its nomination, the board stated McNally is “well-known and respected for his faithful and faith-filled commitment to Catholic education.” Furthermore, the nomination said that McNally has “been a Catholic leader who has exemplified noble qualities of leadership in Catholic education locally, within his parish and community, regionally in his many roles within the school board, as well as provincially and nationally…”
CCSTA President Ted Paszek presented the award to McNally who then took the podium.
He thanked CCSTA as well as the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario staff for its nomination.
“To receive this award for all of Canada is a wonderful tribute,” he said. “Justice Higgins was an exemplary leader in all aspects and I feel especially humbled that others see me in that same regard.”
With so many people who cared for Catholic education all sitting in the same room together, McNally wanted to express his gratitude for what each person has done for it.
“I wanted to make sure people understood how fortunate we are to live in a country that allows us the choice of our religion and of our school,” he explained. “People, for decades and centuries, have given their time and energy to Catholic education in Canada. It is a great gift we’ve been given.”
This is exactly, he said, why the Higgins award has such a special meaning in our country.
“The Higgins Award represents all of us in some way in Catholic education in Canada,” he said. “Wherever I’ve gone in Canada, the dedication of people to the ideals of Catholic education is uplifting.”
McNally expressed the importance for each Catholic educator to keep the fire alive.
“It is up to us to keep the torch lit for Catholic education and hold it high. We hold the torch high, not in ways to brag or boast but to light the way because we have a gift to offer,” he said. “We hold the torch high because we know that when we teach well the mind and body, we touch the heart and when we touch the heart, we reach the soul, helping to create a better community, a better world. We hold the torch high because, all of us are teachers in some manner as we answer our calling. We hold the torch high to shine the way as we build the kingdom of God.”
McNally concluded the Justice Higgins Award plaque now has a special place in his home in Perth, Ontario, which is a reminder to him of his many friends in Catholic schools and boards throughout Canada.