He called it, ‘the perfect setting’.
When Bonaventure Fagan accepted the 2015 Justice James Higgins Award for Catholic Excellence this past June at the CCSTA AGM in St. John’s, Newfoundland, he couldn’t have envisioned a more appropriate place to receive such an honour: in his hometown, and in a room he remembers well.
Fagan was a key player back in the mid-1990s when the provincial government voted to nix public funding for the Catholic school system.
“Indeed in the very room in which the Higgins was presented, in 1996 we had pleaded our case to the Special Senate Committee that the proposed constitutional amendment at that time was inadequate to protect the rights that the legislation purported to protect,” Bon explains. “It gives one no great pleasure to say ‘we were right’. So, perhaps from that point of view, someone might say it would have been more sensible had I been presented the Higgins in another setting. I couldn’t disagree more – here were my family and special friends and fellow trustees, and no doubt the hovering Jim Higgins. It was, in fact, the perfect setting.”
While he was brief in his acceptance speech about the old system and the struggle to keep it, he pointed out the importance on ensuring they preserve its memory, while also moving forward.
“Currently we have two very fine and exceptional Catholic schools in the province – Immaculate Heart of Mary and St. Bonaventure’s – and for this we give thanks,” he says. “We all know the Good Lord constantly provides opportunities to us in life; yet, sometimes those opportunities are in fact crosses that, like the Lord’s own cross, shortly produce their own Easter.”
In his acceptance speech, Fagan outlined the importance of this association to Catholic education in Canada. He recalled the role CCSTA played in its support to Newfoundland Labrador and to all other provinces across the country.
Fagan then gave a concluding message to the trustees: “What this association has at its core is the sacredness of Catholic education. It is not narrow-minded, it is not elitist, it is not divisive; it is, however, unapologetic about having religion as its everyday domain and within that domain the freedom, the affirmation, the wholeness that catholicity has to offer its students and thus the world. May we, as trustees, remain committed to serve our students and their families and thus our country and our God.”
Fagan adds that when he accepted the award, he had the chance to reflect on the previous Higgins winners, and on Higgins himself, who lived in Newfoundland Labrador, and received the award 40 years earlier.
“On the wall was the list of those winners – now if a person ever feels humbled, it is in glancing over that distinguished list.”