The Saskatchewan Catholic School Boards Association and the Catholic Health Association of Saskatchewan recently teamed up to host a unique joint conference which delved into fostering relationships while providing faith-based education and healthcare.
The conference, entitled On Holy Ground: Where Catholic Health and Education Serve, was held from Oct. 24 to 26 in Saskatoon, Sask. It was the second such conference for both groups, an exceptional event which sees the two organizations coming together for education, sharing ideas, and also serving as the annual general meeting for the two organizations.
Ken Loehndorf, executive director of SCSBA, said the conference unifies the groups. “It brings together people in our province who provide Catholic education and healthcare; we support each other,” he said.
“Everyone there has the opportunity to grow in their faith, while learning, understanding the challenges, and recognizing common ground.”
Keynote speakers included Fr. Tony Richard and Dr. Matthew Sleeth. Fr. Richard spoke on exploring God’s unconditional love and searching for the child Jesus, while Sleeth spoke about a prescription for a healthier, happier life by keeping the Sabbath holy.
Both the education and healthcare sides presented plenary sessions to enable the organizations to get to know each other. The education focus included a panel made up of voices from students, teachers, trustees, and administrators. Panel members shared personal experiences as well as “good news stories” to highlight the distinctiveness of Catholic education and how it has impacted their lives.
Loehndorf said the panel resonated for many attendees because it was made up of a variety of people from various backgrounds sharing their first-hand accounts of the positive happenings occurring in Catholic education in the province. Those people included Canadian Catholic School Trustees’ Association president, Mike St. Amand, as well as a trustee who talked about Catholic education’s impact on him as an individual and a father. In addition, a veteran teacher from Regina also spoke, as did a student from a Saskatchewan Catholic high school, Bishop Albert Thévenot, and a director of education.
“The panel did a wonderful job of helping people understand that Catholic education is more than a crucifix on the wall and a prayer every now and then,” Loehndorf said. “Our faith is permeated in everything we do and that’s one of the hallmarks of Catholic education.”
John Stunt, executive director of CCSTA, attended the conference last month and said sharing the conference helps foster the unity of both organizations.
“Catholic healthcare and Catholic education have much in common and share many core beliefs as they carry on the healing and teaching mission of the church,” he said. “The convergence of people from both ministries to share professional development, liturgy, hospitality, and community is affirming to both groups and creates a genuine sense that we are all in this together,” Stunt said.
There is also a celebratory aspect to the conference, in the form of an awards banquet. In addition to learning and fostering good relationships, the event at its core is also about celebrating Catholic health and education in Saskatchewan. To that end, the event included a joint awards banquet, which enabled both sides to showcase and recognize the people who made contributions.
After a Eucharistic liturgy on Saturday evening, participants went to the banquet where the SCSBA presented two awards, recognizing outstanding service to Catholic education and showing appreciation. The Catholic Health Association of Saskatchewan also presented two awards. Three of four bishops in Saskatchewan were in attendance with the other unable to be present due to being out of province. Loehndorf said it was positive to see that strong support from the bishops.
“We deeply appreciate the opportunity to get together with our Catholic partners,” Loehndorf said.
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