Norm Bethune returned from the CCSTA Annual General Meeting in Regina, Saskatchewan with an extra item in his suitcase – the 2011 Justice James Higgins Award.
Earlier this year, CCSTA announced Mr. Bethune as this year’s award recipient, and he was handed the award at June’s annual conference.
In his acceptance speech, the Owen Sound, Ont. native thanked CCSTA for giving him this award.
“I am most honoured and humbled and I would like to thank the board of directors of CCSTA for honouring me with this very meaningful and relevant award,” he said.
Mr. Bethune then thanked his family, calling them his support network, including his wife of 45 years, Nancy, as well their two children and spouses, Michael and Ginette and Anne and Jeff and their children.
“I would like to thank my family for their patience, understanding, love, and support throughout the years,” he said.
He also thanked both his school board director, Bruce MacPherson for nominating him for this award, as well as his colleagues for their work within the education system.
“Thanks to my school board, Bruce-Grey Catholic, for their support and for their continued exemplary dedication and commitment to Catholic education,” he said.
Working in Catholic education for nearly five decades, Mr. Bethune outlined the major influences which brought to him to where he is today.
“My parents were convinced that a Catholic education was best for their five children and was never an option for us even if it meant financial sacrifices such as paying double taxes in addition to a tuition fee for the privilege of Catholic secondary school,” he said. “They believed in the synergistic support system of home, school, and parish which reflected and reinforced their values.”
Mr. Bethune also cited the Sisters of Notre Dame who taught him at St. Mary’s Elementary School in Owen Sound as playing a positive role in his formative years.
“For me they were also sisters of virtue who taught and modelled the desirability of living a virtuous life,” he explained. “The virtues gave me a strong moral foundation an anchor and a compass to guide me and assist me to navigate through life on my spiritual journey.”
Mr. Bethune attributes his passion for Catholic education with a simple explanation.
“It’s hard for me to fathom that I have spent 47 years in Catholic education and still enjoy it. I suppose that’s what happens when you see your job as a vocation or calling,” he said. “I have been so fortunate over the course of my career to have worked with so many people – not unlike yourselves – who have inspired, motivated, encouraged, and supported me in all my endeavours. Any contributions I may have made were by no means solo efforts. They were the efforts of complementary teams.”
He completed his speech with insight about Catholic education’s role in the coming years.
“The future of our Catholic schools depends on our appreciation of the distinctiveness of Catholic education and their contribution to the fabric of our society and our willingness to stand up and speak out in one unified voice for the preservation and continued prosperity of the sacred gift of our Catholic schools,” he said.