As close to 2,000 students and staff from across the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board converged at Cathedral High School on Monday, May 7 for an opening mass to kick off Catholic Education Week (May 7-11), “Renewing the Promise” was not only the theme, but the end goal of the week-long celebrations.
In official greetings, Chairperson Patrick Daly suggested that for him the word ‘promise’ has two meanings. The first is a commitment, a covenant, a contract.
“And we, as a Catholic community, make that commitment, that promise to protect and promote publicly funded Catholic education now and into the future.”
The second infers something to come, an achievement of some kind. For that we need only look to Sunday’s gospel to discover what that promise is, said Daly. The reading, from John 15: 26, was Jesus’ last conversation with his apostles in which he commissioned them to go and bear fruit.
“And that’s the gift of Catholic education and that’s the promise we renew: to accompany our students in their faith journey, but as well to go outward and renew our world.”
“I pray this week that we are renewed in that promise, and with the strength and the support of our loving God, we go out and indeed transform the world.”
Indicating that one of the goals of Catholic education is to create young adults who care about the needs of others, Bishop Douglas Crosby, in his homily, suggested that one important way students can do that is through affirmation – “when you encourage others by telling them how well they did something.”
“Life is wonderful when we feel loved and affirmed,” he told the students. “You, all of you, can make a difference in the life of your friends and fellow students by affirming and supporting them.
“If you do that, you’re going to make a big difference. It’s the kind of difference that Catholic education offers you and you can offer to others.”
Thanking Bishop Crosby and Rev. Fr. Con O’Mahony, Vicar of Education for the Diocese of Hamilton, for their celebration of the Mass, Director of Education David Hansen reflected on the sacrifice and dedication of so many that led to the school system we have today.
“What they were fighting for is what we have sitting here right now: the chance to gather in a beautiful school, to gather in mass and replicate it in the schools across our system.”
Speaking to the theme, “Renewing the Promise,” Hansen said, “what the promise really boils down to is quite simply that in our schools and in our classrooms and in our workplaces, every single day we meet Jesus.”
And where do we meet Jesus? In the school secretary, in the teachers and principals and vice-principals, in the Early Childhood Educators and Educational Assistants, in the Custodians and Assistant Custodians.
“We meet Jesus in each other and it’s in the acts of what we do.”
Some of those acts are performed on a large scale, said Hansen, citing D.R.E.A.M.S., the annual “Walk with Christ” Pilgrimage and Halloween 4 Hunger. Others are more intimate, like helping out a friend, saying the right words to a colleague, or sharing a lunch.
“And so what I would say to you in closing is that if we do these things and we remember that each day we’re meeting Jesus in our schools, we are well on our way to ‘Renewing the Promise.’”
Catholic Education Week is an annual event coordinated by the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association (OCSTA) to raise awareness about the unique dimension of Catholic education in Ontario.
In Hamilton-Wentworth, the week begins with the board-wide mass, followed by numerous events at both the system and school level.
System activities to mark Catholic Education Week include a food drive for local food banks and agencies, an Intermediate Scripture Reading Event, and the annual presentation of the Director’s Awards for elementary students.