Before I give my opening comments, I would like to take the opportunity to introduce the leaders of our employment groups: President of the local ATA, John Templin, President of CUPE 1825, Joanne Lavkulich and representing CUPE 290, Geoff Court. Thank you for your service to not only your respective organizations but to Holy Spirit Catholic School Division as a whole.
Welcome to the 2019-20 school year. It is always such an honor to be able to address our entire community especially on this day when we begin with our opening mass, a pillar for us in Catholic Education. My sincere thanks to the staff at St. Teresa of Calcutta and all those who have contributed to this day- whether custodian or maintenance, tech or food services, music ministry or any other behind the scenes support. Thank you to Bishop McGrattan, our clergy, deacons and all who served today. And I especially want to thank Joann Bartley who continues to do all the right things to ensure that faith is at the forefront of all that we do here in Holy Spirit.
I’m excited about this new year and not because my new year is only 4 months long. It is the same excitement that I’ve felt every new school year since I began in the education world in 1985. It is the fresh start, the new beginnings, changes, challenges and possibilities that cause that excitement and anticipation.
This year we begin our new 3-Year Faith Plan Making our Mark: Journey of an Intentional Disciple. To me, it is the word intentional that causes me to be most reflective. I’ve come to learn that I can do a number of things in my life, check off a bunch of items on a list in the hopes of doing something better but without intentionality, there is little chance for improvement. Simply hoping or going through the motions or maintaining the status quo doesn’t result in an improvement. Being intentional, having a purpose and maintaining a focus are the only ways to truly improve. This statement is not just for our personal or social or emotional life, it is also for our spiritual life. No matter your religious affiliation, if you want to be more Christ like, you need to be more intentional about being Christ like. And in a Catholic system, that is our call…to be Christ like, to create Christ-centred learning environments, to see the face of Christ in our colleagues, in our students, in our parents, in our community and that takes intentionality. Last year we began and were far more successful at being intentional in our social justice projects. We began to ask ourselves how we were unique and different as a Catholic School System and how someone might be able to tell we were a faith organization. Now that same intentionality falls on us. Our call to action this year as we begin this journey is to, “Be Mindful of God’s Presence! Be Prayerful!”
Our world has adopted the mentality that until you see something you won’t believe it. Being mindful of God is quite the opposite. It suggests that “When you believe in God, you will feel His presence, His touch and His love.” Be mindful of God’s presence in your own life and share the glory of that presence with your students, colleagues and community.
Our second call to action is to be prayerful. Matthew Kelly says this about prayer: “Nothing will change a person’s life like really learning how to pray. It is one of life’s most powerful lessons.” And so I ask you to be intentional about your prayer life. Practice it in private and in public, in your classrooms, your schools, your homes and your church. Be a model to all those you interact with on a daily basis.
Now, did I mention that my school year only last 4 months and those four months will not be without challenge. We don’t have a budget and won’t have one until at the earliest mid-October and the government is making decisions on the future of education and of course on the curriculum. My message will be the same that you’ve heard for years regardless of who has been in power…stay the course. We are still committed to improving literacy and numeracy, still have a priority for equitable educational outcomes for our First Nations, Metis and Inuit students and we will always focus on effective leadership, quality teaching and optimum student learning. Don’t let things beyond our control impact what we can and should do.
I’ve been blessed to be Superintendent of Schools since June 2009 and that has been what I’ve always seen happen. Staffs rally around, support each other and ensure high quality Catholic education is offered day in and day out. No matter your position in the division, always answer the call to do what is right and what should be done. Don’t ever lose that passion and that hunger.
I’m extremely proud of the Board of Trustees’ choice of Ken Sampson as the incoming superintendent. He is a compassionate man and an excellent Catholic leader. He has the ability to step into this already strong division and make it even better. It is strong because of you and it will also continue to improve because of you… the people in these seats! These next four months will pass quickly but I will work diligently to make the transition smooth and seamless. The Board of Trustees deserves my very best in these next four months and so do all of you.
As this will be my last official school opening address, I want to thank you for making my tenure as superintendent most rewarding. I won’t be counting down the days because I love this job too much. Instead, I’ll be breathing in all of the moments, reflecting on the experiences and remembering the many friendships I have made here in Holy Spirit.
May God bless you in your work this year and thank you for everything!