I want to begin my March message by sharing the incredible experience of attending the installation mass of Bishop McGrattan on Monday evening in Calgary. This was the first installation mass that I’ve attended and it was an extremely powerful event. Watching the procession of our deacons and many of our diocesan priests followed by 31 Bishops and Archbishops and Cardinal Thomas Collins was moving. Included in the ceremony was the presence of Archbishop Luigi Bonazzi, Apostolic Nuncio to Canada, who represented Pope Francis and gave greetings on behalf of the Holy Father. There were two things that made me most proud in relationship to our local First Nations peoples. The first (which is common practice in Holy Spirit) was the acknowledgement that the mass was being held on traditional Treaty 7 land. What a powerful gesture! Secondly, special guests were recognized before the mass and asked to come forward to greet Bishop McGrattan. Chief Roy Fox and his family from Kainai were among those special guests. I had the opportunity to talk briefly with Bishop McGrattan after the mass and we are looking forward to him celebrating with us at our closing mass on Spiritual Development Day on March 13th.
Speaking of Spiritual Development Day, what a wonderful lineup of faith learning experiences organized by our own Director of Religious Education, Joann Bartley and her committee. As members of a Catholic school division we relish in these spiritual opportunities to nurture and grow our faith. We are reminded that the strength of our separate system always rests with each of us as individuals and in our own faith commitment. It will be a great day and I’m excited to share it with our Holy Spirit community of faith.
Although February was short, it was certainly a high quality learning month for our staff. I’ve heard great feedback on this year’s Teachers’ Convention especially around the keynote presenters. Developing resiliency in our youth regardless of being in the school or at home and nurturing the creative spirit of children are both important topics. Support staff also had a great day of learning at their day. I was fortunate to travel to Montreal as part of the C21 Canada CEO Academy. We were hosted by the Lester B. Pearson School Board and I had the chance to visit schools and work with leaders from across their jurisdiction. My colleague, Director General Michael Chechile leads an excellent and innovative school division and my learning was great. I was also invited to attend the Advisory Board on English Education and was asked to provide an Alberta perspective on a number of topics including our work around First Nations, Metis and Inuit education. But as I commented last night at our Catholic Leadership Program, part of the learning when I’m outside of our division is the affirmation of the great practices that occur in our own backyard. Visiting schools and classrooms allows me to see the many positives that honestly, are just part of our norm.
Today, we begin our Lenten Journey with Ash Wednesday services throughout our division. Over the next 40 days, we are called to embrace the three pillars of Lent: Prayer, Fasting/Abstinence and Almsgiving. Today’s Gospel (Matthew 6: 1-6, 16-18) reminds us to do so without contorted faces, away in silence, where only the Father sees and knows. Jesus says to his disciples, “Beware of practising your piety before people in order to be seen by them;”
Lent is a personal journey, but it is a spiritual journey that we must all embark upon as we prepare for the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. May God bless you this Lenten Season.