Catholicity put into action in Burlington school

  • March 12, 2010
{mosimage}TORONTO - St. Paul Elementary School student David Buitraeo of Burlington, Ont., says he was anxious about getting his head shaved in front of the whole school. But since it was to raise funds for the Haiti earthquake relief effort, Buitraeo volunteered to do so, along with some other students and teachers.

“Since we are in Grade 8, we thought we should be leaders in the school,” he said.

It’s these kinds of actions merging faith and Catholic social justice teachings that principal Lori Naar says reflects the Catholicity in a Catholic school.

In the end, St. Paul students raised about $5,800 for the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace’s Haiti earthquake relief efforts.

Across the Greater Toronto Area, Catholic schools and their chaplaincy teams have embraced the church’s call to help those in need, especially the people affected by Haiti’s devastating earthquake in January. For instance, students at Caledon’s Robert F. Hall Catholic High School donated $17,000 in one day. York Catholic students and staff donated $174,000. And Toronto Catholic schools raised more than $230,000 for the relief effort.

At St. Paul’s, pastoral animator Dita McNeil says the school community lives out its Catholic identity through daily prayer, school liturgies and social justice activities. There is also an adult faith development program for staff at the school.

Loriann Pacenti, St. Paul’s system chaplaincy leader, said nurturing the faith life of teachers and staff is key in order to teach students about faith.

For Halton Catholic District School Board student trustee Chelsea Gray, being directly involved in Catholic education is a way to speak up for students and put her faith into action. The 17-year-old student at St. Thomas Aquinas High School in Oakville, Ont., is helping to organize a student-run social justice conference. The May 7 conference at Burlington’s Corpus Christi High School will focus on children’s rights, poverty, bullying, the environment and responsible consumerism.

Gray said Catholic faith intersects with all aspects of learning at her school. For instance, students can learn about euthanasia in law class or the lack of values in economic theories.

“A lot of things are covered in (Catholic social justice teachings) which should be in the moral fabric of our society,” she said.

Meanwhile, what’s integral to the core of Catholic education is the connection between the parish, school and home, said Lorenzo Campanelli, Burlington’s Assumption Catholic High School chaplaincy leader. The school is tied to four parishes in the area, hosts four liturgies each year in the gym and reconciliation services during Advent and Lent.

According to Fr. Marco Testa, the Catholic identity of a Catholic school is lived out in prayer and the celebration of the sacraments. Testa is a chaplain at De La Salle College, a private Catholic school in Toronto.

At De La Salle, there is the daily celebration of the Eucharist, confession and prayer before each class for the close to 600 students. The school also has the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament every first Friday of the month.

Expressing Catholicity is a holistic approach, Testa said, such as teaching students about science “with a view to what the church teaches, what the Scriptures reveal to us.”

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