Catholic school partners to join in ‘national conversation’

  • August 6, 2008

{mosimage}TORONTO - It’s touted as the first “national conversation” on Catholic education in Canada.

The Catholic Education: A National Conversation conference is expected to draw 400 parents, students, teachers, school administrators, clergy and trustees to Ottawa Sept. 26-27 for the inaugural conference.

Greg McNally, executive director of the Canadian Catholic School Trustees’ Association, which is sponsoring the conference, said it will be a celebration of Catholic education.

“We see this conference not as reactionary, but as an uplifting conference,” he said, adding that the idea for a national conference was suggested as far back as 30 years ago but was never implemented.

Speakers include Alexandria-Cornwall Bishop Paul-Andre Durocher and Nobel Peace Prize winner and Dignitas International founder Dr. James Orbinski.

A youth panel of high school students and recent graduates will share their views on the impact of Catholic education on their lives, organizers said.

McNally said the conference’s theme, “A sower went out to sow,” points to the historical roots of Catholic education.

Catholic schools began hundreds of years ago with the founding of Canada and have spread from coast-to-coast.

McNally said the conference is also a way to “understand the message of Jesus in the way we live our lives and how that has an impact on how our country was formed.”

“We have a great education system in Canada and Catholic schools are part of that,” he said.

Conference chair Paula Peroni, head of the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association, said “the coming together of our unique, broad and dynamic Catholic community” will “set the stage to go forward and ultimately to ensure the future of our Catholic schools in Canada.”

The issue of public funding for Catholic schools was thrust into the spotlight during last year’s Ontario provincial election.

Conservative leader John Tory initially campaigned on a promise of extending public funding to all faith-based schools but backtracked in the face of vocal public opposition to this plan.

And NDP MPP Michael Prue recently revived the debate during the launch of his party leadership campaign in late July when he said the NDP might want to reconsider its support for publicly funded Catholic schools.

However, he later said the decision would be up to the delegates who would be choosing the next leader.

For more information on the conference go to

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