After receiving his Award of Merit, Fr. Pat Fitzpatrick poses for a photo with Toronto Catholic student trustee William Lawrence, left, chair Jo-Ann Davis and director of education Angel Gauthier (far right). Photo courtesy of Mary Walker

Spiritan honoured for five decades of dedication to Catholic education

  • May 8, 2014

TORONTO - In recognition of Fr. Pat Fitzpatrick’s dedication to Catholic education and the faith in general, the Toronto Catholic District School Board presented him with its Award of Merit.

Fitzpatrick has devoted more than 50 years to the Catholic faith as a Spiritan priest, educator, chaplain, retreat leader, Mass celebrant and editor of Spiritan Magazine, said Tom O’Leary, who nominated Fitzpatrick for the award.

“His spiritual leadership is extraordinary. As a Catholic educator, he promoted harmony and valued authenticity and integrity.”

Fitzpatrick arrived in Toronto from Ireland in 1964 on “what we call a first appointment,” to work at Neil McNeil High School. Just five years young at the time the school needed some help, and having served in a Catholic school in Ireland for two years during his formation, Fitzpatrick’s superiors felt he would be the right man for the job.

As time went on Fitzpatrick transitioned from teaching in the high school classroom to teaching those who taught the secondary students — a necessary process as lay people began to replace the religious in Catholic schools.

“It was somehow or other taken for granted that once you had been through the Catholic school system and had been hired as a (Catholic) high school or elementary school teacher that you were expected to (be able to) teach ... religion,” said Fitzpatrick, who began teaching at the Catholic Teachers Centre in the late 1980s. “I think some of them felt that they needed a little bit more background in it. So I did some of the teacher qualification courses.”

Before capping off his career in the classroom Fitzpatrick moved to the Dufferin-Peel Catholic board where he remained until the end of the 1990s. Now, while not editing the quarterly Spiritan Magazine or serving as chaplain for the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association, Fitzpatrick wanders into schools to give the priestly presence which isn’t so present any more.

“I see priests, and this isn’t a criticism, do little more than drop in on an occasional basis to schools,” he said. “Full time in a parish is as much as they are able to give, and that is not a criticism of them, that is just as much as there is time for. And meeting kids in high schools and elementary schools, for most of them that is not why they became priests.”

All of this and then some led to Fitzpatrick receiving the Award of Merit on May 5 during the school board’s Annual Awards Night.

Hugh Kelly, who provided the board with legal counsel since 1963, was posthumously honoured with an Award of Merit that night while Doretta Wilson, former director of the Organization for Quality Education and co-chair of the Canadian Language and Literacy Research Network’s National Literacy Strategy Advisory, captured the Toronto Catholic District School Board Alumni Award.

About 80 students within the board were also recognized for various achievements.

For Catholic education to continue to remain a vital cog of the Toronto community Fitzpatrick said more people like those who were honoured with him are needed.

“To keep our religious, or separate schools as we called them, going we really need more people there who are ... committed to Catholic education,” he said. “There is a real special calling to be connected to especially the high schools and to make religion come alive beyond the textbook.”

Comments (1)

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Hi Father Pat, if you read this, please send us an e-mail. We haven't heard from you in a few years. Your God child Christine would love to hear from you also. Love and God Bless, Wayne & Therese.

Wayne & Therese DeAngeli
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