Student representatives at the Catholic Education Lobby Day with Lt.-Gov. Elizabeth Dowdeswell. Photo by David Rodriguez, Enterprise Canada

Catholic education at its best

By  Steven Travale, Youth Speak News
  • March 18, 2016

TORONTO - The Queen’s Park Dining Room was filled with the sounds of engaging and enriching discussion March 9 as Catholic representatives from across Ontario advocated for their education system.

It was Lobby Day and bishops, trustees, teachers and students of the Ontario Catholic education community shared with Members of Provincial Parliament their faith and accomplishments within the publicly funded Catholic school system.

The students, from musicians and artists to student trustees, were especially keen on interacting with MPPs during the evening reception.

“For students, Lobby Day is about ensuring the continuation of a publicly funded Catholic education system as an inclusive place to learn about social justice and service to the community,” said Bob Schreader, vice president of the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association (OCSTA).

Schreader was joined by representatives from the Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario (ACBO), the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA) and the French Catholic Teachers’ Association (AEFO), who participated in meetings and discussions with MPPs throughout the day.

“Lobby Day provides the Catholic partners with an opportunity to show a united effort in the delivery of an exceptional Catholic education system. We can highlight the amazing social justice work and the academic achievements so evident in our system,” said Ann Hawkins, president of OECTA.

“It is important for Members of Provincial Parliament and other policy makers to recognize the positive contribution that Catholic education has made over the years,” said Schreader. “We know that there are some anti-Catholic education groups who would like to eliminate the Catholic school system, and it is imperative that we dispel the misinformation around the one-school-system lobby.”

Not only are there opponents to the Catholic system from a fiscal standpoint, but concerns have been raised on moral issues as well. Catholics were at the forefront with concerns over the controversial introduction of the new sex-ed curriculum in all publicly funded Ontario schools. The Catholic partners emphasized and continue to make clear to Ontarians that all material taught in Catholic schools is reviewed by the Institute for Catholic Curriculum and given approval by Church clerics, so that all aspects of learning is through a Catholic lens.

Toronto’s Cardinal Thomas Collins was present at the Lobby Day, showing support for the academic and moral values taught in Catholic schools.

“Catholic education is important because it helps us to see not only how to become good citizens in our province but also it calls us to look to the issues and the purpose of life,” said Collins.

“We know our Catholic schools are a place where the respect for and the dignity of all people is not only a duty but an obligation,” said Schreader. “Our schools are filled with an environment that is characterized by warmth, hospitality, good humour and joy. Lobby Day gives us a chance to share this good news with MPPs.”

Representatives from the government and the official opposition made it clear in their remarks that their caucuses will continue to support publicly funded Catholic education, receiving warm applause. Catholic partners believe it is still important for supporters, particularly the students who attend the schools, to continue to build a positive rapport.

(Travale, 18, is a Grade 12 student at Sacred Heart High School, in Walkerton, Ont.)

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