Some 600 Catholic educators gathered for a symposium on Catholic education in Toronto Nov. 14-15, among them, front row seated, OCSTA representatives Beverley Eckensweiler, Sharon McMillan, Kathy Burtnik and Patrick Daly. In the back row (L to R) are members of the Ontario Association of Parents in Catholic Education: Chuck Farmer, Maurizio Ruberto, Annalisa Crudo-Perri, Tony Lorini and Mariana Koutin-Morais. Photo courtesy of OCSTA

Catholic educators work to keep their promises

  • November 26, 2017
Making the world a better place is a tall order, but Catholic educators in Ontario are trying to do their part.

Over 600 members from Catholic education communities across Ontario gathered in Toronto Nov. 14-15 for a symposium to explore opportunities for Catholic education as it evolves with societal trends and technology. The event was organized by the Institute for Catholic Education (ICE) and Office Provincial de l’education de la Foi Catholique en Ontario (OPECO).

“As Catholics, we have a commitment to recognizing that we are in this world and have a responsibility to make it a better place than it is,” said John Kostoff, executive director of the Ontario Catholic Supervisory Officers Association. “That was part of a long and reoccurring conversation that was had over the two days.”

The agenda centred around the theme of “Renewing the Promise,” a dialogue about Catholic education that began in March to re-examine the mandate.

“Renewing the Promise is the proposed title of the new pastoral letter for Catholic education by the bishops of Ontario,” said Michael Pautler, executive director for the Institute for Catholic Education. Renewing the Promise is expected to be released in spring 2018. It is the latest instalment in a trilogy of pastoral letters concerning education. This Moment of Promise was released in 1989 and Fulfilling the Promise in 1993.

Much has changed since Fulfilling the Promise was published by Ontario’s bishops 24 years ago. Catholic educators are looking forward to an updated pastoral letter to address new challenges.

“The consensus was that we needed a new letter from the bishops in the context of what Catholic education in today’s world looks like,” said Kostoff. “(The letter) would re-state the mission of Catholic schools and would address the issues and achievements Catholic schools in Ontario find themselves facing in 2017 that they may not have faced decades ago.”

In addition to accommodating new technology, the symposium focused on balancing practical and spiritual education.

“The purpose of Catholic education is not just to prepare you for your life on Earth, but also to prepare you for a life beyond a worldly existence,” said Kostoff. “The symposium also reminded us to be engaged with the world. The message that kept coming up was that of loving God with one’s whole heart and loving one’s neighbour. It’s about that balance. Our students have one foot in each camp; one in the divine and one in the world they live in.”

Attendees included representatives from both English and French Catholic school boards as well as bishops, priests, chaplains and student trustees. Participants were in groups of 10-12, which held conversations round-table style. There was also a formal presentation from St. Catharines Bishop Gerard Paul Bergie and a homily by Cardinal Thomas Collins.

The symposium also made a point of formally recognizing the contributions religious orders have made to Catholic education and celebrating the success of Catholic education as a whole.

While debates have surfaced recently about Catholic education in Alberta and Saskatchewan, educators are confident the Ontario system is safe and sound.

“Catholic education in Ontario is the envy of the world. There was not a sense of having to deal with any kind of threat to our existence because we have been so successful,” said Kostoff.

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