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Schools must be truly Catholic

  • April 27, 2022

Last autumn gifted me an occasion to reflect upon my experience with Catholic education when I attended Holy Family Academy Elementary School and St. Joseph’s Collegiate  from 1997 to 2010 in Brooks, Alta.

As part of celebrating the 25-year legacy of Catholic education being introduced in my home town, current and former students, teachers, support staff and parents were invited to pen testimonials for a book commemorating the legacy of these schools.

I praised my two schools for hiring staff who exhibited tremendous commitment and compassion to students who struggled academically, experienced turmoil at home or faced other substantial exterior and interior adversity. I also said, on balance, that the teachers did a great job in letting my classmates and I tap into our creativity to learn the curriculum instead of straitjacketing us with unchanging, ho-hum assignments.

In retrospect, I wished I instead wrote about how I cherished the schools for being authentically Catholic. My teachers led daily prayer with conviction instead of just some tedious chore to cross off the checklist. School leadership provided forums for spiritual growth by commissioning the NET Canada and Face2Face ministry groups to lead faith retreats. And I particularly appreciated how tight-knit the relationship was — and still is — between the two schools and St. Mary’s Church.

I spoke to one of my former teachers last month. She told me that Catholic schools must safeguard this authenticity and remain distinctive from public schools in order to ensure its long-term future.

I heartily agree, but I wonder if all Catholic school districts across the country are truly committed to ensuring that Catholic-Christian precepts remain the bedrock informing the curriculum, hiring choices and school programs? Or will some school districts simply allow the “Catholic” in its name to become a meaningless, decorative artifact as it renders itself indistinguishable from public schools?

It is not a grand revelation to state that we are under increasing demand to be politically correct and embrace the ideology promoted by mainstream media. While I believe individuals, organizations and entities should sensibly and critically consider the ideas presented to them, we must avoid the pressure to reflexively embrace these ideas wholesale. Reflexively contorting ourselves so much into appearing “woke” at all times may seem like the easy, safe choice in the moment, but grave consequences will occur if we betray our core values and beliefs.

When I see Catholic schools digitally genuflect to secular trends with “woke” school initiatives and social media posts, I can’t help but wonder if these institutions have lost sight of the person Jesus Christ was when He walked among us. I can’t recall a single verse in the Bible where Jesus walked back one of His against-the-grain teachings or made a grand public demonstration to cozy up to the societal influencers of the time.

The Pharisees and Sadducees tried to entrap Jesus and gain power over Him by probing Him with questions with the express purpose of getting Him to compromise on His identity. None of their pitiful tactics worked. Jesus exhibited His faith with blissful courage. Why should we, His disciples, bend to the secular forces when He didn’t?

There are undoubtedly a lot of Canadian Catholic schools that are still in touch with their foundational beliefs, and I applaud those school communities. I hope the Catholic schools that are losing touch with their principles can course correct soon.

(Amundson is The Register’s Youth Editor.)

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