York Catholic board welcomes all in Christ

  • May 14, 2024

Nearly one year ago, on May 29, 2023, York Catholic District School Board (YCDSB) trustees voted 6-4 against a proposal to fly the Pride flag outside board headquarters in Aurora, Ont.

Some students, parents and advocacy groups celebrated this development. Others did not. Acrimony against the vote inspired school walkout protests 10 days later.

Inspired by this experience or not, a year later, school officials are determined to foster unity within the Catholic school community north of Toronto. The board introduced and approved a motion to “bring peace to YCDSB using the symbol of our faith.” The school board hired an artist who prefers to remain anonymous to conceptualize a sticker design bearing the Cross and the statement “We Are Diverse. We Are One in Christ.” Golden rays radiate from the Cross in the design and each beam exhibits a diverse array of faces. This visual element exemplifies that a rich tapestry of cultures and races constitute the YCDSB. As for the blue background, it matches the colour of the Virgin Mary’s signature cloak.

Over 3,300 have been distributed throughout the school system.

“If you look at our multi-year strategic plan, we’ve made strategic commitments to diversity and inclusion and making sure our students, staff and community members feel safe and welcomed in our schools,” said Mark Brosens, the YCDSB’s senior manager of brand, marketing and communications. “This design and the artwork is another way to bring that message home to our community.

“I think it is a message that is really fitting for the entire Catholic community,” continued Brosens. “If you look around the world, one of the most diverse places you can find on Earth is a Catholic church on Sunday. People from every corner of the world embrace our faith and want to be a part of our Catholic community. YCDSB is trying to say through this design that everyone is welcome to join this community through their connection to Christ.”

Trustee Angela Saggese refutes the notion that this endeavour emanated from the Pride flag debate.

“Sharing this design with our community is nothing more than another way to share the beauty and truth of our Christian faith with our students,” said Saggese. “The focus here was just on Christ.”

Lauren Bressanutti, a Grade 12 student at Cardinal Carter Catholic High School in Aurora, feels the message “was a really important one to see around our schools.” She said it was a “great reminder that no matter our background we are all the same, and we are viewed the same through Jesus’ eyes.”

Saggese has also been showered with positive plaudits about a campaign still in its nascency.

“I have been inundated with feedback. ‘Thank you, trustees, thank you, Angela.’ This design is a daily reminder for us to realize that we are a community of people who promote social justice. This just serves to remind us that it’s about getting to the core of the Christian message.”

Trustees have approved for the design to be displayed in banner form, while down the road, there is potential for bookmarks, magnets, wristbands, bag tags and writing instruments.

At the same April 30 meeting where the evolution of this initiative was discussed, there was a delegate calling for the Pride flag to be flown during the month of June.

“We had a robust conversation about the Pride flag issue over the course of several board meetings last year,” said Brosens. “I think the board of trustees was grateful that so many people offered their opinions on the topic. However, in the end the board came to a decision that they don’t show any interest, at the moment, of revisiting. There is no motion on the board of trustee’s agenda to revisit the motion at this time.”

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