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Speaking Out: Catholic schools make me thankful

By  Speaking Out, Katherine Szojka
  • January 31, 2019

As I enter my last semester in Alberta’s publicly-funded Catholic schools, I am, more than ever, thankful for the Catholic education I have received.

Amid the current lobbying for the schools’ funding to be taken away and our education minister advocating against Catholicity clauses in teacher contracts, my gratitude only grows.

Academically, Catholic schools are not so different than any secular school, but there are unique differences in the character of our schools, and they have shaped me into the person I am.

Within the second half of my Catholic education, I realized much of what I will take away goes beyond religion class. Teachers practising the faith gave them a unique respect for the material they taught, and a few great teachers brought a general wonder to their subject. 

I am also thankful to be in one of Canada’s three provinces which publicly fund Catholic education.

Despite authentic Catholic education having been present in the province for 159 years, we have recently seen people lobbying against what is being taught. Recently an ex-principal of a Catholic school in Calgary filed a human rights complaint against the school district for dismissing her based on a breach in her contract, leading to a debate over holding teachers to live by Catholic values.

Catholic employers have a right to hold their employees accountable for living out a Catholic lifestyle. It should be considered a given that Catholic institutions keep their institutions Catholic.

As students, we look to our teachers to teach more than math or science. We look to our teachers’ example of morality as well. Between Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario, parents of almost one million children choose to send them to Catholic schools, and administrators have an obligation to continue to teach the way they have been teaching.  After listening to some people demean the decisions of our Catholic schools, it appeared that many of them thought no one in this province accepted true Catholic teaching.

I realized how false this attitude was when I was reporting on the One Rock 2.0 conference for young adults in September. During a panel discussion with Alberta’s four bishops, one young woman asked what our dioceses were going to do to protect the faith being taught in our schools.

Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton answered: “We will simply continue to do what we do. No government can tell us not to be Catholic. And we will not accept any government telling us not to be Catholic.” 

I and the 500 other young people in the room responded with cheers and applause. I could not help but think of those people who seemed convinced that no one in Alberta wanted true Catholic education to continue as it has been for 159 years.

(Szojka, 17, is a Grade 12 student at St. Gabriel Online School in Sturgeon County, Alta.)

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