Memoirs of a former Catholic school student

By  Rebecca Ryall, Youth Speak News
  • September 28, 2007
For 14 years I attended Catholic schools where morning prayer was a staple, religion class a required course and liturgies a scheduled monthly event. From ages 12 to 18, I was fortunate enough to enroll at Toronto’s Cardinal Carter Academy for the Arts where religious values enriched an atmosphere of music, drama and dance. There I learned from a community of teachers and peers who were passionate about artistic creativity and an academic curriculum that reflected religious values.

It is ironic that the first election I am eligible to vote in may determine the future of an institution that consumed my life. At the forefront of the election campaign in Ontario is the issue of publicly funded, faith-based schools, specifically the “unfair” patronage given by legislation and taxpayers’ dollars to Catholic schools. Critics have called for a constitutional amendment to stop funding the schools and replace it with a unitary system in which all faiths would be respected, with no single one preeminent.

The constitutional issue goes beyond religion, right to the heart of being a Canadian citizen. To attack an entrenched constitutional right on the basis that it is “outdated” is a slippery slope. Which other antiquated rights would be determined by current public opinion?

{sidebar id=2}Is there evidence that any faith-based school — public or private — promotes discrimination or sectarian intolerance? I never encountered intolerance or disrespect for other religions. My childhood friend and neighbour, educated in the private Jewish system, would concur. The faith we live and the God we worship promotes love and compassion. If anything I am better informed and more appreciative.

Now I attend a secular university. The decision will not directly affect me, so why shouldn’t I turn my focus on platforms regarding say, tuition fees?

It is because “where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20). That’s why I care. Part of the foundation of my Catholic faith is built on parishes, on community. My parents, as my first educators, wanted me to have an education within a faith context. As Catholics, I know they had that right, and so should others. “Fair” would be to not take that right away and reduce it to a chapter in the Christianity unit of a religion textbook. Fair would be to spend the money and give all families that right.

Even now, living away from home, studying with young people from across the world, being exposed to a new realm of knowledge and experience, my religion is not something I’ve forgotten. It wasn’t material that I memorized during cram sessions the night before an exam. I pray, and I worship, and I invoke Christian values into my day-to-day encounters because Catholicism is alive within me. It is a blessing that should not be taken away, but rather extended to all.

(Ryall is a first-year journalism student at Carleton Univeristy in Ottawa)

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