SASKATOON — Answering the Call was the 2015 Catholic Education Week theme explored by Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools (GSCS) May 11 - 15, with a particular focus on the call lived out by those in consecrated life.
“This theme was chosen to help commemorate the Year of Consecrated Life, and to help students come to a deeper understanding of what it means to answer God’s universal call to holiness,” explained Gilbert Chevrier, GSCS director of religious education.
The Catholic bishops of Saskatchewan wrote a pastoral letter marking the week, encouraging the faithful to pray for the continued success of Catholic schools and “wherever there is need, to add your voice in support of Catholic education as we strive to support our students in their life-long faith journey.”
World Catholic Education Day was celebrated on the Feast of the Ascension, May 14, 40 days after Easter. There was a celebration of a liturgy at 9:30 a.m. in schools across the province that day, said Chevrier, with thousands connected at the same moment by prayer. That afternoon, a division-wide GSCS celebration was also held at St. Mary’s Parish in Saskatoon, with student and staff representatives invited from each school.
The World Catholic Education Day liturgy in Saskatoon was led by Rev. Kevin McGee, and included prayers presented by students, and words of welcome from Diane Boyko, chair of the GSCS board of education.
Redemptorist priest Rev. Mick Fleming, CSsR, and Ursuline Sister Teresita Kambeitz, presented testimonies about their vocation, and how they came to answer the call to consecrated life.
Born and raised in Newfoundland, Fleming spoke about major influences in his faith journey, in particular his grandmother and Sister Mary Angela Fowler, RSM, a teacher in the Catholic school system who helped him overcome a speech impediment.
After the accidental death of his younger brother, Fleming underwent a crisis of faith in high school, leaving the church for several years. Through service to young people in the south Bronx neighbourhood of New York, and then back in Canada, Fleming eventually renewed his connection to his Catholic faith. He joined the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer in 1982, and in 1988 was ordained a Redemptorist priest.
Redemptorists serve among all sorts of people who are struggling or seeking meaning in their lives, Fleming described. “It all begins in a call that recognizes that all of us are children of God.”
Kambeitz told youth gathered for the World Catholic Education Day service that one of the most important decisions they will make is “where you are going to direct your love.”
Born and raised in Richmound, Sask., Kambeitz said it was while on retreat as a student of St. Angela’s Academy in Prelate that she experienced a life-changing encounter with God. While praying the stations of the cross she experienced a call to respond to the love of Jesus that eventually led to her becoming an Ursuline Sister.
“A sister is basically a woman who has made three solemn promises to God: to share her love, to share her goods, and to share her services as needed, within a recognized family of sisters,” Kambeitz described.
“That word ‘sister’ tells you where I’ve been called to give my love. I’ve been called to be everybody’s sister. Everywhere I go, when people hear me called sister, they know what to expect, because they know how sisters love,” she said.
As an Ursuline, Kambeitz served as a teacher in the Catholic school system in Swift Current and in Saskatoon, as well as teaching at Newman Theological College in Edmonton, St. Thomas More College in Saskatoon, and in places around the world.
“It has all been gift,” she said. “I’ve been blessed with so many opportunities to meet people, so many opportunities to do ministry, so many opportunities to touch people’s lives, in short, so many opportunities to be everybody’s sister.”
Since the earliest days of Saskatchewan, there have been some 5,500 sisters in 59 different orders who have served in almost 300 schools, and over 40 boarding schools and over 40 hospitals in the province, she noted.
During this Year of Consecrated Life, GSCS will continue to celebrate the important contributions of those in consecrated life to Catholic education in our communities, said Chevrier.