As educators in a Catholic school system, our vocation calls us to permeate our faith in all we do, both for and with our students. Indeed, there are resources and curriculum for teaching about our faith, as well guidance as to how to permeate our faith throughout all subjects. But what about living one’s faith, or growing in one’s faith to enrich our lives and become role models of faith? Do we, as Catholic educators, take the time to nurture and discern our own faith journey?
While the journey is indeed personal, and will be different for everyone, Light of Christ Catholic Schools has ensured that all staff members have an opportunity to explore his or her own faith journey. Opportunities are provided for staff to take the time for self-reflection, spiritual direction and, of course, prayer through a detailed design that includes adding a faith component in our division strategic plan, support from the local school board, and direction from a diverse faith development committee.
It is sometimes difficult to immediately discern the results of one’s faith development. Faith, and the application of it, is deeply personal yet fundamentally important to Catholic education. In addition to our faith guiding all we do in Catholic schools, we are also obliged to be accountable as publically funded schools. Part of this accountability is built into our strategic planning processes.
During the 2013-14 school year, 28 school divisions and the Ministry of Education, developed the first-ever provincial Education Sector Strategic Plan (ESSP). The ESSP is reviewed and updated annually by directors of education, Ministry of Education, and partner organization representatives. The goals and targets therein are then used by school divisions, including Light of Christ Catholic Schools, to develop their division-level and school-level strategic plans.
This alignment has been instrumental in providing focus to the work being done in Saskatchewan schools. Because the ESSP is a provincial plan designed for all school divisions, a faith development component was not included in the plan at the provincial level. So, our division, like other Catholic divisions, developed our own local outcome for our school division strategic plan for faith development and Catholic instruction. The framework used for its development is the same as the provincial framework. It includes actions, deliverables, timelines, measurements for success, and consideration for risk and mitigation.
Four actions key to our success this year are:
o Staff will participate in faith development opportunities in order to be positive faith role models.
o Create opportunities in each of our schools for staff and students to be active in their faith.
o Schools, with the assistance of the faith development committee, will continue to encourage and provide opportunities for staff and students to take part in parish activities.
o Religious education co-ordinator will seek resources to support the religion curriculum.
These actions are further supported with detailed plans including two-and-a-half faith development days that are provided by the school board on an annual basis. In response to a survey of all staff members that was conducted by the faith development committee, one full day is division-wide and one-and-a-half days are school-based. In addition to funding for these faith development days, the board has also committed to provide funding for staff to attend various conferences, workshops, retreats and pilgrimages. All staff are invited to apply for funding.
Through these opportunities, the board is ensuring that all staff have the opportunity to participate in faith development activities in order to become positive faith role models. The belief being, in education, “lifelong learners” are role models in academia; in faith development, “lifelong learners” are role models in our faith.
Though valuable and enlightening, faith development days alone cannot sustain a year’s worth of guidance, encouragement and growth. The faith development committee meets monthly to plan opportunities for staff to explore our faith in unique ways, while being a part of a larger, general theme.
The faith development team is representative of each school in the division, central office staff and the school board members. This ensures two needs are met: the voice of each group is heard and the information regarding opportunities and directives is taken back to the members of each group. The diversity of the committee has allowed the voices, specific needs and ideas of each group to be represented within the whole division. This diversity, along with aligning with the ESSP, has resulted in many opportunities being created for staff and students to be active in their faith: through prayer chains to the creation of prayer books, through family masses to multi-parish “backpack blessing” activities.
Invitation and welcome are key in all that the faith development committee pursues. Also, it was through the faith development committee that the division’s new three-year faith development theme and ongoing mission evolved: Pray, Educate, Serve. An invitation to explore each of the three concepts will become the focus for a school year, beginning with “Pray” in the 2015-2016 year.
While it is sometimes difficult to immediately discern the results of one’s faith development, as Catholic educators we must not neglect nurturing our faith. Our journey is indeed personal, and will be unique for everyone. Having a plan to guide faith development, promoting opportunities provided by the school board and having division-wide representation in planning, Light of Christ Catholic Schools has ensured that all staff members have the opportunity to take time to nurture that growth.
Graw is the Religious Education Co-ordinator for Light of Christ Catholic School Division #16 in North Battleford, Sask.