Lately the phrase “transformational change” has received a lot of attention when it comes to education. If we stop to think about that phrase for a moment, we realize transformational change is what Catholic schools have always been about. While Catholic schools are expected to provide an excellent education for our students, we are also challenged to help students to transform more and more into the image of Jesus Christ. As Sister Clare Fitzgerald puts it, “Catholic schools exist to challenge their students to become saints.”
In Regina Catholic Schools both our staff and students work hard to realize this challenge. In fact, the Grade 6 students at Ecole St. Pius X are so aware of their call to be saints that they have named themselves “the saintly sixes.” Throughout the school year, all Grade 6 students at Ecole St. Pius X volunteer their time to plan liturgies at their school, to assist at masses at Christ the King Parish and to do outreach for community groups.
The saintly students at St. Francis School use the season of Advent as a time to do outreach for their parish and local community. All students engage in projects such as cleaning and decorating St. Cecilia Church and shovelling snow for residents around the school. The saintly sixes students (and their teachers) from across Regina Catholic schools who attend the Youth Liturgical Leadership Program learn the skills to prepare prayers, prayer services and eucharistic celebrations for their own school. Their faith leadership inspires other students at their school to deepen their own faith and become more saintly.
Our high school students are also striving to be saintly. A great example of this is their commitment to supporting the Canadian Catholic charity Chalice. Six years ago our high schools made a pledge to financially support 20 Chalice students in Haiti for a period of 10 years. This would take these Haitian students from Grade 2 all the way through high school graduation. The cost for this would be $20,000 a year.
Though we were concerned that we may not be able to raise this money each year, we decided to take the plunge. We need not have worried. Over the past six years, our high schools have raised almost $250,000, which has allowed them to financially support students from the Philippines as well.
Our high school students have always been willing to leap into events that will make them more saintly, and the LEAP (Leave Everything and Pray) retreat is a shining example of this. In addition to their mandatory grade level retreat each year, students are invited to attend an additional retreat called LEAP. These retreats fill up quickly, which leaves us facing a good problem: “How do we accommodate all the students who want to attend?”
The enthusiasm of our students to become more saintly is a byproduct of our staff who wish to do the same. Each year our staff members must identify a faith goal they wish to work on. At the beginning of each year, our staff meets with their supervisors to set a faith goal and they meet again at the end of the year to celebrate their achievement of this faith goal. On Regina Catholic Schools website there is a section called Staff Faith Formation where staff can search for the latest books, workshops, classes, etc. which will help them to deepen their faith and become more saintly.
In our quest to become more saintly, Regina Catholic Schools takes time each year to acknowledge the saints among us who inspire us to walk more closely with Jesus Christ. For the past seven years on Feb. 2, which is World Day for Consecrated Life, Regina Catholic Schools have sponsored a luncheon for all consecrated men and women. It is truly breathtaking to spend time with these wonderful men and women who have dedicated their lives to the Lord through such diverse ministries as prayer, teaching, pastoring, parish work, and feeding and clothing the poor. One attendee at the luncheon just celebrated her 74th anniversary of religious profession. Such dedication to her vocation, such saintly living, cannot help but inspire others.
Much as this saintly sister inspires us, Regina Catholic Schools strives inspire our staff and students to be agents of transformational change for Christ and to “not be afraid to become the saints of the new millennium” (Saint John Paul II).
Meyers is co-ordinator for Catholic Education Services, Regina Catholic Schools.