Regina Archbishop Donald Bolen told a church full of educators that teaching is one of the most fundamental human tasks there are. He celebrated the opening mass for the Regina Catholic School Division to start the 2017-2018 school year. “It is the duty of family and community to teach a newborn child how to live and love and how to be human,” said Bolen. His homily focused on the school division’s theme for the 2017-2018 school year, Let Your Light Shine.
The Archbishop stated, “In the Gospels Christ told his disciples to be the light of the world.” Then he “unpacked” that gospel in terms of the role a teacher plays in Catholic education on behalf of the community and the Church.
What is the light you are to carry? he asked of the more than 1,100 teachers and staff who filled Resurrection Church. “That light is the joy of being alive; it is a deep abiding sense that life is good, that life is blessed. You are beloved sons and daughters of God and every one of the students in front of you is also a beloved child of God. The light you are called to share is the hope within you that whatever happens, God will accompany you and you are safe in God’s hands.”
Students are also the light of the world and he urged that students be taught that. “Let you’re your light shine brightly,” he said, “as you begin a new school year.” He then offered a special blessing for all the new teachers, who he expects, would be excited to begin their teaching vocation after four years of study.
The mass was also an occasion to recognize some special people: winners of the student poster contest depicting the Let Your Light Shine theme; three teachers who received long-service recognition; and the Resurrection parish priest for his 40th year of Ordination.
Archbishop Bolen, was the guest Faith Speaker at a ceremony held after the opening mass; he focused his talk on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).
ARCHBISHOP DONALD BOLEN’S FAITH TALK ON THE TRC
Archbishop Bolen was the Faith Speaker following the Regina Catholic School Division’s opening mass for the 2017-2018 school year held at Resurrection Parish.
Bolen told the teachers and school division staff that the Archdiocese has made healing and reconciliation with our Indigenous brothers and sisters a major pastoral and educational priority, and rejoiced that Regina Catholic Schools shared that priority. He called the TRC a gift that allows us to see our history in a new light. “We need to hear that history and attend to it.”
The TRC doesn’t say everything about the residential schools was bad, said Bolen, but there were waves of pain in the abuse, loss of language and culture, “and we need to see and acknowledge that.” He called the TRC’s recommendations an invitation to engagement with the Church and Catholic schools. He emphasized four points contained in Calls to Action, Numbers 62-65, that made recommendations that spoke to the Church and education.
Make mandatory K-12 curriculum which includes residential schools, treaties, and Aboriginal people’s contributions to Canada.
Learn how to integrate Indigenous knowledge and teaching methods into the classroom.
Address Aboriginal people in Canadian history and legacy of residential schools.
Build student capacity for intercultural understanding, empathy and mutual respect.
The Archbishop emphasized, “faith-based schools such as ours do well to provide an education on comparative religious studies with a segment on Aboriginal spiritual beliefs and practices developed in collaboration with Aboriginal elders.” Some work has been done on this, he said, but much more needs to be done. And it’s not just book learning, he told the educators, but engagement; students need to see that to carry out this healing is to be Catholic, is to be Christian but at the same time do not let a gap form that undermines faith. He complained that some people see faith as incompatible with rigorous thinking, “but to be a critical thinker does not run contrary to the faith; it is part of a mature faith to ask difficult questions, it is not being unfaithful it’s having an intelligent faith,” said the Archbishop. Acknowledging our failings and limitations is not throwing our ancestors under the bus, he said, it’s taking responsibility to be a faithful community of disciples in our day. “Help our students to see that, to see it in action that to be Church is to be in dialogue.” The Church also carries a light, a light the world needs to hear, said Archbishop Bolen.