ARCHBISHOP BLESSES THREE NEW REGINA SCHOOLS By Frank Flegel
Archbishop Donald Bolen was kept busy in early September blessing three new schools that officially opened for 2017-2018 school year.
Saint Kateri Tekakwitha School was blessed September 19, Saint Elizabeth School on September 20 and Saint Nicholas School on September 22. Each of these new Catholic schools is partnered with a public school as part of the Saskatchewan Government’s joint-use schools dictum that saw 18 new schools built throughout the Province, in Regina, Saskatoon, Warman and Martensville. All were built under a Public Private Partnership (P3) Model.
Archbishop Bolen spoke briefly at each school prior to the blessing, giving a bit of history of the Saint each school is named for. The ceremony began with students processing into the gymnasium with the school’s cross and placed it in front of the podium. Then the Archbishop and Deacon Joe Lang began the blessing ceremony.
At Saint Kateri Tekakwitha School, the Archbishop told the students that Saint Kateri had a difficult life. “Her parents died when she was very young and she suffered from smallpox that disfigured her face. When she became a Christian, she wasn’t wholly in her Indigenous community and not wholly in the mission community so she lived in two worlds and that was not easy. So, Saint Kateri knows what it is to have a bad day,” said Bolen. He advised the students that if they have a bad day, Saint Kateri is a good person to pray to because she understands.
“As an Indigenous person, Saint Kateri teaches us about reconciliation; she teaches us how to live together,” said Bolen, “She teaches us a new way to live together, to love each other.”
Saint Kateri is a dual-track school teaching in both English and French and is located in the Harbour Landing neighborhood in southwest Regina. The Archbishop used both languages in his pre-blessing talk and his opening prayer for the school.
Saint Elizabeth is a French language immersion school in the newly developed east side of the city, and the Archbishop’s initial remarks were in French. Students learned from the Archbishop that while Saint Elizabeth is a common name among archdiocesan schools and churches most are named after St. Elizabeth of Hungary. “Your school is named after Saint Elizabeth who had a special relationship with Jesus; they were cousins.” He told them the story of how Mary, pregnant with Jesus, went to visit Elizabeth. “Mary was not married and her community wasn’t so sure about that.” Elizabeth welcomed Mary, the Archbishop told the students, and made her feel at home. “So, Elizabeth is a person who welcomes, she welcomes everyone,” said Bolen, but she also recognizes that Jesus is present in Mary. “When we build community, we do well to try and be nice to people but also recognize that Jesus is present in every person we meet.”
It was at Saint Elizabeth where the Archbishop first introduced Maurille Hammond and his wife Alice. Hammond hand sculpted three crosses, each from a single block of wood, each about one metre high, featuring the risen Christ. He donated a cross to each new school. At Saint Nicholas school, Bolen showed off the Bishop’s Shepherd’s Staff also crafted by Hammond and also given as a much appreciated gift.
Saint Nicholas is a single track English school located in the northwest area of Regina. Here the Archbishop engaged the students about what they thought about Saint Nicholas. Students quickly identified him as Santa Claus but Bolen said he was connected to Santa Claus but was not Santa. Bolen said he liked Nicholas because he was a great bishop and Nicholas is the first name of the Archbishop’s grandfather, and went on, “Nicholas is about giving, sharing the gifts that he has been given. He is a helper in his community and you too can be helpers sharing the gifts God has given you and helping in the community.”
The format was similar at each school: Archbishop Bolen began by briefly explaining what Jesus is teaching and talking about in the day’s Gospel, and related those teachings to what they mean to them as students and to their school community. He then blessed an Icon of the Saint whose name the school bears, followed with the blessing of the school cross and the school building. Elder May Desnomie was introduced and she said a prayer in the Cree language. Bolen related her presence to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and gave a brief explanation of the TRC and its importance.
The priests that were in attendance at each school were then invited by Bolen to join him on stage, as well as School Board Trustees who were present for the blessing. Together they extended their right hands in the blessing of the school. As part of his visit to each school, the Archbishop visited and blessed the administration offices and each classroom, briefly engaging the students as he went along; he was accompanied by Deacon Lang who assisted the Archbishop at all three schools.
An official opening for each school took place separately, on another day and time from the blessing. The official opening was an opportunity for politicians, the mayor and city delegates, school board officials, and interested citizens to take part in the opening and a tour of the school.