PHOTO | JANUSZ WOJCIK
Youth liturgical dance group — The Monsignor Dancers — featuring dancers from Msgrs. William Irwin and Fee Otterson schools in Edmonton interpret the song You Raise Me Up to More Than I Can Be.
Bells rang, children sang, and dancers swayed at the buoyant celebration marking Catholic Social Services' first annual mission day on May 13.
The date was chosen because it is the birthdate of CSS founder the late Msgr. William Irwin.
The inaugural event was a time to not only celebrate, but also reflect upon the agency's values and its mission: to enhance human well-being in a spirit of truth, justice, freedom and solidarity.
Monsignor William Irwin Elementary School, where the celebration took place, was an ideal venue, said Edmonton Catholic Schools Superintendent Joan Carr: "Students have the chance to experience what a mission is."
The first of two programs took place at a school assembly on a brilliant and breezy afternoon.
Principal Reny Clericuzio's observation that "every child understands a birthday party," was evident to the hundreds in attendance. Balloons and multi-coloured artwork lined the gym walls.
A reading of the parable of the Good Samaritan and intercessions based upon the mission day prayer provided inspirational balance to the program's rousing musical performances, including the angelic chimes of bell-ringers, a special song composed in Father Bill's honour and a heartfelt rendition of Go Make a Difference.
A performance by youth liturgical dance troupe The Monsignor Dancers - incorporating movement, ribbon sticks, sign language, and the soundtrack to You Raise Me Up - graced the occasion.
At the reception to follow, students led visitors on school tours, and all were offered the other trademark of a good birthday celebration: cupcakes.
"One student asked me, 'Why are we celebrating the birthday of someone who's dead?'" said Clericuzio. "I told her, we're celebrating the legacy he left behind."
That legacy is 50 years of providing social services to 60,000 clients of all faiths and cultures, each and every year, through the ministry of over 1,200 employees and 1,900 volunteers.
CSS Chief Executive Officer Christopher Leung expressed his appreciation for the mission day.
"We've been talking about this occasion as a way to refresh and remind ourselves of the original vow of our founder Father Bill," said Leung.
"As time goes by, we could lose the message he gave us, but because of mission day, our commitment to serve people will remain with us."
"Mission day will lead us into our next 50 years," said Muriel Dunnigan, CSS board chair, at the formal program later that afternoon.
"On an annual basis, we'll have a concrete time to remember Father Bill's hard work, compassion, and genuine desire to make the community a better place to live."
CSS will mark its 50th anniversary with several celebrations throughout the year. In addition to its annual meeting on June 24, the agency plans an anniversary Mass and commissioning celebration, and a series of "Parties in the Park" for staff, volunteers, clients and supporters throughout central and northeast Alberta.