Fr. Leo English
SASKATOON — Never take Catholic education for granted, urged a priest who saw publicly-funded Catholic education in his home province wiped out.
“We took what we had for granted. This is an all-too-common practice, Saskatoon,” said Redemptorist Father Leo English, of St. John’s, Nfld. “Do not take what you have for granted, because there are storms everywhere.”
At an opening celebration for the Greater Saskatoon Catholic School district’s 100th year of operation, English gave an overview of the 1998 loss of and the impact on the community.
Contributing factors that helped bring about the demise of Catholic schools in Newfoundland, included the “soul piercing and gut wrenching” revelations about sexual abuse by clergy, and a complacency that assumed the constitutional rights to Catholic education were untouchable.
“Complacency at so many levels led to an inadequate response,” English said.
“Work and pray for a genuine political involvement from committed Catholics at every level of government,” he urged.
English described Catholic education as a process of holistic formation that helps one navigate the stormy seas of life.
“A well-rounded individual on the prairie or on the banks of Newfoundland must have an internal compass connected to a belief system larger than all of us,” he said.
Catholic identity is grounded in the paschal mystery, he said. “It is about who we are, baptized into the death and resurrection of Jesus, so as to rise to the newness of life with him.
English urged all those involved in Catholic education to ground their lives in faith. Faith has “less to do with finding answers and more to do with finding the grace to live with questions,” he said.
In addressing the question, “What can I do to foster Catholic education?” individuals may wrestle with a number of scenarios, including a mistaken belief that this is “only a job” as opposed to a call from God.
“The teaching vocation is fundamentally about example and the life we lead,” English said.
He encouraged those involved in Catholic education to pursue a relationship with a loving God and to work at deepening their understanding and experience of their Catholic faith.
“The quality of our living and the way we treat each other” is critical in our faith journey, he said. “Never let it be said that Catholic education imploded by cynicism, infighting and spite.”
English urged educators to take advantage of faith enrichment resources, including a Catholic newspaper, a lay formation program, adult faith education at the Catholic Pastoral Centre, and the offerings at Queen’s House of Retreats.
“Coming from a land where none of these resources I mentioned exist, I remind you that you have a treasure at your fingertips,” English said.