Archbishop Richard Smith speaks at Edmonton Catholic Schools' Faith Development Day Feb. 4.

WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ

Archbishop Richard Smith speaks at Edmonton Catholic Schools' Faith Development Day Feb. 4.

February 17, 2014
RAMON GONZALEZ
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

The Church wants to set Catholic teachers up for success both professionally and personally, Archbishop Richard Smith said at the recent Faith Development Day of Edmonton Catholic Schools.

"You are setting the students up for success; you want them to succeed," the archbishop told some 3,000 school employees at Shaw Conference Centre.

"What I invite you to think about is that what you do for your students, the Church wants to do for you. We want to set you up for success. And we want to do that both professionally in your role as a teacher but also personally in your life as disciples."

Smith, along with Bishop Greg Bittman and the Father Stephen Wojcichowsky, chancellor of the Edmonton Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy, presided at the Faith Development Day liturgy Feb. 4.

Throughout his homily, Smith highlighted things he has observed in his visits to Catholic schools.

One is that he has seen the staff's love for their students. "You want them to succeed and to me this is to me a clear sign of your love for your students," the archbishop said.

"I tell the students, 'Do you realize that your teachers love you?' The young ones say, 'No problem with that.' As they get older they say, 'How can someone who gives us so much homework love us?' But you do love the students and you are setting them up for success."

AUTHENTIC DISCIPLES

Smith said school staff have a vocation to lead students to Jesus and to become authentic disciples of Jesus. They do that both by word and example.

"So it is incumbent upon us to continually examine our lives not just from a professional perspective but even more importantly from a personal one."

A school visit by the archbishop has a number of elements, at the centre of which is the liturgical celebration. The archbishop also likes to sit down with the principal, administration and teachers. "We talk about how things are going, how can we enhance the identity of the school."

But the highlight of the visit is meeting the students. At those meetings, the students gather together and ask him questions, and he poses questions to them.

The questions are typical of the age. For the young ones, K to 6, the questions range from 'What's your name?' and 'Do you have brothers and sisters?' to 'Do you have a pet?' and the inevitable 'How old are you?'"

When Smith tells them his age he gets the inevitable response, "Wow!"

SUFFERING CHILDREN

Often when Smith visits a school he finds pain. "You know that there are an awful lot of children out there that are suffering and hurting?"

One time he chatted with the custodian who was noticing more and more students coming early to school and leaving late because they found the school safer than their homes.

"That's why, the custodian said, the teachers grapple with students getting increasingly anxious on a Friday afternoon because those students know they have to face two full days at home. How sad is that!"

Smith said, "I'm sure that there are many days when you go home, like I went home that day, anguished for what you see among the students."

The most important follow-up that one can do for those children, he said, "is to bring them to the Lord for whom they are even more precious and beloved. And trust that Jesus in his power will bring about change in their lives."