Students from St. Francis of Assisi School in Edmonton, accompanied here by Kathy Dekker and Sandra Talarico, have sent a video to Pope Francis inviting him to visit their school.

WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ

Students from St. Francis of Assisi School in Edmonton, accompanied here by Kathy Dekker and Sandra Talarico, have sent a video to Pope Francis inviting him to visit their school.

March 31, 2014
RAMON GONZALEZ
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

You never know but if Pope Francis shows up in Edmonton, the credit should go to St. Francis of Assisi Catholic School in Edmonton's northeast.

The 264-student elementary school recently sent the beloved pontiff a video invitation to their school. Principal Kathy Dekker would love if the pope came but she would settle for a response from him by the end of June.

"We are a perfect match," Dekker says, explaining that, in addition to having the same name, both the pope and the school care deeply for the needy.

"Because the pope has chosen Francis as his name we talk about the pope much more than we had in the past," noted Dekker. "There are a lot of similarities between what we are doing for our families and what the pope is asking people to do for families."

The idea of the invitation began to take shape last year after Dekker heard a talk by Archbishop Richard Smith where the archbishop encouraged schools to reach out and help needy students.

At Francis School, a large number of students receive extra supports from the school. So Dekker decided to invite the archbishop to meet the students. He visited the school Oct. 3, just before St. Francis of Assisi Day.

Previous to the archbishop's visit, Dekker had a talk with Superintendent Joan Carr and jokingly said to her: "First the archbishop, next the pope." The superintendent thought that was a fabulous idea and Dekker began to work on the idea.

"I talked to the staff and students about it and we just talked about how we were going to invite the pope to our school," she recalled.

"So having that the pope took our name, we have talked to our students about that and the fact we had to do something special for St. Francis of Assisi Day by having the archbishop come and talk to us."

Sandra Talarico from Edmonton Catholic was sent to St. Francis School to help develop an invitation to the pope.

"She came over and we brainstormed ideas and we thought the best way to do this would be to do it as a video to invite the pope and to emphasize in the video the good works that we are doing with our students," explained Dekker.

"So we started the video by doing some taping of the archbishop's visit."

The pair then developed a script and sat down with students Anten Isy and Sadie Whiteknife, both 10, who read it.

The video begins with several students saying "Hello" to the pope in different languages, from Cree to Spanish to Tagalog to various African languages.

Then it displays the classrooms and the students, emphasizing that St. Francis School houses students from many cultures, including 150 aboriginal children.

"Our school has programs to support students and families," says one of the young presenters. "These include a breakfast program, a hot lunch program, small group learning format and language arts, Cree language and cultural program, after-school clubs and even programs for families."

There are scenes of students, teachers and families in different activities throughout the video, which was professionally shot by Edmonton Catholic videographer Allan Au.

"Superintendent Joan Carr and St. Francis of Assisi School along with all the 37,000 students in the district continue to pray for you and your ministry," a smiling Sadie Whiteknife tells the pope.

"Maybe on your next visit to Edmonton you could visit our school," adds student Anten Isy.

The video was sent to Pope Francis in January.