October 7, 2013

EDMONTON – Catholics have a sacred obligation to make "an informed, moral choice" when voting for the trustees charged with governing Catholic schools, say the Alberta bishops.

They should cast their ballots "in a spirit of prayer and in accord with an informed conscience," the bishops said in their pastoral letter, dated Sept. 28, and read at Masses across the province on the Sept. 28-29 weekend.

School trustees themselves should be notable for their "fidelity to the Church, its teaching and its leaders," the bishops say.

Trustees will be elected in the municipal elections held throughout Alberta Oct. 21.

The bishops say the Church and the electorate entrust Catholic trustees with the serious responsibility of governance. Catholic trustees are entrusted with rights, duties and responsibilities by both the Alberta School Act and the Church's canon law.

Trustees, then, must both possess exceptionable governance skills and be people of faith who are committed to the Church and her mission, the bishops say.

Catholic schools, they continue, are places for pursuing academic excellence and for nurturing the entire person. It is also an instrument of the Church's evangelization, apostolate and pastoral action.

To be responsible for overseeing those schools, trustees "must possess attributes consistent with faith in Christ," the bishops say. They must be disciples of Christ who fully participate in the life of the Church and are engaged in the community.

Trustees must also forge trusting relationships among fellow trustees, staff, students, parents, clergy and parishioners, they say.

Catholics have an obligation to be involved in the political process, they conclude.

In regards to school trustees, this means they should select leaders who ensure that the schools are formed in Christ's values as taught by the Church.

In an interview, Edmonton Archbishop Richard Smith said the Alberta bishops simply wanted to remind people "of some key principles to bring to their discernment" on deciding which trustee candidates to vote for.

"Clearly for us, Catholic education is a precious gift; it needs to be governed appropriately in accordance with the Gospel and the teaching of the Church," Smith said.

Bishops' conferences have issued similar documents prior to federal and provincial elections, and the Alberta conference decided it would be appropriate to issue a similar document for school trustee elections, he said.

Smith said the bishops also want to encourage Catholics to vote in the election. "That's the other side of the letter – to encourage people to be involved in the political process."