Reflecting on the words of the Ontario Catholic Bishops in their 1988 pastoral letter, “This Moment of Promise,” re-elected Chairperson Patrick Daly, in his Initial Address at the December 5 Initial Meeting of the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board, called them “an important reminder that although the current reality of Catholic Education has changed, the mission remains the same.”
He added that trustees, who have pledged this year to ‘Renew the Promise’ of publicly funded Catholic education, must look at emerging trends in order to prepare for a much different future and ensure our schools remain vibrant.
“I identify these emerging trends so as to contribute to the dialogue of ‘Renewing the Promise,’ and to help to ensure Catholic schools ‘maintain vitality’ and are well prepared for a different future,” said Daly. “I do so as well to encourage conversation and action at both the system and school level. Finally, I do so out of my understanding of the critical importance of Christian witness in the realization of our mission and appreciation for the distinct vocations and outstanding service of teachers and other staff.”
It is in this context that he suggested the Board study the impact of emerging trends, which include increased centralization, an increased decline in social structures, as well as an increased reliance on technology.
The first two, Daly said, can serve to diminish local autonomy/flexibility and community, both of which are crucial to the realization of the mission of Catholic education in Hamilton-Wentworth. Increased centralization is the result of policies at the provincial level, board and school level, and together with other forces, has diminished participation in many important social structures.
Suggesting that challenges are also opportunities, he urged Catholic schools to harness the unique partnership of home, school and church to support and promote opportunities for Adult Faith Formation.
Indicating that academic and co-curricular excellence is one of the pillars upon which Catholic education has been built, Daly added that another hallmark of Catholic education has been its commitment to programs in support of the disadvantaged and hurting, such as the Equal Opportunities Initiative, Mental Health, and Each Belongs.
Faith formation and spiritual renewal form an essential component of this vision, he added, commending teachers and other staff whose efforts have ensured that all students realize their fullness of humanity of which Jesus Christ is the model.
Citing the third emerging trend – the increased use of technology – the Chairperson suggested that here technology and social media present a very real opportunity in promoting the faith, particularly with older students and adults.
Daly concluded his address with words of thanks to Bishop Crosby, his fellow Trustees, Director of Education David Hansen, Associate Director of Corporate Services Paola Pace-Gubekjian and members of Senior Administration, clergy and religious sisters, principals/vice-principals, administrative support staff, teachers and school staff, and parents and students “whose active engagement is central to the realization of the mission of our school system.”
Quoting Pope Francis, Daly recited: “We cannot live without hope and education generates hope. In fact, education gives birth, it helps grow, it’s part of the dynamic of giving life.”
“It is my prayer that our decisions this year and commitment to faith formation serve to inspire hope and contribute to the crucially important cause of ‘Renewing the Promise’ of the precious gift of publicly funded Catholic Education,” he added.
In other business, John Valvasori, Trustee for Ward 8, was elected Vice-Chairperson of the Board and Tony Perri, Trustee for Wards 3 & 4, was elected Chairperson of the Religion, Family Life and Instructional Services Committee.