A good attitude can lead to a full and happy life.
That was the key message at this year’s Parent Conference, whose theme, “Weaving the Catholic Partnership” celebrated the more than 160-year partnership of parish, home and school.
Held at Bishop Ryan Catholic Secondary School on November 3, the annual conference – which included a mass, keynote address, exhibits, workshops and a lunch – was designed to affirm and support parents in their role as first educators of their children.
Welcoming parents and educators to this year’s 26th annual Parent Conference, Parent Conference Committee Co-chair Michelle Daoust suggested that “when family, home and church work together great things can be accomplished.”
In a general address earlier this year, Pope Francis encouraged parents and educators to collaborate openly and constructively to form children in core values. “This message is the very essence of our coming here today,” said co-chair Daiana Eberts.
“We are gathered today to strengthen the ties between the home, the school and the church. These partnerships are collaborative relationships that involve all members of the community. They are the cornerstones of a strong foundation for ‘Weaving the Catholic Partnership’ in our children’s lives.”
“Let us all continue to do our part to influence and mold the precious gift of our children so that they may reach the fullness of humanity,” she invited.
In words of greeting on behalf of the Board of Trustees, Chairperson Patrick Daly quoted from another important source, the Catholic Bishops of Ontario’s pastoral letter on Catholic education, Renewing the Promise.
“Using the gospel story of the disciples’ journey on the way to Emmaus, the bishops wrote that our Christ-centred schools have the ability to offer the same experience of inviting joyful discipleship for staff, students and families,” said Daly.
“And the ultimate goal of this conference, in terms of forming partnerships, is to nurture and strengthen a truly Catholic community which allows our schools to support parishes and most especially, families in inviting their children to be joyful disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
By coming out on a Saturday, he continued, “as parents you are not only showing that you love your children, but that Catholic education is a big part of your vocation as Catholic parents.”
Adding that the bishops, in Renewing the Promise, also described Catholic schools as “places where children and young people encounter Jesus and where they are encouraged to enter more deeply into a personal relationship with him,” Director of Education David Hansen said that that is the primary reason that parents choose Catholic schools for their children.
“Because the difference is right there, it’s in the encounter with Christ.”
“So as we think about ‘Weaving the Catholic Partnership,’ what is it we can do as parents?” he asked. “We are the first and most important educators for our children. We’re the first church, the first school, and we’ll always be that for our children.”
Reminding parents that while they have a right to Catholic education for their children, they must vigilantly protect that right.
“We should be attentive to all aspects of education,” he urged parents, “but because the encounter with Christ is so important, we should be especially attentive to the faith education at our Catholic schools.”
“Be involved,” was his final appeal. “Be supportive, be thankful, offer praise and ask questions. But be actively involved. I think today shows that you’re going to do that.”
Mass celebrant Bishop Crosby joined in with own parenting advice.
Listing the three attitudes fundamental to a full and happy life, the bishop said they were not only important lessons for parents to teach their children, but to develop in their own lives.
The first was gratitude. “Every day we wake up is a blessing and our first response must be thank you,” he said. “In fact it becomes the first prayer of the day – thank you.”
“Prayers don’t have to have lots of words. A grateful heart and a quiet whisper of thank you is a beautiful, beautiful prayer.”
He added that having an attitude of gratitude does three things: it stops us from taking things for granted; it stops us from feeling entitlement; and it drives away misery.
“If you want a joyful day, be grateful. You can’t be grateful and miserable at the same time. You can’t be; it’s impossible. They’re mutually inclusive.”
The second attitude flows from gratitude. “If I’m grateful, it is because I have received something. If I have received something, I have the duty to be generous in turn.”
Apart from giving our time, talent and treasure, we can also be generous by affirming others, said Bishop Crosby.
“To affirm another person is to bless them.”
He added that while it doesn’t cost anything to offer a kind word, for the person being affirmed, it can mean the world.
“Young people long to hear that they’re good and especially from parents; they long to hear it and they need to hear it,” said the bishop. “And parents, that’s your big duty, to make sure your children know how good they are.”
Teachers have the same effect, he noted. “All it takes is one adult and how powerful that is when it is your parent. So be generous and affirming; it’s a power attitude to nurture.”
The third attitude was sacrifice – what Bishop Crosby called “generosity on steroids.”
“That’s when you find out your children are really maturing, when they have the capacity to consider the other first.”
He pointed to the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus’ life.
“And what is our response to that? Our response is gratitude. Thank you. Full circle.”
That’s what we do at mass, he noted: we give thanks.
“Nurture these three attitudes in your life and I promise you, you will life full, good and happy lives, he said in parting words.
The Mass was followed by a keynote address by Allen Croxall, President of Tools for Life Corporation, on social emotional learning in the classroom and home. The day concluded with two morning workshops and a light lunch.
The Parent Conference was attended by more than 130 parents and educators.