A Statement from Chairperson Patrick J. Daly on behalf of the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board:
More than fifty years ago, the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board implemented an inclusionary model of education that integrated students with special education needs into mainstream schools. It was called “Each Belongs.”
The philosophy flowed from our Catholic faith teachings and the understanding that each person is created in the image of Our Loving God.
“Each Belongs” continues to be associated with our special education program, but more, over the years it has become emblematic of our Catholic Christian view of the world – the sure belief that each person, without exception, is a gift from God. When each belongs, we all belong.
Today, the HWCDSB remains as committed as ever to the principles and practices of equity, inclusion and diversity and to the building of Catholic Christian Community in our administrative buildings and schools.
In his recent Pastoral Letter on the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Heart Speaks to Heart, the Archbishop of Toronto, Cardinal Thomas Collins, invites us to listen even more intently to Our Lord: “Especially in these tempestuous times we have a mission, received in Baptism and Confirmation, to move outward with compassionate love, in the imitation of Christ, to share his healing love.”
Indeed, the times afford us, in the words of Pope Francis, “a precious opportunity to guide and govern the processes now under way, and to build inclusive societies based on respect for human dignity, tolerance, compassion and mercy.”
In that spirit, this past year the HWCDSB has established an Anti-Bullying Committee and an Anti-Racism Education Committee to guide our efforts in doing all we can to support our schools and board buildings in ensuring that all students and staff feel welcomed, safe and supported. Our work is informed by a mission statement that recognizes the value and uniqueness of each person: Our mission in Hamilton-Wentworth “is to enable all learners to realize the fullness of humanity of which Our Lord Jesus Christ is the model.”
We know that people are only able to experience their fullness of humanity when injustice, mistreatment, stigmatization, discrimination and marginalization are eradicated. Bullying or rejection on the basis of sexual orientation, gender, appearance, race, religion, economic status, ability or any other reason, is not and will never be tolerated in our Catholic schools and board buildings.
As we reflect on the social injustices we have witnessed in our community and around the world, we challenge our students and staff and ourselves, as Catholic School Trustees, to be courageous. We challenge each of us to faithfully confront injustices, racism, oppression and violence in our schools and board buildings. This is imperative for both students and staff if we are to ensure wellbeing for all. We cannot turn a blind eye.
Our premise is centered not only on creating an environment of equity and inclusivity, but a way of living. That way of living is best expressed in our most fundamental Catholic symbol: the cross.
“The love represented by the cross is … centered not on self, but on others,” indicated the Archdiocese of Toronto in a May 4, 2021 reflection on inclusivity and acceptance. “The cross outside of Catholic schools and any Catholic church, hospital or institution, signals our commitment that all who enter the building are welcomed and loved in their beauty and uniqueness as children of God.”
Together, we stand united in the conviction that “Each Belongs.”
“If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it; it one part is honoured, all the parts share its joy” (1 Corinthians 12:26)
Just as we belong to God, we belong to each other.