By Submitted Article on February 19, 2020.
Many families new to Canada in general, and specifically to the province of Alberta, are not aware that Catholic education is publicly funded in Alberta. Those who come to us from abroad know that, in many cases in their home country, Catholic education, or any faith-based education for that matter, comes with very high tuition fee rates in order to access a private education, making it virtually impossible to enrol in any such school system unless one is very wealthy.
Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario are the only Canadian provinces where publicly funded taxpayer dollars provide K-12 Catholic education at no cost to families whose children qualify to be educated in our province, whether Catholic or non-Catholic. Established by the Grey Nuns in 1859, Catholic education began in Lac St. Anne, Alta., more than 160 years ago. This rich, vibrant tradition has continued to this day.
Not unlike our public school neighbours, we pride ourselves in providing welcoming, caring, safe and respectful schools as well as a place where literacy, numeracy and critical thinking, amongst other skills, are taught and reinforced on a daily basis. What distinguishes our Catholic schools from those of the public systems is that our Catholic faith is permeated throughout all curricula and programs. In so doing, we are not only sharing knowledge, skills and attitudes with our children and students, but more importantly, we are developing and fostering the whole person in terms of body, mind and spirit.
In our system, and other Catholic jurisdictions across the province, we are guided by Five Marks of a Catholic School. These fundamental understandings provide the basis of our very existence, beginning with the first, where we believe that each person was created in the image and likeness of God. As such, we view each and every individual with inherent dignity as a precious child of God. Our schools have visibly and intentionally marked spaces that allow for prayer and liturgical celebrations. Our faith is permeated or infused into the academic curriculum within the learner outcomes and teaching strategies. We view staff as those who provide witness to the Gospel and live as intentional disciples of Jesus Christ. Further, we recognize that each stakeholder is responsible for the common good.
After 29 years in various Catholic education divisions, both within Alberta and abroad, I moved to the public system for four years with a small jurisdiction that was very progressive and innovative. While I truly enjoyed this experience, there was one very noticeable void for me – the ability to practise and declare my faith in schools. Returning to Holy Spirit Catholic schools provided the opportunity to share my beliefs about our faith, primarily through the gift of prayer. When individuals within our community are experiencing troubles and hardships, we collectively turn to God and offer intentions and prayer for them. How better to support one in need than to offer up a prayer? What a beautiful and faith-filled gift that Catholic education provides.
Ken Sampson is Superintendent of Holy Spirit Catholic School Division