Called - The Founders (1992-1999)
The formation and foundation of a Catholic School in Brooks began in the early 1990s and rested in the hands of a small group of advocates from St Mary’s parish. They organized and conducted a census of the entire Brooks community. Then they hosted three separate votes in 1992, 1993 and 1995. Yes, three votes! It took those three votes, countless conversations, endless prayers, times of challenge, moments of deep reflection and, without doubt, movement of the Holy Spirit to bring Catholic Education to the community of Brooks.
Change is difficult and for the many Catholics and non-Catholics in the town of Brooks in the early 90s the idea of opening a Catholic school where none had existed before was not only daunting but divisive. The public school system in Brooks was excellent and had always been the only school system, and so, perhaps at the heart of the controversy was the question, “Why do they need a Catholic school? Isn’t the education in Brooks good enough for all our kids?”
Public schools are our neighbour's, our colleagues and our friends. Catholic education is not against public education. Catholic education is for Jesus. It is for Christ-centred, faith based, fully permeated learning that calls every person involved to know God, to love God, and to serve Him.
Finally, in November 1995 the Catholic community voted in favour of Catholic education. A decision was made to join Christ the Redeemer Catholic School Division. A trustee was elected and a name for the new school was chosen: Holy Family Academy. Those early founders were resolute and faithful advocates. They were prayerful visionaries. Their sacrifices ensured that children in Brooks had access to Catholic education.
Entrusted - The Builders (1999-2002)
By 1999 Holy Family Academy had +300 students in grade K-9 and a decision was made to form St Joseph’s Collegiate that September. The need for space was crucial and a rally attended by 650 people demonstrated to the government that Catholic Education in Brooks was on the move and growing. Portables were added and the government announced that they would approve an expansion and modernization of the existing buildings.
When you are growing a school, every decision is foundational. Faith events and prayer experiences became the norm. Staff gathered daily for prayer; school masses were held at the church, monthly adoration was embraced, the liturgical year was celebrated, the school décor reflected faith and classroom prayer corners were central to each classroom’s prayer rituals. Teacher faith days, Living Rosary, Stations of the Cross and parent prayer groups created a community of faith. St Joseph’s Grad Retreat became an essential faith experience for all graduates. A two day, overnight retreat became a transformational experience for students and one that would affect them in life changing ways. 26 students crossed the stage June 2002 to become St Joseph's first graduating class.
Gathered - The Leaders (2002-2014)
Over the next dozen years excellent, faith-filled teachers continued to deepen student learning and shape student faith. St Jude’s chapel was built and the furniture from St Jude’s Church in Tilley brought a legacy and possibilities for intimate worship to the Catholic Schools. Bishop Henry blessed and approved the chapel as a sacred space to house Jesus in the Eucharist. Morning staff prayer, daily student and classroom prayer, adoration and special services could take place with this additional space.
St Luke’s Outreach, a CTR Catholic Outreach School based in Okotoks, recognized the need for such programming in the Brooks’ community and in 2008 opened a campus in Brooks and became a living testament to its motto to “leave not one heart behind”.
In the course of these years new students arrived from around the world including Sudan, Nigeria and other African nations. Many students and families were refugees, often bringing a history of trauma and refugee camps with them.
Brooks’ meat packing plant continued to hire skilled workers from around the globe and our school enrolment rose dramatically. Students from Latin America, Philippines and Eastern Europe arrived, many of them speaking no or very little English. The student population was changing rapidly. Investment was made in resources and professional development. The ELL population in Brooks’ schools has been a gift to our community and has enriched all aspects of our community.
Inspired - The Witnesses (2014-2021+)
In 2014, Brooks’ fourth Catholic school opened. Christ the King Academy became a 5-8 Middle School. St Joseph’s Collegiate was modified to a 9-12 school and Holy Family Academy served K-4. The old 1960s portion of the schools was demolished and In 2015 Christ the King opened in a brand new two-story facility.
Brooks’ Catholic Schools serve students from around the world. With a total population of just under 1,100, Brooks’ Catholic Schools continue to witness faith in their schools, parish and larger community. Teachers from across Canada continue to be hired in Brooks. They bring their love of God and their vocational call to teach, with them.
Catholic education has been instrumental in the new evangelization of our Church. Brooks RCIA and RCIC classes have been thriving. Strong links between St Mary’s parish and Brooks’ Catholic schools have drawn many children and adults to seek baptism and confirmation in the Catholic Church. Many cite their involvement with Catholic education as the reason for their desire to join the Church. Teachers and staff lead Catholic formation classes and serve as Godparents and Sponsors. They are witnesses and role models.
Catholic education in Brooks was started by a small group of courageous advocates. More than 25 years later, much has changed yet the essentials have stayed the same. A deep, committed and unwavering faith in God is the reason for our schools. Each child who has passed through our doors or crossed our graduation stage has been steeped in a culture of God’s love. Each teacher and staff member who has served as an educator these past 25 years has grown on their own journey of faith and learning.
God does not call the qualified, he qualifies the called and He has called all stakeholders in Catholic education to know Him, to serve Him and to love Him. He has called each one of us in the Brooks’ Catholic School community to grow stronger, grow deeper and reach higher for His sake and the sake of our children.
Catholic Pastoral Centre Staff and Guest Writers