She comes to school hungry and afraid. He walks the halls alone. Both are noticed by their high school peers, but the latter don’t often know what to do. Some will reach out, some will say a prayer—and thanks to a social justice initiative championed by Calgary’s Catholic high schools, others will mobilize for change.
Organized by the Calgary Catholic School District (CCSD) and its 12 high school chaplains, the second-annual Social Justice Summit is a day-long event designed to inspire Catholic high schoolers who feel called to action, says Cathy Sandau, summit organizer and a consultant with the district’s Religious Education and Family Life department for grades 7 to 12.
“Our high school students are looking for ways to do Christ’s work in their schools and city and the theme of this year’s summit; We are the Hands and Feet of Christ, reinforces that desire.”
A proponent of the summit, Simoni believes the event helps students develop a greater connection to Christ while nurturing their faith through discipleship and evangelization. After last year’s summit, Simoni worked with students at Grandin to launch a social justice initiative to help economically-vulnerable students afford lunch.
Building on the success of a competition staged at last year’s summit, each of the 13 schools at the 2019 summit has been asked to present a 60-second video pitch to earn a $1,000 grant. The money will help the winning school launch or enhance a social justice program of its own. “It’s really wonderful to see what the students come up with,” says Marilou LeGeyt, outreach ministries coordinator with the Calgary Catholic Diocese.
Last year’s top prize went to Bishop Grandin’s affordable lunch program. “One of my favourite pitches was for a peer-to-peer support program for immigrant students at Father Lacombe High School,” recalls LeGeyt.
This year’s grant, sponsored by the Calgary Catholic Education Fund, is called the Bishop Henry Social Justice Grant and Simoni admits he’s excited to see what issues the students decide to tackle.
While the video competition is likely to be one of the summit’s highlights, Sandau is also excited about student reaction to the rest of the program. Participants will attend three of six breakout sessions led the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, L’Arche Calgary, Inn from the Cold, Mission Mexico and Development & Peace. The sixth session will be hosted by Dwight Farahat, a spoken-word poet and songwriter from Siksika First Nation.
Over the lunch break, students will visit a kind of social justice trade fair to interact with representatives from Providence Care Centre, CAWST (Centre for Affordable Water and Sanitation Technology), Calgary Homeless Foundation, Catholic Christian Outreach, Calgary Catholic Immigration Society, NET Ministries and Ten Thousand Villages. The Diocesan social justice department will also be represented, as will one of the Diocese’s major social justice initiatives, Feed the Hungry.
“Our goal is to give students a place to talk to each other about what they’re already doing in their schools and community and to learn what others are doing—and how they might get involved,” says Sandau.
“This is the first year I’ve been involved, and I’m really excited to build on the success of the inaugural year,” adds Sandau. “Young people of faith have so much to offer. It makes sense to connect students with the people and organizations who want their help—and to encourage them to develop new initiatives, too.”
Written by: Joy Gregory
There is no arguing that digital technology has become a way of life for nearly all of us. We use our smartphones, tablets and other devices to stay ‘plugged into’ the world. We connect, we search, we share, we communicate …all through our devices. It is an internet generation, but is it too much? How do we navigate through this digital world and how do we help students do the same?
Christ The Redeemer (CTR) Catholic Schools has launched a new initiative in its 17 schools that focuses on supporting students living in this busy and noisy digital world. As author, speaker and podcaster Matt Fradd puts it, “helping maintain an internal filter in an unfiltered world.”
The purpose of the initiative, called #Relationships in a Digital Age, is to develop both curriculum and school culture which will help students to examine the impact that screen time and smartphones have on their relationships with God and each other, with an overarching personal wellness focus. CTR will challenge students to unplug, be present and look up and notice the world around them.
With support from parents and school staff, students will be able to challenge today’s cultural norms and look thoughtfully into the areas of mental health, relationships, sustained attention and responsible decision-making. There are growing concerns surrounding the increased use of technology by students in our care such as cyberbullying, shaming, sexting and pornography. The motto of #Relationships is: “to create a culture around the use of technology that teaches balance between our digital lives and the lives we lead face-to-face to love in community as God intended.”
Students in our care need support in evaluating the impact of all the “noise” in their lives. Our faith is the logical starting point in developing a response to some of these online safety and relational issues. The first relationship our students need to cultivate is the one with God, followed by Christ’s second greatest commandment, which is love thy neighbour. Drawing on concepts related to the Theology of the Body philosophy and the Fourth R© (relationship) program, lesson sets will be developed for students in Grades 4 to 11, focusing on students' relational safety and personal wellness as it relates to our increasingly online world.
Partnering with parents will be a key part of this initiative. We will share information with parents relating to healthy best practices regarding screen time for the benefit of their toddlers through to the teenage years. The issue of smartphone use becomes something parents should reflect on the moment they consider letting their children access a smartphone. With older children, parents are the school’s key partner in talking to their children about what they are learning in school about screen time and smartphone use.
We were blessed to be the recipients of funds raised at this year’s Bishop’s Dinner. Those funds will help to support this initiative by gathering teachers in the spring of 2019 from Grades 4-11 to create the lesson sets at each grade level. Lesson sets will include detailed plans and developed resources, with implementation scheduled for September 2019. Teacher professional development will be a part of the implementation process.
For more information on this initiative visit http://www.redeemer.ab.ca/Relationships.php
Written by: Cindy Nickerson, Coordinator of Communications
Christ the Redeemer Catholic Schools
Catholic Pastoral Centre Staff and Guest Writers