I left the task of dressing Frank in football equipment until 5 minutes before we had to leave for practice and the pressure was on. My anxiety stemmed from my own football days in which being late for practice was punishable by a variety of creative endurance challenges. When we finally made it to the field 10 minutes late, I was half-relieved that the coach did not demand that I run sprints with one of Frank's 8-year-old teammates on my back.
As our bobble-headed children ran drills in the field, I joined other parents on the sideline, where the typical introductory remarks occurred. Learning that I was a local Catholic school principal, two parents recounted their own Catholic education as they were both alumni of Catholic schools in Alberta.
Obviously, most people do not wish to discuss negative experiences with total strangers, however in my experience, without solicitation, many people enthusiastically share the memories of their Catholic education.
Often it is said of Catholic schools in Alberta that "they feel different" from their public counterparts. This feeling is usually attributed to the obvious religiosity of the building or Holy Spirit's activity in our midst. Since moving further south in Alberta, I have decided that Catholic school alumni also "feel different." Though a bit mysterious and difficult to define, based on many spontaneous conversations, I think that Catholic education in Alberta, at its best, gives students the opportunity to witness Christ's Kingdom being built daily...and it sticks with them.
Most people have some sense of the trappings and routines of catholicity in our schools. While the formalized religious and liturgical programming feeds our spirit and identity, there is an equally important "spiritual osmosis" that occurs to students from the teachers, parents, and priests who model how Catholics think and act in daily life.
The products of Kingdom building are seen in the police officer who still attends school masses and remembers the prayers from his years in Catholic school. The parent who arrived in Canada as a refugee from Bosnia and "prays like a Catholic" because of her schooling, despite being Muslim. A community coach who leads pre-game prayer, because "that's what we always did." The volunteer driver with a van full of teenage boys, who crosses herself when driving by a cemetery or church. The innumerable stories of teenage shenanigans met with merciful responses of both Catholic parents and teachers working to restore peace and justice.
These little conversations are a grace to me knowing that educators, parents, and clergy rarely see the fruits of their work. They are indicators of our students meeting Jesus and being a part of his Kingdom while in our schools. It is an education that sticks with them and reveals God's love.
Catholic Pastoral Centre Staff and Guest Writers