Almost 1,000 Catholic educators gather for Faith Development Day 2012 at St. Matthew's Parish
By Doug Lauson
Special to The B.C. Catholic
Before school officially started the Tuesday after Labour Day, almost 1,000 teachers and educators of the Catholic Independent Schools of the Vancouver Archdiocese (CISVA) gathered at St. Matthew's Parish in Surrey Aug. 30.
They were beginning their new school year with a "Faith Development Day," joining in worship and spiritual community with Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB, and Sister Anne Bryant Smollin, CSJ, of Albany, N.Y.
The year's first official professional development day for the 49 schools of the archdiocese began with the celebration of Mass by the archbishop, with Father Augustine Obiwumma, pastor of St. Matthew's Parish, and several other priests of the archdiocese concelebrating.
In his opening address Archbishop Miller began the day by unveiling two archdiocesan initiatives to celebrate the Year of Faith proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI. The Year of Faith will begin around the world Oct. 11, the 50th anniversary of the opening of the second Vatican Council, and end Nov. 25, 2013, the Feast of Christ the King.
The first initiative: "Catholics, Come Home," is a program to bring the many thousands of baptized Catholics in the archdiocese back to the Church. It will involve television commercials designed to remind them of the community and support that Jesus and the Church provide to the faithful.
The second initiative makes use of Youcat, the youth catechism prepared for World Youth Day 2011 in Madrid. It will be used throughout the archdiocese to help catechize the faithful. Every school, parish, and parish-related organization is encouraged to buy copies of Youcat through the parish office at a subsidized discounted price.
Michel Gloanec, a Religious Education consultant for CISVA and the day's leader, introduced the topic by speaking to the archdiocesan theme, "Open Wide the Doors of Faith." Barbara Dowding, the vice chancellor, outlined the details of the "Catholics, Come Home" program and other archdiocesan programs during the Year of Faith.
Lastly, I announced the CISVA initiative challenging students to produce a short video commercial that will illustrate their appreciation for the Catholic Church and inspire people to deepen their faith and their love for Christ.
The school videos will be posted on YouTube and the CISVA and archdiocesan websites, with the winner being selected by the 1,300 attendees at the annual Catholic Educators' Conference at Canada Place in February.
Sister Smollin, the keynote speaker of the Faith Development Day, is a lecturer on spirituality and wellness who holds a doctorate in counselling psychology. The educational coordinator of the Albany Consultation Center, she has previously worked as an adjunct professor at six colleges and institutes.
She has spoken on every continent except Africa, helping people deal with wellness, aging, spirituality, and stress. Sister Smollin spoke to the educators on how they can use joy, humour, and laughter effectively to deal with the stresses of daily life and their vocation as educators.
I have never received so many positive comments from so many people after any workshop we've ever organized before. Sister Anne had them spellbound and rolling in their seats, and that created such a positive tone to the beginning of the new school year. Everyone was smiling and talking about how it was the best workshop they had ever been to.
She practised what she preached; she used humour and laughter to take away the stress of the opening of school next week, and now our 1,250 educators will transmit that joy to their students and parents in the new school year.
Sister Smollin is the author of five best-selling books on her topic, including God Knows You're Stressed; Live, Laugh, and Be Blessed; and Tickle Your Soul.
"We sold out all the books by her we had by lunchtime," said Sandra Marshall, associate superintendent for professional development.
"Sister Anne said in one of her books that you cannot prevent birds of sorrow from flying over your head, but you can prevent them from building nests in your hair. I think today she illustrated to all our teachers that the secret to life is to live it fully and with joy and happiness. I am so grateful to her for reminding us of the joy with which we teach our children."
Doug Lauson is the superintendent of CISVA.