Dan Svitich

Dan Svitich

Strengthening partnerships, faith and serving students

This month's STAR Catholic column speaks to faith and the Catholic school system.

In Catholic schools, all of us are on a faith journey. Each of us is at a different stage of that journey, but we know that sacraments are crucial milestones along the path.

At St. Thomas Aquinas Roman Catholic School Division, as with Catholic schools throughout Alberta, we partner with parents and parishes to aid in preparing and celebrating sacraments as youth grow in faith and relationship with Christ.

We know that the home and parents are the first educators of children, and that includes in faith. Our schools around STAR Catholic offer sacramental preparation to provide resources and opportunity for families who want their children to partake in sacramental life and have their faith ignited.

These sacraments include everything from Baptism, through a child’s first Holy Communion to first reconciliation and their Confirmation.

Just last year, 15 students in STAR Catholic’s Lacombe school Father Lacombe Catholic School joined in faith for Baptism. These students were from Kindergarten to Grade 5 and gathered together for a Baptismal Mass with family, classmates, teachers, staff and the parish community. Through the offering of the Sacramental Education Initiative children seven-years-old and younger learned about praying the rosary, prayer and faith building activities, while older children learn the same but also completed two additional preparation classes per week.

The idea for a Baptismal Mass for all those students came from the students and their families themselves. It was an astonishing display of community and faith.

Although this may be a stand out event, sacramental preparation happens in all of our schools. In Grade 2, parents choose whether their child will receive Holy Communion and our schools partner with parishes and parents in preparing students to receive Christ through the Eucharist.

This preparation only truly works through a partnership between the home, school and parish. The parents, wanting to strengthen their child in faith, begin this process as witnesses in faith themselves. They contact the parish and request sacramental preparation, and immerse themselves in the preparation process with their child. The schools, through our wonderful and dedicated staff, relate the Good News to students in a meaningful way. They are familiar with and support the catechesis taking place in the parish and home and often serve as a facilitator of sacramental prep between the home and the parish. Meanwhile, the parish encourages and supports parents in forming and welcoming them into full participation in the sacramental life of the church.

These specific roles through the Sacramental Education Initiative set forth by the Archdiocese of Edmonton and offered through the gift of Catholic education in STAR Catholic Schools creates a close personal relationship between youth and Christ. But in addition, through this process, we build those connections between our parents, our schools and our parishes and strengthen the communities we serve.

Dan Svitich dan.svitich@starcatholic.ab.ca is a Ponoka Trustee on the STAR Catholic Schools Division Board. STAR Catholic Schools has more than 3,900 students in 11 schools located in Beaumont, Drayton Valley, Leduc, Lacombe, Ponoka and Wetaskiwin.