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A few schools open their doors to religious women and men in the Archidiocese of Edmonton.

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Throughout Canada many events took place to help the entire Church recognize the invitation of Pope Francis to “look to the past with gratitude, to embrace the present with passion and to embrace the future with hope”.

In the Archdiocese of Edmonton a committee was formed to brainstorm ideas and to put them into action. One idea that generated a great deal of excitement and enthusiasm was the decision to go into the grade eight and twelve classrooms to talk about consecrated life. Why grade eight (13-14 years of age) and grade twelve (17-18 years of age) ? The curriculum for these two grades includes a module entitled “vocation” so it seemed a perfect fit.

The committee established teams to go into the four quadrants of the Edmonton and our neighbouring communities of Sherwood Park and St. Albert. Sr. Helen and her team- Father Regi, OFM and Brother Michael, OFM and Sr. Adi, RVM,visited the schools in the S.E. part of Edmonton and Sr. Mary Clare and her team- Sr. Jeannine Coulombe, SGM, and Fr. John, SDB, visited schools in the S.W. quadrant. For the last day Sr. Mae, SP, joined the team.

Sr. Helen, UdJ, Father Regi, OFM, and Brother Michael, OFM

The teams were culturally diverse which brought a richness and also challenges: Fr. Regi and Fr. John are from India; Sr. Mae and our Helen are from the Philippines and Sr. Jeannine, Bro. Michael and Mary Clare are Canadians. The cultural diversity is a reality of the Church in Canada so it was important for the students to experience it first-hand. For those of us who are not used to being with students all day it was initially a rather daunting task. However, the spirit of welcome we received from the teachers, chaplains and religious education coordinators, and the enthusiasm and openness of the students made for a very positive, grace-filled experience.

After our visits, a survey was sent to the schools and to the team members that included three questions:

  1. what was most significant in your school visit ?
  2. what was most difficult?
  3. what is your recommendation for the YCL (Year of Consecrated Life) committee ?

One chaplain responded: “Giving the students of Archbishop Joseph MacNeil High School the opportunity to hear about the daily routines of those in consecrated life provided insight and something for the students to think about regarding their own vocation”.

A principal from Sir John Thompson stated, “A few pictures of the speakers from different times in the journeys would have been a welcomed addition and helped students visualize the speaker outside of their church role so they could relate better”.

One chaplain said there was nothing difficult: “In fact the students even taught some of the sisters how to do a popular dance. Awesome!” Among the recommendations the committee heard were: “Forming a committee to be made available for school visits each year at a given time” and “creating a video resource for schools that could help identify the work of those called to consecrated life”.

Sr Mary-Clare, UdJ and Sr. Jeannine, SGM in St Thomas’school

Being in the schools was an opportunity to foster a Culture of Vocation within our Archdiocese and to share our own call as consecrated women and men.
Both Helen and I are deeply grateful that we took the risk to share our stories and to begin to build some connections with our young adults.

A couple of schools have invited us to do some follow up: Helen has been asked to go to a grade three classroom so that the “seeds of a vocation to consecrated life can be sown early in the hearts of the children”; Mary Clare has been asked to participate in wellness week at St. Francis Xavier High School, leading groups of students through experiences of meditative and centering prayer.

It is our prayer that we can continue to share our passion for consecrated life and move into the future with hope that the seeds which have been planted will, like the tiny “mustard seed, grow and become the largest of shrubs”.

The most heartfelt support came from a teacher and chaplain who stated : “Fr. Regi, OFM, Bro. Michael, OFM, Sr. Helen, UJ and Sr/ Adi, RVM were a wonderful presence to the students whose questions were met by a beautiful and dynamic team….I could see a renewed gratitude for all who answer Christ’s call to consecrated life".

Sr Mary-Clare, UdJ

The experience of having our Religious sisters and brothers in our schools emphasized the importance of creating community and being open to the working of the Holy Spirit. I believe if we are to have our prayers answered for an increase in vocations, we must encourage more religious to continue sharing their stories in our schools.

Please unite with us in praying “to the Lord of the harvest to send labourers into the harvest”- women and men who understand and deeply value their vocation as married couples, single women and men who let their commitment to the gospel mirror the service of Christ, and women and men who will answer God’s call to consecrated life and the ordained priesthood.

Sr Mary Clare Stack (UdJ) Edmonton