End of School Year Message – June 2021
As the sun sets on another school year, I wish to express tremendous gratitude to our whole community. We are almost there – I am so proud of you.
The past year has been described in many colourful and mostly pejorative ways. I have some personal favourites – in an effort to keep this piece as high-brow as possible – I will say that the image involves a fire and waste disposal container. Yet, most people I speak with have thought about the things they will miss after the pandemic or things they are grateful for about these times. They recall with fondness acts of generosity, support, compassion, empathy and ingenuity. It speaks to the opportunity that every challenge presents and the need to simplify and focus on the people in our midst.
I have been thinking about St. Therese of Lisieux lately. Arguably the most important saint in modernity, I wonder what she would think of the headache of our pandemic. She adopted ‘the little way’ which is to say that she would do all things, no matter how big or small with great love. She adopted a simple way of being in life and in prayer on her journey to be closer to God.
Easier said than done – it seems to me that it exemplified the path of so many of our staff and families in our community. There are so many examples of seemingly small things that were done to help one another during the pandemic.
“But to think of Therese of Lisieux as simply a delicate hothouse flower is to overlook the considerable resolve that lay beneath the fragile petals.”1
Amidst her life of prayer, love and attention to the sacramentality of everyday life – was considerable challenge and suffering. I mention this because to accept that our journey has been easy or has been fully confronted by our own little way, begets the fact that considerable hurt has been inflicted upon our community over the last 18 months.
With great joy, it will be important for us to remember that the ‘little way’ can be a powerful antidote to division and desolation. Much healing awaits us. Paradoxically, the optimism and anticipation of pre-pandemic times seems palpable. As we embrace the joy of the future, we will need to bring healing to our community.
May we adopt a path for our journey, rooted in love and everyday interactions to restore our community. May we all adopt the ‘little way’ as we journey alongside one another in a spirit of accompaniment.
May our summer months be filled with joyful time with family, friends and God. May the sacramentality of everyday life – a slow return to pre-pandemic life be evident to all of us. With this in mind, I cannot express how much I anticipate the ability to see you all in person soon. I wish everyone in our community a safe and joyful summer.
St. Therese of Lisieux, pray for us.
Chris N. Roehrig
Director of Education
- My Life with the Saints, J. Martin (2006)
Catholic Education Week 2021
I was born into the Catholic school system and never left. My dad was a Catholic teacher and then a principal and I have memories of walking the hallways of Catholic schools for as long as I can remember.
Understandably, it is a cornerstone to my development as a person and source of incredible comfort. Along the way I have met some of the finest people you can imagine. Students, staff, parents and parish/diocesan partners. Great people and great memories – people that lift you up, inspire and model Christ all day long.
This experience is held by many, rooted in faith, and explored through academic activity. These experiences are not only personal they are communal. Catholic schools contribute to a just society rooted in the teachings of Jesus Christ. We go about our business making the world a better place – building God’s kingdom here on earth.
I share my personal gratitude for the sacrifice of those that came before us – religious and lay alike – our moment of celebration has been made possible by the people on whose shoulders we stand. May our Catholic school system continue to embrace Pentecost and our continuing mission of hope, faith and love.
Please join me in celebrating the 2021 Catholic Education Week!
Director’s Easter Message 2021
April 1, 2021 (Holy Thursday)
EASTER MESSAGE TO THE COMMUNITY
On Holy Thursday, we enter into the Easter Triduum and complete our Lenten journey. The movement of the weekend as expressed in liturgy takes us on a rollercoaster of emotion, ultimately culminating with great joy.
Today, we reflect upon an intersection between the call to service and a call to be transformed through our encounter with the Eucharist (a sacrament of thanksgiving). This call to service has special meaning for us as we lead in our schools. We put others before ourselves. Indeed, it would be easy to say that the call to service is effortless and our reminder to give thanks is simple. Our journey through the Triduum reminds us that the blessings we receive often come with sacrifice.
With this in mind, I offer gratitude to our staff for their service. The manner in which they have put children and families ahead of their own needs is testimony to our Christian calling. Their service is not marked by sackcloth and ashes but by joy and love. We truly are an Easter people. Our staff have provided a safe place with light and hope for families – I am so proud of our team.
I wish everyone a blessed Triduum. May your Easter be a time that bursts with joy, brought about by Christ’s victory over death through His resurrection!
Continue to keep our community in prayer this weekend. May God bless you and keep you – Happy Easter!
Chris N. Roehrig
Director’s Christmas Message 2020
When I sign off on all my emails I use the greeting with ‘peace’. I picked this habit up from a
friend. As a person with an average vocabulary, I always thought that I had a fulsome
understanding of the meaning ‘peace’. Peace is certainly a place of calm, rest, comfort and free
of conflict. In the biblical sense – peace is synonymous with shalom. Shalom is the Hebrew
word for peace. Its meaning goes beyond just a salutation or greeting it is meant in a prayerful
sense and a blessing. In its fullest sense – “shalom” captures peace as bringing wholeness to
something broken or in disarray. Perhaps it is in this sense of restoration and rebuilding that we
can consider peace this Christmas during COVID 19.
In chapter 2 of Luke’s gospel we hear the angel announce the birth and arrival of the Prince
“ Do not be afraid; I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is
born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord … Glory to God in
the highest heaven, and on earth peace among people!”
Our Christmas during this pandemic may seem to lack true peace or wholeness as we try to
piece together as many vestiges of our traditions to resemble our past holidays. Let us
remember Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem, Christ’s birth, and the angel’s
announcement of the Messiah was also the start of a journey to wholeness and restoration.
Christ came as a light in the darkness to save us from the brokenness between God and His
As we move from Advent to Christmas, I wish you and your families peace – peace to find hope,
gratitude, and joy — peace that is more whole than broken– a place of wholeness — a spiritual
shalom. I hope that you will be able to set aside some time with your family for prayer and
worship and that your Christmas time will bring you and your family closer to God .
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!*
* I don’t usually make much of New Years’ but I’ll be making an exception this year!
The Lord has proclaimed to the end of the earth:
“Say to daughter Zion,
See, your salvation comes:
his reward is with him,
and his recompense before him.
“They shall be called ‘The Holy People’,
‘The Redeemed of the Lord’;
and you shall be called ‘Sought Out,’
‘A City Not Forsaken.’”
** Mass at Dawn (Christmas 2020)
PRAYER AND BLESSING FOR OUR COMMUNITY
Jesus Christ, the Son of God,
left his heavenly home
in order to be born in a human family.
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
and watched over by Joseph of Nazareth.
We ask God to bless our school community,
and make us more like Christ our Saviour.
We ask this through Christ our Lord,
The Word of the Lord
*** Adapted from Blessings and Prayers for Home and Family, p. 243
Director’s Advent Message 2020 – A Great Light in the Darkness
This year has been difficult for me in my faith life. I find that the inability to be together in person and in close contact has left my faith experience more hollow than before. In reading My Life With the Saints by James Martin S.J. – I learned that St. Teresa of Calcutta experienced times in her faith life that were like this.1 I wondered if it was the intensity of her challenging experiences that contributed to her times of ‘dark’ faith? What happens to our faith life in times of adversity?
Advent is my favourite time of the liturgical calendar and given the times, I wonder if you share in my need to hit the ‘re-set button’ on my faith life by embracing the new liturgical year and the hope, love, joy and peace that comes with weeks leading up to the Feast of the Nativity – the birth of Jesus Christ?
In contemplating St. Teresa of Calcutta’s mission – I wonder if turning to the spirit of encounter and accompaniment through service may help to form a bridge that will provide me with an opportunity to a prayer life that will provide consolation and a closer relationship with God? What can I do to serve someone in need? Can an opportunity for encounter and accompaniment be in my school, my home or my neighbourhood? Perhaps these opportunities for encounter and accompaniment can be the great light in the darkness. Like the star over Bethlehem, it can lead us to the presence of Christ in our lives. Perhaps pressing the ‘reset button’ is hidden in plain sight.
In closing, I truly wish you all a blessed Advent – Come, Lord Jesus. May you and your family be safe and healthy. I hope that your Season of Advent will lead to a joyous Christmas experience!
Please continue to pray for the community of the Huron-Perth Catholic District School Board.
1 My Life With the Saints; J. Martin S. J. (an excellent read and a fantastic idea for a Christmas
present) P. 171
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
those who lived in a land of deep darkness –
on them light has shined.
You have multiplied the nation,
you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you as with joy at the harvest.
For a child has been born for us,
a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
and he is named Wonderful Counsellor,
Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9.2b-3, 6.)
God of light and hope,
look upon us in love,
and fill us with the Spirit of Jesus
that we may love you and serve you in your kingdom.
Protect us during this week
and keep us watchful in prayer
as we await the coming of our Lord, Jesus Christ,
who is the light of the world,
and who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit
one God, for ever and ever.
2 Blessings and Prayers – For Home and Family (also an excellent Christmas idea) P. 214
Director’s Thanksgiving Message 2020
GRATITUDE AND ENCOUNTER
This year’s spiritual theme of encounter in the context of our journey together lends itself well to the intent of a holiday of Thanksgiving. Like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, we find ourselves preoccupied with the current reality, in our case the circumstances brought forth by the pandemic. This preoccupation is deserved and probably healthy to some degree. Our ability to keep our fidelity to a series of restrictive protocols will save lives. In these times, we must also remember to turn towards and listen to God’s Word for guidance and consolation as Jesus modeled on his journey with the disciples. We are challenged to ask ourselves, how do we listen for God’s Word despite our circumstance? The First Reading (Isaiah 25.6- 10a) in this Sunday’s Eucharistic Celebration provides us with such inspiration. We are that we can rely on the good works of God!
Our preoccupations can also get in the way of our ability to be grateful, yet they also can give way to careful reflection. Reflecting upon the last six months, I have been inspired by the achievements of our community. We have been able to innovate and create in ways that were unimaginable! Perhaps our most important accomplishment is the quantity and quality of presence and support that we have given to each other. Every day provides an opportunity to lift each other up and help to make the load lighter. I have seen this in action during these times unlike any other.
Today, I give thanks for the gifts you have given each other and our Catholic community in the spirit of our ministry of service to God. May all of you have a blessed and restful Thanksgiving weekend.
Blessed are you, Lord our God, Creator of heaven and earth and Father
of our Lord Jesus Christ; we praise you for your glory and thank you for your goodness to us. We praise you for your generous gifts and for bringing fruitful results to our labours. As we rejoice in your kindness, we pray also for those who are in need. Open our hearts to them and teach us to be as generous to others as you are to us. Gracious
and bounteous God, help us all to follow Jesus our Lord and so bear eternal fruit for you. Blessed are you, Lord our God, for ever and ever.
* Blessings and Prayers for Home and Family (CCCB 2004)
- The Institute for Catholic Education (2020)
- In God’s Image: Pastoral Letter on Racism, Archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis, 2003
- Australian Catholic Social Justice Council (socialjusticeresoucecenter.org)
Director’s Message on Equity and Inclusion
The Huron-Perth Catholic District School Board’s core values underscore our collective belief in the sacred dignity and inclusive success of all persons. As a Catholic community, we must work to ensure that everyone in our society feels welcome, valued and appreciated. 1
This month, we recognize the plight of the elderly in long-term care facilities, Indigenous people, the need for safe and inclusive spaces for the LGTBQ+ community and now the scourge of anti-Black racism. Coupled with the global pandemic, our collective call to work towards the common good and reconciliation could never be louder.
As Catholics, we believe that we are all made in the image and likeness of a God who created us and loves us unconditionally – just as we are. We are called to know, love and celebrate one another, just as God knows, loves and celebrates each one of us because we are wonderfully made. We honour the inherent dignity in each other by treating one another with sensitivity, compassion and respect. Because each person is wholly created from God’s bountiful goodness and gifted with essential dignity and worth, we all share a gospel mandate and a moral imperative to respect one another as persons. 2
The following is a quote attributed to Archbishop Harry Flynn of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis from 2003.
“Racism is a serious offense against God precisely because it violates the innate dignity of the human person. At its core racism is a failure to love our neighbor. Since we cannot claim to love God unless we love our neighbor, we can only be one with God if we reject racism and work aggressively to remove it from our personal lives, our church, and our society.”
(Archbishop Harry Flynn of Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, 2003) 3
June is the month traditionally devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which for Catholics is a sign and symbol of God’s boundless and passionate love for all humanity. This month, our Catholic community will pray for all who experience injustice because of our failure to recognize the inherent dignity of all persons and pray for an end to inequality.
Prayer for Justice and Peace
God of yesterday, today and tomorrow,
we call to mind your presence within us and around us.
Open our ears that we may hear your Word.
Open our hearts that we may understand your Word.
Open our mouths that we may speak your Word.
Inspire us with the Gospel message,
that we may celebrate all that is life-giving,
restore hope where it has been lost,
and work to bring about change where it is needed.
May we live the Gospel with courage,
constancy and love.
May we be open to the challenge
of your call to true freedom.
May we be faithful to you in our daily choices and decisions.
May we make your love known
through our words and actions.
May the triune God reign in our hearts, now and forever.
- The Institute for Catholic Education (2020)
- In God’s Image: Pastoral Letter on Racism, Archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis, 2003
- Australian Catholic Social Justice Council (socialjusticeresoucecenter.org)
Director’s Easter Message 2020
These days of physical distancing and self-isolation seem to fit nicely into the season of Lent. But where does Easter fit in these different times? One recent phenomenon that has taken over social media is the effort put into finding distractions while we await the end to this pandemic. This includes everything from sourdough bread making (feel free to drop off at my place anytime), attention to mindfulness practices (make sure to try Christian meditation) and every other distraction are intended to help take our mind off the problems at hand. As we move into the Easter season, I encourage you to redouble your efforts to build your relationship with God as this is the worthiest of actions.
If we were not on the Road to Emmaus before the pandemic – we are now. The great joy of the resurrection of Christ can be lost in our self-isolation. This Easter season reminds us that we are on this journey together; we are called to encounter, accompany and transform. Today, I ask you to listen to and encounter Christ who is always with us, and to turn away from Emmaus to return to Jerusalem. There is work to be done! Our community needs us to be the living presence of Christ among the needy. We are called to be compassionate servants in our leadership and truly present in the faith life of our community.
We are blessed! We have some of the best staff in the province – we are coordinated and connected – we are in the best possible position to lead in faith and learning. As you encounter our families and one another in this new reality, remember that you can be Christ to those we accompany. Anything that you can do to promote a life of faith through your work will go incredibly far to advance our goal of transforming the world.
I thank you for all that you have done and all that you will do. I wish you, your family and your friends health and happiness, and I pray that the joy that we experience in the resurrection of Christ be with you now and always. Happy Easter!
Prayer for the Catholic Community of Huron-Perth
O God, during this Easter season grant that we, who keep the solemnity of the Lord’s Resurrection may, through the renewal brought by your spirit, rise up in the light of life. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen
(Adapted from the Collect – Easter Sunday Mass – 2020).
The Road to Emmaus – Mike Torevell
Director’s Lenten Message 2020 – Reflecting Forward with the Emmaus Story
The Board recently approved our multi-year spiritual theme: Together on the Journey: Encounter ~ Accompany ~ Transform. This theme was arrived upon after a significant communal discernment and much prayer. The theme is animated by the Emmaus story from Luke’s Gospel. While the Emmaus story is firmly rooted in the season of Easter, it is a useful reflection for Lent as well. One of the most interesting aspects of the Emmaus story is the contrast of introspective and somewhat despondent disciples set against the great joy of the resurrection of Christ. It reminds us that the need for us to journey together in the light of presence, accompaniment and hope is our pathway for consolation with God. This is also the journey of Lent. We walk a path to get closer to God that ultimately results in the joy of the resurrection.
Embracing a pathway of sacrifice and struggle is not easy and yet our current times in education force this upon us. In spite of these challenges, as Eucharistic people we are called to deal with conflict within our community. How can we find moments of clarity that bring us to an understanding and action of reconciliation and togetherness? In Lent, we rely heavily upon prayer, fasting and almsgiving as roads to clarity and renewal of our Baptismal call. As we journey together through Lent – may we commit ourselves to prayer, fasting and almsgiving recognizing that a hopeful future is one that involves togetherness, reconciliation and gratitude.
Director’s 2019 Christmas Message
We recently held our annual Baby Day at the Catholic Education Center in which we welcomed special representatives of the class of 2037 along with their moms to spend some time together in celebration of this wonderful time in their family’s life and in our HPC community. This is a tradition started by our late Director and my mentor, Larry Langan. This annual event basically paralyzes the office which is something to behold! Everyone leaves their desk and converges in our meeting room to not only see the babies but to play with them and to hold them.
We hold this event during the Advent season – I don’t know if the tradition started as a means of giving us insight into the true meaning of the season, but it is a picture of unmitigated joy and celebration: it is a true image of Christmas.
Like our staff leaving their work to visit with the babies – we need to leave our busy lives to be with the newborn Jesus. We leave for Bethlehem to see Jesus, be with Jesus and to hold Jesus. May your Christmas be filled with the peace and joy that comes in spending time with Jesus and may it remind us all of the joy of new life.
Advent as Pilgrimage
One of my favourite stories associated with Christmas is a 19th century novella entitled A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Until recently, I had never thought about the story through the lens of Advent. Ebenezer Scrooge gets a compressed Advent experience. He is forced to look back, be present and look ahead. Ultimately, his experience is transformative for his life. Can our Advent experience be transformative?
Challenge as opportunity – how can we use the stillness, silence and darkness of December to bring us closer to God? What can we stop doing in order to find the stillness needed for contemplative prayer? Can we find respite from the inundation of media to listen to one another and to God through prayer? Advent provides us with the opportunity to look back over the past year and to assess our shortcomings – to see clearly the things that move us away from God.
In the Gospels leading up to the birth of Christ all of the central figures on travelling: the Holy Family travels to Bethlehem at the command of the governor for the census (Luke 2:4); the magi travel from Herod (seemingly to report back to Herod) to the place where Jesus was born (Matthew 2:7); the shepherd travel from their fields at the prompting of the angel of the Lord (Luke 2:12) to visit the baby Jesus. They are truly on a pilgrimage, journeying to a place that is unknown to them seeking a new understanding: moving knowingly or unknowingly towards transformation.
In our lives we seem to be always going somewhere. Are we pilgrims or commuters? Where are we travelling? Do we see our lives as pilgrimage or a series of journeys sown together by our busyness, our work or our desires? Shifting to a life as pilgrims in Advent requires a personal exile from the day-to-day towards a journey that intends to transform our faith. The pilgrimage of Advent requires that we leave our home to find our home. Pilgrimage as spiritual exercise requires attention to prayer – we attend to our inner self through prayer and service to God and one another.
Pilgrimages force us to let go of the things that we cling to that matter less and encourage us to move towards things that matter more. Pilgrims support one another and know that God walks beside them. On the pilgrimage, we have the deep excitement of destination and yet the journey is long enough that the constant experience of one foot in front of the other, cannot help but keep us present. Presence is the true gift of Advent and perhaps, Christmas itself.
The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light;
Upon those who lived in a land of gloom
a light has shone.
You have brought them abundant joy
and great rejoicing. (Isaiah 9:1)
The star over Bethlehem marked the birth of Christ the King. A great light in the darkness – a star to provide hope, guidance and joy. While Advent prepares us for Christ’s birth it also provides reflection to celebrate His coming among us now and when he will come again, in Glory.*
In this season of hope, preparation, expectation and celebration, we are encouraged to look back, be present and look forward. The season of Advent offers us a very counter cultural way of being in our times in which we can be easily distracted by the busyness, and consumerism of the secular life around us: the season of Advent can bear many spiritual fruits if we allow it. May we all mark the steps of our pilgrimage in the lighting of our Advent candles, and may the light that shines from our candles remind us that Christ is the true light which enlightens everyone by coming into the world. **
** John 1:9
Director’s Message – Road to Emmaus
These days it seems prudent to root ourselves in stories of our faith. While our times seem steeped in confusion and uncertainty, we can find comfort in an approach to seeing life as journey buoyed by a commitment to accompaniment and encounter. Our lives of prayer and contemplation are important tools to help us be a people of hope.
The Road to Emmaus
In the pastoral letter on Catholic education “Renewing the Promise” – we are encouraged to use the Emmaus story as inspiration for a way forward in this age. Firstly, the Emmaus story (often ascribed as ‘The Road to Emmaus’) inspires us to think about the narrative of journey and destination simultaneously. Perhaps more importantly the journey on the road is filled with images of consolation and desolation; it is beset with fear and comfort and uncertainty and clarity. It is the perfect metaphor for our times. In its destination – we are transformed by a personal experience with Christ through the opening of scripture and through sacrament (Eucharist). Consider the image of the Road to Emmaus from the St. John’s Bible (saintjohnsbible.org). It reflects these sentiments and more. This image is useful for careful contemplation in conjunction with a prayer of visio divina. The piece concerns itself with images of journey; an interplay of light and dark; pictures that are simultaneously blurred and precise.
Encounter and Transformation
The comfort that comes from transformation is easier said than done. What does the story say to us about how we come to this moment of clarity and comfort? The transformational experience cannot happen without the journey – it is a journey that requires encounter and accompaniment. The story is about relationship. We yearn for a closer relationship with God and He reaches out to us for the same. For the disciples, fear, isolation, despair and perhaps flight get in the way of seeing things as they ought to be. This is true today! When we surround ourselves with narratives of tumult, and park all that we see inside that narrative, it is nearly impossible to see that He is with us. This painting from Fra Bartolommeo emphasizes the relational focus in the Road to Emmaus. The disciple appears to seek the comfort of Christ – he reaches out and grabs the wrist of Christ. Christ appears to be carrying his pack on his back – this will not be His first or last encounter with us for comfort. In the story and subsequent stories after the resurrection (this time in the Gospel of Luke but also throughout the Acts of the Apostles) humans struggle to see that Christ is among us. Inevitably, we need this difficult journey and the accompaniment of each other with God to see it through.
In closing, the road ahead is always the Road to Emmaus. We journey beside one another sometimes aware and sometimes unaware that God is with us. For the upcoming months, let us all be mindful that journey, encounter and transformation are all necessary steps for our salvation. If the road ahead seems uncertain – let us all reflect upon the experience of the disciples on the Road to Emmaus so we can fully commit ourselves to being a mission-oriented school system that forms disciples of Jesus.