Category Archives: Faith

Farewell Address to 2017 Graduating Class: Know Your Worth #cisva

Today I want to talk to you about something most of you don’t know or at least forget too often: your worth.  You are far more valuable than you give yourself credit for.

How do you know how much something is worth?  Is it the asking price?  Is it a random guess?  No.  When it comes down to it, something is worth what will be paid for it.  A bottle of water? $1  A fidget spinner? About $10.  The Ferrari Marcello will own by the time he is 21? $200000.

Well, if the worth of something is determined by what some one is willing to pay for it, what are you worth?  $1, $10, $200000?  What would someone pay for you?  We could ask your parents.  I’m certain everyone of them would say they would do anything for you.  They would give their lives to save yours.  How does that make you feel to hear that?

What if I told you that you are worth even more than that?  Look upon the cross behind me.  God, the creator of the mountains, oceans, planets and the entire universe, loves you; enough that he himself came down to earth to die the most agonizing death upon the cross to save your life.  You are worth that much.  The life of Jesus Christ was paid for you.  Do you remember when you were little and you would say to your parents, “I love you this much” with your arms stretched out?  When you look upon the outstretched arms of Jesus on the cross remember that he was thinking of you.  He was and continues to say “I love you this much.”

Let’s bring that back into the context of your everyday lives.  If you are worth this much, why do we so often struggle with self-esteem and confidence?  We forget our worth.  We look at celebrities and think they are worth more than us because they are more beautiful, more talented, smarter, more loved.  We look at our classmates and think they are more popular, more cool, more athletic.  Every time I see one of you in tears I think to myself “If only you knew your worth.  If only you knew how much you are truly loved.”

You are so loved.  God loves you.  Your parents love you.  I and the staff of CCS loves you.  Your friends… they are nice but don’t rely on them for determining your worth; they are often as confused and messed up as you are.  How do we continue to remember how much we are worth?  By spending time with those who love us.  Go to Mass, pray, and read Scripture to remind yourself of God’s love.  Have dinner with your family, help around the house, and snuggle on the couch while watching a movie to be reminded of your family love.  Finally, when High School has got you down, come back to CCS.  You will always be welcomed and loved here.

May God bless you all as you make the next step in your journey.


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FSA Results Don’t Tell the Whole Story #cisva

At the Catholic Educator’s Conference earlier this month Father Tony Ricard from the Archdiocese of New Orleans spoke in the keynote address.  His message was loud and clear for teachers in Catholic Schools: If you don’t see yourself first and foremost as a Religion teacher, get out!  He went on to say there are lots of jobs for people who just want to teach Math, Science or English.  There are public and private schools that do that stuff.  The reason we have Catholic Schools is so that we can form students in Christ.  No matter what grade or subject you are teaching you must help form the students in their Catholic worldview.

Recently the Fraser Institute released it’s annual rankings of schools based on the annual Foundation Skills Assessment (FSA) test.  This test is deployed by the government each year to look for trends in education and academic achievement.  I am actually in favor of standardized tests when used for the right reasons.  I believe the government has every right, and the duty, to find ways to make sure the billions of dollars spent on education each year are well used.  The problem with the FSA test is that it is only a very small sample of one aspect of schooling.  It is certainly not meant to “rank” school from best to worst.  For one thing, the results as published by the Fraser Institute do not compensate fairly for ESL or special needs students.  They don’t take into account the socio-economic status of a population.  Yes, that information is in there if you dig, but the message the average reader gets looking at the results is that #1 is the best school and #900 is the worst.  This is simply not true.

There is so much more to school than just a single test score.  Being here everyday and seeing all the creative thinking, artistic development, athletic competition, and personal formation reminds me of just how much we do above and beyond academics.  Most importantly, as a Catholic School, our most important mission is formation of the whole student in Christ.  I am proud of the work our staff do with students each day in every aspect of school life.  Don’t get me wrong, we do just fine on the FSA test, but I never have and I never will use it as the number one reason for families to choose our school.

Thanks for reading!

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Caring for Our Common Home #cisva

On Thursday, May 26th,  I attended a workshop on Pope Francis’ latest encyclical “Laudato Si: Caring for Our Common Home.”  This letter to world details the Church’s position on the environment and our role in stewardship over the Earth.  It was an enlightening experience to hear and have explained what the Pope is saying and how his vision of environmental protection fits with my (lack of) understanding.

I’ve never been much of an environmentalist.  In fact, I have found it rather amusing in the past to have fun with people who go crazy over the environment.  That’s not to say I’m against taking care of the environment, I just never took it super seriously.    In fact, I still am not sure whether “global warming” is caused by human activity or not.  What on learned on Thursday changed my attitude almost completely.

It’s not that the Pope has convinced me one way or the other of what the causes of global warming may be.  What I realized from understanding Laudato Si is that it’s not about what could happen to the environment if I pollute or waste, it’s about what is happening to my fellow man here and now.  It’s about learning to reduce my own consumption and my own waste.  It’s about sharing what I have with those in in need.  It’s about doing my part, however small, to reduce the amount of pollution I create.  Instead of focussing on the possibilities, it’s about focussing on the reality of my own life.  I need to live with humility and in solidarity with the poor more than I do now.

The point from the Pope’s encyclical that made the biggest impression on me was the impact that environmental degradation has on the poor.  The lifestyle of the wealthy does have a direct impact on the lives of the poor.  Seeing it through this lens helps me appreciate that every little thing I do, however small, can lead to a real change in my heart and a real change in the world.  If everyone does a little, it actually can make a difference.

So what difference will this make at Cloverdale Catholic School?  We are going to commit to wasting less.  We can start with paper.  We go through more than 500,000 pieces of paper each year.  I don’t even know how that is possible!  That’s over 1600 pieces of paper per student and that is unacceptable.  Secondly, we are going to get in line with the rest of the world and begin composting our food waste.  Finally (for now), we are going to build a garden/farm here at the school.  Getting kids’ hands dirty and helping them appreciate where our food comes from should make them into more well-rounded, healthier people.  These three relatively small areas are a beginning and as they say, every epic journey begins with just a single step.

Thanks for reading!



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An Eye Opening Professional Day With Our Brothers and Sisters in Christ #CISVA


Friday, October 23rd was a province-wide professional day.   Rather than go to a workshop, I arranged to spend my day doing something I should have done years ago.  In the spirit of learning and ecumenism, I visited our neighbouring Christian schools: William of Orange and Cloverdale Christian School.  The experience opened my eyes to some differences but mostly to the similarities we share with our brothers and sisters in other Christian Churches and Schools.

My first visit was to William of Orange School on 60th Avenue.  To a Catholic who reads the news of the annual “Orangemen” marches in Northern Ireland, the idea of going there was a little intimidating!  I’m happy to report that I could not have been more warmly greeted and accepted.  The principal, Kent, took me on a tour and spent over an hour talking about everything including the new curriculum, enrollment, tithing, and tuition.  We shared our mutual concerns and hopes for how to change with the times and adapt to the new curriculum while retaining the traditional elements of our schools.  The biggest difference between our two schools is enrollment.  While Cloverdale Catholic has over 300 students, William of Orange School has only 90.  The schools are the same size physically, but with only 90 students the hallways and classrooms were tidy, quiet, and spacious.  What was truly remarkable was that the principal didn’t seem to worry about low enrollment in the least.  He was confident in the mission of the school regardless of finances and numbers.  What a a great lesson for me!  I spend so much time and effort hustling to increase enrollment and fretting over finances.  It gave me reason to pause and reflect on my attitudes towards the value of peace and quiet and a sense of security and confidence even when finances may be struggling.

My second visit was to Cloverdale Christian School.  Similar in size to our own school, Cloverdale Christian has a new building.  What a difference that can make!  The principal Dave was also gracious and welcoming.  We both remarked at how sad it was that we, as brothers in Christ, had never gotten together before.  He shared stories of his time running Lutheran schools in Montana.  I really got the sense from him that he was on a spiritual mission to bring Jesus to his students and families.  Like me, he really wants to bring the students into fuller practice of their faith.  Dave kindly invited me to join him at a workshop for Christian schools on how to implement the new curriculum.   It was a great meeting and I am so grateful for the experience.

I am reminded of a line from Lord of the Rings when Elrond says to Gandalf, “Our list of allies grows thin.”  Christianity seems under constant attack from our secular culture.  Religion is often seen as an enemy of freedom.  As Catholics we can no longer afford to sit back and presume we can stand alone against world.  We have friends in the Body of Christ outside of our Catholic church.  We can work with them, pray with them, and bring Jesus to our communities together.

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Healthy Perspective and Lost School Sweaters #CISVA


It occurred to me recently that there can be a striking similarity between school sweaters and a healthy perspective.

School sweaters seem to be the most easily lost item in the school. On a sunny day, you can walk around the playground and pick up ten of them off the ground. The kids are so busy; they just take them off and leave them behind without thinking.

Perspective is so easily lost as well. People are so busy working, talking, driving, making dinners, doing laundry etc… that they lose perspective without even noticing. Suddenly they find themselves panicking over the smallest things like their son got a C+ on his report card, the car is broken, or my spouse left his socks on the floor again.

Fortunately when a student loses their sweater, it is not too difficult to give it back to them, especially if they have their name in it. Usually an adult in the school, but sometimes a peer, will pick it up and bring it back to the owner.

Perspective can also be given from someone else. We are blessed if we have a parent, mentor, or friend who can see that we have lost our perspective. They can remind us of what is important. Though our immediate problems may seem overwhelming, these wise people help us to see the big picture and all we should be grateful for.

School sweaters always come back when they are really necessary. Though a student may have misplaced their sweater for a whole week, somehow when they really need it for class pictures or a special school event, they manage to find one just in time.

Real crisis tends to bring about perspective. While driving home a month ago I was having a typical commute, thinking about the daily stresses of work and family when I was in a head on collision driving 80km/h. Miraculously I walked out of the car and stood by the roadside staring at the wreckage. As I stood there half laughing and half crying, I had real perspective. None of the things that worried me before mattered. I was grateful to be alive and that I could go home to my family. That was a moment of complete clarity and perspective.

My prayer for myself and for all of us is that we find ways to achieve and maintain healthy perspective. Rather than relying on crisis for perspective, may our lives be filled with a heart of gratitude, a focus on Jesus, and a healthy balance of God, family, work, and recreation. And finally, may our students please put their names in their sweaters.

Thanks for reading!

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Evangelization and the Chevy Suburban #cisva #evangelization


This is the wreckage of my vehicle after the accident. It’s awakened my faith in Jesus and in the Chevrolet Suburban!

At our Principal’s Meetings and at various committees I am on the talk these days is consistently about evangelization. My recent and nearly fatal car accident changed my perspective on evangelization and here’s how…

Before the accident I really liked my vehicle. It was a 2002 Chevrolet Suburban. I liked it because it fit my family of nine. It also had the unique feature of running on propane, which saved me quite a bit of money. It had lots of storage for our big camping trips. I also knew that it was the safest vehicle on the road. I really liked it.

Then my accident happened. I was hit nearly head on while travelling 80km/h. After the initial collision, my car spun and crashed into the concrete wall on the side of the highway, caving in the door immediately behind me. My seatbelt held, my airbags deployed, and I was kept alive.

How do I feel about my vehicle now? My life was saved by this vehicle. The firefighters at the scene repeatedly told me that if I were driving any other vehicle I would have been killed. I love this vehicle now. Now when I go car shopping I do not look at the Suburban as a possible or likely choice; it is my only choice. I should be dead, but I am alive thanks to that car.

How does this relate to evangelization? Being evangelized requires an intense experience of the need for Jesus. We can choose to be Christian because we like our Church, enjoy the priest, like the school, and have friends in the community. What I realize now is that all of these things are well and good, but not the real reason I need Jesus. Choosing Jesus for convenience, comfort, or enjoyment is a start, but it’s not enough.  We need to experience our need for him.  I should be dead but I am alive thanks to Jesus. Now when I consider Jesus he is not one possible choice; he is my only choice!

Thanks Jesus for saving my life both now and forever!

P.S. if anyone knows where I can find an affordable nine passenger Suburban please let me know!


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Rules, Rituals, and Routines; but Relationship First #cisva


If you stop and think about it from an outsider’s perspective, we as Catholics believe and do a lot of peculiar things. Our Mass is filled with symbols like incense, bowing, kneeling, gestures, words, and songs that would be hard to understand for a first timer. Our church teachings, particularly in the area of morality, can be challenging to understand for people formed in a Catholic world view.

The same is true for Catholic schools as well. Beyond our unique religious practices are routines and expectations like uniforms, drop off zones, bells, door buzzers, playground rules, line ups, and assemblies that may seem strange to someone new.

As important as our rituals, rules, and routines are, they are not primarily what we are about. They are ways we live and express our faith and our commitment to our school. The problem is, sometimes we fail to convey our faith to newcomers and outsiders when we rely too heavily on the rules and fall short in the first and most important thing: relationship.

In last Sunday’s Gospel Jesus was asked which of the commandments was the greatest. Keep in mind at that time the Jewish people had hundreds of religious laws to follow. Jesus’ famous reply was, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus’ reply does nothing to disrespect the other laws, but he puts relationship first. Without a loving and personal relationship with God, we cannot have a loving relationship with our neighbour. Without this understanding of relationship first, all the other laws lack their true meaning. Pope Francis echoes this sentiment regularly. By reaching out to people of other faiths or people living outside the moral expectations of the Church in a very personal way, he is fulfilling Christ’s instructions to love God and love neighbour.

So how does this apply to us in a Catholic school? School rules are important, but they are not the first thing for us to be concerned about. We must first see each other with love and build relationships. Our commitment to rules and routines will serve as expressions of our love. Be it on the playground, parking lot, or classroom, may our love for God and neighbour always come first!

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