Category Archives: Family

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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Good Parenting: The Spirit is Willing But the Flesh Is Weak #cisva

We all have heard the saying “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.”  I take this to mean that I know the right thing to do, I want to do it, but I just can’t make myself do it.  We see it in many aspects of our lives but typically use it to refer to things like healthy eating, getting more exercise, or going to bed earlier.  We know what we should do, but we choose to indulge ourselves anyways.

I see this at work a great deal in my own life as a parent.  We have expectations in our home about how much screen time the kids should have, how much we should pray as a family, the cleanliness of the kids’ bedrooms and bathroom etc…  I find myself time and time again relaxing one expectation or another for an array of reasons i.e. “well, she had a hard day” or “as long as you make sure you do it later” or if my child asks for something sweetly enough “okay just this one time.”  If you multiply 1 of these gestures of leniency per day times 7 children times 365 days per year you would have 17, 885 rule exemptions in a year.  My home would be chaos!

I know the right thing to do is to stand by the expectations because they are good for the children, but I often allow myself to relent anyways.  Why?  I have 4 main reasons and as I will explain, they are all super lame.

1. I want them to be happy

Of course we all want our children to be happy.  There is a big difference, though, between short term and long term happiness.  Letting my child eat a whole bag of chips may make them happy in the next 15 minutes, but I know very well it won’t make them happy in two hours and if I let them do it often enough it will make them unhealthy (and therefore very unhappy) in the long run.

2. I want them to like me

Don’t we all want that hug and smile and to have our children say “Oh you are the best daddy in the world!”  Of course we do, but these are children and they have terrible judgement!  A kid who thinks being allowed to eat a whole bag of chips makes their parents great is a terrible judge of parenting and we should take no solace in their approval.  In fact, the opposite is likely true.  It’s like asking some one in plaid shorts and a striped shirt if they like your outfit.

3. I can’t deal with their behaviour if I say no

Sometimes I’m just too tired to deal with the “stuff” I’m going to have to deal with if I I say no so I just give in before causing a tantrum.  I understand how tiring life can be, but this is likely the saddest reason of all.  How can I function as a responsible, working adult if I can’t even stand up to a child when I know what is right?

4. I want to be nicer than my own parents

I have terrific parents and I had a wonderful childhood but I’m sure deep down all of us want to have some kind of revenge for all the times our parents said no to us for things that we thought were completely unfair.  Guess what?  Our parents were right to say no and we should do the same.  Even if it was unfair and there’s no reason for them to have said it, learning to deal respectfully with not getting what I wanted helped shape me as a person.

So what can we do?  First of all, we need to stop being wimps with our kids.  We are in charge, we know what is best, and we have to act with fortitude.  Stand by your rules and expectations.  Also, we need to support each other.  By this I mean respect authority of other adults.  If your child tells you a story about how mean their teacher is, don’t complain about the teacher in front of them.  Tell them that their teacher wants what’s best for them and we will figure it out together.  We need to have a relationship with our children that goes beyond just “doing stuff for them.”  Communicate everyday about lots of stuff, not just what needs to get done and what they want.  Finally, I highly advise you pray together as a family.  I notice a tangible difference in myself and my children when we take time to pray together.  It doesn’t have to be a lot, just something everyday.

Being a good parent is really difficult.  May God bless us all in this most challenging but most important work.  Thanks for reading!


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“Live the Joy of the Gospel” this School Year


Welcome back to another school year! Last summer at this time I was so proud to report back to you about all the reading I had done. This summer… not so much. It felt like there were babies everywhere! I looked left, and there was a baby. I looked right, and there was another baby. Needless to say I was not necessarily in a good place for reading and intellectual growth. Still, I did have the time to read one particularly interesting and pertinent book that fits well with our school theme: Live the Joy of the Gospel.

Our school theme this year is “Live the Joy of the Gospel”. Joy is a term we don’t use all that often. More frequently we will use the term “happy”. There is a significant difference between the two words. Happiness is generally a short term feeling, based upon exterior feelings and experience. For example, when a child is given a candy they are happy. When the candy is gone, they are not happy anymore. Joy is a longer term, inner sense of peace and interior stability. A child with inner joy will be happy when they get a candy, but remain content when that candy is gone.

We all want our children to be like that, but how can we? Like so many things in parenting and education, it is not going to be a linear process, but the goal is clear. Inner joy for a Christian is based on Christ’s love and sacrifice for us. Regardless of our circumstances in life, Christ’s love never changes. By focussing on Jesus, we are capable of incredible inner peace and joy. This is the message of the one book I carefully read this summer The Unfolding Journey: The God Within: Etty Hillesum and Meister Eckhart. In this book the author, Squamish-based Sister Jean Marie Dwyer, relates the similarities between these two mystics, despite the fact that they were separated by hundreds of years. Etty herself was particularly inspiring, experiencing peace and joy in the midst of losing her family, and eventually her own life, in the holocaust of WWII.

Even if we all know that Christ should be our center, and we can cite mystics who have demonstrated this inner peace, we still need a clear way to pass this on to our children. The key to teaching inner joy and peace to our children is to set a personal example. We need to have inner joy based on Christ so we can live it and set the example for our children. Do I fly off the handle when my child carelessly drops his milk on the floor? Do I rant and rave when my neighbour’s dog poops on my lawn? Do I complain about being bored and buy things as entertainment? My children are watching. Do they see in me an inner peace? That is my goal for the year. In my relationships with my family, students, staff, and school parents, I want to demonstrate inner joy, confidence in my source of joy, and peace.  Let’s work together this year to make this a reality for our entire school community.

Thanks for reading!


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Catholic Schools: Our Best Opportunity for Evangelizing the Family #cisva

The “evangelization of the family” is one of the priorities of the Archdiocese of Vancouver. The focal points of this priority are twofold; the growth of youth ministry and the expansion of adult faith formation opportunities. These are great areas to improve in, but I would make a case for an even more effective area for evangelization, the expansion of Catholic schools.

Each year at Cloverdale Catholic School we turn away numerous (like 20 or more) families due to a lack of physical space. Our classes in most grades are full. For some of the families we turn away, I have no doubt they will send their kids to PREP or another Catholic school. For many more, however, I fear their school application was the one and only time they are going to reach out to the Church. They may return at Christmas or Easter, but our opportunity to evangelize that family in a long term and meaningful way has passed us by. I spoke to one father in our school just yesterday who admitted that had they not been accepted into the school they would likely not have become the active and participating members of the parish they are today

It is for the reason of evangelization that I believe Catholic schools exist and need to grow. No youth ministry program has the opportunity to evangelize for 6 hours a day, 200 days a year. No adult faith formation experience can bring people back for faith formation meetings, community events, parish sacramental celebrations, and informal gatherings for 13 years. The opportunities for evangelization of the family through Catholic schools are almost endless.

Not everyone sees things the way I do because we don’t have firm numbers and we as catholic schools still need to improve. I think two things need to happen:

  1. We need numbers. We need firm data that proves that, on average, kids who go to Catholic school (and their parents) a active, generous, and faithful both while in their school years and after. As far as I know our archdiocese has never surveyed graduates on a large scale to determine our effectiveness. Why not? Are we afraid of what we may find, that Catholic schools are not effective?
  2. We need to use data to find our which schools, teachers, pastors, communities, and programs have been most effective and copy them. We can plainly see that the practice of the faith is declining. We cannot ignore it, but we can do something about it. We can use data to tell some they need to change and tell others they are on the right track. There is a best way of doing things, we need to use data to determine what it is and make it happen everywhere.

I hope you can tell I am not saying Catholic schools are perfect, they are far from it. I’m not even saying they are all doing a terrific job, though I think many are. I am saying that if the “evangelization of the family” is our goal, Catholic schools give us the best opportunity I can see to get us there.  We need to continue to grow and improve them to ensure our “evangelizing moments” don’t pass us by.


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Smartphones and Faith: My End of Year Message to Grade Sevens


Dear Grade Sevens

Congratulations on finishing elementary school. It is a milestone in your life and an important time to look back and thank God for all of the blessings you have received. I have really enjoyed watching you all grow up and getting to spend a little extra time with you in your Grade Seven year. As you may know, one of my favourite things to do is give you lectures, so here is your very last one…

You have been blessed with a tremendous gift: the gift of faith through Catholic education. Like any gift, it must be cared for. Don’t put it on a shelf and treat it like an antique; something to be admired and appreciated but never used. Don’t treat it like an old favourite toy; outgrown, forgotten and neglected in the bottom of your toy box. I urge you to treat this gift like most people treat their smartphones. You may have noticed most people take every spare moment to check out their smartphone. They take it with them everywhere. When they need an answer to a question they look it up on their phone. When they need encouragement from their friend, they call or text on their phone. It is their constant source of comfort and assurance that they are connected to others and can access help.

Your faith should be like that. You should take it with you everywhere. When you have a question about what to do with your life, turn to your faith and the Church. When you need comfort or assurance, turn to Jesus in prayer. Let your faith and trust in Jesus be your constant source of comfort and connectedness.

Your phone will get outdated and you will have to replace it. You’ll never have to replace your faith. Your faith comes with free upgrades (sacraments) and free weekly updates (Sunday Mass). Yes, you are committed to a lifetime contract, but there is no iPhone that continues service after you die (yet). If people (including myself) spent as much time in prayer as we do on our smartphone, imagine how much it could change the way we live and change the world! Remember this each time you reach into your pocket and pull out your phone. It wouldn’t hurt if you reminded your parents and siblings too (just don’t be obnoxious about it!).

May God bless you and your families as you move on to high school.

Mr. Borkowski

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Sacraments and Self-Esteem: Are We Sending The Right Message? #cisva

Helping to prepare our students to receive the Sacraments of Holy Communion and Confirmation is one of the best parts of being involved in Catholic education. Through months of study, prayer, and parent meetings, we have the privilege of being a part of this really important moment in the lives our students and their families.

Sometimes, however, it almost feels as though we as adults get in the way of the true meaning of the sacraments. We do need to mark the day as special. We do this well by planning family celebrations after Mass, buying a special dress, and having a family meal. It’s not hard to find examples, however, of things going “over the top”. Receptions are important, but they should be pleasant, not decadent. Family members should give gifts, but not gifts that are unrelated to the Sacrament or distractingly expensive. As a Grade Seven teacher for ten years I can tell you that the next school day after Confirmation I heard countless conversation comparing gifts, dresses, and hairdos.

What I’m hearing from some parents is that in the lead up to the Sacraments (particularly for our Grade Sevens) there is a lot of pressure for girls to keep up. Having that perfect dress and planning that perfect hair is top of mind.   At this stage in their development kids compare themselves and can base their self-esteem on how they measure up to others. As adults, we have an important part to play in helping kids see the importance of the Sacrament itself. Even from a non-religious point of view, we need to help our kids develop a healthy sense of self-esteem, not one based on comparisons to others.   We need to affirm our daughters’ beauty on regular days, and not re-enforce their insecurities by telling them how beautiful they are only when they are all dressed up with make-up and fancy hair.

As a community let’s work together toward our goal of helping our kids grow spiritually and in a healthy sense of self-esteem. Are we doing everything we can to keep the focus where it needs to be? Are we helping our children develop a healthy sense of self-esteem and a healthy spirituality?


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Trying to Give Up My “Ring of Power” This Lent #lent


This Lent I am trying something new. Instead of doing the usual and giving up Coke, I’m giving up an object that makes me feel in control, informed, and have a sense of power. No, it’s not the actual Ring of Power, but it’s easy to get just as attached. This Lent I’m putting down my cell phone when I am home with my family. It’s only Saturday of the first week, and I can already tell how hard this is going to be. God, in His wisdom and mercy, saw how hard it was going to be and shut down all the emails for the entire archdiocese, rendering me incapable checking my emails on the weekend anyways. I’ve learned some things as a result.

The first thing I’ve learned is how habitual my smart phone use is. I’ve been putting my cell phone away when I get home, but I’m catching myself checking my pocket for it all the time. I have realized that not only do I use my phone for emails, texts, and the occasional phone call, it is a comfort object. Like Bilbo or Frodo, I regularly feel my “pocketses” just to be sure it’s there. Is that sad or what?!

A second thing I’ve noticed since putting away my cell phone is how much more attentive I am to people around me. The kids actually get a coherent response when they ask me a question. I am aware of things around the house that need to be done without having to hear a cry or complaint to get my attention. It’s scary to think about how much I have missed because I was too busy checking my emails or the latest sports score.

Strangely, since I have stopped diddling with my phone constantly, I haven’t missed an important message, failed to communicate with anyone, or neglected my work. It turns out the world doesn’t need my attention 24/7. My school has continued to function and hasn’t burned down once since I stopped emailing in the evenings. Waiting until the morning to read my emails hasn’t made one lick of difference to anyone! Who knew? It turns out my wife knew all along, but I guess it was a lesson I had to learn for myself.

So I’m really looking forward to the rest of Lent. Can I stick to it? Who knows what may happen as a result? I’ve already started reading a book for goodness sake. If I’m not careful I might become a smarter, more attentive, and more loving person. I’ll text/email/whatsapp/tweet/blog you when I find out.
Thanks for reading!

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