Niagara was centre stage June 1-3, as more than 350 Catholic school board trustees from across Canada travelled to Niagara Falls to attend the Canadian Catholic School Trustees’ Association’s Conference and Annual General Meeting.
This year’s event was co-organized by Niagara’s two Catholic school Boards – Niagara Catholic, and conseil scolaire catholique Mon Avenir – and took place at the Marriott on the Falls hotel.
The Opening Celebration on June 1 included students from both school boards and representatives from Niagara’s Aboriginal community, with a special welcome from Niagara Falls Mayor Jim Diodati. The liturgy service was lead by csc Mon Avenir and was conducted in both English and French, with Bishop Marcel Damphousse from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie. The music ministry was provided by students at École secondaire catholique Jean-Vanier, and students from Holy Cross Catholic Secondary School performed a powerful tableau which depicted the passion of Christ.
Following the Opening Ceremony, Father Jim Mulligan c.s.c., Associate Pastor at St. Kevin’s, delivered a very powerful keynote address which focused on the issue of politics and Catholic education.
On June 2, the day began with a prayer service led by Archbishop Paul-André Durocher, who also gave the morning’s keynote address on what motivates before the delegates split into groups to participate in workshops throughout the day.
On June 3, the morning liturgy was organized by Niagara Catholic’s Chaplaincy Leader Krista Wood and was led by his Eminence, Thomas Cardinal Collins, and music ministry by the Niagara Catholic elementary choir. Cardinal Collins’ keynote address, the final one for the CCSTA Conference, focused on asking ourselves three questions: Who is God?, Who am I? and Who is my neighbor?.
Trustees then took part in the CCSTA’s Annual General Meeting, electing its 2017-2017 Board of Directors, before all delegates ventured out into the sunshine to enjoy some of the many attractions across Niagara.
Father Paul MacNeil, Chair of Niagara Catholic, Pastor of Our Lady of the Scapular Church and co-organizer of the Conference, hosted a beautiful parish Mass on Saturday evening prior to the Gala, bringing together his parishioners and the visiting trustees. Bishop Gerard Bergie presided over the Mass, which was concelebrated by Bishop Damphousse and Bishop Frederick Henry, Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Calgary, Father MacNeil and Fr. Julien Beaulieu from the Francophone parish of Sacré-Coeur in Welland. Prior to the end of the service, the new Board, which includes Niagara Catholic Trustee Kathy Burtnik, was installed for the coming year.
The Conference concluded with the Gala Dinner, with music by the Saint Michael Catholic High School Drumline, and the Notre Dame Jazz Ensemble, and the presentation of the Justice Higgins Award to Bishop Henry. During his half-hour address to gala attendees, Bishop Henry spoke passionately about the many threats to Catholic education in his province and beyond, and urged vigilance in the face of those threats to protect a gift that has been afforded to Catholic students in Canada for many generations.
The 2018 CCSTA Conference will take place in Kelowna, British Columbia.