It had been in the works for three years, and in progress for a year, and on May 25, students and staff from across Niagara Catholic were joined by their families, Trustees, parish priests and members of our communities for the Festival of Families, the culmination of the Board’s Catholic Education Congress.
A soggy day didn’t dampen the spirits of the approximately 800 people who turned out to celebrate the strong connection between home, school and parish which has been discussed and promoted throughout the year-long campaign. The event, which had been planned for outside at Saint Michael Catholic High School was simply moved indoors.
While other aspects of the Congress focused on conversation, the Festival of Families focused exclusively on fun. The evening kicked off just after 4 p.m. a barbecue and events and activities for students. At 5 p.m., students participated in a soccer skills showcase, in advance of the long-awaited game between students from Niagara Catholic schools and staff, parents and clergy. Despite some impressive saves by netminder by Board Chair Father Paul MacNeil, and some fancy footwork by Bishop Bergie and Director of Education John Crocco, the students prevailed in a highly entertaining game.
As is customary before sporting events, the crowd rose to sing O Canada at the start of the game, led by a choir of students selected from across the Board for the evening. They were accompanied by students Emilio and Antonio Geremia from Holy Name Catholic Elementary School, who played the keyboard and kept the beat. The halftime show was a rocking affair, with The Vision from Monsignor Clancy Catholic Elementary School providing the entertainment.
A prayer service took place following the game, which included a touching moment when Bishop Bergie lifted a young girl up high enough to the lectern so she could read her portion of the prayer. The youngster, a newcomer to Canada from Syria, read it in halting English, but completed the reading with only a little help from Board Chaplaincy Leader Krista Wood and Bishop Bergie.
When the prayer service ended, a Battle of the Bands wrapped up the evening. Bands from Denis Morris Catholic High School, Saint Michael Catholic High School and Saint Paul Catholic high school, and a solo artist from Blessed Trinity Catholic Secondary School, each performed one faith-based song, and one contemporary one. After some very deep deliberation by judges, the host school’s band and B.T.’s solo artist were named the co-winners of this inaugural event.
While parents of younger children headed home after the prayer service, many stayed behind to enjoy the entertainment, or simply to chat amongst themselves. It was that very special dynamic that set the Festival of Families apart from other events, as it provided students and families the opportunity to see their teachers, parish priests and members of Senior Staff in a way they don’t usually see them. It also gave priests, teachers and others a chance to see families in a non-traditional setting, creating greater awareness and understanding.
Response was so overwhelming to the Festival of Families that it’s likely to be a semi-regular event in the Niagara Catholic calendar. A sequel has already been approved, and it will likely come to a high school near you in 2019.
Click through the photo gallery for scenes from this year’s event. If you had photos taken by students with the Festival of Families frame, jump to our Facebook page where we’ll be loading those shots and more from the soccer game! Also, check out this great video on YouTube!