Spotlight February 13

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February 13, 2018


Policies Recommended to the Board

Trustees reviewed five policies during the February 13 Committee of the Whole Meeting, and recommended they be sent to the Board for approval.

The Records and Information Policy (600.2), Niagara Catholic Education Award of Distinction Policy (100.7), Assignment of Principals and Vice-Principals Policy (202.1), Employee Attendance During Inclement Weather & Workplace Closure Policy (201.9) and Nutrition Policy (302.7) will be reviewed by the Board February 27.

 Niagara Catholic Recognizes Indigenous Land


Gary Parker, from the Fort Erie Native Friendship Centre, recognizes that the Catholic Education Centre is located on lands traditionally belonging to Indigenous people.










Journey Retreat/Our Lady of Grace Spiritual Centre “Jewel in the Crown” of Catholic Education in Niagara

Outdoor spiritual education has a long history at Niagara Catholic, dating back nearly four decades to when the Spiritual Catholic Outdoor Education Program (SCOEP) first opened at the Loretto Christian Life Centre.

The goal was to provide students with the opportunity to encounter Christ through a unique retreat experience.

Nearly a quarter century after the program began, SCOEP was moved to the former Our Lady of Grace Catholic Elementary School in Ridgeway, after the sale and closure of the Loretto Christian Life Centre. In 2013, the program transformed into its current version, Journey Retreat, a two-day, one-night retreat for Grade 8 students in all of our Catholic elementary schools.

During the February 13 Committee of the Whole Meeting, Board Chaplaincy Leader Krista Wood provided trustees with an overview of what students experience at Journey; and why it is a “jewel in the crown that is Catholic education in Niagara.”

Journey Retreat is a model for other school boards in the province, which frequently seek to replicate it in their own boards. In addition to being the site of Grade 8 retreats, Journey Retreat is also a peaceful location for staff faith formation sessions and was used for the first Student Senate Retreat in advance of the Lead Out Loud Elementary Student Conference in November. Board staff frequently present about Journey Retreat at conferences, including ones hosted by the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association (OCSTA), the Ontario Catholic Supervisor Officers’ Association (OCSOA), Catholic School Chaplains of Ontario (CSCO) and When Faith Meets Pedagogy. Elementary chaplaincy leader Nick Ali also used Journey Retreat to create a faith-based escape room for gifted students, who were required to explore the gifts and talents God gave them to solve clues that would allow them to “escape.”

The Spiritual Centre is alive with faith, from the murals painted by students and staff on the ways, to the tabernacle installed in the chapel for the repose of the Blessed Sacrament.  While there, students participate in a number of meaningful activities that not only bring them closer together as classmates, but to their faith and their own unique relationship with God.

Creation Walk refreshes and revitalizes students, providing them with time spent in prayer and contemplation. When they leave behind the distractions of technology and spend quiet time alone, students are open to a conversion of heart that deepens their faith. Students spend time at the beach following a hike through Marcy’s Woods, where they experience the practice of Lectio-Divina, reader scripture through prayer, reflection and meditation. As a group, they discuss and explore what it means to be followers of Christ, and develop skills that help them overcome challenges they may face on their faith journey.

Teambuilding activities promote leadership and team dynamic skills, which will be crucial for their personal development. These activities are particularly focused on social and environmental justice.

As part of the Board’s theological theme One Family in Christ: Serve Him, students create special blankets that are given to students to support them during times of grief or bereavement. Bearing the message Made for you with prayers and love by students at the Journey Retreat, the blankets are a tangible way students to show their care for others.

The experience at Journey Retreat culminates with a Mass and a family night dinner, which serves to strengthen the home-school-parish triad. Pastors often join students for portions of the retreat, and some have even joined in for the entire stay.

This year, 61 classes – more than 1,400 students – will participate in Journey Retreats, including some Grade 7 students from smaller schools that visit Journey on alternating years.

Student Trustee Nico Tripodi fondly recalled his own time at Journey Retreat during the meeting.

“Journey truly is a time to form connections,” he said. “Connections with classmates, connections with teachers, connections with parents, and connections with God.”

In a video presentation to the Board, Bishop Gerard Bergie credited Journey Retreat for being a place of sanctuary for students. He likened life to often being like a stormy sea – boats on the surface may be tossed about, but submarines down below are unaffected by the storm.


Saint Kateri Tekawith Centre Supports Indigenous Students on Path to Graduation

Artists walking

The Ministry of Education considers Indigenous students to be among those at highest risk for not completing their education.

Working in partnership with the Niagara Regional Native Centre and the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority, Niagara Catholic created the St. Kateri Tekawitha Centre, which provides Indigenous students with the support they require to complete their education in an alternative setting. Land-based learning is an important aspect of the students’ education, as is Outdoor Education, in partnership with Brock University.

Now in its third year, there have been more than 20 graduates from the Centre.


School Year Calendars 2018-2019

During the February 13 Board Meeting, Trustees were presented with a draft copy of the 2018-2019 School Year Calendar. The consultation process provided elementary and secondary principals, vice-principals and Catholic School Council Chairs with a copy of the draft calendar, as well as the Niagara Catholic Parent Involvement Committee (NCPIC), the Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC), OCETA Elementary and Secondary Units, the CUPE local president and the Student Achievement Department.

Key dates in the draft calendar are:

First day of school: Monday, September 3

Christmas Break – December 24 – January 4

March Break – March 11-15

The Draft 2018-2019 School Year Calendar will be discussed at the February 27 Board Meeting. If approved, it will be sent to the Ministry of Education for final approval. A copy of the Board-approved calendar will be posted on the Board website for families to review, and will be placed with the Ministry-approved copy this spring. 


Good News!

We’re halfway through February already! Don’t forget to check our Good News section of this website to see great stories on the programs and events taking place in our schools.  Maybe you missed the story on Saint Michael Catholic High School graduate Julianne Miszk induction onto the Niagara Falls Sports Wall of Fame, or perhaps you want to find out more about our Pathways Speakers Summit. If you’re looking for good news, this is the place to go!


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