One of the challenges of our Catholic school system in British Columbia is maintaining a sense of oneness between our parishes and our schools. In British Columbia, Catholic elementary schools are parish schools. They are built by the parish, owned by the parish, and ultimately depend on the parish to operate. As it happens, at St. Mary’s, we are blessed with high enrolment, which results in a very solid financial situation for our school. But if that were not the case, the parish would be committed to subsidizing the school’s operating costs, as is the case, unfortunately, in some of our Catholic elementary schools in Vancouver. In fact, the enrolment situation of our school is so good that we are in the process of acquiring a portable classroom. We now have three grade levels that require two classrooms each. We have run out of room in the present school building! Because the school’s financial situation is sound, it is in a position to assume fully the cost of this new portable.
I understand that parishioners who have no children or grand-children in our school feel that the school has nothing to do with them, and conversely, that parents who have children in St. Mary’ school but are not particularly involved in the parish feel that St. Mary’s parish has nothing to do with them. It might be useful to remind the former that St. Mary’s school has everything to do with us as parishioners because it is a parish school, and ultimately, our responsibility. It may be useful to remind the latter that St. Mary’s parish has everything to do with you, because if ever a safe, new, fully double-streamed school for your children materializes, it will be thanks to St. Mary’s parish’s building committee, and thanks to the incredibly patient and persistent efforts of our fund-raising committee.
Indeed, our building committee and our building-fund are all about St. Mary’s School. In its present form, our building objective is to acquire a new school and a new parish centre. But strictly speaking, while a new pastoral centre would be really nice, we don’t need a new pastoral centre. All we really need is a safe school for our children in the event of a major earthquake, and a school large enough to accommodate two classrooms for each grade level.
How do we rally our parishioners, and our school parents to perceive themselves together as one? This is not easy. Perhaps this simple reminder of our reality will help. Perhaps giving visibility and a voice to our school parents who are also active members of our parish would be a concrete and effective avenue to pursue.
At a very down-to-earth level, can we work as one on the building and fund-raising goals that we have taken up? Can the parishioners continue to believe in our building project and continue to support, as you have so generously until now, our fund-raising efforts? Can the school community be always on the lookout for opportunities to make itself present to the parish in visible, tangible ways, to help us to remember that we have a school, that this school is our school, that we need to expand our school to accommodate as many of our children as possible… Can the school parents lend themselves generously to our requests for help when it comes to fundraising?
I guess this is simply, when all is said and done, a plea for oneness between our parish and our school. In this as in all things, God’s will be done,
P.S.: On a completely different note, this coming Saturday, at 11:00 a.m., we will be marrying sacramentally ten couples! I take this opportunity to thank those who have worked so hard to make this happen, and to ask you all to say a prayer, especially a prayer of thanksgiving, for these ten couples, as this happy day approaches.