You know, prior to this year I don't think I've ever been to the opening of a brand new school. I've just never really made it a priority to go, but this year I've been to two - and I had no idea what I've been missing all those years. I've learned that I absolutely love a good school opening - and I was delighted to attend one yesterday, the grand opening and blessing ceremony of Holy Trinity Catholic High School, the latest addition to the Fort Mac Catholic schools (and new treasure in our community).
There is an energy in schools that is usually quite palpable, but even more so on special occasions. And there is nothing more special than a grand opening, so the energy yesterday at Holy Trinity was intense. I wandered into the enormous gym and found it packed with students, staff, parents, media, interested community members, and dignitaries. Also in attendance was the bishop for this region as well as several parish priests, members of the Knights of Columbus, and ladies from the Catholic Women's League (a group close to my heart, as my mother was a member until the day she died).
The ceremony began with a blessing of the school from both the bishop and a First Nations elder, which is fitting as this is a Catholic school in an area rich with aboriginal culture and heritage. The blessings were lovely and gentle, and reminded me of all the years I spent in the separate school system in Saskatoon. There is a timeless nature to these blessings and these words, and they brought back so many memories of my school years, too. Crosses, donated to the school by Universal Aviation, were carried by students and blessed as well, crosses that will grace the classrooms of Holy Trinity just as crosses were kept in the classrooms I studied in so many years ago.
One moment I loved in particular was when Fort McMurray Catholic School Board chair Geraldine Carbery presented principal Lucy Moore with a statue of Saint Patrick, and briefly explained how when Saint Patrick arrived in Ireland he used the shamrock to explain the trinity. I hadn't really given a lot of thought to the new logo for the school, but of course it is of the trinity, a symbol that has it's origins in the shamrock. This is meaningful for me personally as I recently spent time in Ireland and fell in love with the entire country, and the people who call it home.
There were speeches from the usual suspects, of course - the new minister of education, Thomas Lukaszuk, MLA Guy Boutilier, and Mayor Melissa Blake (all wonderful speeches in which they poked a bit of fun at each other, which was charming - I particularly enjoyed when Guy pointed out that while both he and Thomas had been teachers they must have been awful at it since they were forced to go into politics instead). Guy had everyone do the wave, which always excites the kids in the crowd, and yesterday was no exception.
Through all the speeches, including the closing speech from Superintendent Kim Jenkins, was the overwhelming sense of pride in this school - and a sense of community, too. This school was designed to be a stellar academic facility, and a shining star in the performing and visual arts, but also to be a part of our community. You can see this in the theatre, available for community use during non-school hours, and you can see this in the way the school welcomes community members into it (people like me, for instance).
To close the ceremony local teachers Kimerica and Michael Parr sang a lovely song called "The Prayer". What talent these two have! Beautiful voices singing a song of faith and hope, which was just the right note to end the ceremony.
As I left the gymnasium I suppose what struck me most was one thing that I've thought about a lot. Regardless of one's religious beliefs, whether you believe Jesus was the son of God or not, he was in essence a teacher. He taught others of his beliefs, and he showed by example what he wished his followers to learn. He was perhaps the most famous teacher of all, at least in the Christian world, and thus in some sense all these teachers at Holy Trinity now follow in his footsteps. They are in perhaps the most difficult, most rewarding, and most important profession of all. They are the ones helping to shape and form our future - our children. It was an honour to participate in the grand opening and blessing of the school in which they will do so.
So, people, I have officially become a new school grand opening junkie. There is something special about these occasions, something exciting and profound, and not just for the staff and students of the school, but for the entire community. There is something hopeful in these ceremonies, something hinting at the future and those who will shape it. And people, about that future? After the grand opening ceremony at Holy Trinity Catholic High School I am once again quite certain that the future will be, in fact, amazing.
Photo credit to Hardened Heart