December 7, 2017

“You are the potter, we are the clay!” These beautiful words from the prophet Isaiah open our season of Advent because we, the clay, are preparing ourselves for the master potter, once more being born to all humanity at Christmas. Always in a state of growth and rebirth, every day, in our schools, our homes and in our world, being molded by the forces around us, we wait for the master potter, in an encounter of love, to form and reform us into the people God wants us to be. To me, this is what Advent is all about, and this is what we are all about in our Catholic schools. Someone once said, “We are an Easter people.”  We are also an “Advent people” in loving communion with Christ, our master potter!

Recently, I was asked to offer some reflections on the Ontario Catholic School Graduate Expectations by a group of Gr. 8 students and their teacher. I reflected on some artwork depicting the graduate expectations, com­missioned by the Institute for Catholic Education (ICE). The drawing depicting the “discerning believer” is reflective of the process of discernment and the process of growth we all go through as our faith matures. It shows the figure of a person with a halo and a set of wings. But, the halo is held in the person’s hands, over the head and not fully in place, either being placed on or taken off. The wings are depicted as “clip-ons” - as if to say that it takes time and practise to fully embrace the wholeness and holiness to which we are called. Sometimes the wings are off and sometimes they are on! A floating halo and clip-on wings as symbols of our deepening discernment and growing acceptance of who we are called to be - now that’s an image I can identify with, an image that speaks of the truth of our journey toward God and our efforts to truly make a difference in our world. To do something that counts!

In early November, over 600 delegates representing all partners in Catholic education met in Toronto to engage in a symposium entitled “Renewing the Promise.” The goal was to share and reflect on the successes and challenges experienced by Catholic schools in Ontario, and to generate a consensus of ideas that will support the writing of a pastoral letter by the Catholic Bishops of Ontario. In a special way, we celebrated with gratitude the dedication and self-sacrifice of over 70 religious communities who were the foundation of Catholic schools in Ontario, and who have left us a powerful legacy that is our privilege to continue. A video entitled “Upon Whose Shoulders We Stand” highlights their many contributions over the past 175 years. The upcoming bishops’ letter, also entitled “Renewing the Promise”, will build on two earlier letters which challenge us to embrace the moment in which we find ourselves, with all of this moment’s opportunities and challenges, complexities and invitations. We eagerly await this new statement of encourage­ment as we continue to strengthen Catholic education in Ontario.

Here at PVNC, we are engaged in implementing the directions and actions of our renewed strategic plan - the vision, mission, and strategic priorities which express the voices of so many across our board. As we work together to learn, to lead, and to serve, we are deepening our focus on good learning and assessment, on leading the way in supporting the well-being of all students and staff, on building strong vibrant relationships between families, parishes, and schools, and on serving our communities by being fully engaged in the critical issues of our time: care for the earth, generous response to the needs of our neighbours, asking difficult questions about social justice, and continuing the dialogue of learning with our students and families of Indigenous heritage and their communities.

In all of these ways, Advent is upon us as we welcome our loving God continually molding us in new and unexpected ways: our loving God, the master potter, all of us, complete with floating halos, clip-on wings and a clay prayerfully waiting to be formed.  May the challenges of this Advent season, the joy of Christmas, and the promise of a new year be yours and fill your hearts with peace.

Michael Nasello, Director of Education