Jayne L. Buryn Communications Coordinator, Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Edmonton.
This fall a new Catholic school welcomed 700 students to its fold. Bishop David Motiuk Elementary/Junior High School and the Edmonton Catholic School District (ECSD) celebrated this event on October 2, 2017.
“The community of Lewis Estates has been waiting for a Catholic school for a very long time,” said Terry Volk, principal of Bishop David Motiuk Elementary/Junior High School and Mistress of Ceremonies, “so it is truly a joy to be here this evening to celebrate the opening of our school.”
Along with the guest of honour, Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Edmonton Bishop David Motiuk, after whom the school was named, Archbishop Richard Smith of the Archdiocese of Edmonton, Catholic School Superintendent Joan Carr, and ECSD District Chaplains Father Julian Bilyj and Father Dean Dowle, representatives from community, provincial and civic government, school staff, clergy and parent organizations participated in the ceremonies. Students, friends and family also gathered together to celebrate the opening of this state-of-the-art Catholic school first announced in 2013.
When the school opened its doors this fall, students were asked to write prayers for their new educational home. “Their prayers truly reflect what we hope to achieve,” Mrs. Volk noted.
Younger children wrote prayers that included: “Please bless our school” and “I pray that Bishop David Motiuk has fun visiting us,” while older students like Miguel in grade 9, offered prayers of thanks: “As this new school year begins, we thank you Lord, for Bishop David Motiuk Catholic School. Lord, you are amazing for giving us the opportunity to go to this new school to help us learn more.”
Along with prayers written by Michael W. Smith and sung by the school’s choir under the direction of Alyssa Tungul, a highlight of the evening were several young students selected to present “thank you” gifts to the evening’s speakers. Two of the children were infants at the time their parents brought them to the site-blessing ceremony several years ago. They are now in Kindergarten and Grade 1 at the school. Their older two sisters are also students there.
In his reflection at the ceremony, Bishop David said that when he drove past the school, to show his father the facility named after him, the proud senior Motiuk offered a humorous comment. Like the television program older participants in the ceremonies might remember – Sanford and Son – Mr. Motiuk said the school should have been named “Bishop David and Father”.
The comment illustrates, Bishop David noted, that a school is not brought to life by an individual, but takes community effort. “Each breath comes from God and from God Himself. Students, teachers, parents and the community breathe in rhythm and unity with God.”
Bishop David led the evening’s participants through a “writing of an icon,” illustrating how, like an icon, a Catholic school community interconnects piece by piece until it builds an identity. “With each day, each lesson, each prayer we write an icon of our children, create a beautiful icon of our children.
“Thank you,” Bishop David concluded, “for the beautiful gift of your children – the life of Christ will shine through them.”
ECSD Superintendent Joan Carr familiarized the audience with the school naming process. “Part of the submission of a name requires an explanation of why that name is meaningful to us as Catholics,” she said.
Submitters of Bishop David’s name commented that he “is an incredible leader in the Catholic community and an amazing inspiration to his congregation and our Catholic faith. He is such a welcoming, kind and generous man. He emanates the Spirit of God in his whole being … a living example of Jesus, himself…’let the little children come to me.’
“Jesus is at the heart of this school,” Mrs. Carr concluded, “and the witness that is borne through the example of Bishop David will help every member of this community to come to know what it means to respond to God’s love through worship, witness, and wonder.”
Along with bringing her greetings to the celebrations, Mrs. Carr gifted the school with a set of liturgical banners for the school chapel. “Today is the Feast of the Holy Guardian Angels,” she added, “many of them will be reaching forward to the students and staff in this community. How appropriate that we celebrate the official opening today.”
Executive Director of the Alberta Catholic Schools Trustees Association (ACSTA), Dean Sarnecki often travels to events like this celebration, advocating and promoting Catholic education. He noted that Bishop David Motiuk School is approximately the 450th Catholic school in Alberta and that about 180,000 students attend Catholic schools in this province. He presented Principal Volk with a commemorative plaque for the school.
“The [school’s] name reflects and honours the history of the Ukrainian Catholic church in Edmonton and all Alberta,” Mr. Sarnecki said, “Your motto and logo – ‘We are one family in Christ’ – is beautiful. Catholic schools are founded on relationships – between each other and our God – faith is the heart of all this. Bishop David is a living example of this and just as faith, love and hope permeates his life, we ask that a school bearing his name, should have faith, hope, and love permeate all learning and aspects of the life of the school. Many generations of students will be able to call this building home and be inspired to live lives of love and justice.”
In her address, Ward 74 trustee, Debbie Engel said: “Parents and guardians, this school is possible because of your belief in Catholic education and your commitment to having your children grow in relationship with Jesus as they learn. Catholic education is grounded in the relationship between home, school, and parish, and tonight, we are all gathered as partners in your children’s future.”
Ms. Engel also noted that “for the first time in our 129-year history, we are opening five new Catholic schools at once! This is unprecedented.”
Ms. Engle noted that “Bishop David Motiuk is a longstanding advocate for Catholic education, and friend of Edmonton Catholic Schools. He is a strong believer in unity and collaboration.”
She concluded by thanking all who were involved in the approval, construction and opening of this school, from the government that approved it to ECSD Superintendent Joan Carr and Assistant Superintendent Cathy Nissen, school principal, teachers, custodian, maintenance and AUPE staff. “What an incredible accomplishment!”
“A school brings a community together. I was excited to hear that this school was named after Bishop David Motiuk, because he’s like family to everyone. In my case, we are actually family since my wife is related to him, which is part of what makes it special for me to be here this evening at the opening of a school in his name. He was at my wedding and performed the homily.” At this celebration, Mr. Knack had the opportunity to return the faviour.
Archbishop Richard Smith related a story about an occasion when he posed this question to some children: “What would you ask Jesus if you met him on the street?”
A little girl answered that she would ask “Why did you make me?”
We are all seeking the meaning of our existence, Archbishop Richard noted. On a transcendental level we are looking for something to “facilitate our encounter with Jesus.”
Commenting on the appropriateness of the school’s name, Archbishop Richard said that “when Bishop David meets you, you feel right away that you are the centre of attention.” He went on to explain that the bishop’s interest is not only in the person’s role in life, but also in “who you are as a person.”
Bringing greetings on behalf of Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, Education Minister David Eggen and Infrastructure Minister Brian Mason, Jon Carson, MLA for Edmonton-Meadowlark indicated that this school “has helped to ease the enrolment pressures felt by other schools in west Edmonton.” Mr. Carson noted that there is a “synergy within the school” and described the new school as state-of-the-art, a facility that enriches the lives of the students and “prepares them for their future. It uses natural light to create bright, open spaces … has a robotics lab, maker space, woodshop and foods lab” to name just a few of the amenities.
“I want to take a moment to applaud Edmonton Catholic Schools for its vision, for putting students first,” Carson said, “and for providing Albertans with a quality educational experience. By building a new school here in Stewart Greens, we are ensuring all of our children receive an education that enriches their lives and prepares them for their future.”
Carson concluded that “this school is so much more than just bricks and mortar. It will serve as a community hub for decades to come.”
Ms. Volk wrapped up the evening by confirming that “Bishop David Motiuk school is filled with joy, love and faith – we are truly a family of learners. And as Superintendent Joan Carr noted, I know that the future is going to be wonderful for the students, families, and staff of this community that has, as its motto, we are one family in Christ!”