Christ the Teacher Catholic School Division has initiated a new faith focus of Walking Together for this school year, 2022-2023. This theme is applicable to many contexts and allows for many connections. Our global Catholic community is currently involved in the Synod on Synodality. “Synod” comes from the ancient Greek word meaning “walking together on the road.” Our school division continues the journey into intentional TRC work where we will walk together with our Indigenous brothers and sisters on the path to truth and reconciliation. This connects to the papal visit of Pope Francis in Canada in July 2022 where he expressed that the Catholic Church has a responsibility to take genuine and meaningful steps to journey with Indigenous Peoples of this land on the lengthy path to healing and reconciliation. This also applies to Catholic schools as instruments of the Church. Also, this notion of Walking Together applies to walking with our colleagues, students, and families, providing support for one another. Finally, our faith focus refers to Walking Together with Jesus on our life journey as we make our way to our heavenly home.
Our guiding scripture for this faith focus includes three Gospel passages. First, The Walk to Emmaus – Luke 24:13-35. One scripture scholar stated, “This story is ‘unfinished’ because it continues today – Jesus walks with us on our journey.” Second, The Mission of the Twelve – Mark 6:6b-13. Jesus called the twelve and began to send them out two by two. Third, The Mission of the Seventy (-two) – Luke 10:1-12. The Lord sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go.
Each year, a poster and prayer are developed to reflect the year’s faith focus. This year, one of our very own students from Dreambuilders High School created the image for the poster and prayer card. The image incorporates both Catholicism/Christianity and Indigenous Spirituality with several notable elements. It includes the cross on which Jesus died to save us from our sins, reconcile us to God, and give us the gift of eternal life. The importance of the number seven is expressed in the seven connected people and the seven steppingstones. The number seven is especially prominent in scripture, appearing over 700 times. From the seven days of Creation to the many ‘sevens’ in Revelation, the number seven connotes such concepts as completion and perfection, exoneration and healing, and the fulfillment of promises and oaths. The connected people also symbolize that we are interdependent and interconnected. The journey of life is not meant to be travelled alone; we have each other, and God is with us every step of the way. The seven steppingstones symbolize the Seven Grandfather Teachings of Indigenous Spirituality and Culture which have connections to Catholic virtues and teachings. The colours of the sunrise and sunset remind us that each new day is a gift of God to continue the journey. The hill reminds us that God never promised the journey of life would be easy, but that he would be with us through it all. The journey of life can be an uphill battle at times, but the reward at the end is eternal life with God the Creator. The feather symbolizes an eagle feather which has deep meaning in both Christianity and Indigenous Spirituality. Many Indigenous cultures believe the eagle is sacred because it flies closest to the Creator. It symbolizes respect, honour, strength, courage, and wisdom. Its feathers also symbolize a step forward, a new chapter in the ongoing journey of reconciliation. Several scripture passages refer to the eagle or eagles’ wings. One is Isaiah 40:31 – “but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” Another is Exodus 19:4 – “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought
you to myself.” The eagle in Christian art represents Christ’s resurrection and is stated to be an artistic symbol of St. John’s Gospel. The eagle is found to be steeped in Christian religious tradition as well as in Indigenous Spirituality. All the elements of the poster come together to represent many contexts and connections within our faith focus – Walking Together.
This new faith focus follows the end of the previous three-year faith focus Following Christ which concentrated on chosen virtues connected to the letters in Christ’s name – Compassion, Holiness, Respect, Integrity, Service, and Thanksgiving. Our new focus provides the opportunity to continue learning and developing an understanding of additional virtues and core values through the Seven Grandfather Teachings of Indigenous Spirituality. These teachings of Love, Respect, Bravery, Honesty, Truth, Humility, and Wisdom are featured on the steppingstones of this year’s poster. We are reminded of many of our Catholic virtues and teachings when we think about the Seven Grandfather Teachings. Love is one of the three Theological Virtues as well as a Fruit of the Spirit. Respect for the Dignity of Persons is a fundamental component of Catholic Social Teaching. Bravery, Humility, and Wisdom are part and parcel with the Cardinal Virtues. Wisdom and Bravery – also known as courage – are Gifts of the Spirit. Honesty is rooted in Judeo-Christian history and extolled throughout the Bible. Many of the Ten Commandments are based on a call for honesty. Truth comes directly to us from Jesus. In John 14:6 Jesus says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” In John 18:37 Jesus answered Pilate, “…for this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” Our Catholic virtues, values, and teachings and the Seven Grandfather Teachings of Indigenous Spirituality complement one another exceptionally well as we walk together as brothers and sisters of Christ on that lengthy path to healing and reconciliation that Pope Francis referred to during his visit to Canada.
We began the school year and the commencement of our new faith focus with keynote addresses from Archbishop Donald Bolen and traditional knowledge keeper and storyteller, Lyndon Linklater. Archbishop Bolen shared four areas of walking together in new ways with our Indigenous Peoples – truth telling; respecting the inherent rights of Indigenous Peoples; celebrating and respecting culture, language, and spiritual ways of Indigenous Peoples; and adopting an Indigenous understanding of respect for the land and creation. Mr. Linklater used storytelling and his personal experience to present four agents of change – family, peers, school, and religion – to move forward on this path of healing and reconciliation.
With all this in mind, may we always strive to instill the various virtues, values, and teachings of Christianity and Indigenous Spirituality in our students and in one another, and inspire one another to respond to the call of Pope Francis to take those genuine and meaningful steps as we walk together on the path of truth, reconciliation, and healing.
“…the Lord…sent them on ahead of him in pairs
to every town and place where he himself intended to go.”
Father, you walk with us through life.
You remind us that no one person is left to journey alone.
We see in your creation that everything has a purpose
but is always attached to someone or something else.
We praise you for blessing our communities that remain united in faith.
Jesus, you provide examples of our call to walk together.
Our faith is a faith that is built in community.
Help us continue to live our Christian faith
responding to the needs of one another,
building each other up and walking hand in hand.
Instill in us the presence of your love and compassion.
Holy Spirit, continue to bless our communal journey in Catholic education.
You are present with each of us as individuals,
but also when we come together to celebrate
the Holy Trinity in our lives and in our schools.
We make this prayer through your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ,
who, by the power of the Holy Spirit,
brings forth a world of harmony and peace,
one God, forever and ever.
“They are a proof to the whole Church of your love and it would be a kindness if you could help them on their journey as God would approve.”
3 John 1:6