In the fall of 2007, the Halton Catholic District School Board launched the system Focus on Faith initiative in support of the call to build strong Catholic Learning communities.
The Focus on Faith initiative provides a contextual framework for addressing the Ministry of Education initiative of Finding Common Ground: Character Development in Ontario Schools, K-12, for ensuring all programs within the Board explicitly espouse a Catholic philosophy of Education.
In August 2008, The Education Commission of the Ontario Conference of Catholic Bishop's released a document entitled, "Character Development and the Virtuous Life: A Position Paper", written by Bishop Paul Andre Desrocher. Bishop Desrocher writes: "The Character Development Initiative presents us with an opportunity: to reflect on an important aspect of the Catholic school educational project, namely to foster the full flowering of our students as mature, believing subjects and actors in the world. It invites us to identify and better articulate what ii is we have always been trying to do. It gives us a framework in which to better focus our energies and evaluate our ability to attain our goals. The Character Development Initiative is thus a gift to our Catholic school systems. On one hand, we must seek to integrate this initiative in a way that is faithful to our own tradition and identity. The use of virtues - language is a first step in the process. It helps us re-acquire a valuable concept in our tradition, compels us to recognize God's role in the character development of our students, and helps us focus on specific habits that foster and protect the freedom to which we are all called."
The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines a virtue as "an habitual and firm disposition to do good". It allows the person not only to perform good acts, but to give the best of himself... 'the goal of a virtuous life is to become like God.' (St. Gregory of Nyssa).
The theological and cardinal virtues of our Catholic faith are embedded in the Unifying Catholic Themes of Focus on Faith: Human Dignity, Stewardship of Creation, Promotion of Peace, Community and the Common Good, Preferential Option for the Poor and Vulnerable, Human Rights and Responsibilities, Solidarity and Dignity of Work. These Catholic Social Teachings are our virtues in action. The Halton Catholic District School Board's Focus on Faith Foundation offers our staff and students a framework that allows our faith to permeate all of the content that teachers present, exceeding a typical Virtues Education Program which is sometimes viewed as a disconnect or add-on.
We have been pleased to share the Focus on Faith initiative with many of our Catholic Education partners from across the province. Staff have made presentations for:
- Catholic Curriculum Corporation
- Ontario Catholic School Trustees Association Conference - April 2008
- When Faith Meets Pedagogy Conference 2008
- Charles Sturt University Teacher Education Program
- National Catholic Education Association Conference - March 2008
- OECTA/OCSTA Religious Education Courses for Teachers (ongoing)
Such requests for presentations within the Catholic educational community are evidence that our Board continues to be widely recognized for our leadership in this area.
During the period from September 2007 through to June 2009, the two year implementation of the first phase of the Focus on Faith Initiative has been accomplished. The following strategies, initially outlined to the Board on September 18, 2007, were fulfilled:
A Board Theological Theme for 2007-2009 was identified
A Focus on Faith Committee chose to focus on an important theological theme for the Board community for 2007-2009, consistent with the Board's Mission Statement and Governing Values, as a means to align and support Catholic initiatives and our call to build strong Catholic learning communities.
The theological theme has been, "And God saw that it was good."
A Board Prayer 2007-2009 was developed
A prayer in support of the Board's 2007-2009 Theological Theme, "And God saw that it was good", was written for students and staff. This prayer is used on a regular basis in all of our schools.
An Image to Support Our Focus on Faith Theological Theme was created
The Focus on Faith Committee chose the image of a water drop falling into a large pool of water to support the Board Theme, "And God saw that it was good". The ripples the drop makes on the water symbolizes the far-reaching effect even the smallest action can have on our world.
Unifying Catholic Themes for Each Grade, Kindergarten to Grade 12 were adopted
The Halton Catholic District School Board is rooted in, and envisions education based on the true model of moral character, Jesus Christ. By inculcating gospel values into all of our pursuits, we work for the highest ideal of human character.
- Christ-centered character formation in our schools is guided and supported by the Unifying Catholic Themes identified for each grade, Kindergarten to Grade 12.
- These Themes are drawn from the Social Teachings of the Catholic Church, and find their source in the Kindergarten to Grade 8 Religious Education and Family Life Education programs, and in the Grades 9 to 12 Revised Ontario Catholic Secondary Curriculum Policy Document for Religious Education.
- Catholic Curriculum Core Maps have been developed to support the Catholic Theme for each grade level and to assist the teachers in integrating our faith in every subject taught.
A Multi-Faceted Approach to Support Our Focus on Faith was adopted:
The Halton Catholic District School Board's School Improvement Framework is used to provide a systematic, multi-faceted approach to respond as a Catholic system to Ministry and Board initiatives.
To support ongoing implementation, resources were prepared to support Elementary Pastoral Animators, Secondary Chaplaincy Leaders and Principals in leading their communities.
Building on Success: Focus on Faith 2009-2011
Over the last two years, much time, energy and resources have ensured that curriculum is infused with gospel values, and presents a Catholic world view. The Catholic Social Justice themes and the essential questions that have been developed to support the themes through the curriculum maps, bring experiences of our faith in every subject taught in our schools.
The next phase of the Focus on Faith foundation will ensure that our Catholic world view permeates not only our content, but also our processes. The infusion and integration of Gospel values into the language, structures, and processes we create to develop school improvement plans, curriculum development, staff development, special education programs and instructional practices is essential in creating distinctive Catholic learning communities.
The intention is that our Focus on Faith initiatives provide an element of system coordination and support to many school-based activities, ensuring a greater level of consistency and support, while also enhancing the profile and importance of Faith-based initiatives within our schools.