Prince Albert Catholic School Division opens year of anniversary celebrations with special Mass on the riverbank

Bishop Stephen Hero says a prayer on the riverbank near the original one-room Prince Albert Catholic school. The division turned 135 in March 2022, but decided to hold off on celebrations until the upcoming school year due to concerns about COVID-19. -- Photo submitted by the Prince Albert Catholic School Division.

Prince Albert Catholic School Division celebrated the start of its 135th anniversary with a special Mass for returning staff on the riverbank Friday morning.

Education director Lorel Trumier said they chose the site on the advice of Bishop Stephen Hero, since it was close to the original one room log school the division started with back in 1887.

“What started 135 years ago was families who wanted a faith-based education, and 135 years later, we still have families wanting a faith-based education,” Trumier said.

“To (have the division) go through the test of time is an amazing thing.”

The morning event included a special blessing and a land acknowledgement. Trumier said the division has benefited from being located on Treaty 6 territory and the homeland of the Metis. They wanted to acknowledge that on Friday.

The division has a few more celebration events planned for the 2022-23 school year, but those will be announced at a later date. School staff also want to meet with parents and community councils before finalizing anything.

Regardless, Trumier said they’re just happy to they can hold celebrations this school year.

“The proclamation (from Queen Victoria) occurred in March of 1887, but with everything with COVID, we just felt that it was better to start the school year and have the celebrations throughout the year,” she explained.

To celebrate 135 years, the division plans to put a special focus on the Moccasin Project, which helps students learn about the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action.

Trumier said they wanted to increase their focus on reconciliation following the Pope’s visit to Canada over the summer. The division did some preparatory work with students before the visit to help them understand why the Pope was in Canada. However, Trumier said there’s still more work to do.

“What we need to do is acknowledge that the first steps for anything on Truth and Reconciliation is to be part of the journey,” she explained. “We can’t sit along the sidelines and hope Truth and Reconciliation happens. We need to be a part of the journey and be a part of that healing process.

“The Holy Spirit’s at work here, and He has declared that every child matters and that we are called to a relationship that should be consistent with our Gospel teaching and the ways we live,” she added. “I’m excited about the opportunities to delve into that deeper. It’s not that the Pope came and apologized and that it’s done. It’s that he’s calling all of us Catholic educators and Catholic Christians to be a part of the journey in truth and reconciliation too, so that’s very, very powerful for us.”

When the 2022-23 school year starts, the Prince Albert Catholic School Division will have roughly 350 staff and 3,000 students. That’s a far cry from the 31 students the division started with in 1887.

While a lot of things have changed in the education world during that time, Trumier said one thing hasn’t: the desire for quality faith-based education from Prince Albert families.

“We want to be good descendants of our ancestors … and be able to provide Catholic education,” she said. “We want to do that for our children. That’s what builds community.”