School trustees should be agents of reconciliation, not division

Jesus Calms a Storm on the Sea
Jesus Calms a Storm on the Sea, painting on the church altar

By Glen Argan

Edmonton’s Catholic school board has been a cesspool of animosity in recent years, a fact that is an embarrassment both to the teachers, administrators and other staff who work hard to educate our children as well as to the Catholic community itself.

There is no magic fix to this, although several people have suggested to me that voters should replace the entire board in the Oct. 16 municipal election. However, I do not believe any sin is unforgiveable nor any school trustee committed to the Catholic faith unredeemable .

The Gospel for Sunday, Sept. 10 pointed out a necessary step for moving toward healing and harmony. Jesus told his disciples, “If your brother or sister sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If your brother or sister listens to you, you have regained your brother or sister.”

Dealing with breaches of faith in this manner is simple, but requires courage. How much easier it is to gossip about others’ faults with your family and friends than to speak directly to the person who has offended you.

Probably all of us have been the victims of gossip about our alleged sins when our accuser has not shown the basic courtesy of bringing those sins to our attention so we can have a dialogue. I have been the victim, and I also have been the perpetrator. In most cases, the times when I was the perpetrator I was exercising the responsibility of a journalist to comment critically on public concerns and how public figures deal with them. However, there are other instances where I have nothing to be proud of.

It is painful when people have pronounced you guilty without giving you the right to defend yourself. As in a Kafka novel, you gain the sense that you are guilty, even though you don’t know the crime.

I recall one instance in which the chair of the Catholic school board censured a trustee at a public meeting catching the accused trustee totally unawares. The accused was upset, and I don’t blame her.

For Edmonton’s Catholic school board to regain public trust, the first step should be for trustees to pledge to present each others’ alleged wrongdoings to each other face to face before going public. Even if they don’t go public –even if they gossip about each other behind closed doors – a moral crime has been committed. Trust has been breached, a person’s reputation besmirched.

Trustees should set an example for the entire faith community of Edmonton Catholic Schools. We all wrong each other; we all have disagreements. The way out of such disharmony is not gossip, but speaking directly with the person with whom we are at odds. Jesus calmed the waters by being an instrument of reconciliation. We should do the same.

(Glen Argan is a candidate for the Catholic school board in Ward 75.)

[GA1]Mitted to the Carth

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Glen was the editor of the Western Catholic Reporter in Edmonton, Alberta, for nearly 30 years. He is the winner of numerous journalism awards for editorial and feature writing, layout and design, and general excellence of the WCR. Glen is also the 2015 winner of the Kevin Carr Christian Leadership Award. given by Newman Theological College for his work in promoting a Christian culture in Western Canada. He continues to work toward promoting Christian culture as a candidate for the Edmonton Catholic school board.

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