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

The Prince Albert Catholic School Division celebrated the start of its 135e anniversary with a special mass for the return of the personnel to the shore on Friday morning.

Director of Education Lorel Trumier said they chose the site on the advice of Bishop Stephen Hero because it was close to the original one-room log schoolhouse with which the division had started in 1887.

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

“To (stand the test of time) is an amazing thing.”

The morning event included a special blessing and acknowledgment of the land. Trumier said the division benefited from being located in Treaty 6 territory and the homeland of the Métis. They wanted to acknowledge it on Friday.

The division has a few other celebratory events planned for the 2022-2023 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.

Either way, Trumier said they’re just happy to be able to have celebrations this school year.

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

To celebrate its 135th anniversary, the division plans to put a special emphasis on the Moccasin Project, which helps students discover the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action.

Trumier said they want to focus more on reconciliation after the pope’s visit to Canada over the summer. The division did preparatory work with the students before the visit to help them understand why the pope was in Canada. However, Trumier said there is still work to be done.

“What we need to do is recognize that the first steps in anything about truth and reconciliation need to be part of the journey,” she explained. “We cannot sit idly by and hope that truth and reconciliation will happen. We need to be part of the journey and part of this healing process.

“The Holy Spirit is at work here, and He has declared that every child matters and that we are called to a relationship that must be consistent with our gospel teaching and our ways of life,” he said. she adds. “I’m excited about the opportunities to dig deeper into this. It’s not that the Pope came to apologize and it’s done. It’s that he’s calling all of us, Catholic educators and Catholic Christians, to be part of the journey of truth and reconciliation as well, so that’s very, very powerful for us.

At the start of the 2022-2023 school year, the Prince Albert Catholic School Division will have approximately 350 employees and 3,000 students. That’s a far cry from the 31 students the division began with in 1887.

While a lot has changed in the world of education during this time, Trumier said one thing has not changed: the desire for quality faith-based education from families in Prince Albert.

“We want to be good descendants of our ancestors…and be able to provide a Catholic education,” she said. “We want to do this for our children. This is what builds the community.