The Unity Cross visited St. Francis Xavier High School from December 8-13. Prior to its arrival, each homeroom teacher presented a PowerPoint of the Unity Cross with pictures and a description of each panel that was created by members of our Pastoral Team from existing pictures of the cross and the description of the panels found in the Board’s theme handbook. Homerooms and religion classes visited the Unity Cross that we had on display in the main foyer. Three homeroom classes were present to open the door of the niche to receive the gift of ribbon from Holy Cross (in their school colours). The gift was meant for our tree and students immediately proceeded to decorate the tree that stood in the main office.
On the weekend the PowerPoint was shown at the Riverside South Community mass (as part of St. Leonard’s parish) that takes place at St. F.X. every Sunday. The Cross stood for the days we had it in the midst of much action – our fundraiser to help families throughout our Board at Christmas and a charities bazaar for non-profit agencies in our community and world. Truly the Gospel values represented in this cross, were lived out in our reality. Wanting to depict our Board theme – Though Many We Are One Body in Christ – one of our grade 11 students (Maryfrances Carton) created a beautiful scene of a journey on a road leading from St. Francis Xavier to St. Thomas More with students meeting half way with hands extended in greeting to meet each other. The scene was transferred on to wood and painted by one of our teachers, Rochelle Kerluke. The scene also represented our school crest – our journey on the road toward our hope and our light – Jesus Christ.
St. Leonard School received a book from St. Margarite d'Youville about their saint, and we sent to Holy Cross a unity candle (circle of children holding hands with a red candle in the middle to represent our school colours). Students were in awe of the carpentry and artistry and enjoyed touching and seeing the stories they have heard about in their religion classes. Each class made their own Unity Cross to mark this event and their memories of it.
The Unity Cross was welcomed with a staff prayer and reflection early on Tuesday morning, November 16. Each religion class was then invited to the chapel to view the Unity Cross up close and to talk about the details in the artwork. The students were delighted by the gift of the lion mascot and tiny t-shirt we received from St. Jerome's, and the idea to send a shamrock plant as a symbol of St. Pat's Int. to our next partner school, St. Marguerite d'Youville, was unanimous! During each visit, the classes offered up prayer intentions and spoke about what unity meant to them and how we could achieve unity in our school. Since the artist, Mr. Guitard, is well known as the chaplain to the St. Pat's community, many grade 8 classes have been writing thank you notes to Mr. Guitard to show their appreciation for sharing his beautiful work with all of us.
The staff, students, and community of St. Luke (Ottawa) were thrilled and excited to be the first recipients of the Unity Cross from November 4-10. We made predictions of what the cross would look like, sang songs, listened to stories of Jesus' life, wrote prayers and messages, and had time for quiet reflection. Our gift from the school board was a personal message and a picture of Jesus. We welcomed Superintendent Tom D'Amico and Religious Education Consultant Janet Bentham to help us celebrate. Fr. Greg Murray of Resurrection of Our Lord parish came to the school to share his stories and bless commemorative crosses which were purchased for each student by the School Council. Students from each grade then passed messages and wishes on to the students of St. Jerome.
The unveiling of the Unity Cross was indeed a treasured moment. We were blessed to receive the cross just in time for our Remembrance Day ceremony. With all of our dignitaries in attendance, the entire school community, and our visiting parents and friends, the hushed silence in anticipation and the audible breath of awe when it was revealed was indescribable. We discussed the cross and unveiled it, as part of this year’s ceremony: it was so easy to make a clear connection to our oneness and brotherhood and community at this point, sharing gifts of caring and gifts of God’s love amidst our oneness and solidarity with our treasured comrades, connecting the symbolism of the cross with those in Flanders Fields and building on the trust and love of oneness within our school Board. The Unity Cross found its place as a key component in our Remembrance Day display.
To St. Pat’s Intermediate, we sent gifts that gave them a sense of our school community by sharing some symbols that are uniquely ours. We sent our school mascot, the St. Jerome lion, and our school t-shirt with the face of the lion emblazoned on it. We sent them the smallest size to highlight the fact that as an elementary school, we start with our youngest Board students, as they embark on their journey through the Catholic school system. We also sent our prayer to St. Jerome, our namesake. We rounded up grade representative artists to fashion their own crosses, using their own interpretations and images to personalize them and bring in-depth meaning and insight to their own experiences with the cross (see the three pictures below). All classes had their pictures taken with the Unity Cross. We will continue with varied activities in the future as the children build a deeper understanding and awareness of the enormity of the journey, as we build bonds of community throughout and within the Ottawa Catholic School Board. It was a blessed gift of faith we thoroughly enjoyed