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By Len Altilia, S.J.
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Jan 7th, 2016
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As a Jesuit-inspired school, MTMS tries to inculcate the values of Jesuit education in the minds and hearts of the students, to form them as men and women for others. 

“Good morning.  Welcome to Mother Teresa Middle School.  My name is Elizabeth.  May I show you around our school?”

And so our tour began with the help of this poised, self-assured grade-7 student who evinced not only great pride in her school but also a composure and dignity uncommon for any person her age, and especially for a young First Nations girl from the inner city of Regina, Saskatchewan. If anyone needed a reason to justify the existence of this school, this young lady and her fellow students would certainly provide it.

Mother Teresa Middle School (MTMS) is the first of its kind in Canada, a member school of the Nativity Miguel Coalition established in the United States.  Nativity schools were created in urban centres to serve the needs of academically capable children from low-income families whose socio-economic circumstances limit their ability to develop to their full potential.  These schools are committed to breaking the cycle of poverty through faith-based education.

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“The MTMS Summer Leadership Academy gives students an opportunity to lead, learn and to live out the Jesuit Principles in and through an extensive and engaging three week summer program.”

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“Outdoor Education experiences enhance our Science Curriculum.”

MTMS was the result of the generous leadership of Paul and Carol Hill of Regina who, after meeting Mother Teresa herself, were inspired to respond to the needs of the poor in their home city, especially the children, the majority of whom were members of First Nations communities.  Having learned about the Nativity Miguel Network, knowing that many of these schools were established in association with the Society of Jesus from whom he had received his own education, Paul approached the Provincial of the Jesuits in English Canada, Fr. Jean-Marc Laporte, SJ, to seek his blessing and support for the creation of a Nativity school in Regina that would be inspired by the values of Jesuit education.  His dream was realized after three years of hard work and with the generous and effective support of the Regina Catholic School Board and Campion College, the Jesuit liberal arts college on the campus of the University of Regina. MTMS opened its doors to its first class of 18 students in September 2011.

In June 2014, 16 members of that first class graduated from Grade 8 and are now attending four different high schools in Regina and beyond. They entered Grade 6 with reading and math skills well below grade.  They entered with low self-esteem, limited interpersonal skills, low expectations for success in school based on past experience; they entered from unstable family circumstances, and from social settings that provided little support for academic pursuits.  But they also entered with a desire to succeed, to escape from the limitations of their poverty, and to create a better future for themselves.

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“Student athletes at MTMS…Imagine, Believe and Achieve.”

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“Learning to play the violin helps MTMS students to develop a wide variety of important skills.”

MTMS provided for them a safe, nurturing, supportive environment within which they could fulfill their desire.  Through a combination of an extended school day, an extended school year, proper nutrition, remedial instruction, attention to health needs, and a whole host of other supports, the school has helped these students to grow in self-esteem, to recognize and appreciate their abilities, and to imagine a future that includes advanced education.  Not wishing to leave the students to their own resources after graduation, the school provides continuing support all the way through to the completion of post-secondary education.

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“Hands-on science taught by professors at the University of Regina during our MTMS Summer Leadership Academy.”

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“MTMS students are Committed to Doing Justice and developing a social conscience.”

As a Jesuit-inspired school, MTMS tries to inculcate the values of Jesuit education in the minds and hearts of the students, to form them as men and women for others.  This is perhaps best expressed in the Student’s Pledge that is recited daily in the school: 

In my words and in my actions,

I will try my best today

To live the values of St. Ignatius.

In my school work and in my play

I will treat others with compassion.

I’ll strive for excellence in school,

I will not argue, fight, or bully.

And I will follow all the rules.

I will believe in myself and my ability to succeed,

I will be responsible and honest

And I will help those in need.

As a Mother Teresa Student I will always do my best,

I will work as hard as possible

And let God take care of the rest.

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“MTMS students and staff celebrate Mass at Campion College at the University of Regina with Father John Meehan SJ.”

Judging from the evidence, that is, the students’ maturity, academic growth, consistent attendance, and self-assurance, the school has met the challenge and succeeded in its mission.

Inspired by this success, a group of Catholic laity, alumni of St. Paul’s Jesuit High School in Winnipeg, Manitoba, are working to create a similar school in that city.  Within the inner city of Winnipeg there are some of the poorest neighbourhoods in all of Canada.  In these neighbourhoods, patterns of school attendance and rates of success in school are among the lowest in the country.  All indications are that there is a real need for a school of this nature.

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Mr. Mark Chipman (right), driving force behind the creation of the Nativity School in Winnipeg, speaking to a group of Alumni of St. Paul’s High School.

The group that is steering this enterprise is made up of St. Paul’s alumni, past and present administrators of St. Paul’s and of St. Mary’s Academy, an independent Catholic girls school owned by the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, as well as representatives from the educational, political, social service, and business sectors. At the time of this writing, they are engaged in a feasibility study that, it is hoped, will lead to the decision to proceed with the creation of the school in time for the beginning of the 2016 – 17 school year.  An ambitious goal, to be sure, but well within the realm of possibility.

This article was republished with the permission of the Editor of Jesuits, Yearbook of the Society of Jesus.

 


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