The Holy Spirit School was blessed and dedicated on May 31 in a celebration that spoke to the diversity of the families they serve.
Calgary Bishop William McGrattan presided over the blessing, messages were brought by several officials, and students performed and played a large role in the production.
A Pipe Blessing was led by Stoney Nakoda knowledge keepers Virgle Stevens and Ollie Benjamin. Not long afterward, several Holy Spirit School colourful jingle dancers performed.
Kim Welte was named principal of the Holy Spirit School for the 2021-22 school year at its former location in East Cochrane. She was charged with helping to lead the transition to the new school in the Fireside community.
"I feel grateful and blessed because they could have picked anyone, and Kathleen Kostiuk, who at the time was my area director, now superintendent, picked me. I feel quite blessed."
"There's so much that goes into building and working together to get this school to where it is today," she says. "It's emotional, but there are a lot of people who offer support, and help all the time."
"We're so grateful to have the bishop, who is so incredibly busy, come to our school, give us his time, and tell us how important education is."
Bishop McGrattan shared with the crowd that he's a former teacher.
Blessing a school signifies first and foremost the importance of education, explains Bishop McGrattan, but it also recognizes the community it serves.
He says Cochrane has a unique history and a character of its own, and he believes the involvement of the Indigenous community was an important part of the celebration.
"It's a magnificent building, and the spirit of the students should be lifted when they come into a new space like this. Hopefully, they'll appreciate it, and respect it, but also know that education was happening where they came from as well."
CCSD school trustee Myra D'Souza says the opening of the new school follows years of work to get the school funded, then constructed.
"This is a very important, auspicious occasion for us because, as trustees, we work hard to get a school," she says. "We advocate very vigorously with our politicians, and we were very fortunate that we got the money"
She says our youth are our future and the hope is these students will carry forward the efforts to create a better and more inclusive world for all. She says the name Holy Spirit is fitting.
"That's what we want for everyone, not just our children, but everyone who walks into these halls to be filled with the Holy Spirit, so we can spread kindness, compassion, and empathy and not be judgmental but be understanding, and let us learn to walk in other people's shoes."
She says Holy Spirit has the highest number of indigenous students in the Calgary district.
"We work very closely with our Indigenous communities, and we know there's still lots of work that needs to be done. We plan to continue to work with our elders, and to work with our communities."
"We're so rich, you know. With all the different cultures we learn to be more understanding of each other."
She says it's valuable to have a new school, but not lost is the need for government support of programming and to continue to support the mental health of children.
"That doesn't stop just because we've got a brand new school. We still need support for our students, and so we'll continue to advocate for them."
"Ultimately, what we want is to raise good, kind, compassionate children. At the end of the day, you can do all the studies you want, but if you're not a good kind person, you know, what good is that?"
Laura McJanet-Brogan, the school council vice-chair, was the cross bearer for the procession of the blessing.
"It's been really special to be a part of it and to have my kids come home singing the songs that they have been learning. It has been nice for our family and the entire community."
Her son is in grade 3, and her daughter is in kindergarten.
"There was a lot of build-up in June, knowing that it was happening, but showing up for the first day of school was still exciting for everybody."
She says they've been adding more school events for the enjoyment of students and their families.
"Everything seems a just little more exciting because we've got have all these big spaces and outside area."
Grade 6 student Chiz is a long-time Holy Spirit student and has adjusted to being in a much larger school.
"At first, I was kind of skeptical, but now I see it's actually kind of cool, and it's way bigger than our old school."
One of the highlights of the celebration was how the crowd got to wave electronic candles during the choir's performance of the Bryan Adams song, "Shine a Light."
The school's population has grown significantly since moving to the new location, and, unlike schools in the Rocky View School Division, have ample space to accommodate more.
D'Souva says you don't need to be Catholic to attend Holy Spirit.
"We give first preference to Catholic students, but we welcome everyone. We encourage parents and families to come and check out the school."
The school is currently K to 6 but will be adding grade 7 classes in the fall.