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Bishop Henry of Calgary Named 2017 Higgins Award Winner

Bishop Henry Photo CCCBCCSTA is pleased to announce the Most Reverend Bishop Frederick Henry of Calgary as the 2017 Justice James Higgins Award Recipient.

When Bishop Henry announced his retirement in early January, the Alberta Catholic School Trustees’ Association wanted to honour his hard work and dedication to Catholic education – and so they submitted the nomination form for the CCSTA award.

In memory of a distinguished Canadian jurist and Catholic School Trustee, the Honourable Justice James Higgins (1913-1974) of St. John's, Newfoundland, the Board of Directors of CCSTA annually presents an award to a person or group that has made an outstanding contribution to Catholic education in Canada. The Justice James Higgins Award is the highest honour provided by CCSTA. It reflects recognition of an exceptional contribution to Catholic education in this country.

Bishop Henry has been a champion for Catholic education in Alberta and Canada, and has contributed greatly to its cause, first in his service in Ontario as Liaison Bishop to the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities of Canada, and as a Member of the Ontario Conference of Catholic Bishops (OCCB) Education Commission, and later as liaison Bishop with the ACSTA in Alberta.


“Throughout his ecclesial ministry, he consistently and fearlessly has been an outspoken advocate for the poor, the defenceless, and homeless. He has advocated for access to health care, environmental issues, and many pro-life issues,” ACSTA Vice-President John Tomkinson wrote in the nomination. “It is through Bishop Henry’s work in Catholic education, specifically as education liaison with the Alberta/NWT Bishop Conference to Catholic education in Alberta, as well as his past work in Catholic education in Ontario, that Bishop Henry rightly deserves to be honoured as the recipient of the Justice Higgins Award.”

 Bishop Henry has also been actively involved with curriculum development and is the Alberta Bishop representative in the current ongoing new Grades 1-8 curriculum being developed by ACBO and Pearson Canada. According to Tomkinson, Bishop Henry has been a true advocate for Catholic education, as well as to all of those who have been under his care as Bishop of Calgary since 1998.

“The ACSTA, representing Alberta, Northwest Territories and Yukon have shared in his efforts to protect this vital and grace filled gift of publicly funded Catholic education and would like to thank him for his great service to our organization and the people of Canada,” wrote Tomkinson, adding that with the presentation of the 2017 award taking place in Niagara Falls, nominating Bishop Henry this year would provide a strong statement of support for the work he has done in Ontario (as Bishop of Thunder Bay) and Alberta. It would also award him the opportunity to, if successful, to receive the award in southern Ontario where he is from originally.

Chair for the Calgary Catholic School District’s Board of Trustees, Cheryl Low, supported the nomination.

She outlined how Bishop Henry’s tenure can also be marked by his strong support for the development of new curriculum and curricular resources to support the distinctly Catholic education of students in Alberta. Bishop Henry played a key role in the adoption of new curriculum materials and continues to work closely with educational professionals to ensure that the quality of Catholic resources and programming is held to the highest standard possible.

“Our jurisdiction has benefited directly from the leadership and guidance that our Bishop has provided over the years,” wrote Low. “Moreover, we recognize the impact that his leadership and counsel have provided to all the Catholic jurisdictions in Alberta and beyond. Without hesitation, we are pleased to recommend Bishop Henry be recognized for his prolonged and considerable contributions to Catholic education.”

Other letters of support were submitted as part of the nomination, including one from Cardinal Thomas Collins, the Archbishop of Toronto.

“Bishop Henry’s prophetic voice as a bishop has helped to guide the Church in this country and his episcopal ministry has not only benefitted Catholic education but the whole life of the Church in his diocese and beyond,” Cardinal Collins wrote.

Calling it a privilege to have worked with Bishop Henry, Archbishop of Edmonton Richard W. Smith highlighted Bishop Henry’s lasting impact.

“A man of God who has taken very seriously the responsibilities entrusted to him as Bishop, he has not failed to pass on the faith to the people entrusted to his care,” wrote Bishop Smith in a letter of support. “For this role he has been particularly gifted with a capacity for clear thought and bold proclamation. Indeed, Bishop Henry is known not only in his Diocese but also provincially, nationally and beyond for his courageous preaching of the Gospel. Where others might be tempted to stay silent for fear of criticism or loss of popularity, Bishop Henry has not hesitated to speak the truths of our faith whenever required, however difficult the circumstances might be.”

CCSTA President Marino Gazzola says it’s an honour to congratulate the Most Reverend Bishop Frederick Henry on being awarded this year’s Justice Higgins Award.

“Bishop Henry has been a champion for Catholic education across Canada, and especially in the provinces he has served, Alberta and Ontario,” says Gazzola. “Bishop Henry will receive the award at our Annual General Meeting in Niagara Falls this June, and it will be a pleasure to present it to him in his home Province. On behalf of all Catholic Trustees across our country, I congratulate and thank Bishop Henry for his support and faith filled work.”

Bishop Henry will receive the award at the 2017 CCSTA AGM and Annual Conference in Niagara Falls, Ontario. 

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