Forum cancelled and ended

I am sorry to announce that the Canadian Forum on Theology and Education (http://cfotae.ca/) 2018 has been cancelled. Forum (a public meeting for open discussion or expression of ideas ) began in 1979 as High School Forum and this is just the second time in its history I have had to cancel. The only other time when Forum did not have enough participants to happen was in 2008. The theme that year was Radical Awakening in an Evolutionary Era with Sister Gail Worcelo, Jan Novotka and Fr. Joe Mitchell C.P. All three, Gail, Jan and Joe are students for many years of Passionist Priest Thomas Berry RIP the leading Catholic cultural historian, ecotheologian and environmental thinker. I suspect the topic may have been a little too far ahead of the curve. Certainly schools and teachers were trying to be more environmentally friendly but there was not too much theology for teachers or students behind the many activities
Forum 2018 Dignity, Difference and Dialogue : Theology in Context with Tina Beattie and Catherine Cavanagh was intended to address issues of diversity and inclusion specifically in the Canadian Catholic school context as a reflection of Catholicity within society as a whole; in other words it would examine how we struggle with issues such as race, gender, LGBT concerns, religious difference and poverty in our Catholic schools, issues that are absolutely contemporary.

Tina and Cathy are both aware that Forum will not go this year. I have also spoken with Ilia Delio OSF (https://www.omegacenter.info/about/ilia-delio/) whom I had booked for Forum 2019 and released her from her commitment.
The Canadian Forum on Theology and Education will not happen again.

I am obviously very disappointed.

I would like to thank those who have supported Forum over the years both participants and those who sent and paid for them including OECTA. Liturgies were an important part of Forum and I would add my thanks to those who prepared liturgies: the presiders, the musicians, the singers, the lectors and the involved, active participants.
First and foremost, I wish to thank a retired director of the Dufferin-Peel CDSB John Kostoff, who supported Forum as a teacher, department head and superintendent. As Director, he offered to pay registration fees for two participants (teacher, chaplain and/or administrator) from each secondary school to attend Forum. The current director, Marianne Mazzorato, continued the same offer and I thank her for that. Even with this generous offer, however, only 8 of the secondary schools have sent in registrations this year for a grand total of 15 participants. 18 schools have not a single participant. When Forum began in 1979 the encouragement and support of Pat Brennan and Jim Hansen in Hamilton-Wentworth CDSB, where I worked for thirty years, was invaluable. This year, there is just one person registered from Hamilton-Wentworth CDSB, none from York CDSB, Halton CDSB,, Niagara CDSB and just one person from Toronto CDSB…

When High School Forum began in 1979, it was aimed at religious education teachers in Catholic high schools. Although the Canadian Forum on Theology and Education had a broader perspective, it was religious education teachers who, until recently, provided the majority of participants.

I’m an old fart and, despite the fact that three of my children and my son-in-law are all secondary teachers and my oldest granddaughter is in Grade 2, I don’t seem to understand what is going on with teachers, chaplains and administrators in the Catholic schools in Ontario. Forum, since it began in 1979, has brought in some of the finest contemporary Catholic theologians, educators and authors, not only from North America but also from England, Ireland, Spain, Australia and South Africa. I think I can say that most, if not all of them, did not present anywhere else in Ontario. A column in a recent Toronto Star (https://www.thestar.com/opinion/contributors/2018/03/12/time-to-eliminate-publicly-funded-catholic-schooling-in-ontario.html) once again raises the question of public funding for Ontario Catholic schools. Lack of support for cutting edge Catholic presenters might suggest support for such funding is lacking even amongst educational professionals. From the beginning I have tried to emphasize that Forum is intended to help teachers work with “tomorrow’s Catholics.” If we are only reproducing in our students “models” of who we are then we are doing them a great disservice.
I suspect one reason for poor attendance may be that there are fewer teachers in schools teaching religious education who are actually qualified to do so and actually want to do so. In so many schools it seems that religious education is a fill-in to make up a person’s timetable. And qualifications for many of those who are teaching is perhaps Part 1 of the OECTA/OCSTA 3-part religious education AQ. I ran and taught on that programme for years and know how much and how little it can offer. And that was when it was taught by real people in face-to-face situations.

Forum began with great support from the then bishop of Hamilton, Paul Reding. My diocesan bishop for a good many years, the late Tom Fulton, was a dear friend and a great advocate for Forum.
I know there are some bishops who have undermined Forum for years, without the basic common courtesy of meeting with me or even talking with me. My current bishop in St. Catharines, Gerry Bergie, told the provincial CWL they could not attend Forum with Joan Chittister and Diarmuid O’Murchu (http://www.prairiemessenger.ca/16_05_18/cnews_16_05_18_4.html) – yes that Sister Joan Chittister OSB for goodness sake: she who has authored over 50 books and over 700 articles in numerous journals and magazines including: America, US Catholic, Sojourners, Spirituality (Dublin) and The Tablet (London). – and the next year told the diocesan CWL they could not attend Forum with Teresa Forcades, another Benedictine nun.
I suspect you may remember the hullabaloo over Mike Crosby when Cardinal Collins withdrew his faculties to present in Toronto. (http://www.scouserquinn.com/?p=4700)
(https://www.thestar.com/news/insight/2013/04/08/reformist_priest_refused_permission_to_speak_to_torontoarea_educators_on_catholic_property_hes_now_speaking_at_sheridan_college.html)
Many people are surprised when I tell them that Cardinal “Big Al” Ambrozic was supportive of Forum. I spent a day with him, including lunch and dinner, talking about Forum. His big problem with me was that I did not drink wine! Cardinal Ambrozic, like all of us, had problems…his treatment of Joanna Manning…but he had a brain, he read and he talked with me (at least). The Collins and Bergies just pontificate from their “Star Chambers” and refuse to engage.
As I stated earlier I am disappointed that there will be no Forum in 2018 or 2019. However my overwhelming feeling is one of absolute delight when I recall the presenters – James DiGiacomo SJ, Mark Link SJ, Mary Boys SNJM, Gabe Moran, Joan Cronin CSIC, Frank Morrisey OMI, Paul Hansen CSSR, Andre Guindon OMI, Albert Nolan OP (South Africa), Graham Rossiter CFC (Australia), Fr. Dermot Lane (Ireland), and more recently Christine Schenk CSJ, Paul Lakeland, John Dear SJ, Joan Chittister OSB, Heather Eaton, Michael Morwood, Roy Bourgeois MM, Mike Crosby OFM, Margaret Guider OSF, Diarmuid O’Murchu MSC, Teresa Forcades OSB (Spain) – to mention but a few of the many outstanding Catholic theologians, educators and authors who have worked with teachers in our Ontario Catholic schools not for one or two hours bur for two and three days.
I am equally delighted when I recall the thousands of Catholic teachers whom I have met as we all shared the incredible experiences, both educational and liturgical, of Forum.
When I told Tina Beattie that Forum 2018 was likely to be cancelled she responded, “ I shall be very sorry but I shall also bask in the opportunity to spend more time with my grandchildren.” I will be doing exactly the same.
One final thought. Should there be any individual or group who might want to “pick up the torch” and continue to offer an independent forum where contemporary Catholic theologians, educators and authors can offer opportunities for adult faith development and professional development for teachers and other adult Catholics I would be most happy to offer my support.

John Quinn Founder and Coordinator Canadian Forum on Theology and Education
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