Fort Saskatchewan resident Michelle Ethier has a special connection to the city’s new Catholic high school.
Ethier is a distant relative of the school’s namesake, St. Andre Bessette.
“I grew up knowing him, learning about his wonderful virtues and how he wanted to touch and connect people and bring them closer to God,” she said.
Ethier was at the new high school on Thursday morning (Oct.4) to share in celebrating its official opening, gathering with students, teachers, Elk Island Catholic Schools (EICS) representatives, and elected officials for a ribbon cutting in the school chapel.
St. Andre Bessette, who died in 1937, was a member of the Congregation of the Holy Cross in Montreal. Ethier was ecstatic when she found out the grades 9 to 12 school would bear his name.
"The school just encompasses a lot of what he believed in. The red doors symbolize love and that everyone is accepted,” she said, commenting on the school’s main entryway. “His legacy will continue throughout the school for many years and for many students that walk through the halls."
The school opened in September to more than 500 students, taking over high school duties from St. John Paul II school.
EICS trustee Justine Wright said that the programming at the newly built larger school is second to none, and that the building will also bring opportunities for more than just students.
“We're going to be able to offer a lot different things here for the community as well in the evening time,” she said. “Our reciprocal agreement with the City of Fort Saskatchewan is going be a huge aspect to that community involvement."
Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville MLA Jessica Littlewood, who had the ribbon-cutting duties, said it was incredible to take part in a grand opening held in a chapel.
“This was really nice because people were able to reflect on what it means to have a Catholic school that represents their own faith community within their own city, and to celebrate the incredible faith that has been put into this project since day one."
A mass and blessing in the school gymnasium were also part of the day's grand opening activities.