More than 300 York Catholic students and staff from 13 high schools travelled to France to take part in the official ceremonies commemorating the 100th anniversary of the battle of Vimy Ridge. The group left on April 6th and will return on April 15th.
The battle of Vimy Ridge became a defining moment in Canada's history and the First World War. The sacrifices that took place there helped to cement Canada's international reputation as a strong, independent nation.
As a Catholic community of faith, we value peace and justice which calls us to honour those who sacrificed their lives in defence of these values.
Planning for this Board-wide initiative began in the fall of 2015. Canadian and World Studies Teachers organized and presented the trip opportunity in their schools. The teachers truly wanted to give their students a once-in-a-lifetime experience, that included much more than a simple trip abroad. Students who registered for the trip were assigned a Canadian soldier to research. Students researched the soldiers who died earlier in the school year, and during the trip they had the opportunity to pay their respects at the soldiers' gravesites in France. This helped to reinforce the message that their sacrifice will not be forgotten. Photos from their trips can be seen using social media hashtags: @BAtrips, @sbatrips, @JVtakesEurope and @BressaniVimy100.
Before the Vimy delegation from St. Elizabeth CHS in Thornhill left for France, participants attended a special Mass at St. Joseph the Worker Parish. Delegates and their parents, as well as parishioners and Thornhill MP, Hon. Peter Kent, attended and prayed or the group's safe journey during the solemn and historic trip. Fr. Mario's poignant sermon on the significance of the Battle of Vimy Ridge to our lives today and our continual call to sacrificial love was very moving.
As an additional surprise, Fr. Mario blessed two special gifts for the group organized by Mrs. Young and Mr. Cheng. The first was a donation of crosses made by construction technology students, engraved with the names of each of the soldiers that the students from St. Elizabeth were assigned. The students placed these crosses at the grave for each solider.
"There is something sacred about a handmade object," Said Ms. Dowson, Technological Studies Department Head. "Imagine someone spending the time, and acquiring the skill to then put their hand to making something to salute the sacrifice of a soldier. The Grade 10 Construction Tech class, along with Grade 11 students, Justin Vila, Jose Martinez, and Michael Elia were honoured to create the crosses to help mark the 100th Anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge."
The second surprise was a donation of Catholic prayer books from the military chapel at CFB Trenton. Each delegate will travel with this bilingual prayer book "Armour of Faith: Catholic Handbook for Canadian Military Personnel" to France, making it easier to participate in Lenten prayer services and Mass during our Holy Week travels.
After the YCDSB delegation participated in the Vimy Ridge commemorative ceremonies, they travelled to Belgium, Holland and Germany.