About 80 parents supporting Catholic education in Alberta met in Okotoks last week.

The meeting was organized by Parents Advocating for Catholic Education, or PACE, and is just one of several scheduled within the Christ the Redeemer School Division this year.

PACE Chair Shari Gustafson says the group was formed last year to 'engage and inform parents' and has since grown from seven to 11 board members.

"We wanted to create a group that shared and showed their support for Catholic education," she explains. "We're a group of Catholic parents who truly believe in the benefits of Catholic education and the impact that it has on our children's lives. We're passionate about having a faith-based education that aligns with values lived at home."

She adds that parents are 'pleased and proud' of the academic excellence and the safe and caring nature of the schools in the division.

And they feel that's worth protecting, especially in light of issues surrounding Catholic education in Alberta, including calls for a single, publicly-funded school system and revisions to the health curriculum. Gustafson says they're hoping to have the Catholic viewpoint on human sexuality also considered as revisions to health curriculum take place.

She says the benefits provided to children through the Catholic system can't be replaced.

"It is not a program, it's not a religion class that's offered," Gustafson says. "It's a way of living where gospel values are infused into every minute of every day, changing our children's being through encounters with Christ's love. And so really, for us Catholic school parents, for that reason alone there is no other educational option that is adequate."

The most recent PACE meeting was called "With Grace and Hope" and was held at Ecole Good Shepherd School in Okotoks on January 23. Gustafson says the presentation touched on the purpose of PACE, the history of Catholic education and what makes it distinct and unique, as well as the issues currently facing Catholic education. She says parents also had time to chat with others in attendance and share their stories and viewpoints on the presentation and Catholic education.

Gustafson says parents are also asked to consider supporting a petition that PACE has developed to 'maintain the policies and laws that protect rights to a Catholic school education system.'

Several additional PACE meetings are planned for communities served by Christ the Redeemer School Division in the coming months, including Brooks, Drumheller, Canmore and one in High River on March 27.

Gustafson says PACE welcomes new members. Anyone interested in finding out more can visit the PACE Facebook page or email them at [email protected]

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