Robert Risling: Local deacon seeks third term on Catholic school board

·3 min read

Rev. Robert Risling, who is more commonly referred to as ‘Deacon Robert’, is hoping to once again serve Medicine Hat’s Catholic Board of Education as a board trustee.

Risling, who has been a trustee for eight years already, wishes to continue implementing the five marks of Catholicity though new projects and programs.

“The five marks of Catholicity is huge for our division,” Risling stated. “Catholicity is an overarching term that represents what we are and what we do in a Catholic school. Many people think of a Catholic education as a public education but simply with a class where we teach religion. It’s not that. Catholicity permeates every aspect of what we do in the school. It’s our perspective, it’s our world view, it’s how we go about disciplining, how we interact with each other, how we treat each other, with dignity and respect, it’s all encompassing.

“So, it’s really import that we get that right if we are to fulfil our mandate as Catholic educators.”

Risling points toward some of the existing projects he has been involved in, such as the hiring of a consultant who will provide the board with a comprehensive review of their Catholicity and will make recommendations in order to improve it.

Risling is also looking toward the future and hopes he and his fellow trustees may one day spearhead the creation of a performing arts theatre and sports literary centre at Monsignor McCoy High School.

“One of the challenges we have in our district is what we call a ‘bleed’,” Risling explained. “We lose students in our high schools.”

“Once the kids reach high school a lot of these students bleed into the public system because they have theatres and they have this programming that we’re not able to offer. We do such a good job, but then we lose our students in the end. This project is really important for us to continue in our task of educating these children, forming them within the Catholic tradition and giving them that foundation for their lives.”

Risling hopes he will be elected for another term, as he feels his position as a deacon would help to maintain diversity within the board.

“We’re in a unique position in our community that a permanent deacon would be running as a trustee. The foundation that I have – the theological training, philosophical training, pastoral training – I can bring that directly to the board,” Risling said. “We have a really strong school-parish relationship. Our priests are very involved in the school, but they’re not sitting at the board table. I am able to bring that aspect to the table.”

Regardless of this election’s outcome, Risling says he feels confident MHCBE will be well-served by its trustees.

As well as serving Medicine Hat’s Catholic community for more than 25 years, Risling also works at the Goodyear tire plant. When he’s not working, he enjoys spending time with his wife, children and grandchildren.

KENDALL KING, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Medicine Hat News

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