By Patricia O’ Reilly
In April of this year, Marcelle De Freitas was appointed by Provincial Erik Oland, SJ, to the position of President of Loyola High School and Director of the Apostolate. Marcelle has extensive background in education. She has worked across Canada and internationally in all levels of education (elementary, secondary, and post-secondary). She has particular expertise in Catholic education and school governance. While Marcelle is new to Montreal, she is not new to the Jesuit community. She studies with Jesuits in her enthusiastic pursuit of lifelong learning. She serves on the Board of Canadian Jesuits International and is an active member of their education committee.
Marcelle, welcome to the Jesuits of Canada and thank you for sitting down with me for this interview.
Can you tell us a little about your background and how you developed your love for education?
I fell in love with school on my first day of kindergarten, and I continue to find great joy in learning and professional development. In particular, I have been committed to Catholic education in my role as a teacher and a school leader. I was formed in Catholic education to understand faith as a gift that is offered to everyone. I was and am committed to sharing this understanding of faith with my students and staff.
Loyola students graduate with the assurance that God loves them unconditionally and the preparation to be ‘people for others’.
What inspired you to apply for the position at Loyola?
As a member of the CJI Board and education committee I have been inspired by the incredible work the Society of Jesus does around the world. I have always embraced Ignatian education. I taught at a Jesuit high school and I chose a Jesuit education for my son. His Jesuit education gave him a love of family, a commitment to giving back to the community and a preparation to be successful in his career.
I have been ignited by my conversations with Jesuits about being ‘people for others’ and I appreciate the benefits of having an education informed by Jesuit tradition and history. When the position of President of Loyola came to my attention, I didn’t hesitate to give thoughtful consideration about how I might lead Loyola forward, firmly grounded in the Jesuit mission and its 125 year history of successful Jesuit education in Montreal.
How do you understand the integration of the Universal Apostolic Preferences into Secondary education?
The UAP to ‘accompany young people in the creation of a hope-filled future’ is central to the Jesuit education at Loyola an in my view should be the foundation of all education. The other UAPs touch on the importance of the Ignatian exercises, the preferential option for the poor and the care for our common home are all integrated into the mission and curriculum at Loyola. Graduates are prepared to stand on firm ground in a world that is continually changing. Loyola students graduate with the assurance that God loves them unconditionally and the preparation to be ‘people for others’.
You are the first female President of Loyola High School. Do you foresee any challenges in being the gatekeeper of the Jesuit Mission at Loyola?
The transition to change is often challenging. I am humbled and honoured by the trust and responsibility given to me by the Society of Jesus. The Jesuits have embraced diversity and change and have discerned the future direction of Loyola High School. I am confident in my ability to lead the school and foster the Jesuit mission. I am supported in this effort by the Loyola community.
The Jesuits have embraced diversity and change and have discerned the future direction of Loyola High School.
How do you like living in Montreal?
My move to Montreal was seamless. I have visited relatives and vacationed in Montreal throughout my life and I know the city well. I enjoy the joie de vivre of French culture and I am looking forward to many interesting conversations in French. I love to walk, hike and cycle and I have already explored the trails along the Lachine Canal.
Finally, Marcelle, describe your first few weeks at Loyola, how are you settling in?
My first weeks at Loyola have been an experience of welcome and gratefulness. My first words to the community were “thank-you”. I feel welcomed and supported. I am inspired by the love and commitment to Jesuit education that is demonstrated by the students, faculty and staff. In a genuine community everyone leads and everyone follows. Loyola high school is indeed a genuine community.