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On Tuesday, November 1st, 2016, in front of more than 700 friends, family, alumni and supporters, St. Paul’s High School honoured Mr. Mitch Bourbonniere ’81 with the Ignatian Challenge Award.
The Ignatian Challenge Award, St. Paul’s High School’s highest honour, is presented at the annual Tribute Dinner to men and women who embrace the ideals of St. Ignatius Loyola, and reflect the character and qualities inherent in a Jesuit education at St. Paul’s High School: faith, generosity, a commitment to justice, and a willingness to serve.
President of St. Paul’s High School, Fr. Len Altilia, S.J., who has developed a close working relationship with Mitch through the creation of Gonzaga Middle School, described Mitch as a “gentle giant who has become a significant figure in North Winnipeg by his tireless efforts on behalf of the poor, the outcast, the marginalized. I came to see the depth of love and generosity in him that expresses itself in his respectful, diligent, and attentive care to the people who are most in need, particularly to the youth of the north end.”
Honourary dinner co-chairs, Paul ’80 and Anne Mahon introduced Mitch with personal reflections and testimonies about this year’s deserving award recipient. Paul, a classmate of Mitch who has remained friends for over 25 years, reflected on the three qualities that define men and women for others: “Being genuine, using gifts in service to others and, perhaps the most challenging, doing so selflessly. For Paul, Mitch is an embodiment of those three qualities and “truly describes the very way Mitch gives himself in the community.” Anne, who began working with Mitch several years ago on a project involving ex-gang members explained what makes Mitch so unique. “Mitch interacts non-judgementally and generously, seeing each person he meets – many who are marginalized, wounded, needy and poor – as human beings first.” Quoting one of Mitch’s best friends and emcee for the evening, Phil Chiapetta ’75, Anne described how Mitch “really has a way of inspiring people to respond at a higher level. Mitch is always there, for so many youth who need exactly that – someone to be there for them. Those countless times Mitch has invited a young man to come along with him at a moment’s notice, when the rest of us would take a less demanding road. That is Mitch’s legacy.”
Mitch, who was emotional and humbled by the evening, thanked his wife Linda and their three children for their support and being his “life rock.” Mitch recalled how St. Paul’s High School, more specifically the "Values” course helped him find his calling. One aspect of the Values course was service in the community, where Mitch volunteered at Rossbrook House, a place in which he has since maintained a relationship. Mitch concluded by acknowledging the heroes in his life that inspire him every day: Members of the Bear Clan and Mama Bear Clan, NDP MLA Nahanni Fontaine, Derrick Sigmar ’78, his brother Guy ’79, his mother, his niece Jessica and his eldest son Joseph, who teaches him humility every day.
Following the presentation of the Ignatian Challenge Award and St. Paul’s pin, friends of Mitch surprised him on stage and presented him with a traditional indigenous star blanket. Each blanket tells a story within the blanket through reflecting elements of nature. The star on the star blanket is the symbol of the morning star – the beginning of a new day/another day of life given by the Creator. The colours represent the sun (yellow), the sky and wind (blue), mother earth (green), grandmother spirit (purple), health (navy blue) and thunder (red). The act of giving a star blanket is to demonstrate great respect, honour and admiration for an individual and holds the individual in high respect for their generosity and accomplishments. When a blanket is placed on an individual, it symbolizes wrapping the respect and admiration of everyone in the community around them physically and spiritually.
The 2016 Tribute Dinner Raffle included six amazing prizes graciously donated by members of the St. Paul's community. This year's raffle raised an additional $38,000 for the St. Paul's High School Bursary Fund.
The St. Paul's High School community is extremely grateful for the support of our 23rd annual Ignatian Challenge Award Tribute Dinner and would like to thank everyone for making this year's dinner possible.
In particular, thanks to this year's sponsors for their generosity and dedication to the mission and vision of St. Paul's High School: