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Guelph private Christian school emerged from tragedy and faith

With deep faith, a passion for education, and a great love for children, Sue Warren and Lisa Brombal established Resurrection Christian Academy
Co-founders of Ressurection Christian Academy, Sue Warren, left, and Lisa Brombal

It’s been 13 years since two women from Guelph came together to find hope through tragedy.

With deep faith, a passion for education, and a great love for children, Sue Warren and Lisa Brombal established Resurrection Christian Academy in 2011.

“It was a special day on April 14. I remember that the snow had just melted. It was a completely gorgeous sunny day,” Warren said.

“I was building an angel garden for my daughter.”

The angel garden was in memory of Warren’s 14-year-old daughter Isabel.

A student at Guelph's Bishop Macdonell Catholic High School, Isabel died tragically in 2009, after a cinder block wall at a nearby park collapsed on her.

“As I was sitting there making a new bed in the garden, it was like God said to me, go now and just dropped this idea on me, a new school, Resurrection Christian Academy,” Warren said.

There was one person Warren wanted to ask for help, her friend, Lisa Brombal.

Brombal’s son Tate was a close friend of Warren’s daughter, Isabel.

“Losing her, it is still so hard every day,” Brombal said.

Warren and Brombal had met only twice previously. They both had children who attended Crestwicke Christian Academy.

“We sat next to each other at graduation. That was the first time we met,” Warren said.

“And then we met again when Isabel was at Lisa’s house. I stood in her kitchen. We chatted, but that was it.”

After the death of her daughter, Warren and her family travelled to Nova Scotia.

“I have two other boys and they of course had to come back to school in Guelph. In September 2009, Lisa called me out of the blue and said, I just need to come and be with you,” Warren said.

“So, she came and sat on my sofa. We drank coffee, we talked, we cried, and we shared. Lisa lost her mom and I had just lost my dad. It was a tough talk, but we had each other, and we grieved together.”

The two women added walking and running to their daily ritual.

“We would run 5 km around the river. People probably thought we were crazy because we were mourning. We would go from laughing to crying, and we would do this all day. And in that time of healing, we thought, we have this time, we need to do something,” Brombal said.

Although they come from two very different backgrounds, Warren and Brombal found that their parenting styles were very similar.

“I was born in the middle east, I lived in England, and I had a very international life before coming here. Whereas Lisa, she was born and raised here in Guelph,” Warren said.

“We both knew that there was something calling us.”

At the time, Warren’s son Theo was graduating from Crestwicke Christian Academy. But the school, located at 400 Speedvale Ave., was set to close due to low enrolment.

“Our other children went to that school, so we were sad to hear that it was closing,” Brombal said.

The plan was to open Resurrection Christian Academy (RCA) in September 2011. The two friends told their husbands, families, and friends.

“They knew we were grieving. They thought it was a good idea, but no one believed that we could make this happen in one year,” Brombal said. "We did get a lot of push back from people. But we thought if God wants this to work, it will happen."

Many parents had already enrolled their children elsewhere, but five teachers from Crestwicke Christian Academy said they would stay.

The two had very different career paths.

Warren has a civil engineering degree, went into investment banking, natural nutrition, paralegal services, marketing, and also coached diving.

“Lisa’s path is completely different and her gifts are completely different. It was like God put two people together, a team that could really build something incredible," Warren said.

Warren called Crestwicke Baptist Church, which was the academy’s governing body.

“I told them that we had enough parents and teachers to proceed but no legal backing. So, they said, well, you can use our documents, and you can have our business number and charity number,” Warren said.

“We also had to raise $120,000 to get through the first year. And we did."

Crestwicke Baptist Church closed in August. Despite all odds, Resurrection Christian Academy (RCA) opened on Sept. 6, with 48 students.

“Since then, it has been one miracle after another. I became a science and math teacher for the older students,” Warren said.

“We were just two moms who were passionate about children and education.”

The goal at RCA is to enable each student to reach for their own personal strengths within a caring Christian environment.

Class sizes are limited to a maximum of 18 students to ensure individual attention and personalized teaching for varying learning needs. 

“Neither of us had done this before but everything just seemed to fall in place. It wasn’t easy. At first. Lisa and I were in seven days a week for the first four years,” Warren said.

But Brombal says it has never felt like work.

“When you are called to do something, you just know this is where you are supposed to be. We were volunteers, but God gave us everything we needed. He gave us endurance, and he surrounded us with people who were supportive and who really wanted to join us in this vision," Brombal said.

Although it's a private school, RCA is accessible to anyone wanting a Christian education.

“We decided that we would offer bursaries to children whose parents were in financial need,” Brombal said.

Brombal, the school's director, says RCA might be small, but it has a large family.

“We have smaller class sizes with specialized teachers who are passionate."

Currently, there are 64 students enrolled at RCA.  

“This experience has given us a lot of grace. We are definitely not the same people we were then we walked into this. The school, with all of the gifts it has given us, and all of the triumphs, and even the things that weren’t, it has all has brought us to a place where we love getting up in the morning,” Brombal said.

“It has been the greatest privilege. It was always about the children. When we said yes, we never questioned it.”

Warren and Brombal never thought that this is where they would be, 13 years later.

“I had to deal with this loss too, through my son, and through Sue. We were different, but at the same time, we weren’t. We just fit. God told me to go to her. And then the doors just opened though all of that healing,” Brombal said.

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