By Thandiwe Konguavi
Staff Writer

Tony Sykora, a long-time trustee and staunch supporter of Catholic education, is being remembered as a man of great faith, great love, and great commitment.

Sykora, 60, died from brain cancer on New Year’s Day, surrounded by family. His funeral Mass was celebrated on January 7 with family members, friends, colleagues and fellow parishioners at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Sherwood Park.

 “Tony was deeply committed to family, first of all,” Archbishop Richard Smith said during his homily. “He was committed to his parish, to his brother Knights of Columbus, to his many friends in the hockey community, and in a special way to the cause of Catholic education.

“He, who knew personally and deeply the commitment of God shown to him in Christ, reflected it, and announced it, in the sign of his commitment to family, to faith and to all that is good. 

“Tony’s example reminds all of us that our witness to Christ cannot be limited to words. It must be communicated above all in the way we live our lives.”

A trustee for 18 years with the Elk Island Catholic School Division, Sykora also served as vice-president, president, and past president of the Alberta Catholic School Trustees’ Association (ACSTA) and vice-president of the Canadian Catholic School Trustees’ Association (CCSTA). 

Justine Wright, chair of the Elk Island board, described his impact in Sherwood Park and in the Catholic community there as enormous.

“He loved relationships, he loved going to events, and he was a strong proponent of Catholic education,” said Wright. “He completely believed in the right to Catholic education in this province and he always made sure in any discussion — particularly with any government — that our rights as Catholics to educate our children was first and foremost. And that was true to the day that he died for sure.” 

Tributes poured in on social media from members of provincial and federal government, including NDP MLA for Fort Saskatchewan-Vegreville Jessica Littlewood, who remembered the impact of Sykora’s “graciousness, kindness and faith;” NDP MLA for Edmonton-Calder and Minister of Education David Eggen, who called Sykora a “committed advocate for education in Alberta;” and Member of Parliament Garnett Genuis, a fellow KofC and OLPH parishioner, who called Sykora a “great public servant and supporter of Catholic education.” 

In a statement posted to the Elk Island Catholic Schools website, Sykora was remembered for a “legacy of leadership in Catholic education.”

“Those of us who were privileged to spend time with this great man will miss his gentle manner and laugh and the marvellous way that he made you feel as if you were the most significant person in this vast world as he spoke with you.”    

The CCSTA called Sykora “a strong Catholic education supporter and dear friend.” 
Sykora became a member of the CCSTA Board of Directors in 2011 and was elected vice-president in 2016. In his acceptance speech, he made his commitment clear.

“I believe a faith-based education based on the Gospel values of Jesus Christ is essential for the development of young people as they shape future societies,” he said. “Although Catholic Education is protected by constitutional guarantees, it is important to never get complacent about the gift of Catholic Education and ever important to demonstrate to other Catholics that we provide an education to our young people that honours the mission of the Catholic Church. We must also demonstrate and articulate that Catholic Education provides excellent value to society as a whole.”

Tony Sykora is survived by his wife of 38 years, Debbie; his children, Holly and Stephen; his parents, George and Rose; siblings John, Betty and Peter; brother-in-law Don; his nieces, nephews, and numerous other relatives and friends.