Teachers commit to Christian life
By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
PARKVILLE — Huge St. Therese Church was barely big enough for more than 1,000 diocesan early childhood, elementary and high school teachers who celebrated a special school year opening Mass Aug. 17 with Bishop Robert W. Finn.
Kevin Kelly/Key photo
Christian Brothers Douglas Hawkins, left, and Richard Geimer pledge their Christian Commitment for Teachers and Administrators at an Aug. 17 Mass marking the start of the 2009-10 school year.
During the Mass, Bishop Finn led the teachers in a renewal of baptismal vows, and a Christian Commitment for Teachers and Administrators in which they promised to obey church law, conduct themselves in accordance with the church’s doctrinal and moral teachings, and attend weekly Mass if they are Catholic or Christian church services if they are not.
In his homily, Bishop Finn spoke of the “joy” it was “to meet with you and ask the grace of the Holy Spirit upon you and your efforts.”
“You men and women exercise an extraordinary, dignified, holy and challenging work in the church — the education and formation of our young people,” he said.
“I count you among my most valued co-workers,” the bishop said.
“We all know — parents, pastors and teachers alike — that these students are, after all, the sons and daughters of the Eternal Father, created in his image, redeemed by Jesus Christ, and destined for eternal salvation,” he said.
“Nothing is as important — nothing — but that we see them live good and full lives, learn the truth deeply and with integrity, grow in holiness and get to heaven,” Bishop Finn said.
Bishop Finn told the teachers that the comprehensive study and plan for all Catholic schools underway for more than a year is still a work in progress.
“Though initial recommendations have been made, I have asked even more people — clergy and lay, teachers and parents, persons with much expertise in many fields — to look at all the practical implications of the plan,” he said.
“We want a living and livable plan and we won’t be satisfied until we have one,” he said. “Why? Because as the (Second Vatican) Council stressed a generation ago, and as the church has restated so many times before and since, the apostolate of the Catholic schools must continue,” Bishop Finn said.
“We are working to assure the stability and strength of our schools,” he said. “We know that as necessary as they are, they won’t succeed on their own. We have to engage our insight and devotion to assure their effectiveness and keep the authentic mission in focus.”
Bishop Finn praised the teachers and administrators for their sacrifices and dedication.
“It is clear to me through my observation of our schools, and from the church’s own teaching, that your sacrifices with and for students and their families are so much more than a job,” he said.
“You make this clear by your dedication. Yours is a holy vocation within society and within the church,” Bishop Finn said.
“You spend more active hours with these children than some of them have with their parents,” he said. “You are forming them in supernatural faith, hope, and charity, and helping them live these values in life.”
That doesn’t happen only in religion class, he said.
“It is conscious and explicit in every educational exercise: math, science, literature,” Bishop Finn said.
“Our schools are free to pray aloud, and the sacred signs that adorn our walls, and the songs we sing are alive with the symbols of our faith,” he said. “We look for opportunities to share our faith and go out in apostolic service in the name of the Lord. This is the meaning of the Catholic school.”
In his remarks at the end of Mass, Diocesan School Superintendent Marlon De La Torre reminded the teachers that “our aim is to assist in laying the journey to heaven for our students.”
“The Catholic school serves as a sanctuary that resonates in hope because of the aim to experience Christ personally and intimately in every aspect of Catholic Education,” De La Torre said.
“Our activities, thoughts, prayers and intercessions direct us to a love for Christ and his church that manifest hope,” he said. “Our children in the classroom deserve an atmosphere rooted in hope amidst a world that unfortunately in many ways displays despair.”
De La Torre said that students, teachers, and all Catholics can find sanctuary in the Holy Sacrifice of Mass and the Eucharist.
“Every sacrificial meal we celebrate in the body and blood of our Lord reminds us of the hope that rests in our savior,” he said.
“Thus, when the impediments of discouragement, despair, or a lack of fath appear to be taking hold of our souls, we can place our trust in Christ through his sacrifice that we partake at every Sunday Mass.”