Jill Boughton
Freelance Writer
May 14, 2024 // Diocese

Conference Aims to Help Teachers Live the Eucharist

Jill Boughton
Freelance Writer

Individuals, parishes, and dioceses have been busy trying to foster a deeper devotion to the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament throughout the past few years during the ongoing National Eucharistic Revival. But what does it mean for Catholic schools? Officials with the McGrath Institute for Church Life at the University of Notre Dame are hoping to answer that question by offering a six-week virtual conference this summer to help Catholic educators across the country reflect on what the Eucharistic Revival means for their schools.

Tim O’Malley, Associate Director for Research for the McGrath Institute, hopes many groups of teachers and administrators in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend will register for this opportunity.

According to the Vatican’s 1977 document “The Catholic School,” Catholic schools have three purposes, not only to educate but to catechize and evangelize. “[The Church] establishes her own schools because she considers them as a privileged means of promoting the formation of the whole man, since the school is a center in which a specific concept of the world, of man, and of history is developed and conveyed.”

Joshua Schipper
Bishop Rhoades elevates the chalice during an all-school Mass at Bishop Dwenger High School in Fort Wayne on Friday, January 13, 2023. Catholic schools and the Eucharist will be the central theme of a virtual conference this summer hosted by the McGrath Institute at the University of Notre Dame.

According to Clare Kilbane, Professor of the Practice at the McGrath Institute, Catholic education today is at a crossroads. Having students home during the pandemic opened the eyes of many parents to the glaring inadequacies of secular education. An increasing number of states, such as Indiana, now help parents pay for private schools, but the students flocking to our Catholic schools live in the midst of a culture that no longer reflects or supports the appropriation of a Catholic worldview, and they may have little experience of family prayer or participation in Mass.

In the light of that reality, Catholic schools need to be much more intentional and deliberate about their Catholic identity, Kilbane told Today’s Catholic. If the Eucharist is truly the source and summit of our faith, this should profoundly affect every subject and every aspect of the school, not just the doctrine taught in religion class and a few moments set aside each week for liturgical prayer. Kilbane compares it to the heart in the human body. The Eucharist is that heart: Christ giving Himself completely, and we giving back our whole lives, giving more and more as we mature into ourselves.

Most teachers are professionally trained to teach, but many have had no preparation for living out their faith as witnesses, catechists, and mentors in a Catholic school setting. Even those who are well-catechized themselves may not know how to transfer what they believe into practice day in and day out. All who are involved with a Catholic school need to claim their Catholic identity and live it more and more fully. As O’Malley said of the McGrath Institute’s Center for Liturgy: “My Center considers liturgy as a total way of thinking and living. What we Catholics believe about the Real Presence is so simple – and so profound and important. We can always dive into it more deeply!” Kilbane advocates “pushing the needle toward revival through a richer understanding and experience of the Eucharist.”

The conference, titled “The Eucharist and Catholic Schools,” runs from Monday, June 10, through Friday, July 26, but is designed to accommodate educators’ busy summer schedules. Each of the six weeks includes video presentations to watch, classic texts to read and reflect on, practical application assignments, and a live seminar on Wednesdays from 3-4 p.m. Those being interviewed and participating in the seminars include theologians, educators, and pastoral leaders with a wide variety of practical experience, and each session is deliberately interdisciplinary. The cost is $40 for the entire conference, and continuing education credits are available at the end. Engaging with all the presentations can be done in about two and a half hours per week; additional material might push that up to four hours. Access to these resources will continue after the course has ended, so especially if a group from the same school enrolls, fruitful conversation should be ongoing.

The conference will be on a break the first week of July, and everything will be recorded so that those who have other commitments for a week or two (such as going on vacation or attending the National  Eucharistic Congress in Indianapolis) need not miss out. O’Malley sees that Congress as complementary to the work of McGrath’s conference, which will support the overall work of the Eucharistic Revival and create a good space for helping Congress participants live out their mission of evangelization.

Topics are:

1. “The Eucharistic Identity of the Catholic School,” presented by O’Malley and Kilbane.

2. “Teaching the Eucharistic Mystery,” with Amy Roberts, who teaches catechetics at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Jem Sullivan from The Catholic University of America, and Notre Dame’s Leonard DeLorenzo, whose most recent book helps parents prepare their children to receive the sacraments. Panelists will discuss not only how to teach doctrine but how to form disciples.

3. “The Eucharistic Mystery and the School Curriculum,” with two panelists from the Alliance for Catholic Education, Facundo Gonzalez Icard, Director of Campus Ministry and Student Life at Providence Cristo Rey in Indianapolis, and Notre Dame’s Christopher Baglow, whose interest in the intersection of science and theology extends to Eucharistic miracles.

4. “The Catholic School and the Vocation to Solidarity and Communion” explores how a living relationship with God and the human family can transform a community into a communion. Panelists include Michael Baxter, a Catholic Worker Community veteran; Leonard Franchi from the University of Glasgow, a philosopher of Catholic education; and Ryan Dainty, Dean of Student Formation at Marian High School in Mishawaka.

5. “The Catholic School, Ecology, and the Eucharist” features two college professors. Sister Damien Marie Savino, a Franciscan Sister of the Eucharist from Aquinas College, has a degree in environmental engineering and will continue to explore how Eucharistic abundance affects our stewardship of the environment.

6. “Forming for Full, Conscious, and Active Participation at School Masses” will be considered in the final week. More reverent and participatory liturgies aren’t the beginning point but grow out of all the rich understanding of the previous five weeks.

For 10 years, Dainty has been Dean of Student Formation at Marian High School. The previous five years, although he was teaching in the English department, many students regarded him as their favorite religion teacher, so then-Principal Mark Kirzeder created the current position for Dainty. Although he teaches one popular theology elective for senior boys, The Dignity and Vocation of Men, his role is “forming students, helping make saints, and ministering to the whole person.”

Dainty sees the Church as a school for faith, a place where we can be taught and grounded in a Catholic way of understanding God and the world He has created. The Catholic school participates in this evangelistic mission of the Church. Every course, program, or activity exists to support this mission, this holistic view of the human person. At Marian, he and his colleagues try to integrate that vision, to “do school differently,” in order to create communion, which goes deeper than community.

For more information on the conference, and to register, visit mcgrath.nd.edu/events.

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