September 30, 2014 // Local

Educators called to ‘greatness of soul’

Tara Schmitt, catechist at St. Pius School, Granger, peruses the Alive in Christ series. “I ordered my sample series,” she beamed, “I can’t wait to get them!”

By Kathy Kershner

MISHAWAKA — Catholic Mission Day united South Bend diocesan educators for the celebration of Mass and consideration of the role of Catholic education in building up the Body of Christ. Hosted by Marian High School on the feast of Padre Pio, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades used the example of the great saint of Pietrelcina to exhort his Catholic educators to strive to both foster and teach the virtue of magnanimity.

“Greatness of soul, magnanimity: that is what characterized the lives of the saints. The saints were often simple, small, ordinary people, but they had the sincere desire to give the best of themselves. In so doing, God used them to do extraordinary things,” said Bishop Rhoades.

Drawing from a recent homily of Pope Francis, Bishop Rhoades explained that Catholic education has at its heart a mission of facilitating an encounter with Jesus Christ, “our Great Teacher and model of life.”

Modeling a life of virtue, creating engaging lesson plans, striving for excellence in every word and deed, these are hallmarks of an authentic teacher. In doing these things in great love, he encouraged, “we strive to teach our children and young people to travel the road of life as disciples of Jesus, pursuing truth, beauty and goodness.”

In order to equip his educators for this work of ministry, the Secretariat for Catholic Education Carl Loesch arranged for a keynote presentation that asked those present to consider patterning their teaching methodology on God, Himself.

In his presentation, “The Way God Teaches,” Dr. Joseph White, clinical psychologist, catechist and author, offered a strategy of teaching modeled by God throughout salvation history. White reasoned that God has revealed, through Scriptures and the Incarnation of His Son, a manner and method of teaching that can be imitated. Citing the Catechism of the Catholic Church, he pointed out that it is the Church’s mission to be “a visible and actual continuation of the pedagogy of the Father and of the Son.”

He went on to elucidate five aspects of the way God teaches and showed point-by-point how all education should be personal and invitational, multisensory, communal and familial, structured, systematic, comprehensive and self-perpetuating.

The co-author of “Allelu! Growing and Celebrating with Jesus,” an early childhood curriculum for ages 3 through kindergarten and the Alive in Christ catechetical series for grades 1-8, White, along with Our Sunday Visitor, introduced to grade school and high school catechists, textbooks and an interactive website that was written and organized around the five aspects of divine pedagogy that had been discussed earlier in the day. Described as a curriculum centered in Christ, White declared, “The primary mission of a Catholic school is to put students in touch with the person of Jesus Christ. We do this by teaching as Jesus taught. This will look different depending on the grade level and subject taught.”

Tara Schmitt, a catechist at St. Pius School, Granger, ordered a sample of the Alive in Christ series for her fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade classes. “It looks like they have created a curriculum that is engaging, offering prayerful opportunities as well as providing sound catechesis. From what I saw today, they have put a great deal of effort in providing an interactive on-line dimension including music, liturgical prayer and videos as well as customizable on-line lesson planning.”

In addition to the catechetical resources offered during the day, myriad opportunities for reflection were offered to teachers in the afternoon breakout sessions, as well. Participants were able to choose between topics ranging from the teachings of Pope Francis to creation and evolution, symbolic meaning in religious art to the educational impact of Marian consecration. Professors and theologians from within the diocese offered thought-provoking and inspiring lectures and discussions.

“The speakers encouraged us to learn from the way God teaches and relates with us,” Carl Loesch commented. “The breakout session speakers included people like Rev. Raphael Mary, Msgr. Heintz, Dr. Sloan, Deacon Mel Tardy and many others who were outstanding.”

“Catholic Mission Day gave us a chance, as Catholic educators, to step back and reflect on our overarching mission: to invite others, through our words and deeds in so many varied settings, to embrace and live out a deeper relationship with Christ,” said Joanie Rymsza, catechist from Christ the King School, South Bend. “I appreciated Bishop Rhoades’ call to us to the practice of magnanimity, both with regard to our mission and in our individual day-to-day relationships with our students and peers.”

Fort Wayne area educators assembled for Catholic Mission Day on Sept. 22 at Bishop Luers High School.

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