Pray for teachers, students as school year begins Print
Bishop Morlino's Column
Written by Bishop Robert C. Morlino   
Thursday, Sep. 05, 2013 -- 12:00 AM

This column is the bishop's communication with the faithful of the Diocese of Madison. Any wider circulation reaches beyond the intention of the bishop.

Dear Friends,

Well already it’s “back to school” time for so many of our young people. This has always been a time of tremendous hope and of excitement for me, personally.It may come as no surprise that I always enjoyed going to school myself, and even wanted to make “school” my chief ministry as a university professor and then seminary faculty member.

In fact, as I’ve told you before, that’s precisely what I was on my way to do (teaching full time at a seminary) when I received the call that the Holy Father was appointing me Bishop of Helena, Montana.

Of course, as a diocesan bishop, I am entrusted with the duty of being the chief teacher of the faith, and the one to whom the Holy Spirit has given the responsibility for making certain that the faith is handed on, by all other Catholic teachers in accord with the Truth. So, I am still a teacher . . . the job just came with a few other responsibilities (to say the least)!

All that being said, it is one of my favorite times of year.

Pray for diocesan seminarians

I’ve just sent most of our seminarians off for another year of formation and education, as they prepare to be teachers and pastors of the future.

Let me just say that I am more convinced than ever that we have some of the very best candidates in the entire nation. I’m so very impressed — to a man — with the tremendous gifts of those who are preparing to be priests for the Diocese of Madison. Please join me in praying (and hard) for the perseverance of these great men, and that they continue to be formed according to the mind and heart of Jesus Christ!

Catholic School teachers

Late last month there were gatherings of all of our Catholic School teachers throughout the diocese. With them too, we have some tremendously gifted people. Thanks be to God for their own sacrifices and hard work in proclaiming the Truth in our Catholic Schools.

I was asked to record a short message for all of them (it’s available online), but I wanted to recap a few of the points of that message here.

I reminded our Catholic School teachers that they are called to a mission — the apostolate of teaching and of formation of our young people.

Just as we use those two words for the building up of our future priests, so too do we use them for the building up of each and every disciple of Jesus Christ.

And so, teaching and formation communicate two different elements of the apostolate that Catholic School teachers have.

The teaching element

The teaching element refers to the subject each teacher offers. No matter what subject they teach, however, for a Catholic School teacher, that subject is related to God. It’s related to God because the subject matter about which they teach relates, in some way, to an aspect of God’s creation and it bespeaks God.

There is no academic discipline that does not have some relation to the God who is the maker of all. And so, I told our Catholic School teachers that one of their greatest challenges as a teacher is to be able to formulate how what they’re teaching to kids is related to God — so that from class to class throughout the day, not only through saying a prayer at the beginning of class, but through the way teachers are presenting their subject matters, the young people are getting a sense that they are in God’s presence. God is connected to everything about their lives, especially the subject matter which they study in class.

Special call of the Catholic School teacher

This is the first very special calling of the Catholic School teacher, and the first very important reason the Church even sponsors schools, so that our students can see, through every aspect of their education, that God is there present and living.

The Lord calls our Catholic Schools and each one of our Catholic School teachers to do this, and therefore He provides the grace for them to do it, if they are open to it.

This is not something that’s left just to the religion teacher, or the priest or Sister who visits class, it’s for every last teacher in the Catholic School, in every discipline.

Please join me in praying that our teachers will return to school this year renewed and devoted to being very effective, very transparent channels of the Lord’s grace to our wonderful young people, who, if they receive this grace, will be excited by it.

If the teacher is excited and enlivened by the subject matter, and the way that it fits into God’s plan, then that reality will be translated to the kids. There is nothing boring about the grace of Christ; it is exciting and it is life changing.

As I told our teachers, I taught college for 11 years and whatever my students wanted to criticize me for — and there were many things — I never heard the criticism that my classes were boring. Because the grace of Jesus Christ is coming through the teacher to those young people in an authentic and convincing way — and especially as the student grows in awareness of that — the last possible reaction should be boredom.

I told the teachers that they need to pray for God’s grace in doing all of this, and we need to pray for them and support them. We need to support them and encourage them in staying close to the Sacraments, to Mass, to Confession, and to daily prayer, so that they can be the channel for God to give those kids all the graces that He wants to give them (and they’re countless) because His love for us and His love for them is beyond measure.

The formation element

The second term I used in terms of the mission and apostolate of the Catholic School teacher is, “formation.”

The formation of these young peoples’ minds, hearts, and behaviors is, in so many ways, commended to the care of the Catholic School teacher by trusting parents — who, lest we forget, are primary educators of their children. The teachers’ example of kindness, virtue, and love, their tone of voice, their own willingness to put the needs of the students above their own, is formation lived out.

This is the formation that they are called upon to communicate to the young people.

The call to be a Catholic School teacher may not always involve the highest pay, but it’s a wonderful job and so much of this is tied up in the opportunity to chase after the highest good of our life — to chase after heaven.

Catholic School teachers should have the opportunity to receive formation themselves and then to give that formation to the kids. And in providing that formation they’re providing something that’s really worth having, and they are a channel, a vessel for joy in their lives, the joy that only Christ can give and that the world cannot take away.

Students pray, learn, study, in joyful atmosphere

In a Catholic School students can pray, and they can learn, and they can study, and they can do this in an atmosphere in a context of joy, because Christ wants them to have that joy. What a tremendous grace and opportunity we’ve all been given, in supporting our Catholic Schools, and what a tremendous grace and opportunity is offered to our Catholic School teachers in providing such a place of education and formation!

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, we are in the “business” of schools, not just to provide an outstanding education (though we do want that); first and foremost, we undertake this apostolate to guide young people on the path to Salvation, the path of eternal joy that the Lord desires for them. God forbid we should ever forget that, and God forbid our schools should ever become complacent in this, their first and most important reason for being.

So, let us pray for our teachers, our administrators and staff, and of course for our beloved students this school year (all of them — homeschoolers and Catholics in public schools too!). And let us do all we can to support authentic Catholic education.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. May God bless each one of you! Praised be Jesus Christ!