Catholic Schools Week: A time to thank teachers Print
Seeing with Jesus' Eyes
Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013 -- 12:00 AM

Seeing with Jesus' Eyes, a column by Fr. Donald Lange

Catholic Schools Week 2013 is scheduled from January 27 to February 2. Its theme is “Catholic Schools Raise the Standards.” This theme highlights the launch of a new initiative to ensure consistent high standards at Catholic schools across the country. The logo designed for this week illustrates a chart of steady growth culminating in the highest achievement of all, a cross representing the faith that underscores all Catholic education.

The Catholic Church’s educational mission flows from Jesus’ life and teaching. The cross symbolizes the sacrificial love that Jesus teaches us to imitate. In the Dictionary of the Bible, Fr. John L. McKenzie wrote that Jesus spent more time teaching than anything else, including working miracles, signs, and wonders. Through education, the Church continues Jesus’ teaching by preparing her members to hear, live, and proclaim the Gospel. Good teachers are keys to successful Catholic schools.

In the pastoral document The Catholic School, it says, “By their witness and behavior, teachers are of first importance in imparting a distinctive character to Catholic schools.” Pope Paul VI stated that modern humanity listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers. He or she listens best to teachers who are witnesses.

Catholic Schools Week offers us graced opportunities to show appreciation for Catholic schoolteachers and for all teachers.

Showing appreciation

A retreat director suggested that the retreat participants thank someone who influenced their lives. A middle-aged man remembered a teacher who helped him through a crisis in his youth. He realized that he never thanked her. After much searching, he discovered that she now resided in a nursing home. He wrote her a thank you letter.

She wrote back that she was living alone and lingering like the last leaf of summer. She added that she taught school for 50 years and his letter was the first student note of appreciation that she ever received. It came on a blue morning and cheered her as nothing had in years.

Assisting parents

In Canon 796 of the Code of Canon Law, under Catholic Education, it says, “Among the means to foster education, the Christian faithful are to hold schools in esteem; schools are the principal assistance to parents in fulfilling the function of education.”

Catholic schools offer academic subjects and extra-curricular activities. Students are guided in their learning by teachers in the basics of Catholic faith, tradition, and prayer.

Jesus revealed God’s design for all creation. At its best, Catholic education sees no contradiction between true science and Christianity. Both are revelations of the same artistic creator. Whether it is a beautiful sunset described poetically, the intricate math and science laws that reveal a universe in the heavens or the mini-universe of a cell, knowledge is ultimately approached with the belief that it can point to God who authored it.

Catholic education sees all knowledge as sacred especially when human insight is combined with divine revelation in the pursuit of truth, goodness, and beauty. To achieve this goal, the Church recognizes the learner’s dependence on grace to bring human nature to completion.

Opportunities to expand

Through methods appropriate to different age and learning levels, Catholic schools provide opportunities for students to explore, reflect, and integrate a Christian understanding of nature, self, society and God. Catholic teachers, parents, and others manifest this understanding in loving lives of service.

Responsible parents lay the foundation upon which teachers in Catholic schools and religious education programs build. The Church calls parents to partnership in Catholic education’s mission by taking responsibility for their own life-long learning and supporting educational opportunities offered to their children. Students also learn and reinforce Christian values from work, coaches, friends, priests, religious, and many others.

Through the minds and hearts of teachers pass future doctors, secretaries, plumbers, priests, religious, parents, singles, and workers of tomorrow. In the office of a principal whom I admired, there hung a plaque with this inspiring message, “Good teachers affect eternity. You never know where their influence stops.”

Crosses teachers bear

During my 22 years of high school teaching, I appreciated more fully the crosses my teachers occasionally experienced. Once a former student anonymously sent me this quotation, “Our Sunday school teacher never talked down to us kids, no matter how silly we acted. I blush now to think of the outrageous questions we asked just to bait him a little. He would smile and answer us with sincerity, wisdom, and above all with patience. We in turn would learn in spite of ourselves. We loved him like a father. And he in turn taught us about the Heavenly Father. This quotation reminds me of you Father.” I’m not sure he or she was right, especially regarding my patience, but I treasure the affirmation.

Catholic teachers at Immaculate Conception School in Kieler and Loras Academy in Dubuque taught me basics of faith, nourished my priestly vocation, and showed me how to love and serve others.

During this Year of Faith, may Catholic Schools Week inspire us to express and deepen our appreciation of Catholic schools, especially its teachers and administrators.

Fr. Don Lange is a pastor emeritus in the Diocese of Madison.