Column: Catholic school staff really does make a difference

Kathy O'Hara is the superintendent of archdiocesan schools.
Kathy O’Hara is the superintendent of archdiocesan schools.

by Kathy O’Hara

Dear Friends of Catholic Schools,

Do you ever wonder if what you do makes a positive difference in this world? Sometimes educators wonder about this because often the fruits of our efforts do not “harvest” for many years, and we are not always there to see it. I must say, though, that a recent event in Topeka gave me a great sense that Catholic school teachers in the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas must be making a difference.

On Oct. 1, approximately 1,200 faculty and staff members from the 39 elementary and six high schools (seven, including Maur Hill-Mt. Academy, which is sponsored by the Benedictine orders in Atchison) in the archdiocese gathered at the Topeka Expocentre. The purpose of the day was not for them to learn new methods for teaching a particular subject or even to learn how to better teach the Catholic faith.

The sole purpose of the gathering was to provide an opportunity for each faculty and staff member to reflect on his/her own spirituality and relationship with Jesus Christ. This type of reflection is important for all of us, but it is especially important for teachers who are called to share in the ministry of passing on the faith — not only to this current generation of children, but also the next.

There is something quite impressive about a gathering in one place of so many individuals who are dedicated to teaching in Catholic schools. The day began with the first of a two-part talk by nationally known Catholic school educator, Dr. Carole Eipers. Her message was profound as she first talked about Catholic school teachers’ call to holiness and then their tasks as catechists.

Teachers were then treated to an actual served lunch, for which more than 20 minutes was allotted — notably different from their normal routines! Lunch was followed by part two of Dr. Eipers’ talk and then by a magnificent celebration of the Eucharist by Archbishop Joseph Naumann and many pastors. The extraordinary music for the Mass was led by a group of teachers and staff who volunteered to be part of the choir and “orchestra.”

Many teachers have commented that the Mass was the highlight of the day for them, especially when the archbishop said in his homily, “Thank you for your assistance in fulfilling my responsibility as a successor of the Apostles to communicate the beauty and power of our Catholic faith to the young people you serve each and every day.”

I hope that after our gathering on Oct. 1, if Catholic school teachers are asked, “Do you think you make a difference?,” they can respond with a resounding, “Yes!”

¡Vaya con Dios!

Kathy O’Hara is the superintendent of archdiocesan schools.

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