Symposium Shares Ideas, Tips with Teachers
By Amanda Hudson, News Editor
October 20, 2017

STERLING—“Fostering a Deeper Catholic Spirituality in Our Lives” was the overall theme of the diocesan high school symposium on Oct. 10 at Newman Central Catholic High School.

Catholic high school teachers and principals gathered with some local Catholic elementary school staff to hear the opening address from Bishop David Malloy and a keynote talk from Augustinian Father Thomas McCarthy.

In his address, Bishop Malloy reminded everyone that “the young people watch you,” calling high school students “some of the most intuitive” people who know authenticity when they find it. You have, the bishop said, “an astonishing amount of influence,” and he asked them to “please take that responsibility very seriously.”

At its heart, the mission of a Catholic school is to instill Catholic identity with the goal of getting to heaven, he said, adding, “Our Catholic schools are a huge part of the Church’s mission.”

Bishop Malloy asked them to always teach the truth about the very meaning of the world and of life.

“Show them (that faith) is possible and worth doing,” he said, naming various and meaningful ways they could model Catholicism to students. He noted how attentive young people are to eucharistic adoration during the Youth Summit and how they stop squirming when hearing about saints, particularly young saints and especially martyrs. He quoted Pope Paul VI that “modern man listens more to witnesses than to teachers.”

“You are teachers,” Bishop Malloy said, “but first you are witnesses ... share (the faith) with those students entrusted to your care.”

More than once, Father McCarthy referred to a remark from the bishop’s talk as he challenged his audience to “believe that God wants you here today” and spoke also of becoming a witness to their students and others.

He reflected on the way Jesus encountered Zacchaeus in the Gospels and how learning of the love of Jesus “is what brings us to Jesus.” Students, he said, “need to know we care, before they’ll care what we know.”

Catholic education work is a “beautiful vocation,” he said, and he called the men and women gathered to avoid the “parrot” or “signpost” styles of teaching. Teachers who witness, he said, “show the good news” by what they do and by what they don’t do.”

Describing two inspirational men he’s known, Father McCarthy noted that being a witness includes spreading joy, and that fear is both “a thief (and) the opposite of joy.”

Sharing one’s own giftedness, he said, is a witness, and modeling faithfulness is as well.

The fourth practice for witnesses is love, he said. After describing how love is often cheapened, he pointed to Pope Francis’ humility as he bowed and asked for prayers when he was announced as the new pope. Pope Francis challenges us to love, he said, and the crucifix is “a love letter from Jesus.”

The priest ended his remarks by giving everyone homework: to reflect on “What has brought you here?” to ask themselves “How are you a witness?” and to consider “What is your attitude ... how do you approach life?”

Those two talks were followed by breakout sessions on a variety of topics, lunch, department gatherings on incorporating Catholic identity, and the day wound up with department sessions to review the Faith Forward Strategic Plan and national standards and benchmarks.