Transformation of hearts and minds to Christ was the motivating refrain at this year’s Diocesan Education Conference, springing forth from the keynote address, the liturgy and workshop sessions.
The annual conference gathers Catholic school educators for a period of refreshment and renewal at the start of the school year. This year’s conference was Sept. 18 at Bishop McDevitt High School in Harrisburg.
The day opened with a keynote address on “The Transformative Power of Service” by Deacon Rodrigue Mortel, M.D. He serves at St. Joan of Arc Parish in Hershey, as Director of the Missions Office for the Archdiocese of Baltimore, and as founder of The Mortel Family Charitable Foundation. The foundation supports the operational costs of a preschool, elementary school and high school for economically deprived children in St. Marc, Haiti.
In his address, Deacon Mortel spoke of how his efforts in Haiti have transformed his life and the lives of 565 American adults and children who have served there.
“There is a clear difference between a job, a career and a calling,” he told the crowd of some 1,000 Catholic school educators.
“A job employs paid employment. A career is what happens as a person undertakes a series of jobs over time. A career carries with it a sense of increasing experience and often a reward. But a calling lends what we do to a larger community, our contribution to the common good,” he said. “It is possible that one may not have a job, one may not have a career. But because every one of us is created for a purpose, every one of us will be called one or more times during our lifetime.”
Since the creation of The Mortel Family Charitable Foundation and its work in Haiti 22 years ago, he has enjoyed “the taste of happiness” and the rewards of “giving myself away in a spirit of detachment.”
“As Christians, we are indeed called to give of ourselves in love as Jesus did,” Deacon Mortel said. “We must constantly remind ourselves that Christianity is not about earthy reward. Our only reward as Christians is eternal life in heaven.”
He encouraged the crowd of Catholic school teachers and principals to be transformed by the power of serving others, so that they might stir the hearts and minds of students to do the same.
“My hope is that you will go out and serve,” he said. “If you try something and don’t find it working, try something else, but use every service experience to learn and affirm something.”
Bishop Gainer imparted a message of the transformative power of the teachings of Christ and the Church in his homily during Mass, which was concelebrated by nearly a dozen priests.
Reflecting on the day’s First Reading (1 Timothy 3:14-16) and the verse “undeniably great is the Mystery,” he reminded the educators that they are charged with teaching much more than facts and figures.
“The context of Catholic formation and education rests on the mystery of our salvation in the person and in the saving work of Jesus Christ,” Bishop Gainer said.
“This is the great mystery that we have come to embrace, that we’ve allowed to transform our lives, and that we want to impart to those we serve,” he said. “No matter what discipline, no matter what subject, no matter what programs, no matter what aspect of school life you are in charge of or involved in, it’s all about this undeniably great mystery. It’s all connected because of the person of the living, risen Jesus Christ who is in our midst.”
While students understand facts, they can fail to be transformed by the truths of the Church, Bishop Gainer said. Teachers can help students “by being an illustration of that process – not just knowing the truths and being able to impart them in the wonderful lessons that you give – but being an example…a witness to Jesus Christ,” he said.
I na series of separate sessions, Daniel Breen, Diocesan Secretary for Education and Superintendent of Schools, spoke to elementary, middle and high school educators. Breen joined the Diocesan Education Department in July, and plans to visit all 38 Diocesan Catholic schools by Thanksgiving.
“I don’t think there has been a time where Catholic education was more important than today,” he said.
“We have to go from talking the talk to walking the walk,” he said of growing and strengthening the Diocese’s schools, which currently enroll some 11,000 students.
He encouraged the educators, “Take what Deacon Mortel said today and internalize it. Take what Bishop Gainer said today and internalize it. Put it into your practices…. Students learn by doing. Give them authentic work in service.”
Breen said his expectations for Catholic school educators are to work to bring students into the schools and retain them; to develop and deepen their prayer life and professional development; to do simple things well; to share ideas for new ways of doing things; and to think differently.
“Enrollment is everyone’s business,” Breen said. “We’re all in the business of retaining students in our schools, enrolling new students in our schools. We’re all involved in the lifeblood of the school and delivering its mission…. I am in it with you. I will be working with the schools for whatever it takes to advance the mission of what we’re doing as schools that stand for Christ.”
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness
2019 Recognition Ceremony
20-Year Teacher Honorees
David Ferdock, St. Columba School, Bloomsburg
Heidi Miller, Good Shepherd School, Camp Hill
Shannon Root, Good Shepherd School, Camp Hill
Karen Berry, St. Patrick School, Carlisle
Andrea Moore, Corpus Christi School, Chambersburg
Amy Fetterhoff, Corpus Christi School, Chambersburg
Ellen Rose, Corpus Christi School, Chambersburg
Belinda Super, Corpus Christi School, Chambersburg
Rose Marie Purcell, Our Lady of Lourdes Regional School, Coal Township
Denise Bortner, St. Francis Xavier School, Gettysburg
Kim Reiner, St. Francis Xavier School, Gettysburg
Kathleen Sullivan, St. Margaret Mary School, Harrisburg
MaryAnn Bonn, St. Joan of Arc School, Hershey
Irene DeSolis, St. Leo the Great School, Rohrerstown
Kelly Mastrogiovanni, St. Leo the Great School, Rohrerstown
Rebekah Sanders, St. Teresa of Calcutta School, McSherrystown/Conewago
Suzanne Kornacki, St. Teresa of Calcutta School, McSherrystown/Conewago
Jodi Wilson, St. Teresa of Calcutta School, McSherrystown/Conewago
Joanne Lain, St. Teresa of Calcutta School, McSherrystown/Conewago
Janice Costello, St. Joseph School, Mechanicsburg
Angela Roos, St. Theresa School, New Cumberland
Karla Jelonek, Holy Trinity School, York
MaKathy Donley, Trinity High School, Camp Hill
Steve Gotwols, Trinity High School, Camp Hill
Angela Heinick, Trinity High School, Camp Hill
Scott Root, Trinity High School, Camp Hill
Eric Mark, Bishop McDevitt High School, Harrisburg
Jeff Weachter, Bishop McDevitt High School, Harrisburg
Art Bamert, Lancaster Catholic High School
Priscilla Kegel, Lancaster Catholic High School
Jill Grosh, Lancaster Catholic High School
Frederick F. Noel Distinguished Educator Award
Anne Bleistine, Lancaster Catholic High School
Msgr. George V. Lentocha Mission Award
Our Lady of the Angels School, Columbia