Discussions examined evangelization and discipleship at a personal level, and the implications in a school and classroom setting: What does an evangelizing school/ classroom look like?
Workshops are part of the formation process for collaborative staffs, councils, and school boards. Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley has asked the Secretariat for Evangelization and Discipleship to work closely with the Catholic Schools Office to adapt the evangelization workshop to serve Catholic school communities. The first "Forming Disciples for Mission: A Workshop in School-Based Evangelization" was held earlier this month for 176 elementary school teachers, administrators, and guidance counselors at Sacred Hearts School in Bradford. The day included Morning Prayer and the Sacrament of Reconciliation was available throughout the day. Father Paul Soper celebrated Mass at noon with concelebrants Father Kevin Deeley of St. Michael Parish, North Andover; Father Tim Kearney of All Saints, Haverhill, and Father John Delaney of Sacred Hearts, Bradford.
Fitting material usually covered in an eight-hour workshop into the school day time-frame was a challenge. Evangelization trainers Kathryn Boyle and Tom Lyman, having taught in Catholic schools, brought valuable experience to the planning table. Assistant Cabinet Secretary Michael Lavigne drew on his Catholic school teaching background as well. Working with Superintendent of Schools Kathy Mears and Associate Superintendent for Mission Effectiveness Martha McCook, the team produced a six-hour, non-stop, exploration of evangelization and discipleship. Discussions examined evangelization and discipleship at a personal level, and the implications in a school and classroom setting: What does an evangelizing school/classroom look like?
At the end of the day participants were asked to complete an extensive evaluation form. Comments were overwhelmingly positive, but, as expected using a new format, there was agreement on areas for improvement. Time -- the lack thereof -- was a common concern. One participant said, "It was a lot to take in... I felt a bit on overload at some points." Many expressed disappointment that the final sessions dealing with practical strategies for schools and classrooms were abbreviated and the Evangelizing Classrooms piece became "homework"; "I would have liked to dive into this topic."
Other comments, however, clearly indicated that these teachers came ready to listen, share, and learn, and they appreciated their time together. "It's always a good experience to get together with others and share your faith." Another responded, "It was nice to gather as a larger Catholic school community at one of our sites." The group was grateful that although the agenda was ambitious, the day was faithful to the schedule.
Comments fell into three broad categories: prayer, the presentations, and the take away. The teachers speak for themselves.
"Liturgy of Hours was new to me and I'm very glad we did it."
"Mass was great -- loved hearing almost 200 Catholic school teachers raising their voices to praise God!"
"Thank you for allowing time for the Sacrament of Reconciliation."
"I like how this was intentionally prayerful. Evangelization was happening. It almost had a retreat feel to the day."
"I found all the sessions beneficial, especially locating myself on the journey of discipleship -- to show me where I am and how to move to the next level."
"... all presentations were solid."
"Personal testimony is what moved me the most."
"Everything was interesting... information specific to school life gave me ideas of ways to evangelize more in my school and how to effectively reach my students."
"I was particularly interested to learn what the New Evangelization was all about. It seems to have been a focus in our Church for a while, but no concrete explanation had been give -- so -- thank you!"
The Take Away:
In the classroom, "more mention of Jesus, more sharing of joy!!"
"Looking forward to implementing faculty prayer at school."
"Giving homework assignments that require parent participation."
"Creating a culture focused on Jesus..."
"Developing a program that would facilitate / support parents' role."
"Lead by example -- display and model a Christian life."
"Intentionally bathing my day in prayer instead of just giving it a sprinkling in the morning and the afternoon."
"Today was tremendous! I feel very inspired to spread the good news of Jesus Christ!!"
"This is very exciting for me. I just came out of public education where I was not able to live my faith. The Great Commission is a very important part of our faith. Thank you for the encouragement that you provided today."
Christa McAuliffe, the teacher who died in the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion said, "I touch the future. I teach." Our dedicated Catholic schools teachers can paraphrase this: I teach in a Catholic school. I touch eternal life.
SUSAN ABBOTT IS COORDINATOR OF PARISH OUTREACH FOR THE ARCHDIOCESE OF BOSTON'S OFFICE OF PASTORAL PLANNING.
Susan Abbott is the former Coordinator of Parish Outreach for the Archdiocese of Boston's Office of Pastoral Planning.