Editorial — Gratitude for our educators

While Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan drew the big laughs and applause at the Catholic Education Foundation’s Salute to Catholic School Alumni dinner last month, the people honored at the event gave speeches worth noting, too. Especially noteworthy were two honorees who devoted their speeches to Catholic educators.

Ursuline Sister of Louisville Paula Kleine-Kracht and Dr. Donald T. Donovan paid eloquent tributes to teachers.

Sister Kleine-Kracht, who is an esteemed educator herself, said in her speech that “God’s providential actions and blessing” which have shaped her life “are given to every person.” The only way to respond to these blessings, she said, is to “try to help others see their individual giftedness and their graced self.”

That’s what Catholic educators do, she said.

“I represent the thousands of women and men, who as vowed religious worked in and built our Catholic school system,” she said. “I feel sure that each of them knew themselves as graced and saw themselves seeking to provide the same essential gifts to each person they taught and encountered.”

“Many of us,” she said to the nearly 2,000 dinner attendees, “are proof of their success.”

To those who might “bemoan” the loss of men and women religious in schools today, Sister Kleine-Kracht added, “I want to witness to the many, many lay men and women of our church who are teaching and leading our Catholic schools and providing the very same attitude and atmosphere” as their religious predecessors.

She thanked today’s teachers and added, “You are graced and you are gifted with God’s love.”

Sister Kleine-Kracht hit an important point. Catholic educators — including those who teach outside of Catholic schools — bring God’s love to their pupils, something the world’s children need to know, experience and witness in a personal way.

The men and women who give their lives for this calling are “real heroes,” according to Dr. Donovan, a graduate of Trinity High School. They “follow their calling, often at great financial and other sacrifices, to be teachers in Catholic schools,” he said. “I feel we owe them a debt we can really never repay.”

Donovan named several educators who influenced him, including Father David Zettel, who guided Donovan as a student at Trinity and sat with Donovan at last month’s dinner. Father Zettel is now retired from Trinity, according to the school’s website, but he still serves as the school’s chaplain.

Donovan concluded by encouraging his listeners to “remember your own heroes — teachers, coaches, counselors — who helped shape you into the person, man or woman, that you are today. Say a prayer for them.”

It’s worth really taking a moment to do what Donovan suggests. We can’t repay our educators. But we can show them our gratitude and offer our prayers.

The Archdiocese of Louisville is blessed to have more than 1,500 educators guiding its children.

Last fall, the archdiocese honored 198 of those teachers during its 15th annual teacher appreciation luncheon. The luncheon honored educators who have served in Archdiocese of Louisville schools for 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40 and 45 years.

Record reporter Ruby Thomas reported on the event and noted that Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz praised and thanked the teachers for their witness and presence.

The archbishop spoke to the educators about Pope Francis’ September visit to the United States, noting that the pope came to the U.S., not as a politician, but as “a pastor to be present.”

“Being present is important to those in the teaching profession,” said Archbishop Kurtz. “Your bread and butter is your presence and your witness.”

That witness and presence, provided with such dedication by our educators, is worth noting more than once a year. It’s something for which we should feel grateful each day. 

MARNIE McALLISTER
Record Editor

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