Educators gather for back-to-school Mass

Teachers served as gift bearers during the annual Mass for educators held  at St. Margaret Mary Church, 7813 Shelbyville Road, on Aug. 11. (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)
Teachers served as gift bearers during the annual Mass for educators held at St. Margaret Mary Church, 7813 Shelbyville Road, on Aug. 11. (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)

By Ruby Thomas, Record Staff Writer
Catholic school educators — 700 representing 40 elementary schools — heard that teaching is sacrificial yet joyful during a back to school Mass celebrated by Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz at St. Margaret Mary Church Aug. 11.

Archbishop Kurtz called the attention of those gathered to the first reading from St. Paul to the Philippians, in which St. Paul talks about an “upward calling.” The archbishop said that while St. Paul was talking about heaven and its rewards, he was also referring to work on earth and how it can be done in a manner that inspires.

The reading, said the archbishop, made him wonder why the educators who’d gathered there that day said yes to teaching.

“What inspired you to this upward calling?” Archbishop Kurtz asked. More importantly, he asked, “What inspires you today to say yes with the same enthusiasm as you did in the beginning? That’s the key to the vibrancy of our Catholic schools — that the yes you say today will be just as passionate and energized as it was when you were first attracted” to the field of education.

During his homily, Archbishop Kurtz shared a blessing he’d prepared for the teachers. He asked God, he said, to bless
them so their students will want to enjoy their learning, that they will take delight in new discoveries, that they will

Presentation Academy freshmen filed into the downtown school on Aug. 14, their first day of school. (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)
Presentation Academy freshmen filed into the downtown school on Aug. 14, their first day of school. (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)

persevere in their studies, that teachers will give students the desire to learn all things well and that they’ll have “gentle patience and bring truth to eager minds.”  “That sounds exhausting,” said the archbishop, eliciting laughter from the packed pews.

Archbishop Kurtz said he’s aware that the vocation of teaching is sacrificial, but it can also be joyful. For it to be successful, he said, it must be joyful.

“Can you be joyful when you are happy and sad? Can you be joyful not only at the beginning of the school day, but also at the end? Can you be joyful when you are relaxed, but also when you are tense?” asked the archbishop. “The answer is yes. Joy is a gift we beseech God to give us.”

The archbishop concluded by naming two qualities educators should strive to cultivate in the classroom – the capacity to be joyful and to embrace mindfulness when interacting with the students deemed to be “the least.”

Following Mass, the teachers heard from keynote speakers Tim Reilly, principal of St. Ignatius School in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Kathy House, principal of Christ the King School in Little Rock, Ark.

The duo gave a presentation on “The Joy of Teaching: FUN Raising for Catholic Schools.” Reilly and House shared with the teachers how incorporating fun activities into school life has created an atmosphere where everyone feels welcome and a part of their schools.

Among the tips Reilly and House offered are:

  • On warm days after children at St. Ignatius School have been playing outside, they are surprised with a “popsicle emergency.” The school, which has an enrollment of more than 1,000 students, enlists the help of dozens of parents who enter classrooms and quickly hand out popsicles.“You know they are thinking ‘It’s too hot to do any work’,” said Reilly. A small gesture like this “gives you miles of credibility in the child’s mind.”
  • House said it’s important to involve teachers in the fun, so Christ the King School hosts parties, where teachers receive treats such as massages. The school also hosts an  annual event where every teacher’s birthday is celebrated. Reilly said there’s “real fruit” to be had in “putting effort into making schools joyful.”

Also during the Aug. 11 Mass, The Catholic Education Foundation (CEF) presented a new award to five teachers.

The “Catholic Education Foundation Innovation Award” recognizes teachers with two to five years experience “whose innovation and creativity have inspired their students to outstanding academic success,” according to a statement from the CEF.

The new award is sponsored by Daniel C. Ulmer Jr. and his family. The Ulmer family is long-time supporter of the CEF and of Catholic education.
From 2004 to 2014, the Ulmer family annually gave one teacher from each Archdiocese of Louisville Catholic school a $1,000 award.

The teachers who received the new “Catholic Education Foundation Innovation Award” and their schools are: Diane Nauert, Notre Dame Academy; Joseph Reed, St. Leonard School; Dana Bale, St. Martha School; Margaret McKune, St. Aloysius School in Pewee Valley, Ky.; and Jessica Robinson, St. Nicholas Academy.

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