Students return to the classroom

Record Photo by Jessica Able
Educators shared the Eucharist during the Archdiocese of Louisville’s annual back to school liturgy Aug. 9 at St. Michael Church.

The vocation of a Catholic educator involves more than simply teaching in a Catholic school, Father Martin Linebach told educators gathered Aug. 9 at St. Michael Church. A Catholic school teacher plays an integral role in shaping the faith of the children they serve.

Nearly 600 educators filled the pews of St. Michael in Jeffersontown for the Archdiocese of Louisville’s annual back to school liturgy held each August as the new school year commences.

The archdiocese’s theme for the 2019-2020 academic year is “A Time for Shaping.”

Prior to Mass, Leisa Schulz, superintendent of Catholic schools, addressed the educators in the congregation, telling them the start of a new school year is a “time of shaping for all of us.”

“You are gifted with the ministry of shaping the students that will come to you. We are gifted because God shapes us so that we are equipped to carry out that very important ministry,” she said.

She urged them to “savor each day and reflect upon the gift of our Catholic school journey.”

During his homily, Father Linebach, pastor of St. James Church in Elizabethtown, Ky., and vicar general of the archdiocese, reflected on his own Catholic education and the instrumental teachers in his life.

He said a young Ursuline Sister of Mount St. Joseph in particular brought joy, enthusiasm and — most importantly — a love of Christ to his sixth-grade classroom.

“She loved Jesus Christ. She loved the church. She loved to teach. She loved us. We loved her. It worked,” he said.

He credits the Ursuline Sister with igniting his vocation to the priesthood. He asked teachers gathered at the Mass not to “underestimate your vocation to shape young minds and souls.”

“This very year might very well be your ‘time for shaping’ — shaping a little soul. Pay attention to that shy, awkward, insecure sixth-grader who needs you.

“Don’t waste the opportunity. More importantly, don’t waste the time the Holy Spirit has given you,” he said.

Father Linebach noted a Catholic school teacher must first and foremost have a vocation to be a teacher.

“Teaching must be more than a job or a career choice. You must be motivated by a sincere desire to assist children and young people as they are shaped into fully-integrated human beings,” he said.

He said Catholic school teachers must be committed to the Catholic faith and live an “active sacramental life in the church.”

“The most effective method of teaching is by example. Children learn by imitation. Therefore, you must seek to imitate Christ who is the true teacher in the Catholic schools,” he said.

The Archdiocese of Louisville has 49 Catholic elementary and secondary schools serving seven counties in Central Kentucky. Last year, nearly 19,000 students enrolled in prekindergarten through 12th-grade. There are approximately 1,600 Catholic school teachers in the archdiocese — about 1,000 in elementary and 600 in high schools.

Following the liturgy, the Catholic Education Foundation and the Ulmer family presented the Catholic Education Foundation Innovation Award to five educators.

The annual award, which includes a $2,500 monetary gift for each recipient, was established by the Dan Ulmer family to honor “excellent and dedicated Catholic school teachers with two to five years of experience, whose innovative and creative approach to learning inspires outstanding student achievement.”

The recipients are: Rebecca Burkot, St. Rita School; Aaron Dauenhauer, St. Leonard School; Kelsey Nauert McDermott, Notre Dame Academy; Trinity Shell, Ascension School; and Nick Towles, Our Lady of Lourdes School.

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