By Marnie McAllister, Record Assistant Editor
Catholic school teachers from around the Archdiocese of Louisville paused in their preparations for a new school year last Friday morning to gather in prayer and thanksgiving.
The annual gathering for the opening of the school year drew about 750 educators from the archdiocese’s 38 elementary schools. They attended a special Mass at St. Peter the Apostle Church. Following the liturgy, 35 teachers received Catholic Education Foundation Teacher Awards funded by the Ulmer family. The awards honor and recognize the service of Catholic educators.
The theme of the morning was “Open the Door of Faith.”
Archbishop Kurtz, who presided and offered an “extended” homily, urged the teachers to “open the door of faith” this school year.
“You and I know what it means to feel the coldness of a door that’s closed on us, that’s slammed in our face,” he told the teachers. “And we’re called upon to open that door.”
He noted that Pope Francis, as a cardinal, spoke about “the reality of locked doors” and again a few months ago, the pope referred to the “globalization of indifference.”
“To put it another way that you and I understand, ‘we live in our own little worlds,’ ”
the archbishop said. “If you want to kill a school, just have every teacher live in his or her own little world.
“We need you,” he said to the teachers. And schools need the teachers to be at their best, he said.
Archbishop Kurtz noted that a recent study by Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate showed that college students who entered seminary or were ordained priests mentioned “the unique influence” of a particular teacher.
“The bread and butter of influence in the lives of young people is the teacher,” he said. “Now, it is the parent who is the first teacher. But it is the teacher.
“How important is the work that you do,” he added. “We are forming citizens of earth and of heaven. We are forming good citizens but also those who are called to be saints.”
He urged the teachers to see their careers as vocations, so that their students will imitate their examples.
Saying that Catholic schools are “filled with hope,” the archbishop also spoke about the archdiocese’s latest study and planning process for the future of its Catholic schools.
“Are there challenges in Catholic schools?” he asked, noting that newspaper headlines can sometimes suggest that conclusion. “The truth is that we’re in the leadership in the whole United States” in planning for the future of Catholic schools.
The archdiocese has issued a report on its Catholic elementary schools and is beginning a five-year planning process next year.
“We’re asking all 111 parishes in the 24 counties of our archdiocese to consider the Catholic schools a commitment of theirs,” he said.
Archbishop Kurtz noted that families in Jefferson County live within 20 minutes of a Catholic school and that most families outside Jefferson County live within 35 minutes of a Catholic school.
“We’re trying to commit ourselves both in governance and in finance to have healthy and vibrant Catholic schools,” he said.