The third Catholic educator I have decided to highlight throughout Catholic Education Week is my father-in-law. He is now happily retired and still filled with great knowledge about the profession. Him and I have enjoyed various conversations about education and the importance of the Catholic faith being woven into the classroom. I am happy that he took the time to share with me, despite his busy schedule with the Knights of Columbus and everything else that he is spending retired time committed to. Thumbs up dad! Here is what he has to share about Catholic Education and his experiences...
If we are truly interested in educating our children then we not only have a responsibility to nurture their mental , social , and physical well being but most importantly their spiritual well being. Students, after leaving our educational institutions, should not only be prepared for the workforce but also should be decent, respectful individuals, who uphold the precepts of the Roman Catholic Church.
I attended a Catholic Elementary school in Sault Ste Marie from kindergarten to grade 8. I can remember the principal who was a nun to be very strict with us. She was our choir teacher and brought us to music festivals. The priest would come in on a regular basis to teach catechism. All of the students in the school would walk to the church nearby for Mass and Confession. Some of us would go to the church which was being built and help out on the job site. Many times when I had to serve mass in the early mornings l was allowed to arrive late at school. Preparing for Confirmation was also an exciting time, especially when we got to meet the Bishop!
I taught elementary school for 30 years. I taught grades 3 to 8. I spent 25 years in the classroom and taught as an itinerant music teacher for 5 years. I worked with teachers on their music programs as well as conducted a children’s choir made up of students from grades 4 to 8 from 14 schools. I have been retired since June of 2009 which is now 5 years.
In my classroom I always had a religion corner with a statue of the baby Jesus, various prayer books, as well as books on the saints. Each week one student had the responsibility to lead the children in prayer first thing in the morning. They read from a daily prayer book which was also kept in the religion corner. Religion was taught daily. Any issues during the day were always dealt with the question ‘What would Jesus do?”. I was in charge of the school’s liturgical committee, making sure the readings and songs were appropriate with the Church calendar. Christmas and Easter time always involved the children in concerts and plays. Prayers were also said before lunch as well as at the end of the day. We always had children say special intentions for those people they thought might be sick or were in need of healing. When the priest was present for school Confessions we would have the examination of conscience in the classroom.
During the month of May we would say the rosary every morning. Our principal converted the photocopy room into a chapel and we would take the children down at random times for silent prayer and reflection. On Fridays the Holy Eucharist would be present. When the Pope, and now St. John Paul II first came to Downsview Park we taught the children the songs and prayers for the Papal Mass.
As a Catholic teacher I have always considered myself as a role model for my students who l treated as my own children, as a loving and caring parent. Each month students received certificates based on virtues. At Christmas time children would meet me at the local food bank called the Knights Table and they would help make Christmas baskets for the less fortunate in our community. We also had food drives at the school.
The biggest challenge I see in today’s Catholic schools is the way that we have become watered down. Catholic education is invaluable and adds great meaning to our classroom settings but especially in the lives of our young people as they seek to know Christ in their lives.