Catholic Educators Are Called To Serve
Students had not returned to their classrooms yet, but the morning of Aug. 1 felt like the first day of school for Diocesan Superintendent Daryl Hagan, who awoke at 4 a.m. in anticipation of the day.
“Today’s like the first day of school for me because this is where I get to see everybody,” Hagan excitedly told more than 450 educators of the Diocese of Evansville who gathered at St. John the Baptist Parish in Newburgh to celebrate Mass and hear the 2017-18 school theme repeated throughout the day: they are called to serve.
“Take some time between now and the first day with your students to think, ‘someone is calling me to do something greater than myself,’” Hagan said. “As we come together in a diocese where we educate, inspire and proclaim, let’s remember that each one of us has been called to be missionary disciples.”
Hagan, and Assistant Superintendents Michelle Prior and Sally Sternberg, encouraged the assembly gathered together to be energized and inspired for the upcoming school year. After a rousing roll-call of schools, the trio recognized new administrators and teachers, and presented awards to those with significant anniversaries of service in the Diocese of Evansville. Also recognized were Resurrection and St. Wendel Schools, winners of the 2017 Catholic Educator Innovative Awards (See article on p.16 for more information).
Father Bernie Etienne, pastor of Holy Rosary Parish and Diocesan Administrator, echoed Hagan’s sentiments in his homily during the Back to School Mass.
“Our theme for the year (is): Called to serve. This message is about us and our role played in entering the kingdom of God,” Father Etienne said. “We are going to teach as much as by what we do as what we say to our young people. The way we handle a situation; the ways we are seen being active (and) involved in our parishes; the ways we give witness to our faith in dealing with joyful moments and our struggles – all these things are a parts of why we are Catholic Schools: because we have been called to share with Christ the task of building up the kingdom of God.”
Father Etienne recalled the reasons people in the community choose to send their students to Catholic Schools, including the desire for outstanding academic performance, good athletics, safety and the desire to make a new start. As Catholic educators,he said, the main goal should be to form students in the faith. Parents have the primary roles in forming their children’s faith, but Father Etienne reiterated,“we are the secondary support. It could make a difference in their lives because it could point them to what is true and essential in human living, and that’s embracing that call from God...that can make all the difference in their lives as far as purpose, joy and fulfillment.”
International composer and recording artist ValLimar Jansen presented to teachers and administrators before Mass. Jansen, returning to Southwest Indiana for the second time in less than a year, led the crowd in song and praise with her dynamic style. Her message to allow music to make its way into our lives and hearts every day was presented through interactive song and storytelling.
“Wherever we gather, it is important we do the work of the community,” Jansen told the crowd. “Part of that work is singing and speaking the prayers and answering the responses. We have service to perform.”
Educators participated in a service project as part of the gathering to collect school supplies that will be distributed to students in need. The back to school gathering and Mass has been an annual celebration for the past 25 years.