Offer more than just excellent scholastics, consultant challenges Catholic educators

Friday, Mar. 17, 2017
Offer more than just excellent scholastics, consultant challenges Catholic educators + Enlarge
John Findlater jokes with Utah Catholic educators during the March 10 Professional Educator Day at St. Vincent de Paul School.
By Marie Mischel
Intermountain Catholic
SALT LAKE CITY — John Findlater, an educational consultant who spent 30 years in Catholic education as a teacher, principal and parish director of religious education, was the keynote speaker at Utah Catholic Schools’ Professional Educator Day on March 10 at St. Vincent de Paul Parish.
Bishop Oscar A. Solis celebrated a Mass prior to the workshop.
“Catholic education is a very important component in the life of the Church,” Bishop Solis said in his homily. “Catholic education is not only about teaching, it is about proclaiming the Gospel, proclaiming the message of God’s love and salvation to all people, creating an environment where our children within a big school community can encounter the living presence of God in their lives and in their school."
The hallmark of Catholic education is not only scholastic excellence but Christian morals and values, said the bishop at the Mass, which was concelebrated by Msgr. Colin F. Bircumshaw, vicar general; Fr. John J. Schwall, pastor of our Lady of Lourdes Parish; Dominican Father Jacek Buda, chaplain of Juan Diego Catholic High School; Father John Norman and Msgr. M. Francis Mannion, pastor and pastor emeritus, respectively, of St. Vincent de Paul Parish; Father Ken Vialpando, pastor of St. Marguerite Parish; Father Charles Cummins, chaplain of Weber State Neman Center; and Father Martin Diaz, rector of the Cathedral of the Madeleine. 
Deacon John Kranz assisted at the Mass.
Catholic education is about “teaching our children not only to be intelligent – to know the things that can make them good citizens in this world – but to teach them the wisdom to get to know God, to learn the truth that they are going to profess, so that they become good and effective members of the faith community, the Body of Christ,” Bishop Solis said. 
He also thanked the educators for their mission of evangelization. “You are our collaborators and partners in ministry,” he said.
Findlater, who founded The Martyrs of Uganda Catholic Academy in Detroit, has given presentations to Catholic schools in 45 states over the past few years. 
“What you do is sacred work,” Findlater told the Utah Catholic educators. “What you do is holy work, because you are the only first-grade teacher [your students] are ever going to have. This is sacred work, and what you do in first grade really does make a difference in fifth grade, and what you do in fifth grade really does make a difference in ninth. Never doubt, as you go back to your classrooms, that every day has meaning, that every lesson plan you put together is not a lesson plan just for that day but a lesson for years to come.” 
Using a quote from the German Catholic priest and New Testament scholar Rudolf Schnackenburg, “We are summoned by the events of history to perform the task which God has appointed for this day,” Findlater challenged his audience “to look at every one of your children as an event in history. What are we doing for these kids in this historic moment?”
Catholic schools must offer more than just excellent academics, which public schools can offer, Findlater said. As well as academics, the schools should “have such a dynamo of discipleship” that “everybody will want to be a part of it,” he said.
“These kids in your classroom, when you see them next, they better darn well be different because they spent this school year with you. And if your Catholic school does nothing different than teach spelling and mathematics and geography, if your Catholic high school does nothing different than offer AP English and Spanish 1, 2, 3, and 4 – if that’s all we’re doing with a crucifix stuck on a wall, what are we doing? Parents are getting that someplace else for free!” he said. 

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