With the opening of Frassati Catholic Academy this fall, the continued success of Our Lady of Lourdes School, as well as the newly-added classical track at Bishop Machbeuf High School, interest in classical education is steadily growing in Denver — and the teachers and administrators who run them are pursuing learning just as much as their students in order to serve them better.
During the week of July 5-7, teachers and administrators attended the first Institute for Catholic Liberal Education western regional conference, hosted at Our Lady of Lourdes in Denver.
Bishop James D. Conley of the Diocese of Lincoln, Neb., explained in the keynote that the Institute exists because “we believe education exists to form the whole human person, not just to prepare someone for a career, but to live freely and beautifully, as God intended them to be.”
He recalled how the 1967 document written by university presidents, “The Idea of the Catholic University,” more commonly called the “Land O’ Lakes Statement,” essentially made themselves “more identifiably American and less identifiably Catholic” in teaching and tradition. This, according to Bishop Conley, crumbled faithful education in the country, influencing even elementary and high schools.
But he is hopeful.
“If dissenting universities, actively distancing themselves from Catholic identity, can have an impact that profound on Catholic and civic culture, then faithful schools, alive to the best traditions and wisdom of the Church, and dedicated to forming disciples, can be an unparalleled instrument for the revitalization of Catholic culture,” Bishop Conley said.
“The work that you are doing, creating authentically Catholic schools, without question, will significantly impact the culture in the United States in the next 50 years,” he added.
But to change culture, which occurs when students’ lives are transformed, teachers must first embrace their unique vocation and know the Lord intimately.
“Teachers and administrators must first themselves be disciples of Jesus Christ. It means that prayer, silent communion with the Eucharistic Lord, is at the center of the vocation as a teacher. To effectively foster encounters with the living God, each one of you must cultivate a deep and abiding interior relationship, especially in the silence of prayer,” Bishop Conley said.
The work that you are doing, creating authentically Catholic schools, without question, will significantly impact the culture in the United States in the next 50 years.”
“All missionary activity, which seeks to foster encounters with the Lord, must begin in silence, in lives of intimate prayer before the Lord. This is especially true in education, where fostering an attitude of receptivity and humility and wonder is at the heart of your mission. If we want to cultivate an authentically Catholic and liberal school, which liberates us to know the Lord, we need to cultivate a spirituality of silence, which is at the heart of discipleship, listening to the master,” he continued.
When the teacher cultivates a receptivity to silence and wonder, which is the place of deepest and most authentic learning, it makes a teacher “fit to foster authentic transformation of students,” according to Bishop Conley.
This receptivity of silence and wonder is what allows us to really learn, to see reality as it truly is.
“True schools are communities of learners and faculties of friends, receiving and apprehending reality together. True communities of learners are humble disciples of the truth,” Bishop Conley said. “Pope St. John Paul II wrote, ‘Faced with the sacredness of life and the human person, and before the marvels of the universe, wonder is the only appropriate attitude.’”
Rosemary Anderson, principal of Our Lady of Lourdes school, continued the discussion on the vocation of the teacher in her address.
“Teaching is a vocation, not just a career. Many modern education programs are killing the spirit of the vocation…it’s an art form, not an equation,” Anderson said. “It’s a call of the heart to help form souls. Jesus asked to be called teacher, and we model ourselves after him.”
In an interview with Denver Catholic, Anderson said that this regional conference came at the perfect time.
“It’s divine providence that we’re hosting the conference, with the opening of Frassati Catholic Academy and Bishop Machebeuf adding a classical track, so there’s a lot of growing interest, and the goal is to help teachers grow deeper in knowledge of classical education,” Anderson said. “One of the primary goals is also to foster a sense of community within these schools to help their mission.”
Several teachers from Frassati Catholic Academy attended the conference and plan to take that inspiration to the classroom.
“I am really excited to help build the classical culture, as well as learn with the staff,” said Anthony Saulino, Frassati’s athletic director and P.E. teacher. “[The conference] impacted my teaching philosophy tremendously. It made me think how I can emphasize Jesus and our faith into my classroom more.”