31 March 2012
Teachers throughout the archdiocese were commisioned at a special Mass last month and reminded of their particular role in enabling others to grow, fostering a love of learning and encouraging pupils in their development.
St Patrick’s College Kilbirnie principal Paul Martin sm told a packed cathedral on Tuesday February 19, ‘Teachers have a privileged role in any society, [for they can] ‘open the eyes of another to see possibilities beyond the present moment, who work in a team to bring about the best opportunities for others’.
Their work is different from that of teachers in non-Catholic schools. Theirs is to ‘cooperate with the plan of God for each of our pupils, and for the other people with whom we work. Our success is not just about results, it is about how we are and who we are – about being role models in faith.’
In reflecting on the readings for the Mass, Fr Martin said the part of the book of Sirach heard in the Mass encapsulates ‘what we often wish our students would do: If you wish, you can be taught; if you apply yourself, you will be shrewd; if you are willing to listen, you will learn; seek out those who are wise, hang around them, absorb all they have to offer.
But key advice for teachers was in allowing ‘God [to] enlighten your mind, so that you can go on and share that with those with whom you are called to work.
‘What we put our energy and soul into will shape the sort of person we become.’
Fr Martin spoke of the sacred role of teachers in Catholic schools and the opportunities teachers have to grow in holiness.
‘We get the chance to shape and form others, but we too are formed by what we do. That is part of the special graces that are available for those who teach.’
There was a message for teachers in the gospel reading from Mark, too.
‘Jesus appears to the disciples, tells them off for not believing he has risen, and then tells them to get out there and get on with it. I take great consolation from this.
‘The disciples are like those kids you teach all year and who still don’t seem to get it at the end of the year, who probably haven’t moved up a level, or have gone from 2B to 2A! Yet … we are sitting here in this cathedral today because of their response to the call of Jesus to go out to the whole world.
‘They didn’t get it right every time; they made mistakes just as Christian people have done through the ages. But that didn’t lead them to give up because they knew they were responding to the call of Christ – their love of Christ and belief in the power of his message drove them on to do extraordinary things for the sake of the gospel.
‘It didn’t mean that they had it all sorted; it meant they put their trust in the God who called them and they didn’t let fear hold them back.’
This calling was for teachers, too, particularly those in Catholic schools.
‘We don’t always get it right, we don’t always know how things are going to turn out. But we believe in the one who calls us; we believe he has the truth that sets us free, we believe his promise to be with his disciples.
‘That is what makes our particular calling such a special one. It is why we can take up our cross and follow him, in the classroom, on the sports field, in the staffroom, in the office – these are the fields into which we are sent and the plants we tend we will often not see bloom, but the work is holy, and hopefully we are made holy by what we do.’
Fr Martin ended his homily with a thanksgiving prayer and a request that, ‘by the power of the Holy Spirit working in us we will be able to help them to know Christ and to become the people they were created to be’.
Image: Teachers from St Bernadette’s school, Naenae: Swendhi David, Nella Stowers, Kerryn Penny, Kylie Nixon, Annette Grant, Tina Robbins, Jenny Moylan, Jo Buckley (principal) and Jacqui Brown.