Bishop Barres calls teachers to be exclamation points in classrooms radiating ‘soul of Catholic education’
WILMINGTON — An old friend of Catholic schools in the Diocese of Wilmington returned in August to remind teachers that they have a crucial role in the educational and spiritual development of children.
“The soul of Catholic education radiates from us,” Bishop John Barres of Allentown said at the annual Spirituality Day hosted by the diocesan Office for Catholic Schools Aug. 22 at St. Mark’s High School. “We’re all called here today to be exclamation points in Catholic education.”
Bishop Barres, of course, is a familiar face in the diocese. He was ordained at St. Peter’s Cathedral in Wilmington in 1989 and served as an associate pastor at Holy Family in Newark and St. Elizabeth in Wilmington. He was chancellor until being named to his current post by Pope Benedict XVI in 2009.
One of his key points was that dioceses need to provide opportunities for their Hispanic populations. He told the story of a woman in his diocese who helped establish a mission school in Reading, Pa., that primarily serves Hispanic youth. Demographic changes taking place right in front of us are an indicator of how important this type of outreach is.
“Catholic education for our Hispanic population is key,” he said. “It is so critical for our future, and it serves our self-interest as well.”
“A new St. Paul’s needs to emerge,” he added, referring to the now-closed Wilmington school whose students were mostly Hispanic.
Bishop Barres also spoke about the importance of spirituality and how it serves as the foundation for advanced governance, marketing and enrollment strategies.
“They rest on the foundation of the Catholic identity of the soul,” he said.
Being able to communicate about our faith is important, he said, and that includes being open to modern modes of communication. Bishop Barres noted that he has a video blog updated weekly, and he is active on Twitter.
He encouraged the teachers to “be ambassadors of the soul” of Catholic education. Part of that includes being able to evangelize and explain the Mass so that more students and their families attend Mass.
The day included Mass with Bishops Malooly and Barres and several priests of the diocese. In his homily, Bishop Malooly told the teachers and other school employees gathered that they “are called to be the light, the joy, the presence and the witness” of Jesus to their students.
“Are we ready for God’s challenge to each of us?” he asked. “In addition to being great teachers, what else does God call us to do?”
Bishop Malooly called on educators to grow in their faith and live it as an example to the young people.
Another part of the program consisted of honoring school employees celebrating milestone anniversaries in education. William Melis of St. Mark’s High School and Nancy Raymond of All Saints Catholic School each marked 40 years, while Sister William Adele, assistant superintendent of Catholic schools, was recognized for 50 years.