Moral Formation, Catechesis at Center of New Teacher Formation Conference

February 05, 2016

From the Cardinal Newman Society’s Catholic Education Daily:

By Kimberly Scharfenberger

The Center for Catholic Education at Newman Guide-recommended Aquinas College in Nashville, Tenn., is responding to the Church’s call for faithful teacher formation programs by offering training for educators, administrators and board members of Catholic schools. The Center’s director, Sister Elizabeth Anne Allen, O.P., told The Cardinal Newman Society that she hopes this training will richly benefit future generations of Catholic students.

The Center’s new teacher formation conference, called WISE (Witness-Inspire-Serve-Educate), will be held from June 13-16, 2016 on the campus of Aquinas College. Sr. Allen told The Cardinal Newman Society that the conference is a deliberate response to specific issues recently cited by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the World Congress on Catholic Education, including “the Catholic identity of Catholic schools and the formation of those who teach in those schools.”

“Today’s general culture and educational climate makes the mission of WISE an urgent one,” said Sr. Allen. “The values of our secular society provide an environment that is toxic in relation to developing Christian values and forming persons of virtue.”

Topics such as “the context for Catholic education; a survey of the documents on education; the nature, identity and mission of the Catholic school; and the dignity of teaching” will be discussed. A lecture by Dr. Jem Sullivan, the director of research for the Saint John Paul II Shrine, on sacred art and the role of beauty in education is also scheduled. A retreat day at the Motherhouse of the Dominican Sisters of Nashville’s Bethany Retreat Center is built into the conference, and participants will have the opportunity to attend daily Mass and pray the Divine Office.

“Catholic schools, with the informed, purposeful and dedicated participation of teachers, contribute to the development of the students as whole persons,” said Sr. Allen. But “the principle purposes of Catholic education — forming students with the ultimate goal of salvation in view and enabling them to contribute positively to the civic society in which they are members — stand counter to the values of the dominant culture.”

Sr. Allen cited key Church documents which indicate the unique responsibility designated to teachers:

Gravissimum Educationis and the subsequent documents of the Church on education hold that the chief determinant in whether the Catholic school achieves its aims is the teacher. The great dignity which the Church attributes to teaching is a tribute to that vocation.

The role of the teacher in the Catholic school is two-fold: that of instructor and that of witness. In Evangelii Nuntiandi, Blessed Paul VI wrote that ‘Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses’ (#41).

In past generations, men and women in religious life were the primary educators in Catholic schools, but as this number has declined, participation in the WISE conference “provides a unique opportunity for religious and lay educators to collaborate in this apostolate,” Sr. Allen noted. Moreover, participants will be better able “to understand the particular contribution each state of life makes to this effort: religious giving witness to the importance of community and laity giving example of faith making an active impact in the secular arena.”

“In a way, it can be said that the teacher is engaged in informing, forming and transformation because the student is taught content, values and virtues through the work and example of the teacher,” said Sr. Allen. “The Church counts on the teacher not only to be teachers of faith, but to be teachers of what it truly means to be human.”

Learn more about the W.I.S.E. conference on the Center for Catholic Education’s web pages.