There are so many ways to identify ourselves as Catholic Christians. Some people wear medals. Others make references to Catholic teaching among their friends and professional colleagues. Just walking or driving to the parish church on Sundays and holy days is a way of demonstrating Catholic identity. Catechists and Catholic school teachers promote Catholic identity by their teaching ministry.
However, there is one group of Catholics who give powerful witness to their identity, but not by wearing religious symbols or discussing Catholic values and teachings in the workplace. They really can’t do either of these things. I am referring to Catholics who teach in public schools.
Instead, they give witness to their Catholic identity in the way they conduct themselves in the school environment, by their kindness and commitment to their students and families, by the diligence with which they provide the best education of which they are capable, and by their willingness to go the extra distance for the students, the families, and their own colleagues. Some of them also serve as catechists or youth ministers and in other ways at their parishes.
These Catholic teachers in our public schools are like Pope Francis. Even if he were to trade in his white cassock for a nondescript shirt and trousers, his concern for poor and marginalized people would still identify him as a follower of Jesus, Ignatius Loyola and Francis of Assisi.
For the last eight years, we in the Archdiocesan Catechetical Office have given special recognition to Catholic teachers in public schools by sponsoring a Liturgy and breakfast in the winter and a day of recollection just for them in the fall. It is our hope that they leave these days spiritually and physically nourished, and that they know how much they are appreciated.
The Liturgy and Breakfast this year will take place on Saturday, Feb. 22, at the Riverview in Hastings-on-Hudson in Westchester. It is easily accessible by car or Metro North. Bishop Gerald Walsh, vicar general of the Archdiocese, will celebrate Mass with us and author Gaynell Cronin will be the speaker.
If you are a Catholic teaching in a public school or you know someone who is, you will find all the details and registration information for Feb. 22 here. We look forward to being with you.