By Dave Brodner
Helping teachers to be more effective witnesses
Pope Paul VI described the importance of teachers in a Catholic school when he stated, “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.” Helping teachers to be better witnesses of the Catholic faith is something the Lloydminster Catholic School Division is trying to do. In order to help our teachers to be authentic witnesses some specific actions have been put in place in our school division.
The mentor’s role and function is that of nurturing
growth. A mentoring relationship is built on mutuality. We want to establish
relationships where people can feel safe in exploring questions they
have about our Catholic faith.
In the Lloydminster Catholic schools, all teachers new to the division work with in-school faith mentors. This ensures that there is someone at their school who is willing to discuss faith matters with them. They are also expected to meet formally once a month at each school. Here the provincial faith mentorship guidebook is used as a resource to begin faith discussions. Also, they are to attend large group sessions where all new teachers and their faith mentors meet (these are outlined below).
Having support both at the school and division level has
been helpful in our program. Our goal is to provide new teachers with
an opportunity to grow in understanding and witnessing the Catholic faith.
Sessions at the division level work on a theme basis where the group
looks at a topic in detail. Presenters include school division personnel
and local clergy, and small and large group discussions take place on
the given topic. Here are the topics addressed at the division level:
1. Being a faith leader (Aug. 27): This session focused
on the Catholic teacher’s responsibility in modelling and leading
students to develop a sense of belonging to the church faith community.
Practical suggestions were provided to help teachers to be in step with
the church seasons and how to prepare school prayer services and liturgies.
2. Prayer/Advent (Nov. 21): This will focus on the joys and struggles
of lifting our minds and hearts to God. It will outline the basics of
developing a real relationship with God and will provide practical ways
to better talk to and listen to God as we prepare for Advent.
3. Knowing the story (Jan. 16): This will focus on knowing the story
of the Catholic Christian faith, which is centred on the life, death
and resurrection of Jesus. We are able to enter into this victorious
historical event by participating in the life of the church. The Gospel
of Mark will be used as the focus in this workshop.
4. The Creed/our focus during Lent (Feb. 20): This will focus on the
meaning of the creed, which is a one-prayer summary of our faith, used
for all baptisms and confirmations.
5. Mary and the Easter season (March 20): This will focus
on how Mary is the first disciple of Jesus. Her role within the Catholic
faith is always to encourage us “to do whatever (Jesus) tells us.”
6. Sacraments (April 17): This will focus on the privileged ways of meeting
the risen Jesus as we journey through our lives.
7. Morality/Ten Commandments (May 15): This session will explore how
the Ten Commandments expand the basic commandment of loving God and neighbour.
Between sessions, mentors and mentees work together to discuss the previous
topic, previewing the next topic and/or discussing other issues or topics
that may arise. This ensures that our teachers know they are supported
in their faith development as well as in their teaching. We have been
fortunate throughout the program to have the active support of our clergy
and can rely on them to provide the necessary guidance to make the sessions
fruitful for participants.
The Faith Mentorship Program, we believe, can help teachers be better prepared to teach in the Catholic school system. Along with the mentorship program, all staff members are expected to gather weekly to reflect on the Sunday Gospel. We also have an RCIA program for teachers wishing to enrich their understanding of the Catholic faith.
Brodner is the religious co-ordinator for the Lloydminster Catholic School Division.