Catholic Free Press

Catholic Free Press Digital Edition

  • Apr
  • 19

Local teachers value networking and spiritual food from convention

Posted By April 19, 2012 | 1:22 pm | Lead Story #2
By Tanya Connor A focus on Jesus, ideas for faith-building and opportunities to network were benefits local educators gleaned from the National Catholic Educational Association Convention and Expo in Boston last week. Parish religious education directors and faculty and administrators from Catholic schools from around the country – and world – flocked to the John B. Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center April 11-13, those involved said.

By Tanya Connor

A focus on Jesus, ideas for faith-building and opportunities to network were benefits local educators gleaned from the National Catholic Educational Association Convention and Expo in Boston last week.
Parish religious education directors and faculty and administrators from Catholic schools from around the country – and world – flocked to the John B. Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center April 11-13, those involved said.
“The liturgy on the first day was very moving,” said Christine Laporte, a convention first-timer, who teaches seventh and eighth grade at St. Anne Elementary School in Webster. “They had students from area schools in Boston do the music. The cardinal (Sean O’Malley) presided. It was just a great way to start the few days. It brought us together. This is what we have in common. Jesus is why we do what we do.”
“Jesus is the heart of what we do and teach as catechetical leaders,” said Maura Sweeney, director of religious education at St. Boniface Parish in Lunenburg. She said her favorite session – Thomas Groome’s “Will There Be Faith?” – refocused on that.
Dovetailing into that was James Pauley’s session which likened Jesus to the center of a wheel, with other topics as spokes, she said. She said he talked about connecting the communion of saints to Jesus in an RCIA lesson and a woman responding that she’d heard about many things, but never about Jesus.
“The talks that I attended were really good preparation for the Year of Faith,” Mrs. Sweeney said, adding that they gave her formation as she considers what to offer at the parish for that special year, which Pope Benedict XVI announced for Oct. 11, 2012 through Nov. 24, 2013. She said she brought back from the convention “an inspiration, a reminder, we’re on the right track.”
Martha Harris, coordinator of religious education at St. James Parish in South Grafton, said she got more ideas on how to revitalize families living the Catholic faith.
“I go every time I can, for networking with other catechetical leaders, to be inspired by usually wonderful speakers, and this year was no exception,” she said of the convention. The networking affirms what she’s doing, inspires her with new ideas, and gives her people she can contact throughout the year, she said. And exhibits provide the opportunity to tell publishers what one likes and what needs tweaking, and to get free shipping for the next year’s books, she said.
Laurie Murphy, principal of St. Stephen Elementary School in Worcester, said all her faculty attended the convention and she plans to share her notes with them and have them share with each other. Some spread out to attend more sessions, but she also recommended some attend the anti-bullying session she found so good, she said.
She said she also found very helpful a session about effective teaching strategies; “even though I’m a principal, I’m still a teacher at heart.” She picked up on a speaker’s statement about being Christ’s arms too.
“I think it’s a message to bring back, not only as educators but as Catholic Christians,” she said. “That’s why we’re here. We are Christ’s body.”
“I love the fact that I met Patricia Polacco,” raved Mary Jean Davis, resource room teacher at St. Anna Elementary in Leominster. “I was just tearing up; she means so much to me. This person is real.”
She said she reads Ms. Polacco’s books to her students to show them they can overcome their difficulties. She expressed personal appreciation for the author’s book “Mrs. Mack,” honoring a horseback riding teacher, because her own daughter likes horses and has a learning disability, as did Ms. Polacco.
Venerini Sister Irene Moran, coordinator of religious education at Our Lady of the Rosary Parish in Worcester, said she was struck by the chance to network with people from all over the country.
“The second thing was the affirmation you get from being with so many people involved in Catholic education in all different aspects, to see the dedication, the interest and the enthusiasm they have,” she said.
“Probably the most impressive part of the conference was the opening liturgy – approximately 9,000 to 10,000 people,” said Andrea M. Tavaska, principal of Milford Catholic Elementary School in Milford. “Just being in a place where everybody has the same feelings.” She said it was impressive to see so many young teachers.
“All of my teachers were there; they were very impressed with it,” she said. “You always come back energized with great ideas. It’s good to recognize that, nationally, Catholic schools are still strong.”
One of the most poignant parts of the convention was when Sister Clare Fitzgerald, SSND, said, “I’m part of the generation that helped to build the schools,” Mrs. Tavaska said. “She challenged younger teachers, and all of us, that we are the future.”