Teachers gather at Mass to celebrate a new school year

As the procession approaches the altar at St. Therese Church Aug. 15, diocesan school faculty, administration, staff and coaches sing a hymn of Mary. (Marty Denzer/Key photo)

By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Associate Editor

KANSAS CITY — Teachers, administrators, coaches and staff from grade and high schools across the diocese gathered to celebrate the annual Convocation Mass, held at St. Therese Church-North on the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Aug. 15. Many of the 100 new teachers were present as well as many long-term educators, including one teacher of 42 years in this diocese.

The Convocation Mass was a gathering to bless and celebrate the new school year, which began the following day.
Bishop James V. Johnston, Jr. was the celebrant, with Fathers Joseph Cisetti, pastor of St. Therese and Randy Sly, Parochial Vicar, pastor of Our Lady of Sorrows and president of St. Michael the Archangel High School, concelebrating. They were assisted by Deacons Scott McKellar of St. Therese and Our Lady of Sorrows, Mike Elsey of St. Robert Bellarmine and Religion teacher, St Pius X High School, and Doug Warrens of St. Therese who served as the Bishop’s Master of Ceremonies.

In his opening remarks, the bishop mentioned that when he was driving to St. Therese, as he exited the interstate he got stuck in a traffic jam. His frustration eased when he thought, ‘Oh, they’re probably all going to Mass.’ Wouldn’t it be wonderful, he said, “If only there could be more traffic jams because of people going to Mass!”

His homily was about The Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a “very beautiful feast celebrated by the Church around the world” which offers much wisdom for all, and in particular, for principals, teachers, coaches, staff, administrators and students for the year ahead, he said.

“The bodily assumption of Mary into Heaven is based on her integrity, a word based on the Latin adjective integer, or whole, complete.” … We are familiar with the word, integer, as in whole numbers in Mathematics… “The word integrate comes from the same root, integer, which refers to making something whole, complete.” A person with integrity is a someone who’s whole, complete, who lives in the truth. And for those with faith, a person of total integrity and truth is holy. … “The one person who is completely integrated, who has total integrity from the first moment of her existence in the womb, and all the way to the tomb, was the Mother of Our Lord and God, Jesus Christ. … She always lives totally in the truth, so she is a model of integrity for the entire Church. … She was totally integrated into God’s will. … Mary continues to praise God in heaven with the Magnificat, that beautiful prayer of praise and thanksgiving to God” (that she first said during her greeting to her cousin Elizabeth, at the Visitation) … Because we are part of the restoration in Christ, her prayer of praise is ours too. … It seems to me,” he continued, “that as Christians, no matter what our vocation, or obligations or ministries, we should always strive for integrity, for wholeness, for a life totally lived in the truth.”

He referred to the recent findings of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury, about priests and bishops living “a double life … a divided life. … A double life is one of dis-integration.  … Corruption comes about from dis-integration; it is the fruit of sin. Sin divides us. The Greek word for divider is diablo. When something is diabolical it is something that divides … separates …disintegrates. Jesus came to defeat this diablo.”

Bishop Johnston continued, “We are all sinners, and experience disintegration in our lives at times. But through Christ’s resurrection, he re-integrates us. We are the fruits of his resurrection. … Pope Francis said recently that the justification Jesus offered by dying on the cross saved us from corruption.”

Glancing across the church to encompass all the educators, he said, “You have been entrusted with the awesome, wonderful task of forming young people to be what God wants them to be. You do the work of integration, of integrity. You seek to make our students whole, complete, in body mind and spirit … A teacher in a Catholic school, a coach in a Catholic school, anyone who serves in this vital ministry of the Church must always strive for integrity in his or her own life.”

Immediately following the Mass, the Diocesan Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Dan Peters, spoke of the Diocesan Catholic Schools’ Strategic 5 -Year Plan and how the schools had performed over the past year. For the Plan’s five goals — improvement on both the ACRE (Assessment of Catechesis and Religious Education) and Iowa Assessment (IA) tests; meeting or exceeding college readiness benchmarks in Reading, Science and Math for high school students; stop declining enrollment and developing and implementing a strategic marketing plan for the diocesan schools.

Dr. Peters gave the educators an A+ for effort and a B- for results. “We can do better,” he said.

He also detailed the theme for the 2018-19 school year: JOY, “Jesus, Others, Yourself.”  He explained, “Jesus is the center of our schools, and we are always thinking of others because whatever we do for others we do for Jesus.  You also need to reserve time for spiritual nourishment. Jesus is the center of all we do.”

He offered some suggestions for effective teaching including “teach grade level standards to students so their next teacher won’t have to.”

Dr. Peters reminded the teachers, administrators, coaches and staff, the special Christian community that starts with its teachers, that “the quality of our Catholic schools is based on relationships, beginning with a joyful relationship with Jesus Christ … We have a sacred duty to hand on the truth to the next generation. We don’t want our children and students to be just smart and successful.” Like Bishop Johnston has often said, “We want them to be wise and good.”

Mentoring of new teachers and meetings followed the Mass.



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October 30, 2020
The Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph