Thanks to our Catholic educators
In late April, I was flying to St. Louis to attend the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) annual convention. I was seated between two children, a fourth-grade girl and a third-grade boy. I assumed they were brother and sister, but quickly discovered they had just met and were self-proclaimed "unaccompanied minors."
They were cheerful, curious and polite, but carried on with their conversation over me for the first third of the flight. They discussed Xboxes, their favorite apps and online games and best scores. Did they have an iPhone and what version? Can you bring candy on the plane? I know I was eavesdropping, but it was impossible to avoid as the banter continued.
The chatting then moved to their complicated living arrangements. They were both visiting their mothers and returning to lives with their dads. When their Sprite was served, their conversation became a bit heavier: mom and other relatives’ time in prison; addictions; the unkind things one parent says about the other; the lies they discover; no, we didn’t go to Easter services. They had a lot in common, these two.
Finally, she focused on her iPad and the candy she knew she could bring. But he wanted to talk about horses, farms and his dream of being a bull rider. Somewhere in the midst of this, he announced he went to a Catholic school and was Baptist. He was proud of this, and I was relieved.
I sensed that this lively young boy was loved by his family, but there was messiness. And I was grateful he had the resources of a Catholic school on his side. I know his heart and soul will be cared for, along with his mind. I know he will be offered support, guidance and prayers when life at home is confusing. He will be invited to walk with Jesus, to know him as a friend and to count on him.
There were 8,000 Catholic school educators at the NCEA convention. Each of them, soaking up every opportunity to enliven their particular classroom or subject matter. Each of them, recommitting to this sacred ministry of our church.
I think of them as we celebrate the Feast of the Ascension, when Jesus leaves the earth but promises he will be with us: "I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live." (Jn 14:18-19)
Jesus can be seen in the hands, eyes and hearts of our Catholic school teachers. Each one has many gifts, and they choose to use them to help children know Jesus, to assure them that they are not orphans, and no matter what is going on around them, they can know they are loved.
As the academic year winds down, let’s pray for our Catholic school educators, who model stewardship in such meaningful ways. May God bless them for being Christ to so many children, especially those caught in the messiness of life.
Shannan Brommer is director of the archdiocesan Office of Stewardship and Development. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.