Last month, Diocese of Orange Catholic educators gathered at Santa Margarita Catholic High School for the annual Educator Convocation. Ministers of Catholic education are called to cultivate a culture of prayer in their classrooms and at their schools.
Keynote speakers for this year’s convocations were Fr. Tim Donovan, chaplain at Santa Margarita Catholic High School, Pam Hurwitz, and Jyllian Rhodes, co-founders of Faith + Family Collective.
“As the dedication of our new cathedral is behind us, our diocese enters into a new beginning and we begin this new chapter with a prayer,” said Msgr. Doktorczyk, vicar general and moderator of the curia.
The goal is that every person in our diocese may come to personally know and love Jesus and become actively engaged in the full life and mission of the Church, joyfully using one’s gifts to share the Good News. “Every person,” Doktorcyzk added, “includes all people, young and old, preschool students to adults.”
Fr. Tim Donovan began the morning with a balloon juggling exercise. First, there was only one balloon that represented the ideal school year. Then, he added a few other balloons to represent unexpected difficulties that could happen in one’s life. “We have a God who is not depleted. Prayer helps us fill our gas tank for the fruits of the Holy Spirit,” shared Fr. Donovan. He reminded educators that, “the Holy Spirit is an artisan of the interior life, not a mass producer.”
Hurwitz and Rhodes of Faith + Family Collective shared some practical ways teachers can incorporate prayer into the culture of their classroom. The mother-daughter duo are graduates of Orange County Catholic schools. Hurwitz is a graduate of St. Norbert School in Orange and Marywood High School and Rhodes is a graduate of St. Francis of Assisi in Yorba Linda and Mater Dei High School.
“As Catholic educators, your life is a prayer,” shared the mother and daughter duo. Ministers of Catholic education are encouraged to make personal prayer and spiritual mindfulness a daily habit so they can share that with their students.
In the morning before work, teachers can read a devotional or uplifting, faith-filled book to start the day. In the classroom, they can pray for each student by name. Students’ names can be mentioned in a daily litany, such as “God bless Anthony, God bless Sally,” or the class can take a few moments each day to lift up a student in prayer and his or her prayer intentions. Teachers can schedule this in their calendars so that the whole class will be praying for each other.
At parent-teacher conferences, meetings can begin with a prayer. For example, teachers can give parents the opportunity to pray for the kids, to pray out loud, to pray over the desk where their child learns.
“The Catholic classroom is a holy ground. God is present in so many ways and teachers can control the temperature. They can talk about peace, purpose, and Jesus. . . We are helping build a temple in our students where God resides,” said Hurwitz.
Time for silence and reflection is another way to pray. Teachers often spend a lot of time figuring out ice breakers and cool activities. Rhodes reminded the audience of the importance of silence and spiritual mindfulness. “It helps us train ourselves to notice God,” said Rhodes. A gratitude journal can accompany those grace-filled moments. Teachers and students can fill their journals with moments that they want to remember.
Lunchtime grace is another opportunity. The fact that we have a meal is a blessing and students can also pray for those who prepare the food and for those who do not have any. Prayer helps us to be attuned to God’s many gifts.
“At the end of each day, teachers can ask their students, ‘Where did you notice God today?’ You will be surprised by their answers,” shared Hurwitz and Rhodes.
Superintendent of schools, Dr. Erin Barisano, invited Catholic educators to nurture the seeds of HOPE.
“In the areas of leadership and governance, we HOPE through Helping Others Promote Equity within our schools and across our diocese. In the area of operational vitality, we HOPE with one another by Helping Others Plan Effectively and efficiently for the future of our Catholic schools. In the area of academic excellence, we HOPE with one another by Helping Others Professionally Engaged as professional educators and ministers in the Diocese of Orange. In the area of Catholic identity and faith formation, we HOPE with one another by Helping Others Pray Every Day,” shared Barisano.