January 25, 2008

Seeking the Face of the Lord

Students’ letters give flavor of good things going on in Catholic schools

As I was thinking about writing about our Catholic schools this week, I remembered that I had a packet of letters from eighth-graders at Holy Name of Jesus School in Beech Grove. Their religion teacher, Benedictine Sister Nicolette Etienne, accompanied them with a letter of her own.

She probably wouldn’t want me to do so, but I want to quote part of her letter as an example of the commitment of our many teachers.

She wrote: “This is my third year of teaching sixth- through eighth-grade religion. The eighth-graders have had me for three years now.

“I am so impressed with all they have learned. Archbishop, I can honestly say that these students are the most respectful and reverent students I have ever had the privilege to teach.

“They strive daily to do their personal best. … I can’t thank God enough for allowing me to minister to the students at Holy Name even if only for three mornings a week.

“I find great joy in teaching religion to these precious children of God. Actually, teaching at Holy Name gives me energy to do vocation work.”

The eighth-graders appreciate their religion teacher. They are also in high spirits because their football team won the CYO city championship. They express their appreciation for their education at Holy Name of Jesus School.

They speak for themselves in the following excerpts:

“I am really glad that I go to a Catholic school. I get so many advantages that I sometimes might take for granted. Going to a Catholic school teaches me so much that I would not know if I went to a public school. Did you know that in some public schools the teachers cannot even mention God? I know that would be hard because even in our history class we talk about God. Did you go to a Catholic school when you were younger?” (The answer is yes. Some other time, I will answer this and other questions some students included in their letters.)

“One thing I love about Holy Name is religion class and going to church. I like this because it makes me a better person, and everyone at Holy Name better people than they already were!

“Some of the things we do in religion are first we do “Lectio Divina,” and we highlight all the sentences that we think jump out to us and that mean the most to us.

“Then we either have a test over the chapter that we read in our textbook, or we have tests over vocabulary words that Sister Nicolette gives us every other day.

“Sometimes we listen to the rosary on CD, and we color a picture of Mary.

“Something that I really love in religion is Sister Nicolette’s ‘Magic Monastery Cookies.’

“This week, she is selling them for one dollar for a good cause, which is for this lady who is deaf. Her hearing dog died. Now she needs to buy another dog. However, they cost $15,000. We are trying to help St. Matthew School raise money so Mary can purchase a new hearing dog. I love religion class, and I hope I learn as much at Roncalli that I did at Holy Name.”

“We have been doing a lot of different things in religion. From “Lectio Divina,” Scripture reading, saint videos and profiles, famous (and religious) history, (and people) terms (like vocabulary/catechumen, magisterium, etc.) and traditions.

“This period is on apostolic succession, meaning ‘the term used to describe the authority to lead and teach the Church can be traced through out the centuries from the Apostles to their successors, the bishops.’

“I think that the chain has never been broken, that’s crazy. [Or amazing.] It’s cool that it can go for so long through out history, neat!”

“In religion class, we are learning and studying 132 vocabulary words and the Catechism of the Catholic Church and we also do “Lectio Divina.” We have a very good teacher that will teach you as long as you want to learn.

“Other things we learn about are things straight out of the textbooks. We also study the reading before Mass so that we can participate in the liturgy more.

“In addition to being a teacher, Sister Nicolette makes the best ‘Magic Monastery Cookies.’ You really should try one. I would also like to thank you for all the hard work you have been doing to keep our churches running strong.”

One of the students mentioned that “even the principal needs a little word of encouragement.”

I add to his note that I agree: Our teachers, principals, pastors and our parents all deserve a word of encouragement.

These excerpts from student letters give a flavor of the good things that happen in our schools.

Congratulations to all who make this possible! †

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