February 21, 2014

Catholic Education Outreach / Gina Fleming

Catholic schools help form ‘new creations’

“The aim of all Christian education is to train the believer in an adult faith that can make him a ‘new creation,’ capable of bearing witness in his surroundings to the Christian hope that inspires him.” These words from Pope Benedict XVI’s apostolic exhortation “Sacramentum Caritatis” (“The Sacrament of Charity”) resonate with me as I witness firsthand the beauty of a quality Catholic education in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

What could be more inspiring than surrounding oneself with faith-filled peers that have a shared mission and a true desire to know, love and serve God? Here is a snapshot of what happens in our Catholic schools every day as we strive to fully develop the whole person. I share that snapshot through my lens as a mother, a former teacher and principal, and superintendent.

As a mother of two boys, Drew and Noah, there are few things that bring me greater joy than my sons’ happiness. As students in our Catholic schools, they are especially encouraged and taught how to reverently serve at Mass. How wonderful it is to witness children joyfully expressing their faith in such a meaningful way while we all celebrate the holy Eucharist together! I highly recommend participating in an all-school Mass at any one of our schools to experience this same elation and peace.

How grateful I am to every teacher who has impacted the lives of my children. The first-grade teacher who challenged Noah with a spelling list that included “transubstantiation,” the second-grade teachers who helped both boys relish their first reconciliation and first holy Communion, the middle-school teacher who taught Drew the interrelationship of countries and cultures around the globe, and all of them who daily wove our faith into all aspects of the learning experience and loved my children as their own … thank you!

“But the greatest among you shall be your servant” (Mt 23:11).

As a former teacher, there is great delight when participating in service with our youths. Even our smallest children in our pre-kindergarten programs learn early on that their physical size does not dictate the ways in which they can positively affect the lives of others. Whether students are preparing care packages for soldiers or writing letters to the elderly parishioners in their community, they are reminded that these are ways to honor and glorify God, remembering that all are made in the image and likeness of our Lord.

Similarly, there is incredible pride in students when they accomplish goals throughout their journey. I marvel at the creativity, problem solving and depth of their thinking while savoring the first time when a student who was non-verbal called me by name. God blesses each of us with unique gifts, and like the other archdiocesan teachers, I am grateful for the opportunity to develop and celebrate these gifts.

As a former principal and currently as superintendent, I get to work with incredibly knowledgeable, committed, passionate Catholic educators every day. I marvel at all that our principals and teachers do for the honor and glory of God. As spiritual leaders, we rely heavily upon the power of prayer and the grace of God. With our wonderful team at the archdiocesan Office of Catholic Education, I am proud to stand beside these marvelous leaders, cheering them and their communities in our joint endeavor to produce successful, Christian citizens who share the ultimate goal of heaven.

As mother, teacher, principal and superintendent, I thank God for the opportunity to share in the glorious role of transforming these young believers into “new creations” who will lead and serve all for his honor and glory!

(Gina Fleming is superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Archdiocese of Indianapolis.)

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