Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 20, 1999
Educators urged to trust God
East Central teachers get their annual 'attitude adjustment'
By LELLA BLUMER
Special to the WCR
Teachers, administrators, support staff and trustees from East Central Alberta Catholic Schools got a gentle reminder that "God is in charge" at the district's annual Mission and Ministry day Aug. 31.
About 150 staff members from schools in Wainwright, Provost, Killam, Castor and Vermilion gathered at St. Thomas Aquinas School in Provost for a day-long workshop led by Father Ronald Nuzzi from the Center for Catholic Education at the University of Dayton, Ohio.
One goal of the day, Nuzzi told the group, was "to offer a ministry to our perspective.
"That's a gentle way of saying every once in awhile we all need an attitude adjustment."
It's easy for a teacher to feel in charge of their classroom, or a principal to feel in charge of their school, Nuzzi said, because power has "illusionary qualities." But he added that learning to put God first is part of what theologian Henri Nouwen described as the spiritual movement from illusion to prayer.
"We need to move away from loneliness, hostility and fear, to become a people of solitude, hospitality and prayerfulness."
For Catholic educators, Nuzzi said, that means being genuinely open to what God is doing, and preserving solitude as a form of self-care when professional or spiritual burnout is a threat.
"There comes a time when in order to be gentle to others, you have to say no," he advised.
"It is possible to work too hard, and my experience with Catholic educators is that they do work too hard."
That can be a sign of believing that "it won't get done unless I do it," he warned. "People with real trusting faith will do their work, pray, and let God be in charge. . . . The Psalms say 'Be still, and know that I am God.'"
That's a message all staff members need to hear, said Marian Emter from Blessed Sacrament School in Wainwright.
"You can only give out of what you've got. If you've got nothing, you give nothing.
"So often we forget to say 'Let go and let God.'"
Lori Myggland, a teacher at Blessed Sacrament, says teachers do get that message from time to time. "But we need to keep hearing it."
Having the opportunity to come together with staff from other schools across the district helps, Myggland says, because it's a step in the constant process of building community.
Former superintendent George Bunz, who organized and hosted the workshop as one of his last functions before retiring, says building community is the whole idea behind the Mission and Ministry day, held annually in the district for the past 18 years.
"The one really common bond we share is the mission and ministry that we do, and this day allows us to focus on that."
In addition to the workshop sessions, staff participated in small group discussions and ended the day with a Eucharistic celebration and commissioning service.
Nuzzi encouraged them to carry the message of solitude, hospitality and prayerfulness throughout the school year.
"It's easy to remember in August, but it will be more difficult in February. That's why we need to take stock of our inner lives now, because we are better able to cope."
Most importantly, he added, teachers need to be aware that their own spirituality becomes part of the "implicit" curriculum of the school - the set of values, ideas and beliefs that students learn simply by being in the classroom.
"I encourage each of you individually and corporately as a staff to think about what is part of that implicit curriculum.
"Your face may be the only face of Christ your students ever see; your gentleness and compassion may be the only gentleness and compassion they ever feel.
"Be open to what God puts in your soul, feel it anew, see with the eyes of faith who you are as Catholic school educators."