Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 20, 2005
Create prayer communities to hear Christ's voice
Teachers need a place where they can pray, says U of A professor
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Catholic schools should create small communities of prayer that allow staff to hear the voice of Christ, says a University of Alberta professor.
Speaking at a recent workshop, Father Stefano Penna, a professor of theology and religious education at St. Joseph's University College, said teachers need a place where they can get together and pray.
Look to the Benedictines
"So you have to create intentional places where people come together," Penna told about 80 people at the workshop. "I really think we have to back away from all our wonderful elegant and important mission statements and our wonderful big workshop where we bring big speakers who come and do different things and cultivate schools of Benedictine prayer."
Trustees, he said, should learn from the Benedictines who would form small prayer groups in the communities that grew around their monasteries.
"The Benedictines, in times of chaos and identity crises, fostered a rebirthing of Christianity not by marching in with troops, but by creating communities of prayer in what grew up around them," Penna said.
"These communities were filled with bitchy, gossipy people, but prayer was at the core and it transformed them. That's what I believe we are called to do in our Catholic schools. We need to create in our schools small places of prayer just like the Benedictines did."
The main purpose of the small groups is to study the Bible daily for 20 minutes or at least once a week "so the first thing is getting Bibles in their hands."
And Bible study simply means finding quiet, the priest said. "All I want is for people to have 20 minutes of quiet to take the reading of the day. You read it quietly and then you discuss what happens.
"It will change you. You can get Tony Robbins and these motivational speakers to come and tell you how to do all kinds of stuff, but the word of God is the only thing that will transform us."
For the project to succeed, teachers must be willing to participate and must have the support of the school boards, the priest stressed.
"I think is really difficult to change your culture," he said. "This is a long-term thing. One thing you have to do is identify within your Catholic schools who are your spiritual leaders. There are teachers who are spiritual leaders, who are anointed by the Spirit in those places.
"We've to identify them and support them. You identify these people. You have a new generation of teachers (coming up) and you got to make very sure that those teachers are being connected with your spiritual leaders because otherwise they will gravitate towards (those who don't see prayer as a priority)."
Boards pray too
Trustees must also be willing to participate if they are going to convince the staff of the benefits of creating prayer communities. "If you do not have time for 20 minutes of Bible study as a school board, then there is no way that you can invite the teachers to do that," Penna said.
"I'm inviting you as school board trustees to experience the power of prayers in your school board meetings; whenever you meet, spend 15-20 minutes in Bible study. Just watch it.
"Just watch then glory upon glory that will come from that."
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