Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
October 26, 2009
Teachers urged to learn from students
Kambeitz offers 5-step lesson for teaching as Jesus taught
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
SHERWOOD PARK - Religious education graduates of Newman Theological College were urged to listen to the joys and hopes, griefs and anxieties of their students and to discern what God is saying to those students.
"Graduates, please listen to your students, know your audience, learn their language," Sister Teresita Kambeitz said at the college's 40th annual convocation Oct. 17.
Kambeitz reflected on the story of young Samuel hearing the voice of God. The priest Eli did not tell Samuel that he would interpret what God was telling Samuel. Rather, Eli urged Samuel to report back what God had told him.
"Eli trusted in young Samuel's understanding of God's message to him."
Kambeitz, an Ursuline of Prelate, Sask., who served as director of Newman College's religious education program in the 1990s, was guest speaker at the convocation held at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church. Thirty-nine students received degrees or diplomas at the convocation, including 23 who graduated from the religious education program.
Kambeitz quoted Father Ron Rolheiser as saying the greatest missionary task in today's world is not in the developing world, but rather "right here in Canada among our own children."
She spoke of the challenges young people face in the current economic downturn as well as from the new atheism which views religion as poison, the cause of all wars and the worst obstacle to human progress.
"I certainly encounter these attitudes in my present class of students at the University of Saskatchewan," she said.
The first step in the missionary endeavour to young people is to listen to them "as we walk with them," she said.
Kambeitz recalled beginning to teach Christian ethics at Holy Cross High School in Saskatoon many years ago. It was a large school with more than 1,300 students and she realized she didn't understand how to speak to those young people.
Kambeitz decided to get to know her audience by meeting individually with all 108 of her Grade 12 students and ask them about their experiences of God. She learned how important their music was to them so she asked the students to bring their favourite songs to class and compared the lyrics with passages from Scripture.
"Their songs became, for me, effective windows into the minds and hearts of my students and also windows through which to lead them into the Scriptures and into our Catholic faith."
The second step in missionary outreach to the young is to create disequilibrium in their minds so that they will seek the truth, she said. It is not easy to move students beyond the "firewall with which they staunchly guard and protect their peer-driven attitudes and opinions."
Likewise, the opinions of the new atheists may provoke us to ask new questions and to search more deeply for authentic spirituality. "Perhaps their doubts can purify our beliefs."
A third missionary step can be seen in Jesus' walk with Cleopas and his wife on the road to Emmaus. Jesus interpreted all that Moses and the prophets had taught about the Messiah. "Wow! What a presentation that must have been!" Likewise, teachers must interpret Scripture for their students.
But true conversion can only happen through a fourth step - allowing the action of the Holy Spirit to connect the teacher's input with the disequilibrium experienced by the students.
The hearts of Cleopas and his wife were set aflame not by good teaching technique but by the Holy Spirit. "No heart-burning will take place without our sincere and humble prayer for the Holy Spirit's help."
A fifth step is to celebrate the presence of the risen Lord with the students through liturgy, prayer and acts of service, Kambeitz said.
She noted the outpouring of generosity by students at St. Matthew's School in Rocky Mountain House described in an article in the Sept. 21 WCR. "Obviously there is some very effective faith formation taking place in that school and I find it very inspiring."
Faith, she said, "is always an invitation to life." The resurrection reveals that God is always the fullness of life.
While we have great freedom in Canada, that freedom needs to be lived in a new way - through the self-sacrificing love of others.
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