Dominicans love books. Our constantly growing convent library recently necessitated the purchase of an additional bookcase to house the expanding volumes. One new acquisition, gifted by a friend, is about knowing Jesus and bringing others to him.
In the introduction, the author explains: while contemplating an image of Jesus, he was inspired to ask himself, “Do I love Jesus, or just work for him?” As I read this line, I was cut to the heart.
As a religious sister and a school principal, life is very busy. As a member of the Dominican Order, we are called “to contemplate and to give to others the fruits of our contemplation.”
To my dismay, I feel like I am doing a lot of “giving,” and not enough “contemplating” some days. (Thank goodness for the reprieve of school holidays!)
If I take this question one step further, it speaks not just to Dominicans, priests, or religious, but to all who work in Catholic schools.
Repeatedly the Church documents on Catholic education refer to the role of teachers and educators as a “supernatural vocation.” Educators in a Catholic school participate everyday in the mission of the Church. The Church goes so far as to say that:
“The achievement of the specific aim of the Catholic school depends not so much on subject matter or methodology as on the people who work there. The extent to which the Christian message is transmitted through education depends to a very great extent on the teachers.
“The nobility of the task to which teachers are called demands that, in imitation of Christ, the only Teacher, they reveal the Christian message not only by word but also by every gesture of their behaviour. This is what makes the difference between a school whose education is permeated by the Christian spirit and one in which religion is only regarded as an academic subject like any other.” (The Catholic School, 43)
Do I love Jesus, or just work for Him? Staffing in Catholic schools is our first priority. For our schools to be truly Catholic, our staff must live, believe, and give witness to the heart of the mission: Jesus Christ.
At the same time, we have to be realistic: no one has yet reached the state of perfection! Everyone is still on a journey. An essential element of working in a Catholic school is being genuinely open to the formation offered in the search for Truth.
For these reasons, contrary to the popular opinions some may hold, Catholic schools must be able to discriminate in whom they choose to hire. If we are to achieve the goal for which we exist in living out the mission of the Church, we must be able to form staff who not only work for Jesus, but desire to love Him, live according to this Love, and pass on His Truth and Love to a future generation.
This year my staff have come together to participate in the Alpha program as part of our annual staff formation. We have adapted this parish-based program to meet our needs as Catholic educators. The staff have expressed gratitude for this time to slow down, reflect, and pray together. I know other schools in the system are providing staff with similar opportunities.
Do we love Jesus? Yes! Do we work for Him? Yes! May it ever be so.
Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses. (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 41)
Sister Cecilia Joseph is the principal of St. Peter Chanel Catholic Primary School in Regents Park.