Teachers gather for inspiration, formation

Photo by James A. McBride
Father Joseph P. Capella, Director of Catholic Identity at Camden Catholic High School, Cherry Hill, distributes Communion during Mass celebrated by Bishop Dennis Sullivan on a day for Catholic school teachers. It was held March 23 at Paul VI High School, Haddonfield.
Photo by Mike Walsh
Guest speaker Dr. Saundra Kennedy encourages teachers to “be Christ to the children entering the schools.”
Photo by Mike Walsh
More than 600 teachers from Catholic elementary and secondary schools in the Diocese of Camden attended the gathering.

HADDONFIELD — “Be the pencil in the hand of God.”

With these words, Dr. Saundra Kennedy urged South Jersey’s Catholic school teachers to be “instruments” in their classrooms, guiding students in the knowledge that “Jesus is Lord and forming them into intentional disciples.”

In a folksy and and engaging manner, Dr. Kennedy (from “New Awlins, Louisiana,” she proudly stated) motivated the 600-plus Catholic elementary and secondary education teachers in a gathering at Paul VI High School here on Friday, March 23.

The Catholic school educators from all corners of South Jersey converged in Haddonfield for a day of formation, fellowship and liturgy, to re-enfoce what it means to be a teacher in a Catholic school — a challenging, but rewarding, vocation in these times of increasing secularism.

In his homily at the Mass that followed Dr. Kennedy’s presentation, Bishop Dennis Sullivan echoed her message, urging his diocese’s teachers to remember that “your work is a vehicle of faith; as evangelizers, you should teach the truth of Christ.”

Dr. Kennedy, who holds a doctorate in education and religion from Columbia University and Union Theological Seminary in New York City, previously taught in Catholic education at the elementary, junior high and high school levels.

Currently, in addition to her role as a national speaker and consultant on Catholic education, she is the regional vice president for FACTS Management, serving faith-based and private schools in Louisiana and Mississippi.

To fulfill their mission to “inspire greatness” in their students, Dr. Kennedy told her audience that Catholic school educators must have a rock-solid foundation of their beliefs.

“Prayer has to be a priority in our lives. Before we can share our faith, we have to own it,” she said.

In not only their words, but their actions, teachers must have a “love of life and your students, an energy and enthusiasm, and an attitude of service, ministry and sacrifice,” Dr. Kennedy implored, adding that “each day, you must be Christ to the children entering the schools.”