High School Faculty Invited to Explore Catholic Themes in Their Academic Specialty

Article excerpt

Substantially Catholic Seminar offers "Catholic Practical" -content and theory that can be put to use in class

On the first day of the Substantially Catholic Seminar, many of the high school teachers did not know what to expect. They knew only that they would be with many other teachers from Catholic high schools who were teaching the same academic discipline as they.

They came from Southern California (Bishop Amat in La Puente, Mayfield Senior School of the Holy Child Jesus in Pasadena, Damien in La Verne, Mission College Preparatory in San Luis Obispo), but mostly from the Bay area (Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory, St. Mary's-Berkeley, Cardinal Newman, Marin Catholic and St, Francis in nearby Sacramento and others). In all, just fewer than 60 high school teachers converged on Marin Catholic High School in Kentfield, a 15-minute car ride north of San Francisco.

The Substantially Catholic Seminar was organized by the Catholic Education Institute of New York City and hosted by Marin Catholic. Practically all of the participants were teachers in Catholic high schools, although a handful of teachers or administrators came from area Catholic grade schools. All participants were there to gather as much Catholic material and insight as they could in a tight three-day seminar from June 13-15.

The title, Substantially Catholic, is intended to emphasize that the participating high school teachers receive solid Catholic substance during the seminar, not to suggest that some challenging Catholic teachings are omitted. The goal isto help teachers in Catholic schools present Catholic material in the ordinary classes they teach in their own high schools. Each year the seminar focuses on two broad academic disciplines. This year the areas were history and fine arts; in 2010, the two areas of concentration were literature and the sciences.

improving a Catholic Culture Throughout a School

According to the leaders of the Institute, Melarne Morey and Jesuit Father John Piderit, the author of this article, the Catholic Education Institute seeks new ways to provide Catholic education to students. Morey and Piderit strategize to improve Catholic culture at a variety of Catholic institutions. Their main emphases are providing pertinent Catholic training for people who run the institutions and making sure that the Catholic component is present in the central activities of the institution.

With respect to training, the Catholic Church is well into its program of finding qualified replacements for the sisters, brothers and priests that years ago were the mainstay of Catholic schools. One area, however, that needs additional resources is providing motivated teachers in Catholic schools the resources to link the ordinary material they teach to appropriate Catholic themes.

Sisters, brothers and priests learned these themes in their time of formation, especially at motherhouses and seminaries. Alternatively, they learned them in graduate programs at Catholic colleges or universities, which regularly included Catholic perspectives in graduate programs as diverse as literature, political science, science and history.

The Catholic preparation that was natural for sisters, brothers and priests is no longer available to teachers in Catholic high schools. Teachers in Catholic schools are asked to do many things, but they cannot be asked to go to a seminary for years of training. In addition, practically no graduate programs at Catholic institutions make it a practice to emphasize Catholic content in courses other than theology, philosophy and church history, where it is offered. So, in lieu of attending a seminary or going to a Catholic infused graduate school, the short Substantially Catholic was established.

Establishing a Vibrant Catholic Culture

The second motivating factor for the Substantially Catholic Seminar is the establishment of a vibrant Catholic culture in Catholic high schools. …

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