By Liz Sullivan
The Diocese of San Jose (DSJ) welcomed the 2017-18 school year with its Ninth Annual Convocation Mass at Mission Santa Clara on the campus of Santa Clara University on August 14.
Attended by more than 600 teachers and staff from the Diocese’s 28 elementary schools, the Mass traditionally ushers in the beginning of the school year, on August 17.
“All we do is because of the students,” said DSJ Superintendent of Schools Kathy Almazol. “Your face is the face of God in the students. Teachers are called not just hired. In Catholic schools we believe our role is to share our faith. Thank you for being so good at helping others.”
Before this year’s Mass, Father Richard Fragomeni delivered the keynote address. Fragomeni, from the Diocese of Albany, N.Y., is a professor at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago where his teaching involves theology, interpretation theory and poetry.
Father Fragomeni gave a lively and witty address focused on building bridges between the teachers and their students and to God.
“Catholic schools are the formation place for future Catholics and future members of society,” said Fragomeni. “We are forming Catholic believers in Christ and students for life. In Christ we are all one in the same spirit that can transform this current world of hate.”
Fragomeni told the assembled teachers that there are six ways they can infect their students sublimely.
Their role as educators – “Our role is to learn humility,” said Fragomeni. “We have to realize that we are all not that important and that we are all fallible.”
Providing hospitality – “especially to the students we love the least.”
Generosity – “providing a generous use of our time; to be there for the students.”
Nothing can be done without prayer – “We can’t do this without a presence inside ourselves listening to what God is saying to us.”
Justice and Charity – “making sure the system is correct.”
Bedazzlement – “We want them to remember something we have taught them,” said Fragomeni. “It is the most important thing we can give them.”
Monsignor Francis Cilia, Vicar General for the Diocese of San Jose, celebrated the Mass and delivered the homily. He spoke about the role of Catholic School teachers in handing on the faith of the Church to their students.
“One of the dominant narratives of our time centers on building walls and building bridges…Walls cut off and separate; bridges foster dialogue, communication, understanding.
Walls come in all shapes and sizes. Not just geo politics.
They are society’s way of saying that something can’t be done, is not possible.
They are our way of forgoing messy dialogue for making pronouncements from authority, usually rooted in fear and distrust.
One of the titles of the Pope is Pontifex Maximus –“Greatest Builder of Bridges.”
Indeed, every bishop shares the title of Pontifex – the Bridge-Builder.
Each of us is called to be Pontifex Minimus – Small Bridge-Builder.
Choosing to build bridges and tearing down walls that already exist takes courage… the courage of conviction, of belief…
For in Catholic Education, belief is at the core of who we are and all that we do.
As teachers, you build bridges from where our students are and where we hope to be.
To be an educator is one of the most essential works of our society and our world.
Noting that the celebration was on the Feast of Saint Maximilian Kolbe, the Conventual Franciscan priest who died in Auschwitz in exchange for the life of one of the other prisoners, he continued “Maximillian laid down his life … was the bridge between faith and action. No greater love, than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends … following the Lord whose Body and Blood we share in this Eucharist.”
More school news, including messages from Bishop McGrath and Kathy Almazol, Superintendent of Schools, here.