Celebrating the Vocation to Teaching

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Saint John Paul II wrote of an “urgent need in various schools, whether Catholic or not, for teachers and professors among the lay faithful to be true witnesses of the Gospel, through their example of life, their professional competence and uprightness [and] their Christian inspired teaching” (On the Vocation and Mission of the Lay Faithful, 62).

Here in the Archdiocese of Washington, we are blessed with many such teachers whose faith is manifested in the classroom and subject matter that they teach. It is thanks to them that our Catholic schools are able to provide such an academically excellent environment where revealed truth, reason and charity are engaged in an ongoing effort to shed greater light on the human condition and to build up the kingdom of God in our world today.

Through the generosity of the Golden Apple Award Foundation, founded by the Donahue Family, we are also blessed to be able to recognize annually ten outstanding teachers from across the archdiocese.  We honored these educators collectively last evening in a special awards dinner, but all through the month of April school officials visited classrooms, assemblies and school Masses to surprise a teacher who for the students and fellow faculty members alike, manifests the face of Christ the Teacher and the joy of the Catholic faith.  Those celebrated for their achievement were:

  • Graciela Marlene Aguilar-Nahas, Our Lady of Victory School, Washington DC
  • Nicole Hayes, Saint Philip the Apostle Catholic School, Camp Spring, MD
  • Judith S. Horne, Saint Anthony Catholic School, Washington DC
  • Jennifer Massey, Mary of Nazareth School, Darnestown, MD
  • Justin McClain, Bishop McNamara High School, Forestville, MD
  • Michelle Morning, Saint Michael School, Ridge, MD
  • Hannah Ruckstuhl, Saint Mary of the Assumption School, Upper Marlboro, MD
  • Kenneth Scheiber, Saint Mary’s-Ryken High School, Leonardtown, MD
  • Michelle Truss, Saint Mary’s School, Bryantown, MD
  • Elizabeth Scribner, Holy Redeemer School, College Park, MD

Pope Francis has said, “We need to remember that all religious teaching ultimately has to be reflected in the teacher’s way of life, which awakens the assent of the heart by its nearness, love and witness” (Evangelii Gaudium, 45).  In my pastoral letter Being Catholic Today: Catholic Identity in an Age of Challenge, I invited all of us to consider both the power and responsibility our Catholic schools have in forming our young people to transform the temporal order into a kingdom of goodness, love and peace. It does not simply happen because the building is a Catholic school, but because of the Catholic spirit that permeates the people in it.

The mission and message of our Catholic schools exhibit a vision of life that is rooted in Christ, articulated in his Gospel and manifested in his Church.  This vision is manifested not only in classroom instruction and school activities, but in the witness of our teachers.  In this way, our Catholic institutions of learning are distinguishable from secular ones – the lessons learned about faith and love in these schools help graduates build a better world in a way that others do not.  Our Golden Apple teachers help make that happen.

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