As a teacher I attend at least 15 hours of professional development each summer. Yesterday I had the privilege of attending a class titled, “The Catholic Social Teachings, Come Alive.” Half of it was the background of our Catholic Social Teachings, encyclicals, the history and ideas for how to live out our faith through these principles. There were a few teachers from local schools that shared their experiences with service that were feasible for us to replicate in our own classrooms. Then Fred Whittaker from St. Francis of Assisi spoke. I was floored. His ideology, and that of the school, made me want to enroll my children in that school. He did not talk about projects but about living out our faith. He did not talk about how Catholic Social Teaching should be cross curricular, but how these are the principles we should live in life. He teaches his students how to listen with compassion to others. At a young age they are trained to listen for feelings, opinions, facts, and to put themselves into the shoes of the people speaking. Their school welcomes refugees to come and speak to their students at least monthly. The school has a service program that is so embedded into the school that it is now a part of their culture. He teaches his students to thank those they serve for allowing them to be a part of their life experience. He understands so well that service is not about the hours you write on a log but serving because you must, it’s a response to loving others so deeply that you have to serve.
Mr. Whittaker spoke of the slippery slope of serving others for that rewarding feeling. That feeling that says I have more than you and I am grateful that I do and that I can help you. When what we should really feel is I have more than you which can be my own poverty, you have less than me but you are richer in so much. That we are interconnected as a family that should love and take care of one another. His students react to current social events and are driven by the Holy Spirit to change things. They have been a part of legislation and agents for change within their own community. They host a farmer’s market weekly so that the local refugees can sell the food they garden to support themselves. They mentor and help out Catholic Charities not just during the school year but during the summer. His has a social justice club that meets year round.
During the class there was a great emphasis placed on this idea that Pope Francis has talked about; making “the other” a person, “another”. Because we are them and they are us. One of the speakers spoke of how we are all in need and those of us who are not in need at this moment have been or are temporarily stable. However, we should never forget from where we have come. If we are all creations of God made in God’s image then we are truly all family. Family takes care of one another not because of need but out of love. When you truly love someone you feel that love in your soul and must help them it is a reaction and a choice.
I am a note taker in classes and I took 6 pages of notes. I don’t want to forget these ideas, lessons, or feelings. We believe Jesus was indeed the suffering servant that Isiah spoke about in the Old Testament. He served God with full dedication, devotion, and undying obedience all the way to the point of death. We should be humble servants not looking for that feeling of reward but searching only for our family members to love. If we see others as our family and truly love then we are not seeking that high we are only doing what God has created us to do; to love without condition, to be in full relationship with God, ourselves, creation, and not “the other” but one another.