Montana Catholic Schools Weekly

September 28, 2015

4 Americans, 4 Lessons

It would be impossible to digest all of Pope Francis’s speeches over the past week perhaps because his actions spoke the loudest—visiting a prison, visiting with victims of sex abuse, visiting an inner-city school, eschewing lunch on Capitol Hill for a lunch with the homeless. But I want to try to draw out four lessons from the four Americans he highlighted in his speech before the Joint Session of Congress. And I want to tailor these lessons to the school setting.

Lesson #1: Don’t demonize your opponents

In discussing Abraham Lincoln, Pope Francis highlighted his courage in pursuing the common good.

But there is another temptation which we must especially guard against: the simplistic reductionism which sees only good or evil; or, if you will, the righteous and sinners. The contemporary world, with its open wounds which affect so many of our brothers and sisters, demands that we confront every form of polarization which would divide it into these two camps. We know that in the attempt to be freed of the enemy without, we can be tempted to feed the enemy within.

It’s important to remember that Lincoln served as President when Americans weren’t just disagreeing—they were at war with each other. Pope Francis is reminding us all that we must resist the temptation to demonize the opposition and open a dialogue in order to pursue the common good. Schools are battlegrounds for conflicts among and between the different stakeholders (teachers, students, parents, administrators, staff). Pope Francis is calling us all to dialogue with each other and not to demonize our opponents. This is especially difficult when YOU are regarded as the opposition!

Lesson #2: The Golden Rule

When discussing Martin Luther King, Jr., Pope Francis exhorts, “Let us seek for others the same possibilities which we seek for ourselves. Let us help others to grow, as we would like to be helped ourselves. In a word, if we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities.” In a school, this is the next step. We have moved beyond simply tolerating different opinions (and people) into the realm where we try to treat others with the dignity they deserve. This is a challenge for all teachers, students, parents, and staff members.

Lesson #3: Culture of Care

Pope Francis moves one step further when discussing the “Servant of God” Dorothy Day. After highlighting her social activism and care for the oppressed, Pope Francis called for “courageous actions and strategies, aimed at implementing a ‘culture of care’ and an ‘integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature.’” This is where schools need to focus on helping those in need. Pope Francis provides the example of taking it upon himself to visit the homeless and minister to the “margins” of society. Why can’t we do the same?

Lesson #4: Know Thyself

Pope Francis ended by referencing the Trappist monk Thomas Merton, highlighting his promotion of peace, contemplation, and dialogue between religions. Pope Francis is a Jesuit, after all, who fashion themselves as “contemplatives in action.” He is emphasizing the importance of prayer and contemplation so that we can be strong in who we are and don’t lose ourselves amid the work building and nurturing our schools.

I’ll end with a quote from the speech (which can be found here

A … [school] … can be considered great when it defends liberty as Lincoln did, when it fosters a culture which enables people to ‘dream’ of full rights for all their brothers and sisters, as Martin Luther King sought to do; when it strives for justice and the cause of the oppressed, as Dorothy Day did by her tireless work, the fruit of a faith which becomes dialogue and sows peace in the contemplative style of Thomas Merton.

Dr. Tim Uhl, Superintendent

The Week Ahead

Monday: office (Helena) & GFCC Advisory Council meeting

Tuesday: office (Helena); Great Falls meetings; Holy Spirit Advisory Council

Wednesday: St. Matthew accreditation visit (Kalispell)

Thursday: office (Helena)

Friday: office (Helena) & Butte Central football game

Saturday: St. Mary's auction (Livingston)

This week: 1,147 miles

Last week: 645 miles

2015-16: 3,965 driving miles/ 2,346 air miles

Montana Catholic Schools

Serving 3800+ students in 24 Catholic schools across the Treasure State

For Principals

  1. The Diocese of Helena is conducting healing services in each region. School administrators are asked to attend and to publicize this event so that teachers, staff members, students, and parents are all invited.
    1. Oct 1st: 7:00 pm at St. Pat's in Butte
    2. Oct 4th: 3:00 pm at the Cathedral in Helena
    3. Oct 5th: 7:00 in Cut Bank
    4. Oct 6th: 7:00 in Columbia Falls
    5. Oct 8th: St. Francis Xavier in Missoula
  2. The Marian classes on the New Testament are right around the corner: October 14th at 12:30 at GFCC HS; October 15th 9:00 am at Loyola Sacred Heart HS; October 16th at 9:00 am at Billings Central HS. Dr. Vanessa Mudd will be returning to teach this year.
  3. If you are an administrator and you report directly to me, please send me your goal statement for the year. Recall I passed out the form at our August meeting.
  4. If you are interested in a staff development program centered around the ministry of Catholic School teaching, Dynamic Catholic has developed a program they entitled "Teach, Lead, Serve." There are 15 short video segments with discussion questions. The program is designed for 15 shorter segments (such as staff meeetings) or to be combined. If you're interested in previewing the program, let me know.

American Catholic News

Leadership Links

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Servant Leader of the Week: Julanne Gauger

Julanne has been serving as the Lead Teacher at St. Jude Thaddeus School in Havre for the past two years. She is guiding the school through the self-study process and is serving on the visiting team at St. Matthew's this week. A native of Hinsdale, Montana, Julanne taught in various schools around Montana. After receiving her administrative credentials in 2001, Julanne served in school administration in Fromberg, Poplar, and Havre High School. She planned to retire but was called to the ministry at St. Jude School. She cherishes daily prayer, the daily Pledge of Allegiance, and the little knee-huggers.

Do you know a servant leader who deserves recognition? Send me a picture and bio and I'll be sure to include them.

Teaching & Instruction