Twenty-five years ago yesterday (August 24, 1988) I gave the keynote address at the Diocesan wide Catholic Schools Teacher In-Service Day held at Saint Bruno Church in South Greensburg. Bishop Bosco celebrated and preached the Mass followed by my talk entitled "Keeping the Catholic Schools Catholic Through Change and Growth". I'm not sure how I was chosen to give the presentation, but I was honored. I was serving as pastor of All Saints Church in Masontown at the time. I was reminded of this event when I ran across an old article dated September 1, 1988 from the Diocesan Newspaper, "The Catholic Accent". The article was entitled "Teachers Must Live, Teach God's Truth". Here are some excerpts of what Vince Capozzi, who wrote the article, indicated that I said that day.
I come to you today, not as an educator, although through my ministry I am involved in teaching. I come today not as a visionary, but as a man who sees what is happening, and along with you, has ideas on what needs to be done. I have attended Catholic schools from primary school through graduate work. What I can share with you today, what I can share with everyone, I can share because of what I have received through the men and women who taught in those schools and shared their lives with me.
I know the difficulty that Catholic education is facing today. Many of our roots are no longer there, both physically and in those people who shared their lives with us.
When Jesus stood before Pilate and spoke of "truth", Pilate asked "What is truth?" It doesn't say it in the Scriptures specifically, but I can just imagine Pilate, two sides of him, dealing with this question - one the skeptic who wonders what is truth ... everyone who comes along has their own definition of truth. What is truth? Is the truth anything that we can grab hold of? I can hear Pilate saying that. I can also hear in Pilate a cry "what is truth? Tell me. I would like to know. I desire to learn the lessons of what truth is." Our world today presents truth just like it did in Pilate's time ... in a number of ways, some of which satisfy for a time, most of which fall short in the long run.
But there is a truth that we have been entrusted with. The only way to understand that truth is to remember. History is remembering and learning from that remembering. I'd like to pick a moment from history and take a look at how God revealed truth.
The people of Israel in Egypt were a hodgepodge group that did not have a sense of identity. They had nothing really to hold on to. They soon became stagnant, becoming part of the lower class, almost like slaves. They desired to improve, but were not really sure how. They had no sense of unity, of community. There was some faint remembrance of some sort of story about God that had happened in their history. The people of Israel in Egypt called on God for help. And he answered. He delivered them from the bondage of Egypt in the great event that we call the Exodus. He gave them a leader in Moses. Then he himself led them in the cloud by day and the pillar of fire at night to a promised land and a heritage that was great. They received the Commandments from the hand of God, thus revealing the truth. Truth lies in the relationship - with God and with each other. Know who you are. Your relationship with me is first and foremost in importance. Your relationship to me binds you to each other, giving you a responsibility to each other. It is because of that that we find community and truth.
God entrusted to the whole Church the mission of sharing the good news ... the truth. We do that as teachers, by proclaiming the Good News and allowing God's love to come alive in our hearts, by living the faith - not just on Sunday morning, not just in the classroom, but every moment of our lives.
For those of us gathered here today we have the additional mission of being teachers in a Catholic system. We have the responsibility of making sure that our lives have been touched by the grace and mercy of God and that we know the truth. If we do so, that reflects upon every aspect of our lives as teachers, whether we teach math or science, reading or religion. If the truth is alive within us and if we translate that and put it into action in our lives both at home and at school, then we are doing the job that the Lord calls us to do.