“A good teacher is like a candle, consuming itself to light the way for others.”
As I reflect on the gift of Catholic education during this start of the new school year, I am immediately brought back to my own memories of Catholic school. Beginning at the age of five I entered into what has become the most significant influence in my life outside of my family. Now, thirty eight years since my first day of Kindergarten I am mindful of the reality that I have never left the setting of a Catholic school whether as a student, a teacher or an administrator. And I consider this one of the most important accomplishments of my life.
Without question the heart and soul of this experience has been the teachers and staff members that reached out to me along the journey. Even in my current role, there is no greater impression left upon me than that of the dedication of our own Catholic school teachers across the archdiocese that give of themselves each and every day. My gratitude to these religious and lay men and women that come into our schools each day can’t be summed up in words. I never, ever take for granted the work that they do. It was Pope Paul VI who was quoted as saying: “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.” [Address to the Members of the Consilium de Laicis] (2 October 1974) So as we begin this new school year I am reminded of the many witnesses that we have in this Archdiocese and of those that have come into my life over the years. It took me over 30 years to write the following to my own second grade teacher upon being named Secretary for Education here in Philadelphia last year:
Dear Sister Francis Mary:
Summer greetings to you from a long lost student! I write today to simply say thank you for the influence that you have had on my life. Enclosed with this mailing you will see what prompted me to write this letter; an announcement from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
As I reflect on the experiences that I have had and then open my eyes to where God’s Spirit has led me to today I can’t help but reach out to a few of you that were so instrumental to my vocation as a Catholic educator. I guess this letter is proof of the fact that we never truly see the results of the seeds that we planted many years ago unless someone takes the time to let us know.
I hope that you will take the time to review the items that I have sent to you so that you can see where my life has taken me over the past decades since leaving Saint William’s. Even as I write this letter I can’t help but have a smile on my face as I think of the wonderful community that I was a part of back then. It is my sincerest belief that had it not been for you and for the many others that touched my heart that I would not have become the person that I am today.
Peace and all good things,
It is my fervent hope that someday our wonderful educators will realize the impact they have had on the hearts and minds of the students whom they serve. You are indeed candles that light the way for others!