Called together: Catholic School Convocation showers gratitude, inspiration on teachers and staff

North Texas Catholic
(Aug 18, 2023) Local

B.Olson presents the Eucharist during Mass

Bishop Michael Olson, joined by several area priests, celebrates the Catholic Schools Convocation Mass at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton on August 14, 2023. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

KELLER– Hundreds of educators from the 17 Catholic schools in the Diocese of Fort Worth gathered at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Keller on Monday, August 14, to attend the diocese’s annual Catholic School Convocation Mass and ceremony in celebration of students and staff returning to school in the following days.

In his Convocation Mass homily honoring the priest and martyr St. Maximilian Kolbe, Bishop Michael Olson discussed how the saint, martyred in Auschwitz after volunteering to take the place of the Holocaust survivor Francis Gajowniczek, was a shepherd that led “each of his nine fellow prisoners [in the chamber] with the solace of the Gospel, the grace of the sacraments, and the mystery of the cross so that in the end they did not abandon faith, hope, or charity.”

Teachers from schools across the diocese join in prayer during the Catholic Schools Convocation Mass celebrated by Bishop Michael Olson at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton on August 14, 2023. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

St. Kolbe gave “his life freely, prophetically, and with love as a priest,” and yet he was also “teaching at that moment… teaching what he had learned throughout his life from the examples that he had seen in his teachers, in his parents, in his religious superiors, and most especially in the Gospel by Jesus Christ,” Bishop Olson said.

In light of the saint’s heroism and selfless devotion to serving God, Bishop Olson urged educators to consider the long-lasting impact students receive with their time in the classroom and how the faculty’s shared dedication, love, and passion for God will provide every child with a foundation to build a genuine friendship with Him in the long run. 

Acknowledging the difficulties within the profession, Bishop Olson assured the educators that “the inconvenience you endure for the sake of teaching your students the (too frequently) thankless lessons is in itself part of a lesson that they might only learn years from now in their memories as adults when their true integrity is on the line. Then they will understand and return to what they have learned at earlier times in their lives.” 

More teachers join in prayer during the Catholic Schools Convocation Mass celebrated by Bishop Michael Olson at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton on August 14, 2023. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

Bishop Olson also reminded all in attendance that “Our responsibility is to remind each other and our students and their families by words and actions in our example, that God and particularly Jesus, offers and invites each of us to friendship and love to remind them that not only does God exist, but he cares about them.”

A ceremony full of gratitude

Following Mass, the Convocation ceremony attended by teachers, administration, and school pastors was headlined by a series of speakers, including Bishop Olson, Superintendent Brinton Smith, Chief Operations Officer Dr. Melissa Kasmeier, and Cindy Casey and Kasey Whitley from Catholic Charities Fort Worth, as well as Fr. Jack McKone from St. John the Apostle Parish in North Richland Hills who closed the convocation with a prayer.

In his talk, Bishop Olson affirmed how Catholic education has always been known to help students of all ages gain a sense of identity, helping them throughout their lives and in whatever stage they inhabit. However, he noted, more than before, parents are electing to send their children to Catholic schools over concerns of safety. 

“There’s a lot of fear at this point. People are afraid of violence in our schools,” Bishop Olson admitted. “Well, there is plenty of evidence for that. It’s not irrational… But ultimately, our fear can only be faced with courage and fortitude if we know not only where we’re going, but where we are.” 

Courage in the face of all the negativity in the world can be found, Bishop Olson said, in gratitude. 

Hundreds of teachers from across the diocese came to the Catholic Schools Convocation on August 14, 2023 at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton for Mass and talks pertinent to the upcoming school year, including presentations by Catholic Charities Fort Worth. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

“Gratitude is the memory of the heart that always brings us back to reality,” he said. “Education is where we learn about abstract concepts and learn them because they’re important for their connection to real life in the real world. And God is real, alright? So anything we can do reflects on God’s presence in reality, especially to get our students to see that, is best done by saying, ‘What are you grateful for today? Pray for gratitude.’”

When we pray for gratitude, Bishop asserted, it will help with remembering that “Christ is our advocate. In other words, He helps us back on our own road when we’re discouraged and frustrated or attacked or afraid.”  

Leading by example, Bishop Olson then gave his thanks to the audience of educators for “helping people, especially our young people, to face their fears with confidence and not denial, to face reality as God has given it to us so that all of us can know our part in recreating the world in His plan, and according to His design.”

As he views education as one of those “rare businesses where the customer’s always wrong,” Bishop Olson commended teachers for their willingness to bridge students from family life into society. One of the most important lessons many kids will learn, he said, is how kids won’t always get their way. 

“In the past, that was an easier lesson to teach, especially in a home where things never went our way, frankly,” Bishop Olson commented. “But now, everybody is guaranteed their own way, which is a lie.... [but the lesson] is absolutely essential for human flourishing in our world today and preparing us for eternity where things won’t go our way — they’ll go God’s way. And we can thank God for that.”

Teachers listened to talks pertinent to the upcoming school year during the Catholic Schools Convocation, including an address by Bishop Michael Olson and presentations by Catholic Charities Fort Worth. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

In his own expression of gratitude, Superintendent Smith stated his respect for teachers as they “pass truth onto our students and pass knowledge of God; knowledge of man’s nature and man’s community; knowledge of God’s created order to our students. And that is special. That’s the why of what we do.” 

Likewise, Dr. Kasmeier, COO, expressed how honored she was to work with Catholic schools, urging teachers to remember that “when things become thankless or tiresome or you begin to question, ‘Why did I say yes to this?’ it’s because you were called to do so.”

“Please keep that at the forefront of your mind,” Dr. Kasmeier asked teachers and staff. “Please know how grateful we are as the Diocese of Fort Worth for the fact that you said, ‘yes’ to this job, to this vocation, to being here in the classroom with our kiddos each and every day.”

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