Catholic educators gather for annual symposium


SWANSEA, Mass. — Hundreds of teachers and administrators from throughout Rhode Island gathered March 22 at the Venus de Milo Restaurant for the annual Diocese of Providence Catholic Educators’ Symposium.

The conference, themed “Catholic Schools - Dividends for Life,” began with a Mass, concelebrated by Bishop Thomas J. Tobin and Father Robert Hawkins, pastor of St. Luke Church, Barrington. Father Michael Najim served as Master of Ceremonies and Henry Fiore, principal of St. Pius X School, Westerly, and Stephen Raymond, principal of St. Patrick’s Academy, Providence, served as acolytes.

Members of the LaSalle Academy Concert Choir, under the direction of Paula Fontes, musical director, and Director of Fine Arts Thomas Haynes, provided music for the liturgy.

In his homily, Father Hawkins urged the educators to illuminate the world by bringing the light of Christ to those most in need of his saving power, and to realize their dependence on Jesus and on one another.

“We do not minister alone, we do not teach alone,”?said Father Hawkins, reminding the educators of their important mission to bring light to the dark corners of the world.

"Jesus invites us to walk in his light and never again walk in the darkness,” he concluded.

Bishop Tobin, noting that this year as been designated as a Year of Evangelization in the diocese, told those gathered that it was a special time not only to renew their own faith but also to be more active in reaching out to others by inviting them into or to come back to the Catholic Church.

“Catholic school educators certainly have a key role to play in the work of evangelization, not just in this year, but always,” he said. “You do so by your personal example of faith, and by sharing your faith eagerly and proudly with others, especially the students and families you encounter in your Catholic school ministry.

“You are carrying on the teaching mission of Jesus Christ and his church,” Bishop Tobin continued, thanking the educators for their commitment to Catholic education and the many sacrifices they make as they perform their important ministries.

“May God continue to bless the work you do every day for Catholic education,” he said.

At the conclusion of the Mass, Father Hawkins was presented with the Distinguished Pastor Award from the Catholic Schools Office; June Spencer, principal of Blessed Sacrament, Providence, received the National Catholic Education Association’s Distinguished Principal Award and Jennifer Abbate, a teacher at St. Philomena School, Portsmouth, received the NCEA Distinguished Teacher Award and is one of only 12 classroom educators in the nation to receive the prestigious honor.

Dr. David M. Beaudoin, diocesan secretary for Catholic Education and Evangelization, emphasized that “these are challenging times for Catholic teachers” . ....

“Much of popular culture promotes values that are not consistent with the life values that you teach,” Dr. Beaudoin said. “Catholic school administrators and teachers take up the challenge because we believe that our Catholic faith and its consequent values offer the way to become fully alive. “We take up the challenge because we want to help young people grow into mature adults who actively participate in the world with a sound Catholic world-view and highly developed personal and professional skills and talents.”

Rosanna Grillo, a foreign language teacher at St. Joseph School, West Warwick, and director of religious education at St. Bartholomew Church, Providence, emphasized the importance of the annual conference.

“I always enjoy visiting the booths and getting ideas for school,”?Grillo said. “It’s important for us as faculty to get together and exchange ideas. I also look forward to Mass being celebrated by Bishop Tobin.”