Teaching religion and English at St. Michael’s Catholic High School in Kemptville, Ontario, Mary-Kate Bridson has nearly 10 years’ experience in the classroom. As she works hard every day to ensure her students get the most out of each lesson, she says attending the CCSTA Conference “Catholic Education: A National Conversation” encouraged her to think about her role not only as a teacher within the school hallways, but also as a witness to her faith.
Attending the conference with its theme centered on the New Evangelization, Mary-Kate embarked on a three-day journey that outlined the Vatican II’s teachings on the topic and how she could put this approach into better practice in both her personal and professional life.
When reflecting on her conference experience, Mary-Kate says it was well organized and placed a high importance on celebrating liturgies and Mass as a Catholic education community.
“What is unique about this conference is that we remained together as a large group for keynote speakers throughout the entire conference. This enabled us to hear messages from a variety of speakers and have a unified experience,” she says. “Having the opportunity to engage in fellowship with my colleagues following each speaker also heightened not only my understanding of each message, but offered me the chance to get to know others who are passionate about Catholic education.”
The keynote speakers provided a meaningful message that stuck with Mary-Kate.
“Rev. Claude Champagne’s message reminded us about the Church’s mission. This mission is to evangelize and without it, we are nothing,” she says. “Rev. Champagne highlighted multiple ways in which we can evangelize within our Catholic schools, including our ‘Testimony of Life’. He left us with the thought-provoking message that ‘our world needs more witnesses than teachers’.”
Another conference highlight for Mary-Kate was Sr. Maureen Sullivan’s keynote address.
“Sister’s message of hope, combined with her extensive knowledge of Vatican II, was delivered with humour, grace and humility,” says Mary-Kate, adding that Sr. Maureen serves as a true example of how we should approach our vocation as Catholic educators. “Her message was especially uplifting as she identified a feeling that many who work in Catholic education feel: frustration. She responded to this feeling by reminding us that “the seed never sees the flower”. This message reminded us that we are planting and sowing seeds within our Catholic schools and, even if we don’t see the fruits of our labour during our time here, these seeds will flourish.”
Based on the participant feedback, Mary-Kate was part of the teaching minority who attended the conference. She doesn’t discount the value the national conference offers to teachers.
“I think it’s important for teachers to be involved in a conference that focuses on a national conversation about Catholic education as we are, essentially, the ‘front-line workers’ within our vocation,” she explains. “While it is imperative for administrators and trustees to have this discussion, it’s just as important for teachers to be involved as well. In the long run, we all play a pivotal role in delivering Catholic education to our students.”