EMMITSBURG, MD - - More than 130 Catholic educators from diocesan, parish, independent and private schools across the country sought inspiration last week in rediscovering the Church's classical liberal arts tradition, and considered its potential for rejuvenating their schools.
The second annual Catholic Classical Education Conference, "Love for Wisdom, Passion for Truth", held at Mount St. Mary's University, drew twice as many participants as in the previous year. Organizers say the conference was oversubscribed months before the event, reflecting a surge in interest as news spreads about the success many elementary and high schools have found in returning to the classical liberal arts approach to education that was Church tradition for centuries.
"The excitement and energy we felt at this gathering shows how relevant these ideas are to every Catholic educator," said Dr. Andrew T. Seeley, Executive Director of the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education, which organized the conference. "We found that our Catholic heritage and traditions resonated with such a variety of participants, ranging from a diocesan superintendent, principals and teachers, to religious sisters from a teaching order, to parents trying to launch independent schools, to headmasters of well-established private Catholic schools."
Educators from 50 institutions in 20 states and even Australia heard speakers such as Dr. Michael Hanby, of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute, describe why all Catholic education is fundamentally classical.
"The deepest problem of contemporary education is its secularity," said Hanby, principal author of the St. Jerome Academy Educational Plan. "When God is excluded from the curriculum we confuse education with ignorance."
St. Jerome Academy in Hyattsville, MD, is a diocesan elementary school that reversed its downward spiral by converting to a classical approach four years ago. Principal Mary Pat Donoghue and staff hosted this year's conference. They shared the ways in which they have incorporated the search for God through all subjects and throughout the culture of the school. Participants responded with enthusiasm.
"This is coherent. It is clear what we are trying to get from it and why," said Jacinta Scheetz, a Catholic elementary school teacher from Colorado who came on her own. "It is so amazing to be in a place where everyone is so passionate about education. I haven't seen this elsewhere. I am ready to jump in."
Rob Pokalsky, third grade teacher at independent St. John Bosco School in East Rochester, NY, noted the difference he has seen since joining a classical school three years ago.
"Students are more 'tuned in' in mind and spirit," he said. "The classical approach feeds their souls."
The Institute for Catholic Liberal Education exists to give Catholic educators a clear understanding of the riches of authentic Catholic education, and to help them implement the Church's vision in their institutions. For information, see the website: www.catholicliberaleducation.org.
Click HERE for free audio from the 2014 conference.
Click HERE for complete audio from the 2014 conference.