By Dan McWilliams and Sedonna Prater
Nearly 300 teachers and administrators from East Tennessee Catholic schools took part in the annual Diocesan In-Service on Aug. 8 at Knoxville Catholic High School.
Bishop Richard F. Stika began the program with a keynote address in the KCHS gym.The day fell on the feast of St. Dominic, which was appropriate, the bishop said, because of the diocese’s having a St. Dominic School in Kingsport and because of the presence of Dominican Sisters in diocesan Catholic schools.
In his talk the bishop recalled his first-grade teacher.
“At the end of the first year, she gave us a holy card,” he said. “On one side was the guardian angel and on the back it said, ‘Please always stay close to Jesus. Sincerely, Mrs. Ryan.’”
Bishop Stika heard from Mrs. Ryan in later years, after he became a priest. She contacted him again after he was named bishop of Knoxville.
“Mrs. Ryan attended my farewell Mass at the Church of the Annunziata, where I was pastor, and I made sure that the entire church and reception that followed knew how proud I was of Mrs. Ryan,” the bishop said.
Following break-out sessions held in KCHS classrooms after the keynote, Bishop Stika celebrated Mass at All Saints Church. Concelebrating were priests representing all four deaneries: host pastor Father Michael Woods, Father Peter Iorio, Father John Dowling, Father Christopher Manning, Father Charlie Burton, and Father Jerry Daniels.
After the homily, the bishop led a commissioning ceremony for the educators, who pledged to “be commissioned for the Church’s service of Catholic school education so that the Good News of Christ may be preached to all,” “to exercise this service with diligence and generosity so that through your efforts those you serve may grow in faith,” and “to pattern [their own lives] on the teaching of Christ so that you may be not only a Catholic school educator but a living witness of the faith you proclaim.”
Bishop Stika then blessed the educators, saying, “Send your Spirit upon these Catholic school educators and fill them with your wisdom and blessings. Grant that during this academic year they may devote themselves to their work of making Catholic schools authentically Catholic and spreading the Good News by sharing their faith.”
The day-long in-service for school faculty launched the 2014-2015 Catholic schools year, which now is under way.