Teach your children well: The Pope Francis guide to education

VATICAN CITY — Among his many traits, retired Pope Benedict XVI is well-known as a brilliant professor. But how many people know about Pope Francis’ early ties to teaching and education?

Pope Francis smiles as he meets with students from Jesuit schools at Vatican

Pope Francis smiles as he meets with students from Jesuit schools at the Vatican June 7, 2013. (CNS photo/Max Rossi, Reuters)

Teaching is a normal part of the Jesuit vocation, and the future pope started out teaching high school literature and psychology right after he got his degree in philosophy. Then, after getting his theology degree, he continued teaching, this time theology and philosophy, and served as a rector of a major seminary in Buenos Aires.

The pope’s experience and insight inspired him to always encourage educators and teachers.

And now a new book, released this month, compiles the reflections, messages and talks he gave to teachers and educators in Argentina between 2008 and 2011.

The book, “Education for Choosing Life,” is being published in English by Ignatius Press. It shows how the pope sees education as “an act of hope” and how faith and the Christian vision of humanity fuel that hope.book cover

He also expresses the need for passion and creativity as added weapons against the spirit of the “mundane” that’s seeking to numb, distract or discourage our youth.

The book is available in other languages through other publishers, but the Ignatius Press’ English-version can only be sold in the U.S., Canada and Mexico, according to the publishers’ website.

Pope Francis’ unique approach to teaching made a huge impact on at least one of his former students, and you can read our story about it right here.

Pope Francis reacts to children during special event for families in St. Peter's Square

Pope Francis reacts to children during a Year of Faith family life celebration at the Vatican Oct. 26, 2013. (CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)

The same March 1 “La Civilta Cattolica” article with Jorge Milia included an article the young Father Bergoglio wrote for the high school’s annual publication for the students, parents and alumni in 1965.

The piece focuses on the importance of teaching young people to discern truth from rhetoric and “the song of the Sirens.”

Pope Francis reacts to children during special event for families in St. Peter's Square

Pope Francis at a Year of Faith celebration of family life Oct. 26, 2013. (CNS photo/Alessandro Bianchi, Reuters)

He wrote that we are accomplices in “the tragedy of truth being welcomed just halfway” unless we are sure young people are prepared to go out into the world with the full guidance and expression of the truth.

He asked:

When graduates go on to university or elsewhere, will they know how to use “the sword” of truth expressed clearly, forcefully and completely against “the noisy skylarks of eternal students, the huge bigmouths at the service of error, who are like giant pots: the emptier the vessel, the more sound they make?”

Rhetoric and lies can be “brilliant and seductive,” Father Bergoglio wrote. Too often when trying to teach about truth, teachers and adults stop halfway “with ice cold timidity, incapable of addressing the message to others with the luminosity of the whole truth.”

The future pope wrote that the problem isn’t just knowing what the truth is and being dedicated to it, it’s also knowing how to express it “with brilliance and fruitfulness.” And that can only be done, he wrote, by trying to live like Jesus — reflecting deeply on the truth and expressing it definitively, courageously and clearly as an act of love.

Presto change-oh! It’s the skullcap swap

Monday Oct. 21, UPDATE and CORRECTION:

First a correction from an attentive Facebook fan who sent us a link showing how the cap swap custom goes way back before our 21st-century popes.

I also heard back from one of the Providence College students, who tried to give Pope Francis a new zucchetto. Here’s her backstage look at how it all happened:

Joe had noticed the tradition of the zuchetto exchange, and had wanted to try it for himself. As we all pointed to it, Pope Francis took notice of it and stopped the Popemobile while he had been passing by.

Prior to this, a friend we were with said that she wanted to write the pope a note, to which I replied that I had a stack of bright pink post-it notes. Upon writing the note and all signing our names, we safety pinned it to the zuchetto to ensure it stayed in place for the Pope to read, which is why he didn’t keep the note. It read, “Providence College LOVES Papa Francesco. [signed by seven PC students].

When Pope Francis stopped in front of us, I couldn’t even react. It was like a dream; I was speechless. He had read our note and told us that the zuchetto was too big. He was so close to us and had been so engaged with us as regular audience members (even for the 30 seconds that it was) that it was so surreal.

 

PILGRIM TRIES TO GIVE ZUCCHETTO AS POPE ARRIVES FOR GENERAL AUDIENCE AT VATICAN

A pilgrim trying to give Pope Benedict XVI a zucchetto when he arrived for a general audience in St. Peter’s Square June 1, 2011. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN CITY — The “zucchetto switcheroo” is a long-held tradition for popes and pilgrims.

A guest presents the pope with a brand new white skullcap and the pope is expected to take it and swap it with the one he’s wearing on his head.

While many pilgrims are familiar with the practice, we’ve noticed a newly elected pope usually needs a quick explanation from an aide or security guard when someone suddenly presents him with a fresh new cap purchased from the papal tailors at Gammarelli’s.

But once they know the drill, everyone from Blessed John Paul II to Popes Benedict and Francis has happily engaged in the tradition, letting the lucky pilgrim get a souvenir of a lifetime.

Pope leads general audience in St. Peter's Square at Vatican

Joseph Day, a student at Providence College, gets back the new zucchetto he had handed Pope Francis before the start of the general audience Oct. 16. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

One such lucky pilgrim at yesterday’s general audience was a student from Providence College, R.I. who is spending a semester studying in Rome.

Joseph Day, a native of Rehoboth, Mass., stretched his arm out over the heads of his classmates to give Pope Francis a zucchetto with a hot pink sticky note stuck inside.

Pope leads general audience in St. Peter's Square at Vatican

Pope Francis briefly putting on a new zucchetto given to him by a Providence College student at the Oct. 16 general audience in St. Peter’s Square. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Our photographer, Paul Haring, was there with his telephoto lens to capture the moment and the secreted note. According to news reports, Day had written “Providence College loves Pope Francis.”

The pope took off his own cap and put on Day’s gift, but then he gave it right back after glancing at the note.

It’s become a bit of a custom for Pope Francis to choose to keep his own skullcap after he places the gifted one briefly on his head and returns it to the gifter.

It’s just a guess on my part, but maybe he’s doing it to avoid any embarrassing misfits as happened in Rio this summer when someone gave him an oversize cap that looked like it had been stuffed in a pocket or backpack:

Pope arrives for World Youth Day ceremony on Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro

Pope Francis greets the crowd at the World Youth Day welcoming ceremony on Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro July 25. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Teach for America about ‘where you’re needed most’

By Priya Narapareddy

Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) –- Stephen Haas said he would feel extremely nervous standing in front of a roomful of fourth- graders, knowing that he was responsible for not only teaching them, but also for helping them succeed against the odds.

Haas, a senior at The Catholic University of America in Washington, is aware of the effect poverty has on education and the high incarceration rates of children who grew up in poverty.

At Catholic University’s Oct. 8 session for Teach for America applicants, Haas learned that Arizona corrections’ officers kept records of the number of students who failed in elementary school to determine how many prison beds to build in a decade.

“I couldn’t be nervous if I didn’t care,” he said.  “Since I would care so much about them, I would be absolutely thrilled at the chance to do something good for them.”

Haas described education as a basic need for all people. “It’s the most important thing aside from food and shelter,” he said.

The session was led by Catholic University alum Anthony Buatti, who is recruitment director for Teach for America’s Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia Corps.

Buatti encouraged students to apply to teach in cities with a high need for teachers, such as Detroit, Oklahoma City and Memphis, Tenn.

“This whole experience is about going where you’re needed the most,” he said.

Buatti said poverty limits educational opportunity. He said 8 percent of students from low-income communities receive college degrees, compared to 80 percent of students from high-income communities.

Upon graduation from Catholic University of America, Buatti was offered a job with the FBI. He declined the position to join Teach For America’s Phoenix corps.

Buatti said he taught third grade in Phoenix for two years.

“My experience was incredible,” he said. “It was putting my beliefs and what I studied at Catholic into play.”

On Buatti’s first day as a teacher, he realized that he had no idea how to talk to an 8- year- old.

“It terrified me to think, ‘How can I break these concepts down for the kids to understand?’” he said.

Buatti said another challenge included knowing that only 28 percent of third-graders passed the previous year. He said he consulted Teach for America’s online database as well as veteran teachers at his school to learn about the needs of students as well as how to help them understand lessons.

In the 2013-14 school year, 11,000 corps members will reach more than 750,000 students while 32,000 alumni will continue to deepen their impact as educational leaders and advocates.

Buatti said 48 percent of his students passed the third grade after his first year of teaching. Although many more students had passed, he said he was not satisfied with his students’ final test scores.

“I thought, ‘I have to get this right,’” said Buatti. “They deserve better than this.”

Buatti pushed himself and his students harder the second year he taught. He said 96 percent of the class passed.

“We worked relentlessly,” he said.

Bernadette Poerio, a senior at Catholic University of America, is seen with friends in the Best Buddies program. She is campaus campaign coordinator ofr Teach for America and Best Buddies activities coordinator. (Courtesy photo)

Bernadette Poerio, a senior at Catholic University of America, is seen with friends in the Best Buddies program. She is campus campaign coordinator for Teach for America and Best Buddies activities coordinator. (Courtesy photo)

Haas, who was taught primarily at private Catholic schools, said his high school teacher Bruce Marcoon also focused on helping his students learn rather than building his reputation as a teacher.

“He would relate to us in a way we could all understand at an all-boys prep school,” said Haas. “For him, it was more about what the student got out of it than it was about him being a great teacher.”

Haas said Marcoon was straightforward in the classroom, as well as humorous, and always challenged his students to think.

“He stressed critical thinking, and thinking for ourselves,” said Haas. “I think that every student he has had has learned how to do those things from him.

Bernadette Poerio, Teach for America’s campus campaign coordinator at Catholic University, said she is preparing for her final Teach for America interview.

Poerio, a native of Woodbridge, N.J., is a senior at Catholic University. She said she hopes to become a high school English teacher.

Poerio said she hopes to share her passion for literature with students.

“This makes sense for everything I’ve done in my life,” she said.

Jamborees are ‘awesome,’ says priest who is longtime Scout and chaplain for Scouting

Editor’s Note: Msgr. John B. Brady is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of Washington. He became a Scout in 1942 and has served in the Scouting movement as a youth and an adult for 71 years. He has participated in 15 National Boy Scout Jamborees, two International Jamborees and the fifth All India Jamboree. He has served as Catholic chaplain for the past eight summers at the Goshen Scout Reservation. He is the chaplain for Region 4 of the National Catholic Committee on Scouting. Yesterday he sent this report about this year’s National Boy Scout Jamboree, which began July 15 and is wrapping up this afternoon in West Virginia. Catholic News Service carried this story on the jamboree.

By Msgr. John B. Brady

MOUNT HOPE, W.Va. — Each morning I am awakened by Scouts pulling yellow steel carts with black pneumatic tires across the gravel parking area in front of my tent, which I share with another priest, a chaplain from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and an Independent Christian Church chaplain.

Cart pullers take breakfast and dinner to camspite at Scout jamboree. (Photo courtesy Msgr. John B. Brady)

Cart pullers take breakfast and dinner to campsite at Scout jamboree. (Photo courtesy Msgr. John B. Brady)

The carts — all 320 of them — start coming at 4:15 a.m. and continue until the last one is filled by 7:00 a.m., with breakfast and dinner for the 6,511 Scouts and leaders encamped in Sub-Camp D. The cart pullers are our future priests, bishops, and political, civic and community leaders.

Scouts will come here to the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve in Mount Hope to have adventures of a lifetime like, zip-line challenge courses, kayaking, rock climbing, the ropes, the canopy, bouldering, water reality, mountain boarding, skateboarding, BMX, treks, gaga ball, and dragon boats.

The summit will introduce these new programs to make Scouting more relevant and meet the needs of the present generation of Scouts. The Scouts are excited and want to come back. During the 10-week camping season of 2014, 25,000 Scouts will come for High Adventure, which will eventually grow to 50,000.

In 2015, summer camp will begin and eventually accommodate another 50,000 Scouts in addition to the High Adventure Scouts, for a total of 100,000 each summer. Every four years a national jamboree will be held here. This summer of 2013, 27,125 Scouts and 3,361 of their leaders have come for the 18th National Jamboree and the first ever to be held at the Summit. 6,429 Staff have come to work long hours of sleep-deprived days to help the Scouts. We are a community of 36,915 Scouts and Scouters sleeping under canvas for 10 days. Scouts, Scouters, and staff are challenged by choice, beyond their human limits. They do things they always dreamed of doing but thought they could not do.

Why would Scouts come all the way from Costa Rica and then go out for a “Day of Service” in the nearby coal mining community to construct a fence and plant an herb garden for the Whipple Company Store & Museum? Because Scouts take an oath “to help other people at all times,” and the Scouts have a slogan: “Do a good turn daily.”

Six thousand Scouts are bused out of the Jamboree each day to help nonprofits in nearby West Virginia communities. Why is it that over 90 percent of Scouts and Scouters attend religious services at Jamborees and less than 25 percent of the populations at home attend church, synagogue, temple or mosque? Because Scouts take an oath to do their duty to God and they take a pledge: “A Scout is reverent.”

I asked 18-year-old Sean Cutler from Sacred Heart Catholic Parish in Medford, Ore., a member of Explorer Post 151, Crater Lake Council, how he liked serving on the medical staff.

Cutler said, “There are no words that can describe this Summit Jamboree experience. Awesome, fantastic, euphoria, fantabulous, splendiferous don’t even come close.”

“Why would you pay $1,000 to come here to work for 10 days?” I asked. He replied: “My father is a phlebotomist. I have been around medicine all my life. I want to become a doctor but I don’t know what kind. Where else could an 18 year old work with all kinds of doctors, do patient care, Triage — check all vital signs, take blood pressure, SPO2 levels, pulse, heart rates, temperatures, height and weight? There are 47 Scouters on the medical staff in Sub-Camp D.  We have EMTs, RNs, PAs, and NPs. We have 10 kinds of doctors including a cardiologist, podiatrist, urologist, and nephrologists. Working with this outstanding medical staff will determine the direction of my entire life.”

At session on rosary making, Ed Martin, national chairman of the National Catholic Committee on Scouting instructs Stephen Kiss of Troop 461, from St. Jane Frances de Chantel Parish in Washington Archdiocese. (Photo courtesy of Msgr. John B. Brady)

At session on rosary making, Ed Martin, national chairman of the National Catholic Committee on Scouting instructs Stephen Kiss of Troop 461, from St. Jane Frances de Chantel Parish in Washington Archdiocese. (Photo courtesy of Msgr. John B. Brady)

The National Catholic Committee on Scouting set up the religious activity of rosary making. Ed Martin, chairman of the NCCS was advised against offering rosary making because the Scouts would not come. To his amazement, they are waiting in line for their 30-minute to one-hour instruction. 4,500 Scouts did not list a religious preference on their medical form. They are searching; they are making rosaries and learning to say the rosary — Scouts of many faiths. They are taught to say the Hail Mary and the Our Father as they string each bead, and they are awarded a “Pray the Rosary Patch,” if they learn the mysteries and know how to say the rosary by the time their turn is over.

Father Michael Hanifin, NCCS national chaplain, recruited 10 Catholic priests, one seminarian, and two deacons to be among the 105 Jamboree chaplains representing over 25 faith communities. Chaplains have many opportunities to help Scouts and Scouters.  Daily Mass in the sub-camps and headquarters areas, the arena Mass with a congregation of 10,000, visiting the sick in the medical tents and hospitals, counseling the homesick and depressed, helping Scouts discern their vocations and commit themselves to their life’s work.

Bishop Michael J. Bransfield of Wheeling-Charleston, W.Va., preaches from a special podium created for Scout jamboree Mass. (Photo courtesy of Edward Bronson, Boy Scouts of America)

Bishop Michael J. Bransfield of Wheeling-Charleston, W.Va., preaches from a special podium created for Scout jamboree Mass. (Photo courtesy of Edward Bronson, Boy Scouts of America)

This is my 15th National Jamboree where I have seen Scouting at its best. When I walk along the gravel roads of the Summit I hear Scouts say, “I didn’t think that Scouting could be this good. … Never dreamed that I could have this much fun.”

Every bishop, every diocese, every pastor, every parish, every Scouter and every parent will have their own opinions of Scouting but, Jamborees are youth ministry at its best. Jamborees are awesome.

Scouting is present in 160 nations. As of June 30, 2013, we have 2,016,937 youth members and 929,696 volunteer Scouters. or a total membership in the United States of 2,946,633.

Scouting is one of the world’s largest and best youth movements to help young people discern their calling, their vocations, their life’s work, and to transform boys and girls into men and women of character and integrity. We must not abandon the cart pullers as the destiny of our world will soon be in their hands.

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