Formation retreat designed to reinforce God's plan for human dignity, flourishing as educators prepare for 2022-23 school year
DETROIT — Principals, counselors and campus ministers from Archdiocese of Detroit Catholic schools gathered at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in split sessions Aug. 2 or 3 for a day of formation to refill their spiritual cups ahead of the 2022-23 school year.
Fr. Sean Kilcawley, a priest from the Diocese of Lincoln, Neb., led a day of recollection, fellowship and Mass and spoke to the educators about Pope St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body and how it can lead them and, subsequently, their staff and students toward a better understanding of what it means to be created in the image of God.
Fr. Kilcawley brought the subject back to its basics, beginning with the book of Genesis. Everything in the Theology of the Body is rooted in Genesis, Fr. Kilcawley explained.
“This is a formation day, and I want to focus on the Church's teaching on what it means to be human," Fr. Kilcawaley told Detroit Catholic. "The hope is that it's good for their own formation, but it also is something that helps to lay a foundation for the way that they communicate within their schools and to their students and their families the fullness of God's plan for their lives.”
For Grace Kurn, who is about to begin her first year as assistant principal at St. Hugo of the Hills Catholic School in Bloomfield Hills after 20 years as a teacher, one of the biggest tasks in preparing for the school year is filling teaching positions amidst a nationwide teacher shortage. However, she said, fitting the personal formation day into her schedule was important because it provides her with the language to speak to students about their image in God.
"I think the idea of being able to use terms and explanations direct from Scripture is really helpful and very, very important," Kurn said. "You know, this is who we've always been.”
Students often struggle with understanding their identity in Christ, Kurn added.
“They're bombarded with information from so many different directions, and I don't necessarily think that any one group of parents, teachers, or coaches can have the impact on their own. It's going to take everyone together."
As Austin Catholic High School in Chesterfield Township continues to grow, assistant principal and athletic director Jim Baker said the day of formation is an opportunity to re-focus before the year gets busy.
"It helps us to re-center ourselves and understand that the students we're working with — although they may have different influences in their lives than we had growing up — the message is still the same (for them) because the Theology of the Body teaches we're all created in the image and likeness of God. It helps us to remember that we don't need to reinvent the wheel in terms of what we're teaching our young adults," Baker said. "We just need to be there to support them and nurture them in their journey, developing their faith as young adults.”
This foundation is important to help students and staff know and understand that God loves them and made them with dignity, said Sr. Kateri Burbee, SOLT, principal of Holy Redeemer School in Detroit.
“I've been taking notes (asking), 'Lord, renew this within me, this basic fundamental truth so that I can pass it on to the staff and families,'" Sr. Kateri said. "I know it's so important, especially in today's day and age, where people struggle with knowing that God loves them and made them with purpose and in His dignity.”
At the beginning of the day, Sr. Kateri said she was worried about all she had to do to prepare for the school year, but she quickly realized she needed this day of formation, which was organized as a retreat.
“I think it's really important that leaders are formed, and so as a school leader, it's really important that we are formed to be able to then serve our community. So it's a great blessing," Sr. Kateri said.