By ROB HERBST
The Catholic Week
MOBILE — Archdiocese of Mobile Superintendent of Catholic Schools Gwen Byrd considers it a “new day in Catholic education.”
Schools opened for the first day of class on Aug. 12 and it marked the first time since mid-March that students were together in their classrooms because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Before students returned, faculty took part in this year’s annual orientation that was adjusted due to COVID-19.
In the past, orientation for all faculty was held in-person at two sites – one session in Montgomery and another in Mobile/Baldwin County. But this year’s orientation was an online-only event as faculty watched from their various schools after attending Mass at their parish.
That’s life currently in the COVID-19 world.
“You are the people that are making the new day in Catholic education and I can’t thank you enough for saying ‘yes, I’m here Lord. Use me as you so wish,’” Byrd said. “I think that’s exactly what He’s asking of us – to be who He has called us to be.”
Archbishop Thomas J. Rodi served as this year’s keynote speaker.
He also thanked faculty members and considered them “heroes” for being ready to teach in the classrooms.
“Thank you for showing up right now,” Archbishop Rodi said. “That’s what heroes do, they show up in difficult situations. And y’all are heroes. You are showing up to continue the ministry of Catholic education. Thank you, thank you for the love of the students and thank you for handling so well these challenges that keep coming at us.”
Orientation also included recognition of those celebrating milestones in teaching. Faculty received certificates from their respective principals and principals were also commissioned in an online ceremony.
This school year will be different for the time-being.
Masks are required and social distancing is being enforced. With the challenges that are likely to come, Archbishop Rodi encouraged faculty to be able to adjust.
“Things are going to be different and we like familiar ways,” Archbishop Rodi said. “This year may cause us to stretch ourselves in ways that we haven’t stretched before, to try things in ways that may be a little different. Please be open to new things, whatever that may be, wherever the school year is going.”
He added: “Do your best. Just do your best. That’s all we can do. Go into your school, into your classroom and do your best and love the students. Offer to them what Catholic education offers — excellent education and formation that is superb.”
But most importantly, Archbishop Rodi asked faculty to trust in God.
“Trust that God is with us and with God, we can handle anything. With God we have nothing to fear. He has put us here, He has entrusted these students to us, He asks us just to do our best and to rely upon Him that He is with us,” he said.
By ROB HERBST