This week I was given the great honor of attending the NCEA Conference in San Diego. This conference is such a gift to Catholic educators and all those working within the field of religious education to come together and share stories and experiences from their schools, and I was excited to be a part of those conversations.

One of my goals of being at NCEA was to learn more about the major themes and issues facing educators today and how are they looking to address them.

In the first session I attended one major theme became very clear to me and guided many of the future conversations I had with people. The session I attended was on how to uphold the mission of a Catholic school throughout the curriculum. The presenter had an array of experience she was conveying about the importance of each student having a ‘Catholic Worldview’ to carry through their life. About half way through the session she took questions. The man next to me asked a very straight forward question, “you keep mentioning a ‘Catholic worldview’ but what do you mean by this specifically?” The presenter told him that she would get to that shortly. And when she did, it didn’t quite seem to quench his search. He leaned over to me and said, “A Catholic worldview must include an understanding of our creation, fall and redemption. If we don’t have that foundation nothing else will be able to guide our interactions through life.”

“A Catholic worldview must include an understanding of our creation, fall and redemption. If we don’t have that foundation nothing else will be able to guide our interactions through life.”

I couldn’t agree more! Needless to say, it turns out this gentleman has a background in Theology of the Body and we shared a very similar lens in approaching the human person and the importance of setting anthropology as a strong foundation for each student. This worldview allows each child to approach suffering, joy, anger, disappointment, hope and love through the lens of knowing he/she is a beloved son/daughter of God throughout all that happens in life.

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The rest of my week centered on a very similar question that teachers and administrators are wrestling with right now: how do we increase our Catholic Identity within our students and school? Families have so many options when choosing a school so the fact that they are attending a Catholic school should be set apart, different, and clearly Catholic. I think the worldview each student espouses plays a key role in that Catholic Identity. If each student, from kindergarten up was learning and experiencing their dignity as a child of God in all their courses ¬– not just religion, they would surely approach other students and eventually the world with that same love and dignity that God has bestowed on them. Their Catholic faith, which has informed them throughout all of their academic endeavors, would be evident in the way they share God’s love with others. The school environment and identity would be Catholic because the students were living their faith inside school and outside of school.

I am so excited to move forward from this week knowing that our Theology of the Body curriculum can have an important role in shaping students and schools, to help inform their identity and give them a lens in which to approach who they are and how they are called to live. I am excited to continue important conversations about how our young people can have their worldview shaped by God and his good and merciful love for them. I am excited to see more schools looking to increase their commitment to Catholic identity and sharing the Good News with their students! Who’s with me?