Back-to-school Mass blesses Catholic teachers, students and staff

August 17, 2021

HOUSTON — Opening up the new school year, Catholic school teachers, staff and students in the Archdiocese celebrated Mass Aug. 5 with Daniel Cardinal DiNardo.
With the fourth surge of COVID-19, this time a stronger Delta variant, Cardinal DiNardo told the teachers and principals, “You’ve come through many challenges as our leadership.”

He asked God to bless “those who offered themselves as teachers, principals and catechists” among the 300 in attendance, most wearing masks, at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in downtown Houston. Another 235 people watched through livestream on the Archdiocese’s website.

After Mass, Catholic School Superintendent Debra Haney spoke from the church ambo to the staff, reminding them of this year’s theme “Open Wide the Doors to Christ.”
“We’ve been opening many new doors. Our parent conferences have been through Zoom — who ever heard of Zoom a few years ago?” she said. “As we go through another year together with the pandemic, every day we must open a new door for our children.”

Haney said, in addition to academics, teachers need to teach students how to love, how to understand what character and values are needed to build harmony, and how to build relationships.

She referred to “The Chosen,” a free multi-season series online about the life of Christ and His Apostles, produced only by donations.

“It shows Jesus’s ministry behind the scenes. You know how the teachers are the ones behind the scenes helping to put together children’s productions of our Christmas plays. It’s the legacy of how ordinary people like you and me do the work of Jesus Christ,” she said.

“It’s insightful of how the Apostles thought and acted supported by Scripture. You are like those Apostles chosen by God,” Haney said.

Awards were given out for those with 45 years teaching at Catholic schools, 25 years and down through five years.

The Sts. Peter and Paul Award, given to a team of pastor and principal working well together for the good of the school, went to Our Lady of Guadalupe School principal Irazema Ortiz, M.Ed, and pastor Father Wojciech Adamczyk, SCJ.

The prestigious Sally Landram Excellence in Education Award, named after a dedicated school teacher and superintendent in 2004, honored early education Pre-K teacher Denise Sterner of St. Francis de Sales Catholic School. Sterner said she would share the award of $1,500 given through the John and Alida Considine Foundation by purchasing statues of Our Blessed Mother Mary for each of the classrooms at school.

“I’m so incredibly blessed to see God’s creation through the innocent eyes of young children,” she said.