Bishop Sheltz thanks Catholic school educators for answering ‘the call’

August 19, 2014

HOUSTON — During the recent Opening Mass for Catholic Schools, Auxiliary Bishop George A. Sheltz reminded educators of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston that they are answering a call from God.

“Vocation is a calling from God to serve the people in the ministry you have been called to participate,” Bishop Sheltz said. “Education is one of the great ministries of our Church and you play a very important role.”

The Mass was held at the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Aug. 8. More than 1,400 educators from area Catholic schools were in attendance. At the start of his homily, he asked that those new to the annual Opening Mass to stand.

“Welcome to the flock,” said Bishop Sheltz, who also presided over the service award ceremony following the Liturgy. “You have answered that call today. Today you as educators are coming to this church to put yourself in the presence of Christ.”

Bishop Sheltz said that the presence of Catholic school educators during the Liturgy is a symbol of them “accepting God’s challenge to be His ministers of bringing to our young people not only reading, writing and arithmetic, but also faith. That is the unique thing about Catholic education — we can talk about God. We can use our lesson plans to see how God is working through science, through mathematics, through Liturgy, through the catechism. 

God is working through everything. Our duty and our responsibility is to bring about people with full minds, full hearts and full spirit.”
A product of Catholic schools, Bishop Sheltz urged the educators to fill their students “with wisdom and the love of Jesus Christ. Be there for them. Be people of love, be people who care, be people who encourage and lift up and show our young people that they are special and important. If you do that, you are going to be rich and be blessed. The Church and the families will be rich and be blessed. And we will all be that much closer to the Lord.”

He said that he will be praying for all of those involved in Catholic school education this academic year.
“I wish you all well,” Bishop Sheltz said. “Thank you for answering God’s call and I pray that you have a great and fulfilling year.”

Christ the Redeemer School
Bishop Sheltz noted the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston is blessed with 10 Catholic high schools and 51 elementary schools as “this ministry of the Church continues to grow and blossom.”

He spotlighted the newest addition, Christ the Redeemer School, which will be opening its doors to students for the first time this fall. 
The school will have approximately 160 Pre-K3 through fourth grade students enrolled for the 2014-2015 academic year — with plans to add an additional grade each year up to eighth grade.

A two-story, 82,000-square-foot Parish Life Center was dedicated last year at Christ the Redeemer and among its many purposes, the building and classrooms have been designed to accommodate a new Catholic school. 

A recent review recommended the construction of a school to meet the growth in the northwest Houston and Cypress corridor of the Archdiocese.

“I originally thought we might open in 2015 or 2016, but once we had the new building operational, the time seemed right to start it without delay,” said Father Sean Horrigan, Christ the Redeemer pastor. “We had the classrooms and desks. We just needed students to fill the seats.”
After consultation with the Parish Pastoral Council and Finance Council, Father Horrigan had announced the establishment of Christ the Redeemer Catholic School on Pentecost Sunday 2013.

“I picked that day purposely as it is commonly referred to as ‘the birthday of the Church,’” he said. “What better day to ‘give birth’ to a Catholic school than on Pentecost. With the guidance of the Holy Spirit, I knew God would lead us in His right path.”

Although the halls and classrooms will be new to students and parents, Christ the Redeemer School was very much a “working” campus this past academic year following the hiring of the principal Betty Sierra and business manager Aimee Oncale last summer.

“They have worked with me nearly every day for the past year to get the school up and running,” Father Horrigan said. “The start-up of a new school is more than I ever imagined. It’s a great blessing but also a tremendous amount of work.”

The pastor gathered a group of parishioners to form a vision for the school moving forward.

“We wanted to be clear from our very beginning that Christ the Redeemer School is a ministry of Christ the Redeemer Church,” Father Horrigan said. “It’s part of who we are as Catholic community to teach the faith, and one way we do that is through a school. As baptized Christians, we are charged with handing on the faith — ‘Go out and teach all nations,’ as Jesus said. That mandate is given to all the faithful, not just parents of school-aged children. And maybe most importantly, the school is thoroughly Catholic. Everything we do is saturated in our Catholic faith. We’re not a private school for only a few people. We are foremost a Catholic school open to all who desire to be educated in mind, heart and spirit.”

Sierra said that one of her main goals as principal in this first year is to build a community of learners that are inspired spiritually to be kind and loving young people centered in the person of Jesus Christ.

“The purpose of Christ the Redeemer Catholic School is to foster academic excellence with a love of God and neighbor,” the principal said. “I see our school’s hallmark deeply rooted in Catholic tradition and values with an eye toward the 21st Century.”

With the future in mind, Father Horrigan said the school community decided to integrate technology into every grade, starting with the pre-Kindergarten students.

“We are a one-to-one device school, meaning that every child will have either a tablet (for the youngest students) or a laptop computer (for the older grades),” Father Horrigan said. “Every classroom has smart board technology and all of our teachers are trained how to tailor their lessons to the needs of every child. The building is completely wireless and we can use the latest in technology to help children learn in new ways.”

Father Horrigan has been amazed by implementation, particularly the limitless opportunities it creates for enhanced learning.

“To use technology in education as a true tool, and not just a passing fad, it has to be integrated into the curriculum in a way that fosters learning,” he said. “Since we are starting from the ground floor, we are able to make cutting-edge technology available to every child beginning on the first day we open. We don’t have to ‘retro-fit’ any classrooms. They all come wired and ready to go. The parents are excited about the possibilities for their children to learn in new ways, and our teachers are anxious to help open new horizons for our children.”

Sierra agrees. “We aspire to have our curriculum stretch the potential of every child through the integration of technology,” she said. “We will provide them with a challenging and interactive curriculum rooted in Catholic tradition and values.”

The principal said that Catholic school communities are unique in that they strive to provide an excellent education based in Gospel values and they are viewed as an important mission of the Church — something that will be evident in Christ the Redeemer School from day one.

“Catholic school education is shaped by Communion and community,” she said. “This sense of community plays out in the collaborative effort … to provide a well-rounded education to our students steeped in the Catholic worldview.”