Sister Mary Jane Herb, IHM, superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Albany, N.Y., was sitting only three rows back when Pope Benedict spoke to Catholic educators at the Catholic University of America tonight. Sister Jane, who just spoke to me by phone, said that it was a "grace-filled experience" and one that affirmed her as a Catholic school educator and a Catholic school leader.
She said she was glad to hear the pope stressing that Catholic education continues to be a critical mission of the Church and said that a "sense of community" came through in his address.
"He talked about moving from "I" to "we" in terms of educating students, and I think that's particularly important in today's world. Students may be individualistic, the I generation, but our challenge is to move them to the we," said Sister Jane, adding, "He was a professor tonight, a professor giving a lecture."
Sister Jane said that the pope also challenged Catholic educators, particularly in their ministry to the poor, and he challenged religious communities, urging them not to abandon Catholic education. She said she thought it was particularly meaningful that the pope mentioned two women foundresses -- Elizabeth Ann Seton and Katharine Drexel -- who were instrumental to the beginnings of Catholic education in the United States.
One of the most critical things Sister Jane said she jotted down as she scribbled notes during the address was the pope's message that no child should be denied the right to a Catholic education. "It speaks in support of what so many of our dioceses are trying to do in terms of raising funds to support those who don't have the choice," she said.
-- Mary DeTurris Poust