Teachers need to follow in Newman's footsteps

  • September 10, 2010
Cardinal John Henry NewmanTORONTO  - Hailing soon-to-be saint Cardinal John Henry Newman as a model for teachers, Toronto Archbishop Thomas Collins urged them to follow Newman’s example and turn challenges into successes.

Collins addressed the teachers Sept. 2 at the ninth annual education Mass and dinner organized by the Catholic Teachers’ Guild at St. Paul’s Basilica.

During his homily, Collins told about 200 teachers their vocation “must come from the being, the interior life.”  

“We can only shepherd others if we are at peace in our hearts,” he said.

At the dinner, Collins expanded on the theme of reason and faith while discussing the life of Newman, who will be beatified in Birmingham, England, on Sept. 19. The archbishop noted how the 19th-century theologian relied on faith and intellect throughout his career.

“He was a person who trusted God when everything was falling apart,” Collins said.

Collins recounted the story of how Newman failed an important exam at Oxford University when he was 19 and wrote a letter home admitting, “Father, I have failed.” But Newman learned humility and became a better teacher after facing this challenge, Collins said.

Newman veered away from the rigidly academic teaching style of his contemporaries to focus on caring about the individual student. He saw education as more than an intellectual exercise but also a way to speak to a person’s heart.  

The archbishop also quoted some Newman poems and said he kept some of the late cardinal’s sermons on his iPad.

Barry White, principal of Toronto’s St. Michael’s Choir School, said he took to heart Collins’ message “to be courageous and inspiring” so that teachers can go out and proclaim the Word with joy.

With Newman’s example, Collins was encouraging others not to be discouraged by mistakes, White said.

Teachers from five Toronto-area Catholic school boards, three board of education directors as well as teachers from private schools attended the event.

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