Paul Coates spreads the word about the newly formed Catholic Teachers Guild of Durham. Photo courtesy of Paul Coates

Guild to support Catholic vocation

By 
  • September 20, 2014

Catholic educators in Durham Region now have a guild to call their own.

Earlier this month the Catholic Teachers’ Guild of Durham, a local branch of the Federation of Catholic Teachers’ Guilds in Canada, held its first official meeting with a dozen core members.

Its inaugural public event will be held at St. Leo the Great Catholic Church in Brooklin, Ont., on Oct. 1. Coates said he expects about 150 people to attend the 7 p.m. event where Cardinal Thomas Collins will deliver a keynote address on Catholic education in the new evangelization.

“We’re going to offer membership forms at the event to people and they can decide if they want to participate or not,” said Coates. He believes the Cardinal’s participation is validation of the guild’s mandate, “to enhance and develop Catholic education in our own community.”

The Durham guild is the fourth in Ontario, joining branches in Toronto, Ottawa and Brantford. The Guilds are distinct from the teachers’ union in that a guild’s primary purpose is to “support and strengthen the vocation of the teacher in the tradition of the Catholic Church.”

“Each region has needs and perspective of its own that the Federation of Catholic Teachers Guilds would like to minister to because our vocation is, and our conviction is, to support the vocation of teachers,” said Paul Coates, president of the Durham guild, who works at Fr. Leo. J. Austin Catholic Secondary School in Whitby, Ont.

This is accomplished, Coates said, through “special events, lectures, study groups and other retreats.” As a Catholic educator for 37 years, a number of which involved instructing teachers on religion education, Coates said there is a great need to support the spirituality and vocation of religious educators in the province.

Although the majority of guild members are teachers working in the publicly funded Catholic school system, Coates said the organization welcomes anyone working in Catholic education, including administrators, chaplaincy leaders, educational assistants, teacher candidates, occasional teachers, retired teachers and teachers working in other fields. The guild does not provide professional development but focuses on personal growth in faith.

“If we can help with the faith or prayer life or spiritual practice, that is going to rub off on the students at their desks,” Coates said.

Barry White, president of the Catholic Teachers Guild of Toronto, seconded that by saying that a true Catholic educator is a witness to the faith — something students truly need today.

“An authentic Catholic education is rooted in the word lived — the idea that it is not just transmission of information but the presence of a teacher who is living out his or her vocation,” he said.

“More and more, students need teachers who are witnesses not just experts.” 

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