Less than a week before classes began for most schools in the Diocese of Orlando, Lorene Dearanzeta gained motivation from a homily delivered by Bishop John Noonan.
“I thought it was inspiring and it was warm,” said Dearanzeta, an art teacher at Trinity Catholic High School, Ocala. “It gave me a sense of peace and recognition for the work of God, and what we do is for the glory of God. It was a beautiful message, and I’ll take that with me going into the new school year.”
Dearanzeta was among nearly 1,000 school staff members – including principals, teachers and others from the Diocese of Orlando’s 42 educational institutions – who attended a Professional Development Day on Aug. 7 at Coronado Springs Resort at Walt Disney World. The day included addresses and discussions relating to Catholic education; demonstrations and resources and materials relating to the Common Core Initiative; and the celebration of Mass by Bishop John Noonan.
Common Core Initiative – standards that prepare students for college and their careers – was the reoccurring theme throughout the day. Speaking about the Common Core Initiative were Henry Fortier, superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Orlando; Dr. Ronald Valenti, keynote speaker and National Private School Manager of Catapult Learning; and Dr. Jacquelyn Flanigan, associate superintendent of schools for the Diocese.
Bishop Noonan talked about core standards, but in a different fashion. He talked about attitudes and persistence, making an impact on the lives of students and accomplishing great things through God’s grace. He also spoke of Pope Francis, who Bishop Noonan said “only wants to deal with the basic core of what’s important.”
“The basic core of what’s important is: What do we believe? And if we believe it, do we really truly live it? And if we live it, do we truly portray it in a sense that people recognize it in our lives?” Bishop Noonan said.
Bishop Noonan spoke of the Diocese’s new mission and vision and how educators may live the light of Christ toward goodness, righteousness and truth.
“I hope to do it by enkindling the faith life of you as teachers – encouraging you, helping you – to deepen your relationship with Jesus Christ,” Bishop Noonan said. “I’m hoping to help form Christian leaders, in all aspects of our diocese. And ultimately harmonize our ministries. We need to work together.”
Bishop Noonan added that sometimes, it may be difficult for teachers to believe they are making an impact on the lives of their students. It is during those times, he said, that attitude and persistence is most important.
“I think the key is for us to understand our attitude and our persistence,” Bishop Noonan said. “There are some days we feel overwhelmed, there are some days that we feel inadequate, there are some days we feel we can’t do anything right. Nothing we try to do really works out. Those are the days we need to realize, it is only with God’s strength and grace that we accomplish great things in life.
“We have to trust the Lord,” Bishop Noonan added. “We make impacts, even in the moments when we are running on empty, we’re running only because God has given us the strength.”
Tammi Haas, principal of St. Joseph Catholic School, Winter Haven, said Bishop Noonan’s message and support, both as an educator and a parent, go a long way.
“Every time I hear Bishop Noonan speak, he is such an advocate of Catholic education in our schools,” Haas said. “He is always supportive and appreciative. As a principal and as a parent, it is very important we have that support.”