Henry Fortier, secretary for faith formation/superintendent of Catholic schools, welcomed the incoming class of principals and presidents at the new catholic school leader orientation July 30 at the Chancery, and offered them insight on creating a true Catholic identity within their schools.
“Our Catholic identity is something that should almost be tangible, not by a picture of Jesus hanging on the wall or a statue of a saint sitting on a shelf — although these items are a part of who we are — but by an experience,” Fortier said. “When you walk into a school that is rich in Catholic identity, you can feel it. You experience it. It is something that you feel throughout all of your senses, and you can’t point to just one thing to explain it.”
Fortier said Catholic identity is defined by seven key elements: the Scriptures, which tell us who we are and how we are to act; religious men and women, who show us how to be a witness of our vocations; prayer, which is an expression of our love for God; Mass, which offers us the real presence of God; the saints, everyday people who were venerable and trusted in God; the Virgin Mary, a true example of total surrender, of living out God’s vocation regardless of the cost; and the Holy Spirit, which permeates everything we do.
Fortier encouraged the principals and presidents to build on the legacy of those who came before them and to lead the teachers and students in their schools by their examples.
“God has given these children to you, to me, to us as a community. What we do with these children, how we serve them, and the imprint we leave on their minds and souls about God is totally up to us,” he said. “Whether you have a 5-year-old in your school or a 15-year-old, you represent God. This is a faith-based experience for them. They see crucifixes in the school; they hear people talking about God, but you are representing their experience of God. These experiences help build their definition of who God is, how God loves, how God forgives. What is the definition we want our children to have of God?”
Editor’s Note: This article will be published in the August 10 edition of the Florida Catholic.