Tuesday, May 08, 2007

On a separate sheet, please address the following:

  1. Explain what attracted you to the ministry of teaching.
  2. Explain why you wish to teach in a Catholic school.
  3. What do you think are the challenges for today's students?

For the last six years I have been a seminarian, and I imagined that I could follow my passion: learning and teaching about the Catholic faith. However my years in formation taught me that I did not want to sacrifice the depth of a dedicated teaching profession, for the breadth of ministries demanded of a parish priest. The Catholic Tradition is my first love. It is a bottomless well of wisdom; it is the key to a happiness which transcends all illusions, all weakness, and all failures. My love for teaching is not only the thrill of engaging a classroom. It is simply my confidence in the Holy Spirit's activity in the life of the Church, and I wish to share this Gift.

I hope to teach in a Catholic school to collaborate with others and help a generation become faith-filled, exceptional contributors to society. I know that Catholic schools are no shelters from the 'real world' but among the best preparations for it. Thus I would not teach religion as an obscure system of rules binding only on those who bear the name. Rather I would teach a truth which pierces the depths of each soul and manifests as a life different from the cynical, secular world; a life bound fast (re-ligata) to God.

Challenges facing high school students are legion, but I think that a single strand runs through them: the desire for autonomy. Perhaps teenagers do seek independence through non-conformity, but they also seek autonomy in a literal sense, that is, to "name oneself". This is the first time in people's lives when they begin to own their beliefs, and question beliefs that they are not ready to own. Because it is the first time, the sensation creates excitement and a demand for autonomy that maybe surpasses our own.

To desire that one's identity and beliefs be chosen rather than passively accepted, I believe, is a good thing. There is an implied desire for authenticity and integrity, i.e., that one's life ought not be guided by a jumble of unproven authorities, but rather by deep personal understanding. Even the rebel who declares, "you can't tell me what to believe!" implicitly demands that his or her beliefs have an inner unity and coherence. The guarding of one's ideas against unproven authorities is the hint of a desire for the unity of universal Truth, a deep desire fulfilled only in Jesus Christ. Understood this way, even the rebel can be a prophet.

What this means for me as a teacher is that my curricula have a hybrid foundation: on the one hand, Jesus Christ, God living and walking among us; and on the other, the questions of the students, and my conviction that all of these are bound up in truth and all Truth is bound up in Christ. My philosophy and theology background has enabled me to explain the lines of continuity drawing the most impassioned teenage values together with the wisdom of the ancient Fathers, the saints, philosophers, and the doctrine of faith. Concretely this means demonstrating the lines of connection between popular culture and ancient truth, such as when I discussed atheism in the context of James Frey's bestseller, "A Million Little Pieces," when I used the summer sci-fi movie "I, Robot" to talk about the Gospel of John and the hypostatic union.

There is nothing I enjoy more than eliciting the “aha” moment from students engaged in learning about our faith tradition, and I hope that, working in a Catholic school, I can be accorded many such opportunities.


Br. Thomas said...

Welcome back, buddy. Hey, I'd hire you to teach if I had a Catholic High School. This is well written, a real personal statement.

Matt of CG said...

It's like a scene from an old western where the local saloon is running at full tilt and Jeff steps in causing the whole place to instantly hush with nothing heard but the squeaking of the doors.

Matt of CG said...

I reckon I oughta start callin' you MISTER?

Suzanna said...