Teacher Institute: Give God two grateful minutes daily

Teaching in a Catholic school is important work, but educators cannot be truly present to their students if they do not take steps to insure their own health and spend “at least two minutes of silence and solitude, wrapped in gratitude before God” every day.

“Prayer is not nice — I don’t know where we got that idea,” said Dr. Robert J. Wicks, keynote speaker for the Diocesan Teacher Institute held Friday, Oct. 9. “It’s the food that makes life good. It’s the grace that not only helps us access our own life, but share it with others.”

A clinical psychologist, therapist and spiritual guide, Dr. Wicks is professor and chair of the graduate program in pastoral counseling at Loyola University in Maryland. Among his many awards is the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice medal, which was awarded to him by Pope John Paul II in 1996.

The Diocesan Teacher Institute, held every other year and sponsored by the diocesan Office of Catholic Schools, drew 874 teachers and administrators to Peoria. The day began at St. Mary’s Cathedral, where they filled the Lady Chapel, the St. Thomas More Chapel, both choir lofts and the space behind the back pews during a Mass concelebrated by Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, and many of their pastors and parochial vicars.

After Mass they gathered at the Peoria Civic Center for the keynote address by Dr. Wicks, as well as to have lunch and visit displays by textbook publishers and other related vendors. A prolific author, Dr. Wicks also signed copies of his newest books for the educators.

JESUS GAVE his disciples — then and now — the three core elements of the spiritual life when he told them to love God with their whole heart, their whole mind and their whole soul and “to love your neighbor as yourself,” according to Dr. Wicks, who quoted Matthew 22:34-40.

Those core elements are presence to others, presence to self in self-care, self-knowledge and self-love, and presence to God, which he called the most important of the three.

For Catholic educators, presence to others is essential, Dr. Wicks said, and is often expressed through respect.

“It can open up a circle of grace. If offered with love and freedom, where people can rest their burdens, we will have offered a great gift,” he explained. “The gift of respect, the gift of seeing them as made in the image and likeness of God, is transformative in and of itself.”

Dr. Wicks challenged the educators to consider how students, families and colleagues feel when they’re with them.

“It’s the fruits that matter,” he said. “They may forget what you say, but they will never forget how you made them feel.

DR. WICKS cautioned his listeners about unrealistic expectations, saying that they would never be able to meet the expectations of themselves or others. Attempting to do so tends to eat people up, he said.
What a person of faith needs to do is ask, “What does God want of me in this situation?”

“What God wants of you is to be faithful,” Dr. Wicks told them. “With prayer you are connected with each other so your faithfulness is great. In prayer, your limited efforts are connected with the unlimited power of God.”

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