Back-to-school Mass kicks off new school year

By Megan Erbacher

For Laurie Sammet, coming together to celebrate Mass with her fellow Catholic School educators reminds her she isn’t alone in the mission of educating students.

“I think sometimes when you’re a teacher you’re kind of isolated in your classroom a lot of the day,” said Sammet, who has taught in Diocese of Evansville Catholic schools for 22 years, including 18 at Good Shepherd School, where she teaches fifth grade. “And when you come to something like (the Back-to-School Mass), you see how much support you have and that you’re not alone; you’re in this mission together with a lot of other dedicated people.”

More than 500 Catholic teachers and administrators attended the 2019-2020 Back-to-School Mass at Good Shepherd Parish on Aug. 2. The Message photos by Tim Lilley.

More than 500 Catholic educators from all 26 diocesan schools gathered at Good Shepherd Parish for the annual Back-to-School Mass on Aug. 2. Bishop Joseph M. Siegel celebrated Mass, 19 priests of the diocese concelebrated and Deacon Joe Siewers assisted.

Bishop Siegel gave the homily during the annual Back-to-School Mass. The bishop talked about Psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd.” He said just as Jesus is our shepherd, Catholic school teachers and administrators have a special responsibility to shepherd their students. Bishop Siegel encouraged educators to help guide their pupils in their Catholic faith through their teaching, leadership and the examples of their own lives.

The bishop advised educators to know students well so they can support and encourage them, and he said to also show patience and mercy during difficult days.

The 2019-2020 diocesan school theme is “Christ — Yesterday, Today and Forever: 75 Years of Living the Faith.”

Sammet likes this year’s theme because she said it connects everything: past experiences and current experiences, and it looks to the future. She’s excited about the new school year and to get to know her students.

“With teaching, you start and stop (for summer break), so with teaching there are so many possibilities,” Sammet said. “You just never know what the possibilities are going to be, so that’s exciting.”

At the end of Mass, Bishop Siegel thanked Catholic educators for their dedication and commitment to Catholic education.

After Mass, Diocesan Schools Assistant Superintendent Michelle Priar announced service award recipients as Bishop Siegel and Diocesan Schools Superintendent Dr. Daryl Hagan handed out certificates. More than 40 teachers and administrators were featured in the Aug. 2 issue of The Message.

The 2019 Catholic Educator Innovator Award, which is given to educators within the diocese who demonstrate successful innovative and creative efforts in the classroom or school building, was awarded to Holy Trinity School in Jasper for their successful implementation of Builders Club.

Priar said Holy Trinity’s Builders Club is active in community service and learning projects which reinforce the school’s mission statement: “We, the community of Holy Trinity School, come to learn and go forth to serve while trusting in Divine Providence.”

Benedictine Sister Becky Mathauer, who teaches middle school religion and language arts at Holy Trinity, said the club allows students an opportunity to be of service locally with their faith and school community.

Charmaine Oxford, Holy Trinity middle school science and German teacher, said the club is a middle school version of high school Key Club, sponsored by the Kiwanis Club. Oxford said she believes the award represents the hard work by students.

“It’s for the kids,” she said. “They display leadership and character; they just put so much into it.”

Most Diocese of Evansville Catholic School students returned to the classroom this week, and the remainder of schools will start next week.