Jesus sends us on a healing mission
Mother Teresa worked as a teacher in a Catholic school in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) for 20 years. She even became the principal of the school. It was a very important ministry to her, and she was very dedicated to her work. At 36 years old, she embarked on a train ride to attend her annual retreat. It was on that ride that she experienced what she later described as her “call within a call.” Jesus revealed a new vocation for her to go and serve the poorest of the poor on the streets of Kolkata. She became a healing force in the city, and her work became known throughout the world. She was canonized as St. Teresa of Kolkata in 2016.
While we might see our work in religious education to be merely about teaching the mind, we must not neglect Christ’s desire for us to heal the hearts of the students we serve. Jesus went out to the outskirts of towns to heal the sick and suffering and welcome them back into a new Christian community. He sent out his disciples to heal the sick and drive out demons. He sends out his saints to serve those who need Christ’s love the most. Therefore we, too, should look for ways we can heal young people in our care.
As you read this article, I ask you to think of the student in your class who has been the biggest challenge this year. Consider the following ways in which you can be a healing agent in this young person’s life.
Be quick to forgive
The biggest obstacle standing in the way of our ability to heal the hearts of our students is our own reluctance to forgive. When a student acts out or becomes a challenge in some way, it is natural to become angry or frustrated. Sometimes things can get so difficult that you don’t know what to do. The first step in making an impact is to forgive. Forgive them
for anything they have done or not done in class. Use the words of Christ as a guiding prayer: “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). The sooner you are able to forgive them for what they have done, the sooner you will be able to help them grow in their relationship with God.
Pray for each student personally
Beyond praying for your class as a whole, develop the habit of praying for each of your students by name, bringing specific petitions to the Lord. Do not underestimate the power of prayer. Jesus is the one who has the power to heal, so turn to him for help in healing the hearts of the faithful under your care in class.
Be interested, not interesting
The time you have with students before and after class begins are the most effective moments for ministry. Those conversations may seem like small talk or just free time, but your interest in their lives will leave a lasting impression on them. As Maya Angelou once said: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Make sure your students feel appreciated, important, and loved. Does your face light up when they walk into the room or are you so focused on preparing for class that you barely notice their arrival? Show interest and don’t dominate the conversation. Ask questions,
then ask more questions to get them sharing as much as you can. If you develop a habit of praying for each student personally, these conversations become opportunities to learn enough about their lives to have something to pray about for them.
Remember your childhood
Do you remember what it felt like to be a kid? All sorts of things can cause worry and anxiety. Nobody has a perfect childhood. We’ve all suffered in some great or small ways. Think of the people in your life who cared enough to be there for you when you were down. They were probably the same people who were there in the good times, too.
You have the opportunity this year to be that healing presence in the lives of the people you serve. Your care and concern for their lives has a greater influence than you could possibly know. Be there for them when they need it the most — and pray for them constantly.
Jared Dees is the founder of TheReligionTeacher.com and the author of To Heal, Proclaim, and Teach: The Essential Guide to Ministry in Today’s Catholic Church.
This article was originally published in Catechist magazine, February 2020.