Catholic School Educators Refresh Faith at Spirituality Day


Marie O’Shea is a principal, and Zachary Silva is a student. Both understood the importance of the message delivered to Catholic school teachers and administrators at Spirituality Day Oct. 20 in the Hynes Athletic Center at Iona University in New Rochelle.

“You can’t teach God if you don’t have God in your heart,” Zachary, a freshman at Cardinal Hayes High School in the Bronx, told CNY.

Zachary was one of three Cardinal Hayes students who were altar servers for Mass celebrated by Cardinal Dolan, who referred in his homily to the Latin phrase, Nemo dat quod non habet, or no one gives what they do not have.

Cardinal Dolan said if teachers don’t pray, they can’t teach their students to pray, or teachers can’t encourage their students about the importance of attending Sunday Mass if they’re not going themselves.

“He’s right,” said Ms. O’Shea, principal of St. Francis Xavier School in the Bronx. “We can’t give the kids what we don’t have. It is important to take the time like today to step back, to renew, to refresh, to replenish so when we see the kids, we’re ready to give it all that we’ve got.”

Cardinal Dolan later said Catholic schools are unique in offering both knowledge and wisdom. “Knowledge gives us skills for life. Wisdom prepares us for the next one,” he said.

The cardinal added, “You are knowledgeable teachers, but you’re also wise teachers. That’s spirituality.”

Cardinal Dolan opened his homily by thanking the educators for their work, which he said he witnesses on his visits to the Catholic schools.

“I have the highest esteem for your vocation, and your work and your hard efforts,” he said. “I thank you for your dedication. I’m so proud of you and the splendid schools from which you come.”

The morning began with welcoming remarks from Michael Deegan, superintendent of schools in the archdiocese, and Seamus Carey, president of Iona University.

“We respect the work that you do so much that we offer scholarship money to every graduate of Catholic high schools in the Archdiocese of New York,” Casey said. 

Deegan shared the mission of Spirituality Day with CNY before the event began.

“One, we’re hoping to have the entire community look at each other and say we are part of something bigger than ourselves,” he said. “We’re part of the archdiocese. We’re part of the Catholic Church. 

“And, secondly, to rekindle a universal recognition that we can’t give what we don’t have. If we don’t carry Jesus in our hearts, then we are never going to deliver that and share that with our children.”

Following Mass, the keynote speaker, Father R. Tony Ricard of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, uplifted the educators. Father Ricard also was the keynote speaker at the National Catholic Educational Association conference in April.

“I could tell you that I’m always excited when I get to be in a room full of educators,” he said. “You see, my foundation is in education. Not only did I go to Catholic school my entire life, but before I decided to enter the seminary I actually was a public school teacher in New Orleans.”

Nicole Fresca, principal of St. Teresa-St. Rita STREAM Academy on Staten Island, shared her thoughts on Spirituality Day.

“It’s great especially that now with the Covid restrictions easing that we can be together as an archdiocesan school community to share our faith together,” she said.

“We’re all here for a common cause, and it’s for our students.”