Each year on the first Friday in October, all of the Catholic school teachers, staff, and administration of the Diocese of Manchester gather at the Grappone Center in Concord for a day of prayer and reflection. Bishop Libasci started this formation day four years ago and it's become a nice tradition already and a wonderful opportunity to catch up with our colleagues from around the diocese. It's nice to see all 500 of us in the same room and that we are all in this together.
We all gathered this past Friday starting with coffee and homemade donuts at 9am and we moved into the main room at 9:30am for morning prayer led by Bishop Libasci. Following prayer, Fr. John Fortin, OSB, our superintendent of schools, then announced our amazing speaker for the day - Allen Hunt. Dr. Hunt works for an organization called Dynamic Catholic and is a renowned speaker and author. He works alongside the well known Australian Catholic speaker Matthew Kelly. In his morning talk, Dr. Hunt spoke about his conversion to Catholicism and how it all began over 20 years ago when he was asked by a fellow Yale doctoral student (a Dominican priest) to help him give a series of talks during Lent to a group of cloistered nuns in Connecticut. Thus began a process of him discerning his faith and deciding about 10 years ago to leave his position as the pastor of a Methodist mega Church and become a Catholic. Dr. Hunt's presentation was hysterical from the moment he began speaking and was chock full of stories. A group of us happened to sit next to him and his wife and had no idea he was the main speaker until Fr. John introduced him. Mr. Smith, our dean of students, joked to him after saying, "It's a good thing we didn't say anything bad about the main speaker before you got up there!"
We then celebrated Mass with Bishop Francis Christian, the auxiliary bishop of Manchester, as the celebrant. Friday was the Feast of the Guardian Angels and Bishop Christian masterfully weaved together the teaching of guardian angels and the role of the Catholic school teacher. We then broke for lunch followed by Dr. Hunt's afternoon presentation. He spoke of the four signs of a Dynamic Catholic:
Prayer - Study - Generosity - Evangelization
Again, using humor and wonderful stories, Dr. Hunt explained how we as teachers can integrate these four signs into our schools. He gave us a great deal to chew on and I certainly have some ideas from it. Dr. Hunt also gave everyone a copy of his biography and another book on the signs of a dynamic Catholic. I can't wait to read them.
We wrapped up around 2:30pm but not before some rather sad news. At the end, Fr. John announced that this would be his final year as our superintendent. Fr. John is a monk of Saint Anselm Abbey and a long-time professor at Saint Anselm College. It is quite rare for a monk to be assigned a job outside the abbey or the college and so we knew Fr. John was on borrowed time. When Bishop Libasci asked Fr. John to be the superintendent in 2013, Abbot Mark Cooper, OSB released him for three years and now those three years are over (or will be in June). I was kind of expecting this news but I was still sad to hear it. I have known Fr. John since I was a student at Saint Anselm College and admire him greatly. While I am glad he will be back at the college full-time, I will miss knowing he is no longer leading our schools. Please pray to God the Holy Spirit for a fine successor to Fr. John for our Catholic schools.