Thursday, May 27, 2010

ICS Mission Statement


The Book of Proverbs (29:18) states, "Without vision, the people perish." A Catholic school, like any organization, must be driven by vision. Decisions must be made in accordance with the organization's mission statement; to do otherwise ultimately leads to lack of direction, confusion, frustration, chaos and eventually the end of the organization.

As a Catholic school, our overall vision very explicitly comes from Canon Law. Catholic education deals with forming the whole person-- a person's intellectual, physical, moral and social abilities (Canon 795). Even though particular Catholic schools may use different words in their mission statements, the message must be the same. But, the message must not only appear on paper, or on walls, websites or brochures. The particular mission of a Catholic school must be tied to Canon Law and it must be the driving force behind everything done by the institution. Without an adherence to the vision of Catholic education, our schools will fail.

At Incarnation Catholic School, the mission statement clearly coincides with the Catholic Church's directive on Catholic education. The ICS Mission Statement is as follows:

Incarnation Catholic School continues our tradition of:

Inspiring life - long learners

Challenging each individual to develop spiritually

Striving to serve each other and the community as we prepare students for the future.

At ICS, our delivery of curriculum will not just be geared toward performance on a test, but instead have as its aim the development of enduring understandings. Spiritual growth will be a priority for all members of the school community-- students, teachers, administrators and even parents. Finally, it will not be enough to just become smarter and more spiritual. We must use our knowledge which is inspired by our faith to go out and make a difference in the world today, tomorrow and in the years to come. The learning at Incarnation must take on greater depth than to just do well on Friday's test. It must be used to help make the world a better place tomorrow than it is today.

All members of the ICS family must share this vision. Teachers must use it to guide their instruction of not only subject matter but subjects that matter. Students need to be inspired by it so as to bring an excitement and enthusiasm to school each and every day. Finally, parents must be willing to support both teachers and students, truly becoming partners with the school in the education of their children.

And when this happens, when all members of the organization can be motivated by a common vision, amazing gains can take place. As Edward Schillebeeckx, one of the most prominent Catholic theologians of modern times, wrote, "What we dream alone remains a dream, but what we dream with others can become a reality."

Or, "Without vision, the people perish."

With vision, however, we can move mountains. I look forward to moving some with you soon.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Sports and Spirituality

Recently, I had the opportunity to share some of my insights on the connection between sports and spirituality at the Diocese of St. Petersburg's Living Eucharist Conference as one of its breakout presenters.

As a life-long athlete (all I wanted for my 2nd birthday was a soccer ball) and a coach at many different levels over the past 9 years, my belief in the connection between our spiritual and sporting lives has evolved into a passion.

Sports can lead us to a deeper understanding of and participation in some of the central mysteries of our Catholic faith: the Incarnation, the Trinity and the Pascal Mystery.

Because of Jesus, our pursuit of excelling in those things that make us uniquely human, make us more like Him, and in turn, more like God.

As God is three persons in one, He is by His very nature relational. Created in His image and likeness, we are also relational. Therefore, anything that brings us into relation with others brings us closer to God. Sports, by their very nature, bring us into relation with others; therefore, they also bring into deeper relationship with God.

All athletes experiene the pains of struggle, agony, error, loss, and defeat. All athletes also experience triumph, victory, and redemption. The journey of an athlete entails suffering (in practice or throughout games or over the course of a season), death (loss of a game, an injury, a mistake during a game), resurrection (winning the next game, overcoming a mistake with a great play, coming back from an injury, executing something never completed before) and ascension (learning a valuable life lesson through sports, honoring and congratulating an opponent after a great play or game, recognizing that in the end it's just a game). Of course, these are the same stages of the Pascal Mystery.

As Pope John Paul II said,
“Sport has, in itself, an important moral and educative significance: It is a training ground in virtue, a school of inner balance and outer control, an introduction to more true and lasting conquests.”
Therefore, the time, attention and energy devoted toward developing the sports programs in our Catholic schools must be analyzed. We must come to realize that sports in Catholic schools are both "just games" and yet "so much more than just games". We must come to understand that sports have the power and potential to influence our students more powerfully than any academic or extra-curricular endeavors.

We must challenge our athletes to play to win while also playing with courageous sportsmanship.

We must encourage, train and support our coaches so that they can use sports as a way to draw student-athletes closer to God.

We must embrace the ability sports offer to transform our lives, our schools and even our world.

May God bless you on your sporting and spiritual journey so that, at the end of your "game" you may be able to echo St. Paul's words in his 2nd letter to Timothy, "I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith."

Good luck and God bless.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Greetings, Incarnation Catholic School and Church!

Dear Incarnation Catholic School Parents, Students and Families:

At the end of the Gospel according to Matthew, Jesus commissions His disciples saying, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (28:19).

It is in this spirit that I have accepted the position of Principal at Incarnation Catholic School. I truly feel that God has called me to “go, therefore, and make disciples”. Or, in words from our final year of the diocesan wide Living Eucharist Initiative: I feel that I am being sent to serve as your principal. I am filled with much anticipation and excitement to begin working with you, our teachers, and your children. I have thoroughly enjoyed my few introductions to the community and I look forward to other occasions for us to meet prior to and throughout the 2010 – 2011 school year.

The Incarnation is one of the central mysteries of our Catholic faith and I find it a wonderful springboard for the work of which I hope to take part starting next year. The Incarnation, God entering our humanity in the person of Jesus Christ, completely changed the course of human history. From that moment on, all human endeavors, because of Christ’s divinity, became ways for us to grow closer to God. Much as we become more like God when we receive Him in the Body and Blood of Holy Communion, our humanity became sanctified when He took on flesh and became human. In doing so, He made our lives as humans into something meaningful, something beautiful—something that can ultimately lead us to Him. Therefore, all of our endeavors at ICS, including all of the many curricular, extra-curricular and spiritual aspects of our school, are ways for us to participate in the Incarnation. Emmanuel, the name given to the Messiah by the prophet Isaiah, literally means “God is with us”. I hope and pray that Incarnation Catholic School can be a place where all people: students, teachers, parents, and even visitors can declare that God is, in fact, with us.

In closing, I thank Fr. Michael Suszynski for affording me this opportunity to work as your Principal. I also thank Mrs. Carolyn Goslee for her many years of faithful service at Incarnation, and the wonderful faculty and staff for their openness to the transition ahead. Finally, I ask all of you to pray for all members of the Incarnation Catholic School family. May God continue to bless us, lead us, and guide us as we finish this school year and look forward to the next.

In Christ,

Michael Zelenka