Story by S.L. Hansen
LINCOLN (SNR) - This summer, diocesan Catholic schoolteachers are invited to attend a seminar on the Theology of the Body taught by Father Sean Kilcawley at the John XXIII Center in Lincoln.
Scheduled for July 6-10, the seminar will explore St. Pope John Paul II’s catechesis on human love and relationships.
Father Andrew Heaslip, diocesan director of religious education, said the seminar was created after a discussion last November among parents, educators, administrators, and Bishop James Conley. The focus was the negative impact of societal views on human sexuality and human relationships on young people, as well as what positive things can be done to address these problems.
“We talked about how to address this, both at the parental level—because they are the first educators of their children—but also at the school level,” Father Heaslip noted. “What can we do to help keep our young people safe, and keep their relationship with the Lord alive?”
According to Father Kilcawley, who will facilitate the seminar, “This class is all about getting past the cultural distortions that we see and getting to that clear vision about ‘who I am,’ which allows us to invite Christ into our lives.”
He continued, “We want our teachers to be evangelists of love who are able to pass on to others what they have received from the Lord.”
Father Kilcawley has been teaching courses on Theology of the Body since he was a deacon, first at the adult level, but also to high school students. Then he attended the John Paul II Institute in Rome to further his education on Theology of the Body.
“Since going to Rome, I found a deeper understanding of the human person, which was really necessary for my own conversion,” he revealed. “My own relationship with Christ has been greatly deepened by understanding God’s love for me, which has called me in turn to love God even more greatly.”
It’s also affected the way he approaches teaching Theology of the Body.
“When I used to teach this to high school students, I would only teach it through the lens of marriage,” said Father Kilcawley. “But when I came back from Rome, I started teaching it from the lens of understanding what it means to be a child of God.”
Father Kilcawley is currently teaching a class for adults on Theology of the Body.
“Typically, what I have started to see is that the light goes on, and then they are looking for more,” Father Kilcawley said. “Really, they are hungry for Christ and they start actively seeking Him.”
Christy TenHulzen is taking the current course with her husband, Leonard. She is also a junior high teacher at Blessed Sacrament School in Lincoln and the parent of a student who attends Catholic schools.
She said what she is learning about Theology of the Body is really making an impact on her own family.
“It is interesting to discuss things with my husband after the classes, and to apply some of the teachings to our own marriage,” she said. “We have brought God into our discussions a little more, and have respected each other in a different way.”
The TenHulzens have also gained insight regarding raising their own children.
“We are learning together how to talk to our children, while I am also applying this in the classroom,” she explained.
Having taught seventh- and eighth-graders for some years now, Mrs. TenHulzen said she feels a distinct advantage in being able to address the common issues and questions that come up as students embark on adolescence.
For example, “the ‘old way’ of teaching chastity was telling the girls to protect themselves from the ‘boys who can’t control themselves’ and telling the boys to ‘control themselves’,” she exclaimed. “Now I am teaching my students to see God’s image in each other, and therefore respect each other because of what they see.”
She continued, “We have been able to go back to that basic belief while talking about the current marriage crisis, abortion, bullying, and several other issues. All of those relate back to seeing God in each person.”
That’s exactly the approach Father Kilcawley hopes to cultivate throughout the diocese.
“When we talk about teachers being more prepared to handle these cultural issues, we wanted to approach it through more than lesson plans and bullet points,” he said. “We want to help them understand the human person and God’s love for themselves so they can teach it from their own hearts.”
For this reason, the seminar will welcome teachers of all grades, kindergarten on up. Teachers in the younger grades will be able to lead their students in an age-appropriate understanding of God’s design for human relationships that will last a lifetime.
Teachers should consult their principals to find out if attending the seminar will apply to their continuing education requirements.