LINCOLN (SNR) – The education office of the Diocese of Lincoln held the ‘LAMP’ workshop for teachers and administrators June 27, at Epiphany House near Villa Regina Motherhouse of the School Sisters of Christ the King in Lincoln.
“The Importance of Literature, Art, Music and Poetry, in Elementary Education” was presented by Alan Hicks, an educational administrator who has more than 20 years of administrative experience and a broad-based liberal arts education and teaching background. He is currently principal of St. Mary, Star of the Sea School in Oceanside, Calif. Hicks and guest speaker Howard Clark, currently a teacher at a Catholic middle school in Wichita, Kan., had both been participants with Bishop James Conley at the University of Kansas in The Integrated Humanities Program in the 1970s that brought many college students into the Catholic Church, including Bishop Conley.
The Integrated Humanities Program sought to “teach the Great Books, the classics, from the Greeks up through the Romans and through the Middle Ages and the Renaissance into the modern times.” The students also got together for poetry memorization, singing, formal waltzing lessons, and stargazing, all activities the founders of the course thought to be some of the greatest sources of wonder.
The purpose of the June 27 workshop in Lincoln was to explore the Christian senses of humanistic and liberal education, and to consider practical ways to form the whole human person—especially through literature, art, music, and poetry—in the context of the realities and demands of the contemporary school.
“The classical and Christian ideal of education, ‘liberal education,’” the invitation to teachers stated, “goes beyond career preparation, and brings freedom—liberty—through serious intellectual and personal formation. Liberal, humanistic education enables one to become truly human. It forms all natural and God-given faculties; and is not primarily informative or vocational.”
Elementary school teachers, music and art teachers, and early-high school literature teachers were invited. Space for the event was limited, but it was attended by 18 teachers from 10 schools in six different communities, as well as a dozen members of the School Sisters of Christ the King, the teaching community of women religious founded in the Diocese of Lincoln in 1976.
Sister Mary Helen, C.K., a teacher at St. Teresa School in Lincoln, said participants witnessed the “tremendous effect of the ‘Great Books program’ on Bishop Conley and his friends and their friendships.”
“It is more than a curriculum, it is a way of life,” she said. “It is a way of looking at life and the world through beauty and wonder.”
Sister Collette, O.S.F., assistant superintendent of schools for the Diocese of Lincoln, said the talks and activities were focused on teaching with a certain enjoyment that comes from Truth and Beauty, in words and music, art and poetry.
“The men gave a fine introduction to an educational atmosphere that promotes an appreciation of the better use of words, music and art beyond the utilitarian goals of a school,” she said. “Education was described as well beyond college and career goals, to the knowledge and love of the good, love of God Who is Beauty, Goodness and Truth. The presentations included demonstrations of teaching memorization of poetry, listening to beautiful music, and appreciation of the beauty in nature.”
The LAMP event was only one such initiative Bishop Conley has established in the Diocese of Lincoln. The Newman Institute for Catholic Thought and Culture launched last fall; a partnership of St. Gregory the Great Seminary with the St. Thomas Aquinas Newman Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The fall lecture series “Reborn in Wonder,” which is open to the public, will begin in September.