‘Humor and Homily’ is topic of diocesan gathering for school, parish leaders

GREEN BAY — Bishop David Ricken and Julianne Stanz, director of the Department of New Evangelization, led a day of reflection, “Humor & Homily,” for administrators, teachers, catechists and youth ministers Aug. 21 at the Radisson Hotel and Conference Center.

This year’s event, attended by more than 800, was a change from the former venue at St. Norbert College. The day of reflection was a collaborative event between the Department of Education and the Department of Evangelization and replaced the traditional August Administrators’ Day and October Educators’ Professional Development Day.

It served as a kick-off to the 2015-16 academic school year, along with the second year of “Disciples on the Way,” Bishop Ricken’s invitation to “embark on a missionary journey into the new evangelization.” The event was made possible through donations to the Bishop’s Appeal.

This day of reflection was a welcomed one by many. “Sometimes it’s important to not only put yourself in a great frame of mind, but to put yourself into a great frame of spirit,” said John Stelzer, president of Roncalli High School in Manitowoc. “If we were at school today, we would be getting supplies ready and making preparations for students. (The day of reflection) is a chance to take a step back.”

Julianne Stanz’s talk was titled, “Leading with Laughter: Maintaining a Sense of Humor in Ministry.” The theme of her discourse was inspired by Stanz’s 4-year old son, who, at the time, was awakened from his slumber in what he calls his “nest” to get ready for Mass.

He grumbled, “I don’t want to go to church because nobody looks happy there.” This poses the question to all: Are children seeing adults at Mass, at Catholic schools, in religious education classes, looking less than the joyful about the Gospel and faith?

As the title of the talk indicated, humor is a critical element to infusing joy into the classroom and in the daily walk of a catechist. Stanz added, in her slight Irish brogue, “Laughter releases a chemical that is far more powerful than coffee.” Stanz believes that God has a great sense of humor.

She challenged the educators by saying, “We do not have a 9-to-5 job. We are here to echo the joy of the Gospel and the teachings of the Catholic Church. We are not teaching math. We are introducing people to the relationship with God in the person of Jesus Christ.

“The difference between being a good and a great Catholic teacher is that it’s not just a job, but it is a call from God himself,” said Stanz.

Stanz asked the audience to consider when and where they heard their call to do the work of God as a Catholic educator. She shared her own mountaintop (quite literally) experience in Ireland as a 16-year-old when she was on a pilgrimage of her own. She was atop the holiest mountain of Ireland: Mt. Croagh Patrick.

“The sun is going to come up and go down for me every day regardless whether I get up at 6 a.m. to see it and the thought that I had is that Jesus’ love comes up for us every single day of our lives and he would have died for every one of us whether we believe it or not, whether we love him or not,” she said.

Bishop Ricken conducted the afternoon session and echoed the theme of the morning talk by reinforcing the importance of realizing and living the joy of the Gospel through one’s work.