For the first time since Hurricane Ian struck the region, all Catholic school teachers and administrators gathered for the second annual STREAM (Science, Technology, Religion, Education, Arts and Mathematics) Symposium hosted by The Diocese of Venice Department of Education.
The buzz of excitement was contagious on March 10, 2023, at Cardinal Mooney Catholic High School in Sarasota, as more than 430 teachers and administrators moved between breakout sessions, eager to put into practice what they learned during the STREAM Symposium. The whole day was designed for teachers to learn and grow from other teachers around the Diocese.
The core Gift of Christ of the Symposium was “Fortitude,” and the theme tag line was “Rescued: Rescued People, Rescue People.” This theme was a nod to the Eucharist and Salvation, but also in light of overcoming the impacts of Hurricane Ian during the past six months.
During the opening Mass, Bishop Frank J. Dewane praised the faculty and staff for everything they do, each dedicated to the mission of Catholic education, supported by God.
The works of the teachers is enhanced by the Gifts of Christ each has received, as they impart knowledge onto others, enabling their students to go out and achieve and become more the man or woman of God they are called to be, Bishop Dewane said.
“You are the tenders of the vineyards,” the Bishop said, building upon the Gospel reading of the day (Matthew 21:33-46), in which Christ has established His vineyard, the Church, and put it into our hands. Christ pays us the compliment of entrusting us with his work, with what he values. He not only gives us a job to do, but mysteriously puts the eternal salvation of other souls in our hands. Secondly, Christ is patient with our failures.
“What you do, day in and day out, is making a difference,” Bishop Dewane said. “Strive to be the agents of change that the Lord has called you to be… Instill in the vineyard who we are as a Church and as Catholic schools. In the midst of our own struggles, we have to turn ourselves over to the Lord. Let Him be the one to give you the ability to make you more than you think you can be. Be that to your students. Know at the end of the day that they see the difference.”
Father John Belmonte, SJ, Diocesan Superintendent of Catholic Education, said the theme of “Rescued” is significant in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian.
“We witnessed, and some of you experienced, being rescued from the hurricane,” Father Belmonte said. “All of us were affected by it. Being out of school. Sometimes for weeks. Property loss. We benefited from the leadership of our Bishop. From the generosity of so many of you. Our students helping with clean up… We learned what ‘Rescued People, Rescue People’ means.”
As the Holy Season of Lent continues, Father Belmonte encouraged all to pray together with the idea that we all have been rescued. “Not just from hurricanes but from sin and death by Our Lord Himself. In turn we seek to rescue others; to bring them to Our Lord through the great mission of Catholic education we share in the Diocese of Venice.”
The STREAM Symposium offered teachers and other participants a choice of more than 40 breakout sessions, many of which were Diocesan teacher-led, about Catholic Faith integration into various subjects utilizing STREAM concepts and the Gifts of Christ in all grade levels and subject areas, said Jennifer Falestiny, Diocesan Director of Curriculum and Symposium organizer.
The keynote speakers were, Rob Reynolds and Shevin McCullough, founders of Studio 3:16, a multi-media Catholic curricular program promoting the Gospel and biblical themes to students in an engaging and relatable way. The purpose of their talk was their witness as young Catholic entrepreneurs and the role and responsibility of educators in spreading the Truth through education in a world where the media spreads false truths.
Early in the day, Father Belmonte presented the first ever Charitas Awards, the highest Diocesan Education award given to faculty and leadership, nominated by their peers, for their constant exhibition and embodiment of the Virtue of Charity. Recipients are teachers and administrators who produce excellence in all that they do, including: radiates with care and compassion towards students and colleagues, treats others as brothers and sisters in Christ, embodies the Catholic Faith inside and outside the classroom, leads by example, and spreads Truth, Beauty and Goodness to those around them.
Teachers who have demonstrated leadership in STREAM and robotics education at their school were presented the Blue Apple Award. The color blue in the Bible has been described by scholars as denoting the Holy Spirit and Truth or service to God, as well as the waters of the new creation in the Book of Genesis, and most importantly the color blue is associated with our Blessed Mother. There were 16 inaugural recipients of the Blue Apple Award.
In addition, Years of Service Awards were presented in categories of 10-15 years, 15-19 years, 20-25 years, 25-29 years, and more than 30 years.
In between session, Bishop Dewane also blessed a St. Joseph Table (with various breads and pastries).
The day concluded on a high note with an “after-school snack” which included an ice cream food truck, meaning everyone left the day with a big smile.