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Bringing the New Evangelization to Classrooms

Alumni Spotlight: Sr. Agnes Maria, OP

by Sr. Agnes Maria, OP

Having been in the classroom for three years at schools in Arizona, Michigan, and Illinois, it was exciting and surprising to receive the gift of studying at Sacred Heart Major Seminary as my assignment for the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 school year. I received my assignment to study at Sacred Heart as my teaching year in Peoria, Illinois, came to a close. Several months earlier, Mother Assumpta announced our sisters had been invited by Archbishop Vigneron to study the New Evangelization at Sacred Heart Major Seminary. The gift of this invitation was not lost on any of us. Study is a significant part of the Dominican charism.

by Sr. Agnes Maria, OP

Even after acquiring a teaching degree, our Sisters study at several institutions in the United States, most often in summer programs, in areas such as theology, philosophy, and Catholic Studies. The chance to study the New Evangelization, however, was particularly attractive. The Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, was founded in 1997 out of a prompting and desire to heed the call for the New Evangelization. 

Before studying theology at Sacred Heart, I taught religion to fourth, fifth, and sixth grade. It was definitely a change of pace to be back in the classroom as a student, and I relished every class. While studying at Sacred Heart, I lived with a mission of four sisters in St. Clair Shores. Since two out of the four of us were students at Sacred Heart, our community life was blessed by discussions related to our apostolate of teaching and the content of Sacred Heart classes. 

While at Sacred Heart, I was impressed by how the New Evangelization imbued every class I took. I was also convicted by the need to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit speaking and acting in the current culture. The emphasis on the power of prayer and the expectation that God will heal or speak or act, encouraged me to approach prayer with greater faith. 

After graduating from Sacred Heart, I was assigned to teach sixth, seventh, and eighth grade religion at St. Michael’s School in Worthington, Ohio, where I currently live with four of my other sisters. As soon as I learned I would be back teaching, my mind went to work on how to bring the New Evangelization into my classroom and to my students.

I look at the middle school years as an important time to ignite love for the faith in students before they enter high school. From the testimony of my sisters who teach in high schools across the country, I anticipate my students will probably encounter atheism, relativism, and disregard or disagreement with the Church’s teaching on marriage and same-sex attraction. I do not take it lightly that any one of them could be the instrument used by God to evangelize a peer or be a witness of how a believing Catholic really lives. 

Teaching eighth grade religion, I also have the great privilege of preparing eighth graders for the Sacrament of Confirmation. This school year, I decided to rearrange the order in which I taught, moving the focus on the New Evangelization from the end of the year to the beginning. With my students immersed in the message of the New Evangelization at the start of their school year, I have been able to continue proposing the end goal of their Catholic education and Confirmation preparation.

These teens know the Church is depending on them, the young, to find new ways to engage the culture. As I prepare these young people for their Confirmation, I aim to help them become the leaders who will build the Kingdom in their high schools and among their peer groups. Their intellectual knowledge of the faith is secondary to their experience of a real relationship with Jesus Christ and their constant exposure to other people who have that relationship.

At Sacred Heart, I learned the incredible importance of cultivating relationships: when trying to bring others back to the Faith or help them fall in love with it for the first time. In the classroom I am constantly cultivating relationships, the students’ relationships with Christ, my relationships with them, their relationships with each other, and their relationships with other young adults who are on fire with the Holy Spirit.

Sr. Agnes Maria, OP

Sr. Agnes Maria, OP, earned a Master of Arts in Theology, focusing on the New Evangelization from Sacred Heart in 2016. She belongs to the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, Ann Arbor, Michigan.

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Sacred Heart Major Seminary is a Christ-centered Catholic community of faith and higher learning committed to forming leaders who will proclaim the good news of Christ to the people of our time. As a leading center of the New Evangelization, Sacred Heart serves the needs of the Archdiocese of Detroit and contributes to the mission of the universal Church.