By: Katie Gillett, Music and Latin teacher at St. Therese Catholic Classical School in Aurora, CO, and 2023 graduate of the Catholic Educator Formation and Credential (CEFC) Program
The Institute for Catholic Liberal Education developed the Catholic Educator Formation and Credential (CEFC) program to offer a robust alternative to state teacher licensure. The program prepares educators to infuse a deeply Catholic philosophy and practice of education into their teaching. It is an 18-month program of five integrated courses (The Virtuous Classroom, Pedagogy: Leading from Wonder to Wisdom, Trivium: The Mastery of Language, Quadrivium: The Harmony of Number, and Faith and Reason: The Foundations of the Catholic Intellectual Tradition) delivered through in-person workshops and distance learning.
Katie Gillett, a participant in the Archdiocese of Denver’s first cohort of teachers to complete the CEFC program (seated, far right), delivered the following address at the CEFC graduation ceremony on March 3, 2023.
“First, lots of gratitude is in order! Thank you to each of my peers in the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Cohort. The last year and a half has offered so many opportunities to learn with you and from you. Each person’s insights in discussion have led our group to a deeper understanding of both the lofty ideals and the practical nuts and bolts of the Catholic classical education tradition. I’ve been consistently inspired by everyone’s creativity in the classroom and the ways you care for your students. I value the community we’ve built together, and I’m proud to do this work alongside you.
Thank you to our family and friends who cheered for our successes and commiserated with us on the hardest days. Thank you to our mentor teachers and principals who supported and encouraged us as we learned the daily rhythms of our school communities and put our learning from Saturday seminars into practice. Thank you to all the people whose dedication behind the scenes made this program possible: the staff of Blessed Sacrament and the JPII Center for hosting us, and everyone in the Office of Catholic Schools who took a risk to offer authentically Catholic teacher formation in Denver and worked hard to make this program a reality.
Finally, thank you to our teachers: Dr. Aly Barnes, Elisabeth Sullivan, Sr. Mary Rose, Dr. Merril Roberts, Dr. Andrew Seeley, Erick Allen, Dr. Arthur Hippler, and many excellent guest speakers. Thank you for sharing your expertise and wisdom with us. Thank you for setting an example for us to imitate with your own love of the good, the true, the beautiful, and ultimately of Our Lord. Thank you for helping us to imagine broader horizons of excellence in the classroom, horizons that open to the transcendent and can be, in Tolkien’s words, “an introduction to the mountains.” The ideas and practices we’ve learned in this program will certainly continue to bear fruit in each of our classrooms and, God willing, in the lives of each of our own students.
As the first group of teachers to complete the CEFC program, it’s fitting that our patron is St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, who was an educator herself and a woman of many firsts. She founded the first parochial school and the first women’s religious congregation in the United States, and she is the first American saint to be canonized. It’s also fitting that today the Church celebrates the memorial of St. Katharine Drexel, the second American beata who also founded Catholic schools and worked as an educator, particularly in African American and Native American communities experiencing poverty and discrimination. As teachers in Denver’s parochial schools, we’ve inherited their legacy and their work. But my hope for each of us today is that we’ll also inherit their desire for holiness, both for ourselves and for the students and families that we serve. Both St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and St. Katharine Drexel are remembered for their courage, their commitment to the works of mercy and their creativity in carrying them out, and their profound love for the Eucharist. I pray that these virtues will take root and flourish in our own hearts as well, that we’ll respond to God’s grace with generosity and be filled with His charity as we continue in our own work as Catholic educators.
The Lord has invited each of us into a vocation with a proven track record of making saints – St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and St. Katharine Drexel are just the beginning. In fact, there have been so many saintly teachers throughout history that in the Liturgy of the Hours, the Church includes a special set of prayers to celebrate holy men and women who were educators. To me, this is a great source of encouragement that God has truly called us into the adventure of sanctity through our work in Catholic schools. The Lord desires to work with, in, and through us every day in the classroom to transform the hearts and minds of our students. And He has given us many good friends for the journey, both in this room and in Heaven. So I’d also like to close today in gratitude to God and the many saints who are interceding for us by praying a Litany of Saints for teachers. Some of these men and women are well-known; others are less familiar, but I’m sure that they could become great friends to us in our pilgrimage to heaven. May each of us here someday be in their company.
Lord have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us.
Christ have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us.
Lord have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us.
Christ hear us, Christ graciously hear us.
Holy Mary, pray for us.
Saint Cassian of Imola, pray for us.
Blessed Leonella Sgorbati, pray for us.
Saint Agatha Lin, pray for us.
Saint Albert the Great, pray for us.
Saint Francis de Sales, pray for us.
Saint John Cantius, pray for us.
Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, pray for us.
Saint Joseph Calasanz, pray for us.
Saint John Baptiste de la Salle, pray for us.
Saint Kuriakose Elias Chavara, pray for us.
Saint John Bosco, pray for us.
Saint John Henry Newman, pray for us.
Saint Miguel Febres Cordero, pray for us.
Blessed Jutta of Disibodenberg, pray for us.
Saint Angela Merici, pray for us.
Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, pray for us.
Saint Mary Helen MacKillop, pray for us.
Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, pray for us.
Saint Katharine Drexel, pray for us.
Blessed Contardo Ferrini, pray for us.
You called your saints to serve you in your Church
by teaching their fellow man the way of salvation.
Inspire us by their example:
Help us to follow Christ our teacher,
and lead us to our brothers and sisters in heaven.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
One God, forever and ever.
(The Litany of Saints for Teachers comes from Blessed is She. The closing prayer comes from the Common of Holy Men and Women; for Saints who were Teachers.)
Katie Gillett comes from a family of educators, musicians, and mountaineers. She studied Theatre at Vanderbilt University (BA ‘20) and now teaches Music and Latin at St. Therese Catholic Classical School in Aurora, CO. Outside of school, she enjoys singing in the schola at Denver’s beautiful Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, spending time with her family, reading good books, and exploring the incredible Rocky Mountains.
[Originally published March 22, 2023]