Twice a month, my students look forward to a visit from our associate pastor, Father Vincent. I am so glad my school makes it a priority to have a priestly presence in our halls. In my 12 years of teaching, three different priests have taken the time to visit my classes. Their 20-minute visits offer my students three benefits: the priests bring their unique perspectives, they are very good with show and tell, and they show us that priests are all regular guys. These visits nurture their relationships with the students, which in turn nurtures the students’ relationships with the Church.
Father Vincent Sungeti was born in Kenya. He loves to share the traditional animal tales from his culture. He then expertly ties them into a Gospel story. This is a perfect teaching tool for third graders. We also love his tactic to get students back on task. He will call out, “God is good,” and my students will respond, “All the time!” I don’t know how much they trained Father Vincent in the seminary on how to manage a third-grade classroom, but Father Vincent is a natural, and he has taught me a lesson in classroom discipline.
Before Father Vincent came to our parish, Father James Weeder was our associate pastor. Father Weeder brought us his perspective of growing up on a farm. Every fall he would return to the family farm and help with the harvest. Each time he returned, he shared a video, which was always a huge hit with my class. They loved the big machinery and learning more about farming culture. Father Weeder would also stay and have lunch with us after his visits. The children clamored to invite Father Weeder to sit with them—shouts of “over here, Father” could be heard throughout the cafeteria. My favorite memory of Father Weeder was when he joined us at recess after a big snowfall and slid down the hill with us—he wore his farm coveralls and brought a tractor-tire inner tube!
Father Jeff Mollner was another associate pastor who made it a priority to visit the school children. You could tell he loved teaching the faith to children. He would often bring something to the school from the church. One time, he discovered an abandoned set of bells once used during the Eucharistic Prayer. He carefully restored the bells and brought them to show the children. They loved being able to ring the bells, especially since children cannot be altar servers until they reach sixth grade. Father Jeff grew up in the same city as my students. He shared stories of growing up and spending time with his grandfather who owned a local bottling company that bottled Goody Pop. His lessons always taught us the value of spending time with family.
If your school doesn’t take advantage of your parish priests visiting your classroom, please ask them to stop by your classroom now and then. These short visits are enriching to both the students and to the teacher.