Charles Bohnak is an English teacher at Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin High School in Chardon, Ohio. He is a participant in Generative Spirit’s Ministry Leadership Program, designed to connect young professional employees of sister-founded schools with a member of the school’s sponsoring congregation. We invited Charles to reflect on his experience working alongside the sisters.
“Luke, when gone am I, the last of the Jedi will you be…pass on what you have learned.”
The words of Master Yoda in Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi echo a familiar understanding between teacher and pupil that exists with all traditions: what is learned must be passed on; otherwise, what is held important can be lost forever. But the concept of passing on traditions and knowledge is not isolated to movies or classrooms. Many cultures around the world practice this ideology, and even in my own family, certain traditions, stories, and recipes have been handed down from generation to generation. This all comes from the idea that what is held to be most important must never be lost to time.
Yet, carrying out this work is a task that requires effort on both ends. Knowledge must be passed from one hand to the other. This is where there is a bridge between the generations; both sides meet, walk for a time with each other, and eventually, the next generation carries the tradition and knowledge forward.
The Ministry Leadership Program is one of these bridges between the generations. It allows two different generations to come together, share ideas, learn traditions and values, and then transform the vision to fit a world that is constantly changing and evolving. I am always amazed as I listen to the stories of the sisters and learn about their vision, values, and traditions.
I remember a specific moment when the sisters were discussing issues relating to the changing representation of faith traditions in Catholic schools. As their dialogue unfolded, the younger members of the group began to chime in with ideas and thoughts of their own. What followed was a brainstorming session between two different generations about how to retain what is essential and most valuable while being cognizant of the changing times and landscape of Catholic education.
I remember being inspired by the collaboration that I was seeing unfold right in front of me. It truly was a moment where two different generations met and walked with each other; the older generation passing on ideas and knowledge, and the younger generation listening, reflecting, and then joining the conversation with new ideas and a transformation of the knowledge, beginning to ready themselves for the moment when they must carry on the traditions and conversations on their own.
This is only one moment, and yet, this is why being a part of the Ministry Leadership Program is important to me. Without discussion, without listening, without sharing ideas, traditions, and values, we lose something that can never be replaced: knowledge and collaboration. I fear the day when we lose sight of the fact that we are in the presence of something that may not be around forever, when we lose the drive to learn something from that experience, and when we lose the passion to want to pass on what we have learned. Being a part of a program like this allows me to mitigate those fears for my generation, and build meaningful relationships in the process. It allows me to listen and to learn, but most importantly, this experience is allowing me to better understand what I need to do in order to keep the faith and vision of the religious sisters alive and a part of our Catholic institutions and world; it has given me a space where I can reflect and grow so that one day I can pass on the traditions, values, and conversations, that are so important to the religious sisters, to the next generation.