If you missed the Keep on Teaching Workshop held Sept. 13, you missed a catechetical moment of great proportion.
Keep on Teaching is a workshop held every year on the second Saturday of September. Its theme is taken from Acts 20:7-12, including the story of Eutychus who went to a late meeting to hear Paul speak and teach. Eutychus was sitting in a window when he got sleepy, fell three stories down and died. Paul threw himself on him and hugged Eutychus back to life. Thus the name of this workshop’s origin and its encouragement – “to keep on teaching until the dead come back to life again.”
Keep On Teaching is presented by the Archdiocese of Baltimore, through the Office of African American Catholic Ministries, whose director is Therese Wilson Favors. It is co-sponsored by the Division of Evangelization and Catechesis. The workshop always revolves around a theme, and this year’s theme was “Looking at the Letters of St. Paul through the Lens of Black Spirituality.”
Always, the workshop begins with a prayer service and a roll call that is designed to inspire and engage the crowd, putting one in a positive frame of mind – “un uh, we’re in the right place baby.” We found out later that we were 165 people strong.
Each year a guest scholar is designated to explore the theme for the year. This year’s speaker was Dr. C. Vanessa White. After looking at her credentials, I was prepared for a very formal presentation. After all, she is associate professor of spirituality and director of the Augustus Tolton Pastoral Ministry Program, which is a theological and pastoral formation program for African-American Catholics pursuing graduate study at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. She is a member of the summer faculty and coordinator of spiritual formation at Xavier University of Louisiana’s Institute for Black Catholic Studies, as well as adjunct faculty at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. Dr. White is a former director of the Claretian Volunteers and Lay Missionaries, as well as former director of high school retreats at the Christian Brothers’ LaSalle Manor Retreat Center. In 2005, she received her Doctor of Ministry degree with a concentration in spirituality from Catholic Theological Union. In addition, she is co-editor of the book “Songs of the Heart and Meditations of the Soul: Prayers for Black Catholics” and contributing author in the book “Liturgy and Justice.”
When she stood up to speak, I found out that she is an excellent teacher, engaging the heart and mind of students, and one who was more interested in my learning than in showing off her credentials. Like St. Paul, she taught so that others could understand.
My new learning included the three versions of Paul’s conversion story, all found in Acts (9:3-19, 22:6-16, and 26:12-18). I also learned that just like St. Paul, we have a conversion story and that some, like St. Paul’s, are dramatic, while others are longer and more drawn out.
Dr. White taught about St. Paul by exploring his four journeys throughout the world, using the Book of Acts as our guide, and how Paul’s last journey was involuntary and led to his death. She walked us through some of the books of St. Paul, illustrating their similarities and differences. She spoke about St. Paul’s sentiments of women, and about the habits of St. Paul that we might want to incorporate into our lives: being God-centered, being rooted in the word, being thankful and joyful with prayer and gratitude, being spirit-filled (letting go and letting God), being both person and community focused, being justice-oriented and being bold in witness.
Will I go to Keep on Teaching next year? Absolutely! Why? Keep on Teaching is a great day of food and fellowship with good people who are of one accord, and it is a great learning experience, complete with a manual written by fellow Catholics from the Naimah Outreach.
Joyce Logan is a member and catechist at historic St. Francis Xavier in Baltimore.