Jon Leonetti addresses Utah Catholic educators

Friday, Mar. 17, 2023
Jon Leonetti addresses Utah Catholic educators + Enlarge
Teachers and staff members were recognized by their schools as Outstanding Employees 2023 at Utah Catholic Schools Diocesan Educator Day.
By Linda Petersen
Intermountain Catholic

DRAPER — Staff from Catholic schools across the diocese gathered at Skaggs Catholic Center on March 10 for Utah Catholic Schools Diocesan Educator Day.

The event began with a Mass at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church. Bishop Oscar A. Solis presided. Father Martin Diaz, rector of the Cathedral of the Madeleine, and Father Steven Tilley, pastor for the Skaggs Center, concelebrated. Deacon Jeremy Castellano and Deacon Lynn Johnson assisted.

In his homily, Bishop Solis praised the work of Catholic educators. “We thank and honor all our teachers and staff for your special mission and dedication in helping shape and form the minds, the hearts, as well as the soul, in supporting children under your care,” he said, adding that all students need “to become intelligent, be knowledgeable of the world, but most importantly, to gain the wisdom to know more about God,” he said.

“Today, allow me to recognize your dedication and commitment, because when you work with us in the Church, you become ministers of the gospel,” he said.

Educators serve the Church community as partners “in a very special mission of proclaiming the Gospel of love in some ways, especially for kids, to their families, and to our society,” he added.

The keynote speaker for the day was Jon Leonetti, best-selling author and radio host. He discussed two questions he believes are at the core of humankind’s quest for happiness: Who God is and why understanding that should matter to his children. A former seminarian, Leonetti shared thoughts from Pope John Paul II and the second-century Christian theologian St. Irenaeus on the nature of God and humankind’s relationship with him.

Pope John Paul II said “we have ordered ourselves to the wrong things, things that are less than us,” and humans look for happiness in all the wrong places, he said. As men and women seek status, money or worldly possessions, their lives are filled with “if onlys” – those things that they think will make them happy if only they are realized, he said.

By contrast, Pope John Paul II teaches that only “when we reorder ourselves to [God], we finally reestablish what it is that has been broken through our own sin,” Leonetti said.

St. Irenaeus, a Doctor of the Church, declared that the true nature of God is that of a loving being who does not need mankind but nevertheless seeks to bring humans joy, Leonetti said.

In his preaching St. Irenaeus would ultimately end by saying that God doesn’t gain anything from people, “that you and I add nothing to God,” Leonetti said. “All the glory and honor you give to God adds nothing to the glory and honor of which he is.”

“Irenaeus says that the reason you’re here, and that I’m here, is that we have a God who is a God of love,” Leonetti told the educators. “You have an incredible weight that has been given to you by God, because it is you that are educating or modeling for your students. God has given you to model that very love.”

After Leonetti’s presentation, 85 employees who have worked in the Utah Catholic Schools were recognized for five-year milestone anniversaries from five to 45 years. John Colosimo of the Skaggs Catholic Center has served in Utah Catholic Schools for 45 years. Outstanding employees from each school also were honored. They were Kealey Johnson, Natalie Jenkins, Beth Walz, Dr. Dasch Houdeshel, Kyra Hester, Christina Dignam, Melinda Earhart, Sara Lemcke, Susanne Bashford, Jamie Thomas, Gina Parker, Kathleen Treadway, Terry Warfield, Rose Ybaben, Bonnie Neal, Jill Moffatt, Dan Janiga, Rachel Nemelka, Kristina Baker and Anne Wiley.

After a shared lunch at the high school, those who attended also participated in breakout sessions.

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