At All Saints Catholic School in Davenport, Eileen O’Brien works to make her classroom a community of faith.
Students pray for each other’s intentions, discuss vocations, learn about a “saint of the day,” talk about readings and the homily from a recent Sunday Mass, and take part in school service projects.
“Even behavior issues are approached from the standpoint of respect and love for one another, as God created and loves us all. Love, forgiveness and suffering are all seen with the eyes of faith,” O’Brien said.
She teaches various subjects, including religion, to fifth- and sixth-graders at All Saints, where she’s worked for seven years. She previously taught for six years at Sacred Heart School in Davenport, and at Catholic schools in Illinois and Maryland.
“Teaching here is very fulfilling for me,” said O’Brien, who is a graduate of parochial schools, a daughter of a late deacon and sister of a priest in Washington, D.C. “I believe in Catholic schools so much. They offer so many opportunities for students to grow in their faith. Certainly there is religion class, but there is so much more.”
She says it is wonderful to see students taking leadership roles at school Masses by serving as lectors, readers or gift-bearers, or by offering prayer intentions. Each week a different class prepares and leads at Mass. There is a student choir as well.
In her class, “We have been following with great interest the beatification of Pope John Paul ll.” It’s powerful for students to see the beatification of someone who lived during their lifetime, O’Brien said. “It challenges us all that we, too, are called to be saints.”
In addition to teaching, she serves as a parish council member, lector and volunteer for social events at Holy Family Parish in Davenport. She hopes adults’ role modeling inspires youths.
“By the end of the school year, I hope students will have grown in their relationship with God, in their faith and in knowledge. I hope they will pray, participate in Mass more fully and with greater awareness, and realize their faith is an important part of their daily lives.”