Ss. Robert & William Catholic School Teacher Chosen as Bearing Witness Participant
Junior High religion teacher, Patrice Garuckas, from Ss. Robert and William Catholic School was selected from a large pool of applicants from across the country to participate in an intensive week of study in Washington, D.C. this past July. The program called the Eileen Ludwig Greenland National Bearing Witness Institute was started in 1995. The purpose of the program is to train teachers about the impact of the Holocaust, the history and resurgence of Anti-Semitism, the relationship between the Jews and the Catholics, and ways to combat prejudice and bigotry in the modern world. This nationally renowned program is sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League, the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the National Catholic Educational Association, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and Georgetown University. Forty Catholic school educators were chosen for this program based upon their applications, essays, and recommendations. Their week-long endeavor included studies and trips to the United States Holocaust Museum, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington Hebrew Congregation, the Israeli Embassy, the Romanian Embassy, and Georgetown University.
Classes at Georgetown were conducted by Rabbi David Sandmel, Director of Interfaith Affairs at the Anti-Defamation League, and Fr. Dennis McManus, Associate Professor and Director of the Jan Karski Institute for Holocaust and Genocide Studies. Rabbi Sandmel and Fr. McManus explored the complex relationship between Jews and Catholics and the recent changes in Catholic teachings on Judaism. Participants were also honored to meet and speak with Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, D.C., who reiterated Fr. McManus’s message of learning lessons from the Holocaust to eliminate hatred and bigotry in present times. He stressed the urgency of taking these lessons into our classrooms. History cannot repeat itself in allowing other cases of discrimination and genocide to happen. Fr. McManus firmly commanded the teachers by stating, “You must not fail.”
In July of this year, Pope Francis visited the infamous Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp where 1.1 million people, mostly Jews, lost their lives. The Pope reacted to his visit with the following statement: “This is a world which is desperately in need of a wise message, of being reminded of the fundamental human truths. Auschwitz and the tragedy of the Holocaust sensitize us acutely to these issues.”
The collaboration between Fr. McManus and Rabbi Sandmel in presenting the material of Bearing Witness illustrates the necessity of interfaith relations in creating a world free from intolerance and discrimination. Patrice Garuckas and the other teachers who attended the Bearing Witness Institute are now compelled to teach the Holocaust as an event which must never be forgotten and as a lesson for our future generations that bigotry left unchecked leads to a poisonous climate and devastating tragedies. Fostering a sense of community, understanding, and acceptance will assure a happier, move loving future for all people.
Director of Development & Discipleship, Ss. Robert & William Parish; President of the Euclid Hunger Center