St. Pius Teacher One of Two Archdiocesan Educators to Visit Israel in July
Theresa Johnson of St. Pius and Brenda Chee Wah of St. Peter Claver Regional Catholic High School traveled to the country to complete a two-year program.
Theresa Johnson, teacher of Hebrew Scripture and Christian Testament at St. Pius X Catholic High School, and Brenda Chee Wah, religion coordinator for St. Peter Claver Regional Catholic School, recently returned from Israel after participating in the Bearing Witness Advanced Program this summer. The program, which is sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League as well as the May and Samuel Rudin Family Foundation, is a professional development opportunity for Catholic school educators in the United States.
Johnson and Chee Wah joined 17 other participants from the United States to complete the two-year program which culminated in the trip to Israel. Both ladies visited sites sacred to Jews and Christians such as the Old City of Jerusalem, Nazareth, the Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee. The group also visited the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Western (or Wailing) Wall, the Mount of the Beatitudes, Capernaum, Tabgha and the Golan Heights.
"This journey to Israel truly was a pilgrimage. We shared laughter and tears. It's hard to say what moved me the most: the Arab and Jewish children playing together at the Community Center in Jaffa or the Children's Holocaust Memorial at Yad Vashem, prayer at the Western Wall or Mass at the Mount of Beatitudes. It was a transformational journey," Johnson said. "I look forward to sharing these many experiences with my students and colleagues."
St. Pius has now had three educators travel to Israel with Dennis Ruggiero and Carrie Stockard participating in 2005 and 2009, respectively. Chee Wah is the first member of the faculty at St. Peter Claver to make the trip.
"Israel will be ever embedded in my memory, to read the Scriptures about – the wall of the temple in Jerusalem and to really walk and see the walls; to walk along the Sea of Galilee knowing that Jesus walked along this same shore is a humbling experience," Chee Wah said.
The program is offered through application to teachers in Catholic schools throughout the region. The Bearing Witness program seeks to provide educators with the opportunity to gain firsthand knowledge of Israel against the backdrop of Jewish History, the Holocaust, Jewish-Catholic Relations, modern Israeli politics and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Due to the overwhelming success of the original Bearing Witness program, an advanced course of study was instituted in 2005. This extension of Bearing Witness, which allows educators the opportunity to extend their learning, includes a trip to Israel where participants hear from resident scholars and are afforded the chance to visit sites sacred to Jews and Christians. Participants are graduates of regional Bearing Witness programs held across the nation.