Gary Diocese Bishop Donald Hying thanked more than 425 Catholic school educators for their commitment to sharing their faith at St. Michael Catholic Church during an in-diocesan professional development seminar Thursday and returned for a special meeting with principals and pastors.

"Our teachers are doing inspiring work, and it's important for me to let them how much they are valued," Hying said. "I wanted to remind them of Pope Francis's message and about his upcoming year of mercy."

Bishop Hying encouraged them to stay "available, visible and vulnerable to Christ's mission."

Bishop Hying's wasn't the only message educators heard Thursday. The keynote speaker was Sheryl Dwyer, the National Center for Teaching Thinking's managing director. Her message focused on teacher impact.

"Teaching is about cultivating relationships," Dwyer said. "Our first goal is to make the classroom more welcoming. If you take anything from today, think about how to engage your students to feel more welcomed."

Dwyer also highlighted the Catholic schools' mission to share education through spirituality.

"The most rewarding part of teaching is that I get to take our faith and make it relevant to my students," said Brooke Fowler, Andrean theology and philosophy teacher. "I enjoy my time with my students, because they have so much energy and faith. Every day is a blessing."

St. Stanislaus second grade teacher Elizabeth Gutierrez believes Bishop Hying has been well received since coming to the diocese in January because of his compassion and leadership.

"Bishop Hying is very motivating, and it's great to feel that support by the head of our diocese," Gutierrez said.

"I personally feel validated because he reminds us that we are answering a calling. He has led by example by visiting all of the schools in our diocese and that is building community."

After lunch, Bishop Hying's visit became more administrative as he met with  principals and pastors to discuss challenging topics such as administrator and teacher salaries, school vouchers and parishioner expectations.

"We have to break down the silos of parochialism," Bishop Hying said.

"We have to come together and support each others' efforts. If we don't do that, we will see school by school, church by church being phased out, and nobody wants that."

"Bishop Hying's message is very moving," said Donovan Garletts, Notre Dame Michigan City Catholic School principal. "He leads by example and has a way of rallying the troops and making us proud to do battle. At the end of the day, we are all in this to empower students and share our spirituality. "

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