Power of Prayer: Healing Hearts and Minds Program at St. Gregory Cathedral School
The class helps students develop a Christian worldview by understanding what it means to act with virtue.
TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - An East Texas Christian school is taking a new approach to helping kids navigate the challenges of growing up. Students at St. Gregory Cathedral School in Tyler are tackling tough conversations while exploring their faith together.
The elementary school students receive regular instruction in mental health from Sister Josephine Garrett. A Sister of the Holy Family of Nazareth, she designed the Healing Hearts and Minds Program as part of her ministry.
“I wanted it to be formative in nature, like the guidance curriculum. To not just be like teaching mental health skills or resiliency skills, calming strategies, things like that. But to have at its basis, something to form these kids.”
Sister Garrett holds a Masters degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling from the Chicago School of Professional Psychology and is a Nationally Certified Counselor and a Licensed Professional Counselor Intern in the State of Texas.
Pre-K through 2nd Grade receive bimonthly instruction, while grades 3 through 5 visit her classroom each week.
“Our kids are trying to figure out who they are, who they are in the world, how they fit in the world, what’s true about the world.”
The class helps them develop a Christian worldview by understanding what it means to act with virtue.
4th grader Joshua Klaus says the classroom’s fun environment makes it easier to open up.
“She gave me tips that could really help in the outside world.”
Practical tools and solutions apply to the lives of the children. Activities and curriculum often incorporate acting-out common campus situations.
4th grader Charlotte Krog says Sister Josephine helps create a safe space of understanding.
“If somebody’s being really mean to you or somebody’s like bullying you. You can just go to her to help you get confidence to like tell your parents or like tell a teacher.”
This process involves building trust. Sister Josephine says it’s okay for students and their parents to not have answers to every issue.
“I’ll tell people sometimes you have to commit a little heresy on your way to the truth. So spaces where they can kind of mess up in their thinking so that they can learn to think.”
The students’ teacher Debbie Calhoun, an educator of more than 30 years, accompanies the class during counseling instruction. She’s ready to support these lessons back in the classroom.
“God told us to have faith like a child. And when you hear the children talk about different things, it’s black and white, pretty much, to them. And it makes you think about how things sometimes just need to be black and white. And we have a whole lot of gray in our society that’s hard to filter out.”
Kate Coan, a 4th grader, says the classroom activities help keep her focused.
“You are on a path to go to heaven. And there is a guardian angel helping you. And Jesus is guiding you. But there is always going to be voices trying to distract you.”
Parents are involved, as well. The school produces newsletters, videos, and online resources for a variety of topics.
“I’ll hear parents sometimes say, ‘I don’t need to talk with my children about their sexuality, about pornography, about Internet safety until middle school or high school,’” Sister Josephine said. “Well that conclusion is based on outdated research and evidence. It’s no longer the reality of our times.”
In partnership with the school’s religion department, students’ success stories are recognized publicly. Those who lead in pursuing virtue are nominated by teachers, then reviewed by Sister Josephine before being shared across campus.
“I have a lot of hope because their minds are good. Their hearts are good,” Sister Josephine said. “The important thing is to make spaces for these like minds and hearts to grow and be formed.”
Working to form people of faith, Sister Josephine draws on her own experiences as a convert to the Catholic faith. Prior to discerning a vocation to Religious Life, Sister Josephine worked in the banking industry. She still utilizes motivational skills from the corporate world.
“I think sometimes people are afraid to like walk through a door that God’s calling them through because I have to put something down that’s a treasure, that feels like a treasure. But God’s going to bring the treasure through the door with you. I just don’t ever believe it’ll be wasted. It’ll just be used in a different way.”
Parent workshops, individual counseling, and small group counseling services are also available as part of the comprehensive approach.
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