This is the sixth in a series of articles introducing the 17 members of the Archdiocesan Synod Implementation Commission (ASIC). In addition to this group, all of whom were appointed by Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki and which meets quarterly, the commission includes four ex-officio members: the  archbishop; Randy Nohl, archdiocesan director of synod implementation; Barbara Anne Cusack, archdiocesan chancellor; and Rich Harter, director of the John Paul II Center for the New Evangelization.

As principals of Catholic elementary schools and members of the Archdiocesan Synod Implementation Commission (ASIC), Mary Tretow and Jeanne Bitkers realize the responsibility they have for forming disciples, and how the environments they oversee are conducive to evangelization.

Tretow, principal at St. Mary’s Visitation School, Elm Grove, is clear about her responsibilities.Jeanne Bitkers

“My job is to create Catholic leaders,” she said, noting that included helping students integrate faith into their daily lives.

Shortly before last Christmas, her school began a “teaching Mass” for its second- through eighth- graders, which Tretow described as “awesome.”

“We have to go back to (teaching) what the Mass means,” she said. “We go every week and sometimes it’s rote.”
Recalling it was a great experience for the kids, Tretow sees it as having value for adults.

“It gave a whole new meaning to the Mass,” she said.Mary Tretow

Noting that she works with families of 3- and 4-year-olds, Tretow said Catholic schools are on the front line of young families – “a lot of young families to be welcomed. They know they want Catholic education for their children,” she said. “Catholic schools are an important part of evangelization.”

Like Tretow, Bitkers is emphatic in describing the role of Catholic schools in evangelization.

Catholic schools should be seen as places where vocations grow, she said, noting that children at Shepherd of the Hills School, Eden, where she is principal, learn to be cantors and lectors at Mass.

Bitkers, vice chairperson of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council, said Catholic schools are “building the future of the church day in and day out.”

“We need them to help us form our students,” she said. “Vocations are coming from our Catholic schools.”
Bitkers, a delegate at the archdiocese’s 1987 synod and the 2014 synod, said “discipleship is a critical stepping off point” in implementation of its priorities.

“What does it mean to be a disciple in this day and age?” she said, adding that evangelization must be done individually, in families and in schools.

Bitkers said it is “critical” for people to know what is happening in the Mass and sacraments.

“We can talk about what is happening. We need to embrace it,” she said. “How can we help people understand it?”

Bitkers noted that the “commonality of goals” provided by the synod were “useful and helpful,” but one thing in particular would have an impact in evangelization.

“If we all could, as a Catholic community, share a bit more of how we’ve seen God work in our lives, we’d be better disciples at sharing the Word.”

She added, “Whenever people come together and share and look to build the Kingdom of God, good things happen.”