Monday, November 24, 2014

Breakfast serves up faith, challenge to lead by example

By BOBBY BURCH, Herald Staff Writer | 3/8/2013

Similar to the sun igniting the stained glass above her, one Catholic school official sought Friday to illuminate a path to both spiritually and practically enrich children’s lives during the Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast in Ottawa.

Dr. Kathleen O’Hara, superintendent of schools at the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kan., implored city and Franklin County officials, as well as local residents in attendance, to actively engage their kids, and to lead them by example.

Similar to the sun igniting the stained glass above her, one Catholic school official sought Friday to illuminate a path to both spiritually and practically enrich children’s lives during the Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast in Ottawa.

Dr. Kathleen O’Hara, superintendent of schools at the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kan., implored city and Franklin County officials, as well as local residents in attendance, to actively engage their kids, and to lead them by example.

“The best way to convey a message, is to be the best messenger,” O’Hara, who boasts more than 34 years of educational experience, said during the breakfast at Sacred Heart Catholic Church Parish Center, 426 S. Cedar St., Ottawa. “Children need to know that, in order to be good people, and therefore good leaders, that they have intrinsic worth. That doesn’t mean [children] can go around and be little hellions and be uncorrected. But they have to be brought up to know the security and civility of the adults in their lives who believe in them and believe that they are children of God.”

To open the breakfast, which included about 100 people, Ottawa mayor Blake Jorgensen commented on the good fortune Ottawa has encountered in the past year. Ranging from new, widened sidewalks and a new airport runway, Jorgensen highlighted a few of the city’s successful projects in addition to welcoming several companies for which residents should be thankful.

“We’ve got a vibrant community,” Jorgensen said, noting quality schools, a variety of local retailers and fun entertainment in the area. “We are truly blessed within our community.”

After attendees grabbed their breakfasts, which observed the Catholic tradition of no meat on Fridays during Lent, Natalie Wrobel, Sacred Heart principal, and Meg Dickinson, the school’s music instructor, serenaded guests as they ate. The duet sang “You will never walk alone,” harmonizing often while performing the tune, which is written by the group Point of Grace.

Following breakfast, the Rev. Kim Wilcox, of North Baptist Church, read from 1st Corinthians, sharing scripture apt for synergy amongst officials representing various organizations.  

“For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ,” the Rev. Wilcox read. “The eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee. Nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. ... There should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it.”

The message seemed to resonate well with the sentiments of O’Hara, who began speaking after Jorgensen recognized the dozen or so elected officials in attendance. Also citing several verses from the Bible, O’Hara first opened with a brief history of her family, which previously lived in Pennsylvania.

Along with her husband of 37 years, O’Hara, who earned a master’s degree from Kansas State University, has five children and recently welcomed her 13th grandchild.

During her address, O’Hara largely focused on how to develop faith-filled leaders. It starts with parents leading their children by example, she said.

“I think first and foremost, we must teach our children and show our children our own faith,” O’Hara said. “Hope comes from faith. And children can only have good coping skills in life if they have hope. If they don’t have faith they can’t have hope because faith and hope are linked to the eternal. Things might not be going so well in this world but there’s always the next world and we need to send that message to our children all the time because that will give them the security that they need in life to develop their God-given talents.”

In addition to leading with action, O’Hara asked that parents also teach their children understanding and benevolence to those who differ from their ideas. In addition to not passing judgment, O’Hara added, parents must have enough courage to embrace those whose actions or beliefs conflict with their own standard conventions.

“It’s easy when you’re a leader to affirm those that follow everything you say; that are just like you. It’s easy to be kind and charitable to people that do not disagree with you ever,” O’Hara said. “God knows that we know that’s easy and that’s not what He is challenging us to do. He’s saying that you have to love those who maybe you don’t think are so lovable. And, by the way, have you looked in the mirror lately? Are you that lovable yourself? That’s what we need to teach our children.”

Perhaps most importantly, O’Hara said, parents must stay involved in their children’s lives. Consistently holding family dinners, she said, is one way that parents can stay active with and informed of their children’s day-to-day lives, in addition to imparting their example for kids to learn.

“The point is to be present we cannot give our kids the love and security if we are not present to them. I talk to people all the time about quality time versus quantity time ... but research has shown time and again, and it’s in the Bible also, we have to be present. And kids respond to connections. ... Family time, family dinners and prayer together — all these things those things that you and I were raised with — are for some reason getting shortchanged. We need to be present.”

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