July saw Cana Academy on the road to Colorado where president Andrew Zwerneman pitched our Cana Classical Guides to some leaders in the charter school movement and participated in the Regional Conference for the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education, held mostly at the University of Denver. There, he presented on how to lead discussions on great books and directed a seminar on fiction for twenty classical school teachers. Each contribution was based on our Cana Classical Guides, A Lively Kind of Learning: Mastering the Seminar Method and Teaching Fiction from the Inside Out.
Cana Academy conducted its latest VISIONS seminar in July as well. The program, presented to the residents at the ecumenical Christian community Hubbard Hill in Elkhart, Indiana, focused on the Italian painter Caravaggio and his masterful way of imagining the Bible with light, darkness, and drama. The discussion of the Caravaggio paintings was so lively that the program actually went a bit overtime—a first in our seven-month run at Hubbard Hill. One resident who has attended every one of the Cana seminars designed for seniors says that “VISIONS is our favorite event at Hubbard Hill each month.” Another resident who attends regularly describes the value that the Cana presentations afford her: “I did not go to college. That’s why I come to these VISIONS programs.”
We are fully moved into our headquarters in Falls Church, Virginia. High atop an office complex owned by the Falls Church Anglican Church, our suite is now refurbished with fresh paint and flooring, outfitted with furniture and art, and serving our mission well.
While we have conducted a number of Cana Table Seminars elsewhere, we held our first one in the new headquarters just this past week. The mission team from Saint Philip Catholic Church—two pastors, a visiting priest, a seminarian in residence, the music minister, the facilities manager, the financial officer, the religious instruction director, and two parish secretaries—joined us for a seminar on Flannery O’Connor’s short story, “Revelation.” The discussion was lively and fun and led everyone to a better understanding of the story and of our humanity.
It also fulfilled one of Cana’s purposes. “When we founded Cana Academy,” explains Zwerneman, “one of our goals was to support mission teams. We wanted to help them deepen their understanding of the human condition and to bond as teams who serve their communities and neighbors.”
Commenting on how the seminar helped build team spirit, St. Philip’s facilities manager Tim Harris said it allowed him to “see a different side of [his] coworkers.” Harris gave the seminar an “Excellent” rating and found the new Cana headquarters “Beautiful!” As another participant from St. Philip’s observed, “The seminar brought us together in an intellectual way that is typically not experienced in the office. This allows team members to show a depth of character and personality that is not always visible.” St. Philip’s pastor, Fr. Denis Donahue, called the event “a time of insight, beauty and joy.” Like his two colleagues quoted earlier, he learned something new about the mission team he leads: “[T]he discussion was so different than our usual staff interactions, we had the chance to grow in appreciation of each other.”
The seminar approach Cana Academy used, poring over two pages of the story at a time and carefully examining the physical and psychological inventory, was new and helpful for the participants. As Donahue commented, that plan for discussion “assisted [the participants] in noting the significance of the details in short stories. I was not aware of this ‘detail-centered’ approach before, but... I plan on using it in my future reading of literature.”
Donahue especially valued how the Cana Table Seminar strengthened the St. Philip mission team in a unique way: It “provided the chance for all of us to share our thoughts, which unlocked the significance of the story while also revealing something about ourselves. Truly an afternoon of ‘revelations’! There are not many places where you can engage in this kind of activity.”
Cana Academy’s Joe Wood has been traveling and teaching in Slovakia. Check out the beautiful photographs he recently sent while on the road there. Joe has also been networking with potential allies in the effort to support persecuted Christians abroad.
In August, Cornerstone, an Evangelical school that operates in one of the poorest parts of Washington, D.C., and serves a predominantly African-American student body in grades one through twelve, will be sending nine of their teachers to us for professional development. Cana Academy will provide four services: Andrew Zwerneman will conduct a workshop on how to teach history. He will also run a coaching session on how to plan out a humanities course consisting of ancient and medieval history and literature. Then Jeannette DeCelles-Zwerneman will run a workshop on how to teach literature and conduct a seminar on a piece of fiction.
We hope you are encouraged by the news from Cana Academy. Let us know how we can help you build the best culture.
Picture of VISIONS seminar by Tim Henke. Pictures of Slovakia by Joseph Wood. All other photographs by Helen DeCelles-Zwerneman