Our Latest Initiative: September, 2017

September saw Cana working in five states.

Director of Instruction, Jeannette DeCelles-Zwerneman, ran a day of professional development for the humanities faculty of The Wilberforce School in Princeton, New Jersey. She trained them in how to teach imaginative and non-fictional literature, utilizing three sessions: an introduction to leading seminars, a seminar on Raymond Carver’s short story, “A Small Good Thing,” and the first part of John Locke’s most important work on politics, The Second Treatise on Civil Government. Joshua Young, one of the veteran humanities teachers at Wilberforce, reports that “[t]he Cana Teacher Workshop helped me get a clearer vision for what I teach, as well as some practical ideas that I could incorporate into the classroom.” Dr. Karen Ristuccia, Dean of Instruction for the school, appreciated how the Cana “workshop offered an experienced voice for some new teachers—giving guidance and encouragement.”

The September VISIONS program at Hubbard Hill Retirement Community got the largest audience to date, as Cana’s Operations Manager and Artistic Director, Helen DeCelles-Zwerneman, presented on Amazing Grace: America’s Favorite Hymn. Helen took the Hubbard Hill community through the history of the hymn, connected as it is to the slave trade, the abolition movement in England, and American history from the 1800s to today. The presentation covered the life and faith of John Newton, the former slave ship captain turned Evangelical preacher and composer of hymns. The audience delighted at archived recordings of early twentieth-century American individuals and choirs singing versions of the beloved song. Accompanied on piano by her sister, Julia DeCelles-Zwerneman, Helen led the Hubbard Hill residents in a singalong of “Amazing Grace” at the end of the program. Everyone was blessed.

Mary Frances Loughran, Cana’s Director of Writing and creator of our outreach to shelters, returned to Mary’s Shelter for the start of another year of seminars on the Bible and freedom. According to Mary Frances, after handing out brand new Bibles to the residents, she introduced them to “basics of the Bible: Why read it? Who is Jesus and why should we care?” After that, she “gave them some practical basics: Old Testament and New Testament, what are the gospels, why are there four, etc. Then I gave them a list of questions and encouraging scripture passages.” The women love the Bibles, and they love Cana’s team—Mary Frances and her partner for these seminars, Jeannette DeCelles-Zwerneman.

Cana Academy’s Andrew Zwerneman visited The Mount Academy in Esopus, New York. “My main objective,” Andrew explains, “was to see how the school teaches industrial arts,” a focus not normally included in the Cana classical mission.  

The reason for this unusual turn is that Cana Academy is consulting with the Franciscan Friars of the Holy Spirit, who live and work just south of Phoenix, Arizona, on the Gila River Indian Reservation and among the Pima tribe. The Friars are going to open a high school, and they want not only Great Books, a specialty of Cana’s team, but also industrial arts. “I needed a vision for what that might look in the reservation school,” says Andrew, “and it so happens that I have friends at The Mount Academy and the Christian community that runs it—the Bruderhof.” In addition to a core curriculum of liberal arts courses, the Mount faculty and Bruderhof train their students in a range of more practical arts like wood shop, welding, and pottery making.

Wood shop at The Mount Academy

Wood shop at The Mount Academy

A week after visiting The Mount Academy, Andrew spent a day on the Gila reservation, visiting the elementary school there directed by Franciscan nuns. “The Pima Tribe has great kids, and the sisters at St. Peter’s are doing a wonderful job giving them a peaceful, joyful learning environment where their minds, faith, and friendships can develop. It is going to be a real blessing when the Friars open the high school. We at Cana are so honored to play some role in this beautiful work.”

St. John the Baptist Mission High School in Laveen, Arizona, opens in the fall of 2019.


Images of Hubbard Hill presentation by Julia Decelles-Zwerneman. Image of The Mount Academy by Andrew Zwerneman