Who we are
Our Experience and Vision
Our Commitment to Unity
Our Understanding of Education
Our Field of Apostolic Work
Everyone deserves an authentic humanities education--to understand our humanity, to deepen our sympathy for the human condition. We all need the wisdom necessary to engage the world for which we are responsible.
At the heart of a genuine humanities education are the classics—classic literature, art, film, music and history—and great teachers. For anyone who teaches humanities in a school or works with adult learners, Cana Academy can provide everything needed to teach the classics well.
We established Cana Academy at a time when our culture suffers from a dimming of hope caused largely by the widening distance people experience from each other and from their common cultural heritage. We take special direction from the parable of the Good Samaritan and commit ourselves to cross the road where we can provide our neighbors educational opportunities they would not have otherwise. Mindful that Christ first reached us, we seek to encounter others, to encourage their hope, and to foster friendship and solidarity, all through our educational works.
In the range of services and products we offer, Cana Academy’s signature work is the seminar. We share the conviction that a well-done seminar is a genuine encounter between human beings that moves its participants closer to each other and to the truth about God and ourselves. This is true for seminars in schools and those that are part of learning programs in non-traditional environments. The culture we build through seminars is simple but rich. With twelve to sixteen participants gathered around a table and focused on a substantive work of literature, seminars constitute a culture that reflects and nurtures our common humanity: it meets our natural affinity for truth, goodness, and beauty and provides a social environment founded on solidarity and directed towards love—the love of learning, the love of God and his creation, and the love of one another.
Collectively, Cana Academy's team has one hundred years of experience directing student seminars, training teachers in the seminar method, creating curricula, developing schools—private, charter, and home—and running seminars for non-traditional participants—all around the classics.
We invoke the Gospel story of the wedding feast at Cana where Mary and Jesus tend to the needs of their hosts and generously visit the joy of everyone present. We intend to emulate their kindness among those we serve. We also invoke the image of Cana as depicted in Dostoyevsky’s Brothers Karamazov where a vision of the feast is profoundly restorative for the protagonist, especially in the redemptive encounter he has with the wedding guests. We intend our work to have a comparable effect through the encounters made available in our seminars and in the schools we support.
We call our mission an academy as our focus is on study, teaching, and bringing people together. The first great academy, founded in ancient Greece, was inspired by the life and death of Socrates and animated by the love of wisdom and the desire for the city’s good. As a form of community the academy later found new life in the heart of Christian culture. It found greater depth and height there, since goodness and the love of wisdom were now wed to the love of Christ and the Gospel image of our humanity. We acknowledge God’s faithful love as the driving impulse of our work. The Father has never forgotten us. So much did he love us, he sent his Son to become one of us and to lay down his life for ours. In establishing Cana Academy we are responding to the Holy Spirit’s reminders that God’s love is made known most supremely in Christ, that he dwells with us, that in our neighbors we encounter Christ, and that he is in us as we work among them. Our humanism, then, is Incarnational, our work apostolic.
To help bridge the divisions that mark our time, our mission fosters unity. Ours is an ecumenical Christian mission. All members of our mission team are dedicated followers of Christ. Among the sources of authority and life we share are Sacred Scripture, the Church Fathers, the Nicene Creed, traditional Christian moral teaching, and the witness of martyrs and saints. In the work we accomplish together and in our love for one another, we strive to foster Christian unity and to advance the Father’s plan to unite all things in his Son. That plan directs the closeness, solidarity and service we practice among our neighbors. Out of love for Christ and for all that is worthy of our humanity in him, we place remembrance at the center of our apostolic work. Out of our responsibility for building authentic culture, we foster the study of the past as a wellspring for understanding and as the foundation for the future. We seek to build friendships among the forgotten. Daily, we remember every teacher, school, and seminar participant we serve and pray for each of them by name. In all we do, we remember Christ as the true source of unity.
At Cana Academy we believe that true education rests on an understanding of our humanity, the broader reality in which we participate, and history.
Our humanity. Each person is the image of God; each person’s dignity is elevated by the Incarnation. Our existence, then, is sacred. Each one of us is a unique, integrated person—body and soul, heart and conscience, mind and will. We all desire to live, to be happy, and to know what is true; each of us desires friendship and community and the goods that sustain both; and each has an affinity for what is beautiful and for creating beauty. Our good broadens with the development of our minds, the growth of our moral life with its primacy on genuine freedom, and the deepening of our friendship and community, the highest of which, friendship and community with God, was unimaginable to the pagan world. At the heart of all genuine human culture is the highest good, love: the love of God and neighbor, the love of creation, and the love of wisdom.
Reality. Reality is good and is accessible to our minds because God created it and because he created us in his image to know him and to participate in reality’s development. Reality is good because of its social purpose: from the beginning, God intended to dwell with us; he became one of us; and he intends for human society to be ordered according to his love. Reality is beautiful. In particular, the beauty of love points to the self- evidence of its truth and its primacy among goods. Thus, the classical triad, the true, the good, and the beautiful, contains an intrinsic unity that both attracts us and encourages free, creative participation. Ultimately, reality is only understandable in light of what Christ has accomplished. Of particular relevance are the transformation we experience in the Holy Spirit, the expectation of our bodily resurrection, and the continuum between heaven and earth. Among other things, this means that all genuine culture in this life, including true education, is part of God’s reign now and is an investment in its eternal future.
History. Our existence is historical. We encounter the good of human reality in the history of order. That encounter impels recognition of our responsibility for remembering our origins, preserving what is good in our civilization, and fostering new culture that is worthy of our humanity. It impels recognition that order can be lost under the press of false religion, corrupt culture, and ideology. This historical perspective and dynamism make classical education a necessary and vital element of cultural renewal.
Education. A full, authentic education has the the humanities at its heart. True humanities education draws from the past, ancient to recent, as its wellspring; and it directs all learning towards what is highest, best, and most lasting. This is why the classics are so well suited for study: they are standouts in their respective times and have the most enduring worth. Education’s purpose is best understood as it was originally—to lead out, as in to lead out from ignorance to knowledge, from slavery to freedom. The most foundational experience fostered by education is an awakening to reality, especially the rediscovery or remembrance of love as its center.
Cana Academy is tied to no one place or program. We are adaptable, creative and mobile, precisely so that encounters with others can happen anywhere. Students, especially among the poor, need better educational opportunities, including more effective schools. We can establish better programs anywhere and make our training and curricula affordable to teachers in any kind of school. The forgotten or marginalized need vision and hope. We provide both with easily accessible seminars and, where needed, combine the seminars with practical training. For professionals seeking deeper meaning and purpose, we foster aesthetic, social, and spiritual awakening with seminars on texts that challenge us to think of justice or love or that move us to feel more deeply the condition of our humanity. For mission-oriented teams striving to better understand the world and strengthen their case for the good they provide, we offer seminars tailored for each team. Since the entire culture is in need of evangelization, we offer quality materials and training as contributions to authentic educational reform and intend the encounters we foster to be genuinely restorative.
Coast-to-coast. Cana Academy opened in August 2016. We have headquarters in northern Virginia. However, our work extends to New Hampshire, New Jersey, Indiana, Arizona, Oregon, Colorado, and New York. The Academy’s development plan includes the establishment of a second headquarters in the western United States and urban outreaches across the country.
Online. Here on our website, you can find top quality educational products, relevant media links, and insightful articles by our mission team, including "Open City", a blog series with reviews of films, books, museums, music, and important cultural events, and lively podcasts on our network, including Sources, a podcast on history and culture, and Classics, a podcast on classic works of literature, art, film and music.
In print. For teachers in all kinds of schools, we offer Cana Academy Guides through our website's shop. Core guides already available include Teaching Fiction from the Inside Out, an insightful and unique introduction to how to teach fiction; A Lively Kind of Learning, our original take on how to lead a great seminar; and the Cana Writing Guide: Writing Well, Thinking Clearly, a comprehensive course of study for teachers of writing.
Where you are. Cana Academy’s leadership team is available to lead seminars for your professional or mission group. Our president, Andrew J. Zwerneman, is available as a guest speaker.
Andrew J. Zwerneman is the founding president of Cana Academy. He earned a B.A. in history and an M.A. in Government and International Relations from the University of Notre Dame and an M.A. in Catholic Doctrine from the Pontifical Institute at St. John’s University in New York City. In the early 1980’s Andrew worked as the New York correspondent for the National Catholic Register. In 1986 Greenlawn Press published his book In Bloody Terms: the Betrayal of the Church in Marxist Grenada. For thirty-four years Andrew has taught or consulted in classical schools. Most of his career he taught with the national group of Trinity Schools. For nineteen years he served as a headmaster, two for the public charter school, Tempe Preparatory Academy in Tempe, Arizona, and seventeen for the independent school Trinity School at Meadow View in Falls Church, Virginia. During those seventeen years Andrew was on the management team for Trinity Schools, Inc. Through his consulting firm, The Academy Project LLC, he and his team developed the curricula and trained the faculties of Thomas MacLaren School in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and Trinity Academy in Portland, Oregon. He has coached headmasters with the Great Hearts Academies and lectured for principals studying in the M.Ed. program for Administration and Supervision at Marymount University. Andrew and his wife Jeannette have been married for thirty-one years. During that time they have devoted themselves to helping others to learn, mainly in schools but in continuing education efforts outside of school environments as well. They continue this lifelong commitment with the establishment of Cana Academy.
Jeannette M. DeCelles-Zwerneman is Director of Instruction for Cana Academy. She also conducts research on the educational needs of seniors, disadvantaged students, and prisoners. Jeannette earned a B.A. in Music and an M.A. in Government and International Relations from the University of Notre Dame. For thirty-five years she taught and consulted in classical schools. In 1981 she co-founded Trinity School at Greenlawn in South Bend, Indiana, where she taught until 1997. From 1999 to 2016 she taught at Trinity School's campus in Virginia. She served as Dean of Humanities for the national group of Trinity Schools and served as a master teacher for all three campuses of the organization. As part of The Academy Project LLC, she co-authored the curricula and helped train the faculties for Thomas MacLaren School in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and Trinity Academy in Portland, Oregon. Jeannette is the co-founder and director of the Christian Women’s Seminar. Twice she received a National Endowment for the Humanities grant, taking part in seminars on "Plato, Kant, and Hegel" and on "Dante's Divina Commedia." Twice she participated in the Liberty Fund seminars program. She is the author of Cana Academy Guides Teaching Fiction from the Inside Out, How to Teach Chaim Potok's The Chosen, and A Lively Kind of Learning: Mastering the Seminar Method and the co-author of the Cana Writing Guide: Writing Well, Thinking Clearly. Jeannette and her husband Andrew have been married for thirty-one years. They have three children, all of whom were homeschooled by their mother for at least their primary education.
Mary Frances Loughran is Director of Writing for Cana Academy. She also conducts research on Quality schools and the educational needs of women in crisis. Mary Frances earned her B.A. in Philosophy and History from St. Mary’s College and her certification in Choice Theory, Reality Therapy and Lead Management from William Glasser International. For twenty-eight years she has taught or consulted in classical schools. Mary Frances was a co-founder of Trinity School at River Ridge in Minnesota. For fifteen years she was a master teacher and director of writing at Trinity School at Meadow View in Falls Church, Virginia. As part of The Academy Project LLC, she co-authored the curricula and helped train the faculties for Thomas MacLaren School in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and Trinity Academy in Portland, Oregon. Multiple times, she has been the recipient of a Liberty Fund grant. She is the co-author of the Cana Writing Guide: Writing Well, Thinking Clearly. Mary Frances and her husband Michael have been married for thirty years. They have four children, all of whom were homeschooled by their mother for their primary education.
Helen DeCelles-Zwerneman is Operations Manager, Web Master, and Artistic Director for Cana Academy. She also conducts research on continuing education for seniors, young professionals, and mission teams as well as on the art of teaching math and science. Helen was homeschooled through sixth grade and then attended the classical Christian school Trinity School at Meadow View. She graduated with honors from Georgetown University with a B.S. in physics and a minor in Italian. At Georgetown, she conducted research in biophysics, performed in the Georgetown Concert Choir, and participated as a Student Fellow in the Tocqueville Forum. While at Georgetown, she was the recipient of the prestigious Claire Boothe Luce Award for women in the study of math and science. Before joining the mission at Cana Academy, Helen spent two years teaching physics, calculus, pre-calculus, geometry, Latin, and scripture at Trinity School at Meadow View in Falls Church, Virginia.
Joseph R. Wood serves as a research and seminar Fellow for Cana Academy. His work focuses on developing seminars for military personnel and finding ways our mission can support persecuted Christians abroad. He currently teaches at the Institute of World Politics in Washington, D.C., focusing on moral and political philosophy. Joe earned a B.S. from the U.S. Air Force Academy; an M.A. in philosophy from the School of Philosophy, Catholic University of America, where he is a PhD candidate; an M.P.A. (Two-Year) from the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University; and a diploma as a graduate of the French Joint Defense College, Paris. He is a retired Air Force colonel. Over his career, he served in fighter operational and command positions in Europe and Asia, in staff assignments in Washington including the Pentagon and the White House, and in the Political Science faculty of the Air Force Academy. He has taught in a variety of graduate seminars in Europe. Joe has been married to Merrie Craig-Wood for over 30 years. They have two children.
Michael C. Gaskins is a Research Fellow with Cana Academy, focusing on education among the incarcerated. Since the early part of the century, Michael has worked in ministry and outreach to prisoners in the Philadelphia area. As Mid-Atlantic Regional Director for Volunteers for Prison Fellowship, his work extended to Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland, the District of Columbia, Virginia, and North Carolina. He was the creator and founding director of Philadelphia Alive Center for Transformation, which provided services to prisoners and ex-offenders for the United States Department of Labor’s Ready4Work Program; in particular, the Philadelphia Alive program helped its participants create their own small businesses. Michael is a graduate of Temple University, where he earned a degree in broadcast journalism. He and his family live in Lansdale, Pennsylvania.