Anne Sinkewicz believes Aristotle has it right: good virtues create good moral character.
The religion and philosophy teacher at Blessed Mother Teresa Catholic Secondary School says although Aristotle’s theories on virtue ethics can be somewhat confusing, they make perfect sense.
“We need to expose young people to virtues in an indirect way – make it into a habit, an attitude … virtues create good character,” Sinkewicz said.
“Once a virtue has been cultivated, it should become automatic, that’s what we’re aiming for.”
Catholic schools across the board have volunteered the month of March to promote the virtue of forgiveness. In fact, each month of the school year is given a virtue that teachers are encouraged to bring out in the classroom.
Sinkewicz says she feels very strongly about the importance of instilling virtues in today’s youth. For this reason, she took it upon herself to spearhead the whole “virtue of the month” idea at Mother Teresa.
However, Mother Teresa is not the only Catholic school participating in this endeavor.
“It’s the first year the school board has decided to use virtue month as an initiative,”
Sinkewicz said. “I take the material that the board provides, and I put it in our teacher’s mailboxes and offer suggestions on how they can use it in their classrooms, no matter what class they teach … virtues can always be brought out.”
Everyday, Mother Teresa staff make announcements that are intended to remind students of virtues and their importance. They even have a big digital sign that displays scriptures, or for this month, just two words: forgive someone.
“[Virtues] are a really important part of the school because they are so focused on teaching science and stuff,” said student John De Guzman. “We seem to be living in a society that doesn’t believe in God as much.
“It’s nice to know we haven’t forgotten about how important it is to forgive.”
Sinkewicz says it’s up to the students to decide how to use their knowledge of virtues, adding that practicing virtues cleanses people; it keeps them healthy both mentally and physically.
“[Forgiveness month] really means something to me,” De Guzman said. “I take the different virtues to heart, I don’t know about the other students, but it matters to me.”
While the theme for the entire year at JPII is respect, all Catholic schools honoured courage in the month of January, and in February, love prevailed.
In the month of April, students can look forward to learning about the virtue of justice.
“It’s very difficult to determine the impact of things like virtues on the students – you can teach about them, but you can’t really teach them – at least we are giving the students something to think about,” Sinkewicz said.
She said students are not only learning to forgive, but they are being taught about the powerful need to be forgiven.
“We’ve all hurt someone – a friend, a family member – so if we aren’t willing to forgive others, what does that say for us? I have a great deal of faith in today’s youth – we just have to keep teaching and supporting them.”