CATHOLICS MATTER | Javier Bravo: Teacher mixes faith, learning

Javier Bravo, a teacher at Bourgade Catholic High School, shares his faith journey. (Joyce Coronel/CATHOLIC SUN).

Javier Bravo grew up in Yuma in a devout Catholic family, the youngest of seven children born to parents who immigrated from Mexico.

He spent six years in the seminary for the Diocese of Tucson, but then felt God leading him in a different direction. Bravo taught Spanish at Yuma Catholic High School, simultaneously earning a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction.

Still unsure of his vocation, he entered the novitiate with the Discalced Carmelite Friars in San Jose, Calif.

“I grew in knowledge of the Church’s spirituality and traditions, and the Carmelite tradition,” Bravo said. “It was wonderful formation, but I definitely wanted to return to active ministry.”

Four years ago, Bravo married. He’s spent the last three years teaching second- and third-year Spanish at Bourgade Catholic High School. Last September, Bravo earned a second master’s degree in educational administration.

Bravo’s classroom philosophy is straightforward: Keep careful track of students, and take time to work with those who might be struggling. “There’s no reason they should fail,” Bravo said. “Different things work with different students.”

He’s always looking for innovative ways to help kids learn Spanish. Currently, Bravo is using an approach that combines reading, vocabulary and storytelling. Students in his classes speak Spanish about 80 percent of the time.

Bravo said he appreciates the atmosphere of faith and community that he finds at Bourgade, but he also has a genuine love for students and helping them see God at work in their lives.

“When you take your simple, everyday calculus homework assignment and realize that in doing that there’s a great opportunity for holiness — that is something we can only understand through the Catholic scope of how we live our faith,” Bravo said.

Faith in a nutshell:

A weeklong silent retreat at the Carmelite monastery happened to coincide with a benefactor donating all the labor and materials for a complete — and very noisy — repaving of the premises. “I remember the novice master said, ‘This is where you have to learn holy flexibility.’ And that has always stuck with me.”

What he loves about being Catholic:

“One of the best things that I like about our Catholic faith is it really gives a meaning to everything that we do. Everything we do can have such a spiritual dimension. Even the smallest thing can have a big effect spiritually on who we are as people.”

Parish:

Ss. Simon and Jude Cathedral

Apostolates:

He’s been an extraordinary minister of the Eucharist, a lector, a RCIA teacher and a youth minister; a faculty member at Yuma Catholic, 2001-2008; a former seminarian

Quotable:

“You have to be flexible…we have to teach the kids who are in front of us. That’s very much the way I look at it. Sometimes it means redoing the whole thing and when the end of the day comes, my lesson plan was totally different.”

Take away:

“Catholic education is something that should be very vital to us as a Catholic community. It’s not an addendum — it really should be a natural flow…”