Bahai News -
Charleston Daily Mail
Theology teachers try expanding study to many religions
Husband, wife teach classes at Catholic school
Charlotte Ferrell Smith <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Daily Mail staff
Saturday August 26, 2000; 10:32 AM
They teach acceptance of all faiths and respect for all people.
"It's a matter of building bridges and tearing down walls," Diana Mehle
She and her husband, Bill Mehle, teach theology classes at Charleston
Catholic High School where about 60 percent of the students are Catholic
and the rest come from a wide range of faiths. Guest speakers are regularly
invited to talk about Judaism, Buddhism and Hinduism as well as the Bahai
and Islamic faiths.
The Mehles' philosophy is there are more similarities than differences
"God is big enough to love us all," Diana said. "We make God smaller than
God is when we create these divisions."
Diana and Bill Mehle, who married 22 years ago, are the parents of Jesse,
18, Kaitlin, 17, and Jacob, 13. The family attends Blessed Sacrament Church
in South Charleston.
Diana and Bill Mehle have classrooms side by side at Charleston Catholic.
An intricate number of puzzle pieces brought them together and led them to
Bill, a New Jersey native, holds an undergraduate degree in accounting from
St. John's University in New York City. He earned a graduate degree in
religious education from Fordham University in New York City. He first saw
the Mountain State when doing college service work in the hills of
Diana was born in Baltimore but moved about with her family due to her
father's job as a factory builder. She was in fourth grade the first time
she saw West Virginia when her family lived in Putnam County for a while.
She loved it.
She earned an undergraduate degree in philosophy from Rutgers in New Jersey
and a graduate degree in religious education from Regis University in
Their paths first crossed in New Jersey while she was working as an assistant
in a doctor's office and he came in as a patient.
When they married in 1978, they looked into ways of doing service work
together but few opportunities existed for married couples. However, in 1981
they went to Japan as lay missionaries through Maryknoll, the Catholic
Foreign Mission Society of America. Language proved to be a very difficult
barrier to master and Diana became pregnant with their first child. They
returned to the United States in 1982 but had paved the way for future
Bill Mehle passed over job offers with large New Jersey accounting firms,
positions he knew would not offer the contentment he desired.
Instead, he worked as a youth minister and later as a teacher in Catholic
schools as they raised a family.
They later worked together in Catholic campus ministry at Western Carolina
During that time, Bill organized a trip to Nicaragua for Habitat for Humanity
while Diana stayed with the children. During the course of his work, he
happened to meet a West Virginian who told him about the position at
Charleston Catholic High School.
He began teaching at Charleston Catholic in 1989. Diana, who first taught
philosophy at a community college, is beginning her third year at Charleston
While they both have degrees and experience, there are some things that are
felt and not learned.
"In the classroom, the experience of God comes from the heart," Diana said.
"Are we faithful to the gospel in our lives? That is a daily question.
Doing our work keeps that question alive for us."
Bill added, "It's rewarding work. It's challenging. High school kids are
energizing. They ask us the hard questions."
She teaches freshmen while he has the juniors and seniors.
They watch the students learn from each other and incorporate insights from
various religions into their own. This sense of openness and acceptance
seems to help them affirm their own beliefs, Bill said.
They agree there is excitement as well as a little anxiety associated with
each new school year.
"Many days I look at lesson plans and think I'm not qualified to do this,"
Diana said. "I am on a faith journey. I have not arrived. I'm unworthy,
unqualified. God who breathed this life into me gives me the faith to do
this. I learn more than I have to offer."
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