What is Catholic Education?
Catholic education is a lifelong process of human growth and development. It is more than schooling. It begins in the home, continues in the school and matures through involvement with the Christian community in the parish.
These three dimensions of home, school and parish must work together if Catholic education is to truly attain its goal of forming mature human persons in the image and likeness of Christ.
Almost two thousand years ago Jesus of Nazareth spoke of the Reign of God as healing for the sick, hearing for the deaf, sight for the blind, freedom for prisoners, good news for the poor. The world is full of real problems; the pain of human experience is obvious. In facing this reality we could turn our backs in despair and throw our hands in the air at the futility of human life. But the call of Christian discipleship demands otherwise. It demands that we always seek to lift the burden. The burdens of life are real and so we need to help each other in:
- opening our eyes to the reality of life
- feeding those who are too weak to feed themselves
- liberating those who are oppressed
- expanding our minds through education
- dispelling our fear of the unknown
- challenging ourselves to let go of hurts and prejudice
- unsealing our ears to hear the divine echo in our hearts
- inspiring hope for the future
In all of these ways the ministry of Jesus is continued as ‘the blind see again, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, the good news is proclaimed to the poor’ (Luke 7:22). To teach as Christ taught means inviting people to live without the crutch or the grudge or the closed mind.
Catholic schools make an indispensable contribution to Catholic education. While such schools can never replace the home or the parish they have a crucial role to play in the education of the next generation of young people.
What Makes a School Catholic?
All schools in the Republic of Ireland hold much in common in terms of structures, curriculum and the centrality of the State examination system. Every school attempts to serve society in a meaningful way. Yet all schools today find themselves in difficult circumstances due to enormous social, cultural and economic changes. In an age dominated by media and information technology, significant new pressures are brought to bear on adolescents, on family structures, on religious practice, on employment mobility and, not least, on behaviour in the school classroom.
In this new cultural context every Catholic school needs to redefine its identity so that it is not just reacting to the latest trend or fashion but that it can truly articulate its self-understanding.
The five principles of what makes a school catholic:
- The Catholic school treats every individual human person as a child of God called to share in God’s own life forever.
- The Catholic school takes its inspiration from the ministry of Christ.
- The Catholic school participates in the mission of the Church within the surrounding culture in which it lives and breathes.
- The Catholic school is an inclusive community ideally built on love and formed by the interaction and collaboration of its various components: students, parents, teachers, non-teaching staff and members of the Board.
- The Catholic school is at the service of society in both a critical and supportive manner.
What are the implications of being a Catholic School?
- Education involves the whole person and so it must deal with the intellectual, moral, religious, physical and psychological development of each student.
- Parents are the primary educators of their children and this responsibility should not be delegated to any other agency.
- Religious education is not a sectarian enterprise but is a core part of a rounded education.
- The Catholic school is part of the Church’s pastoral ministry.
- Catholic schools should contribute to the life of the parishes and dioceses in which they are located and they have a right to receive support from these Church bodies.
- Catholic Schools value teaching as one of the most important of all human activities for the teacher does not write on inanimate material, but on the very spirits of human beings.
- Catholic schools should be involved in the dialogue between faith and culture in that the various subjects taught do not present only knowledge to be attained, but also values to be acquired and truths to be discovered.
- Catholic schools should serve those who are poor – either impoverished as a result of social background or impoverished due to lack of values and any sense of the meaning of life.
- Catholic schools welcome students from all faith traditions and those of no faith precisely because the schools are Catholic and are thus open to dialogue with the other.
- Chaplains, Religious Educators and members of Religious Orders are an important expression of the ecclesial dimension of the school.
- Catholic schools willingly participate in the delivery of State curricula, in the preparation of students for the State’s examinations and in achieving the highest academic standards.
- Schools do not exist primarily for the service of the economy but for the service of the human person who is called to live in solidarity with other persons in search of the common good.
- Education cannot be reduced to information or technology but has as its goal the formation of a human person who is free, rational and mature in relationships.