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Monday, 17 August 2015 08:13

Catholic schools integral to the mission of the Church

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ncec brochure cvrThe former secretary of the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education has called Catholic schools “one of the primary engines bringing about the desired evangelisation – the missionary option – that Pope Francis has talked about”.

Archbishop J. Michael Miller, currently the Archbishop of Vancouver after his previous post at the Vatican, spoke to Catholic school principals, assistant principals and religious education coordinators from the Archdiocese of Sydney last week. He said Catholic schools are key partners with parishes in the Church’s evangelising mission.

“The Catholic school system is integral to the mission of the Church,” he told Catholic multimedia channel XT3.com.

Archbishop Miller outlined the four-part test he has devised to test how a Catholic school is responding to the evangelisation challenge issued by Pope Francis.

“First, is its educational philosophy grounded in a Christian understanding of the human person?,” he asked.

“Second, does the school community strive to imbue its pupils with a Catholic worldview? Third, does it integrate a vision of faith throughout its whole curriculum, regardless of the particular subject taught? Fourth, does the school foster a spirituality of communion among its stakeholders, namely among its staff and students, as well as the families and parishes it serves?

“I would suggest to you that if Catholic schools are to be effective in their mission of evangelising, then all those involved must understand what is central to the Gospel they are called to proclaim.

“Schools are not ‘Catholic’ because students wear uniforms, are – perhaps – more disciplined, or because religious symbols decorate the walls. They are Catholic because they profess a Name, that Name which is above every other name.”

Archbishop Miller said the historical situation, whereby students in Catholic schools usually came from families where the faith has been taught and passed on, doesn’t reflect the current reality.

“We have to be much more aware of the fact that parental participation in the life of the Church is less among the children attending Catholic schools than it would have been in 1965,” he reflected.

“Catholic schools are more important than they ever were, not less.”

Sydney Catholic Education Office director of religious education and evangelisation Anthony Cleary said Archbishop Miller shared his experience and made educators think deeply.

“He challenged us to reflect upon our own commitment to our identity and mission as Catholic schools and how we will continue to give an authentic witness to this in the years ahead,” Mr Cleary said.

(Photo shows the cover image from the NCEC Brochure)

This article was first published in the 13 August 2015 newsletter of the National Catholic Education Commission (NCEC).