Fr Jamison: How do we build truly Catholic schools?

Fr Christopher Jamison spoke earlier this week, addressing the Diocese of Westminster Headteachers’ conference, on the subject of the Catholic school.

He lamented that the documents promulgated by the Congregation for Catholic Education have not been widely read or understood. He argued that many Catholic schools now emphasize the development of the person, or of talents, so as not to alienate non-Catholic pupils; however, a rediscovery of a fully articulated and expressed Catholic ethos in our schools is vital, if young people are to go forward in a world that teaches them, as Fr Christopher says, “To see themselves only as a series of sensations to be experienced.”

He also spoke about the meaning of the word “community”, which now means anything from one’s ethnicity, to disability, to the neighbours one lives next to, but speaks to little. For Catholics, the point is communion, that is what builds a community, and how can we do this in our schools? Fr Christopher introduced his listeners to the Congregation for Catholic Education, whose documents are published by the CTS:

“The Congregation for Catholic Education issues really wonderful statements, and the gap, between high level statements of educational principles and their implementation, has been a serious weakness of the Catholic school systems. We must overcome the gap between the Church’s statement of Catholic ethos and the implementation of it in our schools.”

The documents also talk of the responsibility of teachers to form the faith of their pupils. That they do not object to the school’s Catholicism is not enough. This is an extremely high bar set by the congregation, but is that not how it should be? After all, as Fr Jamison quoted from Educating Together in Catholic Schools:

“Education in a Catholic School is not given for the purpose of gaining power; but as an aid towards fuller understanding of, and communion with, people, events and things.”

He then looks at the difference between UK and US Catholic schools, noting that it is difficult to build a Catholic curriculum when everything is decided centrally. The range of issues he covers and questions he answers are extremely enlightening and outline important challenges for the future of these institutions.

You can listen to the whole address here.

Of related interest:

Fit for Mission? Schools- The Bishop, Rt Rev Patrick O’Donoghue, offers practical guidance on how to further develop and deepen an authentic Catholic ethos, through cultivating the integration of faith as believed, celebrated, lived, and prayed. Bishop Patrick is convinced that the Catechism of the Catholic Church is the best resource for creating an authentic Catholic ethos in our schools.
PA13 How to Discover your Vocation – This booklet will help you to think and pray about your vocation and become clearer about where God is leading you. It answers many of the practical questions you may be asking: What are the different Christian vocations? How does God guide us and speak to us? How can I be more open to my vocation, and come to a decision?
Consecrated Persons and their Mission in Schools – As numbers dwindle, the witness of consecrated persons in schools becomes ever more important. These reflections and guidelines point out the way ahead. “While consecrated persons in schools educate they are also evangelising. This mission requires a commitment of holiness, generosity and skilled educational professionalism.”

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