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.
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