In Catholic schools with increasingly diverse religious populations among students and staff, it is vital that Catholic educators at all levels examine the relevance of our schools to the needs of their stakeholders and to the needs of the wider society, including the Church.
A Catholic education was historically prized among many families as invaluable to the academic, spiritual and social growth and development of the child. It was seen to be in line with values necessary for the functioning of a healthy, progressive and wholesome society.
The present ongoing thrust towards strengthening the Catholic ethos in Catholic schools focuses, first and foremost, on promoting, nurturing and strengthening the bond between Almighty God and His people. The ravages of recent hurricanes, wild fires, earthquakes and the destructiveness of civil and international conflict expose the stark truth that material wealth is fleeting and insubstantial.
The values which our schools espouse serve to guide and enrich our children as they mature. Among the chief of these values is the call to serve, to give selflessly, to support our fellow man by using the gifts and talents which each of us has. The collegiality of a prayerful, faith-based school community confers not only a deeper awareness of our role in the Father’s plan but it strengthens and affirms all who seek the Lord with a sincere heart.
Tolerance in a multi-religious community, respect for others of different faiths and of different faith-based practices, faith-in-action as opposed to empty but pious sounding exhortations and the very real opportunities for conversion to the Faith – indeed, to faith – are among the greatest qualities that a child can cultivate in our schools. As they strive to teach the tenets of the faith, our schools do not only engage in the salvation of souls but they spread the moral values inherent in all the great religions of the world.
The ‘lost’ courtesies of respectful body posture in our communal and especially in our sacred spaces, the need to still the clamoring of the world and to allow the mind, the heart and the soul to be immersed in the peace and silence of the Divine, the need for men and women of worth to bravely and steadfastly live the truths of their faith on a daily basis, the purging of negative and false perceptions of faith teachings spread by others or stemming from destructive personal experience, are issues that are in many cases being addressed by our schools’ staff and other educational stakeholders. These issues do not pertain only to the child’s spiritual life but extend into other areas of his interaction with his community.
Where parental responsibilities rest ever more heavily on the shoulders of school administrators and their staff, the onus lies on these educators to ensure that students embrace the wondrous graces emanating from school Mass attendance, recitation of the Holy Rosary, prayer and moral direction from daily assembly and the blessing of serving in the Legion of Mary, and other Church ministries. Without the spiritual anchor that the young – and that all men – yearn for, life becomes meaningless and fruitless.
Catholic schools do not, of course, have a lien on the vital work of educating and promoting spiritual growth among the young. It is a labour that is assumed by other faith and non-faith-based schools too. Nevertheless, this does not diminish the responsibility that Catholic schools continue to have in the formation of worthy citizens of our land and of the Kingdom of Heaven.