From the Parish House

The staff from our three parishes primary schools gathered together on Friday, 10 June to reflect on the vision and mission of our Catholic schools today.  Some of us would remember Catholic schools that might be described as the ‘tribal Catholic school’.  That was the school where the Catholic ‘tribe’ sent their children with the intent of reproducing the Catholic sub-culture that existed in society.  Catholic students, as well being proficient in the three ‘r’s (reading, writing and ‘rithmetic), would be socialised into the Catholic world.

Vatican II began to change that view of the world and of the Catholic school.  The Declaration on Christian Education from the Second Vatican Council spoke about the civic function that Catholic schools had to build up the common good of peoples and societies, as well as its evangelising function to form people and communities in the values of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Over the last fifty or sixty years the body of teaching around the nature and purpose of Catholic schools has grown and developed.  Most recently the Vatican Congregation for Education released a document titled, The Identity of the Catholic School for a Culture of DialogueThis document acknowledges that today’s society is both multi-cultural and multi-religious.  One of the big challenges for education is to allow various cultural expressions to co-exist and to promote a ‘dialogue’ which fosters a peaceful society.

This is not just cultural imperative.  The document reminds us that ‘dialogue’ is constitutive to the nature of the church itself because God is a dialogue of life and love – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  A nice reminder as we will celebrate the feast of the Trinity this coming Sunday.

“[The Catholic school] must therefore “practise the ‘grammar of dialogue’, not as a technical expedient, but as a profound way of relating to others”.  Dialogue combines attention to one’s own identity with the understanding of others and respect for diversity.  In this way, the Catholic school becomes “an educating community in which the human person can express themselves and grow in his or her humanity, in a process of relational dialogue, interacting in a constructive way, exercising tolerance, understanding different points of view and creating trust in an atmosphere of authentic harmony.  Such a school is truly an educating community, a place of differences living together in harmony”.  (The Identity of the Catholic School paragraph 30).

This Catholic dialogue school is a great challenge for teachers and leaders.  Teachers need to be knowledgeable and articulate in the Catholic tradition itself.  They need to be able to bear witness to the faith in a tangible and conscious way.  They also need to welcome and accept the real diversity of the students and families before them.  They need to be able to lead students in their own discovery of the voice of the living God in Scripture and sacrament.  They need to be able to accompany the questions and wonderings and stances to life that students bring to the table.  In the language of this new document they need to be witnesses in faith, and moderators of dialogue.

This dialogue has both a vertical and a horizontal dimension.  In other words we are shaped by our dialogue with the living God and with our fellow human beings.  At the heart of Christianity is a dialogue with the living God who we know in prayer.  Our staff therefore spent much of the day exploring the art and experience of prayer.  If we can enter into a dialogue with God in prayer and allow ourselves to be touched by the God of life, we may be better equipped to bear witness and accompany the young in their discovery of meaning and purpose in their own lives.

By Fr Brendan Reed



Parish Priest


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