Friday, October 18, 2013

Before we give our Catholic schools a failing grade...: C.C.


The current state of Catholic education has recently sparked my attention after reading an article from The Catholic Register entitled Catholic schools failing at making disciples. Catholic education is often at the forefront of much criticism, and it seems that the initial intention and agenda for Catholic education in Ontario has faded and fallen short of accomplishing what it had initially set out to do. There is no simple explanation or solution for the point that we have reached, however by taking a look back (and for many a first look) at what Catholic education in Ontario was aimed at accomplishing we can potentially begin to slowly mend the current reality.  
  In 1989, the Catholic Bishops of Ontario gathered and created a wonderful document entitled This Moment of Promise, that explored the role, duties, obligations, beauty, and fundamentals of Catholic education in Ontario. It is definitely worth reading and reflecting upon.        
   Before we give our Catholic schools a failing grade for not making disciples, we must also look into the reality of the way in which we as the faithful carry out our daily mission in deed and word. In seeking to create these young disciples we must ask ourselves if we are bold enough to be apostles. This lack of discipleship is not a recent issue, but it is one that has occurred over time. Idealistically the role of the Catholic educator should be one that reflects this below.....
"Prime responsibility for creating this unique Christian school climate rests with the teachers, as individuals and as a community. The religious dimension of the school climate is expressed through the celebration of Christian values in Word and Sacrament, in individual behavior, in friendly and harmonious interpersonal relationships, and in a ready availability. Through this daily witness,, the students will come to appreciate the uniqueness of the environment to which their youth has been entrusted. If it is not present, then there is little left which can make the school Catholic.
(The Religious Dimension of Education in a Catholic School, S.C. for Catholic Education, 1988, para. 26).
"If it is not present, then there is little left which can make the school Catholic"! If our teachers are called to "witness to the hope that is within them", then our work as missionaries is not limited to ensuring that our students encounter Jesus Christ, but also that these educators first become apostles for the faith and are prepared properly. The reality is that many educators within the Catholic school system have also been "failed" throughout their Catholic school experiences.
   The transformation and renewal that needs to happen will progress as those imbued with the Gospel begin to share, shine, and send forth the light of Christ to those they encounter. The work of the faithful needs to remain one of love and not simply criticism. Let us continue to persevere in our desire to create disciples and surrender our work to the Lord's will and remain trusting. "Making disciples" is a collective effort, and not the sole responsibility of a school board, parish, priest, or educator. It is the responsibility of all those initiated into the Catholic faith to provide opportunities for one to encounter Christ. And, while the article says that the schools "should not stress the Mass but create other opportunities for students to meet Jesus and make a decision to follow Him."..  I feel that we must stress the truth about the Mass and the beautiful reality of Jesus present to us in the Blessed Sacrament;trusting that it is our Lord who intercedes above all, who has called us, and will intercede by inspiring the decision to follow Him and begin the journey of discipleship.(C.C.)   



  1. In theory, Catholic education is awesome! It has amazing potential. And that's what bugs me. It's not living up to a tenth of it's potential. The Catholic school could center the day around an awareness of God, integrate a Christian perspective into all subjects, and imbue the practice of the Faith into daily student life. But so often it's just a veneer. And you're right, much of that is on the teachers who themselves have not been formed correctly.

    I think there's a critical flaw in the religious component of Catholic education, though. I read a document once saying Catholic schools should seek to present the Faith with the same academic rigor as other subjects. Not bad in itself, but it also said that discipleship and conversion are the realm of catechesis and that's to be done in the parish. The Catholic school is not about catechesis. The problem with that is, in practice, the Catholic school families don't have anything to do with the parish or catechetical programming. They're looking to the school for that. They're sending their kids to the Catholic school so they won't have to do anything with the parish outside of the school. When catechesis happened in the family, this devotional aspect was taken care of. Now, parents have all but abdicated their role as religious educators to the school, but the school isn't forming them into disciples. The real problem with Catholic education is the focus is all wrong. Like everywhere else, we've assumed that education in the Catholic Faith equals faithful Catholics. It doesn't. And, a purely academic presentation of the Faith will almost never succeed in producing faith because it's detached, distant, and doesn't call people to make a commitment to Christ and to love him. It just teaches facts about him.

    Until the school changes it's priority and teachers learn how to evangelize first and educate second, nothing in Catholic education will change. And, my fear is that Catholic educators don't recognize this important distinction. But I agree with you...we shouldn't count Catholic education out, just push for serious change. In the current model, we won't get where we need to be, and if the episcopacy insist on putting so much hope in Catholic education, the future doesn't look promising.

  2. Marc, Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and insight. You offer much more to reflect upon and bring forth valuable information.We can all gain a much needed perspective in reading your comment. The "evangelize before educate" concept is very important, not only for educators,but for all of us as the faithful.
    There is so much one can do to educate those who have truly encountered the Lord and are thirsting for more. So much of the "fruitful soil" becomes bare when no one plants seeds.
    May your work in the Lord continue to lead many to the truth and beauty of the Catholic Church and may you continually be enriched with the courage, clarity, and discernment to do His will. +JMJ