GDC 259-260: Catholic schools

Today’s section explores Catholic schools:

259. The Catholic school (Cf. Congregation for Catholic Education, The Catholic School, Rome 1977) is a most important locus for human and Christian formation. The declaration of the Second Vatican Council, Gravissimum Educationis “makes a decisive change in the history of Catholic schools: the move from school as institution to school as community”. (Congregation for Catholic Education, The religious dimension of education in the Catholic School. Outlines for Reflection, Rome 1988, n. 31.) Catholic schools “are no less zealous than other schools in the promotion of culture and in the human formation of young people. It is however, the special function of the Catholic school to:

– develop in the school community an atmosphere animated by a spirit of liberty and charity;

– enable young people, while developing their own personality, to grow at the same time in that new life which has been given them in baptism;

– orientate the whole of human culture to the message of salvation”; (Gravissimum Educationes 28)

The educational task of Catholic schools is bound to be developed along the basis of this concept proposed by the Second Vatican Council. It is accomplished in the school community, to which belong all of those who are directly involved in it: “teachers, management, administrative and auxiliary staff, parents—central in that they are the natural and irreplaceable educators of their own children—and pupils, who are participants and active subjects too of the educational process”. (Congregation for Catholic Education, The Religions dimension of education in the Catholic School, n. 32: l.c)

Catholic schools best result of these is to be found in the community they foster. There is more emphasis on education and less on baptismal call, but some schools do quite well with the latter. One school in a parish I served recognized baptismal anniversaries, not the birthdays of its students. Does subject matter in Catholic school ge particular attention in light of Gospel values? Perhaps some school rely more on a hoped-for trickle down effect. But I do wonder why high school examinations don’t include quizzing the student on some aspect of science, history, or literature in connection with Catholic teaching. When I was in a Catholic high school, the departments functioned separately, and religion was not taken very seriously.

260. When most students attending a Catholic school belong to families who associate themselves with the school because of its Catholic character, the ministry of the word can be exercised in it in multiple forms: primary proclamation, scholastic religious instruction, catechesis, homily. Two of these forms, however, have a particular importance in the Catholic school: religious instruction in the school and catechesis whose respective characteristics have already been discussed. (“The special character of the Catholic school, the underlying reason for it, the reason why Catholic parents should prefer it, is precisely the quality of the religious instruction integrated into the education of the pupils” (Catechesi Tradendae 69); cf Part I, Chap. 2, nn. 73-76) When students and their families become associated with Catholic schools because of the quality of education offered in the school, or for other possible reasons, catechetical activity is necessarily limited and even religious education—when possible—accentuates its cultural character. The contribution of such schools is always “a service of great value to (people)”, (Ad Gentes 12c) as well as an internal element of evangelization of the Church. Given the plurality of socio-cultural and religious contexts in which the work of Catholic schools is carried on in different nations, it is opportune that the Bishops and the Episcopal Conferences specify the kind of catechetical activity to be implemented in Catholic schools.

This aspect of “internal evangelizatoin” is less explored than it might be. Perhaps the “achievement” of attending a Catholic school is seen more as the final stage in education, rather than a means to a greater end: living a baptismal life in the world.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
This entry was posted in General Directory for Catechesis, post-conciliar catechetical documents. Bookmark the permalink.

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