Gravissimum Educationis 8

Scriptorium8. Catholic Schools

The influence of the Church in the field of education is shown in a special manner by the Catholic school. No less than other schools does the Catholic school pursue cultural goals and the human formation of youth.

If you were ever looking for a mission statement for a school, look no further than this:

But its proper function is to create for the school community a special atmosphere animated by the Gospel spirit of freedom and charity, to help youth grow according to the new creatures they were made through baptism as they develop their own personalities, and finally to order the whole of human culture to the news of salvation so that the knowledge the students gradually acquire of the world, life and (humankind) is illumined by faith.(Cf. Provincial Council of Westminster I, a. 1852: Collatio Lacensis III, col. 1334, a/b; Pius XI’s encyclical letter, Divini Illius Magistri, 1, p. 77 ff.; Pius XII’s allocution to the Bavarian Association of Catholic Teachers, Dec. 31, 1956: Discourses and Radio Messages, vol. 18, p. 746; Paul VI’s allocution to the members of Federated Institutes Dependent on Ecclesiastic Authority, Dec. 30, 1963: Encyclicals and Discourses of Paul VI, 1, Rome, 1964, 602 ff.)

Openness to the world is essential; students themselves will be placed into it at the conclusion of their school education for the apostolate:

So indeed the Catholic school, while it is open, as it must be, to the situation of the contemporary world, leads its students to promote efficaciously the good of the earthly city and also prepares them for service in the spread of the Kingdom of God, so that by leading an exemplary apostolic life they become, as it were, a saving leaven in the human community.

The Church has a “right” to found and run schools:

Since, therefore, the Catholic school can be such an aid to the fulfillment of the mission of the People of God and to the fostering of the dialogue between the Church and (humankind), to the benefit of both, it retains even in our present circumstances the utmost importance. Consequently this sacred synod proclaims anew what has already been taught in several documents of the magisterium,(Cf. especially the document mentioned in the first note; moreover this law of the Church is proclaimed by many provincial councils and in the most recent declarations of very many of the episcopal conferences.) namely: the right of the Church freely to establish and to conduct schools of every type and level. And the council calls to mind that the exercise of a right of this kind contributes in the highest degree to the protection of freedom of conscience, the rights of parents, as well as to the betterment of culture itself.

Teachers provide an essential element of the quality of the Catholic school. Doesn’t sound like a throw-away piece of charity work to me. The bishops are serious:

But let teachers recognize that the Catholic school depends upon them almost entirely for the accomplishment of its goals and programs.(Cf. Pius XI’s encyclical letter, Divini Illius Magistri, 1 p. 80 ff.; Pius XII’s allocution to the Catholic Association of Italian Teachers in Secondary Schools, Jan. 5, 1954: Discourses and Radio Messages, 15, pp. 551-55B; John XXIII’s allocution to the 6th Congress of the Associations of Catholic Italian Teachers Sept. 5, 1959: Discourses, Messages, Conversations, 1, Rome,1960, pp. 427-431.) They should therefore be very carefully prepared so that both in secular and religious knowledge they are equipped with suitable qualifications and also with a pedagogical skill that is in keeping with the findings of the contemporary world. Intimately linked in charity to one another and to their students and endowed with an apostolic spirit, may teachers by their life as much as by their instruction bear witness to Christ, the unique Teacher. Let them work as partners with parents and together with them in every phase of education give due consideration to the difference of sex and the proper ends Divine Providence assigns to each sex in the family and in society. Let them do all they can to stimulate their students to act for themselves and even after graduation to continue to assist them with advice, friendship and by establishing special associations imbued with the true spirit of the Church. The work of these teachers, this sacred synod declares, is in the real sense of the word an apostolate most suited to and necessary for our times and at once a true service offered to society. The Council also reminds Catholic parents of the duty of entrusting their children to Catholic schools wherever and whenever it is possible and of supporting these schools to the best of their ability and of cooperating with them for the education of their children.(Cf. Pius XII’s allocution to the Catholic Association of Italian Teachers in Secondary Schools, Jan. 5, 1954, 1, p. 555.)

Some interesting items: Every school teacher should have “religious knowledge” as well as their particular discipline. The teacher’s life witness is part of the ideal picture. Teachers are partners with parents and mentors for students, even after graduation. All in all, the bishops have saved some of their highest praise and expectations for the apostolate of Catholic school teacher. Any of your own to add?


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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One Response to Gravissimum Educationis 8

  1. Talmida says:

    This passage strikes me as rather odd:

    “Let them work as partners with parents and together with them in every phase of education give due consideration to the difference of sex and the proper ends Divine Providence assigns to each sex in the family and in society.” (emphasis mine)

    What ends are those, I wonder? What are the proper ends that God assigns to each sex in the family and in society?

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