Principles of Catholic Identity Overview

Catholic Identity in Education: Principles articulates elements the Church expects to find in all Catholic schools and which distinguish them from other schools. The principles are derived from Church documents related to education, including the documents of Vatican II, documents from the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education, and the writings of various Popes. The five principles are: Inspired by Divine Mission; Models Christian Communion; Encounters Christ in Prayer, Scripture, and Sacraments; Integrally Forms the Human Person and Imparts a Christian Understanding of the World. Each principle includes a summary which is comprehensive, yet concise, and reflects the language found in the Church documents.

Intention for Use

The Cardinal Newman Society is dedicated to promoting and defending faithful Catholic education. These principles act as a framework to guide Cardinal Newman’s K-12 efforts and to ensure they are aligned with the Church’s guidance.

Suggestions for Use

Because these principles are directly formulated from Church teaching, anyone involved in Catholic education may find them of use in providing direction, inspiration, guidance, or evaluation of their educational efforts.[1] 

Principle I: Inspired by Divine Mission

Catholic education is an expression of the Church’s mission of salvation and an instrument of evangelization:1 to make disciples of Christ and to teach them to observe all that He has commanded.2 Through Catholic education, students encounter God, “who in Jesus Christ reveals His transforming love and truth.”3  Christ is the foundation of Catholic education;4 He journeys with students through school and life as “genuine Teacher” and “perfect Man.”5 As a faith community in unity with the Church and in fidelity to the Magisterium, students, parents, and educators give witness to Christ’s loving communion in the Holy Trinity.6  With this Christian vision, Catholic education fulfills its purpose of “critical, systematic transmission of culture in the light of faith”7 and the integral formation of the human person by developing each student’s physical, moral, intellectual, and spiritual gifts in harmony, teaching responsibility and right use of freedom, and preparing students to fulfill God’s calling in this world and to attain the eternal kingdom for which they were created.8 Catholic education is sustained by the frequent experience of prayer, Sacred Scripture, and the Church’s liturgical and sacramental tradition.9

Principle II: Models Christian Communion and Identity

Catholic education teaches communion with Christ, by living communion with Christ and imitating the love and freedom of the Trinity.10 This communion begins in the home—with the divinely ordered right and responsibility of parents to educate their children—and extends to the school community in support and service to the needs of the family.11 It unites families and educators with a shared educational philosophy to form students for a relationship with God and with others.12 The educational community is united to the universal Church in fidelity to the Magisterium, to the local Church, and to other schools and community organizations.13

The school community is a place of ecclesial experience, in which the members model confident and joyful public witness in both word and action and teach students to live the Catholic faith in their daily lives.14 In an environment “humanly and spiritually rich,” everyone is aware of the living presence of Jesus evidenced by a Christian way of thought and life, expressed in “Word and Sacrament, in individual behaviour, [and] in friendly and harmonious interpersonal relationships.”15 The school climate reproduces, as far as possible, the “warm and intimate atmosphere of family life.”16 As members of the Church community, students experience what it means to live a life of prayer, personal responsibility, and freedom reflective of Gospel values. This, in turn, leads them to grow in their commitment to serve God, one another, the Church, and society.17

All teachers and leaders possess adequate skills, preparation, and religious formation and possess special qualities of mind and heart as well as the sensitivity necessary for authentic witness to the gospel and the task of human formation.18 Teachers and leaders of the educational community should be “practicing Catholics, who can understand and accept the teachings of the Catholic Church and the moral demands of the Gospel, and who can contribute to the achievement of the school’s Catholic identity and apostolic goals.”19

Principle III: Encounters Christ in Prayer, Scripture & Sacrament

Rooted in Christ, Catholic education is continually fed and stimulated by Him in the frequent experience of prayer, Sacred Scripture, and the Church’s liturgical and sacramental tradition.20 The transmission of faith, catechesis, is intrinsically linked to these living encounters with Christ, by which He nurtures and educates souls in the divine life of grace and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.21 By their witness and sharing in these encounters, educators help students grow in understanding of what it means to be a member of the Church.22 Students discover the real value of the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Reconciliation, in accompanying the Christian in the journey through life. They learn “to open their hearts in confidence to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit through personal and liturgical prayer”, which makes the mystery of Christ present to students.23

Principle IV: Integrally Forms the Human Person

A complex task of Catholic education is the integral formation of students as physical, intellectual, and spiritual beings called to perfect humanity in the fullness of Christ.24 The human person is “created in ‘the image and likeness’ of God; elevated by God to the dignity of a child of God; unfaithful to God in original sin, but redeemed by Christ; a temple of the Holy Spirit; a member of the Church; destined to eternal life.”25 Catholic education assists students to become aware of the gift of Faith, worship God the Father, develop into mature adults who bear witness to the Mystical Body of Christ, respect the dignity of the human person, provide service, lead apostolic lives, and build the Kingdom of God.26

Catholic education forms the conscience through commitment to authentic Catholic doctrine.  It develops the virtues and characteristics associated with what it means to be Christian so as to resist relativism, overcome individualism, and discover vocations to serve God and others.27 “Intellectual development and growth as a Christian go forward hand in hand” where faith, culture, and life are integrated throughout the school’s program to provide students a personal closeness to Christ enriched by virtues, values, and supernatural gifts.28 As a child of God, made in his image, human formation includes the development of personal Christian ethics and respect for the body by promoting healthy development, physical activity, and chastity.29

In Catholic education, “There is no separation between time for learning and time for formation, between acquiring notions and growing in wisdom”; education and pedagogy, inspired by Gospel values and distinguished by the “illumination of all knowledge with the light of faith” allows formation to become living, conscious and active.30 The atmosphere is characterized by discovery and awareness that enkindles a love for truth and a desire to know the universe as God’s creation. The Christian educational program facilitates critical thinking that is ordered, precise, and responsible as it builds strength and perseverance in pursuit of the truth. 31

Principle V: Imparts a Christian Understanding of the World

In the light of faith, Catholic education critically and systematically transmits the secular and religious “cultural patrimony handed down from previous generations,” especially that which makes a person more human and contributes to the integral formation of students.32 Both educator and student are called to participate in the dialogue of culture and to pursue “the integration of culture with faith and of faith with living.”33 Catholic education imparts “a Christian vision of the world, of life, of culture, and of history,” ordering “the whole of human culture to the news of salvation.”34 This hallmark of Catholic education, to “bring human wisdom into an encounter with divine wisdom,”35 cultivates “in students the intellectual, creative, and aesthetic faculties of the human person,” introduces a cultural heritage, and prepares them for professional life and to take on the responsibilities and duties of society and the Church.36 Students are prepared to work for the evangelization of culture and for the common good of society.37

 

[1]  The Cardinal Newman Society has developed various resources in its Catholic Identity Series to expand upon the principles or to use them in specific evaluative exercises. Among them are: Catholic Identity in Education: Principles and Sources in Church Teaching; Catholic Identity in Education: Church Documents for Reflection; Catholic Identity in Education: Questions for Reflection and Assessment; Catholic Identity in Education: Faculty and Staff In-Service; Catholic Identity in Education: Board Reflection and The Catholic Education Honor Roll.

 

 

 

Principles Questions for Reflection and Assessment

Catholic Identity in Education: Questions for Reflection and Assessment helps Catholic school leaders facilitate reflection upon those elements the Church expects to be present in all Catholic schools and which distinguish them from other schools. The questions are structured upon five principles of Catholic identity derived from Church documents related to education. The five principles are: Inspired by Divine Mission; Models Christian Communion; Encounters Christ in Prayer, Scripture, and Sacraments; Integrally Forms the Human Person and Imparts a Christian Understanding of the World. Each principle includes a summary which is comprehensive, yet concise and is followed by a series of questions intended to serve as a general resource to guide Catholic school leaders in their efforts to enhance and assess their school’s Catholic identity.

The first four questions of each principle follow a general pattern. The remaining questions address specific sub-topics grouped according to content.

Intention for Use

Catholic Identity in Education: Questions for Reflection and Assessment is intended to help Catholic school leaders create or inform internal self-assessments of their school’s Catholic identity. It is not structured as a stand-alone or ready- to – use evaluation tool, but may be adapted to fulfill such a purpose.

Suggestions for Use

School leaders can use the resource to begin a global analysis of the school as they begin to gain a sense of direction for school improvement. Not every question needs to be asked or answered. The purpose of the document is to open up potential lines of inquiry and spark internal conversations leading eventually to targeted areas for school improvement.

Some schools may choose to adapt elements of Catholic Identity in Education: Questions for Reflection and Assessment into a series of faculty in-service programs tailored to their school’s needs. Such an exercise might involve choosing an area of focus and then dividing the faculty into small groups for discussion and then bringing them back together for group processing. Some schools may want to assign small groups to different topics and then have them present their findings leading the entire gathering in a discussion of the target area. Whatever dynamic is selected, school administrators should be present at group discussions to answer questions as they arise and to add additional information if needed.  All individuals involved in the learning environment should be involved in process that is open, safe, and positive. A process that is slow and deliberate will allow for fruitful, honest, and nuanced discussions. These discussions might then provide the opportunity for recording strengths and weaknesses, brainstorming ideas to enhance Catholic identity, and making specific plans for growth.

Principle I: Inspired by Divine Mission

Catholic education is an expression of the Church’s mission of salvation and an instrument of evangelization:1 to make disciples of Christ and to teach them to observe all that He has commanded.2 Through Catholic education, students encounter God, “who in Jesus Christ reveals His transforming love and truth.”3 Christ is the foundation of Catholic education;4 He journeys with students through school and life as “genuine Teacher” and “perfect Man.”5 As a faith community in unity with the Church and in fidelity to the Magisterium, students, parents, and educators give witness to Christ’s loving communion in the Holy Trinity.6 With this Christian vision, Catholic education fulfills its purpose of “critical, systematic transmission of culture in the light of faith”7 and the integral formation of the human person by developing each student’s physical, moral, intellectual, and spiritual gifts in harmony, teaching responsibility and right use of freedom, and preparing students to fulfill God’s calling in this world and to attain the eternal kingdom for which they were created.8 Catholic education is sustained by the frequent experience of prayer, Sacred Scripture, and the Church’s liturgical and sacramental tradition.9

Questions to Aid Reflection or Assessment

  •  How does the school, through the mission statement, governing documents, policies, and publications, express institutional commitment to the Church’s teaching on the divine mission of Catholic education?
  •  How does the school ensure members of the community (board, administration, faculty, staff, volunteers, students and parents) are committed to the Church’s teaching on the divine mission of Catholic education?
  • How does the school ensure employees and volunteers have the necessary knowledge, skills, dispositions and ongoing training to fulfill the Church’s teaching on the divine mission of Catholic education?
  • How does the school evaluate programs and personnel to ensure institutional commitment to the Church’s teaching on the divine mission of Catholic education?
  • How does the school ensure institutional commitment to the Church’s teaching on the divine mission of Catholic education, including…
    • the school is a place of encountering God and His love and truth?
    • the school has Christ as its foundation?
    • the school is a community united with the Church?
    • the school is faithful to the Magisterium?
    • the school provides frequent opportunities for prayer, reading of scripture, and the Church’s liturgical and sacramental traditions?
    • the school engages in the integral formation of the human person—spiritual, intellectual, and physical?
    • the school presents a Christian worldview of humanity and the dignity of the person?
    • the school transmits culture in the light of faith?
    • the school prepares students to be instruments of evangelization?
  • How does the school’s mission statement demonstrate a commitment to Catholic identity?
  • How does the school review its mission statement to ensure fidelity to the divine mission of Catholic education?
  • How does the school review fidelity to its mission?
  • How does the school ensure each member of the governing body is informed of and committed to the responsibility to respect, promote, strengthen, and defend the Catholic identity of the school?
  • How does the school ensure each member of the governing body is a practicing Catholic?
  • How does the governing body of the school advance the school’s Catholic mission?
  • How does the governing body ensure policies, programs, and strategic planning, are guided by the Church’s mission for Catholic education?
  • How are members of the school community informed of the school’s Catholic mission and educational philosophy to ensure understanding and commitment?
  • How does the school ensure that the educational philosophy is in harmony with the Church’s teaching on the divine mission of Catholic education?
  • How aware is the broader community of the school’s Catholic mission?
  • How does the school protect the mission of Catholic education in light of new educational paradigms, consumerist demands, government interference, threats to religious freedom, secular curricular standards, and societal expectations?

Principle II: Models Christian Communion and Identity

Catholic education teaches communion with Christ, by living communion with Christ and imitating the love and freedom of the Trinity.10 This communion begins in the home—with the divinely ordered right and responsibility of parents to educate their children—and extends to the school community in support and service to the needs of the family.11 It unites families and educators with a shared educational philosophy to form students for a relationship with God and with others.12 The educational community is united to the universal Church in fidelity to the Magisterium, to the local Church, and to other schools and community organizations.13

The school community is a place of ecclesial experience, in which the members model confident and joyful public witness in both word and action and teach students to live the Catholic faith in their daily lives.14 In an environment “humanly and spiritually rich,” everyone is aware of the living presence of Jesus evidenced by a Christian way of thought and life, expressed in “Word and Sacrament, in individual behaviour, [and] in friendly and harmonious interpersonal relationships.”15 The school climate reproduces, as far as possible, the “warm and intimate atmosphere of family life.”16 As members of the Church community, students experience what it means to live a life of prayer, personal responsibility, and freedom reflective of Gospel values. This, in turn, leads them to grow in their commitment to serve God, one another, the Church, and society.17

All teachers and leaders possess adequate skills, preparation, and religious formation and possess special qualities of mind and heart as well as the sensitivity necessary for authentic witness to the gospel and the task of human formation.18 Teachers and leaders of the educational community should be “practicing Catholics, who can understand and accept the teachings of the Catholic Church and the moral demands of the Gospel, and who can contribute to the achievement of the school’s Catholic identity and apostolic goals.”19

Questions to Aid Reflection or Assessment

  • How does the school ensure that members of the community (board, administration, faculty, staff, volunteers, students and parents) are committed to modeling and teaching Christian communion?
  • How does the school ensure that employees and volunteers have the necessary knowledge skills, dispositions, and ongoing training to model and teach Christian communion?
  • How does the school ensure consistency and harmony between home and school, meaningful involvement of parents, and responsiveness to the needs of parents in teaching and living Christian communion?
  • How does the school evaluate programs and personnel to ensure that they model Christian communion?
  • How does the school ensure that formation of students is in communion with the Catholic Church?
  • How does the school instill in students a responsibility to respect, promote, strengthen, and protect the Catholic identity of the school?
  • How does the school ensure that students understand expectations for learning and behavior that reflect Catholic teaching and practice?
  • How does the school ensure that formation of students is in and for communion with others?
  • How does the school assist students to develop and nurture harmonious relationships with each other, with parents, and with employees and volunteers?
  • How does the school assist students to develop respect, kindness, mercy, and forgiveness when interacting with each other, parents, school employees, and volunteers?
  • How does the school assist students in developing virtuous ways to heal hurting or broken relationships?
  • How does the school ensure that the community is united in faith to the Catholic Church and to the Magisterium?
  • How do school leaders communicate with and support the needs of local Catholic pastors, priests, and religious?
  • How does the school community serve, support, and participate in the activities of local parishes and Catholic apostolates?
  • How does the school demonstrate respect and faithfulness to the teaching authority of the local and universal Church?
  • How does the school ensure that operations are consistent with the Code of Canon LawCatechism of the Catholic Church, and other magisterial teachings of the Church?
  • How does the school protect Catholic moral norms in the selection of outside service providers and organizations?
  • How does the school protect Catholic moral norms in the approval of student and faculty organizations, associations, or activities?
  • How does the school ensure that the community is united in service to others?
  • How does the school support and serve the local community in fulfilling the mission of Catholic education?
  • How does the school support and collaborate with other schools and community organizations in fulfilling the mission of Catholic education?
  • How does the school ensure communion with parents?
  • How are parents invited to participate in a meaningful partnership with the school and community?
  • How does the school assist Catholic and non-Catholic parents to integrate into the Catholic community and, if appropriate, formally transition into the Catholic Church?
  • How does the school ensure that non-Catholic families feel part of the community, and, if appropriate, create opportunities to further explore and understand the teachings of the Catholic Church?
  • How does the community, in a supportive role with the school, assist families who are struggling with personal challenges, difficulties, and crises?
  • How does the school make Catholic education accessible to large or economically disadvantaged families?
  • How does the school ensure that employees and volunteers live in communion?
  • How does the school assist employees and volunteers to develop and nurture harmonious relationships with each other, students, and families?
  • How does the school assist employees and volunteers to develop respect, kindness, mercy, and forgiveness when interacting with each other, parents, and members of the school community?
  • How does the school’s environment evidence a Christian way of life that reflects an extension of the warmth of family life?
  • How does the school ensure that employees and volunteers live in communion with the Catholic Church?
  • How does the school express to all employees and volunteers the expectation to respect, promote, strengthen, and protect the Catholic identity of the school?
  • How does the school ensure that employees and volunteers are practicing Catholics who understand and respect the teachings of the Catholic Church, the moral demands of the Gospel, and are committed to public witness of the Church’s teachings in both word and action?
  • How does the school monitor, assist, and hold accountable employees and volunteers to ensure a commitment to Catholic ideals, teachings and principles?
  • How does the school ensure that employees and volunteers are committed to, and participate in, the religious formation of students and catechetical ministry of the school?
  • How does the school ensure that organizations and associations to which employees and volunteers belong conform to Catholic ideals, principles, and teachings?
  • How does the school, in the rare instance when only a non-Catholic is available to fill a teaching position other than a theology class, ensure that the teacher is aware, supportive, and respectful of the school’s Catholic mission and identity?
  • How does the school ensure that only Catholic faculty are assigned to teaching positions where formal catechesis occurs?
  • How does the school ensure that employees receive ongoing professional development and formation in moral and religious principles, the social teachings of the Catholic Church, and critical issues in society today?

Principle III: Encounters Christ in Prayer, Scripture & Sacraments

Rooted in Christ, Catholic education is continually fed and stimulated by Him in the frequent experience of prayer, Sacred Scripture, and the Church’s liturgical and sacramental tradition.20 The transmission of faith, catechesis, is intrinsically linked to these living encounters with Christ, by which He nurtures and educates souls in the divine life of grace and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.21 By their witness and sharing in these encounters, educators help students grow in understanding of what it means to be a member of the Church.22 Students discover the real value of the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Reconciliation, in accompanying the Christian in the journey through life. They learn “to open their hearts in confidence to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit through personal and liturgical prayer”, which makes the mystery of Christ present to students.23

Questions to Aid Reflection or Assessment

  • How does the school ensure that members of the community (board, administration, faculty, staff, volunteers, students, and parents) are committed to providing opportunities for living encounters with Christ?
  • How does the school ensure that employees and volunteers have the necessary knowledge, skills, dispositions, and ongoing training to provide opportunities for living encounters with Christ?
  • How does the school ensure consistency and harmony between home and school, meaningful involvement of parents, and responsiveness to the needs of parents in providing opportunities for living encounters with Christ?
  • How does the school evaluate programs and personnel to ensure opportunities to encounter Christ in prayer, scripture, and the Sacraments?
  • How does the school ensure opportunities for prayer, liturgy, and the Sacraments are prioritized on the school calendar and daily schedule?
  • How does the school ensure opportunities for students to encounter Christ in:
    • personal prayer?
    • community prayer?
    • essential traditional Catholic prayers?
    • Eucharistic adoration, benediction, and procession?
    • Marian devotions?
    • days of reflection?
    • prayers for particular devotions or charisms of the school?
    • prayer in the classroom?
    • prayer during extracurricular activities and programs?
    • prayers of the liturgical season and feast days?
    • prayers for spiritual direction?
    • prayers for vocational discernment?
  • How does the school ensure that prayer is meaningful, respectful, and assists students in   deepening their relationship with God?
  • How does the school ensure opportunities for students to encounter Christ in scripture through:
    • individual reading and contemplation?
    • community reading and contemplation?
    • frequent reference to Scripture in classroom instruction?
    • instruction in authentic interpretation of Scripture through courses focused on catechesis and exegesis?
  • How does the school ensure opportunities for students to encounter Christ in the Sacraments?
  • How often does the school provide opportunities for participation in the Mass and reception of the Eucharist?
  • How does the school form students in the meaning, value, and proper participation in the Mass?
  • How does the school form students in the meaning, value, and proper reception of the Eucharist?
  • How often does the school provide students the opportunity for participation in the Sacrament of Reconciliation?
  • How does the school form students in the meaning, value, and proper reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation?
  • How does the school form students in the meaning, value, and preparation for the Sacrament of Confirmation?
  • How does the school ensure that liturgies and Reconciliation follow Church norms?
  • How does the school reflect on the experience of students in these encounters of prayer, scripture, and the Sacraments to ensure that they are personal and meaningful?
  • How does the school ensure that spiritual direction is available and administered by qualified and faithful priests, religious, or trained laity?
  • How does the school ensure that there is an active program to promote vocations and vocational discernment to religious life?
  • How does the school support parents, students, faculty, and parishes in sacramental preparation for Baptism, first Reconciliation, first Holy Communion, and Confirmation?
  • How often are retreats provided for students, employees, and parents?
  • How does the school ensure that opportunities for spiritual retreats are formational and effective in deepening a relationship with God?
  • How does the school ensure opportunities for employees and volunteers to encounter Christ in prayer, scripture and the Sacraments?
  • How does the school provide formation for employees and volunteers in the meaning and value of the liturgy, the Eucharist, prayer, and the Sacraments, to effectively share these “living encounters with Christ”?
  • How does the school encourage participation by employees in prayer, retreats, liturgies, and the Sacraments?
  • How does the school ensure employees and volunteer are witnesses to Gospel values?
  • How does the school provide professional development for employees to aid in the integration of scripture according to their particular duties?
  • How do school employees and volunteers assist and encourage, students and families to participate in the prayer and sacramental life of the school?
  • How frequently does the school provide opportunities for parents to encounter Christ through prayer, liturgies, and the Sacraments?
  • How does the school inform students and families about the use of sacramentals to ensure an understanding of their purpose in faith and devotion?
  • How does the school ensure that spiritual direction is available and administered by qualified and faithful priests, religious, or trained laity?
  • How does the school ensure that sacred images, icons, artwork, furnishings, and spaces are present and facilitate opportunities for living encounters with God?

Principle IV: Integrally Forms the Human Person

A complex task of Catholic education is the integral formation of students as physical, intellectual, and spiritual beings called to perfect humanity in the fullness of Christ.24 The human person is “created in ‘the image and likeness’ of God; elevated by God to the dignity of a child of God; unfaithful to God in original sin, but redeemed by Christ; a temple of the Holy Spirit; a member of the Church; destined to eternal life.”25 Catholic education assists students to become aware of the gift of Faith, worship God the Father, develop into mature adults who bear witness to the Mystical Body of Christ, respect the dignity of the human person, provide service, lead apostolic lives, and build the Kingdom of God.26

Catholic education forms the conscience through commitment to authentic Catholic doctrine.  It develops the virtues and characteristics associated with what it means to be Christian so as to resist relativism, overcome individualism, and discover vocations to serve God and others.27 “Intellectual development and growth as a Christian go forward hand in hand” where faith, culture, and life are integrated throughout the school’s program to provide students a personal closeness to Christ enriched by virtues, values, and supernatural gifts.28 As a child of God, made in his image, human formation includes the development of personal Christian ethics and respect for the body by promoting healthy development, physical activity, and chastity.29

In Catholic education, “There is no separation between time for learning and time for formation, between acquiring notions and growing in wisdom”; education and pedagogy, inspired by Gospel values and distinguished by the “illumination of all knowledge with the light of faith” allows formation to become living, conscious and active.30 The atmosphere is characterized by discovery and awareness that enkindles a love for truth and a desire to know the universe as God’s creation. The Christian educational program facilitates critical thinking that is ordered, precise, and responsible as it builds strength and perseverance in pursuit of the truth.31

Questions to Aid Reflection or Assessment

  • How does the school ensure that members of the community (board, administration faculty, staff, volunteers, students, and parents) are committed to the integral formation of students?
  • How does the school ensure that employees and volunteers have the necessary knowledge, skills, dispositions and ongoing training for the integral formation of students?
  • How does the school ensure consistency and harmony between the home and school, meaningful involvement of parents, and responsiveness to the needs of parents in the integral formation of students?
  • How does the school evaluate programs and personnel to ensure the integral formation of students?
  • How does the school ensure a strong foundation in catechesis for students to understand and appreciate the teachings and traditions of the Catholic Church?
  • How is the Catholic faith integrated into academic, co-curricular, and extracurricular programs?
  • How does the school’s catechetical program engage both the intellect and will of students?
  • How does the school’s program provide students with an understanding of the history of the Catholic Church?
  • How does the school integrate the teachings of the Church when addressing ecumenical and interreligious issues?
  • How does the school ensure students’ moral formation is faithful to the teachings of the Catholic Church?
  • How does the school instill in students a desire to live the truth and practice holiness in their daily lives?
  • How does the school teach students that authentic freedom is the ability to do what God desires for them and not just what one wants to do?
  • How does the school instill in students a respect for religious freedom and a sense of responsibility for its protection and use?
  • How does the school instill in students the virtue and wisdom needed to avoid sin, the near occasion of sin, and the loss of a sense of sin?
  • How do the school’s disciplinary policies reflect a commitment to teach virtue?
  • How does the school express the reality of God’s mercy and forgiveness so students, in turn, will model mercy and forgiveness for others?
  • How does the school instill in students the Christian obligation to live lives of love and service, seek justice, and minister to the poor, marginalized, and outcast?
  • How does the school instill in students an understanding and appreciation for the moral and social teachings of the Church?
  • How does the school acknowledge and encourage virtuous behavior throughout the school community?
  • How does the school ensure a commitment to the integration of Catholic intellectual traditions throughout the academic program?
  • How does the school’s educational philosophy, standards, and pedagogy embrace knowledge for its own sake and move beyond an accumulation of knowledge for utilitarian ends?
  • How does the school provide for learning opportunities that develop creativity, reflection, critical thinking, and moral decision-making?
  • How does the school assist students to integrate faith and life?
  • How does the school provide for interdisciplinary instruction to expose underlying relationships between subject matters?
  • How does the school promote dialogue between faith and reason?
  • How does the school foster in students a love for truth and a desire for knowledge about God and His creation?
  • How does the school introduce students to the transcendentals of truth, beauty, and goodness?
  • How does the school teach students to confront materialism and relativism?
  • How does the school ensure that academic disciplines and instruction instill in students ethical and religious principles faithful to Catholic teaching?
  • How does the school ensure that students understand and appreciate man’s integral nature as both a spiritual and physical being?
  • How does the school instill in students an understanding that man is created by God, made in His image and likeness, and destined for eternal life with Him?
  • How does the school instill in students a respect for the dignity and sanctity of human life?
  • How does the school monitor human sexuality programs and teaching about other sensitive topics to ensure fidelity to teachings of the Church?
  • How does the school partner with and respect the role of parents as primary educators when introducing topics of a sensitive nature into the curriculum?
  • How does the school instill and promote in students the virtue of chastity?
  • How do the school’s expectations for decency and modesty in speech, action, and dress encourage respect for one’s body and the dignity of others?
  • How does the school prepare students to resist the temptations associated with misuse of technology and the negative influences of secular media?
  • How does the school instill in students a Christian view of family life and the vocation of marriage as an expression of Trinitarian love?
  • How does the school assist students to understand the relationship between mind, body, and soul and the importance of caring for one’s spiritual, physical, and mental well-being?
  • How does the school provide for the unique needs of students who have educational, developmental, or physical exceptionalities?
  • How does the school ensure that co-curricular and extracurricular programs provide for the integral formation of students in mind, body, and spirit?
  • How does the school ensure that students understand and appreciate the integral formation of mind, body, and soul in co-curricular and extracurricular activities?
  • How does the school approve clubs, co-curricular, and extracurricular activities that are faithful to the Church’s teaching and allow for the intellectual, physical, and spiritual formation of students?
  • How does the school’s athletic program contribute to the spiritual development of students and allow them to grow in Christian virtue?
  • How do the visual and performing arts foster the integral formation of students and aid in the development of Christian virtue?
  • How often does the school create opportunities for extracurricular service projects to allow students to build the Kingdom of God through ministry to the poor, marginalized, and outcast?
  • How do field trips enhance the intellectual, spiritual, or physical formation of students?
  • How do school dances and music selections foster the integral formation of students and aid in the development of Christian virtue?

Principle V: Imparts a Christian Understanding of the World

In the light of faith, Catholic education critically and systematically transmits the secular and religious “cultural patrimony handed down from previous generations,” especially that which makes a person more human and contributes to the integral formation of students.32 Both educator and student are called to participate in the dialogue of culture and to pursue “the integration of culture with faith and of faith with living.”33 Catholic education imparts “a Christian vision of the world, of life, of culture, and of history,” ordering “the whole of human culture to the news of salvation.”34 This hallmark of Catholic education, to “bring human wisdom into an encounter with divine wisdom,”35 cultivates “in students the intellectual, creative, and aesthetic faculties of the human person,” introduces a cultural heritage, and prepares them for professional life and to take on the responsibilities and duties of society and the Church.36 Students are prepared to work for the evangelization of culture and for the common good of society.37

Questions to Aid in Reflection or Assessment

  • How does the school ensure that members of the community (board, administration, faculty, staff, volunteers, students and parents) are committed to imparting a Christian understanding of the world?
  • How does the school ensure that employees and volunteers have the necessary knowledge, skills, dispositions and ongoing training to impart a Christian understanding of the world?
  • How does the school ensure consistency and harmony between home and school, meaningful involvement of parents, and responsiveness to the needs of the parents in imparting a Christian understanding of the world?
  • How does the school evaluate programs and personnel to ensure that they impart a Christian understanding of the world?
  • How does the school ensure the transmission of Catholic culture to allow for a Christian understanding of the world?
  • How does the school emphasize Catholic contributions to theology, philosophy, ethics, literature, science, mathematics, and the visual and performing arts?
  • How does the school ensure that students understand the impact of a Catholic worldview on language, idioms, intellectual tradition, and stories of western culture?
  • How does the school ensure that students gain cultural literacy and fluency in language, idioms, stories, civics, and knowledge that forms the American experience?
  • How does the school ensure that students gain cultural literacy and fluency in language, idioms, stories, philosophy, civics, and knowledge that forms the Western experience?
  • How does the school foster appreciation for the good and beautiful, when it can be found in a culture’s accomplishments, traditions, and arts?
  • How does the school ensure that Catholic culture is transmitted with attention to its religious dimension?
  • How does the school present a Christian anthropology of man (e.g., who man is, especially in his relationship with God and creation; man’s bodily integrity and human dignity)?
  • How does the school instill Catholic values?
  • How does the school ensure that curriculum standards, guides, texts, and pedagogy integrate truths of the Catholic faith?
  • How does the school instill in students analytical reasoning and ethics to critically evaluate culture according to Catholic moral and social teachings?
  • How does the school engage students in dialogue comparing culture and the Catholic faith?
  • How does the school encourage students to pursue an integration of culture with faith and faith with living?
  • How does the school ensure that students are prepared to evangelize culture and their fellow man?
  • How does the school form students’ intellectual, creative, and aesthetic faculties to assist in ordering culture to God’s will and truth?
  • How does the school instill in students the desire to serve the common good and promote human rights, human dignity, and religious freedom?
  • How does the school prepare students for professional life to fulfill responsibilities and duties to society and the Church?
  • How does the school explicitly encourage students to bring others to Christ and grow the Church?

 

 

 

Principles Parent Guide

Principles of Catholic Identity in Education: Parent Guide is designed to help current and prospective parents reflect upon those elements the Church expects to be present in all Catholic schools and which distinguish them from other schools.

The reflection is structured upon five principles of Catholic identity derived from Church documents related to education. The five principles that help structure this guide and questions are: Inspired by Divine MissionModels Christian Communion and IdentityEncounters Christ in PrayerScripture, and SacramentIntegrally Forms the Human Person and Imparts a Christian Understanding of the World.

Part I includes a comprehensive and concise summary of each principle[1] and is followed by a series of suggested questions intended to serve as a tool for parents, as well as community members, to consider a school’s Catholic identity.

Part II provides additional quotes from Church documents for individuals who might be interested in learning more about what the Church teaches in the areas covered by the principles.

Intention for Use

Principles of Catholic Identity in Education: Parent Guide helps current and prospective parents consider the Catholic identity of a school.[2] Although essential, Catholic identity is only one of many facets which comprise a school’s operations.

Suggestions for Use

Prospective parents can use the guide while initially reviewing a school’s website and marketing literature to see if the school might be a good fit for their family. When touring the school, parents can ask a few of the most important questions from the guide which they feel are essential to their decision-making.

Current parents can use the guide to help aid the school in maintaining or improving its Catholic identity.

Part II of the guide offers additional quotes from Church documents to help parents attain a deeper understanding of what the Church teaches about her schools.

Principle I: Inspired by Divine Mission

Catholic education is an expression of the Church’s mission of salvation and an instrument of evangelization:1 to make disciples of Christ and to teach them to observe all that He has commanded.2  Through Catholic education, students encounter God, “who in Jesus Christ reveals His transforming love and truth.”3 Christ is the foundation of Catholic education;4 He journeys with students through school and life as “genuine Teacher” and “perfect Man.”5 As a faith community in unity with the Church and in fidelity to the Magisterium, students, parents, and educators give witness to Christ’s loving communion in the Holy Trinity.6 With this Christian vision, Catholic education fulfills its purpose of “critical, systematic transmission of culture in the light of faith”7 and the integral formation of the human person by developing each student’s physical, moral, spiritual, and intellectual gifts in harmony, teaching responsibility and right use of freedom, and preparing students to fulfill God’s calling in this world and to attain the eternal kingdom for which they were created.8 Catholic education is sustained by the frequent experience of prayer, Sacred Scripture, and the Church’s liturgical and sacramental tradition.9

Questions to Aid Discernment and Review

Mission and Educational Philosophy

  • Does the school’s mission statement and/or educational philosophy (typically found on the school website or beginning pages of the student handbook) reflect the mission of Catholic education to form students as disciples of Christ?
  • Does the school’s mission statement indicate and explain any of the following areas? If so, how?
    • The school is a place of encountering God and his love and truth.
    • The school has Christ as its foundation.
    • The school is a community united with the Church.
    • The school is faithful to the Magisterium.
    • The school provides frequent opportunities for prayer, sacred scripture, and the Church’s liturgical and sacramental traditions.
    • The school engages in the integral formation of the human person – spiritual, intellectual, and physical.
    • The school presents a Christian worldview of humanity emphasizing the dignity of the human person.
    • The school transmits culture in the light of faith.
    • The school prepares students to be instruments of evangelization.
  • Is the school proudly and strongly Catholic in its identity? How is this evident?

Principle II: Models Christian Communion and Identity

Catholic education teaches communion with Christ, by living communion with Christ and imitating the love and freedom of the Trinity.10 This communion begins in the home—with the divinely ordered right and responsibility of parents to educate their children—and extends to the school community in support and service to the needs of the family.11 It unites families and educators with a shared educational philosophy to form students for a relationship with God and with others.12 The educational community is united to the universal Church in fidelity to the magisterium, to the local Church, and to other schools and community organizations.13

The school community is a place of ecclesial experience, in which the members model confident and joyful public witness in both word and action and teach students to live the Catholic faith in their daily lives.14 In an environment “humanly and spiritually rich,” everyone is aware of the living presence of Jesus evidenced by a Christian way of life, expressed in “Word and Sacrament, in individual behaviour, [and] in friendly and harmonious relationships.”15 The school climate reproduces, as far as possible, the “warm and intimate atmosphere of family life.”16 As members of the Church community, students experience what it means to live a life of prayer, personal responsibility, and freedom reflective of Gospel values. This, in turn, leads them to grow in their commitment to serve God, one another, the Church, and the society.17

All teachers and leaders possess adequate skills, preparation, and religious formation and possess special qualities of mind and heart as well as the sensitivity necessary for authentic witness to the gospel and the task of human formation.18 Teachers and leaders of the educational community should be “practicing Catholics, who can understand and accept the teachings of the Catholic Church and the moral demands of the Gospel and who can contribute to the achievement of the school’s Catholic identity and apostolic goals.”19

Questions to Aid Discernment and Review

Communion in General

  • Does the school environment evidence a Christian way of life that reproduces, as far as possible, the warm and intimate atmosphere of family life? How so?
  • Does the school community appear open and inviting or overly exclusive? How so?

Communion with Parents

  • Is the school community welcoming and appreciative of parents? How so?
  • Are parents recognized as the primary educators of their children? How so?

Communion among Students

  • Do students appear to treat each other with respect and kindness? Do students engage openly and freely with each other? Do there appear to be social cliques or other restrictive groupings? If so, how is this evident?
  • Do students appear to help each other grow and flourish? Is there evidence of students showing each other compassion and acceptance? How so?
  • How has the school addressed any bullying, detraction, or belittling? Is there a Gospel-based plan to address these types of conflicts?

Communion with the Broader Community

  • Do students actively and joyfully defend the rights of the most vulnerable: the unborn, the elderly, the disabled, the homeless and shut-in, the handicapped and marginalized? How so?
  • Are students active in service programs for the school and for the community? Do they perform voluntary service? How does the school assist students in developing a concern for others and the common good?
  • How are students able to experience the universality of the Catholic Church beyond the school walls? Do students appear to feel at home in the Catholic Church and embrace it outside of the school experience?
  • Does the school interact positively with other area Catholic schools, parishes, the diocesan school office, and auxiliary efforts of the universal Church?

Christian Atmosphere

  • Does the faculty appear to enjoy their call to the apostolate of education? How is this evident?
  • Do faculty members spend non-classroom time with students? When?
  • Do faculty members interact and socialize with students in ways that are both appropriate and joyful? How?
  • Do faculty members understand and offer mercy and forgiveness to students when they fall? To parents? Examples.

Christian Vocation

  • Do teachers appear to naturally relate subject material to aspects of the Catholic faith?
  • Do all faculty members frequently, openly, and naturally pray with students in both formal and informal ways? Do all faculty joyfully attend Mass and other prayer activities of the school?

Christian Witness

  • In what ways does the faculty witness the Gospel message? Do they live the Gospel with integrity in the entirety of their lives? Are their personal witness and living consistent with the teachings of the Catholic Church?
  • How does the school assist faculty and staff with opportunities to grow in faith and in virtue?
  • Since the Catholic mission of the school depends almost entirely on the faculty, does there appear to be fellowship among the faculty and unity in mission? How so?

Principle III: Encounters Christ in Prayer, Scripture, and Sacrament

Rooted in Christ, Catholic education is continually fed and stimulated by Him in the frequent experience of prayer, scripture, and the Church’s liturgical and sacramental tradition.20 The transmission of faith, catechesis, is intrinsically linked to these living encounters with Christ, by which He nurtures and educates souls in the divine life of grace and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.21 By their witness and sharing in these encounters, educators help students grow in understanding of what it means to be a member of the Church.22 Students discover the real value of the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Reconciliation, in accompanying the Christian in the journey through life. They learn “to open their hearts in confidence to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit through personal and liturgical prayer,” which makes the mystery of Christ present to students.23

Questions to Aid Discernment and Review

Below are a series of questions to facilitate reflection and to begin a discussion of how one encounters Christ in the school. Choose areas for discussion as time allows.

Prayer

  • Is prayer a norm in the school? How do you know?
  • Do students pray:
    • at the start and end of school?
    • before meals?
    •  before classes?
    • before athletic events?
    • at assemblies and events?
  • Are students required to know traditional Catholic prayers and practices?
  • Is quiet time and space provided for a peaceful encounter with Christ?
  • Are retreats available? How many? Are they appropriate and effective? Do students enjoy and attend them and grow in faith? Are they spiritually substantial and well-organized? What evidence is there for these?

Sacraments

  • How frequently do students attend Mass as a school? Is it required or voluntary? If voluntary, how many students attend?
  • Are there opportunities for Eucharistic adoration, benediction, and/or processions?
  • How often is confession available for students?
  • Is quality spiritual direction available to students? Vocational discernment opportunities?

Spiritual Life of the School

  • Does the faculty participate in the school’s spiritual life?
  • Are non-Catholic students invited to participated in the spiritual life of the school as much as they are able? Is there a program for students inquiring about joining the Catholic Church?
  • Are parents involved in the spiritual and sacramental life of the school? How?
  • How does the school celebrate the liturgical year, Holy Days of Obligation, Saints, and feast days?
  • Is the Rosary prayed and special devotion given to our Blessed Mother?
  • Is there a particular religious charism of the school that students know, understand, and practice?

Sacred Environment

  • Upon entering the school, does one experience a sense of hospitality and sacredness?
  • Are sacred works of art (paintings, statues, crucifixes, and other symbols) used to enhance the sense of transcendence and Catholic identity throughout the school?

Principle IV: Integrally Forms the Human Person

The complex task of Catholic education is the integral formation of students as physical, intellectual, and spiritual beings called to perfect humanity in the fullness of Christ, which is their right by Baptism.24 The human person is “created in ‘the image and likeness’ of God; elevated by God to the dignity of a child of God; unfaithful to God in original sin, but redeemed by Christ; a temple of the Holy Spirit, a member of the Church; destined to eternal life.”25 Catholic education assists students to become aware of the gift of Faith, worship God the Father, develop into mature adults who bear witness to the Mystical Body of Christ, respect the dignity of the human person, provide service, lead apostolic lives, and build the Kingdom of God.26

Catholic education forms the conscience through commitment to authentic Catholic doctrine. It develops the virtues and characteristics associated with what it means to be Christian so as to resist relativism, overcome individualism, and discover vocations to serve God and others.27 “Intellectual development and growth as a Christian go forward hand in hand” where faith, culture, and life are integrated throughout the school’s program to provide students a personal closeness to Christ enriched by virtues, values, and supernatural gifts.28 As a child of God, made in his image, human formation includes the development of personal Christian ethics and respect for the body by promoting healthy development, physical activity, and chastity.29

In Catholic education, “There is no separation between time for learning and time for formation, between acquiring notions and growing in wisdom”; education and pedagogy inspired by Gospel values and distinguished by the “illumination of all knowledge with the light of faith” allows formation to become living, conscious and active.30 The atmosphere is characterized by discovery and awareness that enkindles a love for truth, and a desire to know the universe as God’s creation. The Christian educational program facilitates critical thinking that is ordered, precise, and responsible as it builds strength and perseverance in pursuit of the truth.31

Questions to Aid Discernment and Review:

Philosophy

  • Is knowledge and learning celebrated for its own sake and worth, or is knowledge viewed as a means to an end, a necessary commodity to get to the next level of high school, college, or career?
  • Where and how are students formed in wisdom as opposed to simply knowledge? (Wisdom is the knowledge of ultimate causes, explanations, and principles. It addresses the big picture questions of life, such as “What is the purpose of life?” “What is a good life?” “Is there a God and how do I know He exists?”)
  • Does a Christian understanding of the human person, as an integrated body and soul created in the image and likeness of God, form the basis for a balanced approach to student formation, especially in curricular and extra-curricular course selections and opportunities? How is this evident?
  • Where and how are students exposed to concepts inherent to all of humanity, such as truth, beauty, and goodness?

Pedagogy

  • Are faculty versatile in the areas of both academic content and catechesis? Do they enrich discussions in any discipline or on any topic with a spiritual and faith-based perspective naturally and with ease? How is this evident?
  • Are different academic disciplines explicitly related to reflect the unity of truth and the interrelationships among topics?
  • Are students challenged to seek the Truth? Are there courses or programs to train students to see beyond public opinion and contemporary culture?
  • Are adequate counseling and professional services available to students with special needs or circumstances?

Spiritual Development

  • Does the school’s catechetical effort appear well thought out and focused on the development of a fully integrated faith life which engages the students’ intellect and will and finds expression in their day-to-day lives?
  • Is religion class required each year for all students?
  • Are students required to know the basics of the Catholic faith and doctrine appropriate to their grade level?
  • Where and how are foundational principles of Catholic Social Teaching explicitly taught?
  • Are all Catholic materials presented in catechetical coursework without any doctrinal error and completely faithful to Catholic teaching as presented in the Catechism of the Catholic Church?
  • Is the Catechism of the Catholic Church listed as a textbook for religion classes? Other classes?
  • Are there mixed signals that “some” Church doctrine is in error, can be ignored, or is not as important as others? How is this evident?
  • Is Sacred Scripture an integral part of students’ school life? How is this evident?

Moral Development

  • Does the school teach and emphasize living a life of virtue? How and where?
  • Is the discipline/formation program virtue based? Is the program developmentally sensitive and focused on human dignity and the flourishing of the person?
  • Does the school incorporate the Catechism of the Catholic Church into all programs of moral development?
  • Does the school have a program (separate or integrated into its theology program) advocating purity of life and chastity in all relationships?
  • Are parents informed of and involved in all human sexuality programs administered by the school?
  • Are parents allowed to opt out their students from these programs or other sensitive programs or initiatives of the school?
  • Does the school address contemporary moral issues (such as gender identity and homosexuality) from a faithful Catholic perspective or do they give in to societal pressures?
  • How does the school address the possible misuse of technology by students?
  • Does the school make it a point to address the moral and ethical flashpoints between Catholicism and the common culture? Is instruction and personal witness by adults clear on the issues of the dignity of all human life and the particular evils of abortion and euthanasia; the sanctity of natural marriage as the in-dissolvable lifelong union of one man and one woman; the beauty and fullness of human sexuality which can only be properly exercised by married couples in the service of both love and life? Where and how is this evident?
  • Where does the school discuss issues of objective truth and moral relativism?

Physical Development and Expression

  • Are there sufficient programs in place to address the physical development and expression of students?
  • Do these programs support the integral formation of students by bringing in spirituality, intellectual growth, and maturing discernment? How so?
  • Do extra-curricular programs assist students in developing into the fullness of their humanity in Christ? How so?
  • Is there a protocol in place for the evaluation of new programs, or additional components to existing programs, to ensure they further the mission of Catholic education?
  • Does the school offer dances or other social gatherings where students are instructed in aspects of appropriate social behavior, showing respect and dignity for members of the opposite sex, their peers, and adults?
  • Is the school known for its sportsmanship and Christian witness both on and off the court or field?
  • Are sports programs balanced with other curricular and extra-curricular activities of the school?
  • Does the school have a pro-active, formative outlet to assist students who may be found struggling with drug, alcohol, or mental addictions?
  • How does the school support at-risk students: those students living in poverty or with single parents or guardians?

Principle V: Imparts a Christian Understanding of the World

In the light of faith, Catholic education critically and systematically transmits the secular and religious “cultural patrimony handed down from previous generations,” especially that which makes a person more human and contributes to the integral formation of students.32 Both educator and student are called to participate in the dialogue with culture and to pursue “the integration of culture with faith and faith with living.”33 Catholic education imparts a “Christian vision of the world, of life, of culture, and of history,” ordering “the whole of human culture to the news of salvation.”34 This hallmark of Catholic education, to “bring human wisdom into an encounter with divine wisdom,”35 cultivates “in students the intellectual, creative, and aesthetic faculties of the human person,” introduces a cultural heritage, and prepares them for professional life and to take on the responsibilities and duties of society and the Church.36 Students are prepared to work for the evangelization of culture and for the common good of society.37

Questions to Aid Discernment and Review – Traditions, Values, and Evangelization:

Catholic Culture

  • Does the school exude a Catholic culture? How? (For example emphasis on Catholic traditions, stories, symbols, language, music, artwork.)
  • Do students appear comfortable within this Catholic culture?

Common Culture

  • Do students have opportunities to interact with the best of common human culture? Are they exposed to the best of contemporary culture’s music, drama, art, and dance? Are students exposed and formed in the best of culture’s social etiquette (e.g., manners, politeness, and other social graces)?
  • Are students challenged, equipped, and supported to stand strong against harmful elements of popular culture?
  • Does there appear to be harmony between the school’s culture and the Catholic faith, between faith and everyday living? Does the school “walk the walk” and not just “talk the talk”?

Culture and Curriculum

  • Does the school attempt to integrate disciplines or concepts between one academic discipline and another?
  • Has the school conformed to any educational paradigms or societal norms which jeopardize or dilute its mission of Catholic education?
  • Do secular school standards (such as the Common Core, International Baccalaureate, Advanced Placement, etc.), in whole or in part, inform the curriculum? What particular Catholic standards are offered instead of, or in addition to, secular standards in each discipline so as to further Catholic culture and a rich intellectual life?

Evangelization

  • Does the school address interreligious issues in theology classes, religious instruction, and throughout academic disciplines in a way that remains faithful to the evangelistic mission of the Church?
  • Is emphasis placed on equipping students to transform and evangelize the common culture?
  • Are teachers, through their personal daily witness, capable of providing an attractive example of faithful Christian living for students?

Questions to Aid Discernment and Review – History, Literature, & the Arts:

Literature Curriculum

  • Is literature selected that teaches by positive or negative example what it means to be genuinely and fully human and ethical as understood by the Catholic Church and as modeled by the one perfect man, Jesus?
  • Is literature used to develop a general awareness of a lived Catholic worldview and approach to life? Does the literature we use accurately portray Catholics and the Catholic experience?
  • Is literature selected to assist students to move beyond the “self”? Are sufficient examples of nobility, imagination, and healthy adventure presented to students for their inspiration and emulation?
  • Are literature selections appropriate for the development and sensibilities or growth in virtue for students?
  • Is literature selected to develop a general cultural literacy and familiarity with the great works of the world? Where, and how, do students gain cultural literacy of the great books which have influenced western thought?
  • Is literature and reading promoted for the sheer joy and creativity of the experience? Are the imaginations of students properly feed with excellent works letting them grow in wonder and delight?
  • Is there a written process explained within the parent/student handbook or website allowing for parental concerns to literature selections?

History Curriculum

  • Does the school present history from a Catholic worldview? If secular textbooks are used, how are they supplemented to achieve this?
  • Does the school’s program include an account of the history of the Catholic Church and its impact in human events? How and where does the program include the stories of important Catholic figures and saints in the development of human history?
  • How are students challenged to evaluate history in light of Catholic moral norms so as to improve their own moral life and decision-making?
  • How is history used to discover the motivating values that have informed particular societies and how these motivating values correlate with Catholic teaching?
  • Does the social studies curriculum help students understand and commit to the common good, particularly the needs of the poor, injustices, human rights and dignity, and threats to religious freedom?

Music and Arts Curriculum

  • Does the school have a robust music and visual arts program? How active is it?
  • In what ways does the school help students develop a discriminating taste for art or music?
  • Does the school’s program nurture healthy creativity, mirroring that part of humanity that makes us in the image and likeness of God?

Questions to Aid Discernment and Review – Science and Math:

Science Curriculum

  • Is it evident that the Catholic faith is integrated into the science curriculum?
  • Does the science curriculum promote the unity of faith and reason, instilling confidence there exists no contradiction between the God of nature and the God of faith? How? Where?
  • Does the science curriculum develop in students a deep sense of wonder about the natural universe and the beauty and goodness of God? How is this evident?
  • Does the science program use any additional faith-based materials, or does the school provide a separate scientific topics course or class time, to discuss complex issues of creation, evolution, care for the environment, and respect for the human person (and the human body) from a Catholic perspective?
  • Does the science program present the significant contributions of the Catholic Church and Catholic scientists such as Mendel, Lavoisier, Pasteur, Galileo, Gregor, Volta, and Copernicus?

Mathematics Curriculum

  • Does the mathematics program assist students to see beauty within the academic discipline?
  • Does the school use mathematics as a tool to develop intellectual discipline and a love of order?
  • Is mathematics seen as a tool to open the mind to the wonders of creation? Is a sense of wonder developed about mathematical relationships and the glory and dignity of human reason as both a gift from God and a reflection of Him?
  • Are students guided in developing their reason for precise, determined, and accurate questioning and inquiry in the pursuit of infinite and ultimate knowledge and Truth?

Part II

Further Reflection on What the Church Teaches About Principle I – Inspired by Divine Mission

Vatican II describes a Catholic school’s mission as one of leading all students to salvation by helping them become prayerful, moral, and Christ-like individuals to build the Church on earth, evangelize the world, and contribute to the common good.

A Christian education does not merely strive for the maturing of a human person as just now described, but has as its principal purpose this goal: that the baptized, while they are gradually introduced the knowledge of the mystery of salvation, become ever more aware of the gift of Faith they have received, and that they learn in addition how to worship God the Father in spirit and truth (cf. John 4:23) especially in liturgical action, and be conformed in their personal lives according to the new man created in justice and holiness of truth (Eph. 4:22-24); also that they develop into perfect manhood, to the mature measure of the fullness of Christ (cf. Eph. 4:13) and strive for the growth of the Mystical Body; moreover, that aware of their calling, they learn not only how to bear witness to the hope that is in them (cf. Peter 3:15) but also how to help in the Christian formation of the world that takes place when natural powers viewed in the full consideration of man redeemed by Christ contribute to the good of the whole society.38

This notion is carried forth in subsequent documents which again emphasize the evangelizing mission of Catholic education for personal sanctification and social reform.

Catholic education is an expression of the mission entrusted by Jesus to the Church He founded. Through education, the Church seeks to prepare its members to proclaim the Good News and to translate this proclamation into action. Since the Christian vocation is a call to transform oneself and society with God’s help, the educational efforts of the Church must encompass the twin purposes of personal sanctification and the social reform in light of Christian values.39

How a school accomplishes this mission includes many elements, but chief among them are a focus on Christ, especially his life and his teachings. Church documents on education consistently emphasize a Christocentric dimension for the school’s existence.

Christ is the foundation of the whole educational enterprise in a Catholic school. His revelation gives new meaning to life and helps man to direct his thought, action and will according to the Gospel, making the beatitudes his norm of life. The fact that in their own individual ways all members of the school community share this Christian vision makes the school “Catholic”; principles of the Gospel in this manner become the educational norms since the school then has them as its internal motivation and final goal.40

In a Catholic school, everyone should be aware of the living presence of Jesus the “Master” who, today as always, is with us in our journey through life as the one genuine “Teacher,” the perfect Man in whom all human values find their fullest perfection. The inspiration of Jesus must be translated from the ideal into the real. The gospel spirit should be evident in a Christian way of thought and life which permeates all facets of the educational climate.41

We also need to ensure our students encounter His presence in Scripture, in the Sacraments, in prayer, in each other, and in their studies. As Pope Benedict XVI noted:

First and foremost every Catholic educational institution is a place to encounter the living God who in Jesus Christ reveals his transforming love and truth (cf. Spe Salvi, 4). This relationship elicits a desire to grow in the knowledge and understanding of Christ and his teaching. In this way those who meet him are drawn by the very power of the Gospel to lead a new life characterized by all that is beautiful, good, and true; a life of Christian witness nurtured and strengthened within the community of our Lord’s disciples, the Church.42

This helps create a distinctive Catholic school experience in culture, climate, and community.

The Catholic school pursues cultural goals and the natural development of youth to the same degree as any other school. What makes the Catholic school distinctive is its attempt to generate a community climate in the school that is permeated by the Gospel spirit of freedom and love…The Council, therefore, declared that what makes the Catholic school distinctive is its religious dimension, and that this is to be found in a) the educational climate, b) the personal development of each student, c) the relationship established between culture and the Gospel, d) the illumination of all knowledge with the light of faith.43

A further distinctive element to the mission and experience of a Catholic school is its dedication to integral formation. This integral formation is the unique way the Church responds to the complex and real crisis of the age facing her children and facing the world as a whole.

Education today is a complex task, which is made more difficult by rapid social, economic, and cultural changes. Its specific mission remains the integral formation of the human person. Children and young people must be guaranteed the possibility of developing harmoniously their own physical, moral, intellectual and spiritual gifts, and they must also be helped to develop their sense of responsibility, learn the correct use of freedom, and participate actively in social life (cf. c. 795 Code of Canon Law [Law]; c. 629 Code of Canons for the Eastern Churches [CCEO]). A form of education that ignores or marginalises the moral and religious dimension of the person is a hindrance to full education, because “children and young people have a right to be motivated to appraise moral values with a right conscience, to embrace them with a personal adherence, together with a deeper knowledge and love of God.44

In summary, Catholic education is part of the saving mission of the Church.

She establishes her own schools because she considers them as a privileged means of promoting the formation of the whole man, since the school is a center in which a specific concept of the world, of man, and of history is developed and conveyed. The Catholic school forms part of the saving mission of the Church, especially for education in the faith. Remembering that, “the simultaneous development of man’s psychological and moral consciousness is demanded by Christ almost as a pre-condition for the reception of the befitting divine gifts of truth and grace”. The Church fulfills her obligation to foster in her children a full awareness of their rebirth to a new life. It is precisely in the Gospel of Christ, taking root in the minds and lives of the faithful, that the Catholic school finds its definition as it comes to terms with the cultural conditions of the times.45

It must never be forgotten that the purpose of instruction at school is education, that is, the development of man from within, freeing him from that conditioning which would prevent him from becoming a fully integrated human being. The school must begin from the principle that its educational program is intentionally directed to the growth of the whole person.46

Further Reflection on What the Church Teaches About Principle II – Models Christian Communion and Identity

Part 1 – Encourages and Participates in Christian Communion

The Church teaches that education cannot be accomplished in isolation but finds success when all those responsible for the education of the child work together.

Because its aim is to make man more man, education can be carried out authentically only in a relational and community context. It is not by chance that the first and original educational environment is that of the natural community of the family. Schools, in their turn, take their place beside the family as an educational space that is communitarian, organic and intentional and they sustain their educational commitment, according to a logic of assistance.47

Through the building up of interpersonal relationships between colleagues, students, and families as well as between the school community and universal Church and

By giving witness of communion, the Catholic educational community is able to educate for communion, which, as a gift that comes from above, animates the project of formation for living together in harmony and being welcoming. Not only does it cultivate in the students the cultural values that derive from the Christian vision of reality, but it also involves each one of them in the life of the community, where values are mediated by authentic interpersonal relationships among the various members that form it, and by the individual and community acceptance of them. In this way, the life of communion of the educational community assumes the value of an educational principle, of a paradigm that directs its formational action as a service for the achievement of a culture of communion.48

This community facilitates openness for the sharing of values and must not remain an ideal but become a lived and felt reality.

The school must be a community whose values are communicated through the interpersonal and sincere relationships of its members and through both individual and corporative adherence to the outlook on life that permeates the school.49

How is this done?

Some of the conditions for creating a positive and supportive climate are the following: that everyone agree with the educational goals and cooperate in achieving them; that interpersonal relationships be based on love and Christian freedom; that each individual, in daily life, be a witness to Gospel values; that every student be challenged to strive for the highest possible level of formation, both human and Christian. In addition, the climate must be one in which families are welcomed, the local Church is an active participant, and civil society—local, national, and international—is included. If all share a common faith, this can be an added advantage.50

So while the community of the school builds on the family and is lived and nurtured within its walls, the students should also experience a sense of belonging to the community of the universal Church.

Concretely, the educational goals of the school include a concern for the life and the problems of the Church, both local and universal. These goals are attentive to the Magisterium, and include cooperation with Church authorities. Catholic students are helped to become active members of the parish and diocesan communities. They have opportunities to join Church associations and Church youth groups, and they are taught to collaborate in local Church projects.51

Finally, this ecclesial community is destined not for itself but to be of service to the common good of the world through evangelization and service.

More than any other program of education sponsored by the Church, the Catholic school has the opportunity and obligation to be unique, contemporary, and oriented to Christian service; unique because it is distinguished by its commitment to the threefold purpose of Christian education and by its total design and operation which foster the integration of religion with the rest of learning and living; contemporary because it enables students to address with Christian insight the multiple problems which face individuals and society today; oriented to Christian service because it helps students acquire skills, virtues, and habits of heart and mind required for effective service to others.52

Part 2 – Models Communion in Christ

The community of a Catholic school begins with its faculty and staff and is fostered by its board. Teachers play a special role in creating an enriching atmosphere throughout the school.

In the Catholic school, “prime responsibility for creating this unique Christian school climate rests with the teachers, as individuals and as a community”. Teaching has an extraordinary moral depth and is one of man’s most excellent and creative activities, for the teacher does not write on inanimate material, but on the very spirits of human beings. The personal relations between the teacher and the students, therefore, assume an enormous importance and are not limited simply to giving and taking. Moreover, we must remember that teachers and educators fulfill a specific Christian vocation and share an equally specific participation in the mission of the Church, to the extent that “it depends chiefly on them whether the Catholic school achieves its purpose.”53

For this reason, Catholic educators need a “formation of the heart”: they need to be led to that encounter with God in Christ which awakens their love and opens their spirits to others, so that their educational commitment becomes «a consequence deriving from their faith, a faith which becomes active through love. In fact, even care for instruction means loving. It is only in this way that they can make their teaching a school of faith, that is to say, a transmission of the Gospel, as required by the educational project of the Catholic school.54

The success of the faculty and staff in creating a community that assists in leading students to communion with Christ and His Church depends upon their authentic witness and faithfulness in both word and action.

The more completely an educator can give concrete witness to the model of the ideal person [Christ] that is being presented to the students, the more this ideal will be believed and imitated.55

In light of this, the Church insists

Instruction and education in a Catholic school must be based on the principles of Catholic doctrine, and the teachers must be outstanding in true doctrine and uprightness of life.56

Because authentic and lived teaching and living in communion is so critical to a Catholic school’s mission, the board needs to hire a faithful and practicing Catholic principal who in turn is capable of identifying and hiring Catholic teachers willing to participate in the mission of Catholic education to the fullest extent possible.

Under the direction of the pastor or the duly elected or appointed school board, the principal of the Catholic school plays a crucial role in achieving the catechetical objectives of the parish…Therefore, the principal of a Catholic school must be a practicing Catholic in good standing who understands and accepts the teachings of the Church and the moral demands of the Gospel.57

As a catechetical leader in the Catholic School, the principal is called to recruit teachers who are practicing Catholics, who can understand and accept the teachings of the Catholic Church and the moral demands of the gospel, and who can contribute to the achievement of the school’s Catholic identity and apostolic goals…As a catechetical leader in the Catholic school, the principal is called to provide opportunities for ongoing catechesis for faculty members…The distinctive Catholic identity and mission of the Catholic school also depend on the efforts and example of the whole faculty…All teachers in Catholic schools share in the catechetical ministry… While some situations might entail compelling reasons for members of another faith tradition to teach in a Catholic school, as much as possible, all teachers in a Catholic school should be practicing Catholics.58

Further Reflection on What the Church Teaches About Principle III – Encounters Christ in Prayer, Scripture, and Sacrament

The community comprising the Catholic school finds its source of nourishment in the Word, in the Sacraments, and in the traditions of the Church.

No Catholic school can adequately fulfill its educational role on its own. It must continually be fed and stimulated by its Source of life, the Saving Word of Christ as it is expressed in Sacred Scripture, in Tradition, especially liturgical and sacramental tradition, and in the lives of people, past and present, who bear witness to that Word.59

In a Catholic school, prayer and Gospel values facilitate harmony and a desire for service.

Within such communities, teachers and pupils experience together what it means to live a life of prayer, personal responsibility and freedom reflective of Gospel values.  Their fellowship helps them grow in their commitment to service God, one another, the Church and the general community.60

This ardent and vibrantly lived life of prayer and faith must not be hidden but freely and naturally expressed.

From the first moment that a student sets foot in a Catholic school, he or she ought to have the impression of entering a new environment, one illumined by the light of faith, and having its own unique characteristics.61

Moreover, the Catholic school is well aware that the community that it forms must be constantly nourished and compared with the sources from which the reason for its existence derives: the saving word of God in Sacred Scripture, in Tradition, above all liturgical and sacramental Tradition, enlightened by the Magisterium of the Church.62

The characteristics of a rich faith life include easily identifiable representations of the spiritual life such as crucifixes, statues, or pictures of saints, and a place set aside for prayer. It also involves introducing students to traditional Catholic prayers, traditions of the Church, and spiritual devotions, especially Marian devotions.

An awareness of Mary’s presence can be a great help toward making the school into a “home”. Mary, Mother and Teacher of the Church, accompanied her Son as he grew in wisdom and grace; from its earliest days, she has accompanied the Church in its mission of salvation.63

As important as these Catholic devotions are, an essential element to any Catholic school is a rich and faithful sacramental life.

An understanding of the sacramental journey has profound educational implications. Students become aware that being a member of the Church is something dynamic, responding to every person’s need to continue growing all through life. When we meet the Lord in the Sacraments, we are never left unchanged. Through the Spirit, he causes us to grow in the Church, offering us “grace upon grace”; the only thing he asks is our cooperation. The educational consequences of this touch on our relationship with God, our witness as a Christian, and our choice of a personal vocation.64

Especially important in the Church documents is a rich Eucharistic component.

The essential point for students to understand is that Jesus Christ is always truly present in the Sacraments which he has instituted, and his presence makes them efficacious means of grace. The moment of closest encounter with the Lord Jesus occurs in the Eucharist, which is both Sacrifice and Sacrament. In the Eucharist, two supreme acts of love are united: Our Lord renews his sacrifice of salvation for us, and he truly gives himself to us.65

In the life of a Catholic school, the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation become frequent, lived, and loving encounters with God.

The teacher will assist students to open their hearts in confidence to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit through personal and liturgical prayer. The latter is not just another way of praying; it is the official prayer of the Church, which makes the mystery of Christ present in our lives—especially through the Eucharist, Sacrifice and Sacrament, and through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Religious experiences are then seen, not as something externally imposed, but as a free and loving response to the God who first loved us. The virtues of faith and religion, thus rooted and cultivated, are enabled to develop during childhood, youth, and in all the years that follow.66

As with all elements of the integral formation of its students, the authentic and lived example of the faculty and staff play a critical role in the success of the school’s mission.

As a visible manifestation of the faith they profess and the life witness they are supposed to manifest, it is important that lay Catholics who work in a Catholic school participate simply and actively in the liturgical and sacramental life of the school. Students will share in this life more readily when they have concrete examples: when they see the importance that this life has for believers. In today’s secularized world, students will see many lay people who call themselves Catholics, but who never take part in liturgy or sacraments. It is very important that they also have the example of lay adults who take such things seriously, who find in them a source and nourishment for Christian living.67

Further Reflection on What the Church Teaches About Principle IV –  Integrally Forms the Human Person

 Part 1- Integral Formation Focused on Intellectual Development

The Catholic intellectual tradition is about more than simply maximizing intellectual skills; it is about ensuring the intellect is authentically human, integrated, and oriented toward wisdom.

Catholic schools are encouraged to promote a wisdom-based society, to go beyond knowledge and educate people to think, evaluating facts in the light of values.68

This intellectual work unites all three elements of truth, beauty, and goodness in a pursuit of wisdom, but especially a virtuous and rigorous search for truth.

Within the overall process of education, special mention must be made of the intellectual work done by students. Although Christian life consists in loving God and doing his will, intellectual work is intimately involved. The light of Christian faith stimulates a desire to know the universe as God’s creation. It enkindles a love for the truth that will not be satisfied with superficiality in knowledge or judgment. It awakens a critical sense which examines statements rather than accepting them blindly. It impels the mind to learn with careful order and precise methods, and to work with a sense of responsibility. It provides the strength needed to accept the sacrifices and the perseverance required by intellectual labor.69

We do not just seek knowledge for the sake of power and utility, but rather for complete human flourishing and complete human formation.

In the Catholic school’s educational project there is no separation between time for learning and time for formation, between acquiring notions and growing in wisdom. The various school subjects do not present only knowledge to be attained, but also values to be acquired and truths to be discovered.70

The Church does not shy away from a bold claim to know and teach the truth in a modern relativistic culture. St. John Paul II encouraged American educators to realize,

The greatest challenge to Catholic education in the United States today, and the greatest contribution that authentically Catholic education can make to American culture, is to restore to that culture the conviction that human beings can grasp the truth of things, and in grasping that truth can know their duties to God, to themselves and their neighbors. The contemporary world urgently needs the service of educational institutions which uphold and teach that truth is “that fundamental value without which freedom, justice and human dignity are extinguished.71

Part 2 – Integral Formation Focused on Spiritual Development

All schools focus on developing the intellect, but Catholic schools have a long history of particularly excelling in this academic enterprise. We have the added advantage of being able to actively form all aspects of the human person, especially the spiritual dimension. The spiritual life we model and the spiritual truths we teach must be completely faithful to the Church and should permeate and sit proudly alongside all academic disciplines of a school’s program.

The integration of religious truth and values with life distinguishes the Catholic school from other schools. This is a matter of crucial importance today in view of contemporary trends and pressures to compartmentalize life and learning and to isolate the religious dimension of existence from other areas of human life.72

One component of this integral development is the teaching of Catholic doctrine.

Educational programs for the young must strive to teach doctrine, to do so within the experience of Christian community, and to prepare individuals for effective Christian witness and service to others.  In doing this they help foster the student’s growth in personal holiness and his relationship with Christ.73

The presentation of Catholic doctrine via religious instruction is not the whole of the school’s efforts; a catechetical component is also involved.

Religious instruction is appropriate in every school, for the purpose of the school is human formation in all of its fundamental dimensions, and the religious dimension is an integral part of this formation. Religious education is actually a right—with the corresponding duties—of the student and of the parents. It is also, at least in the case of the Catholic religion, an extremely important instrument for attaining the adequate synthesis of faith and culture that has been insisted on so often.  Therefore, the teaching of the Catholic religion, distinct from and at the same time complementary to catechesis properly so called, ought to form a part of the curriculum of every school.74

An result of this process is a religious formation that leads to an active and lived life of faith and worship.

The life of faith is expressed in acts of religion. The teacher will assist students to open their hearts in confidence to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit through personal and liturgical prayer. The latter is not just another way of praying; it is the official prayer of the Church, which makes the mystery of Christ present in our lives—especially through the Eucharist, Sacrifice and Sacrament, and through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Religious experiences are then seen, not as something externally imposed, but as a free and loving response to the God who first loved us. The virtues of faith and religion, thus rooted and cultivated, are enabled to develop during childhood, youth, and in all the years that follow.75

Part 3 – Integral Formation Focused on Moral Development

The intellectual and spiritual formation we provide our students assists them in living a life of virtue guided by a well-formed Catholic conscience and a consistent moral ethic.

…the Catholic school tries to create within its walls a climate in which the pupil’s faith will gradually mature and enable him to assume the responsibility placed on him by Baptism. It will give pride of place in the education it provides through Christian Doctrine to the gradual formation of conscience in fundamental, permanent virtues—above all the theological virtues, and charity in particular, which is, so to speak, the life-giving spirit which transforms a man of virtue into a man of Christ. Christ, therefore, is the teaching-centre, the Model on Whom the Christian shapes his life. In Him the Catholic school differs from all others which limit themselves to forming men. Its task is to form Christian men, and, by its teaching and witness, show non-Christians something of the mystery of Christ Who surpasses all human understanding.76

In an age of pluralism and relativism, the Catholic school holds out fundamental goods and teaches clearly about what is right and what is wrong.

Cultural pluralism, therefore, leads the Church to reaffirm her mission of education to insure strong character formation. Her children, then, will be capable both of resisting the debilitating influence of relativism and of living up to the demands made on them by their Baptism. It also stimulates her to foster truly Christian living and apostolic communities, equipped to make their own positive contribution, in a spirit of cooperation, to the building up of the secular society. For this reason the Church is prompted to mobilize her educational resources in the face of the materialism, pragmatism and technocracy of contemporary society.77

In forming the moral compass of our students based on Catholic truths, the school works closely with the student’s primary educators, the parents.

Partnership between a Catholic school and the families of the students must continue and be strengthened: not simply to be able to deal with academic problems that may arise, but rather so that the educational goals of the school can be achieved. Close cooperation with the family is especially important when treating sensitive issues such as religious, moral, or sexual education, orientation toward a profession, or a choice of one’s vocation in life. It is not a question of convenience, but a partnership based on faith. Catholic tradition teaches that God has bestowed on the family its own specific and unique educational mission.78

Part 4 – Integral Formation Focused on Physical Development and Expression

The Catholic Church teaches there is an intimate unity between body and soul. We are incarnate beings whose physical lives and bodily expression should be in deep and natural accord with our souls and our spiritual life and dispositions. The Catholic school seeks to develop all these facets of the human person.

Since true education must strive for complete formation of the human person that looks to his or her final end as well as to the common good of societies, children and youth are to be nurtured in such a way that they are able to develop their physical, moral, and intellectual talents harmoniously, acquire a more perfect sense of responsibility and right use of freedom, and are formed to participate actively in social life.79

This understanding of the human person is based on a Christian anthropology which acknowledges our complete human nature, including our dignity and our brokenness:

Students should be helped to see the human person as a living creature having both a physical and a spiritual nature; each of us has an immortal soul, and we are in need of redemption. The older students can gradually come to a more mature understanding of all that is implied in the concept of “person”: intelligence and will, freedom and feelings, the capacity to be an active and creative agent; a being endowed with both rights and duties, capable of interpersonal relationships, called to a specific mission in the world.80

The human person is present in all the truths of faith: created in “the image and likeness” of God; elevated by God to the dignity of a child of God; unfaithful to God in original sin, but redeemed by Christ; a temple of the Holy Spirit; a member of the Church; destined to eternal life.81

It also means the cultivation of intellectual and spiritual gifts in a spirit of respect for oneself and others includes physical health and a life lived chastely.

Not a few young people, unable to find any meaning in life or trying to find an escape from loneliness, turn to alcohol, drugs, the erotic, the exotic etc. Christian education is faced with the huge challenge of helping these young people discover something of value in their lives…We must cultivate intelligence and the other spiritual gifts, especially through scholastic work. We must learn to care for our body and its health, and this includes physical activity and sports. And we must be careful of our sexual integrity through the virtue of chastity, because sexual energies are also a gift of God, contributing to the perfection of the person and having a providential function for the life of society and of the Church. Thus, gradually, the teacher will guide students to the idea, and then to the realization, of a process of total formation.82

Further Reflection on What the Church Teaches About Principle V – Imparts a Christian Understanding of the World

Part 1- Traditions, Values, and Evangelization

The Church teaches that the task of a school is to provide,

fundamentally a synthesis of culture and faith, and a synthesis of faith and life: the first is reached by integrating all the different aspects of human knowledge through the subjects taught, in the light of the Gospel; the second in the growth of the virtues characteristic of the Christian.83

Both the current common culture and aspects of cultural history giving rise to it are to be explored and critically analyzed in the light of the Catholic faith. Positive elements that can be brought into harmony with the faith are to be celebrated and expanded. Elements appearing in contradiction to the faith are to be challenged and critically analyzed. This is a role to which Catholic schools are particularly suited.

A school uses its own specific means for the integral formation of the human person: the communication of culture…if the communication of culture is to be a genuine educational activity, it must not only be organic, but also critical and evaluative, historical and dynamic. Faith will provide Catholic educators with some essential principles for critique and evaluation; faith will help them to see all of human history as a history of salvation which culminates in the fullness of the Kingdom. This puts culture into a creative context, constantly being perfected.84

In addition to critically examining and transmitting those best elements of human culture in general, the school also embodies and imparts a specific Catholic culture: that has an integrated pattern of knowledge, values, beliefs, behaviors, and traditions that celebrate and pass on to a new generation the unique contributions of the Church in the arts and the intellectual life, enriching the social and faith lives of our students with the great patrimony of the Catholic Church.

Catholic schools provide young people with sound Church teaching through a broad-based curriculum, where faith and culture are intertwined in all areas of a school’s life. By equipping our young people with a sound education, rooted in the Gospel message, the Person of Jesus Christ, and rich in the cherished traditions and liturgical practices of our faith, we ensure that they have the foundation to live morally and uprightly in our complex modern world. This unique Catholic identity makes our Catholic elementary and secondary schools “schools for the human person” and allows them to fill a critical role in the future life of our Church, our country, and our world.85

Through this transmission of culture, students become Christ for others and work to evangelize others both inside and outside the school community.

The mission of the Catholic school is the integral formation of students, so that they may be true to their condition as Christ’s disciples and as such work effectively for the evangelization of culture and for the common good of society.86

Part 2- Literature, History, and the Arts

The school’s curriculum is the vehicle for examining various cultural elements.

From the nature of the Catholic school also stems one of the most significant elements of its educational project: the synthesis between culture and faith. The endeavor to interweave reason and faith, which has become the heart of individual subjects, makes for unity, articulation, and coordination, bringing forth within what is learned in a school a Christian vision of the world, of life, of culture, and of history.87

A Catholic school curriculum examines issues of culture, meaning, faith, and value in the light of the Gospel. Literature, history, and the arts lend themselves readily to this enterprise.

Literature and the arts are also, in their own way, of great importance to the life of the Church. They strive to make known the proper nature of man, his problems and his experiences in trying to know and perfect both himself and the world. They have much to do with revealing man’s place in history and in the world; with illustrating the miseries and joys, the needs and strengths of man and with foreshadowing a better life for him. Thus they are able to elevate human life, expressed in multifold forms according to various times and regions.88

Not only is history analyzed for its content and facts but also for its comportment to reality and truth. Catholic schools are free to discuss and unravel the numerous historical circumstances where God’s hand is seen interjecting itself in temporal affairs. These opportunities are vast and plentiful and add an additional dimension to the study of historical timelines.

Teachers should guide the students’ work in such a way that they will be able to discover a religious dimension in the world of human history. As a preliminary, they should be encouraged to develop a taste for historical truth, and therefore to realize the need to look critically at texts and curricula which, at times, are imposed by a government or distorted by the ideology of the author…they will see the development of civilizations, and learn about progress…When they are ready to appreciate it, students can be invited to reflect on the fact that this human struggle takes place within the divine history [of] universal salvation. At this moment, the religious dimension of history begins to shine forth in all its luminous grandeur.89

The study of human historical and social realties in a Catholic school occurs in the context of a permanent philosophical heritage which must be understood.

Every society has its own heritage of accumulated wisdom. Many people find inspiration in these philosophical and religious concepts which have endured for millennia. The systematic genius of classical Greek and European thought has, over the centuries, generated countless different doctrinal systems, but it has also given us a set of truths which we can recognize as a part of our permanent philosophical heritage.90

This heritage includes a rich patrimony of social justice which should also be reflected in the curriculum.

The curriculum must help the students reflect on the great problems of our time, including those where one sees more clearly the difficult situation of a large part of humanity’s living conditions. These would include the unequal distribution of resources, poverty, injustice and human rights denied.91

Especially in the arts, both auditory and visual, Catholic schools have a rich tradition to draw from for discussions of beauty and harmony and that fulfills a human soul.

Literary and artistic works depict the struggles of societies, of families, and of individuals. They spring from the depths of the human heart, revealing its lights and its shadows, its hope and its despair. The Christian perspective goes beyond the merely human, and offers more penetrating criteria for understanding the human struggle and the mysteries of the human spirit. Furthermore, an adequate religious formation has been the starting point for the vocation of a number of Christian artists and art critics. In the upper grades, a teacher can bring students to: an even more profound appreciation of artistic works: as a reflection of the divine beauty in tangible form. Both the Fathers of the Church and the masters of Christian philosophy teach this in their writings on aesthetics—St. Augustine invites us to go beyond the intention of the artists in order to find the eternal order of God in the work of art; St. Thomas sees the presence of the Divine Word in art.92

Part 3 – Science and Mathematics

The school’s science and math curriculum is the vehicle not just for examining standard scientific content found in non-Catholic schools, but also for introducing students to the Catholic intellectual tradition as well as the specific contributions of Catholics to the world of math and science. It can help the students see the limitations of materialism and open them up to the depths of wonder held in God’s creation.

The Catholic school should teach its pupils to discern in the voice of the universe the Creator Whom it reveals and, in the conquests of science, to know God and man better.93

By not ignoring the religious dimension, Catholic schools

…help their students to understand that positive science, and the technology allied to it, is a part of the universe created by God. Understanding this can help encourage an interest in research: the whole of creation, from the distant celestial bodies and the immeasurable cosmic forces down to the infinitesimal particles and waves of matter and energy, all bear the imprint of the Creator’s wisdom and power, The wonder that past ages felt when contemplating this universe, recorded by the Biblical authors, is still valid for the students of today; the only difference is that we have a knowledge that is much more vast and profound. There can be no conflict between faith and true scientific knowledge; both find their source in God. The student who is able to discover the harmony between faith and science will, in future professional life, be better able to put science and technology to the service of men and women, and to the service of God. It is a way of giving back to God what he has first given to us.94

Education in science includes the relationship of science to other disciplines in the life of the intellect.

Furthermore, when man gives himself to the various disciplines of philosophy, history and of mathematical and natural science, and when he cultivates the arts, he can do very much to elevate the human family to a more sublime understanding of truth, goodness, and beauty, and to the formation of considered opinions which have universal value. Thus mankind may be more clearly enlightened by that marvelous Wisdom which was with God from all eternity, composing all things with him, rejoicing in the earth and delighting in the sons of men. In this way, the human spirit, being less subjected to material things, can be more easily drawn to the worship and contemplation of the Creator. Moreover, by the impulse of grace, he is disposed to acknowledge the Word of God, Who before He became flesh in order to save all and to sum up all in Himself was already “in the world” as “the true light which enlightens every man” (John 1:9-10). Indeed today’s progress in science and technology can foster a certain exclusive emphasis on observable data, and agnosticism about everything else. For the methods of investigation which these sciences use can be wrongly considered as the supreme rule of seeking the whole truth. By virtue of their methods these sciences cannot penetrate to the intimate notion of things. Indeed the danger is present that man, confiding too much in the discoveries of today, may think that he is sufficient unto himself and no longer seek the higher things.95

This notion is in line with the Catholic intellectual tradition in which

Catholic schools strive to relate all of the sciences to salvation and sanctification. Students are shown how Jesus illumines all of life—science, mathematics, history, business, biology, and so forth.96

As God is the source of all reality and because all things live, move, and have their being in Him, an understanding of all aspects of creation can assist in understanding and glorifying God in whom all truths converge.

 

[1] A more complete exposition of the principles is available in these resources: Principles of Catholic Identity in Education: Church Documents for Reflection and Principles of Catholic Identity in Education: Principles and Sources in Church Teaching.

[2] The Cardinal Newman Society has also created other assessment tools for schools including: Principles of Catholic Identity in Education: Faculty and Staff In-Service and our Catholic Education Honor Roll.

 

Principles Board Reflection

Introduction

Principles of Catholic Identity in Education: Board Reflection is designed to help members of a school’s governing body reflect upon those elements the Catholic Church expects to be present in all Catholic education and which make it distinctive. The reflection is structured upon five principles of Catholic identity derived from Church documents related to education: Inspired by Divine Mission; Models Christian Communion and Identity; Encounters Christ in Prayer, Scripture, and Sacraments; Integrally Forms the Human Person and Imparts a Christian Understanding of the World. Each principle includes a summary which is comprehensive, yet concise.[1]  It is then followed by a series of suggested questions to help board members enhance and assess their school’s Catholic identity.

Intention for Use

Catholic Identity in Education: Board Reflection helps school board members conduct an internal formative self-assessment of their school’s Catholic identity.[2]

Suggestions for Use

Because of the limited amount of time available to school board members, it is recommended that the board chair and head of school reflect on which specific areas of Catholic identity would be most beneficial to examine. Allow 1-1½ hours for each principle. Boards could review in-depth just one principle or undertake an examination of all five principles in a cursory fashion in about 4 hours.

All members the governing body should be present and involved in an unhurried and deliberate discussion that is substantial and honest. This might include recording strengths and weaknesses, brainstorming ideas to enhance Catholic identity, and making specific plans for growth and improvement.

It is highly recommended that a school administrator be present at group discussions to address issues as they arise and to add additional information as warranted. Some schools might choose to use an objective third-party facilitator.

Principle I: Inspired by Divine Mission

Catholic education is an expression of the Church’s mission of salvation and an instrument of evangelization:1 to make disciples of Christ and to teach them to observe all that He has commanded.2 Through Catholic education, students encounter God, “who in Jesus Christ reveals His transforming love and truth.”3 Christ is the foundation of Catholic education;4 He journeys with students through school and life as “genuine Teacher” and “perfect Man.”5 As a faith community in unity with the Church and in fidelity to the Magisterium, students, parents, and educators give witness to Christ’s loving communion in the Holy Trinity.6 With this Christian vision, Catholic education fulfills its purpose of “critical, systematic transmission of culture in the light of faith”7 and the integral formation of the human person by developing each student’s physical, moral, spiritual, and intellectual gifts in harmony, teaching responsibility and right use of freedom, and preparing students to fulfill God’s calling in this world and to attain the eternal kingdom for which they were created.8 Catholic education is sustained by the frequent experience of prayer, Sacred Scripture, and the Church’s liturgical and sacramental tradition.9

Reflection on Church Teaching

Vatican II describes the mission of Catholic education as leading all students to salvation by helping them become prayerful, moral, and Christ-like individuals to build the Church on earth, evangelize the world, and contribute to the common good.

A Christian education does not merely strive for the maturing of a human person… but has as its principal purpose this goal: that the baptized, while they are gradually introduced the knowledge of the mystery of salvation, become ever more aware of the gift of Faith they have received, and that they learn in addition how to worship God the Father in spirit and truth especially in liturgical action, and be conformed in their personal lives according to the new man created in justice and holiness of truth; also that they develop into perfect manhood, to the mature measure of the fullness of Christ and strive for the growth of the Mystical Body; moreover, that aware of their calling, they learn not only how to bear witness to the hope that is in them but also how to help in the Christian formation of the world that takes place when natural powers viewed in the full consideration of man redeemed by Christ contribute to the good of the whole society.10

This notion is carried forth in subsequent documents which again emphasize the evangelizing mission of Catholic education for personal sanctification and social reform.

Catholic education is an expression of the mission entrusted by Jesus to the Church He founded. Through education, the Church seeks to prepare its members to proclaim the Good News and to translate this proclamation into action. Since the Christian vocation is a call to transform oneself and society with God’s help, the educational efforts of the Church must encompass the twin purposes of personal sanctification and the social reform in light of Christian values.11

How a school accomplishes this mission includes many elements, but chief among them is a focus on Christ, especially His life and His teachings. Church documents on education consistently emphasize a Christocentric dimension for the school’s existence.

Christ is the foundation of the whole educational enterprise in a Catholic school. His revelation gives new meaning to life and helps man to direct his thought, action and will according to the Gospel, making the beatitudes his norm of life. The fact that in their own individual ways all members of the school community share this Christian vision makes the school “Catholic”; principles of the Gospel in this manner become the educational norms since the school then has them as its internal motivation and final goal.12

In a Catholic school, everyone should be aware of the living presence of Jesus the “Master” who, today as always, is with us in our journey through life as the one genuine “Teacher,” the perfect Man in whom all human values find their fullest perfection. The inspiration of Jesus must be translated from the ideal into the real. The gospel spirit should be evident in a Christian way of thought and life which permeates all facets of the educational climate.13

Catholic education must also help students encounter Christ’s presence in Scripture, in the Sacraments, in prayer, in each other, and in their studies. As Pope Benedict XVI noted:

First and foremost every Catholic educational institution is a place to encounter the living God who in Jesus Christ reveals his transforming love and truth. This relationship elicits a desire to grow in the knowledge and understanding of Christ and his teaching. In this way those who meet him are drawn by the very power of the Gospel to lead a new life characterized by all that is beautiful, good, and true; a life of Christian witness nurtured and strengthened within the community of our Lord’s disciples, the Church.14

This helps create a distinctive Catholic school experience in culture, climate, and community.

The Catholic school pursues cultural goals and the natural development of youth to the same degree as any other school. What makes the Catholic school distinctive is its attempt to generate a community climate in the school that is permeated by the Gospel spirit of freedom and love…The Council, therefore, declared that what makes the Catholic school distinctive is its religious dimension, and that this is to be found in a) the educational climate, b) the personal development of each student, c) the relationship established between culture and the Gospel, d) the illumination of all knowledge with the light of faith.15

A further distinctive element of Catholic education is its dedication to integral formation. This integral formation is the unique way the Church responds to the complex and real crisis of the age facing her children and facing the world as a whole.

Education today is a complex task, which is made more difficult by rapid social, economic, and cultural changes. Its specific mission remains the integral formation of the human person. Children and young people must be guaranteed the possibility of developing harmoniously their own physical, moral, intellectual and spiritual gifts, and they must also be helped to develop their sense of responsibility, learn the correct use of freedom, and participate actively in social life (cf. c. 795 Code of Canon Law; c. 629 Code of Canons for the Eastern Churches). A form of education that ignores or marginalises the moral and religious dimension of the person is a hindrance to full education, because “children and young people have a right to be motivated to appraise moral values with a right conscience, to embrace them with a personal adherence, together with a deeper knowledge and love of God.”16

In summary, Catholic education is part of the saving mission of the Church.

She establishes her own schools because she considers them as a privileged means of promoting the formation of the whole man, since the school is a center in which a specific concept of the world, of man, and of history is developed and conveyed. The Catholic school forms part of the saving mission of the Church, especially for education in the faith. Remembering that, “the simultaneous development of man’s psychological and moral consciousness is demanded by Christ almost as a pre-condition for the reception of the befitting divine gifts of truth and grace”. The Church fulfills her obligation to foster in her children a full awareness of their rebirth to a new life. It is precisely in the Gospel of Christ, taking root in the minds and lives of the faithful, that the Catholic school finds its definition as it comes to terms with the cultural conditions of the times.17

It must never be forgotten that the purpose of instruction at school is education, that is, the development of man from within, freeing him from that conditioning which would prevent him from becoming a fully integrated human being. The school must begin from the principle that its educational program is intentionally directed to the growth of the whole person.18

Questions to Aid Reflection or Assessment

Below are questions to facilitate reflection and begin a discussion of how well the school fulfills the mission of Catholic education. Choose areas for discussion as time allows.

School’s Mission

  • What is our school’s mission? Do we all know it?
  • Does our school’s mission advance the Church’s mission of salvation and evangelization?
  • Is Christ the foundation of our school? How so? How can we make this more evident?
  • What corrective action is taken when the school deviates from the mission?
  • How well are we fulfilling our mission? How do we know?

Mission Statement and Governing Documents

  • How do the school’s mission statement and governing documents reflect the divine mission for Catholic education?
  • What in our school’s mission statement specifically distinguishes us from local, non-Catholic, private schools?
  • When and how does the leadership of the school review the mission statement and the school’s compliance with the mission?

Mission and Policy Issues

  • How much does the mission of the school guide our overall policy decisions? Our financial and budgetary decisions? Our strategic planning and accreditation goals?
  • Does a Christian understanding of the human person form the basis for our policy development and practices? (See also Principle IV.)
  • Are programs for student formation sufficiently balanced to accomplish the integral formation of the whole person (i.e., sufficient courses and budgetary commitments)? (See also Principle IV.)

Mission and Identity

  • Is our school proudly and strongly Catholic in its identity? How can we tell? How can we improve in this area?
  • What initiatives can we undertake to better work toward fulfillment of our mission?

Action Items: Specific ideas or plans to work toward fulfillment of our mission.

Principle II: Models Christian Communion and Identity

Catholic education teaches communion with Christ, by living communion with Christ and imitating the love and freedom of the Trinity.19 This communion begins in the home—with the divinely ordered right and responsibility of parents to educate their children—and extends to the school community in support and service to the needs of the family.20 It unites families and educators with a shared educational philosophy to form students for a relationship with God and with others.21 The educational community is united to the universal Church in fidelity to the magisterium, to the local Church, and to other schools and community organizations.22

The school community is a place of ecclesial experience, in which the members model confident and joyful public witness in both word and action and teach students to live the Catholic faith in their daily lives.23 In an environment “humanly and spiritually rich,” everyone is aware of the living presence of Jesus evidenced by a Christian way of life, expressed in “Word and Sacrament, in individual behaviour, [and] in friendly and harmonious relationships.”24 The school climate reproduces, as far as possible, the “warm and intimate atmosphere of family life.”25 As members of the Church community, students experience what it means to live a life of prayer, personal responsibility, and freedom reflective of Gospel values. This, in turn, leads them to grow in their commitment to serve God, one another, the Church, and the society.26

All teachers and leaders possess adequate skills, preparation, and religious formation and possess special qualities of mind and heart as well as the sensitivity necessary for authentic witness to the gospel and the task of human formation.27 Teachers and leaders of the educational community should be “practicing Catholics, who can understand and accept the teachings of the Catholic Church and the moral demands of the Gospel and who can contribute to the achievement of the school’s Catholic identity and apostolic goals.”28

Reflection on Church Teaching: Part 1
Encourages and Participates in Christian Communion

The Church teaches that education cannot be accomplished in isolation, but finds success when all those responsible for the education of the child work together.

Because its aim is to make man more man, education can be carried out authentically only in a relational and community context. It is not by chance that the first and original educational environment is that of the natural community of the family. Schools, in their turn, take their place beside the family as an educational space that is communitarian, organic and intentional and they sustain their educational commitment, according to a logic of assistance.29

Through the building up of interpersonal relationships between colleagues, students, and families as well as between the school community and universal Church, and

By giving witness of communion, the Catholic educational community is able to educate for communion, which, as a gift that comes from above, animates the project of formation for living together in harmony and being welcoming. Not only does it cultivate in the students the cultural values that derive from the Christian vision of reality, but it also involves each one of them in the life of the community, where values are mediated by authentic interpersonal relationships among the various members that form it, and by the individual and community acceptance of them. In this way, the life of communion of the educational community assumes the value of an educational principle, of a paradigm that directs its formational action as a service for the achievement of a culture of communion.30

This community facilitates openness for the sharing of values and must not remain an ideal but become a lived and felt reality.

The school must be a community whose values are communicated through the interpersonal and sincere relationships of its members and through both individual and corporative adherence to the outlook on life that permeates the school.31

How is this done?

Some of the conditions for creating a positive and supportive climate are the following: that everyone agree with the educational goals and cooperate in achieving them; that interpersonal relationships be based on love and Christian freedom; that each individual, in daily life, be a witness to Gospel values; that every student be challenged to strive for the highest possible level of formation, both human and Christian. In addition, the climate must be one in which families are welcomed, the local Church is an active participant, and civil society—local, national, and international—is included. If all share a common faith, this can be an added advantage.32

So while the community of the school builds on the family and is lived and nurtured within its walls, the students should also experience a sense of belonging to the community of the universal Church.

Concretely, the educational goals of the school include a concern for the life and the problems of the Church, both local and universal. These goals are attentive to the Magisterium, and include cooperation with Church authorities. Catholic students are helped to become active members of the parish and diocesan communities. They have opportunities to join Church associations and Church youth groups, and they are taught to collaborate in local Church projects.33

Finally, this ecclesial community is destined not for itself, but to be of service to the common good of the world through evangelization and service.

More than any other program of education sponsored by the Church, the Catholic school has the opportunity and obligation to be unique, contemporary, and oriented to Christian service; unique because it is distinguished by its commitment to the threefold purpose of Christian education and by its total design and operation which foster the integration of religion with the rest of learning and living; contemporary because it enables students to address with Christian insight the multiple problems which face individuals and society today; oriented to Christian service because it helps students acquire skills, virtues, and habits of heart and mind required for effective service to others.34

Questions to Aid Reflection or Assessment

Below are a series of questions to facilitate reflection and begin a discussion of how well the school encourages and participates in Christian communion. Choose areas for discussion as time allows.

Communion in General

  • How strong and healthy is our school’s sense of community?
  • How effectively do we express and reinforce our commitment to foster communion among school members in our mission statement, governing documents, student and faculty handbooks, online and print publications, and website?
  • How do we foster a school environment that evidences a Christian way of life, reproducing as far as possible the warm and intimate atmosphere of family life?
  • Are there policies and procedures in place to ensure that student and employee organizations and associations conform to Catholic ideals, principles, and teachings?
  • Are there programs in place or resources available to help employees struggling with personal challenges and crises?

Communion with Parents

  • How strongly do our parents feel a sense of belonging to this community?
  • How strong is parent commitment to our school?
  • How do we recognize the rights and responsibilities of parents to educate their children?
  • What more can we do to make Catholic education accessible to large families and to the economically disadvantaged?
  • What programs are in place to help families participate in the spiritual life of the school and as part of its faith community?

Communion among Students

  • Do our students seem to get along and treat each other kindly and respectfully?
  • Do we have adequate opportunities for play, celebration, and fellowship building among the students?
  • How do we provide for conflict management, breaking down any walls between groups and building healthy relationships among the students?
  • Are there programs in place or resources available to help students struggling with personal challenges and crises? Do board members attend student celebrations, especially graduation?

Communion beyond the School

  • Is our school a respected and valued member of the larger community?
  • How effectively do we express and reinforce our commitment to foster communion with individuals beyond the school environment in our mission statement, governing documents, student and faculty handbooks, online and print publications, and website?
  • Are students active in service programs of the school and the community?
  • How effectively do we relate with and support other area Catholic schools, our local parishes, efforts of the diocesan school office, and efforts of the universal Church?
  • Do we have a respectful relationship with the local bishop?
  • Are there programs or opportunities for students to experience the universality of the Catholic Church beyond our school walls?

Action Items: Specific ideas or plans to work toward building a more Christian community.

Reflection on Church Teaching: Part 2
Models Communion in Christ

The community of a Catholic school begins with its faculty and staff and is fostered by its board. Teachers play a special role in creating an enriching atmosphere throughout the school.

In the Catholic school, “prime responsibility for creating this unique Christian school climate rests with the teachers, as individuals and as a community”. Teaching has an extraordinary moral depth and is one of man’s most excellent and creative activities, for the teacher does not write on inanimate material, but on the very spirits of human beings. The personal relations between the teacher and the students, therefore, assume an enormous importance and are not limited simply to giving and taking. Moreover, we must remember that teachers and educators fulfill a specific Christian vocation and share an equally specific participation in the mission of the Church, to the extent that “it depends chiefly on them whether the Catholic school achieves its purpose.”35

For this reason, Catholic educators need a “formation of the heart”: they need to be led to that encounter with God in Christ which awakens their love and opens their spirits to others, so that their educational commitment becomes a consequence deriving from their faith, a faith which becomes active through love. In fact, even care for instruction means loving. It is only in this way that they can make their teaching a school of faith, that is to say, a transmission of the Gospel, as required by the educational project of the Catholic school.36

The success of the faculty and staff in creating a community that assists in leading students to communion with Christ and His Church depends upon their authentic witness and faithfulness in both word and action.

The more completely an educator can give concrete witness to the model of the ideal person [Christ] that is being presented to the students, the more this ideal will be believed and imitated.37

In light of this, the Church insists that

Instruction and education in a Catholic school must be based on the principles of Catholic doctrine, and the teachers must be outstanding in true doctrine and uprightness of life.38

Because authentic and lived teaching and living in communion is so critical to a Catholic school’s mission, the board needs to hire a faithful and practicing Catholic principal who in turn is capable of identifying and hiring Catholic teachers willing to participate in the mission of Catholic education to the fullest extent possible.

Under the direction of the pastor or the duly elected or appointed school board, the principal of the Catholic school plays a crucial role in achieving the catechetical objectives of the parish…Therefore, the principal of a Catholic school must be a practicing Catholic in good standing who understands and accepts the teachings of the Church and the moral demands of the Gospel.39

As a catechetical leader in the Catholic School, the principal is called to recruit teachers who are practicing Catholics, who can understand and accept the teachings of the Catholic Church and the moral demands of the gospel, and who can contribute to the achievement of the school’s Catholic identity and apostolic goals…As a catechetical leader in the Catholic school, the principal is called to provide opportunities for ongoing catechesis for faculty members…The distinctive Catholic identity and mission of the Catholic school also depend on the efforts and example of the whole faculty…All teachers in Catholic schools share in the catechetical ministry… While some situations might entail compelling reasons for members of another faith tradition to teach in a Catholic school, as much as possible, all teachers in a Catholic school should be practicing Catholics.40

Questions to Aid Reflection or Assessment

Below are questions to facilitate reflection and begin a discussion on how well the school acknowledges and fulfills the requirements for individuals within the school, as well as those affiliated with the school, to model and be in communion with Christ. Choose areas for discussion as time allows.

Christian Witness

  • Do others see our Board as “walking the walk” when it comes to living as disciples and joyfully working to spread God’s Kingdom?
  • Are the requirements for members of the governing body or school board published, and do they require members to be practicing Catholics?
  • Are members of the governing body or school board required to take an annual Oath to the teaching of the Magisterium of the Church, Catholic code of ethics for school board members, or other such public oath? How does the school ensure each governing official is informed of their responsibility to respect, promote, strengthen, and defend the Catholic identity of the school?
  • How does the school ensure there is a commitment by the governing body to its Catholic identity?
  • How does the school ensure that all school employees, volunteers, and board members have the qualities, skills, and commitment necessary for authentic witness to the Faith and the mission of Catholic education?

Policy

  • What policies does the school have for teacher employment in the rare instance only a non-Catholic is available to fill a position that does not involve formal catechesis of students?
  • Are there policies or protocols in place to ensure that a non-Catholic employee or volunteer is aware and supportive of the school’s Catholic mission?
  • Are there policies or programs in place to hold accountable employees and volunteers when commitment to Catholic ideals, morals, teachings, and/or principles is lacking?
  • Are personnel policies applied in a consistent manner?
  • Action Items: Specific ideas or plans to work toward better modeling of communion with Christ.

Principle III: Encounters Christ in Prayer, Scripture, and Sacrament

Rooted in Christ, Catholic education is continually fed and stimulated by Him in the frequent experience of prayer, scripture, and the Church’s liturgical and sacramental tradition.41 The transmission of faith, catechesis, is intrinsically linked to these living encounters with Christ, by which He nurtures and educates souls in the divine life of grace and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.42 By their witness and sharing in these encounters, educators help students grow in understanding of what it means to be a member of the Church.43 Students discover the real value of the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Reconciliation, in accompanying the Christian in the journey through life. They learn “to open their hearts in confidence to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit through personal and liturgical prayer,” which makes the mystery of Christ present to students.44

Reflection on Church Teaching

The community comprising the Catholic school finds its source of nourishment in the Word, in the Sacraments, and in the traditions of the Church.

No Catholic school can adequately fulfill its educational role on its own. It must continually be fed and stimulated by its Source of life, the Saving Word of Christ as it is expressed in Sacred Scripture, in Tradition, especially liturgical and sacramental tradition, and in the lives of people, past and present, who bear witness to that Word.45

In a Catholic school, prayer and Gospel values facilitate harmony and a desire for service.

Within such communities, teachers and pupils experience together what it means to live a life of prayer, personal responsibility and freedom reflective of Gospel values.  Their fellowship helps them grow in their commitment to service God, one another, the Church and the general community.46

This ardent and vibrantly lived life of prayer and faith must not be hidden but freely and naturally expressed.

From the first moment that a student sets foot in a Catholic school, he or she ought to have the impression of entering a new environment, one illumined by the light of faith, and having its own unique characteristics.47

Moreover, the Catholic school is well aware that the community that it forms must be constantly nourished and compared with the sources from which the reason for its existence derives: the saving word of God in Sacred Scripture, in Tradition, above all liturgical and sacramental Tradition, enlightened by the Magisterium of the Church.48

The characteristics of a rich faith life include easily identifiable representations of the spiritual life such as crucifixes, statues or pictures of saints, and a place set aside for prayer. It also involves introducing students to traditional Catholic prayers, traditions of the Church, and spiritual devotions, especially Marian devotions.

An awareness of Mary’s presence can be a great help toward making the school into a “home”. Mary, Mother and Teacher of the Church, accompanied her Son as he grew in wisdom and grace; from its earliest days, she has accompanied the Church in its mission of salvation.49

As important as these Catholic devotions are, an essential element to any Catholic school is a rich and faithful sacramental life.

An understanding of the sacramental journey has profound educational implications. Students become aware that being a member of the Church is something dynamic, responding to every person’s need to continue growing all through life. When we meet the Lord in the Sacraments, we are never left unchanged. Through the Spirit, he causes us to grow in the Church, offering us “grace upon grace”; the only thing he asks is our cooperation. The educational consequences of this touch on our relationship with God, our witness as a Christian, and our choice of a personal vocation.50

Especially important in the documents is a rich Eucharistic component.

The essential point for students to understand is that Jesus Christ is always truly present in the Sacraments which he has instituted, and his presence makes them efficacious means of grace. The moment of closest encounter with the Lord Jesus occurs in the Eucharist, which is both Sacrifice and Sacrament. In the Eucharist, two supreme acts of love are united: Our Lord renews his sacrifice of salvation for us, and he truly gives himself to us.51

In the life of a Catholic school the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation become frequent, lived, and loving encounters with God.

The teacher will assist students to open their hearts in confidence to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit through personal and liturgical prayer. The latter is not just another way of praying; it is the official prayer of the Church, which makes the mystery of Christ present in our lives—especially through the Eucharist, Sacrifice and Sacrament, and through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Religious experiences are then seen, not as something externally imposed, but as a free and loving response to the God who first loved us. The virtues of faith and religion, thus rooted and cultivated, are enabled to develop during childhood, youth, and in all the years that follow.52

As with all elements of the integral formation of its students, the authentic and lived participation of the faculty and staff in liturgies and Sacraments play a critical role in the success of the school’s mission.

As a visible manifestation of the faith they profess and the life witness they are supposed to manifest, it is important that lay Catholics who work in a Catholic school participate simply and actively in the liturgical and sacramental life of the school. Students will share in this life more readily when they have concrete examples: when they see the importance that this life has for believers. In today’s secularized world, students will see many lay people who call themselves Catholics, but who never take part in liturgy or sacraments. It is very important that they also have the example of lay adults who take such things seriously, who find in them a source and nourishment for Christian living.53

Questions to Aid Reflection or Assessment

Below are a series of questions to facilitate reflection and to begin a discussion of how one encounters Christ in the school. Choose areas for discussion as time allows.

General Questions

  • Do we start all Board meetings with prayer?
  • Do we pause meetings as necessary with a prayer for guidance in particularly difficult situations?
  • Do board members attend religious celebrations and events of the school?

Policies for Administrative Member

  • How does the school ensure that each member of the school community understands and shares in the school’s commitment to personal and liturgical prayer, contemplation of Sacred Scripture, and nourishment from the Sacraments?
  • How does the school ensure that priests, religious, educators, and staff members possess the necessary qualities, skills, and commitment to lead student formation in the methods of prayer, authentic interpretation of Sacred Scripture, reverent liturgies, and reception of Sacraments according to the Church’s liturgical norms?
  • How does the school provide for the continued spiritual formation of the governing body of the school or the school board?

Policies for Students

  • How does the school express a commitment to providing constant reference to the Gospel message, frequent opportunities for students to encounter Christ in both personal and liturgical prayer, Sacred Scripture, and the Sacraments in its mission statement, its governing documents, its student and faculty handbooks, or other means?
  • How does the school ensure the availability of the Sacraments for its students?
  • How does the school work with the local Church to facilitate the reception of First Sacraments for students?

Action Items: Specific ideas or plans to work toward encountering Christ in prayer, Scripture, and Sacraments.

Principle IV: Integrally Forms the Human Person

The complex task of Catholic education is the integral formation of students as physical, intellectual, and spiritual beings called to perfect humanity in the fullness of Christ, which is their right by Baptism.54 The human person is “created in ‘the image and likeness’ of God; elevated by God to the dignity of a child of God; unfaithful to God in original sin, but redeemed by Christ; a temple of the Holy Spirit, a member of the Church; destined to eternal life.”55 Catholic education assists students to become aware of the gift of Faith, worship God the Father, develop into mature adults who bear witness to the Mystical Body of Christ, respect the dignity of the human person, provide service, lead apostolic lives, and build the Kingdom of God.56

Catholic education forms the conscience through commitment to authentic Catholic doctrine. It develops the virtues and characteristics associated with what it means to be Christian so as to resist relativism, overcome individualism, and discover vocations to serve God and others.57 “Intellectual development and growth as a Christian go forward hand in hand” where faith, culture, and life are integrated throughout the school’s program to provide students a personal closeness to Christ enriched by virtues, values, and supernatural gifts.58 As a child of God, made in his image, human formation includes the development of personal Christian ethics and respect for the body by promoting healthy development, physical activity, and chastity.59

In Catholic education, “There is no separation between time for learning and time for formation, between acquiring notions and growing in wisdom”; education and pedagogy inspired by Gospel values and distinguished by the “illumination of all knowledge with the light of faith” allows formation to become living, conscious and active.60 The atmosphere is characterized by discovery and awareness that enkindles a love for truth, and a desire to know the universe as God’s creation. The Christian educational program facilitates critical thinking that is ordered, precise, and responsible as it builds strength and perseverance in pursuit of the truth.61

Reflection on Church Teachings: Part 1
Integral Formation Focused on Intellectual Development

The Catholic intellectual tradition is about more than simply maximizing intellectual skills; it is about ensuring that the intellect is authentically human, integrated, and oriented toward wisdom.

Catholic schools are encouraged to promote a wisdom-based society, to go beyond knowledge and educate people to think, evaluating facts in the light of values.62

This intellectual work unites all three elements of truth, beauty, and goodness in a pursuit of wisdom, but especially a virtuous and rigorous search for truth.

Within the overall process of education, special mention must be made of the intellectual work done by students. Although Christian life consists in loving God and doing his will, intellectual work is intimately involved. The light of Christian faith stimulates a desire to know the universe as God’s creation. It enkindles a love for the truth that will not be satisfied with superficiality in knowledge or judgment. It awakens a critical sense which examines statements rather than accepting them blindly. It impels the mind to learn with careful order and precise methods, and to work with a sense of responsibility. It provides the strength needed to accept the sacrifices and the perseverance required by intellectual labor.63

We do not just seek knowledge for the sake of power and utilitarian purposes, but rather for complete human flourishing and complete human formation.

In the Catholic school’s educational project there is no separation between time for learning and time for formation, between acquiring notions and growing in wisdom. The various school subjects do not present only knowledge to be attained, but also values to be acquired and truths to be discovered.64

The Church does not shy away from a bold claim to know and teach the truth in a modern relativistic culture. St. John Paul II encouraged American educators to realize this point.

The greatest challenge to Catholic education in the United States today, and the greatest contribution that authentically Catholic education can make to American culture, is to restore to that culture the conviction that human beings can grasp the truth of things, and in grasping that truth can know their duties to God, to themselves and their neighbors. The contemporary world urgently needs the service of educational institutions which uphold and teach that truth is “that fundamental value without which freedom, justice and human dignity are extinguished.”65

Reflection on Church Teachings: Part 2
Integral Formation Focused on Spiritual Development

All schools focus on developing the intellect, but Catholic schools have a long history of particularly excelling in this academic enterprise. We have the added advantage of being able to actively form all aspects of the human person, especially the spiritual dimension. The spiritual life we model and the spiritual truths we teach must be completely faithful to the Church and should permeate and sit proudly alongside all academic disciplines of a school’s program.

The integration of religious truth and values with life distinguishes the Catholic school from other schools. This is a matter of crucial importance today in view of contemporary trends and pressures to compartmentalize life and learning and to isolate the religious dimension of existence from other areas of human life.66

One component of this integral development is the specific teaching of Catholic doctrine.

Educational programs for the young must strive to teach doctrine, to do so within the experience of Christian community, and to prepare individuals for effective Christian witness and service to others.  In doing this they help foster the student’s growth in personal holiness and his relationship with Christ.67

The presentation of Catholic doctrine through religious instruction is not the whole of the school’s efforts; a catechetical component is also involved.

Religious instruction is appropriate in every school, for the purpose of the school is human formation in all of its fundamental dimensions, and the religious dimension is an integral part of this formation. Religious education is actually a right – with the corresponding duties – of the student and of the parents. It is also, at least in the case of the Catholic religion, an extremely important instrument for attaining the adequate synthesis of faith and culture that has been insisted on so often.  Therefore, the teaching of the Catholic religion, distinct from and at the same time complementary to catechesis properly so called, ought to form a part of the curriculum of every school.68

A result of this process is a religious formation that leads to an active and lived life of faith and worship.

The life of faith is expressed in acts of religion. The teacher will assist students to open their hearts in confidence to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit through personal and liturgical prayer. The latter is not just another way of praying; it is the official prayer of the Church, which makes the mystery of Christ present in our lives – especially through the Eucharist, Sacrifice and Sacrament, and through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Religious experiences are then seen, not as something externally imposed, but as a free and loving response to the God who first loved us. The virtues of faith and religion, thus rooted and cultivated, are enabled to develop during childhood, youth, and in all the years that follow.69

Reflection on Church Teaching: Part 3
Integral Formation Focused on Moral Development

The intellectual and spiritual formation we provide our students assists them in living a life of virtue guided by a well-formed Catholic conscience and a consistent moral ethic.

…the Catholic school tries to create within its walls a climate in which the pupil’s faith will gradually mature and enable him to assume the responsibility placed on him by Baptism. It will give pride of place in the education it provides through Christian Doctrine to the gradual formation of conscience in fundamental, permanent virtues—above all the theological virtues, and charity in particular, which is, so to speak, the life-giving spirit which transforms a man of virtue into a man of Christ. Christ, therefore, is the teaching-centre, the Model on Whom the Christian shapes his life. In Him the Catholic school differs from all others which limit themselves to forming men. Its task is to form Christian men, and, by its teaching and witness, show non-Christians something of the mystery of Christ Who surpasses all human understanding.70

In an age of pluralism and relativism, the Catholic school holds out fundamental goods and teaches clearly about what is right and what is wrong.

Cultural pluralism, therefore, leads the Church to reaffirm her mission of education to insure strong character formation. Her children, then, will be capable both of resisting the debilitating influence of relativism and of living up to the demands made on them by their Baptism…For this reason the Church is prompted to mobilize her educational resources in the face of the materialism, pragmatism and technocracy of contemporary society.71

In forming the moral compass of our students based on Catholic truths, the school works closely with the student’s primary educators, the parents.

Partnership between a Catholic school and the families of the students must continue and be strengthened: not simply to be able to deal with academic problems that may arise, but rather so that the educational goals of the school can be achieved. Close cooperation with the family is especially important when treating sensitive issues such as religious, moral, or sexual education, orientation toward a profession, or a choice of one’s vocation in life. It is not a question of convenience, but a partnership based on faith. Catholic tradition teaches that God has bestowed on the family its own specific and unique educational mission.72

Reflection on Church Teaching: Part 4
Integral Formation Focused on Physical Development and Expression

The Catholic Church teaches of an intimate unity between body and soul. We are incarnate beings whose physical lives and bodily expression should be in deep and natural accord with our souls and our spiritual life and dispositions. The Catholic school seeks to develop all these facets of the human person.

Since true education must strive for complete formation of the human person that looks to his or her final end as well as to the common good of societies, children and youth are to be nurtured in such a way that they are able to develop their physical, moral, and intellectual talents harmoniously, acquire a more perfect sense of responsibility and right use of freedom, and are formed to participate actively in social life.73

This understanding of the human person is based on a Christian anthropology which acknowledges our complete human nature, including our dignity and our brokenness:

Students should be helped to see the human person as a living creature having both a physical and a spiritual nature; each of us has an immortal soul, and we are in need of redemption. The older students can gradually come to a more mature understanding of all that is implied in the concept of “person”: intelligence and will, freedom and feelings, the capacity to be an active and creative agent; a being endowed with both rights and duties, capable of interpersonal relationships, called to a specific mission in the world.74

The human person is present in all the truths of faith: created in “the image and likeness” of God; elevated by God to the dignity of a child of God; unfaithful to God in original sin, but redeemed by Christ; a temple of the Holy Spirit; a member of the Church; destined to eternal life.75

It also means the cultivation of intellectual and spiritual gifts in a spirit of respect for oneself and others includes physical health and a life lived chastely.

Not a few young people, unable to find any meaning in life or trying to find an escape from loneliness, turn to alcohol drugs, the erotic, the exotic etc. Christian education is faced with the huge challenge of helping these young people discover something of value in their lives…We must learn to care for our body and its health, and this includes physical activity and sports. And we must be careful of our sexual integrity through the virtue of chastity, because sexual energies are also a gift of God, contributing to the perfection of the person and having a providential function for the life of society and of the Church. Thus, gradually, the teacher will guide students to the idea, and then to the realization, of a process of total formation.76

Questions to Aid Reflection or Assessment:

Below are a series of questions to help facilitate reflection and begin discussion of the intellectual, spiritual, moral, and physical development of students. Choose areas for discussion as time allows.

Philosophy of Integral Formation

  • Does the school seem to do a good job at harmoniously forming students’ hearts, minds, and bodies?
  • How do we provide for the integral formation of students?
  • Is the integral formation of students part of our school’s educational philosophy? How does the school provide for Board development and understanding in areas of Catholic school mission, philosophy, leadership, and integral formation of students?

School Programs – General

  • Is there an annual evaluation of academic, co-curricular, and extra-curricular programs focusing on the spiritual, intellectual, moral, and physical formation of students?
  • What policies and procedures are in place to ensure our programs, including extra-curricular programs, are on mission and in accordance with the teachings of the Catechism of the Catholic Church?
  • Are there programs or courses we can offer to help facilitate a more balanced curriculum?

School Programs – Specific

  • Is our sports program adequately balanced with other programs and at the service of virtue development and furtherance of the school’s mission?
  • What programs, options, or professional services are in place to assist students with special physical and developmental learning needs?
  • Are technology policies and software updated at least annually to ensure students and faculty avoid unhealthy and undesired social media?
  • What policies, programs, and procedures do we have in place to help students, employees, volunteers, and families with unhealthy addictions? Are these programs adequately financed in the annual budget?
  • How does the school support families in developing an understanding and dialogue with their children so they might better discern popular, fleeting options and lifestyle choices?
  • If there is a program in place teaching human sexuality, are parents allowed to opt their students out?
  • Is there a policy in place addressing students with same-sex attraction and gender identity issues that supports Church guidance and defends the school against the inroads of false gender ideology or unchastity? If not, how are these issues addressed in accordance with the teachings of the Catholic Church?

Action Items: Specific ideas or plans to work on integral formation of our students.

Principle V: Imparts a Christian Understanding of the World

In the light of faith, Catholic education critically and systematically transmits the secular and religious “cultural patrimony handed down from previous generations,” especially that which makes a person more human and contributes to the integral formation of students.77 Both educator and student are called to participate in the dialogue with culture and to pursue “the integration of culture with faith and faith with living.”78 Catholic education imparts a “Christian vision of the world, of life, of culture, and of history,” ordering “the whole of human culture to the news of salvation.”79 This hallmark of Catholic education, to “bring human wisdom into an encounter with divine wisdom,”80 cultivates “in students the intellectual, creative, and aesthetic faculties of the human person,” introduces a cultural heritage, and prepares them for professional life and to take on the responsibilities and duties of society and the Church.81 Students are prepared to work for the evangelization of culture and for the common good of society.82

Reflection on Church Teaching: Part 1
Traditions, Values, and Evangelization

The Church teaches that the task of a Catholic school is to provide,

fundamentally a synthesis of culture and faith, and a synthesis of faith and life: the first is reached by integrating all the different aspects of human knowledge through the subjects taught, in the light of the Gospel; the second in the growth of the virtues characteristic of the Christian.83

Both the current common culture and aspects of cultural history giving rise to it are to be explored and critically analyzed in the light of the Catholic faith. Positive elements that can be brought into harmony with the faith are to be celebrated and expanded. Elements appearing in contradiction to the faith are to be challenged and critically analyzed. This is a role to which Catholic schools are particularly suited.

A school uses its own specific means for the integral formation of the human person: the communication of culture… if the communication of culture is to be a genuine educational activity, it must not only be organic, but also critical and evaluative, historical and dynamic. Faith will provide Catholic educators with some essential principles for critique and evaluation; faith will help them to see all of human history as a history of salvation which culminates in the fullness of the Kingdom. This puts culture into a creative context, constantly being perfected.84

In addition to critically examining and transmitting those best elements of human culture in general, the school also embodies and imparts a specific Catholic culture: that is an integrated pattern of knowledge, values, beliefs, behaviors, and traditions that celebrate and pass on to a new generation the unique contributions of the Church in the arts and the intellectual life, enriching the social and faith lives of our students with the great patrimony of the Catholic Church.

Catholic schools provide young people with sound Church teaching through a broad-based curriculum, where faith and culture are intertwined in all areas of a school’s life. By equipping our young people with a sound education, rooted in the Gospel message, the Person of Jesus Christ, and rich in the cherished traditions and liturgical practices of our faith, we ensure that they have the foundation to live morally and uprightly in our complex modern world. This unique Catholic identity makes our Catholic elementary and secondary schools “schools for the human person” and allows them to fill a critical role in the future life of our Church, our country, and our world.85

Through this transmission of culture, students become Christ for others and work to evangelize both inside and outside the school community.

The mission of the Catholic school is the integral formation of students, so that they may be true to their condition as Christ’s disciples and as such work effectively for the evangelization of culture and for the common good of society.86

Reflection on Church Teaching: Part 2
Literature, History, and the Arts

The school’s curriculum is the vehicle for examining various cultural elements.

From the nature of the Catholic school also stems one of the most significant elements of its educational project: the synthesis between culture and faith. The endeavor to interweave reason and faith, which has become the heart of individual subjects, makes for unity, articulation, and coordination, bringing forth within what is learned in a school a Christian vision of the world, of life, of culture, and of history.87

A Catholic school curriculum examines issues of culture, meaning, faith, and value in the light of the Gospel. Literature, history, and the arts lend themselves readily to this enterprise.

Literature and the arts are also, in their own way, of great importance to the life of the Church. They strive to make known the proper nature of man, his problems and his experiences in trying to know and perfect both himself and the world. They have much to do with revealing man’s place in history and in the world; with illustrating the miseries and joys, the needs and strengths of man and with foreshadowing a better life for him. Thus they are able to elevate human life, expressed in multifold forms according to various times and regions.88

Not only is history analyzed for its content and facts, but also for its comportment to reality and truth. Catholic schools are free to discuss and unravel the numerous historical circumstances where God’s hand is seen interjecting itself in temporal affairs. These opportunities are vast and plentiful and add an additional dimension to the study of historical timelines.

Teachers should guide the students’ work in such a way that they will be able to discover a religious dimension in the world of human history. As a preliminary, they should be encouraged to develop a taste for historical truth, and therefore to realize the need to look critically at texts and curricula which, at times, are imposed by a government or distorted by the ideology of the author…they will see the development of civilizations, and learn about progress…When they are ready to appreciate it, students can be invited to reflect on the fact that this human struggle takes place within the divine history [of] universal salvation. At this moment, the religious dimension of history begins to shine forth in all its luminous grandeur.89

The study of human historical and social realties in a Catholic school occurs in the context of a permanent philosophical heritage which must be understood.

Every society has its own heritage of accumulated wisdom. Many people find inspiration in these philosophical and religious concepts which have endured for millennia. The systematic genius of classical Greek and European thought has, over the centuries, generated countless different doctrinal systems, but it has also given us a set of truths which we can recognize as a part of our permanent philosophical heritage.90

This heritage includes a rich patrimony of social justice which should also be reflected in the curriculum.

The curriculum must help the students reflect on the great problems of our time, including those where one sees more clearly the difficult situation of a large part of humanity’s living conditions. These would include the unequal distribution of resources, poverty, injustice and human rights denied.91

Especially in the arts, both auditory and visual, Catholic schools have a rich tradition to draw from for discussions of beauty and harmony and that which fulfills a human soul.

Literary and artistic works depict the struggles of societies, of families, and of individuals. They spring from the depths of the human heart, revealing its lights and its shadows, its hope and its despair. The Christian perspective goes beyond the merely human, and offers more penetrating criteria for understanding the human struggle and the mysteries of the human spirit. Furthermore, an adequate religious formation has been the starting point for the vocation of a number of Christian artists and art critics. In the upper grades, a teacher can bring students to: an even more profound appreciation of artistic works: as a reflection of the divine beauty in tangible form. Both the Fathers of the Church and the masters of Christian philosophy teach this in their writings on aesthetics—St. Augustine invites us to go beyond the intention of the artists in order to find the eternal order of God in the work of art; St. Thomas sees the presence of the Divine Word in art.92

Reflection on Church Teaching: Part 3
Science and Mathematics

The school’s science and math curriculum is the vehicle not just for examining standard scientific content, but also for introducing students to the Catholic intellectual tradition and the specific contributions of Catholics to the world of math and science. It can help the students see the limitations of materialism and open them up to the depths of wonder held in God’s creation.

The Catholic school should teach its pupils to discern in the voice of the universe the Creator Whom it reveals and, in the conquests of science, to know God and man better.93

By not ignoring the religious dimension, Catholic schools

…help their students to understand that positive science, and the technology allied to it, is a part of the universe created by God. Understanding this can help encourage an interest in research: the whole of creation, from the distant celestial bodies and the immeasurable cosmic forces down to the infinitesimal particles and waves of matter and energy, all bear the imprint of the Creator’s wisdom and power, The wonder that past ages felt when contemplating this universe, recorded by the Biblical authors, is still valid for the students of today; the only difference is that we have a knowledge that is much more vast and profound. There can be no conflict between faith and true scientific knowledge; both find their source in God. The student who is able to discover the harmony between faith and science will, in future professional life, be better able to put science and technology to the service of men and women, and to the service of God. It is a way of giving back to God what he has first given to us.94

Education in science includes the relationship of science to other disciplines in the life of the intellect.

Furthermore, when man gives himself to the various disciplines of philosophy, history and of mathematical and natural science, and when he cultivates the arts, he can do very much to elevate the human family to a more sublime understanding of truth, goodness, and beauty, and to the formation of considered opinions which have universal value. Thus mankind may be more clearly enlightened by that marvelous Wisdom which was with God from all eternity, composing all things with him, rejoicing in the earth and delighting in the sons of men. In this way, the human spirit, being less subjected to material things, can be more easily drawn to the worship and contemplation of the Creator. Moreover, by the impulse of grace, he is disposed to acknowledge the Word of God, Who before He became flesh in order to save all and to sum up all in Himself was already “in the world” as “the true light which enlightens every man” (John 1:9-10). Indeed today’s progress in science and technology can foster a certain exclusive emphasis on observable data, and agnosticism about everything else. For the methods of investigation which these sciences use can be wrongly considered as the supreme rule of seeking the whole truth. By virtue of their methods these sciences cannot penetrate to the intimate notion of things. Indeed the danger is present that man, confiding too much in the discoveries of today, may think that he is sufficient unto himself and no longer seek the higher things.95

This notion is in line with the Catholic intellectual tradition in which

Catholic schools strive to relate all of the sciences to salvation and sanctification. Students are shown how Jesus illumines all of life—science, mathematics, history, business, biology, and so forth.96

As God is the source of all reality and because all things live, move, and have their being in Him, an understanding of all aspects of creation can assist in understanding and glorifying God in whom all truths converge.

Questions to Aid Reflection and Assessment:

Below are a series of questions to facilitate reflection and begin discussion of how a Catholic school imparts a Christian understanding of the world. Choose areas for discussion as time allows.

Christian Understanding – General

  • Does our school seem to integrate the various disciplines?
  • Does our school seem to actively promote a Christian view of the world, life, and culture?

School Foundational Documents

  • How does the school express its commitment to:
    • the critical and systematic transmission of Catholic culture and worldview?
    • forming students’ faculties so they can evaluate culture?
    • preparing students for evangelization and vocations?
    • facilitating opportunities for students to integrate faith and life in its mission statement, governing documents, student and faculty handbooks, and academic programs?

Budgeting and Planning

  • Does the school’s budget and academic plan include funding and time for cultural opportunities for students? evangelistic opportunities? faculty professional development opportunities? facilities to enhance interdisciplinary instruction?

Action Items: Specific ideas or plans to better impart a Christian understanding of the world.

 

[1] A more complete exposition of the principles is available in these resources: Principles of Catholic Identity in Education: Church Documents for Reflection and Principles of Catholic Identity in Education: Principles and Sources in Church Teaching.

[2] The Cardinal Newman Society has also created other assessment tools for schools including: Principles of Catholic Identity in Education: Faculty and Staff In-Service and our Catholic Education Honor Roll.

 

 

 

Principles Faculty and Staff In-Service

Catholic Identity in Education: Faculty and Staff In-Service is designed to help a school’s faculty and staff reflect upon those elements the Church expects to be present in all Catholic schools and which distinguish them from other schools. The evaluation is structured upon five principles of Catholic identity derived from Church documents related to education. The five principles that help structure the document and questions are: Inspired by Divine Mission; Models Christian Communion; Encounters Christ in Prayer, Scripture, and Sacraments; Integrally Forms the Human Person and Imparts a Christian Understanding of the World. Each principle includes a summary which is comprehensive, yet concise. It is then followed by a series of questions intended to serve as a general resource to guide the faculty and staff in an effort to enhance and assess their school’s Catholic identity.

Intention for Use

Catholic Identity in Education: Faculty and Staff In-Service helps faculty and staff members conduct an internal formative self-assessment of their school’s Catholic identity.

Suggestions for Use

The faculty and staff do not need to answer all questions, although they may. New questions may also arise from their discussions. The process is intended to open up potential lines of inquiry that will spark internal conversation and lead eventually to more targeted focus of the school’s particular needs. Because of the integrated and interrelated nature of Catholic education’s fundamental mission to evangelize and integrally form students in a Christ-centered community, the distinctive elements found in a school directed toward this end are not easily and exclusively categorized. For instance, Catholic education should form students in virtue; should that element be addressed in a school’s purpose, culture, curriculum, spiritual life, or evangelization? The important thing is that the questions are addressed and discussed among the faculty, often with as basic and important a question as, “How are we doing at forming virtuous students?”

Some schools may choose to use the In-Service in a series of faculty gatherings. This would involve dividing the document into individual sections and distributing each section prior to the gathering, so that participants have sufficient opportunity to reflect deeply on each section prior to discussion. Participants should read through the applicable set of questions prior to reading the narrative and quotes. Another alternative is to divide the faculty into smaller groups and give each group one specific section to discuss before coming back together to share their findings. Other schools may want to have a sub-group meet first on a specific topic and then present the topic to the whole faculty for general discussion.

Whatever approach is selected, school administrators should be present at group discussions to answer questions as they arise and to add additional information if needed.  The process should include all individuals involved in the learning environment in an open, safe, and positive atmosphere. The process should be slow and allow for fruitful, honest, and nuanced discussions. At minimum, it will take approximately 1-1 ½ hours to evaluate and discuss each of the five principles. These discussions might then provide the opportunity for recording strengths and weaknesses, brainstorming ideas to enhance Catholic identity, and making specific school-wide goals and action plans for growth.

Principle I: Inspired by Divine Mission

Catholic education is an expression of the Church’s mission of salvation and an instrument of evangelization:1 to make disciples of Christ and to teach them to observe all that He has commanded.2 Through Catholic education, students encounter God, “who in Jesus Christ reveals His transforming love and truth.”3 Christ is the foundation of Catholic education;4 He journeys with students through school and life as “genuine Teacher” and “perfect Man.”5 As a faith community in unity with the Church and in fidelity to the Magisterium, students, parents, and educators give witness to Christ’s loving communion in the Holy Trinity.6 With this Christian vision, Catholic education fulfills its purpose of “critical, systematic transmission of culture in the light of faith”7 and the integral formation of the human person by developing each student’s physical, moral, spiritual, and intellectual gifts in harmony, teaching responsibility and right use of freedom, and preparing students to fulfill God’s calling in this world and to attain the eternal kingdom for which they were created.8 Catholic education is sustained by the frequent experience of prayer, Sacred Scripture, and the Church’s liturgical and sacramental tradition.9

Reflection on Church Teaching

Vatican II describes a Catholic school’s mission as leading all students to salvation by helping them become prayerful, moral, and Christ-like individuals, aware of the gift of faith they have received. They are to conform their lives to the teachings of Christ and strive to develop the Mystical Body of Christ through witness and evangelization, thus contributing to the common good and the growth of a Christian worldview.

A Christian education does not merely strive for the maturing of a human person… but has as its principal purpose this goal: that the baptized, while they are gradually introduced the knowledge of the mystery of salvation, become ever more aware of the gift of Faith they have received, and that they learn in addition how to worship God the Father in spirit and truth especially in liturgical action, and be conformed in their personal lives according to the new man created in justice and holiness of truth; also that they develop into perfect manhood, to the mature measure of the fullness of Christ and strive for the growth of the Mystical Body; moreover, that aware of their calling, they learn not only how to bear witness to the hope that is in them but also how to help in the Christian formation of the world that takes place when natural powers viewed in the full consideration of man redeemed by Christ contribute to the good of the whole society.10

These themes are carried forth in subsequent documents, but especially the theme of the evangelizing mission of Catholic education with emphasis on personal sanctification and social reform.

Catholic education is an expression of the mission entrusted by Jesus to the Church He founded. Through education, the Church seeks to prepare its members to proclaim the Good News and to translate this proclamation into action. Since the Christian vocation is a call to transform oneself and society with God’s help, the educational efforts of the Church must encompass the twin purposes of personal sanctification and the social reform in light of Christian values.11

How a school accomplishes this mission includes many elements, but chief among them is a focus on Christ, especially His life and His teachings. Church documents on education consistently emphasize a Christocentric dimension for the school’s existence.

In a Catholic school, everyone should be aware of the living presence of Jesus the “Master” who, today as always, is with us in our journey through life as the one genuine “Teacher,” the perfect Man in whom all human values find their fullest perfection. The inspiration of Jesus must be translated from the ideal into the real. The gospel spirit should be evident in a Christian way of thought and life which permeates all facets of the educational climate.12

Essential to the fulfillment of the mission are opportunities for students to encounter His presence in Scripture, in the Sacraments, in prayer, in each other, and in their studies. As Pope Benedict XVI noted:

First and foremost every Catholic educational institution is a place to encounter the living God who in Jesus Christ reveals his transforming love and truth. This relationship elicits a desire to grow in the knowledge and understanding of Christ and his teaching. In this way those who meet him are drawn by the very power of the Gospel to lead a new life characterized by all that is beautiful, good, and true; a life of Christian witness nurtured and strengthened within the community of our Lord’s disciples, the Church.13

A further distinctive element of the mission and experience of a Catholic school is its dedication to integral formation. This integral formation is the unique way the Church responds to the complex and real crisis of the age facing her children and facing the whole world.

Since true education must strive for complete formation of the human person that looks to his or her final end as well as to the common good of societies, children and youth are to be nurtured in such a way that they are able to develop their physical, moral, and intellectual talents harmoniously, acquire a more perfect sense of responsibility and right use of freedom, and are formed to participate actively in social life.14

These elements help create a truly Catholic school experience in culture, climate, community, and academics where all knowledge is illumined by faith.

The Catholic school pursues cultural goals and the natural development of youth to the same degree as any other school. What makes the Catholic school distinctive is its attempt to generate a community climate in the school that is permeated by the Gospel spirit of freedom and love…The Council, therefore, declared that what makes the Catholic school distinctive is its religious dimension, and that this is to be found in a) the educational climate, b) the personal development of each student, c) the relationship established between culture and the Gospel, d) the illumination of all knowledge with the light of faith.15

Questions to Aid Reflection or Assessment

Below are questions designed to facilitate reflection and begin a discussion of how your school fulfills the mission of Catholic education. Choose the most important questions for your school.

School’s Mission

  • What is our school’s mission? Do we all know it and follow it? Do our students and families know it? Do they embrace and support it?
  • How much does our mission guide our efforts? Where can we improve?
  • Is our school’s mission united with the Church’s mission for Catholic education?
  • What in our school’s mission statement specifically distinguishes it from local, non-Catholic, and private schools?

Church’s Mission – Evangelization and Salvation

  • Does our school’s mission advance the Church’s mission of salvation and evangelization?
  • In which experiences at our school do students encounter the living God? How adeptly do they recognize these encounters? How can we make these encounters more frequent, evident, and fruitful?

Catholic Identity

  • Is our school proudly and strongly Catholic in its identity? How can we tell? Do we sometimes downplay our Catholic identity or dilute Catholic teachings?
  • Is Christ the foundation of our school? How so? How can we make this more evident?
  • Does our school transmit a distinctly Catholic culture and worldview? Where? How?
  • Is our school faithful to the teachings of the Magisterium, especially as expressed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church?

Student Formation

  • Are efforts in student formation sufficiently balanced to accomplish our mission? Do we in any way limit our vision and efforts to utilitarian or worldly purposes?
  • Does a Christian understanding of the human person, as an integrated body and soul created by God, form the basis for our formational efforts? Do we sufficiently capitalize on the reality that Christ reveals man fully to himself? Where is this evident in our efforts?

Action Items: Specific ideas or plans to work toward fulfillment of our mission.

Principle II: Models Christian Communion and Identity

Catholic education teaches communion with Christ, by living communion with Christ and imitating the love and freedom of the Trinity.16 This communion begins in the home—with the divinely ordered right and responsibility of parents to educate their children—and extends to the school community in support and service to the needs of the family.17 It unites families and educators with a shared educational philosophy to form students for a relationship with God and with others.18 The educational community is united to the universal Church in fidelity to the magisterium, to the local Church, and to other schools and community organizations.19

The school community is a place of ecclesial experience, in which the members model confident and joyful public witness in both word and action and teach students to live the Catholic faith in their daily lives.20 In an environment “humanly and spiritually rich,” everyone is aware of the living presence of Jesus evidenced by a Christian way of life, expressed in “Word and Sacrament, in individual behaviour, [and] in friendly and harmonious relationships.”21 The school climate reproduces, as far as possible, the “warm and intimate atmosphere of family life.”22 As members of the Church community, students experience what it means to live a life of prayer, personal responsibility, and freedom reflective of Gospel values. This, in turn, leads them to grow in their commitment to serve God, one another, the Church, and the society.23

All teachers and leaders possess adequate skills, preparation, and religious formation and possess special qualities of mind and heart as well as the sensitivity necessary for authentic witness to the gospel and the task of human formation.24 Teachers and leaders of the educational community should be “practicing Catholics, who can understand and accept the teachings of the Catholic Church and the moral demands of the Gospel and who can contribute to the achievement of the school’s Catholic identity and apostolic goals.”25

Reflection on Church Teaching: Part 1
Encourages and Participates in Christian Communion

The Church teaches that education cannot be accomplished in isolation, but finds success when all those responsible for the education of the child work together.

Because its aim is to make man more man, education can be carried out authentically only in a relational and community context. It is not by chance that the first and original educational environment is that of the natural community of the family. Schools, in their turn, take their place beside the family as an educational space that is communitarian, organic and intentional and they sustain their educational commitment, according to a logic of assistance.26

The school is an extension of the family and recognizes parents as the primary educators of their children. Therefore, the environment of the school, especially at the primary level, should exemplify the charity and care found among close family members.

Considering the special age group they are working with, primary schools should try to create a community school climate that reproduces, as far as possible, the warm and intimate atmosphere of family life. Those responsible for these schools will, therefore, do everything they can to promote a common spirit of trust and spontaneity. In addition, they will take great care to promote close and constant collaboration with the parents of these pupils. An integration of school and home is an essential condition for the birth and development of all of the potential which these children manifest in one or the other of these two situations – including their openness to religion with all that this implies.27

Through the building up of interpersonal relationships between colleagues, students, and families as well as between the school community and universal Church, the school gives witness to communion.

By giving witness of communion, the Catholic educational community is able to educate for communion, which, as a gift that comes from above, animates the project of formation for living together in harmony and being welcoming. Not only does it cultivate in the students the cultural values that derive from the Christian vision of reality, but it also involves each one of them in the life of the community, where values are mediated by authentic interpersonal relationships among the various members that form it, and by the individual and community acceptance of them. In this way, the life of communion of the educational community assumes the value of an educational principle, of a paradigm that directs its formational action as a service for the achievement of a culture of communion.28

This type of community facilitates openness for the sharing of values and must not remain an ideal but become a lived and felt reality.

The school must be a community whose values are communicated through the interpersonal and sincere relationships of its members and through both individual and corporative adherence to the outlook on life that permeates the school.29

Church documents give guidance of how this is accomplished.

Some of the conditions for creating a positive and supportive climate are the following: that everyone agree with the educational goals and cooperate in achieving them; that interpersonal relationships be based on love and Christian freedom; that each individual, in daily life, be a witness to Gospel values; that every student be challenged to strive for the highest possible level of formation, both human and Christian. In addition, the climate must be one in which families are welcomed, the local Church is an active participant, and civil society—local, national, and international—is included. If all share a common faith, this can be an added advantage.30

Students are instructed on proper interaction among peers and adults in order to facilitate healthy and wholesome personal growth and flourishing.

In these educational centres [Catholic schools]—which are open to all who share and respect their educational goals—the atmosphere must be permeated by the evangelical spirit of freedom and charity, which fosters the harmonious development of each one’s personality. In this setting, human culture as a whole is harmonised with the message of salvation, so that the pupils gradually acquire a knowledge of the world, life and humanity that is be enlightened by the Gospel.31

While the community of the school builds on the family and is lived and nurtured within its walls, the students should also experience a sense of belonging to the community of the universal Church.

Concretely, the educational goals of the school include a concern for the life and the problems of the Church, both local and universal. These goals are attentive to the Magisterium, and include cooperation with Church authorities. Catholic students are helped to become active members of the parish and diocesan communities. They have opportunities to join Church associations and Church youth groups, and they are taught to collaborate in local Church projects.32

Finally, this ecclesial community is destined not for itself, but to be of service to the common good of the world through evangelization and service.

More than any other program of education sponsored by the Church, the Catholic school has the opportunity and obligation to be unique, contemporary, and oriented to Christian service; unique because it is distinguished by its commitment to the threefold purpose of Christian education and by its total design and operation which foster the integration of religion with the rest of learning and living; contemporary because it enables students to address with Christian insight the multiple problems which face individuals and society today; oriented to Christian service because it helps students acquire skills, virtues, and habits of heart and mind required for effective service to others.33

Questions to Aid Reflection or Assessment

Below are questions designed to facilitate reflection and to begin a discussion of how well your school encourages and participates in Christian communion. Choose the most important questions for your school.

Communion in General

  • Is our school community open and inviting to all, or can we be considered by some as overly exclusive?
  • How does our school environment evidence a Christian way of life that reproduces, as far as possible, the warm and intimate atmosphere of family life?

Communion with Parents

  • Is our school community welcoming to, and appreciative of, all parents? In what ways?
  • How can we increase parental involvement?
  • How can we better support the efforts of parents as the primary educators of their children?

Communion among Students

  • Do students treat each other with respect and kindness?Do students engage openly and freely with each other? Do cliques or other restrictive social groupings exist? Have we addressed this?
  • Do students help each other grow and flourish? Do students show each other mercy, forgiveness, and acceptance?
  • How do we assist students to heal hurting or broken relationships? Is there any bullying, detraction, or belittling? Do we have a Gospel-based plan to address bullying and conflicts?
  • Do our students actively and joyfully defend the rights of the most vulnerable: the unborn, the elderly, the disabled, the homeless and shut-in, the handicapped and marginalized?
  • Are students active in service programs for the school and for the community? Do they perform voluntary service? How can we assist in developing concern for others and the common good in our students?
  • Do our students experience the universality of the Catholic Church and its extent beyond our school walls? Do they feel at home in the Catholic Church and embrace it outside of the school experience?

Communion with the Broader Community

  • How effectively do we relate with and support other area Catholic schools, our local parishes, the efforts of the diocesan school office, and the efforts of the universal Church? Are there opportunities to do more?

Action Items: Specific ideas or plans to work toward building a more Christian community.

Reflection on Church Teaching: Part 2
Models Communion in Christ

The community of a Catholic school begins with its faculty and staff. Teachers play a special role in creating an enriching atmosphere throughout the school.

In the Catholic school, “prime responsibility for creating this unique Christian school climate rests with the teachers, as individuals and as a community”. Teaching has an extraordinary moral depth and is one of man’s most excellent and creative activities, for the teacher does not write on inanimate material, but on the very spirits of human beings. The personal relations between the teacher and the students, therefore, assume an enormous importance and are not limited simply to giving and taking. Moreover, we must remember that teachers and educators fulfill a specific Christian vocation and share an equally specific participation in the mission of the Church, to the extent that “it depends chiefly on them whether the Catholic school achieves its purpose.”34

For this reason, Catholic educators need a “formation of the heart”: they need to be led to that encounter with God in Christ which awakens their love and opens their spirits to others, so that their educational commitment becomes a consequence deriving from their faith, a faith which becomes active through love. In fact, even care for instruction means loving. It is only in this way that they can make their teaching a school of faith, that is to say, a transmission of the Gospel, as required by the educational project of the Catholic school.35

The success of the faculty and staff in creating a community that assists in leading students to communion with Christ and His Church depends upon their authentic witness and faithfulness in both word and action.

The more completely an educator can give concrete witness to the model of the ideal person [Christ] that is being presented to the students, the more this ideal will be believed and imitated.36

In light of this, the Church insists that

Instruction and education in a Catholic school must be based on the principles of Catholic doctrine, and the teachers must be outstanding in true doctrine and uprightness of life.37

Because authentic and lived teaching and living in communion is so critical to a Catholic school’s mission, the school needs to hire teachers who are formed and willing to participate in the mission of Catholic education to the fullest extent possible.

Recruit teachers who are practicing Catholics, who can understand and accept the teachings of the Catholic Church and the moral demands of the gospel, and who can contribute to the achievement of the school’s Catholic identity and apostolic goals…As a catechetical leader in the Catholic school, the principal is called to provide opportunities for ongoing catechesis for faculty members…The distinctive Catholic identity and mission of the Catholic school also depend on the efforts and example of the whole faculty…All teachers in Catholic schools share in the catechetical ministry… While some situations might entail compelling reasons for members of another faith tradition to teach in a Catholic school, as much as possible, all teachers in a Catholic school should be practicing Catholics.38

Also, as life is a pilgrimage of deeper understanding of the faith, and an ever-growing relationship with Christ, ample opportunities for learning, prayer, forgiveness, and growth should be a part of the life of a Catholic schoolteacher.

The preparation and ongoing formation of new administrators and teachers is vital if our schools are to remain truly Catholic in all aspects of school life. Catholic school personnel should be grounded in a faith-based Catholic culture, have strong bonds to Christ and the Church, and be witnesses to the faith in both their words and actions. The formation of personnel will allow the Gospel message and the living presence of Jesus to permeate the entire life of the school community and thus be faithful to the school’s evangelizing mission.39

Questions to Aid Reflection or Assessment

Below are a series questions to facilitate reflection and to begin a discussion of how well your school models communion with Christ. Choose the most important questions for your school.

Christian Atmosphere

  • How do we, as a faculty, let students know they are precious to us and to God?
  • Are there ways we, as a faculty, can improve our relationship with our students? Do we spend non-classroom time with them? Do we interact and socialize with them in ways that are both appropriate and joyful?
  • Do we, as a faculty, offer mercy and forgiveness to our students when they fall? To our parents? To our colleagues? Do we ask for forgiveness when we fall?

Christian Vocation

  • Do we experience our teaching vocation as a call from God? What does that mean in the context of our personal and professional lives?
  • The Church holds that all teachers share in the religious formation of students and the catechetical ministry of the school. How fully have we realized this expectation among us? Do the students experience this? How can we help and encourage all teachers in all subjects to get involved in joyful faith formation?
  • Do all faculty members frequently, openly, and naturally pray with students in both formal and informal ways? Do all faculty joyfully attend Mass and other prayer activities of the school?

Christian Witness

  • How do we, as a faculty, witness the Gospel message? Do we live the Gospel with integrity in the entirety of our lives? Are our personal witness and our life consistent with the teachings of the Catholic Church?
  • How does the school assist faculty and staff with opportunities to grow in faith and in virtue? Do we have faith-formation programs or retreats? Can we pray together more? How do we socialize first-time teachers in a Catholic school?
  • Since the Catholic mission of the school depends almost entirely on us as a faculty, how might we grow in fellowship as a faculty to more fully achieve unity in mission and strength in camaraderie?

Action Items: Specific ideas or plans to work toward better modeling of communion with Christ.

Principle III: Encounters Christ in Prayer, Scripture, and Sacrament

Rooted in Christ, Catholic education is continually fed and stimulated by Him in the frequent experience of prayer, scripture, and the Church’s liturgical and sacramental tradition.40 The transmission of faith, catechesis, is intrinsically linked to these living encounters with Christ, by which He nurtures and educates souls in the divine life of grace and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.41 By their witness and sharing in these encounters, educators help students grow in understanding of what it means to be a member of the Church.42 Students discover the real value of the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Reconciliation, in accompanying the Christian in the journey through life. They learn “to open their hearts in confidence to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit through personal and liturgical prayer,” which makes the mystery of Christ present to students.43

Reflection on Church Teaching

The community comprising the Catholic school finds its source of nourishment in the Word, in the Sacraments, and in the traditions of the Church.

No Catholic school can adequately fulfill its educational role on its own. It must continually be fed and stimulated by its Source of life, the Saving Word of Christ as it is expressed in Sacred Scripture, in Tradition, especially liturgical and sacramental tradition, and in the lives of people, past and present, who bear witness to that Word.44

The characteristics of a rich faith life include easily identifiable representations of the spiritual life such as crucifixes, statues, or pictures of saints and a place set aside for prayer.

From the first moment that a student sets foot in a Catholic school, he or she ought to have the impression of entering a new environment, one illumined by the light of faith, and having its own unique characteristics.45

It also involves introducing students to traditional Catholic prayers, traditions of the Church, and spiritual devotions, especially Marian devotions.

An awareness of Mary’s presence can be a great help toward making the school into a “home”. Mary, Mother and Teacher of the Church, accompanied her Son as he grew in wisdom and grace; from its earliest days, she has accompanied the Church in its mission of salvation.46

As important as these Catholic devotions are, an essential element to any Catholic school is a rich and faithful sacramental life.

An understanding of the sacramental journey has profound educational implications. Students become aware that being a member of the Church is something dynamic, responding to every person’s need to continue growing all through life. When we meet the Lord in the Sacraments, we are never left unchanged. Through the Spirit, he causes us to grow in the Church, offering us “grace upon grace”; the only thing he asks is our cooperation. The educational consequences of this touch on our relationship with God, our witness as a Christian, and our choice of a personal vocation.47

Especially important in the documents is a rich Eucharistic component.

The essential point for students to understand is that Jesus Christ is always truly present in the Sacraments which he has instituted, and his presence makes them efficacious means of grace. The moment of closest encounter with the Lord Jesus occurs in the Eucharist, which is both Sacrifice and Sacrament. In the Eucharist, two supreme acts of love are united: Our Lord renews his sacrifice of salvation for us, and he truly gives himself to us.48

In the life of a Catholic school the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Reconciliation become frequent, lived, and loving encounters with God.

The teacher will assist students to open their hearts in confidence to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit through personal and liturgical prayer. The latter is not just another way of praying; it is the official prayer of the Church, which makes the mystery of Christ present in our lives—especially through the Eucharist, Sacrifice and Sacrament, and through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Religious experiences are then seen, not as something externally imposed, but as a free and loving response to the God who first loved us. The virtues of faith and religion, thus rooted and cultivated, are enabled to develop during childhood, youth, and in all the years that follow.49

As with all elements of the integral formation of its students, the authentic and lived participation of the faculty and staff in liturgies and Sacraments play a critical role in the spiritual life of the school.

As a visible manifestation of the faith they profess and the life witness they are supposed to manifest, it is important that lay Catholics who work in a Catholic school participate simply and actively in the liturgical and sacramental life of the school. Students will share in this life more readily when they have concrete examples: when they see the importance that this life has for believers. In today’s secularized world, students will see many lay people who call themselves Catholics, but who never take part in liturgy or sacraments. It is very important that they also have the example of lay adults who take such things seriously, who find in them a source and nourishment for Christian living.50

Questions to Aid Reflection or Assessment

Below are a series questions to facilitate reflection and to begin a discussion of how well your school offers opportunities for encounter Christ through prayer, scripture, and Sacrament.

Choose the most important questions for your school.

Prayer

  • Is prayer a norm in our school? How often do we pray (e.g., start and end of school, before meals, before classes, before athletic events, assemblies, and events)? Do our students know traditional Catholic prayers and practices?
  • Does our school’s prayer life facilitate a clear, joyful, and personal communication with God? Do we provide quiet time and space for this encounter?
  • Are enough retreats available? Are they appropriate and effective? Do students enjoy and attend them and grow in faith? Are they spiritually substantial and well-organized?

Sacraments

  • How frequently do our students attend Mass as a school? Is this enough? Do they receive the Eucharist worthily and respectfully? How can we provide for greater student attentiveness, reverence, and participation in Mass?
  • Is there an opportunity for Eucharistic adoration, benediction, and/or processions?
  • How often is confession available for our students? Do they value it? Is this enough? What do we do to help them prepare? Is quality spiritual direction available to students? Vocational discernment opportunities?

Saints and Devotions

  • How well do we foster devotion to our Blessed Mother? Do we celebrate her feast days and pray the Rosary?
  • How well do we celebrate the liturgical year, Holy Days of Obligation, Saints, and feast days?
  • Do students know, understand, and practice the charism of our school (if appropriate and existing)?

Spiritual Life of the School

  • How faithful are we as faculty to participation in the school’s spiritual life?
  • How do we assist or account for students who may not have all the spiritual support they need at home (e.g., no access to Mass, or fallen-away parents)? How do we assist non-Catholics in understanding the faith and participating in all spiritual activities to the fullest degree possible?
  • How are parents involved in the spiritual and sacramental life of the school?

Sacred Environment

  • Upon entering the school, does one experience a sense of hospitality and sacredness?
  • Are sacred works of art (paintings, statues, crucifixes, and other symbols) used to enhance the sense of transcendence and Catholic identity throughout the school?

Action Items: Specific ideas or plans to work toward encountering Christ in prayer, Scripture, and Sacraments.

Principle IV: Integrally Forms the Human Person

The complex task of Catholic education is the integral formation of students as physical, intellectual, and spiritual beings called to perfect humanity in the fullness of Christ, which is their right by Baptism.51 The human person is “created in ‘the image and likeness’ of God; elevated by God to the dignity of a child of God; unfaithful to God in original sin, but redeemed by Christ; a temple of the Holy Spirit, a member of the Church; destined to eternal life.”52 Catholic education assists students to become aware of the gift of Faith, worship God the Father, develop into mature adults who bear witness to the Mystical Body of Christ, respect the dignity of the human person, provide service, lead apostolic lives, and build the Kingdom of God.53

Catholic education forms the conscience through commitment to authentic Catholic doctrine. It develops the virtues and characteristics associated with what it means to be Christian so as to resist relativism, overcome individualism, and discover vocations to serve God and others.54 “Intellectual development and growth as a Christian go forward hand in hand” where faith, culture, and life are integrated throughout the school’s program to provide students a personal closeness to Christ enriched by virtues, values, and supernatural gifts.55 As a child of God, made in his image, human formation includes the development of personal Christian ethics and respect for the body by promoting healthy development, physical activity, and chastity.56

In Catholic education, “There is no separation between time for learning and time for formation, between acquiring notions and growing in wisdom”; education and pedagogy inspired by Gospel values and distinguished by the “illumination of all knowledge with the light of faith” allows formation to become living, conscious and active.57 The atmosphere is characterized by discovery and awareness that enkindles a love for truth, and a desire to know the universe as God’s creation. The Christian educational program facilitates critical thinking that is ordered, precise, and responsible as it builds strength and perseverance in pursuit of the truth.58

Reflection on Church Teachings: Part 1
Integral Formation Focused on Intellectual Development

The Catholic intellectual tradition is about much more than maximizing intellectual skills; it is about ensuring that the person is authentically human, integrated, and oriented toward wisdom.

Catholic schools are encouraged to promote a wisdom-based society, to go beyond knowledge and educate people to think, evaluating facts in the light of values. In teaching the various academic disciplines, teachers share and promote a methodological viewpoint in which the various branches of knowledge are dynamically correlated, in a wisdom perspective.59

We do not just seek knowledge for the sake of power and utilitarian purposes, but rather for complete human flourishing and complete human formation.

In the Catholic school’s educational project there is no separation between time for learning and time for formation, between acquiring notions and growing in wisdom. The various school subjects do not present only knowledge to be attained, but also values to be acquired and truths to be discovered. All of which demands an atmosphere characterized by the search for truth, in which competent, convinced and coherent educators, teachers of learning and of life, may be a reflection, albeit imperfect but still vivid, of the one Teacher. In this perspective, in the Christian educational project all subjects collaborate, each with its own specific content, to the formation of mature personalities.60

This Catholic understanding of the unity of knowledge and how each branch finds its origin and end in God is complemented by the notion of man’s desire and sense of responsibility to pursue and value all that is beautiful, good, and true in God’s creation.

The world, in all its diversity, is eager to be guided towards the great values of mankind, truth, good and beauty; now more than ever…teaching means to accompany young people in their search for truth and beauty, for what is right and good.61

This intellectual work unites all three elements of truth, beauty, and goodness in a pursuit of wisdom sharpening the skills of analysis and precision as well as perseverance and mental fortitude.

Within the overall process of education, special mention must be made of the intellectual work done by students. Although Christian life consists in loving God and doing his will, intellectual work is intimately involved. The light of Christian faith stimulates a desire to know the universe as God’s creation. It enkindles a love for the truth that will not be satisfied with superficiality in knowledge or judgment. It awakens a critical sense which examines statements rather than accepting them blindly. It impels the mind to learn with careful order and precise methods, and to work with a sense of responsibility. It provides the strength needed to accept the sacrifices and the perseverance required by intellectual labor.62

The Church does not shy away from a bold claim to know and teach the truth in a modern relativistic culture. St. John Paul II encouraged American educators to realize this point.

The greatest challenge to Catholic education in the United States today, and the greatest contribution that authentically Catholic education can make to American culture, is to restore to that culture the conviction that human beings can grasp the truth of things, and in grasping that truth can know their duties to God, to themselves and their neighbors. The contemporary world urgently needs the service of educational institutions which uphold and teach that truth is “that fundamental value without which freedom, justice and human dignity are extinguished.”63

We seek the truth wherever it can be found. Follow it wherever it leads and conform our lives to it.

Respect for those who seek the truth, who raise fundamental questions about human existence. Confidence in our ability to attain truth, at least in a limited way—a confidence based not on feeling but on faith. God created us “in his own image and likeness” and will not deprive us of the truth necessary to orient our lives.  The ability to make judgments about what is true and what is false; and to make choices based on these judgments.  Making use of a systematic framework, such as that offered by our philosophical heritage, with which to find the best possible human responses to questions regarding the human person, the world, and God.  Lively dialogue between culture and the Gospel message.  The fullness of truth contained in the Gospel message itself, which embraces and integrates the wisdom of all cultures, and enriches them with the divine mysteries known only to God but which, out of love, he has chosen to reveal to us.  With such criteria as a basis, the student’s careful and reflective study of philosophy will bring human wisdom into an encounter with divine wisdom.64

Questions to Aid Reflection or Assessment

Below are a series of questions to facilitate reflection and to begin a discussion of how well your school approaches the intellectual development of a student. Choose the most important questions for your school.

Pedagogy

  • Are we, as a faculty, versatile in the areas of both academic content and catechesis? Are we able and willing to enrich discussions in any discipline or on any topic with a spiritual and faith-based perspective naturally and with ease?
  • Where and how do we explicitly relate different academic discipline areas to reflect the unity of truth and interrelationships among various elements of God’s creation?
  • Do we fully account for the physical, mental, spiritual, and moral development and capabilities of our students?
  • Are adequate counseling and professional services available to our students with special needs or circumstances?

Philosophy

  • Is knowledge and learning celebrated for its own sake and worth, or is knowledge viewed as a means to an end, a necessary commodity to get to the next level of high school, college, or career?
  • How and where do we see students growing in wisdom as opposed to just knowledge?
  • Where and how do we explicitly and purposefully expose students to beauty? Do they know how to evaluate reality through this lens by asking why something is beautiful, how it attracts, or how the perfection of form shines through something?
  • Where and how do we explicitly and purposefully expose students to goodness? Do they know how to evaluate reality through this lens as they seek to explore what a thing is for and how well it fulfills its potentialities?
  • Where and how do we explicitly teach how to come to know Truth? How to seek it, define it, and embrace it once discovered? How do we train students to appreciate especially those truths that transcends culture and opinion and which are knowable through reason, senses, natural law, and revelation?
  • How and where (at an age-appropriate level) are students introduced to and prepared to respond to relativism and skepticism?

Action Items: Specific ideas or plans to work on the intellectual development of students.

Reflection on Church Teachings: Part 2
Integral Formation Focused on Spiritual Development

All schools focus on developing the intellect, but Catholic schools have a long history of particularly excelling in this academic enterprise. As schools focused on the human person, we have the added advantage of being able to actively form not only the intellect, but the spiritual dimension as well. The spiritual life we model and the spiritual truths we teach must be completely faithful to the Church and should permeate and sit proudly alongside all academic disciplines of a school’s program.

The integration of religious truth and values with life distinguishes the Catholic school from other schools. This is a matter of crucial importance today in view of contemporary trends and pressures to compartmentalize life and learning and to isolate the religious dimension of existence from other areas of human life.65

A school’s religious formation must not be half-hearted, compromised, or an afterthought.

To use the words of Leo XIII: It is necessary not only that religious instruction be given to the young at certain fixed times, but also that every other subject taught, be permeated with Christian piety. If this is wanting, if this sacred atmosphere does not pervade and warm the hearts of masters and scholars alike, little good can be expected from any kind of learning, and considerable harm will often be the consequence.66

One component of spiritual development is specific teaching of Catholic doctrine.

Educational programs for the young must strive to teach doctrine, to do so within the experience of Christian community, and to prepare individuals for effective Christian witness and service to others.  In doing this they help foster the student’s growth in personal holiness and his relationship with Christ.67

The presentation of Catholic doctrine through religious instruction is not the whole of the school’s efforts; a catechetical component is also involved.

Religious instruction is appropriate in every school, for the purpose of the school is human formation in all of its fundamental dimensions, and the religious dimension is an integral part of this formation. Religious education is actually a right – with the corresponding duties – of the student and of the parents. It is also, at least in the case of the Catholic religion, an extremely important instrument for attaining the adequate synthesis of faith and culture that has been insisted on so often.  Therefore, the teaching of the Catholic religion, distinct from and at the same time complementary to catechesis properly so called, ought to form a part of the curriculum of every school.68

A result of this process is a religious formation that leads to an active and lived life of faith and worship.

The life of faith is expressed in acts of religion. The teacher will assist students to open their hearts in confidence to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit through personal and liturgical prayer. The latter is not just another way of praying; it is the official prayer of the Church, which makes the mystery of Christ present in our lives – especially through the Eucharist, Sacrifice and Sacrament, and through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Religious experiences are then seen, not as something externally imposed, but as a free and loving response to the God who first loved us. The virtues of faith and religion, thus rooted and cultivated, are enabled to develop during childhood, youth, and in all the years that follow.69

Questions to Aid Reflection or Assessment

Below are a series of questions to facilitate reflection and to begin a discussion of how well your school fulfills focuses on the spiritual development of students. Choose the most important questions for your school.

Catechetical Content

  • Are the school’s catechetical efforts well thought out, effective, joyful, and targeted toward the development of a fully integrated faith life which engages the students’ minds and finds lived expression in their day-to-day lives?
  • How effectively does our catechetical program engage the intellect and will of our students? Is our religion program rigorous enough? Do our students understand the tenets of our Catholic faith with sufficient depth?
  • Do our students know the basics of the Catholic faith and doctrine appropriate to their grade level? Do they know basic prayers and traditions of the Church?
  • How well does our catechetical program present our understanding that God’s revelation – received by means of the gift of supernatural faith – is transmitted to us through Sacred Scripture, the living Tradition of the Church, and the authentic Magisterium?
  • Does our catechetical program adequately reflect the reality of God’s mercy and forgiveness, His call for His disciples to live lives of love and service to others, to seek justice, and to minister to the poor, marginalized, and outcast?
  • Where and how are foundational principles of Catholic Social Teaching explicitly taught?
  • Are all Catholic materials presented in our catechetical coursework without any doctrinal error and completely faithful to Catholic teaching as presented in the Catechism of the Catholic Church? Do we send any mixed signals to our students or families that “some” Church doctrine is in error or can be ignored?
  • Is Sacred Scripture an integral part of students’ school life?

Action Items: Specific ideas or plans to work on the spiritual development of students.

Reflection on Church Teaching: Part 3
Integral Formation Focused on Moral Development

The intellectual and spiritual formation we provide our students assists them in living a life of virtue guided by a well-formed Catholic conscience and a consistent moral ethic.

While Catholic establishments should respect freedom of conscience, that is to say, avoid burdening consciences from without by exerting physical or moral pressure, especially in the case of the religious activity of adolescents, they still have a grave duty to offer a religious training suited to the often widely varying religious situations of the pupils. They also have a duty to make them understand that, although God’s call to serve Him in spirit and truth, in accordance with the Commandments of God and the precepts of the Church, does not apply constraint, it is nevertheless binding in conscience unrestrained liberty, at once illusory and false.70

Authentic freedom, the ability to do what one ought in pursuit of the good, requires instruction and practice in virtues.

…the Catholic school tries to create within its walls a climate in which the pupil’s faith will gradually mature and enable him to assume the responsibility placed on him by Baptism. It will give pride of place in the education it provides through Christian Doctrine to the gradual formation of conscience in fundamental, permanent virtues—above all the theological virtues, and charity in particular, which is, so to speak, the life-giving spirit which transforms a man of virtue into a man of Christ.71

In an age of pluralism and relativism, the Catholic school holds out fundamental goods and teaches clearly about what is right and what is wrong.

Cultural pluralism, therefore, leads the Church to reaffirm her mission of education to insure strong character formation. Her children, then, will be capable both of resisting the debilitating influence of relativism and of living up to the demands made on them by their Baptism…For this reason the Church is prompted to mobilize her educational resources in the face of the materialism, pragmatism and technocracy of contemporary society.72

In forming the moral compass of our students based on Catholic truths, the school works closely with the student’s primary educators, the parents.

Partnership between a Catholic school and the families of the students must continue and be strengthened: not simply to be able to deal with academic problems that may arise, but rather so that the educational goals of the school can be achieved. Close cooperation with the family is especially important when treating sensitive issues such as religious, moral, or sexual education, orientation toward a profession, or a choice of one’s vocation in life. It is not a question of convenience, but a partnership based on faith. Catholic tradition teaches that God has bestowed on the family its own specific and unique educational mission.73

Questions to Aid Reflection or Assessment

Below are a series of questions to facilitate reflection and to begin a discussion of how well your school approaches the moral development of students. Choose the most important questions for your school.

Virtues

  • How and where do we teach the virtues, and how and where do we encourage a life of virtue?
  • How do we integrate virtues into our student discipline/formation program? Is our discipline program developmentally sensitive and focused on human dignity and the flourishing of the person?
  • How can we help students maintain purity of life and chastity in all relationships in a world which suggests a different path to happiness?

Moral Teachings

  • How confident are we that students’ consciences (appropriate to their age and developmental stages) are being fully informed by teachings faithful to the Catholic Church?
  • Are we sufficiently arming them with strong intellectual understanding of objective truth and Catholic dogma that they can bring to bear on their subjective desires when in a moral dilemma? How can we strengthen them against a culture of relativism?
  • How well have we addressed issues of the misuse of technology, influences of the secular media, risky behavior, or activities that compromise chastity?
  • Do we, at the age-appropriate level, confront the moral and ethical flashpoints between Catholicism and the common culture? Specifically, is our witness and instruction clear on issues of the dignity of all human life and the particular evils of abortion and euthanasia; on the sanctity of natural marriage as the indissoluble lifelong union of one man and one woman; the beauty and fullness of human sexuality which can only be properly exercised by married couples in the service of both love and life?
  • Which moral issues are our students struggling with most? What are we doing to clearly present Church teaching in this area and with what effect?
  • Is all our moral formation 100 percent faithful to the teachings of the Catholic faith, especially as articulated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church?

Partnering with Parents

  • Are parents involved in any human sexuality programs administered by our school? Are parents allowed to opt out their students from these programs or other sensitive programs or initiatives of the school?
  • Does our school support or sponsor family-based human sexuality programs? Does our school have a means for assisting parents in this area?

Action Items: Specific ideas or plans to work on the moral development of students.

Reflection on Church Teaching: Part 4
Integral Formation Focused on Physical Development and Expression

The Catholic Church teaches of an intimate unity between body and soul. We are incarnate beings whose physical lives and bodily expression should be in deep and natural accord with our souls and our spiritual life and dispositions. The Catholic school seeks to develop all these facets of the human person.

Since true education must strive for complete formation of the human person that looks to his or her final end as well as to the common good of societies, children and youth are to be nurtured in such a way that they are able to develop their physical, moral, and intellectual talents harmoniously, acquire a more perfect sense of responsibility and right use of freedom, and are formed to participate actively in social life.74

This understanding of the human person is based on a Christian anthropology which acknowledges our complete human nature, including our dignity and our brokenness:

Students should be helped to see the human person as a living creature having both a physical and a spiritual nature; each of us has an immortal soul, and we are in need of redemption. The older students can gradually come to a more mature understanding of all that is implied in the concept of “person”: intelligence and will, freedom and feelings, the capacity to be an active and creative agent; a being endowed with both rights and duties, capable of interpersonal relationships, called to a specific mission in the world.75

The Catholic school provides assistance for a student’s complete human experience: mind, soul, and body.

Therefore children and young people must be helped, with the aid of the latest advances in psychology and the arts and science of teaching, to develop harmoniously their physical, moral and intellectual endowments so that they may gradually acquire a mature sense of responsibility in striving endlessly to form their own lives properly and in pursuing true freedom as they surmount the vicissitudes of life with courage and constancy.76

Mindful of the incarnate nature of human experience, formation at a Catholic school involves helping students carry themselves with integrity and harmony as they interact with God’s creation.

The human person is present in all the truths of faith: created in “the image and likeness” of God; elevated by God to the dignity of a child of God; unfaithful to God in original sin, but redeemed by Christ; a temple of the Holy Spirit; a member of the Church; destined to eternal life…In practice, this means respect for oneself and for others.77

It also means respect and care for one’s physical health and a life lived chastely.

Not a few young people, unable to find any meaning in life or trying to find an escape from loneliness, turn to alcohol drugs, the erotic, the exotic etc. Christian education is faced with the huge challenge of helping these young people discover something of value in their lives…We must learn to care for our body and its health, and this includes physical activity and sports. And we must be careful of our sexual integrity through the virtue of chastity, because sexual energies are also a gift of God, contributing to the perfection of the person and having a providential function for the life of society and of the Church. Thus, gradually, the teacher will guide students to the idea, and then to the realization, of a process of total formation.78

Questions to Aid Reflection or Assessment:

Below are a series of questions to facilitate reflection and to begin a discussion of physical development and expression. Choose the most important questions for your school.

  • Do we have programs in place that address the physical development and expression of our students?
  • Do all our programs fully support the Christian integral formation of our students by bringing in spirituality, intellectual growth, and maturing discernment?
  • Do we have sufficient protocols to protect and guide our programs to ensure they are always on mission? How do we address inappropriate issues and events that sometimes sneak by?
  • Does each program explicitly lead our students to a fuller expression of, appreciation of, and participation in Truth, Beauty, and Goodness? Where do we see this?

Extra-Curricular and Co-Curricular Programs

  • Do our extra-curricular programs assist in developing our students into the fullness of their humanity in Christ? As Christ is the model for our school, is He the model of all extra-curricular programs? Is He welcome in each program? Would He feel at home on one of our teams or at our dances?
  • Is all that we present and hold forth in our extra-curricular programs lead to greater spiritual and emotional health and maturity? Is there anything working against our goals for virtue development, especially the virtues of kindness, respect, purity, and modesty?
  • Do we represent our Christian and Catholic faith well in word and deed to audience members, spectators, visitors, and opposing teams?

Student Physical Health

  • What can we do better in terms of drug and alcohol prevention or response? Do we have a faith-based plan to assist student who may be struggling with drugs or alcohol problems?
  • How does our school address the needs of at-risk students (i.e., students living in poverty or with single parents)?

Action Items: Specific ideas or plans to work on physical development and expression.

Principle V: Imparts a Christian Understanding of the World

In the light of faith, Catholic education critically and systematically transmits the secular and religious “cultural patrimony handed down from previous generations,” especially that which makes a person more human and contributes to the integral formation of students.79 Both educator and student are called to participate in the dialogue with culture and to pursue “the integration of culture with faith and faith with living.”80 Catholic education imparts a “Christian vision of the world, of life, of culture, and of history,” ordering “the whole of human culture to the news of salvation.”81 This hallmark of Catholic education, to “bring human wisdom into an encounter with divine wisdom,”82 cultivates “in students the intellectual, creative, and aesthetic faculties of the human person,” introduces a cultural heritage, and prepares them for professional life and to take on the responsibilities and duties of society and the Church.83 Students are prepared to work for the evangelization of culture and for the common good of society.84

Reflection on Church Teaching: Part 1
Traditions, Values, and Evangelization

The Church teaches that the task of a Catholic school is to provide,

fundamentally a synthesis of culture and faith, and a synthesis of faith and life: the first is reached by integrating all the different aspects of human knowledge through the subjects taught, in the light of the Gospel; the second in the growth of the virtues characteristic of the Christian.85

In this synthesis of faith, life, and culture, culture can be understood as the artistic and intellectual achievements of the surrounding society. Additionally,

…the term culture indicates all those means by which “man develops and perfects his many bodily and spiritual qualities; he strives by his knowledge and his labour, to bring the world itself under his control. He renders social life more human both in the family and the civic community, through improvement of customs and institutions. Throughout the course of time he expresses, communicates and conserves in his works, great spiritual experiences and desires, that they might be of advantage to the progress of many, even of the whole human family.86

Both the current common culture and aspects of cultural history giving rise to it are to be explored and critically analyzed in the light of the Catholic faith. Positive elements that can be brought into harmony with the faith are to be celebrated and expanded. Elements appearing in contradiction to the faith are to be challenged and critically analyzed. This is a role to which Catholic schools are particularly suited.

 A school uses its own specific means for the integral formation of the human person: the communication of culture. It is extremely important, then, that the Catholic educator reflect on the profound relationship that exists between culture and the Church. For the Church not only influences culture and is, in turn, conditioned by culture; the Church embraces everything in human culture which is compatible with Revelation and which it needs in order to proclaim the message of Christ and express it more adequately according to the cultural characteristics of each people and each age. The close relationship between culture and the life of the Church is an especially clear manifestation of the unity that exists between creation and redemption. For this reason, if the communication of culture is to be a genuine educational activity, it must not only be organic, but also critical and evaluative, historical and dynamic. Faith will provide Catholic educators with some essential principles for critique and evaluation; faith will help them to see all of human history as a history of salvation which culminates in the fullness of the Kingdom. This puts culture into a creative context, constantly being perfected.87

Catholic schools do not approach various cultures and cultural elements from a timid relativistic mindset, but by evaluating them in terms of the Gospel and especially authentic human flourishing.

The transmission of a culture ought to be especially attentive to the practical effects of that culture, and strengthen those aspects of it which will make a person more human. In particular, it ought to pay attention to the religious dimension of the culture and the emerging ethical requirements to be found in it.88

In addition to critically examining and transmitting those best elements of human culture in general, the school also embodies and imparts a specific Catholic culture: that is an integrated pattern of knowledge, values, beliefs, behaviors, and traditions that celebrate and pass on to a new generation the unique contributions of the Church in the arts and the intellectual life, enriching the social and faith lives of our students with the great patrimony of the Catholic Church.

Catholic schools provide young people with sound Church teaching through a broad-based curriculum, where faith and culture are intertwined in all areas of a school’s life. By equipping our young people with a sound education, rooted in the Gospel message, the Person of Jesus Christ, and rich in the cherished traditions and liturgical practices of our faith, we ensure that they have the foundation to live morally and uprightly in our complex modern world. This unique Catholic identity makes our Catholic elementary and secondary schools “schools for the human person” and allows them to fill a critical role in the future life of our Church, our country, and our world.89

Through this transmission of culture, students become Christ for others and work to evangelize both inside and outside the school community.

The mission of the Catholic school is the integral formation of students, so that they may be true to their condition as Christ’s disciples and as such work effectively for the evangelization of culture and for the common good of society.90

Questions to Aid Reflection and Assessment:

Below are a series of questions to facilitate reflection and to begin a discussion of how well your school imparts traditions, values, and Catholic culture and at the same time evangelizes students, families, and the surrounding community. Choose the most important questions for your school.

Catholic Culture

  • Where and how do we transmit the best of our Catholic culture? Where do our students experience the best in Catholic music and art? How well-versed and comfortable are our students with all things Catholic (e.g., imagery, stories, traditions, symbols, language)?

Common Culture

  • Where and how do we transmit the best of our common human culture? Where do our students experience the best in music, drama, art, and dance? Are they culturally literate? Are they cultured?
  • How well equipped are our students to stand strong against harmful elements of popular culture?
  • How well do we harmonize culture and faith, and faith and life, in our classes and in all aspects of our school?

Culture and Curriculum

  • How do we seek to integrate various disciplines so as to expose deep sympathies between subject matters, using them to clarify and perfect each other and to build a school culture based on wisdom?
  • Have we unthinkingly conformed to educational paradigms, consumerist parental demands, or societal norms and expectations, thus jeopardizing, or diluting, our mission of Catholic education?
  • Do secular school standards (such as the Common Core, International Baccalaureate, Advanced Placement, etc.), in whole or in part, inform the curriculum? What particular Catholic standards are offered instead of, or in addition to, secular standards in each discipline so as to further Catholic culture and a rich intellectual life focused on the pursuit of the true, good, and beautiful?

Evangelization

  • How do we address interreligious issues in theology classes, religious instruction, and throughout academic disciplines and remain faithful to the evangelistic mission of the Church?
  • How well equipped are they to transform those errant elements and evangelize the common culture?
  • Do we as teachers live a life of culture, pursuing the higher things and the good and beautiful in our lives? How do we share a joy for what we read, study, create, watch, and listen to so as to provide an attractive example for our students?

Action Items: Specific ideas and plans to work on imparting traditions, values, common culture, and evangelization efforts at the school.

Reflection on Church Teaching: Part 2
Literature, History, and the Arts

The school’s curriculum is the vehicle for examining various cultural elements.

From the nature of the Catholic school also stems one of the most significant elements of its educational project: the synthesis between culture and faith. The endeavor to interweave reason and faith, which has become the heart of individual subjects, makes for unity, articulation, and coordination, bringing forth within what is learned in a school a Christian vision of the world, of life, of culture, and of history.91

A Catholic school curriculum examines issues of culture, meaning, faith, and value in the light of the Gospel. Literature, history, and the arts lend themselves readily to this enterprise.

Literature and the arts are also, in their own way, of great importance to the life of the Church. They strive to make known the proper nature of man, his problems and his experiences in trying to know and perfect both himself and the world. They have much to do with revealing man’s place in history and in the world; with illustrating the miseries and joys, the needs and strengths of man and with foreshadowing a better life for him. Thus they are able to elevate human life, expressed in multifold forms according to various times and regions.92

Not only is history analyzed for its content and facts, but also for its comportment to reality and truth. Catholic schools are free to discuss and unravel the numerous historical circumstances where God’s hand is seen interjecting itself in temporal affairs. These opportunities are vast and plentiful and add an additional dimension to the study of historical timelines.

Teachers should guide the students’ work in such a way that they will be able to discover a religious dimension in the world of human history. As a preliminary, they should be encouraged to develop a taste for historical truth, and therefore to realize the need to look critically at texts and curricula which, at times, are imposed by a government or distorted by the ideology of the author…they will see the development of civilizations, and learn about progress…When they are ready to appreciate it, students can be invited to reflect on the fact that this human struggle takes place within the divine history [of] universal salvation. At this moment, the religious dimension of history begins to shine forth in all its luminous grandeur.93

The study of human historical and social realties in a Catholic school occurs in the context of a permanent philosophical heritage which must be understood.

Every society has its own heritage of accumulated wisdom. Many people find inspiration in these philosophical and religious concepts which have endured for millennia. The systematic genius of classical Greek and European thought has, over the centuries, generated countless different doctrinal systems, but it has also given us a set of truths which we can recognize as a part of our permanent philosophical heritage.94

This heritage includes a rich patrimony of social justice which should also be reflected in the curriculum.

The curriculum must help the students reflect on the great problems of our time, including those where one sees more clearly the difficult situation of a large part of humanity’s living conditions. These would include the unequal distribution of resources, poverty, injustice and human rights denied.95

Especially in the arts, both auditory and visual, Catholic schools have a rich tradition to draw from for discussions of beauty and harmony and that which fulfills a human soul.

Literary and artistic works depict the struggles of societies, of families, and of individuals. They spring from the depths of the human heart, revealing its lights and its shadows, its hope and its despair. The Christian perspective goes beyond the merely human, and offers more penetrating criteria for understanding the human struggle and the mysteries of the human spirit. Furthermore, an adequate religious formation has been the starting point for the vocation of a number of Christian artists and art critics. In the upper grades, a teacher can bring students to: an even more profound appreciation of artistic works: as a reflection of the divine beauty in tangible form. Both the Fathers of the Church and the masters of Christian philosophy teach this in their writings on aesthetics—St. Augustine invites us to go beyond the intention of the artists in order to find the eternal order of God in the work of art; St. Thomas sees the presence of the Divine Word in art.96

Questions to Aid Reflection and Assessment:

Below are a series of questions to facilitate reflection and to begin a discussion of how well your school understands how a Catholic school passes on culture through history, literature, and the arts. Choose the most important questions for your school.

Literature Curriculum 

  • Is literature selected that teaches by positive or negative example what it means to be genuinely and fully human and ethical as understood by the Catholic Church and as modeled by the one perfect man, Jesus?
  • How do we select and use literature to develop a general awareness of a lived Catholic worldview and approach to life? Does the literature we use accurately portray Catholics and the Catholic experience?
  • How do we select and use literature to assist our students to move beyond the self? Are sufficient examples of nobility, imagination, and healthy adventure presented to the students for their inspiration and emulation? 
  • How do we evaluate literature for its developmental appropriateness, so as not to offend the sensibilities or growth in virtue of the student?
  • How do we select and use literature to develop a general cultural literacy and familiarity with the great works of the world? Where do our students gain cultural literacy of the great books which have influenced western thought?
  • Do we promote and present literature and reading for the sheer joy and creativity of the experience? Do we properly feed the imaginations of the students with excellent works and let them grow in wonder and delight?

History Curriculum

  • What changes and additions, if any, does our program make to secular history materials to account for a Catholic understanding of human history?
  • How do we present the Catholic worldview that history begins in God and ends in God? That history has and serves a divine purpose?
  • How and where does our program include an account of the history of the Catholic Church and its impact in human events? How and where does the program include the stories of important Catholic figures and saints in the development of human history?
  • How do we challenge students to evaluate history in light of Catholic moral norms so as to improve their own moral life and decision-making?
  • How do we use history to discover the motivating values that have informed particular societies and how they correlate with Catholic teaching?
  • How does our social studies curriculum help students understand and commit to the common good, particularly the needs of the poor, injustices, human rights and dignity, and threats to religious freedom?

Music and Arts Curriculum

  • Does our school have a robust music and visual arts program? How can we do more with the arts?
  • How can, or do, we use the visual and performing arts programs to form the human intellect and delight the soul? 
  • How does our program assist in the development of discrimination and taste? How do we provide our students with the tools, experiences, and exposure to great works of art and music so they are able to explore harmony, radiance, balance, and perfection?
  • Does our program nurture healthy creativity, mirroring that part of our being that makes us in the image and likeness of God?

Action Items: Specific ideas and plans to pass on a Catholic culture through literature, history, music, and the arts.

Reflection on Church Teaching: Part 3
Science and Mathematics

The school’s science and math curriculum is the vehicle not just for examining standard scientific content, but also for introducing students to the Catholic intellectual tradition and the specific contributions of Catholics to the world of math and science. It can help the students see the limitations of materialism and open them up to the depths of wonder held in God’s creation.

The Catholic school should teach its pupils to discern in the voice of the universe the Creator Whom it reveals and, in the conquests of science, to know God and man better.97

By not ignoring the religious dimension, Catholic schools

…help their students to understand that positive science, and the technology allied to it, is a part of the universe created by God. Understanding this can help encourage an interest in research: the whole of creation, from the distant celestial bodies and the immeasurable cosmic forces down to the infinitesimal particles and waves of matter and energy, all bear the imprint of the Creator’s wisdom and power, The wonder that past ages felt when contemplating this universe, recorded by the Biblical authors, is still valid for the students of today; the only difference is that we have a knowledge that is much more vast and profound. There can be no conflict between faith and true scientific knowledge; both find their source in God. The student who is able to discover the harmony between faith and science will, in future professional life, be better able to put science and technology to the service of men and women, and to the service of God. It is a way of giving back to God what he has first given to us.98

Creation is explored and celebrated as a beautiful and gratuitous gift from God and which has its own end and value in God’s plan. Scientific education, like all education,

is not given for the purpose of gaining power but as an aid towards a fuller understanding of, and communion with man, events and things.99

Education in science includes the relationship of science to other disciplines in the life of the intellect.

Furthermore, when man gives himself to the various disciplines of philosophy, history and of mathematical and natural science, and when he cultivates the arts, he can do very much to elevate the human family to a more sublime understanding of truth, goodness, and beauty, and to the formation of considered opinions which have universal value. Thus mankind may be more clearly enlightened by that marvelous Wisdom which was with God from all eternity, composing all things with him, rejoicing in the earth and delighting in the sons of men. In this way, the human spirit, being less subjected to material things, can be more easily drawn to the worship and contemplation of the Creator. Moreover, by the impulse of grace, he is disposed to acknowledge the Word of God, Who before He became flesh in order to save all and to sum up all in Himself was already “in the world” as “the true light which enlightens every man” (John 1:9-10). Indeed today’s progress in science and technology can foster a certain exclusive emphasis on observable data, and agnosticism about everything else. For the methods of investigation which these sciences use can be wrongly considered as the supreme rule of seeking the whole truth. By virtue of their methods these sciences cannot penetrate to the intimate notion of things. Indeed the danger is present that man, confiding too much in the discoveries of today, may think that he is sufficient unto himself and no longer seek the higher things.100

This notion is in line with the Catholic intellectual tradition in which

Catholic schools strive to relate all of the sciences to salvation and sanctification. Students are shown how Jesus illumines all of life—science, mathematics, history, business, biology, and so forth.101

As God is the source of all reality and because all things live, move, and have their being in Him, an understanding of all aspects of creation can assist in understanding and glorifying God in whom all truths converge.

Questions to Aid Reflection and Assessment:

Below are a series questions to facilitate reflection and to begin a discussion of how well your school imparts a Christian understanding of science and mathematics. Choose the most important questions for your school.

Science Curriculum

  • How does our science curriculum promote the unity of faith and reason and confidence there is no contradiction between the God of nature and the God of faith?
  • How does our science curriculum assist students in appreciating that God manifests Himself in creation to human reason in its natural operation?
  • How does our science curriculum instill a deep sense of wonder about the natural universe and the beauty and goodness of God reflected in the natural sciences?
  • How do we instill a respect for God’s role and purpose for creation? How do we insure that scientific knowledge is not used for utilitarian purposes alone or for a misguided manipulation of nature, but rather especially is focused on pursuit of Truth for its own value and for the greater glory of God?
  • Where does our science program present the significant contributions of the Catholic Church and Catholic scientists such as Mendel, Lavoisier, Pasteur, Galileo, Gregor, Volta, and Copernicus? Where and how do we counteract the false narrative that the Church is anti-science?
  • How do we assist students to address complex issues of creation, evolution, care for the environment, and respect for the human person (and the human body) from a Catholic perspective?

Mathematics Curriculum

  • How does our program assist students to see the beauty present in mathematics? How do we use mathematics as a tool to develop intellectual discipline and a love of order?
  • How do we use mathematics to open the mind to the wonders of creation? Do we develop a sense of wonder about mathematical relationships and the glory and dignity of human reason as both a gift from God and a reflection of Him?
  • How do we assist students to develop their reason for precise, determined, and accurate questioning and inquiry in the pursuit infinite and ultimate knowledge and Truth?

Action Items: Specific ideas and plans to pass on a Catholic culture through science and mathematics.

 

 

 

Principles Selected Church Documents for Reflection

Catholic Identity in Education: Selected Church Documents for Reflection is a compilation of selections from Church guidance on education. It is intended to provide simple and structured access to highlights from the five principles that help organize the readings: Inspired by Divine Mission; Models Christian Communion and Identity; Encounters Christ in Prayer, Scripture, and Sacraments; Integrally Forms the Human Person and Imparts a Christian Understanding of the World. These selections will allow for deeper exploration and meditation upon those elements the Church expects to be present in all Catholic schools and which distinguish them from other schools.

Intention for Use

Catholic Identity in Education: Selected Church Documents for Reflection is designed as a reflective resource for anyone interested in thinking deeply about the nature and purpose of Catholic education. Selections have been numbered to assist in discussion. Brief summaries in italics facilitate transitions between selections.

Suggestions for Use

The document can be read in whole or in part, by anyone wishing to encounter first hand, critical texts from the Church related to Catholic education. The document may be of particular use to those schools who are in the process of assessing or enhancing their Catholic identity and want to take a deeper dive into Church documents to better ground their efforts. Selections from the document can be used in faculty and staff in-services, research and writing, or prayerful meditation.

Principle I: Inspired by Divine Mission

Catholic education is an expression of the Church’s mission of salvation and an instrument of evangelization:1 to make disciples of Christ and to teach them to observe all that He has commanded.2  Through Catholic education, students encounter God, “who in Jesus Christ reveals His transforming love and truth.”3 Christ is the foundation of Catholic education;4 He journeys with students through school and life as “genuine Teacher” and “perfect Man.”5 As a faith community in unity with the Church and in fidelity to the Magisterium, students, parents, and educators give witness to Christ’s loving communion in the Holy Trinity.6 With this Christian vision, Catholic education fulfills its purpose of “critical, systematic transmission of culture in the light of faith”7 and the integral formation of the human person by developing each student’s physical, moral, spiritual, and intellectual gifts in harmony, teaching responsibility and right use of freedom, and preparing students to fulfill God’s calling in this world and to attain the eternal kingdom for which they were created.8 Catholic education is sustained by the frequent experience of prayer, Sacred Scripture, and the Church’s liturgical and sacramental tradition.9

Catholic schools need to be understood in the context of the Catholic Church’s broad mission of salvation and evangelization. Her schools are a privileged place to promote the formation of the whole person so that the Gospel might take root in the hearts and lives of her children.

1. The Salvific Mission of the ChurchIn the fullness of time, in His mysterious plan of love, God the Father sent His only Son to begin the Kingdom of God on earth and bring about the spiritual rebirth of mankind. To continue His work of salvation, Jesus Christ founded the Church as a visible organism, living by the power of the Spirit.

Moved by the same Spirit, the Church is constantly deepening her awareness of herself and meditating on the mystery of her being and mission. Thus she is ever rediscovering her living relationship with Christ “in order to discover greater light, energy, and joy in fulfilling her mission and determining the best way to ensure that her relationship with humanity is closer and more efficacious”—that humanity of which she is a part and yet so undeniably distinct. Her destiny is to serve humanity until it reaches its fullness in Christ.

Evangelization is, therefore, the mission of the Church; that is she must proclaim the good news of salvation to all, generate new creatures in Christ through Baptism, and train them to live knowingly as children of God.

Means available for the Mission of the Church: To carry out her saving mission, the Church uses, above all, the means which Jesus Christ has given her. She also uses other means which at different times and in different cultures have proved effective in achieving and, promoting the development of the human person. The Church adapts these means to the changing conditions and emerging needs of mankind. In her encounter with differing cultures and with man’s progressive achievements, the Church proclaims the faith and reveals “to all ages the transcendent goal which alone gives life its full meaning”. She establishes her own schools because she considers them as a privileged means of promoting the formation of the whole man, since the school is a centre in which a specific concept of the world, of man, and of history is developed and conveyed.

Contribution of the Catholic school towards the Salvific Mission of the Church: The Catholic school forms part of the saving mission of the Church, especially for education in the faith. Remembering that “the simultaneous development of man’s psychological and moral consciousness is demanded by Christ almost as a pre-condition for the reception of the befitting divine gifts of truth and grace,” the Church fulfills her obligation to foster in her children a full awareness of their rebirth to a new life. It is precisely in the Gospel of Christ, taking root in the minds and lives of the faithful, that the Catholic school finds its definition as it comes to terms with the cultural conditions of the times. It must never be forgotten that the purpose of instruction at school is education, that is, the development of man from within, freeing him from that conditioning which would prevent him from becoming a fully integrated human being. The school must begin from the principle that its educational program is intentionally directed to the growth of the whole person. The Catholic School, 1977, #5-9.

Catholic schools are communities that develop students’ intellect, judgement, and values while promoting work and culture.

2. Among all educational instruments the school has a special importance. It is designed not only to develop with special care the intellectual faculties but also to form the ability to judge rightly, to hand on the cultural legacy of previous generations, to foster a sense of values, to prepare for professional life. Between pupils of different talents and backgrounds it promotes friendly relations and fosters a spirit of mutual understanding; and it establishes as it were a center whose work and progress must be shared together by families, teachers, associations of various types that foster cultural, civic, and religious life, as well as by civil society and the entire human community. Gravissimum Educationis, 1965, #5.

The Second Vatican Council lays out seven principal purposes of Christian education: that the baptized will know salvation, know the faith, worship God, be conformed to Christ, grow in virtue, grow the Church, evangelize, and contribute to the common good.

3. A Christian education does not merely strive for the maturing of a human person as just now described, but has as its principal purpose this goal: that the baptized, while they are gradually introduced the knowledge of the mystery of salvation, become ever more aware of the gift of Faith they have received, and that they learn in addition how to worship God the Father in spirit and truth (cf. John 4:23) especially in liturgical action, and be conformed in their personal lives according to the new man created in justice and holiness of truth (Eph. 4:22-24); also that they develop into perfect manhood, to the mature measure of the fullness of Christ (cf. Eph. 4:13) and strive for the growth of the Mystical Body; moreover, that aware of their calling, they learn not only how to bear witness to the hope that is in them (cf. Peter 3:15) but also how to help in the Christian formation of the world that takes place when natural powers viewed in the full consideration of man redeemed by Christ contribute to the good of the whole society. Wherefore this sacred synod recalls to pastors of souls their most serious obligation to see to it that all the faithful, but especially the youth who are the hope of the Church, enjoy this Christian education. Gravissimum Educationis, 1965, #2.

The Second Vatican Council also outlines the particular role of the Catholic school in Christian education. The Catholic school is to create a Christian atmosphere of freedom and love, where culture is ordered to the Gospel and all is illumined by faith, so as to form students as a saving leaven for the contemporary world.

4. 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. 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 man is illumined by faith. 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. Gravissimum Educationis, 1965, #8.

The primary goal of a Catholic school, which has its foundation, model, and goal in Jesus Christ, is to facilitate an encounter with the living God.

5. Education is integral to the mission of the Church to proclaim the Good News. First and foremost every Catholic educational institution is a place to encounter the living God who in Jesus Christ reveals his transforming love and truth (cf. Spe Salvi, 4). This relationship elicits a desire to grow in the knowledge and understanding of Christ and his teaching. In this way those who meet him are drawn by the very power of the Gospel to lead a new life characterized by all that is beautiful, good, and true; a life of Christian witness nurtured and strengthened within the community of our Lord’s disciples, the Church. Pope Benedict, Meeting with Catholic Educators, Washington, DC, 2008.

6. At the heart of Catholic education there is always Jesus Christ: everything that happens in Catholic schools and universities should lead to an encounter with the living Christ. If we look at the great educational challenges that we will face soon, we must keep the memory of God made flesh in the history of mankind—in our history—alive. Educating Today and Tomorrow: A Renewing Passion, 2014, III.

7. Christ is the foundation of the whole educational enterprise in a Catholic school. His revelation gives new meaning to life and helps man to direct his thought, action, and will according to the Gospel, making the beatitudes his norm of life. The fact that in their own individual ways all members of the school community share this Christian vision, makes the school “Catholic”; principles of the Gospel in this manner become the educational norms since the school then has them as its internal motivation and final goal.The Catholic School, 1977, #34.

The twin goals of Catholic education are personal sanctification and for the work to which a student is called by God, provided in the light of Gospel values.

8. It is therefore as important to make no mistake in education, as it is to make no mistake in the pursuit of the last end, with which the whole work of education is intimately and necessarily connected. In fact, since education consists essentially in preparing man for what he must be and for what he must do here below, in order to attain the sublime end for which he was created, it is clear that there can be no true education which is not wholly directed to man’s last end, and that in the present order of Providence, since God has revealed Himself to us in the Person of His Only Begotten Son, who alone is “the way, the truth, and the life,” there can be no ideally perfect education which is not Christian education.

From this we see the supreme importance of Christian education, not merely for each individual, but for families and for the whole of human society, whose perfection comes from the perfection of the elements that compose it. From these same principles, the excellence, we may well call it the unsurpassed excellence, of the work of Christian education becomes manifest and clear; for after all it aims at securing the Supreme Good, that is, God, for the souls of those who are being educated, and the maximum of well-being possible here below for human society. And this it does as efficaciously as man is capable of doing it, namely by cooperating with God in the perfecting of individuals and of society, in as much as education makes upon the soul the first, the most powerful and lasting impression for life according to the well-known saying of the Wise Man, “A young man according to his way, even when he is old, he will not depart from it.” With good reason therefore did St. John Chrysostom say, “What greater work is there than training the mind and forming the habits of the young?” Divini Illius Magistri, 1929, #7-8.

9. Catholic education is an expression of the mission entrusted by Jesus to the Church He founded. Through education, the Church seeks to prepare its members to proclaim the Good News and to translate this proclamation into action. Since the Christian vocation is a call to transform oneself and society with God’s help, the educational efforts of the Church must encompass the twin purposes of personal sanctification and the social reform in light of Christian values. To Teach as Jesus Did, 1972, #7.

Catholic schools must remain vigilant in their mission against worldly threats by remaining rooted in Christ and the Gospel and preserving a Catholic culture which proclaims essential truths about the nature and dignity of human person.

10. The Catholic school loses its purpose without constant reference to the Gospel and a frequent encounter with Christ. It derives all the energy necessary for its educational work from Him and thus “creates in the school community an atmosphere permeated with the Gospel spirit of freedom and love.” In this setting the pupil experiences his dignity as a person before he knows its definition. Faithful, therefore, to the claims of man and of God, the Catholic school makes its own contribution towards man’s liberation, making him, in other words, what his destiny implies, one who talks consciously with God, one who is there for God to love. The Catholic School, 1977, #55. 11. It is important for Catholic schools to be aware of the risks that arise should they lose sight of the reasons why they exist. That can happen, for example, when they unthinkingly conform to the expectations of a society marked by the values of individualism and competition. It can also happen through bureaucratic formalism, the consumerist demands of families, or the unbridled search for external approval. Educating in Intercultural Dialogue in the Catholic school: Living in Harmony for a Civilization of Love, 2013, #56. 12. In Catholic teaching the concept of human dignity implies not only that the person is the steward of creation and cooperates with the creator to perfect it, but that the rest of creation, in its material, social, technological and economic aspects, should be at the service of the person. Human dignity is secure only when the spiritual, psychological, emotional, and bodily integrity of the person is respected as a fundamental value. Sharing the Light of Faith: National Catechetical Directory for Catholics,1979, #156.

Catholic schools must provide solid witness to the world and strive to affect a critical and systematic transformation of culture in light of Gospel values.

13. Catholic schools’ primary responsibility is one of witness. In the various situations created by different cultures, the Christian presence must be shown and made clear, that is, it must be visible, tangible, and conscious. Today, due to the advanced process of secularization, Catholic schools find themselves in a missionary situation, even in countries with an ancient Christian tradition. The contribution that Catholicism can make to education and to intercultural dialogue is in their reference to the centrality of the human person, who has his or her constitutive element in relationships with others. Catholic schools have in Jesus Christ the basis of their anthropological and pedagogical paradigm; they must practice the “grammar of dialogue”, not as a technical expedient, but as a profound way of relating to others. Catholic schools must reflect on their own identity, because that which they can give is primarily that which they are. Educating in Intercultural Dialogue in the Catholic school: Living in Harmony for a Civilization of Love, 2013, #57. 14. The specific mission of the school, then, is a critical, systematic transmission of culture in the light of faith and the bringing forth of the power of Christian virtue by the integration of culture with faith and of faith with living. Consequently, the Catholic school is aware of the importance of the Gospel-teaching as transmitted through the Catholic Church. It is, indeed, the fundamental element in the educative process as it helps the pupil towards his conscious choice of living a responsible and coherent way of life. The Catholic School, 1977, #49.

In all of this, Catholic schools must not shy away from their essential religious purpose.

15. 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. While Catholic establishments should respect freedom of conscience, that is to say, avoid burdening consciences from without by exerting physical or moral pressure, especially in the case of the religious activity of adolescents, they still have a grave duty to offer a religious training suited to the often widely varying religious situations of the pupils. They also have a duty to make them understand that, although God’s call to serve Him in spirit and truth, in accordance with the Commandments of God and the precepts of the Church, does not apply constraint, it is nevertheless binding in conscience. Catechesi Tradendae, 1979, #69. 16. The Catholic school pursues cultural goals and the natural development of youth to the same degree as any other school. What makes the Catholic school distinctive is its attempt to generate a community climate in the school that is permeated by the Gospel spirit of freedom and love… The Council, therefore, declared that what makes the Catholic school distinctive is its religious dimension, and that this is to be found in a) the educational climate, b) the personal development of each student, c) the relationship established between culture and the Gospel, d) the illumination of all knowledge with the light of faith. The Religious Dimension of Education in a Catholic School, 1988, #1. 17. The educational mission of the Church is an integrated mission embracing three interlocking dimensions: The message revealed by God (didache) which the Church proclaims; fellowship in the life of the Holy Spirit (koinonia); service to the Christian community (diakonia). To Teach as Jesus Did, 1973, #14. 18. The integration of religious truth and values with life distinguishes the Catholic school from other schools. This is a matter of crucial importance today in view of contemporary trends and pressures to compartmentalize life and learning and to isolate the religious dimension of existence from other areas of human life. To Teach as Jesus Did, 1973, #105 19. The Catholic school has a clear identity, not only as a presence of the Church in society, but also as a genuine and proper instrument of the Church. It is a place of evangelization, of authentic apostolate, and of pastoral action—not through complementary or parallel or extracurricular activity, but of its very nature: its work of educating the Christian person. The Religious Dimension of Education in a Catholic School, 1988, #133.

Principle II: Models Christian Communion and Identity

Catholic education teaches communion with Christ, by living communion with Christ and imitating the love and freedom of the Trinity.10 This communion begins in the home—with the divinely ordered right and responsibility of parents to educate their children—and extends to the school community in support and service to the needs of the family.11 It unites families and educators with a shared educational philosophy to form students for a relationship with God and with others.12 The educational community is united to the universal Church in fidelity to the magisterium, to the local Church, and to other schools and community organizations.13

The school community is a place of ecclesial experience, in which the members model confident and joyful public witness in both word and action and teach students to live the Catholic faith in their daily lives.14 In an environment “humanly and spiritually rich,” everyone is aware of the living presence of Jesus evidenced by a Christian way of life, expressed in “Word and Sacrament, in individual behaviour, [and] in friendly and harmonious relationships.”15 The school climate reproduces, as far as possible, the “warm and intimate atmosphere of family life.”16 As members of the Church community, students experience what it means to live a life of prayer, personal responsibility, and freedom reflective of Gospel values. This, in turn, leads them to grow in their commitment to serve God, one another, the Church, and the society.17

All teachers and leaders possess adequate skills, preparation, and religious formation and possess special qualities of mind and heart as well as the sensitivity necessary for authentic witness to the gospel and the task of human formation.18 Teachers and leaders of the educational community should be “practicing Catholics, who can understand and accept the teachings of the Catholic Church and the moral demands of the Gospel and who can contribute to the achievement of the school’s Catholic identity and apostolic goals.”19

Since communion with Christ and each other is the essence of the Church, it is critical that Catholic schools collaborate with families and all others who are invested in the establishment and sustenance of Christian educational communities.

1. Educating in communion and for communion: Because its aim is to make man more man, education can be carried out authentically only in a relational and community context. It is not by chance that the first and original educational environment is that of the natural community of the family. Schools, in their turn, take their place beside the family as an educational space that is communitarian, organic and intentional and they sustain their educational commitment, according to a logic of assistance. The Catholic school, characterized mainly as an educating community, is a school for the person and of persons. In fact, it aims at forming the person in the integral unity of his being, using the tools of teaching and learning where “criteria of judgment, determining values, points of interest, lines of thought, sources of inspiration and models of life” are formed. Above all, they are involved in the dynamics of interpersonal relations that form and vivify the school community. On the other hand, because of its identity and its ecclesial roots, this community must aspire to becoming a Christian community, that is, a community of faith, able to create increasingly more profound relations of communion which are themselves educational. It is precisely the presence and life of an educational community, in which all the members participate in a fraternal communion, nourished by a living relationship with Christ and with the Church, that makes the Catholic school the environment for an authentically ecclesial experience. Educating Together in Catholic Schools: A Shared Mission Between Consecrated Persons and the Lay Faithful, 2007, #12-14. 2. When Christians say communion, they refer to the eternal mystery, revealed in Christ, of the communion of love that is the very life of God-Trinity. At the same time we also say that Christians share in this communion in the Body of Christ which is the Church (cf. Phil 1: 7; Rev 1: 9). Communion is, therefore, the “essence” of the Church, the foundation and source of its mission of being in the world “the home and the school of communion,” to lead all men and women to enter ever more profoundly into the mystery of Trinitarian communion and, at the same time, to extend and strengthen internal relations within the human community. In this sense, “the Church is like a human family, but at the same time it is also the great family of God, through which he creates a place of communion and unity through all continents, cultures, and nations.” Educating Together in Catholic Schools: A Shared Mission Between Consecrated Persons and the Lay Faithful, 2007, #10. 3. Everything that the Catholic educator does in a school takes place within the structure of an educational community, made up of the contacts and the collaboration among all of the various groups—students, parents, teachers, directors, non-teaching staff—that together are responsible for making the school an instrument for integral formation. Although it is not exhaustive, this concept of the scholarly institution as an educational community, together with a more widespread awareness of this concept, is one of the most enriching developments for the contemporary school. The Catholic educator exercises his or her profession as a member of one of the constitutive elements of this community. The professional structure itself offers an excellent opportunity to live—and bring to life in the students the communitarian dimension of the human person. Every human being is called to live in a community, as a social being, and as a member of the People of God. Therefore, the educational community of a school is itself a “school “. It teaches one how to be a member of the wider social communities; and when the educational community is at the same time a Christian community—and this is what the educational community of a Catholic school must always be striving toward—then it offers a great opportunity for the teachers to provide the students with a living example of what it means to be a member of that great community which is the Church. Lay Catholics in Schools: Witnesses to Faith, 1982, #22.

Catholic schools serve the Church and the broader community.

4. By giving witness of communion, the Catholic educational community is able to educate for communion, which, as a gift that comes from above, animates the project of formation for living together in harmony and being welcoming. Not only does it cultivate in the students the cultural values that derive from the Christian vision of reality, but it also involves each one of them in the life of the community, where values are mediated by authentic interpersonal relationships among the various members that form it, and by the individual and community acceptance of them. In this way, the life of communion of the educational community assumes the value of an educational principle, of a paradigm that directs its formational action as a service for the achievement of a culture of communion. Educating Together in Catholic Schools: A Shared Mission Between Consecrated Persons and the Lay Faithful, 2007, #39. 5. Concretely, the educational goals of the school include a concern for the life and the problems of the Church, both local and universal. These goals are attentive to the Magisterium, and include cooperation with Church authorities. Catholic students are helped to become active members of the parish and diocesan communities. They have opportunities to join Church associations and Church youth groups, and they are taught to collaborate in local Church projects. The Religious Dimension of Education in a Catholic School, 1988, #44. 6. The ecclesial nature of the Catholic school, therefore, is written in the very heart of its identity as a teaching institution. It is a true and proper ecclesial entity by reason of its educational activity, “in which faith, culture, and life are brought into harmony”. Thus it must be strongly emphasized that this ecclesial dimension is not a mere adjunct, but is a proper and specific attribute, a distinctive characteristic which penetrates and informs every moment of its educational activity, a fundamental part of its very identity and the    focus of its mission. The fostering of this dimension should be the aim of all of those who make up the educating community. Catholic School on the Threshold of the Third Millennium, 1997, #11. 7. More than any other program of education sponsored by the Church, the Catholic school has the opportunity and obligation to be unique, contemporary, and oriented to Christian service: unique because it is distinguished by its commitment to the threefold purpose of Christian education and by it total design and operation which foster the integration of religion with the rest of learning and living; contemporary because it enable student to address with Christian insight the multiples problems which face individual and society today; oriented to Christian service because it helps student acquire skills, virtues, and habits of heart and mind required for effective service to others. To Teach as Jesus Did, 1973, #10.

In Catholic schools, students should feel “at home” in a positive and respectful environment.

8. Considering the special age group they are working with, primary schools should try to create a community school climate that reproduces, as far as possible, the warm and intimate atmosphere of family life. Those responsible for these schools will, therefore, do everything they can to promote a common spirit of trust and spontaneity. In addition, they will take great care to promote close and constant collaboration with the parents of these pupils. An integration of school and home is an essential condition for the birth and development of all of the potential which these children manifest in one or the other of these two situations—including their openness to religion with all that this implies. The Religious Dimension of Education in a Catholic School, 1988, #40. 9. Before all else, lay people should find in a Catholic school an atmosphere of sincere respect and cordiality; it should be a place in which authentic human relationships can be formed among all of the educators. Lay Catholics in Schools: Witnesses to Faith, 1982, #77. 10. Some of the conditions for creating a positive and supportive climate are the following: that everyone agree with the educational goals and cooperate in achieving them; that interpersonal relationships be based on love and Christian freedom; that each individual, in daily life, be a witness to Gospel values; that every student be challenged to strive for the highest possible level of formation, both human and Christian. In addition, the climate must be one in which families are welcomed, the local Church is an active participant, and civil society—local, national, and international—is included. If all share a common faith, this can be an added advantage. The Religious Dimension of Education in a Catholic School, 1988, #103.

Teachers are the primary influence in creating a Catholic community, by their personal witness of the faith and the care they provide their students.

11. The teachers love their students, and they show this love in the way they interact with them. They take advantage of every opportunity to encourage and strengthen them in those areas which will help to achieve the goals of the educational process. Their words, their witness, their encouragement and help, their advice and friendly correction are all important in achieving these goals, which must always be understood to include academic achievement, moral behavior, and a religious dimension. When students feel loved, they will love in return. Their questioning, their trust, their critical observations and suggestions for improvement in the classroom and the school milieu will enrich the teachers and also help to facilitate a shared commitment to the formation process. The Religious Dimension of Education in a Catholic School, 1988, #110. 12. Teaching and learning are the two terms in a relationship that does not only involve the subject to be studied and the learning mind, but also persons: this relationship cannot be based exclusively on technical and professional relations, but must be nourished by mutual esteem, trust, respect, and friendliness. When learning takes place in a context where the subjects who are involved feel a sense of belonging, it is quite different from a situation in which learning occurs in a climate of individualism, antagonism, and mutual coldness. Educating Today and Tomorrow: A Renewing Passion, 2014, II#3. 13. The integration of religious truth and values with the rest of life is brought about in the Catholic school not only by its unique curriculum, but, more important, by the presence of teachers who express an integrated approach to learning and living in their private and professional lives. It is further reinforced by free interaction among the students themselves within their own community of youth. To Teach as Jesus Did, 1972, #104. 14. The preparation and ongoing formation of new administrators and teachers is vital if our schools are to remain truly Catholic in all aspects of school life. Catholic school personnel should be grounded in a faith-based Catholic culture, have strong bonds to Christ and the Church, and be witnesses to the faith in both their words and actions. The formation of personnel will allow the Gospel message and the living presence of Jesus to permeate the entire life of the school community and thus be faithful to the school’s evangelizing mission. Renewing Our Commitment to Catholic Elementary & Secondary Schools in the Third Millennium, 2005, excerpts. 15. For this reason, Catholic educators need a “formation of the heart”: they need to be led to that encounter with God in Christ which awakens their love and opens their spirits to others, so that their educational commitment becomes a consequence deriving from their faith, a faith which becomes active through love. In fact, even care for instruction means loving. It is only in this way that they can make their teaching a school of faith, that is to say, a transmission of the Gospel, as required by the educational project of the Catholic school. Educating Together in Catholic Schools: A Shared Mission Between Consecrated Persons and the Lay Faithful, 2007, #25.

It is essential that all teachers live in communion with the Church as credible living witnesses for their students, since the mission of the school depends chiefly on them.

16. In the Catholic school, “prime responsibility for creating this unique Christian school climate rests with the teachers, as individuals and as a community”. Teaching has an extraordinary moral depth and is one of man’s most excellent and creative activities, for the teacher does not write on inanimate material, but on the very spirits of human beings. The personal relations between the teacher and the students, therefore, assume an enormous importance and are not limited simply to giving and taking. Moreover, we must remember that teachers and educators fulfil a specific Christian vocation and share an equally specific participation in the mission of the Church, to the extent that “it depends chiefly on them whether the Catholic school achieves its purpose”. Catholic School on the Threshold of the Third Millennium, 1997, #19. 17. The extent to which the Christian message is transmitted through education depends to a very great extent on the teachers. The integration of culture and faith is mediated by the other integration of faith and life in the person of the teacher. The nobility of the task to which teachers are called demands that, in imitation of Christ, the only Teacher, they reveal the Christian message not only by word but also by every gesture and behavior. This is what makes the difference between a school whose education is permeated by the Christian spirit and on in which religion is only regarded as an academic subject like any other. The Catholic School, 1977, #43. 18. The instruction and education in a Catholic school must be grounded in the principles of Catholic doctrine; teachers are to be outstanding in correct doctrine and integrity of life. Code of Canon Law, 1983, 803 §2. 19. Recruit teachers who are practicing Catholics, who can understand and accept the teachings of the Catholic Church and the moral demands of the gospel, and who can contribute to the achievement of the school’s Catholic identity and apostolic goals… As a catechetical leader in the Catholic school, the principal is called to provide opportunities for ongoing catechesis for faculty members… The distinctive Catholic identity and mission of the Catholic school also depend on the efforts and example of the whole faculty… All teachers in Catholic schools share in the catechetical ministry… While some situations might entail compelling reasons for members of another faith tradition to teach in a Catholic school, as much as possible, all teachers in a Catholic school should be practicing Catholics. National Directory for Catechesis (2006) 231, 233. 20. Besides every Christian child or youth has a strict right to instruction in harmony with the teaching of the Church, the pillar and ground of truth. And whoever disturbs the pupil’s Faith in any way, does him grave wrong, inasmuch as he abuses the trust which children place in their teachers, and takes unfair advantage of their inexperience and of their natural craving for unrestrained liberty, at once illusory and false. Divini Illius Magistri, 1929, #57.

Principle III: Encounters Christ in Prayer, Scripture, and Sacrament

Rooted in Christ, Catholic education is continually fed and stimulated by Him in the frequent experience of prayer, scripture, and the Church’s liturgical and sacramental tradition.20 The transmission of faith, catechesis, is intrinsically linked to these living encounters with Christ, by which He nurtures and educates souls in the divine life of grace and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.21 By their witness and sharing in these encounters, educators help students grow in understanding of what it means to be a member of the Church.22 Students discover the real value of the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Reconciliation, in accompanying the Christian in the journey through life. They learn “to open their hearts in confidence to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit through personal and liturgical prayer,” which makes the mystery of Christ present to students.23

The school should radiate the faith with clear devotions, especially to Jesus and Mary.

1. From the first moment that a student sets foot in a Catholic school, he or she ought to have the impression of entering a new environment, one illumined by the light of faith, and having its own unique characteristics. The Council summed this up by speaking of an environment permeated with the Gospel spirit of love and freedom. In a Catholic school, everyone should be aware of the living presence of Jesus the “Master” who, today as always, is with us in our journey through life as the one genuine “Teacher”, the perfect Man in whom all human values find their fullest perfection. The inspiration of Jesus must be translated from the ideal into the real. The Gospel spirit should be evident in a Christian way of thought and life which permeates all facets of the educational climate. Having crucifixes in the school will remind everyone, teachers and students alike, of this familiar and moving presence of Jesus, the “Master” who gave his most complete and sublime teaching from the cross. The Religious Dimension of Education in a Catholic School, 1988, #25&26. 2. An awareness of Mary’s presence can be a great help toward making the school into a “home”. Mary, Mother and Teacher of the Church, accompanied her Son as he grew in wisdom and grace; from its earliest days, she has accompanied the Church in its mission of salvation. The Religious Dimension in a Catholic School, 1988, #29.

Catholic schools cherish the Word of God.

3. No Catholic school can adequately fulfill its educational role on its own. It must continually be fed and stimulated by its Source of life, the Saving Word of Christ as it is expressed in Sacred Scripture, in Tradition, especially liturgical and sacramental tradition, and in the lives of people, past and present, who bear witness to that Word. The Catholic School, 1977, #54. 4. Of the educational programs available to the Catholic community, Catholic schools afford the fullest and best opportunity to realize the threefold purpose of Christian education among children and young people… It makes more accessible to students participating in the liturgy and the sacraments, which are powerful forces for the development of personal sanctity and for the building of community. To Teach as Jesus Did, 1973, #101.

The sacraments are critical to the Catholic school’s mission, especially those most suited to expression in the school environment: Eucharist and Reconciliation.

5. This educational environment of the Church embraces the Sacraments, divinely efficacious means of grace, the sacred ritual, so wonderfully instructive, and the material fabric of her churches, whose liturgy and art have an immense educational value; but it also includes the great number and variety of schools, associations and institutions of all kinds, established for the training of youth in Christian piety… Divini Illius Magistri, 1929, #76. 6. They [teachers] will, therefore, help students to discover the real value of the Sacraments: they accompany the believer on his or her journey through life. This journey takes place within the Church, and therefore becomes more comprehensible as students grow in an understanding of what it means to be a member of the Church. The essential point for students to understand is that Jesus Christ is always truly present in the Sacraments which he has instituted, and his presence makes them efficacious means of grace. The moment of closest encounter with the Lord Jesus occurs in the Eucharist, which is both Sacrifice and Sacrament. In the Eucharist, two supreme acts of love are united: Our Lord renews his sacrifice of salvation for us, and he truly gives himself to us. The Religious Dimension of Education in a Catholic School, 1988, #78. 7. An understanding of the sacramental journey has profound educational implications. Students become aware that being a member of the Church is something dynamic, responding to every person’s need to continue growing all through life. When we meet the Lord in the Sacraments, we are never left unchanged. Through the Spirit, he causes us to grow in the Church, offering us “grace upon grace”; the only thing he asks is our cooperation. The educational consequences of this touch on our relationship with God, our witness as a Christian, and our choice of a personal vocation. The Religious Dimension of Education in a Catholic School, 1988, #79. 8. A genuine ecclesial maturity, nourished by the encounter with Christ in the sacraments, will make it possible to develop “whether of the more traditional kind or the newer ecclesial movements […] a vitality that is God’s gift” for the entire scholastic community and for the educational journey itself. Educating Together in Catholic Schools, A Shared Mission Between Consecrated Persons and the Lay Faithful, 2007, #17.

The catechetical and religious instruction in the school are lived out and expressed naturally in the daily activities of the school.

9. In fulfilling its educational role, the Church, eager to employ all suitable aids, is concerned especially about those which are her very own. Foremost among these is catechetical instruction, which enlightens and strengthens the faith, nourishes life according to the spirit of Christ, leads to intelligent and active participation in the liturgical mystery and gives motivation for apostolic activity. Gravissimum Educationis, Declaration on Christian Education, 1965, #4. 10. The life of faith is expressed in acts of religion. The teacher will assist students to open their hearts in confidence to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit through personal and liturgical prayer. The latter is not just another way of praying; it is the official prayer of the Church, which makes the mystery of Christ present in our lives—especially through the Eucharist, Sacrifice and Sacrament, and through the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Religious experiences are then seen, not as something externally imposed, but as a free and loving response to the God who first loved us. The virtues of faith and religion, thus rooted and cultivated, are enabled to develop during childhood, youth, and in all the years that follow. The Religious Dimension of Education in a Catholic School, 1988, #83. 11. Participation together in the liturgy and in paraliturgical activities and spiritual exercises can effectively foster community among students and faculty. Since the Gospel spirit is one of peace, brotherhood, love, patience, and respect for others, a school rooted in these principles ought to explore ways to deepen its students’ concern for and skill in peacemaking and the achievement of justice. Here young people can learn together of human needs, whether in the parish, the neighborhood, the local civic community, or the world, and begin to respond to the obligation of Christian service through joint action. To Teach as Jesus Did, 1973, #109. 12. But we are not in a hopeless situation. The teacher should help students to see, in the light of faith, that this reality has another side to it. On the world scale, the Gospel message continues to “die” as the “seed” in the soil of the earth only to blossom and bear fruit in due season. At the personal level, the Lord waits for us in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It is not just a devotional practice, but rather a personal encounter with him, through the mediation of his minister. After this celebration we can resume our journey with renewed strength and joy. The Religious Dimension of Education in a Catholic School, 1988, #93. 13. The physical proximity of the school to a church can contribute a great deal toward achieving the educational aims. A church should not be seen as something extraneous, but as a familiar and intimate place where those young people who are believers can find the presence of the Lord: “Behold, I am with you all days.” Liturgy planning should be especially careful to bring the school community and the local Church together. The Religious Dimension of Education in a Catholic School, 1988, #30. 14. In a Catholic school, even this [students feeling loved] is not enough. There is also a continuous vertical interaction, through prayer; this is the fullest and most complete expression of the religious dimension. The Religious Dimension in a Catholic School, 1988, #111.

Teachers, school leaders, and other employees and volunteers need to model an active faith life and be active participants in the sacraments.

15. As a visible manifestation of the faith they profess and the life witness they are supposed to manifest, it is important that lay Catholics who work in a Catholic school participate simply and actively in the liturgical and sacramental life of the school. Students will share in this life more readily when they have concrete examples: when they see the importance that this life has for believers. In today’s secularized world, students will see many lay people who call themselves Catholics, but who never take part in liturgy or sacraments. It is very important that they also have the example of lay adults who take such things seriously, who find in them a source and nourishment for Christian living. Lay Catholics in Schools: Witnesses to Faith, 1982, #40. 16. Education in the faith is a part of the finality of a Catholic school. The more fully the educational community represents the richness of the ecclesial community, the more capable it will be of fulfilling this mission. When priests, men and women Religious, and lay people are all present together in a school, they will present students with a living image of this richness, which can lead to a better understanding of the reality of the Church. Lay Catholics should reflect on the importance of their presence, from this point of view, alongside the priests and Religious. For each of these types of ecclesial vocation presents to the students its own distinct incarnational model: lay Catholics, the intimate dependence of earthly realities on God in Christ, the lay professional as one who disposes the world toward God; the priest, the multiple sources of grace offered by Christ to all believers through the sacraments, the revealing light of the Word, and the character of service which clothes the hierarchical structure of the Church; Religious, the radical spirit of Beatitudes, the continuous call of the Kingdom as the single definitive reality, the love of Christ, and the love of all men and women in Christ. Lay Catholics in Schools: Witnesses to Faith, 1982, #43. 17. 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, 1988, #26.

Principle IV: Integrally Forms the Human Person

The complex task of Catholic education is the integral formation of students as physical, intellectual, and spiritual beings called to perfect humanity in the fullness of Christ, which is their right by Baptism.24 The human person is “created in ‘the image and likeness’ of God; elevated by God to the dignity of a child of God; unfaithful to God in original sin, but redeemed by Christ; a temple of the Holy Spirit, a member of the Church; destined to eternal life.”25 Catholic education assists students to become aware of the gift of Faith, worship God the Father, develop into mature adults who bear witness to the Mystical Body of Christ, respect the dignity of the human person, provide service, lead apostolic lives, and build the Kingdom of God.26

Catholic education forms the conscience through commitment to authentic Catholic doctrine. It develops the virtues and characteristics associated with what it means to be Christian so as to resist relativism, overcome individualism, and discover vocations to serve God and others.27 “Intellectual development and growth as a Christian go forward hand in hand” where faith, culture, and life are integrated throughout the school’s program to provide students a personal closeness to Christ enriched by virtues, values, and supernatural gifts.28 As a child of God, made in his image, human formation includes the development of personal Christian ethics and respect for the body by promoting healthy development, physical activity, and chastity.29

In Catholic education, “There is no separation between time for learning and time for formation, between acquiring notions and growing in wisdom”; education and pedagogy inspired by Gospel values and distinguished by the “illumination of all knowledge with the light of faith” allows formation to become living, conscious and active.30 The atmosphere is characterized by discovery and awareness that enkindles a love for truth, and a desire to know the universe as God’s creation. The Christian educational program facilitates critical thinking that is ordered, precise, and responsible as it builds strength and perseverance in pursuit of the truth.31

Integral formation is the purpose of education. It involves educating the whole person—mind, body, and spirit—for active participation in this life and eternal life in the next.

1. The integral formation of the human person, which is the purpose of education, includes the development of all the human faculties of the students, together with preparation for professional life, formation of ethical and social awareness, becoming aware of the transcendental, and religious education. Every school, and every educator in the school, ought to be striving “to form strong and responsible individuals, who are capable of making free and correct choices”, thus preparing young people “to open themselves more and more to reality, and to form in themselves a clear idea of the meaning of life.” Lay Catholics in Schools: Witnesses to Faith, 1982, #17. 2. It must never be forgotten that the purpose of instruction at school is education, that is, the development of man from within, freeing him from that conditioning which would prevent him from becoming a fully integrated human being. The school must begin from the principle that its educational programme is intentionally directed to the growth of the whole person. The Catholic School, 1977, #29.

It is essential to properly understand and work with the nature of the human person. We have to know what the “complete person” looks like through the lens of a Christian anthropology, in order to better educate students to become that person.

3. The educational value of Christian anthropology is obvious. Here is where students discover the true value of the human person: loved by God, with a mission on earth and a destiny that is immortal. As a result, they learn the virtues of self-respect and self-love, and of love for others—a love that is universal. In addition, each student will develop a willingness to embrace life, and also his or her own unique vocation, as a fulfillment of God’s willReligious Dimension of Education in a Catholic School, 1988, #26.

4. Any genuine educational philosophy has to be based on the nature of the human person, and therefore must take into account all of the physical and spiritual powers of each individual, along with the call of each one to be an active and creative agent in service to society. And this philosophy must be open to a religious dimension. Human beings are fundamentally free; they are not the property of the state or of any human organization. The entire process of education, therefore, is a service to the individual students, helping each one to achieve the most complete formation possible. Religious Dimension of Education in a Catholic School, 1988, # 63.

5. The Catholic school sets out to be a school for the human person and of human persons. “The person of each individual human being, in his or her material and spiritual needs, is at the heart of Christ’s teaching: this is why the promotion of the human person is the goal of the Catholic school”. This affirmation, stressing man’s vital relationship with Christ, reminds us that it is in His person that the fullness of the truth concerning man is to be found. For this reason the Catholic school, in committing itself to the development of the whole man, does so in obedience to the solicitude of the Church, in the awareness that all human values find their fulfillment and unity in Christ. This awareness expresses the centrality of the human person in the educational project of the Catholic school, strengthens its educational endeavor, and renders it fit to form strong personalities. Catholic School on the Threshold of the Third Millennium, 1997, #9.

6. Students should be helped to see the human person as a living creature having both a physical and a spiritual nature; each of us has an immortal soul, and we are in need of redemption. The older students can gradually come to a more mature understanding of all that is implied in the concept of “person”: intelligence and will, freedom and feelings, the capacity to be an active and creative agent; a being endowed with both rights and duties, capable of interpersonal relationships, called to a specific mission in the world. The human person is present in all the truths of faith: created in “the image and likeness” of God; elevated by God to the dignity of a child of God; unfaithful to God in original sin, but redeemed by Christ; a temple of the Holy Spirit; a member of the Church; destined to eternal life. Religious Dimension of Education in a Catholic School, 1988, #55.

7. In today’s pluralistic world, the Catholic educator must consciously inspire his or her activity with the Christian concept of the person, in communion with the Magisterium of the Church. It is a concept which includes a defense of human rights, but also attributes to the human person the dignity of a child of God; it attributes the fullest liberty, freed from sin itself by Christ, the most exalted destiny, which is the definitive and total possession of God Himself, through love. It establishes the strictest possible relationship of solidarity among all persons; through mutual love and an ecclesial community. It calls for the fullest development of all that is human, because we have been made masters of the world by its Creator. Finally, it proposes Christ, Incarnate Son of God and perfect Man, as both model and means; to imitate Him, is, for all men and women, the inexhaustible source of personal and communal perfection. Lay Catholics in Schools: Witnesses to Faith, 1982, #18.

Formation involves development of the will and of virtue; the habit of seeking and doing the good.

8. Mindful of the fact that man has been redeemed by Christ, the Catholic school aims at forming in the Christian those particular virtues which will enable him to live a new life in Christ and help him to play faithfully his part in building up the Kingdom of God. The Catholic School, 1977, #36. 9. Its task is fundamentally a synthesis of culture and faith, and a synthesis of faith and life: the first is reached by integrating all the different aspects of human knowledge through the subjects taught, in the light of the Gospel; the second in the growth of the virtues characteristic of the Christian. The Catholic School, 1977, #37. 10. The Catholic school has as its specific duty the complete Christian formation of its pupils, and this task is of special significance today because of the inadequacy of the family and society. It knows that this integration of faith and life is part of a life-long process of conversion until the pupil becomes what God wishes him to be. The Catholic School, 1977, #45. 11. Perfection is a theme which must be part of this systematic presentation of the Christian message. To pass over it would be disloyal: to the Lord, who calls us to limitless perfection; to the Church, which invites us all to perfection; and to the young people themselves, who have the right to know what the Lord and the Church expect of them. The teacher will begin by reminding believing students that, through their baptism, they have become members of the Church. The Christian perfection to which we are all called is a gift of Jesus through the mediation of the Spirit; but the gift requires our cooperation. Our apostolic witness must make this perfection visible in the world, today and in the future. The Religious Dimension of Education in a Catholic School, 1988, #95. 12. In the same way, inasmuch as it is an ecclesial subject, the Catholic school acts as the Christian ferment of the world. In it, students learn to overcome individualism and to discover, in the light of faith, that they are called to live responsibly a specific vocation to friendship with Christ and in solidarity with other persons. Basically, the school is called to be a living witness of the love of God among us. It can, moreover, become a means through which it is possible to discern, in the light of the Gospel, what is positive in the world, what needs to be transformed and what injustices must be overcome. A vigilant acceptance of the contributions of the world to the life of the school also nourishes and promotes open communion, especially in some educational environments, such as education to peace, to living together, to justice, and to brotherhood. Educating Together in Catholic Schools, A Shared Mission Between Consecrated Persons and the Lay Faithful, 2007, #46. 13. Education is not just knowledge, but also experience: it links together knowledge and action; it works to achieve unity amongst different forms of knowledge and pursues consistency. It encompasses the affective and emotional domains, and is also endowed with an ethical dimension: knowing how to do things and what we want to do, daring to change society and the world, and serving the community. Education is based on participation, shared intelligence and intelligence interdependence; dialogue, self-giving, example, cooperation, and reciprocity are also equally important elements. Educating Today and Tomorrow: A Renewing Passion, 2014, #III. 14. Cultural pluralism, therefore, leads the Church to reaffirm her mission of education to insure strong character formation. Her children, then, will be capable both of resisting the debilitating influence of relativism and of living up to the demands made on them by their Baptism. It also stimulates her to foster truly Christian living and apostolic communities, equipped to make their own positive contribution, in a spirit of cooperation, to the building up of the secular society. For this reason the Church is prompted to mobilize her educational resources in the face of the materialism, pragmatism, and technocracy of contemporary society. The Catholic School, 1977, #12.

Religious instruction is the foundation and crown of training in Catholic schools and permeates all subjects and all facets of the school’s life.

15. For the mere fact that a school gives some religious instruction (often extremely stinted), does not bring it into accord with the rights of the Church and of the Christian family, or make it a fit place for Catholic students. To be this, it is necessary that all the teaching and the whole organization of the school, and its teachers, syllabus, and text-books in every branch, be regulated by the Christian spirit, under the direction and maternal supervision of the Church; so that Religion may be in very truth the foundation and crown of the youth’s entire training; and this in every grade of school, not only the elementary, but the intermediate and the higher institutions of learning as well. To use the words of Leo XIII: It is necessary not only that religious instruction be given to the young at certain fixed times, but also that every other subject taught, be permeated with Christian piety. If this is wanting, if this sacred atmosphere does not pervade and warm the hearts of masters and scholars alike, little good can be expected from any kind of learning, and considerable harm will often be the consequence. Divini Illius Magistri, 1929, #80. 16. A Catholic school must be committed to the development of a programme which will overcome the problems of a fragmented and insufficient curriculum. Teachers dealing with areas such as anthropology, biology, psychology, sociology, and philosophy all have the opportunity to present a complete picture of the human person, including the religious dimension. The Religious Dimension of Education in a Catholic School, 1988, #55. 17. Only in such a school can they experience learning and living fully integrated in the light of faith. Here, therefore, students are instructed in human knowledge and skills, valued indeed for their worn worth but seen simultaneously as driving their most profound significance from God’s plan for His creation. Here, too, instruction in religious truth and values are an integral part of the school program. It is not one more subject alongside the rest, but instead it is perceived and functions as the underlying reality in which the student’s experiences of learning and living achieve their coherence and their deepest meaning. To Teach as Jesus Did, 1973, #103. 18. Not all students in Catholic schools are members of the Catholic Church; not all are Christians… The religious freedom and the personal conscience of individual students and their families must be respected, and this freedom is explicitly recognized by the Church. On the other hand, a Catholic school cannot relinquish its own freedom to proclaim the Gospel and to offer a formation based on the values to be found in a Christian education; this is its right and its duty. The Religious Dimension of Education in a Catholic School, 1988, #6. 19. Recent Church teaching has added an essential note: “The basic principle which must guide us in our commitment to this sensitive area of pastoral activity is that religious instruction and catechesis are at the same time distinct and complementary. A school has as its purpose the students’ integral formation. Religious instruction, therefore, should be integrated into the objectives and criteria which characterize a modern school.” School directors should keep this directive of the Magisterium in mind, and they should respect the distinctive characteristics of religious instruction. It should have a place in the weekly order alongside the other classes, for example; it should have its own syllabus, approved by those in authority; it should seek appropriate interdisciplinary links with other course material so that there is a coordination between human learning and religious awareness. Like other course work, it should promote culture, and it should make use of the best educational methods available to schools today. In some countries, the results of examinations in religious knowledge are included within the overall measure of student progress. Finally, religious instruction in the school needs to be coordinated with the catechesis offered in parishes, in the family, and in youth associations. The Religious Dimension of Education in a Catholic School, 1988, #70.

Intellectual formation in Catholic schools is wisdom based and integrated with faith, culture and life.

20. From the nature of the Catholic school also stems one of the most significant elements of its educational project: the synthesis between culture and faith. Indeed, knowledge set in the context of faith becomes wisdom and life vision. The endeavor to interweave reason and faith, which has become the heart of individual subjects, makes for unity, articulation, and coordination, bringing forth within what is learnt in school a Christian vision of the world, of life, of culture, and of history. In the Catholic school’s educational project there is no separation between time for learning and time for formation, between acquiring notions and growing in wisdom. The various school subjects do not present only knowledge to be attained, but also values to be acquired and truths to be discovered. All of which demands an atmosphere characterized by the search for truth, in which competent, convinced and coherent educators, teachers of learning and of life, may be a reflection, albeit imperfect but still vivid, of the one Teacher. In this perspective, in the Christian educational project all subjects collaborate, each with its own specific content, to the formation of mature personalities. The Catholic School on the Threshold of the Third Millennium, 1997, #14. 21. Within the overall process of education, special mention must be made of the intellectual work done by students. Although Christian life consists in loving God and doing his will, intellectual work is intimately involved. The light of Christian faith stimulates a desire to know the universe as God’s creation. It enkindles a love for the truth that will not be satisfied with superficiality in knowledge or judgment. It awakens a critical sense which examines statements rather than accepting them blindly. It impels the mind to learn with careful order and precise methods, and to work with a sense of responsibility. It provides the strength needed to accept the sacrifices and the perseverance required by intellectual labor. When fatigued, the Christian student remembers the command of Genesis and the invitation of the Lord. The Religious Dimension of Education in a Catholic School, 1988, #49. 22. This is the basis of a Catholic school’s educational work. Education is not given for the purpose of gaining power but as an aid towards a fuller understanding of, and communion with man, events, and things. Knowledge is not to be considered as a means of material prosperity and success, but as a call to serve and to be responsible for others. The Catholic School, 1977, #56.

Intellectual formation in Catholic schools is oriented toward discovering the real truth of things.

23. Respect for those who seek the truth, who raise fundamental questions about human existence. Confidence in our ability to attain truth, at least in a limited way—a confidence based not on feeling but on faith. God created us “in his own image and likeness” and will not deprive us of the truth necessary to orient our lives. The ability to make judgments about what is true and what is false; and to make choices based on these judgments. Making use of a systematic framework, such as that offered by our philosophical heritage, with which to find the best possible human responses to questions regarding the human person, the world, and God. Lively dialogue between culture and the Gospel message. The fullness of truth contained in the Gospel message itself, which embraces and integrates the wisdom of all cultures, and enriches them with the divine mysteries known only to God but which, out of love, he has chosen to reveal to us. With such criteria as a basis, the student’s careful and reflective study of philosophy will bring human wisdom into an encounter with divine wisdom. The Religious Dimension of Education in a Catholic School, 1988, #58. 24. The greatest challenge to Catholic education in the United States today, and the greatest contribution that authentically Catholic education can make to American culture, is to restore to that culture the conviction that human beings can grasp the truth of things, and in grasping that truth can know their duties to God, to themselves and their neighbors. The contemporary world urgently needs the service of educational institutions which uphold and teach that truth is “that fundamental value without which freedom, justice, and human dignity are extinguished” [Vertatis Splendor, 4]. Saint Pope John Paul II – Ad limina visit of bishops from Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin, 1998. 25. The school considers human knowledge as a truth to be discovered. In the measure in which subjects rare taught by someone who knowingly and without restraint seeks the truth, they are to that extent Christian. Discovery and awareness of truth leads man to the discovery of Truth itself. A teacher who is full of Christian wisdom, well prepared in his own subject, does more than convey the sense of what he is teaching to his pupils. Over and above what he says, he guides his pupils beyond his mere words to the heart of total Truth. The Catholic School, 1977, #41. 25. The school considers human knowledge as a truth to be discovered. In the measure in which subjects rare taught by someone who knowingly and without restraint seeks the truth, they are to that extent Christian. Discovery and awareness of truth leads man to the discovery of Truth itself. A teacher who is full of Christian wisdom, well prepared in his own subject, does more than convey the sense of what he is teaching to his pupils. Over and above what he says, he guides his pupils beyond his mere words to the heart of total Truth. The Catholic School, 1977, #41. 26. One specific characteristic of the educational profession assumes its most profound significance in the Catholic educator: the communication of truth. For the Catholic educator, whatever is true is a participation in Him who is the Truth; the communication of truth, therefore, as a professional activity, is thus fundamentally transformed into a unique participation in the prophetic mission of Christ, carried on through one’s teaching. Lay Catholics in Schools: Witnesses to Faith, 1982, #16.

Formation in a Catholic school is oriented toward meaning and transcendence.

27. Furthermore, when man gives himself to the various disciplines of philosophy, history, and of mathematical and natural science, and when he cultivates the arts, he can do very much to elevate the human family to a more sublime understanding of truth, goodness, and beauty, and to the formation of considered opinions which have universal value. Thus mankind may be more clearly enlightened by that marvelous Wisdom which was with God from all eternity, composing all things with him, rejoicing in the earth, delighting in the sons of men. Gaudium Et Spes, 1965, #57. 28. Concepts such as truth, beauty and goodness have become so vague today that young people do not know where to turn to find help; even when they are able to hold on to certain values, they do not yet have the capacity to develop these values into a way of life; all too often they are more inclined simply to go their own way, accepting whatever is popular at the moment. The Religious Dimension of Education in a Catholic School, 1988, #9. 29. Schools and universities are places where students are introduced to knowledge and scientific research. One of teachers’ main responsibilities is to attract younger generations towards knowledge and understanding its achievements and applications. Engagement in knowledge and research cannot be separated from a sense of ethics and transcendence: no real science can disregard ethical consequences and no real science drives us away from transcendence. Science and ethics, science and transcendence are not mutually exclusive, but come together for a greater and better understanding of man and the world. Educating Today And Tomorrow: A Renewing Passion, 2014, #2. 30. Nowadays, the “way” in which students learn seems to be more important than “what” they learn, just like the way of teaching seems to be more important than its contents. Teaching that only promotes repetitive learning, without favoring students’ active participation or sparking their curiosity, is not sufficiently challenging to elicit motivation. Learning through research and problem-solving develops different and more significant cognitive and mental abilities, whereby students do more than just receiving information, while also stimulating teamwork. However, the value of learning contents must not be underestimated. If the way students learn is relevant, the same applies to what they learn: teachers must know how to select the essential elements of cultural heritage that has accumulated over time and how to present them to students. This approach also applies to the study of the major questions mankind is facing and has faced in the past. Otherwise, the risk could be to provide a kind of teaching that is only focused on what seems to be useful now, because it is being required by contingent economic or social demands, forgetting what is indispensable for the human person. Educating Today and Tomorrow: A Renewing Passion, 2014, #3. 31. Learning is not just equivalent to content assimilation, but is an opportunity for self-education, commitment towards self-improvement and the common good. It allows our students to develop their creativity, strive for constant learning and become more open towards others. Learning can also provide the opportunity to open students’ hearts and minds to the mystery and wonder of the world and nature, to self-consciousness and awareness, to responsibility towards creation, to the Creator’s immensity. Educating Today and Tomorrow: A Renewing Passion, 2014, #4.

Principle V: Imparts a Christian Understanding of the World

In the light of faith, Catholic education critically and systematically transmits the secular and religious “cultural patrimony handed down from previous generations,” especially that which makes a person more human and contributes to the integral formation of students.32 Both educator and student are called to participate in the dialogue with culture and to pursue “the integration of culture with faith and faith with living.”33 Catholic education imparts a “Christian vision of the world, of life, of culture, and of history,” ordering “the whole of human culture to the news of salvation.”34 This hallmark of Catholic education, to “bring human wisdom into an encounter with divine wisdom,”35 cultivates “in students the intellectual, creative, and aesthetic faculties of the human person,” introduces a cultural heritage, and prepares them for professional life and to take on the responsibilities and duties of society and the Church.36 Students are prepared to work for the evangelization of culture and for the common good of society.37

Catholic schools help form a Catholic culture which is “critical and evaluative, historical and dynamic.”

1. Numerous Church teachings, especially in the Second Vatican Council and in subsequent Magisterium, have reflected on culture and its importance for the complete development of human potential. The Second Vatican Council, in considering the importance of culture, asserted that there is no truly human experience without the context of a specific culture. In fact, “man comes to a true and full humanity only through culture.” Every culture is a way of giving expression to the transcendental aspect of life; this includes reflection on the mystery of the world and, in particular, on the mystery of humanity. The essential meaning of culture consists “in the fact that it is a characteristic of human life as such. Man lives a truly human life thanks to culture. Human life is culture in the sense also that man is marked out and differentiated by it from all that exists elsewhere in the visible world: man cannot exist outside of culture. Man always lives in accordance with a culture that belongs to him and which, in turn, creates among men a bond that is also proper to them, determining the inter-human and social character of human existence.” Congregation for Catholic Education, Educating to Intercultural Dialogue in Catholic Schools: Living in Harmony for a Civilization of Love (2013), #30. 2. Moreover, the term culture indicates all those means by which “man develops and perfects his many bodily and spiritual qualities; he strives by his knowledge and his labour, to bring the world itself under his control. He renders social life more human both in the family and the civic community, through improvement of customs and institutions. Throughout the course of time he expresses, communicates, and conserves in his works, great spiritual experiences and desires, that they might be of advantage to the progress of many, even of the whole human family.” Therefore, this includes both the subjective aspect—behaviors, values, and traditions that each person takes on—and the objective aspect, that is, the works of individuals. Congregation for Catholic Education, Educating to Intercultural Dialogue in Catholic Schools: Living in Harmony for a Civilization of Love (2013), #31. 3. A school uses its own specific means for the integral formation of the human person: the communication of culture. It is extremely important, then, that the Catholic educator reflect on the profound relationship that exists between culture and the Church. For the Church not only influences culture and is, in turn, conditioned by culture; the Church embraces everything in human culture which is compatible with Revelation and which it needs in order to proclaim the message of Christ and express it more adequately according to the cultural characteristics of each people and each age. The close relationship between culture and the life of the Church is an especially clear manifestation of the unity that exists between creation and redemption. For this reason, if the communication of culture is to be a genuine educational activity, it must not only be organic, but also critical and evaluative, historical and dynamic. Faith will provide Catholic educators with some essential principles for critique and evaluation; faith will help them to see all of human history as a history of salvation which culminates in the fullness of the Kingdom. This puts culture into a creative context, constantly being perfected. Lay Catholics in Schools: Witnesses to Faith, 1982, #20. 4. Students will be helped to attain that synthesis of faith and culture which is necessary for faith to be mature. But a mature faith is also able to recognize and reject cultural counter-values which threaten human dignity and are therefore contrary to the Gospel. No one should think that all of the problems of religion and of faith will be completely solved by academic studies; nevertheless, we are convinced that a school is a privileged place for finding adequate ways to deal with these problems. The declaration Gravissimum educationis, echoing Gaudium et spes, indicates that one of the characteristics of a Catholic school is that it interpret and give order to human culture in the light of faith. The Religious Dimension of Education in a Catholic School, #52. 5. The social and cultural context of our time is in danger of obscuring “the educational value of the Catholic school, in which its fundamental reason for existing and the basis of its genuine apostolate is to be found”. Indeed, although it is true to say that in recent years there has been an increased interest and a greater sensitivity on the part of public opinion, international organizations and governments with regard to schooling and education, there has also been a noticeable tendency to reduce education to its purely technical and practical aspects. Pedagogy and the sciences of education themselves have appeared to devote greater attention to the study of phenomenology and didactics than to the essence of education as such, centered on deeply meaningful values and vision… There is a tendency to forget that education always presupposes and involves a definite concept of man and life. To claim neutrality for schools signifies in practice, more times than not, banning all reference to religion from the cultural and educational field, whereas a correct pedagogical approach ought to be open to the more decisive sphere of ultimate objectives, attending not only to “how”, but also to “why”, overcoming any misunderstanding as regards the claim to neutrality in education, restoring to the educational process the unity which saves it from dispersion amid the meandering of knowledge and acquired facts, and focuses on the human person in his or her integral, transcendent, historical identity. With its educational project inspired by the Gospel, the Catholic school is called to take up this challenge and respond to it in the conviction that “it is only in the mystery of the Word made flesh that the mystery of man truly becomes clear.” The Catholic School on the Threshold of the Third Millennium, 1997, #10. 6. Making use of a systematic framework, such as that offered by our philosophical heritage, with which to find the best possible human responses to questions regarding the human person, the world, and God. Lively dialogue between culture and the Gospel message. The fullness of truth contained in the Gospel message itself, which embraces and integrates the wisdom of all cultures, and enriches them with the divine mysteries known only to God but which, out of love, he has chosen to reveal to us. With such criteria as a basis, the student’s careful and reflective study of philosophy will bring human wisdom into an encounter with divine wisdom. The Religious Dimension of Education in a Catholic School, 1988, #57.

While respectful of surrounding cultures, a school’s culture must be distinctly Catholic.

7. The transmission of a culture ought to be especially attentive to the practical effects of that culture, and strengthen those aspects of it which will make a person more human. In particular, it ought to pay attention to the religious dimension of the culture and the emerging ethical requirements to be found in it. The Religious Dimension of Education in a Catholic School, 1988, #108. 8. As the Council points out, giving order to human culture in the light of the message of salvation cannot mean a lack of respect for the autonomy of the different academic disciplines and the methodology proper to them; nor can it mean that these disciplines are to be seen merely as subservient to faith. On the other hand, it is necessary to point out that a proper autonomy of culture has to be distinguished from a vision of the human person or of the world as totally autonomous, implying that one can negate spiritual values or prescind from them. We must always remember that, while faith is not to be identified with any one culture and is independent of all cultures, it must inspire every culture: “Faith which does not become culture is faith which is not received fully, not assimilated entirely, not lived faithfully”. The Religious Dimension of Education in a Catholic School, #53. 9. Catholic schools are called to give dutiful witness, by their pedagogy that is clearly inspired by the Gospel—a fortiori in a culture that demands that schools be neutral and removes all religious references from the field of education. Catholic schools, being Catholic, are not limited to a vague Christian inspiration or one based on human values. They have the responsibility for offering Catholic students, over and above a sound knowledge of religion, the possibility to grow in personal closeness to Christ in the Church. Educating in Intercultural Dialogue in the Catholic school: Living in Harmony for a Civilization of Love, 2013, #56. 10. Indeed, culture is only educational when young people can relate their study to real-life situations with which they are familiar. The school must stimulate the pupil to exercise his intelligence through the dynamics of understanding to attain clarity and inventiveness. It must help him spell out the meaning of his experiences and their truths. The Catholic School, 1977, #27. 11. We can say of catechesis, as well as of evangelization in general, that it is called to bring the power of the Gospel into the very heart of culture and cultures. For this purpose, catechesis will seek to know these cultures and their essential components; it will learn their most significant expressions; it will respect their particular values and riches. In this manner it will be able to offer these cultures the knowledge of the hidden mystery and help them to bring forth from their own living tradition original expressions of Christian life, celebration, and thought. Catechesi Tradendae, 1979, #53. 12. Let it be loudly proclaimed and well understood and recognized by all, that Catholics, no matter what their nationality, in agitating for Catholic schools for their children, are not mixing in party politics, but are engaged in a religious enterprise demanded by conscience. They do not intend to separate their children either from the body of the nation or its spirit, but to educate them in a perfect manner, most conducive to the prosperity of the nation. Indeed a good Catholic, precisely because of his Catholic principles, makes the better citizen, attached to his country, and loyally submissive to constituted civil authority in every legitimate form of government. In such a school, in harmony with the Church and the Christian family, the various branches of secular learning will not enter into conflict with religious instruction to the manifest detriment of education. And if, when occasion arises, it be deemed necessary to have the students read authors propounding false doctrine, for the purpose of refuting it, this will be done after due preparation and with such an antidote of sound doctrine, that it will not only do no harm, but will an aid to the Christian formation of youthDivini Illius Magistri, 1929, #85-86.

One means of transmitting Catholic culture is through the school’s curriculum.

13. Catholic schools strive to relate all of the sciences to salvation and sanctification. Students are shown how Jesus illumines all of life—science, mathematics, history, business, biology, and so forth. National Directory for Catechesis, 2005, p.233. 14. Educational goals: The responsibility of a Catholic school is enormous and complex. It must respect and obey the laws that define methods, programmes, structure, etc., and at the same time it must fulfil its own educational goals by blending human culture with the message of salvation into a coordinated programme; it must help each of the students to actually become the “new creature” that each one is potentially, and at the same time prepare them for the responsibilities of an adult member of society. This means that a Catholic school needs to have a set of educational goals which are “distinctive” in the sense that the school has a specific objective in mind, and all of the goals are related to this objective. The Religious Dimension of Education in a Catholic School, 1988, #100. 15. Individual subjects must be taught according to their own particular methods. It would be wrong to consider subjects as mere adjuncts to faith or as a useful means of teaching apologetics. They enable the pupil to assimilate skills, knowledge, intellectual methods, and moral and social attitudes, all of which help to develop his personality and lead him to take his place as an active member of the community of man. Their aim is not merely the attainment of knowledge but the acquisition of values and the discovery of truth. The Catholic School, 1977, #39.

Literature and the arts are carefully selected to allow students to reflect on man’s successes and failures, his miseries and joys.

16. Literature and the arts are also, in their own way, of great importance to the life of the Church. They strive to make known the proper nature of man, his problems and his experiences in trying to know and perfect both himself and the world. They have much to do with revealing man’s place in history and in the world; with illustrating the miseries and joys, the needs and strengths of man and with foreshadowing a better life for him. Thus they are able to elevate human life, expressed in multifold forms according to various times and regions. Thus the knowledge of God is better manifested and the preaching of the Gospel becomes clearer to human intelligence and shows itself to be relevant to man’s actual conditions of life. May the faithful, therefore, live in very close union with the other men of their time and may they strive to understand perfectly their way of thinking and judging, as expressed in their culture. Let them blend new sciences and theories and the understanding of the most recent discoveries with Christian morality and the teaching of Christian doctrine, so that their religious culture and morality may keep pace with scientific knowledge and with the constantly progressing technology. Thus they will be able to interpret and evaluate all things in a truly Christian spirit. Gaudium Et Spes, 1965, #62. 17. Literary and artistic works depict the struggles of societies, of families, and of individuals. They spring from the depths of the human heart, revealing its lights and its shadows, its hope and its despair. The Christian perspective goes beyond the merely human, and offers more penetrating criteria for understanding the human struggle and the mysteries of the human spirit.(55) Furthermore, an adequate religious formation has been the starting point for the vocation of a number of Christian artists and art critics. In the upper grades, a teacher can bring students to an even more profound appreciation of artistic works as a reflection of the divine beauty in tangible form. Both the Fathers of the Church and the masters of Christian philosophy teach this in their writings on aesthetics—St. Augustine invites us to go beyond the intention of the artists in order to find the eternal order of God in the work of art; St. Thomas sees the presence of the Divine Word in art. The Religious Dimension of Education in a Catholic School, 1988, #61

Students are introduced to history as God’s universal plan of salvation.

18. Teachers should guide the students’ work in such a way that they will be able to discover a religious dimension in the world of human history. As a preliminary, they should be encouraged to develop a taste for historical truth, and therefore to realize the need to look critically at texts and curricula which, at times, are imposed by a government or distorted by the ideology of the author. The next step is to help students see history as something real: the drama of human grandeur and human misery. The protagonist of history is the human person, who projects onto the world, on a larger scale, the good and the evil that is within each individual. History is, then, a monumental struggle between these two fundamental realities, and is subject to moral judgments. But such judgments must always be made with understanding. The Religious Dimension of Education in a Catholic School, 1988, #58. 19. Every society has its own heritage of accumulated wisdom. Many people find inspiration in these philosophical and religious concepts which have endured for millennia. The systematic genius of classical Greek and European thought has, over the centuries, generated countless different doctrinal systems, but it has also given us a set of truths which we can recognize as a part of our permanent philosophical heritage. A Catholic school conforms to the generally accepted school programming of today, but implements these programmes within an overall religious perspective. This perspective includes criteria such as the following: Respect for those who seek the truth, who raise fundamental questions about human existence. Confidence in our ability to attain truth, at least in a limited way—a confidence based not on feeling but on faith. God created us “in his own image and likeness” and will not deprive us of the truth necessary to orient our lives. The ability to make judgments about what is true and what is false; and to make choices based on these judgments. Making use of a systematic framework, such as that offered by our philosophical heritage, with which to find the best possible human responses to questions regarding the human person, the world, and God. Lively dialogue between culture and the Gospel message. The fullness of truth contained in the Gospel message itself, which embraces and integrates the wisdom of all cultures, and enriches them with the divine mysteries known only to God but which, out of love, he has chosen to reveal to us. With such criteria as a basis, the student’s careful and reflective study of philosophy will bring human wisdom into an encounter with divine wisdom. The Religious Dimension of Education in a Catholic School, 1988, #57. 20. The curriculum must help the students reflect on the great problems of our time, including those where one sees more clearly the difficult situation of a large part of humanity’s living conditions. These would include the unequal distribution of resources, poverty, injustice, and human rights denied. Educating to Intercultural Dialogue in Catholic Schools, 2013, #62. 21. To this end, the teacher should help students to see history as a whole. Looking at the grand picture, they will see the development of civilizations, and learn about progress in such things as economic development, human freedom, and international cooperation. Realizing this can help to offset the disgust that comes from learning about the darker side of human history. But even this is not the whole story. When they are ready to appreciate it, students can be invited to reflect on the fact that this human struggle takes place within the divine history universal salvation. At this moment, the religious dimension of history begins to shine forth in all its luminous grandeur. The Religious Dimension of Education in a Catholic School, 1988, #59.

Science and technology are viewed in harmony with faith and placed at the service of man and God.

22. In a number of countries, renewal in school programming has given increased attention to science and technology. Those teaching these subject areas must not ignore the religious dimension. They should help their students to understand that positive science, and the technology allied to it, is a part of the universe created by God. Understanding this can help encourage an interest in research: the whole of creation, from the distant celestial bodies and the immeasurable cosmic forces down to the infinitesimal particles and waves of matter and energy, all bear the imprint of the Creator’s wisdom and power, The wonder that past ages felt when contemplating this universe, recorded by the Biblical authors, is still valid for the students of today; the only difference is that we have a knowledge that is much more vast and profound. There can be no conflict between faith and true scientific knowledge; both find their source in God. The student who is able to discover the harmony between faith and science will, in future professional life, be better able to put science and technology to the service of men and women, and to the service of God. It is a way of giving back to God what he has first given to us. The Religious Dimension of Education in a Catholic School, 1988, #54. 23. Indeed today’s progress in science and technology can foster a certain exclusive emphasis on observable data, and an agnosticism about everything else. For the methods of investigation which these sciences use can be wrongly considered as the supreme rule of seeking the whole truth. By virtue of their methods these sciences cannot penetrate to the intimate notion of things. Indeed the danger is present that man, confiding too much in the discoveries of today, may think that he is sufficient unto himself and no longer seek the higher things. Gaudium Et Spes, 1965, #57. 24. The increased attention given to science and technology must not lead to a neglect of the humanities: philosophy, history, literature, and art…. The simplest way to uncover the religious dimension of the artistic and literary world is to start with its concrete expressions: in every human culture, art and literature have been closely linked to religious beliefs. Religious Dimension of Education in a Catholic School, 1988, #60.

The Catholic school is called to evangelize the broader common culture.

25. The mission of the Church is to evangelize, for the interior transformation and the renewal of humanity. For young people, the school is one of the ways for this evangelization to take place… Since its educational goals are rooted in Christian principles, the school as a whole is inserted into the evangelical function of the Church. It assists in and promotes faith education. Religious Dimension of Education in a Catholic School, 1988, #66 & 69. 26. Finally, the Church is absolutely convinced that the educational aims of the Catholic school in the world of today perform an essential and unique service for the Church herself. It is, in fact, through the school that she participates in the dialogue of culture with her own positive contribution to the cause of the total formation of man. The Catholic School, 1977, #15

 

 

 

Principles Church Documents for Catholic School Teachers: Annotated Bibliography

Pope Leo XIII. (1865). Spectata Fides. Retrieved from http://w2.vatican.va/content/leo-xiii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_l-xiii_enc_27111885_spectatafides.html

In these days, and in the present condition of the world, when the tender age of childhood is threatened on every side by so many and such various dangers, hardly anything can be imagined more fitting than the union with literary instruction of sound teaching in faith and morals… For it is in and by these schools that the Catholic faith, our greatest and best inheritance, is preserved whole and entire. In these schools the liberty of parents is respected; and, what is most needed, especially in the prevailing license of opinion and of action, it is by these schools that good citizens are brought up for the State… The wisdom of our forefathers, and the very foundations of the State, are ruined by the destructive error of those who would have children brought up without religious education. You see, therefore Venerable Brethren, with what earnest forethought parents must beware of entrusting their children to schools in which they cannot receive religious teaching. (#4)

Pope Pius XI. (1929). Divini illius magistri. Retrieved from http://w2.vatican.va/content/pius-xi/en/encyclicals/documents/ hf_p-xi_enc_31121929_divini-illius-magistri.html

This all-encompassing, seminal encyclical on Catholic education was written by Pope Pius XI. The document elaborates on the mission, focus, circumstances, and final end of Catholic education. He begins by stating, “It is therefore as important to make no mistake in education, as it is to make no mistake in the pursuit of the last end, with which the whole work of education is intimately and necessarily connected. In fact, since education consists essentially in preparing man for what he must be and for what he must do here below, in order to attain the sublime end for which he was created, it is clear that there can be no true education which is not wholly directed to man’s last end, and that in the present order of Providence, since God has revealed Himself to us in the Person of His Only Begotten Son, who alone is ‘the way, the truth and the life,’ there can be no ideally perfect education which is not Christian education” (#7). The means of Catholic education includes the permeation of religion throughout all subjects and grades of schooling for “…it is necessary not only that religious instruction be given to the young at certain fixed times, but also that every subject taught, be permeated with Christian piety,” because “if this is wanting, if this sacred atmosphere does not pervade and warm the hearts of masters and scholars alike, little good can be expected from any kind of learning, and considerable harm will often be the consequence” (#80). He allows no excuse for not properly forming the consciences of young people and states this is well within the Church’s maternal supervision. The document discusses the role of parents and the State to provide education to young people.

The Pope condemns new methods of instruction based on naturalism, stating that man is both body and soul, with a fallen nature that can be elevated by God’s grace. He laments the movement by educational institutions away from the foundations of Christianity, stating a Christocentric anthropology of man and his relationship with God should be the center of the educational enterprise.

The Pope acknowledges the important role of teachers: “Perfect schools are the result not so much of good methods as of good teachers, teachers who are thoroughly prepared and well-grounded in the matter they have to teach; who possess the intellectual and moral qualifications required by their important office; who cherish a pure and holy love for the youths confided to them, because they love Jesus Christ and His Church, of which these are the children of predilection; and who have therefore sincerely at heart the true good of family and country” (#88).

Pope Pius XI. (1935). Provido sane consilio.Retrieved from https://www.ewtn.com/library/CURIA/CATTEACH.HTM

This short document was issued by the Catechetical Office of the Holy See under Pope Pius XI to address the urgency that Catholic doctrine be taught in all parishes, schools, and colleges and that those teaching the faith be qualified and attend annual catechetical conventions and other meetings to discuss the best methods of catechetical instruction (#34-35). Also, special “Courses of Lectures on Religion [are to] be offered each year to those who teach Christian doctrine in parochial and public schools, in order that they will increase in the quality and depth of their knowledge” (#37).

Pope Paul VI. (1965). Gravissimum educationis. Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vatii_ decl_19651028_gravissimum-educationis_en.html

A declaration of Catholic education issued from the Second Vatican Council. This foundational document of Catholic education situates parents, by their God-given role, as the “primary and principle educators” of their children (#3) and the family as the “first school of the social virtues” (#3). It proclaims education as an inalienable right for all mankind and insists that the state should not usurp the choice of education available to families (#6). The document states that “a true education aims at the formation of the human person in the pursuit of his ultimate end” (#1). The Church, through her care and concern for her people, enters into the field of education not only to assist primarily in this formation, but also to “pursue cultural goals,” create a community “animated by the Gospel spirit of freedom and charity,” “help youth grow according to the new creatures they were made through baptism,” and “order the whole of human culture to the news of salvation” (#8). Teachers, “who aid parents in fulfilling their duties” of education and formation (#5), are recognized as individuals who must “possess special qualities of mind and heart,” because “beautiful indeed and of great importance” is their vocation (#5). Teachers are to be carefully prepared for their apostolate and continually ready to “renew and adapt” (#5). The document attempts to address all the many forms of Catholic education, including Catholic colleges and universities, advocating for coordination and cooperation among them.

In section 8 we read,

But let teachers recognize that the Catholic school depends upon them almost entirely for the accomplishment of its goals and programs. 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.

National Conference of Catholic Bishops. (1972). To teach as Jesus did. Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference.

This pastoral message was issued by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (United States) in response to the exhortation of the Second Vatican Council in Gravissimum Educationis. The document begins by stating, “Catholic education is an expression of the mission entrusted by Jesus to the Church He founded,” and “through education the Church seeks to prepare its members to proclaim the Good News and to translate this proclamation into action” (#7). “Christian vocation is a call to transform oneself and society with God’s help” (#7). Three main themes are proposed for Catholic education: message/doctrine (“integration of religious truth and values with life distinguishes the Catholic school from other schools,” #105); community including fellowship, life in Christ, and evangelization (“Building and living community must be prime, explicit goals of the contemporary Catholic School,” #108); and service including the transformation of society (“The experience of Christian community leads naturally to service,” #28). Scant mention is made about the qualities and characteristics of Catholic school teachers, aside from the very important facts that, “If the threefold purpose of Christian education is to be realized, it must be through their commitment to give instruction to their students, to build community among them, and to serve them” (#144) and the “integration of religious truth and values with the rest of life is brought about in the Catholic school… by the presences of teachers who express an integrated approach to learning and living in their private and professional lives” (#104).

National Conference of Catholic Bishops. (1976). Teach them. Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference.

This is a brief follow-up by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (United States) to To Teach as Jesus Did, addressing the present and future state of Catholic education in the United States. Many initiatives are suggested. The document reiterates the themes of Catholic education: “to teach doctrine, to build community, and to serve.”  Parent, teacher, administrator, pastor, and community roles in supporting Catholic education are discussed. Especially emphasized is “the new awareness that all members of the faculty, at least by their example, are an integral part of the process of religious education” and a “Teachers’ life style and character are as important as their professional credentials” (p.7). The twofold dimension of Catholic education as enfolding academic instruction with Christian formation is discussed stating, “the integration of religious truth and values with the rest of life” is a responsibility of teachers, because their “daily witness to the meaning of mature faith and Christian living has a profound impact upon the education and formation of their pupils” (p.3).

Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education. (1977). The Catholic School. Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/ccatheduc/documents/rc_con_ ccatheduc_doc_19770319_catholic-school_en.html

Published by the Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education, this document provides a deeper reflection of the Catholic school, especially in the areas of the nature and characteristics which lend to a school identifying itself as “Catholic.” The document begins by stating that the “Catholic school forms part of the saving mission of the Church” (#9), “provides a privileged environment for the complete formation of her members, and …also provides a highly important service to mankind” (#16). The school is considered a “centre of human formation,” and certain qualifiers must be in place or the school cannot be considered a Catholic school (25). The school must be a “place of integral formation” and “must begin from the principle that its educational programme is intentionally directed to the growth of the whole person” (#28). The Catholic school is also a place where “a systematic and critical assimilation of culture” exists (#26), where faith is integrated with culture and life, and where students are not only given the opportunity to excel academically but to live in a “community whose values are communicated through the interpersonal and sincere relationships of its members” (#32), especially the teachers who “in imitation of Christ, the only Teacher, they reveal the Christian message not only by word but also by every gesture of their behavior” (#43). The document states that the Catholic school must help the student “spell out the meaning of his experiences and their truths” (#27) and states that any school which does not do this “hinders the personal development of its pupils” (#27).

A Catholic school is founded on a Christian vision of life, with Christ as “the foundation of the whole educational enterprise” (#34), since He is “the Perfect Man” (#34). Redeemed by Him, “the Catholic school aims at forming in the Christian those particular virtues which will enable him to live a new life in Christ and help him to play faithfully his part in building up the Kingdom of God” (#36). To ensure this distinctive Christological emphasis, the local bishop has the authority to “watch over the orthodoxy of religious instruction and the observance of Christian morals in the Catholic schools,” but “it is the task of the whole educative community to ensure that a distinctive Christian educational environment is maintained in practice” (#73). Parents and especially teachers have the duty and obligation to ensure this distinctive character, especially “By their witness and their behavior” (#78).

Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education. (1982). Lay Catholics in schools: Witnesses to faith. Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/roman_ curia/congregations/ccatheduc/documents/rc_con_ccatheduc_doc_19821015_lay-catholics_en.html

This document from the Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education begins by stating the importance of all those who work in Catholic schools, “whether as teachers, directors, administrators, or auxiliary staff” (#1). These “will substantially determine whether or not a school realizes its aims and accomplishes it objectives” (#1). With this statement, we see the great importance and impact of even those individuals not directly hired as teachers to the total educational environment experienced by the student on a daily basis. As all people are called to a life of personal holiness, so too are those who work in Catholic schools, since they have a privileged opportunity for giving witness (#33).

The more completely an educator can give concrete witness to the model of the ideal person that is being presented to the students, the more this ideal will be believed and imitated. For it will then be seen as something reasonable and worthy of being lived, something concrete and realizable. It is in this context that the faith witness of the lay teacher becomes especially important. Students should see in their teacher the Christian attitude and behavior that is often so conspicuously absent from the secular atmosphere in which they live. Without this witness, living in such an atmosphere, they may begin to regard Christian behavior as an impossible ideal (#32)

“Lay Catholic teachers should be influenced by a Christian faith vision in the way they teach their course, to the extent that this is consistent with the subject matter” (#49), and should be seekers of the truth, which is found in Truth Himself, Christ. They should be active participants in the school and the surrounding community, so as to act as a conduit of Catholic culture and an evangelizer of the faith. Teachers in Catholic schools possess

Professional commitment; support of truth, justice and freedom; openness to the point of view of others, combined with an attitude of service; personal commitment to the students, and fraternal solidarity with everyone; [and] a life that is integrally moral in all its aspects. The lay Catholic who brings all of this to his or her work in a pluralist school1 becomes a living mirror, in whom every individual in the educational community will see reflected an image of one inspired by the Gospel (#52).

Part III discusses the many dimensions of necessary formation for Catholic schoolteachers, and Part IV addresses the types and kinds of ecclesial and institutional support needed and available for lay teachers in Catholic schools whose work in education is part of the specific mission of the Church. That work includes

cultivating in student the intellectual, creative, and aesthetic faculties of the human person; to develop in them the ability to make correct use of their judgement, will, and affectivity; to promote in them a sense of values; to encourage just attitudes and prudent behavior; to introduce them to the cultural patrimony handed down from previous generations; to prepare them for professional life, and to encourage the friendly interchange among students of diverse cultures and backgrounds that will lead to mutual understanding (#12).

Canon Law Society of America. (1983). Code of canon law. Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/__P2N.HTM

Book III, Title III, Canons 793-806 are particular to grade schools operating under an ecclesial authority, independent or private schools using a Catholic faith-based curriculum, and parents.

Can. 795. Education must pay regard to the formation of the whole person, so that all may attain their eternal destiny and at the same time promote the common good of society. Children and young persons are therefore to be cared for in such a way that their physical, moral and intellectual talents may develop in a harmonious manner, so that they may attain a greater sense of responsibility and a right use of freedom, and be formed to take an active part in social life.

Can. 803 §2. Instruction and education in a Catholic school must be based on the principles of Catholic doctrine, and the teachers must be outstanding in true doctrine and uprightness of life.

Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education. (1988). The religious dimension of  education in a Catholic school. Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/ccatheduc/documents/rc_con_ ccatheduc _doc_19880407_catholic-school_en.html

This is the third of a trilogy of documents issued by the Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education on Catholic education following the promulgation of Gravissimum Educationis in 1965. (The trilogy began with The Catholic School in 1977 and Lay Catholics in Schools: Witnesses to Faith in 1982.) This document offers general guidelines regarding the educational climate of a Catholic school which includes the building up of a school culture animated by faith. Catholic schools should not be seen as institutions, but as communities and extensions of family life, especially for elementary school students. The document discusses the complementary role of harmonious spiritual and academic formation of the students and again focuses upon the school climate to impress upon the reader that

strong determination is needed to do everything possible to eliminate conditions which threaten the health of the school climate. Some examples of potential problems are these: the educational goals are either not defined or are defined badly; those responsible for the school are not sufficiently trained; concern for academic achievement is excessive; relations between teachers and students are cold and impersonal; teachers are antagonistic toward one another; discipline is imposed from on high without any participation or cooperation from the students; relationships with families are formal or even strained, and families are not involved in helping to determine the educational goals; some within the school community are giving a negative witness; individuals are unwilling to work together for the common good; the school is isolated from the local Church; there is no interest in or concern for the problems of society; religious instruction is ‘routine’ (#104).

Discussion regarding the teaching of religion and the importance of catechesis of those receptive to the Christian message of salvation is presented with suggestions for methodology and to look for opportunities of “pre-evangelization: to the development of a religious sense of life” (#108), the “why,” “what,” and “how” of a culture purports a religious and ethical dimension. Frequent reference to Christ and God, the Father, as well as frequent prayer create a culture and climate that is genuinely Catholic.

Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education. (1995). The truth and meaning of human sexuality: Guidelines for education within the family. Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/family/documents/rc_pc_ family_doc_08121995_human-sexuality_en.html

This document from the Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education was written for families, but it is applicable for educators and administrators overseeing courses on human sexuality in Catholic schools. As collaborators with parents in the education of their children, educators need to affirm the Church’s position that parents are the primary educators of their children. Included in this document are several quotes from Familiaris Consortio, one of which is, “Sex education, which is a basic right and duty of parents, must always be carried out under their attentive guidance, whether at home or in educational centers chosen and controlled by them. In this regard, the Church affirms the law of subsidiarity, which the school is bound to observe when it cooperates in sex education, by entering into the same spirit that animates the parents.” Also, the end of the document is a set of recommendations for all educators working in this area:

  1. Since each child or young person must be able to live his or her own sexuality in conformity with Christian principles, and hence be able to exercise the virtue of chastity, no educator—not even parents—can interfere with this right to chastity (cf. Matthew 18: 4-7) (#118).
  2. It is recommended that respect be given to the right of the child and the young person to be adequately informed by their own parents on moral and sexual questions in a way that complies with his or her desire to be chaste and to be formed in chastity. This right is further qualified by a child’s stage of development, his or her capacity to integrate moral truth with sexual information, and by respect for his or her innocence and tranquility (#119).
  3. It is recommended that respect be given to the right of the child or young person to withdraw from any form of sexual instruction imparted outside the home. Neither the children nor other members of their family should ever be penalized or discriminated against for this decision (#120).

Congregation for the Clergy. (1997). General directory for catechesis. Retrieved from  http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cclergy/documents/rc_con_ ccatheduc_doc_17041998_directory-for-catechesis_en.html

The document from the Congregation for the Clergy describes the relationship between religious instruction and catechesis, both of which are evident in Catholic schools. Paragraphs 73-75 explain the proper characteristics of religious instruction in schools. Religious instruction is to be scholastic in nature

with the same systematic demands and the same rigour as other disciplines. It must present the Christian message and the Christian event with the same seriousness and the same depth with which other disciplines present their knowledge. It should not be an accessory alongside of these disciplines, but rather it should engage in a necessary inter-disciplinary dialogue. This dialogue should take place above all at that level at which every discipline forms the personality of students. In this way the presentation of the Christian message influences the way in which the origins of the world, the sense of history, the basis of ethical values, the function of religion in culture, the destiny of man and his relationship with nature, are understood. Through inter-disciplinary dialogue religious instruction in schools underpins, activates, develops and completes the educational activity of the school (#73).

Paragraph 259-260 address religious instruction and catechesis within Catholic schools, recalling the emphasis of the Second Vatican Council’s document Gravissimum Educationis on schools as places for evangelization, human formation, and enculturation into the life of Christ.

Congregation for Catholic Education. (1997). The Catholic school on the threshold of  the third millennium. Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/ccatheduc/documents/rc_con_ ccatheduc_doc_27041998_school20  00_ en.html

Written as a “state of the union” for Catholic education at the time before the new millennium, the document from the Congregation for Catholic Education highlights the exiting concerns and challenges of Catholic education, the first and foremost as a crisis of values, especially in the prevalence of moral relativism, subjectivism, and nihilism.2 Society has turned away from the Christian faith as a “reference point” and “source of light for an effective and convincing interpretation of existence” (#1). Stressing the importance of the Catholic school as a place for courageous renewal with its evangelizing mission, pastoral care for the family and society, and shared responsibility for the “social and cultural development of the different communities and people to which it belongs” (#5), Catholic schools are called to impart a “solid Christian formation” (#8), to offer technical and scientific skills, and above all to focus on the “development of the whole man” (#9).

The document briefly but succinctly mentions the cultural identity of the Catholic school.

From the nature of the Catholic school also stems one of the most significant elements of its educational project: the synthesis between culture and faith. Indeed, knowledge set in the context of faith becomes wisdom and life vision. The endeavor to interweave reason and faith, which has become the heart of individual subjects, makes for unity, articulation and coordination, bringing forth within what is learned in school a Christian vision of the world, of life, of culture and of history. In a Catholic school’s educational project there is no separation between time for learning and time for formation, between acquiring notions and growing in wisdom…All of this demands an atmosphere characterized by the search for truth, in which competent, convinced and coherent educators, teachers of learning and of life, may be a reflection, albeit imperfect but still vivid, of the one Teacher. In this perspective, in the Christian educational project all subjects collaborate, each with its own specific content, to the formation of mature personalities. (#14)

Catholic education’s role in service to society and the local community is discussed with the special role of teachers and their role in students development, “for the teacher does not write on inanimate material, but on the very spirits of human beings” (#19).

National Conference of Catholic Bishops. (2005). National directory for catechesis. Washington, DC: United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

While not a Catholic school document, per se, the directory for catechesis from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops insists on the role of the Catholic school as a center for evangelization and catechesis, stating “its catechetical program is essential to is distinctly Catholic identity and character” (p.231). It includes an important section on the hiring of the Catholic school principal (Section 9a) as well as the role Catholic schoolteachers play as models and witness of the faith as they act to form students in what it means to live life as a Christian.

All teachers in Catholic schools share in the catechetical ministry. ‘All members of the faculty, at least by their example, are an integral part of the process of religious education… Teachers’ life style and character are as important as their professional credentials’. Their daily witness to the meaning of mature faith and Christian living has a profound effect on the education and formation of their students (p. 233).

This witness is so important, the directory goes on to say, “While some situations might entail compelling reasons for members of another faith tradition to teach in a Catholic school, as much as possible, all teachers in a Catholic school should be practicing Catholics” (p. 233).

Section 61.4b states that religion programs in Catholic schools should be in harmony with the catechetical efforts of local parishes and diocesan catechetical priorities and that Catholic schools should be affordable, accessible, and open to all.

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. (2005). Renewing our commitment to Catholic elementary and secondary schools in the third millennium. Retrieved from http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/how-we-teach/catholic-education/upload/renewing-our-commitment-2005.pdf

This document was developed by the Committee on Education of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to reaffirm commitment to Catholic education and its fourfold purposes of  “providing an atmosphere in which the Gospel message is proclaimed, community in Christ is experienced, service to our sisters and brothers is the norm, and thanksgiving and worship of our God is cultivated” (par. 2). The document reiterates the value of Catholic education, citing some of the previous documents released by the Sacred Congregation of Catholic Education, and discusses the importance of Catholic schools especially for the economically poor and minority students in inner-city environments. The document addresses the changing demographics of the Church in America, citing the increase in the Hispanic/Latino population and the need to find and properly train lay administrators for positions in the Catholic school environment, develop new models for economic sustainability of schools, and continue advocacy of Catholic schools in the public policy arena. It recommends meetings across the country to address “critical issues of Catholic identity, cultural diversity, finances, just wages and benefits, academic quality—especially in the area of religious education—alternative governance models, and the marketing of our Catholic schools.”

Congregation for Catholic Education. (2007). Educating together in Catholic schools: A shared mission between consecrated persons and the lay faithful. Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/ccatheduc/documents/rc_con_ ccatheduc_doc_20070908_educare-insieme_en.html

This document from the Congregation for Catholic Education “considers the pastoral aspects regarding cooperation between lay and consecrated persons within the same educational mission. In it, the choice of the lay faithful to live their educational commitment as ‘a personal vocation in the Church, and not simply as… the exercise of a profession’” (#6). Catholic education is discussed from the perspective of communion, defined as union both with God and neighbor. Aspects of communion are further described, and importance is placed upon the Catholic educator as being a person living in communion, with a spirituality of communion, and living for communion with Christ and with others.

As “a consecrated person is called to testify his or her specific vocation to a life of communion in love so as to be in the scholastic community a sign, a memorial and a prophecy of the values of the Gospel, so too a lay educator is required to exercise ‘a specific mission within the Church by living, in faith, a secular vocation in the communitarian structure of the school’” (#15).

Sufficient detail is given to the professional and spiritual formation of those working in Catholic schools. All should continually update methodologies and knowledge of culture, psychology, and pedagogical approaches. Catholic educators must possess a “sensitivity with regard to the person to be educated in order to grasp not only the request for growth in knowledge and skills, but also the need for growth in humanity” (#24).

For this reason, Catholic educators need “a ‘formation of the heart’: they need to be led to that encounter with God in Christ which awakens their love and opens their spirits to others”, so that their educational commitment becomes “a consequence deriving from their faith, a faith which becomes active through love (cf. Gal 5:6)”. In fact, even “care for instruction means loving” (Wis 6:17). It is only in this way that they can make their teaching a school of faith, that is to say, a transmission of the Gospel, as required by the educational project of the Catholic school (#25).

Communion not only includes collaboration among colleagues, but also with parents, the local community, and the entire Church.

Congregation for Catholic Education. (2013). Educating to intercultural dialogue in Catholic schools: Living in harmony for a civilization of love. Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/ccatheduc/documents/rc_con_ ccatheduc_doc_20131028_dialogo-interculturale_en.html

Primarily aimed at parents, teachers, and other personnel in Catholic schools, this document from the Congregation for Catholic Education addresses what it sees as a central challenge of education—the acceptance of various cultural expressions among all peoples and the necessity to overcome prejudices and build harmony among cultures without losing one’s own identity and pedagogical vision. Culture is defined as the “particular expression of human beings, their specific way of being and organizing their presence in the world” (Ch. 1, #1). While dialogue and clarity regarding the understanding of other religions is discussed, it is done so with “faithfulness to one’s own Christian identity” (#16). Catholic schools, as institutions of evangelization and enculturation, are seen as places where this intercultural dialogue should take place. In order for this dialogue to be effective, it must be “set-out from a deep-seated knowledge of the specific identity of the various dialogue partners. From this point of view, diversity ceases to be seen as a problem. Instead, a community characterized by pluralism is seen as a resource, a chance for opening up the whole system to all differences of origin, relationship between men and women, social status and educational history” (#27). Culture is discussed from a theological, anthropological, and pedagogical perspective before focus is placed practical applications of the transmission of culture in Catholic schools. “The contribution that Catholicism can make to education and to intercultural dialogue is in their reference to the centrality of the human person, who has his or her constitutive element in relationships with others. Catholic schools have in Jesus Christ the basis of their anthropological and pedagogical paradigm…” (#57).

Of importance to Catholic educators and administrators are the sections titled, “The curriculum as the expression of the school’s identity” (#64-69) and the sections directed toward the formation and profession of teachers and administrators (#76-86). A Catholic school’s programs “can be harmonized with the school’s original mission” (#65), and their curricula should “place on centre-stage both individuals and their search for meaning. This is the reference value, in view of which the various academic disciplines are important resources… From this perspective, what is taught is not neutral, and neither is the way of teaching it” (#65).

Catholic schools are encouraged to promote a wisdom-based society, to go beyond knowledge and educate people to think, evaluating facts in the light of values… In teaching the various academic disciplines, teachers share and promote a methodological viewpoint in which the various branches of knowledge are dynamically correlated, in a wisdom perspective. The epistemological framework of every branch of knowledge has its own identity, both in content and methodology. However, this framework does not relate merely to ‘internal’ questions, touching upon the correct realization of each discipline. Each discipline is not an island inhabited by a form of knowledge that is distinct and ring-fenced; rather, it is in a dynamic relationship with all other forms of knowledge, each of which expresses something about the human person and touches upon some truth. (#66-67) Moreover, it must be pointed out that teaching the Catholic religion in schools has its own aims, different from those of catechesis. In fact, while catechesis promotes personal adherence to Christ and maturing of the Christian life, school teaching gives the students knowledge about Christianity’s identity and the Christian life. Thus, one aims ‘to enlarge the area of our rationality, to reopen it to the larger questions of the truth and the good, to link theology, philosophy and science between them in full respect for the methods proper to them and for their reciprocal autonomy, but also in the awareness of the intrinsic unity that holds them together.’ (#74)

The formation of Catholic school teachers and administrators is discussed as not simply an initial formation, but an initiation into an on-going, professional learning community of scholars who collaborate with each other and integrate their ideas and faith into the subjects they teach. Their camaraderie goes beyond the classroom to a personal level and their responsibilities as teachers does not end when the final bell rings, for “Good teachers know that their responsibilities do not end outside the classroom or school. They know that their responsibilities are also connected with their local area, and are demonstrated by their understanding for today’s social problems…teachers must be able to provide their students with the cultural tools necessary for giving direction to their lives” (#83).

In its conclusion, the document states Catholic schools are to “avoid both fundamentalism and ideas of relativism where everything is the same. Instead, they are encouraged to progress in harmony with the identity they have received from their Gospel inspiration.”

Congregation for Catholic Education. (2015). Educating today and tomorrow: A renewing passion. Retrieved from http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/ccatheduc/documents/rc_ con_ccatheduc_doc_20140407_ educare-oggi-e-domani_en.html

This post-synodol document from the Congregation for Catholic Education focuses on the need for Catholic education to “convey vital values and principles to younger generations” and to “contribute to building the common good” (Introduction).  Both the context and approach of teaching in a Catholic school are described. The context is the collaborative, unified learning and teaching environment where care and concern is exhibited between teachers and students; where a wealth of opportunities exist for students to thrive and develop their talents; where the cognitive, affective, social, professional, ethical and spiritual dimensions of the person are all addressed; and where ideas are respected, dialogue is free-flowing, and a rigorous commitment towards truth is found. The approach to teaching and learning engages one in the pursuit of knowledge and research where “Engagement in knowledge and research cannot be separated from a sense of ethics and transcendence: no real science can disregard ethical consequences and no real science drives us away from transcendence. Science and ethics, science and transcendence are not mutually exclusive, but come together for a greater and better understanding of man and the world” (II, #2). The pedagogy of teaching includes the centrality of the learner within a relationship where teachers are trained and prepared to guide and accompany students toward deeper learning and challenging goals.

Challenges of Catholic education are to “make young people realize the beauty of faith in Jesus Christ and of religious freedom in a multireligious universe. In every environment, whether it is favorable or not, Catholic educators will have to be credible witnesses” (III). The educational vision for Catholic education must sit within a “philosophical anthropology that must also be an anthropology of truth, i.e., a social anthropology whereby man is seen in his relations and way of being; an anthropology of recollection and promise; an anthropology that refers to the cosmos and cares about sustainable development; and, even more, an anthropology that refers to God” (III).

Education is not just knowledge, but also experience: it links together knowledge and action; it works to achieve unity amongst different forms of knowledge and pursues consistency. It encompasses the affective and emotional domains, and is also endowed with an ethical dimension: knowing how to do things and what we want to do, daring to change society and the world, and serving the community. Education is based on participation, shared intelligence and intelligence interdependence; dialogue, self-giving, example, cooperation and reciprocity are also equally important elements (III).

Challenges to Catholic schools include an increased hostility toward private, religious education by local and national governments.

The document addresses Catholic higher education and its challenges and then concludes with a quote from Pope Francis to educators (below) and a questionnaire.

Do not be disheartened in the face of the difficulties that the educational challenge presents. Educating is not a profession but an attitude, a way of being; in order to educate it is necessary to step out of ourselves and be among young people, to accompany them in the stages of their growth and to set ourselves beside them; Give them hope and optimism for their journey in the world. Teach them to see the beauty and goodness of creation and of man who always retains the Creator’s hallmark. But above all with your life be witnesses of what you communicate (Conclusion).