1 What is the Pope Benedict XVI Caritas Award?
The CARITAS AWARD has been established by the Bishops of Scotland as one way of keeping alive the legacy of Pope Benedict’s historic visit to our country in 2010. It uses 3 elements – Witness, Learning & Reflection – and provides a structure through which to experience, record and share the impact of these on their faith journey.
While the award takes account of a young person’s faith witness in one year, it is built on the learning and reflection that (s)he has experienced over a course of time within school and parish. It is intended that the award will encourage young people to recognise that they are part of a parish community of living faith and to consider how they can share their gifts and talents with the wider Church in the future.
2 Who can participate in the award?
The CARITAS AWARD is open to all young people in their final year of school. Pupils of all ability levels will be able to achieve the award. Pupils of all faiths and denominations will be welcome to join in and achieve the award.
Each school can decide locally which pupils they would like to invite to participate. Some schools may invite all S6 pupils to ‘sign up’; others may ask pupils to ‘apply’ to participate and others may approach individual pupils who would benefit from the experience. However schools decide to involve pupils, it should be noted that the award is intended to be inclusive of all pupils who meet the success criteria.
3 Can parishes nominate young people?
Where a parish has no associated Catholic secondary school, it may wish to nominate young people who are in their final school year and are likely to meet the awards criteria. Parish co-ordinators can be provided with resources which will support the Witness, Learning and Reflection of participants. They will be required to arrange appropriate ‘Gathering Points’ to support the young people involved and to make the final submission for the award.
4 What is expected of award participants?
Participants will be asked to record and share their learning about, and living of, their faith. The award uses learning about faith (across the school) as a starting point for further reflection which leads to action (witness). Participants should be supported in deciding how they can develop and use their gifts in a way that witnesses to God’s love in their communities.
Pupils will be expected to attend and participate in Religious Education lessons within school, as normal. In addition, they will be supported throughout the award year to reflect on their learning experience and they will contribute their time and talents to a chosen activity or ‘ministry’ within school and in a local parish or faith community. The impact of this learning, witness and reflection will provide the evidence used to assess if pupils have met the award criteria.
5 What evidence is needed to obtain the award?
Throughout the year participants will be asked to gather and submit evidence of their Faith Witness, Faith Learning and Faith Reflection. This evidence will be noted, recorded and gathered together for assessment purposes.
Pupils will complete a variety of faith Learning experiences across the school year within R.E., other curriculum subjects, whole school activities etc and they are asked to consider how this learning has influenced their thinking and actions. The Gathering Points play a key role in deepening pupil learning through the exploration of Scripture and Church Teaching. In participating in the Gathering Points and using the associated journal activities pupils will build a portfolio of evidence across the year to demonstrate their faith learning. Pupils will also be expected to log their participation in school and parish faith witness activities. A minimum time requirement of 20 hours for each is necessary to gain the CARITAS AWARD.
SCES provides resources to support and guide pupils through a process of prayer, faith reflection and discernment, connecting their learning, reflection and witness during the award year. The main resources provided will take the form of the 4 Gathering Point presentations and the Caritas Journal. The completion of both is a necessary and important dimension of the CARTIAS AWARD. The fruits of this process will be used by pupils to report on the personal impact of participating in the award. This work can be shared in a number of ways and will be the main vehicle for assessing if pupils have met the criteria for the award.
SUMMARY OF EVIDENCE REQUIRED:
- FAITH LEARNING – 4 assessment tasks linked to Gathering Points (assessed within school)
- FAITH WITNESS – log-sheetrecord of activities (assessed within school)
- FAITH REFLECTION – Caritas Journal and final report on impact (assessed by CAritas Assessors)
6 Does this mean that R.E. courses should be changed?
The CARITAS AWARD has been designed to allow young people to take what they have learned about their faith (through R.E. and other learning experiences) and apply it in a parish community context. The award materials focus in a particular way on Pope Benedict’s encyclical ‘Deus Caritas Est’ as a central point for learning and reflection. However the award also expects pupils to explore aspects of Scripture and Church teaching in addition to this. Pupils can choose any relevant faith related topic or theme and report on how this learning has impacted on their faith life and actions.
The award has been designed to allow each school to deliver the components in a way that is appropriate for their own context. Pupils can participate and successfully achieve the Caritas award outwith the planned Core R.E. lessons. However, if a school so decides, they can use the resources within Core R.E. to stimulate learning, discussion and reflection.
7 How much time out of class will pupils need to complete the award?
Each dimension of the award has been designed to support pupils as they:
- report on their learning
- come together to reflect on their faith journey
- independently volunteer to participate in faith witness activities.
Schools will decide how best to ‘gather’ pupils participating in the CARITAS award for 4 Gathering Points – times of reflection and discernment at different stages in the year. Some schools may wish to offer the content and experience of the Gathering Points to all S6 pupils as a form of prayer and reflection during core RE time. Others may decide to use the resources as the basis for assembly materials, and others may plan other times for the CARITAS AWARD pupils to come together to pray, reflect and share how their journey is progressing. However schools decide to use the resources, the tasks and prompts (associated with the Gathering Points which will assist the participants in gathering their thoughts, reflections and evidence) can be completed in the pupils’ own time.
It is expected that pupils will manage their own Faith Witness activities and the majority of these activities will be planned for out with class time. The report on Faith Learning and the Faith Witness activities should be completed during the pupils’ own time.
8 Will schools have to start new Faith Witness Activities?
The award is intended to recognise and celebrate much of the Faith Witness that already exists within schools. Schools will be expected to promote the ways in which pupils can become active in the faith life of the school and the local faith community.
However, schools may find that as a fruit of this new award, staff and pupils may become aware of opportunities and ministries which could be undertaken by pupils to support and enhance the faith life of the school. If these are initiated in one year they may then be maintained, nurtured and grown in successive years by pupils participating in the award.
9 What if there are pupils who are active in the life of the school but who do not participate in parish activities?
The Pope Benedict XVI CARITAS AWARD offers an opportunity to celebrate the rich experience of faith witness which young people can give within their communities. The award recognises that some of our pupils are already active and committed within their homes, schools, parishes and dioceses and invites others to take up an invitation and respond to God’s call of love.
The success criteria for the CARTIAS AWARD for all pupils are the same. As the faith witness activity is linked to putting God’s love into action and reflection upon the impact of this action, it is important that pupils understand from the outset the faith dimension of the CARITAS AWARD.
Pupils who do not belong to a parish or faith community can achieve the success criteria by becoming involved in a parish associated with the school, a diocesan group or a national body such as SCIAF or Justice & Peace. They can also work with another recognised faith community within the local area.
There are several awards and qualifications already available to recognise the achievement, contribution and participation of pupils in the many roles and activities which they undertake in their local communities. The CARITAS AWARD is about recognising and promoting FAITH-BASED WITNESS.
10 What if a pupil lives in a parish where there are limited opportunities to contribute to parishactivities?
All parish clergy are encouraged to welcome approaches by young people and to encourage parish organisations to consider their involvement. The range of activities undertaken by a variety of Church, parish and diocesan organisations and lay movements may interest pupils.
It is important that pupils investigate the variety of ways in which they can witness to their faith and do not see parish involvement as being limited to activities and ministries solely connected with liturgies and the ‘Church building’.
Pupils may choose to divide their activities between a local parish activity and a diocesan activity such as ‘Youth to Lourdes’ or participation in World Youth Day. Whatever the pupil decides, the action must be related to the ongoing work of the Church and they must be able to report on the impact that this action has had on their local parish life. Pupils may also decide to work in a parish associated with the school if there are activities and ministries that they are interested in which are not present within their own parish at this time.
There are also a number of Church organisations which support the mission to evangelise and promote the teachings of the Universal Church. Pupils may wish to investigate the possibilities of contributing to their work, along with their faith witness within their local parish community, to experience being part of the wider Church.
11 How can we encourage local parishes in supporting pupils?
During the first two years of the CARITAS AWARD, various ways to communicate and involve local parishes and faith communities across the country were explored. Some examples of approaches which have been particularly beneficial are detailed below. Examples of ways to maintain communication throughout the year are also given
DEANERY MEETING: The Caritas co-ordinator wrote to the dean of the local area and arranged to attend a deanery meeting. There they were able to share the aims of the award and the hopes of the school for the pupils participating. The local clergy were able to ask questions and find out which pupils from their parishes were enrolled. This was seen as a positive first step in ensuring that local parishes were aware of the award and knew who was involved.
CARITAS MEET AND GREET: One school had an evening within the school where all the local priests were invited to meet with the Caritas pupils. This was an informal evening and the conversations happened over a cup of tea and cake. Following on from this ‘meet and greet’ event, the local parishes shared a list of actions that would be of help to them with the co-ordinator. The co-ordinator was then able to take this to the pupils and ask them to ‘sign up’ to an action that they were interested in.
This approach was welcomed by local priests as it happened early on in the school session, they were able to meet the pupils within their parish who were involved and to suggest some potential faith witness activities. The local clergy were also content that the pupils were engaged in an action within the deanery framework, even if they were not within their own parish. The pupils felt comfortable that the evening happened in school and that they were all together. The co-ordinator also benefitted from not having to negotiate individual actions with each parish and each pupil.
OPEN EVENING: One school extended an invitation to all of the local Church organisations* within the local parishes to come to an evening where they could share what they did and why they did it. The Caritas pupils divided into their own small parish groups and the guests shared in their work. Pupils then made a decision of which organisation to volunteer to help.
(*The organisations included different ministries and services within the parishes as well as structured organisations. For example the SSDP, Pro –Life group and Legion of Mary were represented as were the Children’s liturgy co-ordinator, the person responsible for the prayers of the faithful, the volunteer who collated the parish bulletin.)
SCRIPTED LETTER: Some schools decided that a scripted letter of introduction would be a useful aid for pupils to approach their local parish priest. The school gave them each a personalised letter that outlined the award and the success criteria. Pupils then spoke to the priest at a time of their choosing to ask if they could become involved in the parish.
NOMINATED PARISH CO-ORDINATOR: Some parishes have a nominated parish co-ordinator who, on behalf of the priest, looks after the administration of the log sheets. This has helped to ensure that there is one contact person for both the school and pupils, but also that the priest is confident that the faith witness actions are related to parish activities.
Where there is not yet a named parish co-ordinator for each associated parishes, schools are exploring the possibility of asking for one. This request has been done through the head teacher or school chaplain in some cases.
PARISH GATHERING POINT: Another idea is to choose a point in the year to share with the parish community what the CARITAS AWARD is and how the pupils have been working to achieve this. An idea has evolved to have one of the Gathering Points within a parish setting.
CATHOLIC EDUCATION WEEK: Many schools have reported that having Caritas pupils as their parish ambassadors during Catholic Education Week helped to build good working relationships with parishes.
TERM UPDATES: Many parishes report that once they have met a pupil at the beginning of the Caritas year they do not see or hear of them again. It may be worth considering an interim update for local parishes either in a newsletter or by having an afternoon/evening where the priest or parish representative attends for a short update from the school.
12 Which activities can be counted towards Faith Witness Activities?
It is important that pupils think about the reason behind their choice of activity and the impact that has on themselves and others. For example, one pupil may visit the local primary school to work with younger pupils as this will reflect well in their CV and personal statement for university. Another may do exactly the same activity but use this time with younger children to discern if they are being called by God to the vocation to teach. It is the motivation and reflection on the activity which makes it suitable for inclusion in the final submission for the CARITAS AWARD.
In guiding and advising pupils, the co-ordinator should ask individual pupils to reflect on the suitability of an activity or the timescale involved for logging. For example, pupils often are very enthusiastic about faith witness activities such as a 24 hour Fast. However, when they are asked to reflect on how much of that time was spent in public faith witness, they would agree that it was not the full 24 hour period. In negotiation with the co-ordinator an appropriate amount of hours can be agreed and logged.
13 What about pupils who are active in their faith witness but who would struggle to report on what they have done / learned?
The ways of gathering and reporting evidence for the award have been structured to ensure that all pupils who meet the criteria are able to achieve the award. Pupils will have a choice of formats for reporting on their experience. Schools can support and advise pupils as to the best way for them to demonstrate the impact of their faith journey during the award year.
Pupils can submit verbal and written evidence. Staff within schools can support pupils by using methods such as interviews and video evidence to demonstrate that pupils have met the award criteria.
14 Who will co-ordinate the award?
The CARITAS AWARD will be co-ordinated at different levels. SCES will co-ordinate and support schools with resources throughout the year. An independent assessment board will co-ordinate the judging of evidence and decide if pupils have met the award criteria.
Within the nominating schools / parishes a co-ordinator should facilitate the scheme and support pupils throughout the award year. The co-ordinator can be anyone with appropriate interest and skills. It is recommended that (s)he should work, in a team with other members of the school community, to help pupils as they journey through the CARITAS AWARD, supporting them in their choice of FAITH WITNESS, helping them to gather the evidence and report on their FAITH LEARNING and facilitating opportunities for the participants’ personal FAITH REFLECTION.
Some schools find it beneficial for the co-ordinator to come from outwith the R.E. department, as this gave pupils a sense of the holistic nature of the award. However schools choose their co-ordinators, it is important that pupils understand the timescale for submissions and where to access support if needed. The CARITAS team could also include the school chaplain, where there is one, someone to link with the R.E. Department and someone from the local parish(es) who could help with parish communications. It would need the active support of the school leadership team.
15 How much support will pupils need?
Pupils will be supported through the resources to work independently throughout the award. The Gathering Points and Faith Witness activities will emphasise that while “faith is a personal act, it is not an isolated act” and promote the aspect of belonging to a community of faith.
While the school co-ordinator and staff within school may need to help pupils to identify appropriate activities for their Faith Witness, the initiative to join in and commit to an action should be taken by each young person.
Pupils will need to be reminded of the timeline and evidence points throughout the year. Some pupils may need individual support and encouragement at different points throughout the year to gather evidence.
16 Can pupils work in groups?
Each of the 3 elements of the awards allows pupils the flexibility to explore dimensions of their faith journey in pairs, groups and as individuals.
Pupils may decide to commit to a school or parish Faith Witness activity together, or to use the same piece of learning as the basis for their report on Faith Learning. During the Gathering Points pupils may want to discuss and share their thoughts about the moments of Faith Reflection.
While pupils can work together throughout the CARITAS year, the evidence which they submit should be personal and individual and should reflect their own faith journey and the impact that participating in the award has had for them.
17 Will all pupils enrolled gain the award?
The CARTIAS AWARD requires certain success criteria to be met in order to gain the award. Co-ordinators are asked to monitor pupil progress throughout the year and to encourage pupils to complete all of the requirements. However, it is the pupils’ own responsibility to ensure that they have met all of the award success criteria. Co-ordinators may decide it is appropriate to withdraw pupils from the CARITAS AWARD if they are not on track to meet the requirements of the award..
It is expected that the school will internally assess all submissions and notify SCES of those who have successfully met all of the success criteria. The Awards panel will then sample submissions from each school to moderate and verify their decisions. Further details will be provided.
18 What if a pupil has not completed the award within the timescale?
The CARTIAS AWARD timeline has been developed to allow pupils to complete the award within one academic year. The final submission date has been set to ensure that there is time for the assessment board to mark each entry and to present the successful candidates with their awards at the beginning of June at the national ceremony.
However, if a pupil has not completed the award, the school co-ordinator can indicate to SCES that their entry has been postponed. As and when the pupil completes all of the elements of the award, a submission can be made and the entry will be marked. Separate arrangements will be made to deliver their medal and certificate to the young person.
19 How much will it cost?
At the time of enrolment schools are expected to pay an enrolment fee of £10 per pupil as a contribution towards the administrative and resource costs. A further £10 assessment fee will be charged in March for each pupil whose evidence is submitted for for assessment. This latter fee covers the cost of the Awards Ceremony.
20 How does the award link with the SQA award in Religion, Beliefs and Values?
Anyone successfully gaining the Caritas award will also meet the assessment criteria for the SQA award in Religion, Beliefs and Values.
Each school will require to register with the SQA to become a presenting centre for the award and therefore also complete SQA requirements for in-house assessment, verification and moderation.
As schools may also decide to present pupils for the SQA award who are not completing the Caritas award it will be necessary to consult the school’s SQA co-ordinator and decide if the Caritas co-ordinator should also be the point of contact for the SQA award.
19 Where can I get more information?
The SCES website continues to be the main vehicle for information, news and resources on the CARITAS AWARD. Schools and parishes are encouraged to forward news of local developments, photographs etc., to SCES and this will be added to the website. This sheet of FAQs will also be updated as the scheme develops.
Throughout the year SCES will send updates via e-mail to the CARITAS co-ordinator. It is therefore important to let SCES know should any contact details change.
We are happy to answer any individual queries as they arise. Please do not hesitate to contact SCES for clarification on any aspect of the scheme. It is likely that the question which you wish to ask is already troubling other colleagues, so all enquiries will be welcomed.