Catholic schools are communities of faith and learning whose educational vision is based upon the central teachings and values of the Catholic Church. This vision sees the world as God’s creation and humans as the image of God: God as Father who draws all to fulfilment, each with a particular role to play; God as Son who became human both to save and to guide us as we journey through life; and God as Spirit gracing and inspiring all towards full life within God.
Catholic schools aim to help all students to develop their fullest potential, preparing them for life, informing their minds and forming their characters so that they can contribute with others, and with God, to the transformation of their world. This entails looking to a fullness of life with God, fulfilled in eternal life which is not “an imaginary hereafter . . . [but] . . . is present wherever God is loved and wherever his life reaches us.”[i]
Catholic schools are communities which are open, welcoming and inclusive. The Church expects that Catholic schools, working with parents and families, will seek to prepare pupils to find happiness and to lead lives of goodness, built upon Christian values, personal integrity and moral courage:
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.[ii]
The faith mission of the Catholic school is explicit not only in its religious education programmes but in all aspects of the school’s life. A vision of education inspired by Jesus Christ, who came into our world so that we might “have life and have it in all its fullness”[iii], is concerned with the development of the whole person and is the foundation of the Catholic school’s learning and the hallmark of its ethos:
The Catholic school . . . with its educational service that is enlivened by the truth of the Gospel . . . faithful to its vocation . . . appears as a place of integral education of the human person through a clear educational project of which Christ is the centre.[iv]
Pope Benedict XVI has made explicit the Church’s understanding of the centrality of Christ in the Catholic school:
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.[v]
The challenge for the Catholic school is to provide structured opportunities of encounter with Jesus, opportunities to learn about His life, to understand His teaching, to develop the virtues and values which He promotes and to follow His witness in service to others. Such opportunities, provided across the life of the school, will promote genuine human growth not only for Catholic pupils but for those of other Christian denominations, other faiths or stances for living which may be independent of religious belief.
[i] Spe Salvi, Pope Benedict XVI, N.31
[ii] Lay Catholics in Schools: Witnesses to Faith, (LCS) Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education, 1982, No. 17
[iii] John 10:10
[iv] The Catholic School on the Threshold of the Third Millennium, Congregation for Catholic Education, 1997, No. 4
[v] Address to Catholic Educators, Pope Benedict XVI, Washington DC, 17th April 2008