Catholic educators have to help their students become saints to measure their fruitfulness.
“As Catholic educators we have an obligation to take seriously, the fostering in our students of a relationship with God and Jesus Christ,” said the Most Reverend, Archbishop of Vancouver, J. Michael Miller.
His Grace told an Archdiocese of Sydney conference for religious educators and Principals that Catholic schools did not exist to serve the economic rationale of preparing people for the labour market.
“We cannot allow such a vision to dominate who we are,” he said.
“You’re not in this to provide better and more successful workers for the Australian economy, such a vision is simply too narrow,” he told school leaders at the “Unpacking the Archbishop’s Charter” day.
The Archbishop’s Charter for Catholic Schools was published by the Most Reverend, Archbishop Anthony Fisher as a statement of the vision and mission of Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Sydney.
Archbishop Miller said the school curriculum should help students to reflect on the great problems of our time and he quoted the Charter that echoed this call.
“Everything that happens in Catholic schools should lead to an encounter with the living Christ,” he said referring to the statement from the Congregation for Catholic Education in 2014.
He told the gathering that spirituality is the guiding principle of education.
His Grace said there should be a spirituality of communion at schools that c contradicts the values of competition and the “getting ahead” attitude in society.
He said this communion should consist of mutual trust and responsibility rather than ruthless competition and damaging indifference.
He said if the Catholic faith is not taught at Catholic schools, then secularism fills the void and Catholic schools needed to teach “what is true, what is good, what is beautiful”, he said.
“At the heart of Catholic education there is always Jesus Christ,”
Archbishop Miller said there is a unique Catholic take on the world because of a culture “shaped by reflection, action, service, doctrine, prayer – all grounded in the teachings of Jesus Christ,”
“We don’t merely teach about him, anyone can do that… religious instruction without evangelisation is no longer sufficient… their separation is disastrous,” he told the group.
He quoted Pope John Paul II when he visited Melbourne in 1986 who told teachers: “You are not isolated agents in an impersonal bureaucracy, you are not merely professional educators, you are called to be faith inspired collaborators in the heart of the Christian community.”
He said it was the sacred duty of teachers to pass on the faith.
“The duty of a teacher is, as Pope Francis likes to say, to proclaim “the joy of the Gospel”,” he said.
Schools must be examples of Christian life and, he said, if teachers are not at that stage in spiritual maturity, it’s up to the leaders of schools to provide them with help to accompany them on that journey.
“A disgruntled or dissident teacher is a fish out of water and I think has no place in a Catholic school to which parents entrust their children for formation in the faith,”
They cannot give the expected witness, he added.
In his address called “Nurturing authentic Catholic school communities”, he told school educators that Catholic schools need to be more intentional in a secular world.
“They need to show witness grounded in the Gospel,” he said.
When asked by About Catholic Schools to describe “intentionality” and if Family Educators were an example of this, His Grace said he was not aware of the Family Educator role in Archdiocese schools but that it was a very strong way to demonstrate intentional faith.
His Grace said it was wonderful that the Archdiocese had the resources to do it but the role did not exist in Canadian Catholic schools.
“That’s a great blessing and it’s not common in the United States either, the role of the Family Educator is dumped on everyone, … you’ve got something that’s terrific then,” he said.
He said Catholics should not be ashamed of the fact that we are Catholic and that our views are based on the Gospel.
“In Canada we have a temptation to make everything appear as if it’s widely shared by people who are non-believers… many things are, but somethings clearly are not,”
“I think we now have to be probably clearer about that and people should be tolerant of views that are expressed from a perspective that is built upon faith,”
He reminded the group that the Pope has issued an urgent appeal to chart a new way forward in evangelising the faith.
His Grace has been Archbishop of Vancouver since 2009 and his episcopal motto is “to serve the truth”.
In 2003, he was appointed Secretary of the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education.
He has had leadership roles in Catholic education for decades. He’s run seminaries, sat on school boards, been president of a university and is an esteemed author.