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For many decades Catholic schools were recognised and highly valued as an essential rock and nursery of the Faith - an essential feature of our Catholic Australian environment - providing strength and virility, showing us how to live our Catholic Faith.
They also provided the impetus and inspiration - the nursery - for countless priestly and religious vocations for many decades. There were so many priests and religious then that a surplus was even permitted or encouraged to travel abroad to assist with the overseas missions.
Parents were then acutely aware, indeed enthused, that their children should attend Catholic schools to foster and cultivate the on- going growth of their Catholic faith. This appreciation and expectation was widespread and rarely questioned.
Gratification was expressed on all sides when many of these children were inspired by what they learnt from dedicated teachers, and what they experienced of a Catholic culture, to embrace vocations to the priesthood and religious life.
There was no dire serious shortage of vocations in Australia during those years. At the same time, the mainstream laity were constantly filling their parish churches each Sunday, and it was woe-betide anyone arriving late for Mass; indeed it was a case of standing room only. Confessions would often continue for hours to cope with the crowds.
But in recent times these signs of a flourishing Faith have all but disappeared. Today it is clear something is amiss with the Catholic schools which are now contributing relatively little to the health of the Church.
Church statistics constantly report that the great majority of Catholic students abandon their faith upon leaving their schools. Priestly and religious vocations are all but non- existent in many dioceses.
Some schools employ non- Catholic teachers or Catholic teachers unable or unwilling to demonstrate a positive, prayerful example of a vigorous Catholic Faith to their students.
Meanwhile, the numbers at Sunday Mass have fallen to a pitiful fraction compared with past decades.
This sorry saga continues to unfold in full view of our Hierarchy. Yet we hear or read few if any expressions of concern or outrage, individually or collectively, let alone any drastic action being set in motion.
Meantime, we should pray for brighter horizons to soon appear.
Reprinted from AD2000 Vol 20 No 2 (March 2007), p. 14
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