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Catholic schools of the future

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 Contents - Sep 2005AD2000 September 2005 - Buy a copy now
Editorial: Support the 2005 Fighting Fund! - Peter Westmore
Events: Sydney to host World Youth Day 2008 - AD2000 REPORT
News: The Chuch Around the World
Canadian Bishops' cave-in to 'renegade Catholicism' under fire
Priesthood: America's 'vocation rich' dioceses: latest success stories analysed - AD2000 Report
Can reverence at Mass make a comeback? - Michael Ryan
Interview: Benedict XVI and the power of the Eucharist - Fr John Corapi
Education: Catholic schools of the future - Br John Moylan CFC
Cinema: The Church under Nazism: a sensitive film portrayal in 'The Ninth Day' - Michael E. Daniel (reviewer)
BOOKS: The Myth of Hitler's Pope: How Pope Pius XII Rescued Jews from the Nazis - Thomas E. Woods Jr (reviewer)
A religious response to evil ideologies - John Rego
Letters: Liturgy - John Daly
Letters: Liberal manifesto - Dr Peter Gilet
Letters: Fatima and Benedict XVI - Paul MacLeod
Letters: Society of St Pius X - Fr Kevin Robinson
Events: C.S. Lewis Seminar - Sat 17 Sept 2005 2pm-9pm
Letters: Ethical medicine? - Dr A.W. Hartwig
Letters: Latin Mass - Richard Congram
Letters: Simple Catechisms - Rosanna Sherman
Letters: Gnosticism
Letters: Good reading - E. Pickering
Books: GOING AGAINST THE STREAM: Ethical Aspects of Ageing and Care, by Peter Jeffery - Kerrie Allen (reviewer)
Books: THE ART OF GIVING by Francine Black - Kerrie Allen (reviewer)
Books: THE PATH OF LIFE: Benedictine Spirituality for Monks and Lay People - Gabrielle Walsh (reviewer)
Books: STAIRWAY TO THE UPPER ROOM: Daily Meditations on the Gospel Readings - Michael Gilchrist (reviewer)
Books: The Holy Shroud, by Antonio Cassanelli - Gabrielle Walsh (reviewer)
Books: More good reading from AD Books
Reflection: Benedict XVI: how to make the new evangelisation more effective - Fr Dennis Byrnes PP

Br John Moylan BA (Adelaide), MA (Fordham), MEd(ACU) has had a lifetime of teaching experience and written extensively in Australian and overseas journals on the purpose and practice of Australian Catholic schools. Most recently he was invited to Chavagnes International College in France where he was the Religious Education Co-ordinator.

In this article, Br Moylan asks whether it is possible today to establish Catholic schools which are uncompromisingly and unashamedly Catholic.

Is it possible in today's climate to set up Catholic upper primary and secondary schools which educate and form their students in the Catholic faith in a way that their parents believe is best for their children?

Catholic schools in Australia have been marked by their diversity: agricultural, technical, day, boarding, single sex, co-educational, choir, scholarship, for the blind, deaf or handicapped, large and small, expensive, as well as schools for indigenous Australians. The list goes on.

This variety of schools attempts to cater for differing parental perceptions of the educational needs of their children. It is, of course, Church teaching that parents have prime responsibility for the Catholic education of their children.

For decades during the last century, among these differentiated Catholic schools were secondary schools, called junior seminaries and juniorates. They were schools for boys and girls who believed they were called to the priesthood or religious life. The Church, families and nation have benefited greatly from the services of their past students, who can be found in most walks of life.

As well as giving their students an excellent all-round education, juniorates and junior seminaries helped their students lead a more intensive prayer life, explore their vocation, and develop strong, lively faith in a more supportive atmosphere than was thought possible in other Catholic schools.

Pope John Paul II clarified the primary purpose of Australian Catholic schools simply and powerfully in his millennial message to 100,000 Catholic school students and their teachers who were assembled in Stadium Australia, Sydney, on St Patrick's Day, 17 March 2000. He could hardly have found a setting, feast day and year richer in symbolism to emphasise the importance of his message.

The Vicar of Christ stated: "Catholic schools have grown more complex, but at their heart lies a great and simple truth. They are above all to be schools of holiness. They exist primarily to give saints to the world."

In their longing for their children to lead a holy life, and to grow in holiness in union with the Church, there are some loyal Catholic parents who, as a matter of conscience, believe strongly that their children need a Catholic school markedly different from those readily available today.

The Church, in her concern for the faithful, commands that Catholics receive Communion at least once a year within the appointed time. Another Church law is that Catholics confess their sins once a year. However, good Catholic parents certainly strongly encourage their children to participate in the sacraments much more frequently. They believe, along with the Church, that, ordinarily speaking more frequent reception of the sacraments is necessary if one is serious in pursuing a life of holiness.


In a somewhat similar way, there are parents searching for Catholic schools which require more and better prepared Eucharistic celebrations, more opportunities to receive the sacraments, more constant help to prepare for them, and fuller participation in the rituals of the Liturgical Year than is commonly required in current Catholic schools. They want feast days, including as a high priority those of Our Lady, to be highlighted and celebrated with more intensity than they are normally in many busy and complex Catholic schools today.

The type of school which the parents under discussion here deeply believe their children need is one which teaches by word, example and culture clearly, strongly and convincingly, at the appropriate time, all the doctrinal and moral teachings of the Church. This includes, of course, teaching by word and example with proper priority and emphasis, those doctrines most under siege by the media and dissident Catholics.

They want their children to learn not only to articulate carefully Catholic teaching with precision and conviction, but also to know thoroughly by heart, both in Latin and English, the great classical prayers which have inspired generations of Catholics. They believe their children, as far as possible, should be able to chant, and sing in unison and in parts some of the great classical masterpieces which are part of their children's cultural heritage.

Some parents speak of their strong desire to have their children immersed in the best in Catholic thought and literature. They are searching for a school which would give their children much knowledge of Our Lady and the saints, and provide the impetus to imitate them. They are looking for school libraries which give pride of place to abundant and appropriate Catholic literature. They want their sons and daughters to participate in carefully chosen school plays of merit which promote Christian life and virtue.

Indeed, everything occurring in the school would need careful attention, in the view of these parents, to maximise the opportunity for their children to enjoy a first-rate all round education in an environment where there is no doubt where the school's priority lies.

They are aware of their children's vulnerability and the importance of the example and support of those with whom they share each school day. They believe that such good example does not only include such matters as the avoidance of drug-taking, but extends to a cheerful willingness to pray, assist at Mass, and to strong love for and loyalty to the Church and its teachings.

Catholic heroes

Is such a school possible? Yes. One along the lines described has been established in a French village which is the world headquarters of two missionary congregations. Named Chavagnes International College, and easily accessible in a little over an hour from London, it is an English-speaking boys' college, which prepares boys between the ages of 10 to 18 for the Cambridge International Examinations.

Teachers, students and parents, including parents of seven Australian boys, glow in their praise of that school which unashamedly and uncompromisingly demands from its pupils a very high standard in religious practice, study, good behaviour and generosity of spirit. The school, supported by the Bishop of Lućon, bills itself as "A school for Catholic heroes". Its website can be found easily.

Is it possible for Australia to establish Catholic schools similar to Chavagnes - to require a higher level of education and formation in the Catholic faith and cultural heritage than some, including a significant number of Catholic educators, deem possible in current Catholic schools? Are the prayers and most fervent hopes of parents who desperately believe their children need such an education to be denied?

Chavagnes International College is a monument to what the grace of God, and a small number of determined parents supported by self- sacrificing, devoutly Catholic and talented educators can do.

I believe that throughout Australia there are parents who, with the support of their bishop, are more than capable of establishing small, outstanding Catholic schools of the type described above.

It is one of the blessings of my life to have had more than two years' experience at Chavagnes after a lifetime of teaching and studying in Catholic schools. I would be more than happy to provide any advice I can if any diocese, religious congregation or group of parents would like to establish a Catholic school along the lines described. There are pitfalls, but, I believe, there is nothing insurmountable, and the rewards are very great. I may be contacted via AD2000 magazine.

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Reprinted from AD2000 Vol 18 No 8 (September 2005), p. 10

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