Catholic Education of School Age Children
Eighteen months ago the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference produced a document that highlighted the more significant challenges faced by Catholic school. More importantly it gave a vision for Catholic education. Response to the document was extensive and varied.
In most dioceses, professional development opportunities were offered by local Catholic Education offices. This initial level of engagement with the document prompted considerable self-review as schools considered both their areas of success and areas for development that would see their school a place where students experienced ‘a meaningful encounter with the person of Jesus Christ’.
The many stakeholders involved in Catholic children’s education were also also challenged to consider how they could best respond to the document. It became evident that the document was the ‘start point’ for considering paths forward, whether in the areas of religious education, professional development, liturgical celebrations, retreats or other.
The Bishops’ introductory letter within the document reminds us ‘Pope Francis has been calling us to imagine with freshness who we are as God’s people. Every generation of Christians seeks understanding and clarity about our nature and purpose as disciples of Jesus. For we adults this is particularly important if we are to contribute effectively to the sacred duty to pass on or faith to the next generation. (Dei Verbum 7,8). In his first homily as Pope, Francis said: “we can walk (and talk) as much as we like, we can build many things, but if we do not profess Jesus Christ … we are not the Church … everything is swept away.”
‘This resource puts the encounter with Jesus at the centre of Catholic education … It is our expectation it become an indispensable reference point for all Trust Boards, Boards of
Trustees, school and diocesan staff as well as parish-based educators in faith and parish councils. It is a robust document which does not shy from highlighting challenges for us all … as together we strive to shape every family and every educational institute into disciples of a single teacher, Jesus the Lord and Saviour of our Word!’
The idea of ‘imagining with freshness’ speaks of exciting new beginnings. We in Catholic education have the privilege of being a part of that as we continue to engage with bringing the Bishops’ vision to life.