Original article published by Catholic Education, Diocese of Parramatta
Catholic pastors and school leaders in Catholic Education from throughout NSW and the ACT gathered at Rosehill Gardens on Thursday 14 June for a day of reflecting, sharing and strengthening schools as centres of the new evangelisation.
The Catholic Dioceses of Parramatta, Broken Bay and Wollongong and the Sydney Archdiocese were well represented among the delegates, which numbered in excess of 1,000.
Hosted by the Bishop of Parramatta, Most Rev Anthony Fisher OP, the day included keynote addresses from Secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education, Archbishop Jean‑Louis Bruguès OP, and Professor Richard Rymarz from the University of Alberta. Participants also had a choice of workshops focused on the topic of new evangelisation.
In introducing the day, Bishop Anthony made reference to the 2007 joint pastoral letter of the Bishops of NSW and the ACT - Catholic Schools at a Crossroads - which called upon Catholic schools today to be centres of the new evangelisation.
“(The Bishops) asked the whole Catholic community to join them in recommitting to Catholic schooling in the 21st century, while challenging all those involved to dedicate themselves to ensuring that our schools are truly Catholic in their identity and life, enable students to achieve high levels of Catholic religious literacy and practice, and are led and staffed by people who will contribute to the mission,” Bishop Anthony said.
“Living and working at the centre of the Church, Archbishop Bruguès is uniquely placed to offer an international perspective on the challenges of making our schools centres of the new evangelisation. He knows the situation in countries alike and different to ours, what has worked or failed in them.”
Bright future ahead for the ‘time of the teachers’
In his address, Archbishop Bruguès OP outlined the current situation of Catholic education across the world and the role of the Catholic school.
|Archbishop Bruguès said educators must recognise both the humanistic and formative nature of Catholic schools.|
“The Catholic school is essentially a school with a sense of curiosity, interested in all the various forms of knowledge and the multiple dimensions of human culture,” the Archbishop said.
“Catholic schools aim at excellence: excellence of knowledge, excellence of its pedagogy, and excellence in transmission.”
With the changing nature of today’s world, Archbishop Bruguès feared Catholic schools were at risk of becoming irrelevant if they favoured nostalgia over evolution.
“Former models which worked in the past have little relevancy nowadays. Indeed, pedagogy is a matter which is by nature, in constant evolution: one can no longer teach today in the same way as 40 or even 20 years ago. Therefore a Catholic school must adapt to these evolutions and even ‑ why not - anticipate upon them.”
In identifying the way forward in responding to these changes, Archbishop Bruguès said that Catholic educators needed to recognise both the humanistic and formative nature of Catholic schools.
“Humanism is a good thing, it is even absolutely necessary, but it is not enough. The educational mission of the Church goes back to its origins. Her concern for the formation of young people has been as such as to make her dedicate her best sons and daughters to this service,” Archbishop Bruguès said.
“Catechesis is everybody’s business inside the school. Christianity has given birth to a wonderful culture to be witnessed in philosophy, literature, music, architecture, painting and has given rise to an art of living and a wisdom which stand as a peak in world history.
“The choice to enrol in a Catholic school should then necessarily imply an initiation to this wisdom and culture.”
Archbishop Bruguès acknowledged that educational institutions across the world are suffering the same social, economic and political pressures but the ‘time of the teachers’ has a bright future ahead.
“I know that your profession is not an easy one. Yet it remains the most beautiful job in the world. Indeed, it is thanks to you that memory prepares its future, and mankind is born to itself.”
“The wisdom and beauty of our faith”
Executive Director of Schools, Greg Whitby, said that the day was a wonderful opportunity, at the invitation of Bishop Anthony, for education and school staff to come together across the state and interstate, with the focus on the evangelising role of Catholic schools.
In his response to Archbishop Bruguès’ address, Greg said Catholic schools in Australia are well placed to guide young people to thrive and contribute in a positive and meaningful way.
“Now, more than ever, young people need and desire a connection to God – they search for a spiritual home,” Greg said.
'You have encouraged us today, as Catholic educators, to celebrate and witness to our rich religious and cultural heritage in the formation of our Catholic students and the awakening of our non-Catholic students to the wisdom and beauty of our faith.”
Professor Richard Rymarz provided the second keynote address for the day and focused on providing some practical strategies and explore creative ways in strengthening Catholic schools as centres of the new evangelisation.
“A revitalised religious education in Catholic schools can make an enormous contribution to the new evangelisation if it can explore the interface between the legitimate questions of young people and the Christian message,” Professor Rymarz said.“I am stressing the need for Catholic schools to think much more seriously and much more creatively about ways in which they can provide support to those who wish to learn more about or to live the Christian life more fully.”
Address by Most Rev Anthony Fisher OP: 'Forming Young People of Principle, Purpose and Passion' - Priests and Principals Forum, Sebel Hotel Parramatta, Friday 15 June 2012