Mr Richard Cunningham, secretary of the Catholic Education Council, told the Association for Teaching Religious last week that he was satisfied with the amount of public hacking for Church schools.
Mr Cunningham was addressing 450 sisters attending the annual conference of the Association at La Sainte Union College of Education, Southampton. He reassured the sisters on the problems currently facing Catholic schools and said the Government increase in aided school building grants from 80 per cent to 85 per cent would shortly be extended to colleges of education and schools in Northern Ireland.
He thought that there was no need to react to the hostile views occasionally expressed with any great degree of concern. Official Catholic policy towards comprehensivisation was to accept it and a recent brief from the Catholic Education Council suggested few, if any. Catholic grammar schools would "go independent."
The need to reduce the intake of student teachers in colleges of education was caused by the falling school population and designed to avoid future teacher unemployment. There were still a great number of teacher-trainees to come out of the colleges in the next few years to supply staffing needs.
The theme of the conference was "Learning to Pray" and Cardinal Heenan in a message, said: "The paradox of our times is that, together with a decline in faith and formal worship, there is a growing desire for prayer.
"Many young people, unwilling to go to church, are nevertheless attracted to prayer groups and even those who have ceased the regular practice of their religion are happy to take part in Holy Mass celebrated in small groups . . Although we have all been trained in prayer, none of us is too old to learn more about it."
Fr Barnabas Ahern, the scripture scholar and author, told the conference that prayer might he a gift, but unless we accepted the gift, it could not benefit us.
Fr Ahern gave two pieces of advice on prayer. The person who prayed must be alive to prayer. "It does not just happen. There needed to be some starting point for it, a passage of scripture, a poem or favourite book." We should choose passages that are most alive and meaningful for us."
Secondly, prayer must be a complete self-giving to God, which was the only way to holiness. Christ accepted the weaknesses and frustrations of human life and never let them touch his love of the Father.
"He, like us, had problems he could do nothing about. We are asked to share this with him in the prayer of faith — the total commitment to God of everything we have and are." Mr David Miles Board, director of the Catholic Information Office, talked about the tension in the Church between the freedom of personal experience and the discipline of the historic faith.
"Christ enters our personal experience. but God leads us as a community, the People of God, acting within an experience which is common and shared."
Fr Peter Hocken told the conference about "praying in the spirit" and in the final talk, Fr Hugh Lavery of Corpus Christi College, London, discussed "the meaning of meditation."