'Essential for building up Church'
By David Browne
The Catholic school should be a pastoral service and an opportunity for encounters with children who were far from the Church, Archbishop Thomas Winning of Glasgow told members of the Catholic Teachers' Federation last week.
He said that one of the great tensions in denominational schools was the lapsing of many students and the discouragement of teachers.
"How much better it would be if we were to regard the Catholic school as a God-given opportunity and place for encounters with children who are in fact far from the Church, and make it the instrument of a pastoral service which is not possible in a parish context, and can be done only in school." he said.
"We ought to keep before us the missionary importance of the school and the religious formation that goes on there.
"But we cannot approach this in a casual and haphazard fashion; we need to plan and create opportunities. We need a Youth Ministry to channel the peer group — Influence to the advantage and not the detriment of the Church." Archbishop Winning was speaking at last week's CFT annual conference at Christ's College, Liverpool.
Archbishop Winning and Archbishop Derek Worlock of Liverpool referred to the 1977 Synod of Bishops, where education was a major debate. Archbishop Worlock said the resulting document would be published in the next few months.
Archbishop Worlock called on priests and teachers to collaborate to meet the needs of the rest of the community.
"This must mean that the teachers themselves will have to deepen their knowledge and commitment. This will be nothing new, though the fact that so many secondary teachers now live at a distance from the schools at which they teach inevitably poses some problems," he said.
"Over and over again I have found parents anxious to be drawn more fully into what their children are being taught at school: wanting to understand better themselves so that they may share with the priests and teachers the task of educating their children.
"But if children are to be prepared for sacramental living in a way which extends beyond the school term, let alone school life, we have to seize this opportunity, and priests and teachers must help the parents to fulfil their privileged responsibility."
Archbishop Winning touched on collaboration in the work of religious education. "Teachers must not be allowed to feel they are carrying the burden alone," he said.
"The clergy have an important role (in my opinion we bye abdicated a lot of our responsibility for religious formation of the young).
"Parents and clergy have been content in many cases to leave it to the teachers. The parish has to see the school as an essential part of its community plan for the building up of the Church."
The invitation to active involvement in the life of the local Church is to all, Archbishop Worlock told the teachers. "Strive to deepen your own spirituality and your knowledge of your Faith. The process is continuous for you just as it is for a priest.