Education in the Catholic context is not just an aspect of the mission of the Church it is, as Pope Benedict XVI reminds us “integral to the mission of the Church to proclaim the Good News.[i] Catholic education is a life long process through which each baptised person enters into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ and a more complete understanding of their mission to proclaim and witness to the gospel. Therefore it can be said that Catholic Education is a necessary means of growing in faith for every member of the Christian community no matter their age or circumstances in life. In our Catholic schools, teachers who themselves are called to be witnesses to the gospel, ensure the evangelisation of children and young people inviting them to recognise the presence of God’s Spirit flowing through every aspect of their educational experience and lives. In their recent pastoral letter on Catholic Education; Vision 08, the Irish Bishops focused on the Catholic School as that great wellspring of formation for children and young people. The Catholic school, the bishop’s point out, helps each child or student to “develop his or her full potential as a human being. It will do so by preparing and disposing our pupils for this fullness of life, by enabling them to be people who are fully alive. Education means the development of the whole person.”[ii]
Maintaining a Catholic ethos in our schools ensures that each child is prepared to view the world with a Christian vision which will enrich their experience and understanding of the world in which they will grow and live. The bishops reflect:
“While they share many characteristics with other schools in offering a public service, Catholic schools seek to reflect a distinctive vision of life and a corresponding philosophy of education. This is based on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Gospel sees the world in which we live as God’s creation. As human persons, we are made in God’s image and destined for everlasting life with God. Life is a pilgrimage in the footsteps of Jesus, who is ‘the Way, the Truth and the Life’ (John 14, 6). He came among us so that, in his own words, we might ‘have life and have it in all its fullness’ (John 10, 10)1.”
The responsibility of the diocese for education and catechesis
Through various diocesan agencies the local bishop exercises his responsibility for the direction of all catechetical activity. In the catholic primary school sector this responsibility is shared with the diocesan advisors. The general Directory for Catechesis states that the principal responsibilities of those exercising responsibility for catechetical formation in the diocese is to analyse the needs of the diocese, to develop a plan of action, to promote formation, to make available various resources, to support and foster various groups involved in education and catechetics, to supply the necessary personnel and to ensure that they have the skills necessary to carry out their mission in the local church. [iii]
Diocesan Advisors for Religious Education (Primary)
The mission of the Diocesan Advisors gives reassurance to the Catholic Primary School Community that the task of educating in faith is not undertaken in isolation but in communion with the bishop and people of the diocese. Diocesan Advisors continually explores new ways through which teachers, parents, priests, and those who work in the area of school management can be facilitated in their common task of formation and in strengthening the Catholic ethos of our schools. This is achieved in the following ways:
Every year a programme of visitation is undertaken by the Diocesan Advisors. Visitation is a celebration of the energy and commitment of our teachers to their mission as catechists and also provides an opportunity to explore the ways through which home and parish can contribute to the catechetical formation of children in our parishes. Future visitation will include meeting with priests, board of management members and parents involved in sacramental preparation.
Outreach to teachers also means the provision of opportunities for teachers to come together at parish cluster level to discuss issues pertinent to them as educators in the ways of faith.
To ensure that teachers in our Catholic Primary schools are given adequate opportunity to grow in their own faith and to come to a greater understanding of the programme of religious education in our schools it is the responsibility of the Diocesan Advisor to provide occasions for spiritual renewal and practical support
Planning / Resources
The Diocesan Advisors are conscious of the needs of teachers for additional resources to assist them in their work in the classroom. Planning for the celebration for the various liturgical seasons and other faith occasions is an important element of the catechetical programme. The Diocesan Advisors are available to assist schools and parish communities in sourcing materials and how best to utilise existing resources.
Primary School Diocesan Advisors
Sadie Bacon, Mairin Bergin, Maria Comerford, Eilis Costelloe, Mary Kenny, Mary McCarthy, Denis O’Reilly, Padraig O’Neill
[i] Meeting with Catholic Educators. Address of his Holiness Benedict XVI. Conference hall of the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. Thursday, 17 April 2008
[ii] Irish Bishops Conference Vision 08: A Vision for Catholic Education in Ireland
[iii] Congregation for the Clergy, General Directory for Catechetics, Veritas, Dublin 1998 par. 266 p. 268