Dialogue with the local community a key to Catholic school


Dialoguing with the local community while protecting and promoting the Catholic school’s identity are vital components of the modern Catholic school.

The instruction comes in a new document about Catholic schools from the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education.

“The Identity of the Catholic School for a Culture of Dialogue” focuses on the schools’ obligations to students and the wider community.

Catholic schools are obliged to protect and promote the Catholic identity. They are also expected to reach out to a broader community of students and teachers. This requires a commitment to dialogue, the document says.

Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, the prefect for the Congregation for Catholic Education, says the congregation was asked to write the document.

He says the request followed conflicts and appeals resulting from different interpretations of the traditional concept of Catholic identity by educational institutions.

Many of these concerned rapid social change including globalisation and growing interreligious and intercultural dialogue.

The document offers an in-depth, up-to-date reflection and guidelines on the value of the Catholic identity of educational institutions in the Church, Versaldi says. It provides criteria responding to today’s challenges in continuity with the criteria that always apply.

Recruitment and school culture

Job applicants must be informed of the school’s Catholic identity, its implications and their responsibility to promote that identity.

Schools should “formulate clear criteria for discernment” when considering candidates for positions in Catholic schools.

Schools are responsible for recruits who don’t comply with its Catholic and church community requirements.

“A narrow Catholic school model” is not acceptable – it conflicts with the model of a ‘church which goes forth’ in dialogue with everyone.

Everyone involved in conflicts over “disciplinary and/or doctrinal” matters must be told how “these situations can bring discredit to the Catholic institution and scandal in the community.”

Catholic identity and mission

Catholic education is an essential part of the church’s identity and mission. It is not strictly catechetical. Nor is it a “mere philanthropic work aimed at responding to a social need.”

Catholic schools are open. They do not limit enrolment or employment to Catholics alone. Part of their mission is to promote “the complete perfection of the human person, the good of earthly society and the building of a world that is more human.” (Second Vatican Council.)

To be open, Catholic schools must “practise the ‘grammar of dialogue”. This is a profound way of relating to others. “Dialogue combines attention to one’s own identity with the understanding of others and respect for diversity.”

Everyone — administrators, teachers, parents and students — has “the obligation to recognise, respect and bear witness to the Catholic identity of the school,” the Vatican’s new Catholic schools’ document says.

This identity should be clearly stated in each school’s mission statement and presented to prospective employees and parents of prospective students.

“In the formation of the younger generation, teachers must be outstanding in correct doctrine and integrity of life,” it says.

The entire school community is responsible for the school’s Catholic identity. It cannot be “attributed only to certain spheres or to certain persons” like liturgical, spiritual or social occasions, or the school chaplain, religion teachers or principal.



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