Spiritual direction could transform Catholic school communities

spiritual direction

Offering spiritual direction to teachers could transform Catholic school communities. That’s leading religious education scholar Associate Professor Michael Buchanan’s opinion.

Schools have become a more diverse workforce. This has led many learning communities to introduce formation opportunities. These enable all teachers to participate in enhancing the Catholic school’s mission.

Buchanan (pictured) said a growing number of schools across the globe support staff’s formation through spiritual direction.

He also said spiritual direction could be an effective, non-threatening option for all staff members. That includes staff who don’t identify as Catholic but are committed to working in Catholic schools.

“Thirty per cent of the people in Catholic schools across Australia don’t identify as Catholic,” Buchanan said.

They have a right to be formed, he said.

“If we are truly a Catholic school or a Catholic institution or a Catholic faith-based community, we have a responsibility to support all members of the school community in their formation,” he said.

He added that these teachers’ contributions to the school also shape the school’s Catholic identity.

Drawing on the spiritual direction skills would have positive benefits, he suggested.

It would allow an approach to formation that “enables a teacher to make sense of who they are as a person dedicated to a vocation and the practice of being a teacher in a Catholic school,” he said.

A vocational profession

Buchanan said most teachers at a Catholic school consider their profession to be a vocation.

“Their vocation is education, the education of the next generation of people, the formation of young people through education of what it means to be human.

“When you’re involved in a ministry or a vocation or a profession as challenging as teaching, you are constantly giving of yourself to others, and you need to be nourished and supported.”

Buchanan said formation opportunities in schools tended to be one-off annual days or week-long retreat experiences.

Employing professionals with skills in spiritual direction would provide more consistent ongoing support, he said. It would help teachers whose educational endeavours are the cornerstone of a Catholic school’s ability to achieve its mission.

“A spiritual director is not there to evangelise, though that’s not to say that evangelisation may not happen,” he said.

“But their primary role is to journey with each individual teacher, to help them reflect upon and connect their professional commitment and experiences with their own sense of vocation and humility.”


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