Catholic by action

By 
  • May 14, 2010
Catholic School teacherWhat defines a Catholic school teacher?

That question came to mind amid recent media reports about aspiring young teachers returning to the Church, converting to Catholicism or pretending to be faithful to get hired at a Catholic school board. Two Toronto papers ran stories suggesting that some graduates of teachers’ colleges have been trying to wriggle their way into Catholic schools under false pretences. These include lapsed Catholics feigning  rebirth and non-Catholics receiving the sacraments or converting solely to obtain a pastoral recommendation.


“My main target was to get into the (Catholic) school board,” said one person, described as a former Catholic. “In terms of going the Catholic route, I’d have more doors open to me.”

“I don’t particularly like going (to Mass) every Sunday, but if this is what I have to do, then I’ll do it,” said another. “I just really want to be in a career.”

Last year more than 12,000 would-be teachers entered the Ontario job market but less than half landed full-time jobs. These are mostly sincere, young people answering a vocation to the classroom. They are keen, frustrated and, apparently, sometimes desperate.

Still, misrepresentation is hardly the way to launch a career, particularly in a field with high standards of moral integrity. If not fraudulent, it is certainly dishonest and disrespectful. On that basis alone, these candidates seem unsuitable for the classroom, particularly a Catholic classroom.

It has been said that Catholic schools aren’t asked to be successful. They are asked to be faithful. Success is encouraged and welcomed but it is secondary. Faith is the reason Catholic schools exist. It is what defines them and makes Catholic schools distinct from their public counterparts.

Catholic teachers are called to be living examples of that faith. They are asked to infuse Catholic values into the very being of the school day, into classrooms, hallways, cafeterias, athletic fields, into all facets of school life.

A school is not made Catholic solely by hanging a crucifix, drafting a mission statement or sewing a crest on a uniform. It is Catholic by its actions. It is made Catholic by instilling a visible Catholic value system and culture, a value system and culture encouraged by parents, formed by administrators and nurtured in the classroom by teachers.

One person told the paper a teacher doesn’t need religion to have values and morals. That is true. The world abounds with good people who are not Catholic. But a Catholic teacher must have  religion to complement sound morals and values. That’s what makes Catholic education distinct. A Catholic teacher must know and understand the Catholic faith, must be able to participate in liturgical prayer and celebration, must respect the sacraments, must live the faith, must believe.

In short, Catholic school teachers must be sincere Catholics. Is that too much to ask? We don’t think so.

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