Ontario high-school chaplaincy too valuable to lose

  • March 23, 2009
{mosimage}TORONTO - Catholic school boards should invest adequate resources into high school chaplaincy, says the Ontario Conference of Catholic Bishops.

In a pastoral letter issued this month, the conference said while it recognizes the budgetary constraints that school boards face, chaplaincy is too important to be cut.

“The fundamental importance of chaplaincy services for our schools compels us to make choices, to find creative ways of budgeting and organizing that will allow for their full flowering,” the bishops said, suggesting a review of the formation, evaluation and working conditions of high school chaplain leaders, including the need for a full-time chaplaincy leader.

“We cannot imagine a Catholic secondary school responding adequately to this responsibility without someone being entrusted with its realization. That person must be freed from other responsibilities to take up this task whole-heartedly,” the letter said.

The bishops’ conference said it was not giving a pastoral mandate to high school chaplaincy leaders but recommended a closer working relationship between the diocese, parishes and school boards. 

“Secondary school chaplaincy leaders must always see their ministry as embedded in the church’s ministry and understand themselves as sharing in the church’s responsibilities,” the bishops wrote.

“They should be active members of their parish: their words, actions and their whole life should be consistent with Catholic faith and teaching.” 

Stan Muldoon, president of the Catholic School Chaplains of Ontario , said the bishops’ letter offers a “very strong statement of support” for chaplaincy leaders and chaplaincy education, adding he welcomes the suggestion of more collaboration between boards, dioceses and parishes.

“Not that this would necessarily be the role of the letter, but we have always advocated for full-time chaplaincy services in each of our high schools. The reality is that while that’s the case in many schools, that’s not the case in some,” he said.

Contract work, a lack of full-time staff and being laid off during school holidays have been constant concerns of some chaplaincy leaders over the years, Muldoon added.

A copy of the letter can be found on the Ontario Conference of Catholic Bishops’ web site at www.occb.on.ca .

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