Catholic curriculum integrates the faith perspective in all academic learning. Register file photo

A faith filled way of seeing the world

By  John B. Kostoff
  • May 3, 2023

This month we will celebrate Catholic Education Week, a time for the community to recognize the importance of Catholic education in our province, where more than 500,000 students attend 1,135 elementary schools and 219 secondary schools encompassing 29 Catholic school boards.

Catholic schools continue to provide an outstanding education that can be witnessed in graduation rates, credit retention of students and application on provincial and worldwide education assessment.

Don’t let anyone tell you our schools are not being successful with our students, because that isn’t the case. But we can and must do better.

While some may seek to see education simply to produce people for the future job markets as the most meaningful reason to have schools, Catholic educators disagree. To begin with, Catholic education, the oldest educational system worldwide, has never believed that our schools exist to solely provide academic knowledge. Our students do well academically, to be sure, but that is not the purpose of Catholic schools.

In a recent publication entitled Educating for Eternity: A Teacher’s Companion for Making Every Class Catholic, Brett Salkeld, the Archdiocese of Regina’s archdiocesan theologian, writes, “Our job as Catholic educators is to form students inside and outside of the classroom into people who know that they are made for greatness and understand what true greatness is; people who believe in the possibilities of a good life and are cultivating the virtues needed to live it.”

We created Catholic schools so our students would have an integrated understanding of life, where faith infuses all subjects. Where students learn not only how to be critical, discerning citizens but also the purpose of life, the importance of virtues and attitudes that support all in the community. A fundamental orientation towards creation and the gifts of creation, of recognizing the importance of faith in one’s life and having a moral compass that leads one through the challenges that we all face. A fundamental orientation that sees a relationship with God as an essential part of maturing and living meaningful lives of service and dedication to others. A fundamental relationship that recognizes that we all worship something or someone in our life, but the ability to discern what is it that we worship makes all the difference.

A definition of success, and community that is not tied to an individualistic and self-centred way of seeing the world. An education that teaches us that “we are all in this together.” An education that must be fundamentally hopeful and not allow our students to be consumed by the negative aspects of our culture or the events they  encounter as we move through life.

As Jesus says, and it applies most directly to Catholic schools, “I came that thy may have life and have it abundantly.” An education that invites students to enter into an authentic relationship with Jesus and the community that is the Church. An education that sees all of life with a sacramentality.

For our students to know, as the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote, “Earth is crammed with Heaven, and every common bush afire with God; but only he who sees takes off his shoes, the rest sit around and pluck off its blackberries.”

Catholic education of course is always challenged, as all education is, to ensure that it provides equal quality of experience and outcomes to all students. It must continue to grow, to meet the authentic needs of students, parents, the community they serve and our Church. Catholic schools can leave no student behind who enters its doors.

Catholic schools cannot be museums of the past, nor can they be a play thing that is used then discarded because someone did not know the value of what they had. 

Thomas Groome writes, in What Makes Education Catholic, “surely Catholic education can draw a life-giving vision from its rich spiritual wisdom bequeathed by its Jewish roots, from Jesus of Nazareth, and from over 2,000 years from engaged faith tradition.

The legacy can lend a spiritual vision for Catholic schools encouraging them to educate both for their immanent and transcendental purposes, encouraging in students both a horizontal and vertical perspective on life in the world.”

The vision for Catholic schools must always be on the horizontal plane, of what to learn and on the vertical plane of how to integrate that knowledge into a life well lived according to our faith tradition. Each day teachers, priests, bishops, superintendents, principals, directors of education, trustees, support staff, parents and millions of Catholic supporters seek to remind our students that they are not made for the ordinary but for greatness. Where we assist students in hearing the call of God for each of them in their lives.

This year celebrate with your local Catholic school, attend whatever event they offer during Catholic Education Week. Catholic schools approach curriculum in a uniquely different way, an education that is manifested in the Religious Education Program, the Family Life Program, our secondary Religion Program, our sacramental program, our chaplaincy programs and religion consultants, and of course, the Catholic Graduate Expectations that all serve as a vision for our system.

A curriculum program for our students that integrates the faith perspective in all academic learning. A school system, that seeks to have students walk, like those frightened and worried people in the Gospel story of Emmaus, who eventually began to understand their faith through accompaniment, discussion, teaching and celebration, not on our timeline but on theirs.

(Kostoff, serves as the executive director of OCSOA, and has published frequently on the topic of Catholic education and the Catholic family. He is a frequent contributor to The Catholic Register.) 

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