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This is our Faith and these are our schools

— BISHOP JOSEPH DEVINE, president of the Catholic Education Commission, begins our Catholic Education Week coverage by outlining how the SCES is committed to providing a high quality of Catholic schooling

This year the Catholic Education Commission has continued to raise the profile of Catholic education within Scotland not least through the work of the Scottish Catholic Education Service.

As ever SCES has provided schools and parishes with excellent resources, ranging from children’s Liturgy and family ‘take-home’ material, to bulletin inserts and prayer opportunities, as well as the usual classroom and whole school resources for use around Catholic Education Week.

I commend all of this work to you and encourage you to take some time during this week to explore the positive and inspiring key message: “Grow in holiness—become saints of the 21st Century,” being offered to our young people.  But, in addition to the work being offered to support our children’s Faith journey, I would like to encourage parishes, parents, teachers and carers to consider and reflect in a personal way what Catholic Education Week means for their own Catholic education.

As we begin Catholic Education week for 2011 it is worth taking some time to reflect on the impact and the legacy of the Papal visit and to consider how we might use the Pope’s words to educate our children, our families, our parishes and our wider community.

Last year when the Bishops of Scotland met the Holy Father for our Ad Limina meeting he gave a message with a particular challenge regarding Catholic Education in Scotland when he said: “Place special emphasis on the quality and depth of religious education, so as to prepare an articulate and well-informed Catholic laity, able and willing to carry out its mission.”

I urge you to reflect on these words, and also the subsequent inspirational message that Pope Benedict gave during his visit to the UK in September: “God wants your friendship… once you enter into friendship with God, everything in your life begins to change. As you come to know Him better, you find you want to reflect something of his infinite goodness in your own life.”

“I ask you to look into your hearts each day to find the source of all true love. Jesus is always there, quietly waiting for us to be still with Him and to hear His voice. Deep within your heart, he is calling you to spend time with Him in prayer. But this kind of prayer, real prayer, requires discipline; it requires making time for moments of silence every day.”

“The truth that sets us free cannot be kept to ourselves; it calls for testimony, it begs to be heard, and in the end its convincing power comes from itself and not from the human eloquence or arguments in which it may be couched.”

The Holy Father’s words provide a vision of Catholic Education which is inclusive, progressive, authentic, challenging and rewarding.  They help us to see Catholic Education as something which engages not just the Catholic school but the wider community. Something which acknowledges the rapid change in society while maintaining the constant truths of the Gospel and the Church. Something which does not just educate our children for a job but for a purpose and a heavenly destination.

In a particular way SCES has already taken up the challenge from the Holy Father to provide ‘quality and depth’ and to ‘prepare articulate well informed Catholic laity.’

Through the, soon to be published, guidance for religious education in Scottish Catholic School This Is Our Faith, we have a curriculum that  acknowledges the unique context of our schools, families and parishes in Scotland, but does not shy away from outlining the distinctive purpose and nature of religious education for Catholic schools.

The guidance has been written to ensure that RE is both coherent and relevant for our children as they progress within primary and beyond secondary education. It has been shaped to allow for a broad knowledge of faith while allowing a deep understanding of the impact of our personal faith journey and our encounter with the risen Christ.  This Is Our Faith will be an invaluable resource for teachers, chaplains, parents and parishes as they accompany pupils in their discovery of God.  It encourages experiences of a faith that is professed, prayed, celebrated and lived.

We know that education is something which is close to the heart of the Pope.  Indeed as recently as February 7, 2011, when addressing Catholic educators in Rome he stated that ‘to educate is an act of love.’ Catholic Education Week offers us the opportunity to renew our commitment to make Catholic Education close to our hearts. It is an opportunity to remind ourselves of the mandate from Jesus to evangelise,  to commit ourselves to educate and be educated as Faithful disciples of the risen Lord, so that we can ‘make disciples of all nations.’ (Matthew 28:18-20)

Pic: Paul McSherry

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