.- On Wednesday, Catholic school leaders and educators from around the nation met in Washington DC for a conference exploring the challenges and hopes for Catholic education--specifically in primary and high school years--in the face of a changing world. Archbishop J. Michael Miller, Secretary of the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education, spoke on the Holy See’s Teachings on Catholic Education
Catholic schools are places of evangelization and the Church has the right to teach the Gospel message and bring to perfection the human person within his or her earthly dimension, said Archbishop Miller Wednesday at the national Catholic education conference at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
The Church clearly teaches that parents are the first educators of their children, and the vast majority of parents share this responsibility with schools, he said. Elementary education is an extension of parental education, and schools are extensions of the home, he stated.
At the same time, the duty of education is an ecclesial responsibility, he said, and the Church is bound as a mother to give her children the spirit of Christ through education.
Archbishop Miller offered a quick survey of Church documents on Catholic education since the Second Vatican Council, including Lay Catholics in Schools (1982), The Religious Dimension of Education in the Catholic School (1988), and The Catholic School at the Threshold of the Third Millennium (1990) and The Role of Consecrated Persons in Catholic Education (2003).
The archbishop identified five characteristics of a Catholic school. It promotes sound Christian anthropology; it emphasizes parental involvement and the community; it has a supernatural vision; the Catholic worldview is imbued in all courses across the curriculum; teachers embrace their work as more than a profession, but as a vocation.
In addition, the school should have a sacramental understanding of itself and celebrate the sacramental life of the Church. Students must learn the living truth of the Gospel and the relationship between faith, culture, and life.
During a panel discussion, speaker John Convey remarked on the low enrolment in Catholic schools. In the 1960s, Catholic schools reached their zenith in terms of numbers, he said. But this dramatically changed due to decreasing birthrates, Roe v. Wade, and contraception.
Catholic schools, he said, have to face three obvious challenges: operating with limited financial resources, especially inner-city schools; developing a strong Catholic identity, and establishing strong school leadership and administrative teams.