Extended Written Response

Abstract

A review of the history of Australian Catholic education, both from the historical and the contemporary perspectives, reveals the mark it has left on today’s Catholic religious education. The first Catholic schools in Australia sprang up in the 1800s. The primary goal for the establishment of these schools, at that time, was to provide a socializing place to get more people to become Catholics. In the 20th century, the approaches used in the teaching of religious in Catholic schools had evolved tremendously. The first approach, which involved the use of catechism books as references, was the dogmatic approach. The Kerygmatic approach followed after this and was later replaced by the life experiences approach. In time, many other approaches have been applied in the teaching of religious education. Church documents played a crucial role religious education develop ment. The documents addressed some agendas concerning the education provided in Catholic schools.  The foundations that were laid down in the development of Catholic school still hold up to today.

 

Throughout history and all around the world, apart from spreading the word of God, the Catholic Church has always taken an interest in education, well-being, and cultures of the people. It was no exception in the early settlement of Australia. In the course of the 1800s in Australia, Catholic bishops arrived at the decision of having a system of Catholic schools. Early Catholic schools sprang up in Sidney, Australia in 1830. In Melbourne, the first school was established by one Father Patrick Geoghegan in 1840. Queensland followed after that with their first schools built in the 1850s and 1860s. By the year 1878, there were about 33 schools in Queensland alone. The current Catholic school religious carry the history marks of these first schools to be established .[1]

Their main intention for the establishment of these schools was to create places that would have a primary socializing influence to get children to become Catholics. They also wanted to establish a Catholic community in Australia. For about 80 years, with the help of brothers and sisters, they were able to accomplish this goal. One of the main reasons why they were successful in doing this was the fact that they worked amongst a Catholic population, most of whom were of Irish descent and who were in many ways, socially homogenous.

A majority of the Catholics were working class but poorly educated people. Most of them readily accepted the will of the Church to get educated. The brothers and sisters who were the educators received training, and they taught children way they were instructed to enable them to grow morally upright.[2] Among the societal and cultural pressures that the bishops used to convince their congregation to bring their children to school included peer pressure, fear, need for security as well as identity. After some time, amidst resistance and challenges, parents started sending children to school, and in the process, they realized both the spiritual and physical benefits.

With the Education Acts of 1870 and 1880, education became free, compulsory and secular and all aid from the government to Catholic schools came to a stop.[3] The Catholic community wanted the Catholic schools to continue, and so religious brothers and sisters from Europe came to Australia. Together with the support of vocations and new religious orders, they shared the task of providing education in Australia. Over the past 150 years, the religious orders, backed by the teachers, have contributed tremendously to the Australian education and culture.

The Nature and Purpose of Catholic Education

  • Dogmatic Approach

Catholic education in the early Christian centuries up to the mid-20th century involved the development and use of Catechisms. Catechism of the Catholic Church is an organized presentation of the essential teachings of the Church with regards to both morality and faith.  It was used as a reference text for the teaching of the doctrines of the Catholic Church. The early Catholic schools in Australia adopted the use of these catechisms. The catechetical approach to teaching was adopted because most people had limited access to the written word and very few people could read and write. [4]The approach focused on the spoken word. Among the limitations of the catechetical approach was its lack of serious content. Also, it did not take into account the developmental stages of children or the ever-changing multicultural face of the Australian society. The religious education was reduced to a set number of questions and answers.     Kerygmatic Approach

The Kerygmatic approach to teaching religious education in Catholic schools arose because of growing dissatisfaction with the dogmatic approach which involved the use of catechism text. The basis of this approach was the proclamation of the word and the message of salvation from the Bible. The Bible, therefore, became a major part of the teaching of Catholic education. The renewed liturgical celebrations and the systematic teaching were of great importance.[5]

While this approach recognized that the children came from families that were religiously weak and a society that was becoming secularized rapidly, it assumed that all participants in the religious education were believers. It still focused on memorization at the end of instruction rather than at the beginning. This approach was further criticized because children were taught differently from their parents and teachers also lacked adequate training in this method. [6] Life Experience Approach

A significant influence upon this approach adopted by the Melbourne guidelines was Father Amalorpavadass. He emphasized a catechetical pedagogy that drew from both theology and human science. This approach involved a series of four stages which included, one, experienced shared which means bringing into focus the aspect of human experience.[7] The second stage included deepened reflection where both students and teachers come to the deeper understanding by reflecting on their experiences. Third, was the expression of faith to enable educators and students the relationship that exists between the Christian story and life experiences. Lastly, the final stage involves reinforcement of insights which provided the revisiting and reflecting on the process as a whole. The Melbourne guidelines stressed the need for the children to grow in awareness of themselves, others, the world and the community.[8] This approach recognized cultural experiences of children but was said to lack educational methodology.

Church Documents

  1. Gravissimum Educationis

One of the church documents that played a key role in Catholic religious education is the Gravissimum Educationis or Declaration of Christian Education. The Pope Paul IV proclaimed this Declaration in the year 1965. The importance of education to the people and its growing influence in the society is largely mentioned in the document. The first is the universal right to education. People of all ages or races were declared to have a right to education so that they can acquire the ability to reach their full potential at an individual level and together as a society. Additionally, the rights to Christian education, helps Christians understand the gifts they have and how they can get closer to God, in love and faith.[9]

Some agendas are addressed in the document. They include, first the paramount importance of education in the modern world and how it helped people understand their responsibilities in the economic, social and political spheres. Secondly, the deficiencies that exist in the education despite the progress that has been made so far should be remedied. Third, it is the Church’s goal to bring Christ to the world through education. Besides, the first educators of children are their parents, and they are charged with the responsibility of creating an atmosphere at home that inspires love and devotion for God and other people. [10]It also promotes personal, integrated and social education for the children. The family, therefore, is a child’s first school where they learn about the worship God and love for their neighbors. Parents have the responsibility of ensuring their children acquire a balanced progress in their preparation for life on earth as well as in their Christianity

The document also mentioned how the society takes part in educating young people, so that common good and assistance to parents is promoted among them. Additionally, a key role is played by the church in the education of children. It is the Church’s duty to help parents and the society in providing education in schools. The document further pointed to the importance of schools in the development of culture, skills, values, intellectual faculties and sound judgment. The vocational of teaching is mentioned to be an important vocation and students are encouraged to pursue it. The state is charged with the responsibility of ensuring that every citizen has equal access to education in preparation for civic duties. The Catholic faithful have great contribution to make in the development of education in the society, both morally and intellectually. [11]

The document further points it is the duty of the Church to reach out to all Catholic students in non-Catholic schools and make sure that they get a good Christian education. The church has the right of establishing schools so as to advance culture, promote parents’ rights and protect the liberty of the conscience.

Finally, the document speaks about Catholic higher education and how it is important in improving the academic spirit as well as a healthy balance of faith. The Catholic universities and colleges should maintain to high standards and care for the spirituality of the students. A further responsibility of the church is the establishment of centers at non-Catholic colleges and universities so that they can provide assistance to Catholic students in their spiritual, intellectual and moral development. [12]The faculties of Catholic theology have the grave responsibility of preparing students for the priesthood, and lastly, Catholic schools at all levels aim at the preservation and advancement Catholic’s education.

  1. The Catholic School

The document “The Catholic School” was also written to the congregation concerning education in Catholic schools. The document gives the definition of a school as a privileged place where integral formation occurs through a living encounter with cultural inheritance. Further, the document clarified that a school is not just a place where one acquires intellectual values but an array of values which actively apply to life are also presented.[13] Its principal roles included a reminder of the Catholic schools’ contribution to the salvation the Church’s mission. The schools share the goal of the church through education in the faith.  The church’s educational involvement and cultural pluralism are also asserted in the document. Cultural pluralism reaffirms the mission of education and the development of strong character among students. The Church has to uphold plurality of school systems as a way of safeguarding its objectives in the face of cultural pluralism. In simple terms, the Church encouraged co-existence and cooperation among various educational institutions.

According to the church, educational aims of the Catholic schools perform an essential service to the Catholic Church itself and that the loss of Catholic schools would be a great setback to civilization. Christ is the foundation of all education enterprises in a school. Concepts of the Gospel are part of the educational norm since the school uses it as a source of motivation and as their final goal. Integrating faith and culture and integrating faith and life are the two premises that that show the content of a Catholic school and its duties. The former is achieved through the integration of all aspects of the knowledge of human beings in the light of the gospel. The latter is achieved through growth of values that are typical of Christians. Summing up, the document encouraged every possible effort to promote Catholic education as it holds a unique position of offering an exemplary and compulsory service to the community. Catholic schools offer their collaboration to those involved in the development of the new world.[14]

Lay Catholic in School: Witness to Faith

The “Lay Catholics in Schools: Witnesses to Faith” was also a Vatican document written on Catholic education. This report addressed some issues about lay Catholics. The document acknowledged the importance of lay Catholics, both men, and women, who devoted themselves to teaching not only in Catholic schools but other schools[15]. They were mentioned as important because whether they were believers or not, the schools would not be in a position to accomplish any of its objectives without them.

The lay Catholics who work in schools bear witness to the faith. The sacred congregation and the laity, therefore, have to offer services to them for the task that they are accomplishing for the Church. The document also mentioned that the lay Catholic teaching in Catholic schools was part of God’s people. [16]They are united in Christ through baptism and share in the basic dignity that is common for all members of the church. They all possess in common, one salvation and one entire ministry. The lay Catholic as an educator is an issue that is extensively addressed by the Second Vatican Council in this document. An educator is defined as anyone who makes a contribution to the integral human formation.[17] For, the teachers, this is their profession. The teachers deserved special attention mainly because of their institutional purposes in schools. However, everyone else who shared in the formation and who complemented the educational activities was also added to the discussion. The one particular characteristic that takes on its vital importance in the Catholic educator is the communication of the truth to the students. The communication of the truth forms a crucial part of the prophetic mission of Christ carried on during the teaching.[18]

Since every type of education is under the influence of a particular concept. The Catholic educator has always to motivate his or her teachings with the Christian concept. Also included in the vocation of every lay Catholic is work in social development which involves forming men and women with the readiness to take their place in the society, be socially committed and make improvement in the social structures. The document concludes by affirming that all lay Catholic educators constitute a critical component of hope for the Catholic Church. The Church entrust these lay educators with the responsibility of integrating temporal reality with the Gospel. Of more importance, is the trust given to them by the Church to provide integral formation of the students and faith education.

In conclusion, an evaluation of the history of Australian Catholic schools in, the various teaching approaches they used in the 20th century and the key church documents that influenced the direction of education in the schools, provide insight on how the religious education in Catholic has held sway over the course of many years. Under the guidance of the Catholic Church, Catholic schools have continued to provide to teach students by integrating temporal formation and faith education

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reference List

Buchanan, Michael and Adrian-Mario Gellel, eds. Global Perspectives on Catholic Religious Education in Schools. Springer, 2015.

English. Catholica Commentary by Dr Graham English: Religious Education in Catholic Schools, 2007.

Gallagher, Jim. Soil for the seed: Historical, pastoral and theological reflections on educating to and in faith. Essex, England: McCrimmons, 2001.

Hater, Robert. The Catholic Parish: Hope for a Changing World. Paulist Press, 2004.

Hoebel, Thomas. Laity and participation: a theology of being the Church (Vol. 29). Peter Lang, 2006.

McLaughlin, and O’Keefe, Joseph. (Eds.). The Contemporary Catholic School: Context, Identity And Diversity. Routledge, 2003.

Milton, A. Catholic and Reformed: The Roman and Protestant Churches in English Protestant Thought, 1600-1640. Cambridge University Press, 2002.

Module 1 Workbook: A Brief History of Religious Education in Religious Education .In Schools, print, 2017.

Module 2 Workbook: A Brief History of Religious Education in Religious Education. In Schools, 2017.

Ryan, M. Church documents on religious education. In a common search: The history and forms of religious education in catholic schools, 2013.

 

[1] English. Catholica Commentary by Dr Graham English: Religious Education in Catholic Schools, 2007.

[2] Buchanan, Michael and Adriano Gellel (Eds.). Global Perspectives on Catholic Religious Education in Schools. Springer, 2003.

[3] Module 1 Workbook: A Brief History of Religious Education in Religious Education .In Schools, print, 2017.

[4] McLaughlin and O’Keefe, Joseph (Eds.). The Contemporary Catholic School: Context, Identity And Diversity. Routledge, 2003.

[5] Gallagher, Jim. Soil for the seed: Historical, pastoral and theological reflections on educating to and in faith. Essex, England: McCrimmons, 2001.

[6] Module 1 Workbook: A Brief History of Religious Education in Religious Education .In Schools, print, 2017.

[7] Hater, Robert. The Catholic Parish: Hope for a Changing World. Paulist Press, 2004.

[8] Hater, Robert. The Catholic Parish: Hope for a Changing World. Paulist Press, 2004.

[9] Ryan Maurice. Church documents on religious education. In a common search: The history and forms of religious education in catholic schools, 2013.

[10]Ryan Maurice. Church documents on religious education. In a common search: The history and forms of religious education in catholic schools, 2013.

[11] Ryan, M. Church documents on religious education. In a common search: The history and forms of religious education in catholic schools, 2013.

[12] Ryan, M. Church documents on religious education. In a common search: The history and forms of religious education in catholic schools, 2013.

[13] McLaughlin, and O’Keefe, Joseph. (Eds.). The Contemporary Catholic School: Context, Identity And Diversity. Routledge, 2003.

[14] Module 2 Workbook: A Brief History of Religious Education in Religious Education. In Schools, 2017.

 

[15] Hoebel, Thomas. Laity and participation: a theology of being the Church (Vol. 29). Peter Lang, 2006.

[16] Hoebel, Thomas. Laity and participation: a theology of being the Church (Vol. 29). Peter Lang, 2006.

[17] Buchanan, Michael and Adrian-Mario Gellel, eds. Global Perspectives on Catholic Religious Education in Schools. Springer, 2015

[18] Hater, Robert. The Catholic Parish: Hope for a Changing World. Paulist Press, 2004

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