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A Return to Spirit and Heart: The Hope for “Catholic” Education. Professor Thomas H. Groome. What makes a school ‘Catholic’? Sydney Symposium, Oct 1st, 2002. AGENDA 11.00 Introductions and Welcome 11.15 Session One: What makes a school, 'Catholic?' 12.30 Lunch

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A Return to Spirit and Heart:

The Hope for “Catholic” Education

Professor Thomas H. Groome


What makes a school ‘Catholic’?

Sydney Symposium, Oct 1st, 2002


11.00 Introductions and Welcome

11.15 Session One: What makes a school, 'Catholic?'

12.30 Lunch

1.15 Session One: Continued

2.30 Afternoon Tea

3.00 Session Two: Some reflections on shared Christian praxis in the changing Catholic school context.

4.00 Finish


A Return to Spirit and Heart:

The Hope for “Catholic” Education

Professor Thomas H. Groome


To the Spirit:

Education to “engage and turn the soul” toward the true, good, and beautiful (Plato)

Education needs a spiritual grounding – beyond the technical, rational, pragmatic

To form character, nurture values, lend purpose, make and keep life human


Genesis 2:7; we are essentially spiritual beings with a human life

Since the beginning—Mt 28--Catholic education grounded in spirituality

Done out of faith conviction and “for the life of the world” (Jn 6:51)

Spiritual grounding must reach beyond vowed religious to all Catholic educators


Catholicism is a spirituality; a God consciousness for engaging life; a “faith at work”

Can provide rich and life-giving foundations for any educator in home, school, parish

Evident in imagination about great questions of life; what is, could be, should be


The Spirit of Catholic education is God’s Holy Spirit working through our own spirits

Always “a work of salvation” (Clement of Alex. 200) and for the salvation of souls

Must engage our own souls and our students; informing, forming and transforming both


For Reflection and Conversation

In what ways do you recognize your own “spirit” as engaged in your educating?

How do you recognize your school engaging the “souls” of its students?

Anything to develop or change about “engaging the soul” – yours or theirs?


To the heart

“The heart” of Catholic education is the hearts of Catholic educators—own spirituality

To put “faith to work” throughout curriculum—what, how, why, and where we teach

Sustained by the deep waters of Catholic Christianity—streams that make the great river


Throughout history, and at its best, Catholic education has been Educating For Life

To have a life as well as well as make a living

Favoring and promoting fullness of life for all

Lending the resources and aptitude for life-long learning


“For Life” - in every arena and on every level of existence

For one’s own life, for life of others, for integrity of all creation

For here and hereafter – God’s reign of fullness of life “on earth as in heaven”


Opposing what destroys or diminishes; promoting what enhances and empowers life

“Glory of God is human person fully alive” (Irenaeus, 175)

Embracing education as a priestly and prophetic vocation—a calling from God!


Catholic? Used to have “real stuff” that symbolized our identity; Catholic brick a brac

So much swept away. None more significant than “fish on Friday”

Sends us back to the deep structures of Catholic faith


Encountered especially in response to the great questions of life

Much needed for pain and anger, shame and embarrassment of current scandals

Back to the foundations that should shape our imagination and spirituality


For Catholic educators, spirituality means allowing the core convictions of Catholic Christianity to permeate the whole curriculum and vocation.

Our “faith at work” in how, what, why, and where we teach. Especially in response to “great questions”


For Reflection and Conversation

Some of your responses to “educating for life”? Thoughts or feelings; agree or disagree

What does “educating for life” ask of educators - teachers, parents, administrators?


Just Who Do we Think we Are?Our Anthropology

No more foundational question than “Who do we think we are?”

Our understanding of the human condition—our own and that of our students

Who they are; their dispositions, potential, and limitations

Nothing more significant for teaching than our “operative anthropology”


For Reflection and Conversation

Recall a time being educated when

a) you were treated like a “person.” Describe the experience, what it felt like, the wisdom from it?

b) When you were treated as less than a person. What did it feel like? The wisdom you might learn from it?


An Originally Graceful People—still in Divine image

Person as essentially good and dignified

Though capable of sin, remains and grows in divine likeness


Person as body-soul union alive by presence of God’s Spirit

Person as partner with God and ever in need of God’s grace - a covenant

Person as able to improve our own and other people’s lives


Person as formed by relationships; a “person-in-community” (prosopon)

Person as partner with others,

co-responsible in community for the “common good”

Person with freedom, rights, and responsibilities for quality of life for all


Person as capable of knowing, becoming, and creating

Person with divine law written in our “nature”

Person made from Love, to love and be loved

Person with eternal destiny in God’s presence


For Educators in School, Parish, Home

Treat with respect and dignity; with a “realistic optimism”

Engage and nurture their souls; as active agents in the teaching/learning dynamic

Encourage relationships, partnership, collaboration


Celebrate and educate the whole person—to make a living and have a life

Create a challenging environment; nothing less for forming character

Appreciate all talents and gifts; encourage rights and responsibilities

Always hold out hope of becoming “fully alive to the glory of God”


For Reflection and Conversation

Responses to such an anthropology and implications for education?

Agreements, reservations, additions

Decisions emerging for your own school? For your vocation as educator?


Total Catechetical Education

“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations,

Baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit

Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you

And know that I will be with you always until the end of time” Mt. 28:18-20


Who is sent? By baptism - every Christian

To where: “every strata of society - transforming humanity from within” (EN 18)

With what: Good news of God’s “liberating salvation” (EN 9)


Discipleship - apprentices (mathetes) to Jesus in Christian community in midst of world. “A strong wind blowing . . tongues of fire . . . all filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:1-4)

Encourage confidence in Holy Spirit - God’s life within

Rich faith worth sharing - bring to “fullness of life”


An old/new proposal: Total catechetical education is to inform, form, and transform communities and persons, in lived and living, whole and wholesome Christian faith

“Total Christian Faith” requires "total catechetical education”


Not “parish” alone;

Not "school" alone;

Not "family" alone;

Not lectionary alone;

Not catechumenate alone;

Not “curriculum” alone ;

Not catechists and religious educators alone;

Not any one thing or person alone!



a coalition of “parish” “family” and “school”

engaging all aspects of each,

for people from cradle to grave,

teaching and learning together - “sharing faith”

in “total” Christian faith


Every "parish" "family" and "school" must participate in mission and ministry of Church, and with "an education in faith consciousness"

Must ask of every activity, symbol, etc. - "what is this teaching?


Old fourfold description of Christian ministry:

Koinonia (community of Christian witness);

Kerygma (preach, teach, evangelize the word of God);

Leitourgia (as community to worship God);

Diakonia (care for personal & social welfare)


Parish (or intentional Christian community).

Witness - structure, ethos, participation, values?

Word - ready and direct access to Scripture and Tradition?

Worship - good liturgy nurtures faith, poor is dangerous!

Welfare - works of mercy and justice for faith formation?


"Family" - “sustaining networks of domestic life” - to be "domestic church" Family of:

Witness - through lifestyle to Christian values;

Word - to share faith around Scripture & Tradition;

Worship - liturgy of the home;

Welfare - place of love and justice, inward and outward.


"School" - formal contexts & events of intentional education.

Word - of scripture and tradition; clear focus of "school."

Witness - an ethos of Christian community & values;

Worship - opportunity for worship, prayer, spiritual life;

Welfare - works of mercy, justice, peace, as integral


Religious Education or Catechesis

Why not both as “catechetical education”

Hazard of religious education that does not teach to “learn from” and “for life”

Hazard of catechesis that does not inform thoroughly in the religious tradition


For intentional moments of catechesis

Two resources - “Life” and “Christian Faith”

Catechetical education - to correlate the two

A “conversation” between “Life” and “Faith”

“Bringing life to Faith and Faith to life”


Christian Faith - its Story and Vision

Scriptures and Traditions - carried and guided by the Church

Approached as a treasury of “wisdom for life”

Taking from storeroom both “new and old” Mt 13: 52

Christian faith


Life - people’s own lives and engagement in social/political world

Why: God’s Spirit is ever present to us in “ordinary and everyday”

To be lived, Christian faith must engage people’s real lives




Focusing: Engage people with a real Life/Faith theme

M.1: Invite people to expression around the Theme

M.2: Encourage reflection and sharing together

M.3: Give Access to Story and Vision of Christian Faith as pertinent tothe theme, group, context

M.4: Encourage appropriation - making one's own

M.5: Invite to decision - to "Faith alive" and “for life”






Lonergan’s Dynamics of Cognition: a holistic and wisdom way of knowing.

Begins with attending to “the data” with “be attentive.”

Moves to understanding with “be intelligent.”

Reaches on to judging what is true or false, with “be reasonable”

Moves to deciding about the good, with “be responsible”


Note the teaching style of Jesus (See Lk 24:13-35):

Turned people to look at their lives;

To see with a new perspective;

Taught Good News of God's Reign of life;

Encouraged disciples to make the Faith their own

Called them to decision to follow his "way" - of life and for life

©Luc Freymanc 2001/2


Thomas H. Groome.

See Educating for Life: A Spiritual Vision for Every Teacher and Parent, (Crossroads 2000) and

What Makes Us Catholic: Eight Gifts for Life (HarperCollins, 2002)