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“Living the Christian Culture: Living the Dream”. Professor Bart McGettrick 13 June 2012. It is essential to think of Catholic Education as a “culture” and not as a curriculum issue, or a matter of technical activities.

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professor bart mcgettrick 13 june 2012

“Living the Christian Culture:

Living the Dream”

Professor Bart McGettrick

13 June 2012


It is essential to think of Catholic Education as a “culture” and not as a curriculum issue, or a matter of technical activities.

It is a concern to be with the Spirit, and for the relationships which are touched and are inspired by the Spirit.

Catholic education opens the spirit to God within and among us, and bringing gifts which come from the Spirit… peace.


Reading the signs of the times

We live in a culture of uncertainty in which:

Knowledge is changing rapidly, and there is a limited amount of pre-ordained knowledge for developing curricula.

Society is unsure of the future.

Schools are uncertain of their role – Eg “Vocational or liberal education?”

(A useful distinction?)

The nature of the student is complex –

i-phones, but a (limited or) different cultural base or cultural capital.


In contemporary society the main function of education is

The flourishing of humanity


personal and social well-being


developing gifts and talents in the service of others


What makes education Christian and Catholic is the breath of the Spirit into the communities of learning…

The body with its many parts….but all part of the same body…. filled with life in all its goodness and glory.

The radical agenda for social transformation which we need today is to bring all people, especially children, to be part of that body of Christ.


Catholic Education is the outward sign of an inner spirit. That inner spirit is filled with all that gives humanity hope, life &love, and faith.

It grows from an inner inspiration but is expressed in practical terms in the real world.

It has a holism, so that there is a connnectedness between the inner self and the work we do in the real world. These cannot be kept separate or distinct.


One of the greatest challenges which we have is to have an adequate vision of education. This has to be a vision that is practical and sustainable

Education needs to be nurtured in the treasured places of the heart and exercised in the roughest and most challenging places of human endeavour.

Ignatius might support that!


It is a challenge for the Catholic school to maintain its spiritual, humanitarian and cultural identity in a world where there are huge challenges of





Who is looking after us?


The role of a school

The school is a place of education – not only of learning... Formation and transformation take place with schools and families.

We should move from Information to Formation to Transformation.

Education is always personal.

Leaders have a duty to be optimistic.

towards a vision
Towards a Vision

However diversified our societies we need to hold to a vision that is based on truth

Humanity needs to pay attention to justice, love and hope....

Education across the world has a hugely beneficial effect on societies.

Education is not a commodity, but a treasure of the mind and heart.


Education is concerned with “the whole person…”

Often described as “ body, mind and spirit…”

We educate not only the body mind and spirit… but all other elements too… the social, emotional, the parts we do not fully understand….

“Lock, stock and barrel…”


The curriculum is a means to the end and not the purpose of education.

Sometimes we need to protect children and others from the negative effects of oppressive educational regimes.

Education is incarnated in a person… It exists in the hearts of people.

education makes us more suited to life and living
Education makes us more suited to life and living….

This is the flourishing of all that is good and right

All that brings us closer to God

All that makes us more human.

Education is to humanise society.

So many trends dehumanise us… These are not new ideas…


“Amongst the other blessings (which God gives) it is to be reckoned not least that by assiduous study man may win the pearl of knowledge. This shows him the way to live well and happily and its preciousnessopens the door for him to understand the mysteries of the universe;it helps and raises to distinction those that were born in the lowest places.”

(Nicholas V, Bull of 7 January 1451, Glasgow University Archives)


So Catholic Education is not just about schools.

It is where we find the spirit alive and in us.

This spirit is everywhere… that is the very essence of God…. God among us.

We have to look at “The Body of Christ” and all that this implies… Many parts… working as one… co-dependent.


“Education is not given for the purposes of gaining power but as an aid towards a fuller understanding of, and communion with man, events and things. Knowledge is not to be considered as a means of material prosperity and success, but as a call to serve and be responsible for others.”

(The Catholic School, 1977, 56)


Education is the transformation of people through personal encounters.

That was the work of Jesus during his time on earth.

What scripture helps us understand this? The Samarian woman at the well… in Nablus.

education as a journey
Education as a Journey

Education is an endless journey on which people are transformed through personal encounters and deep relationships.

On this journey the footsteps are more important than the signposts.

Newman spoke of change; we need to think of transformation.

the journey of education
The Journey of Education

The relationships (footsteps) are more important than the measured outcomes and points along the journey.

It is a journey without a final destination, and which has endless opportunities for diversions and for visiting places of interest.

our companions
Our companions

In Catholic education we should strive to have as a constant companion and guide, Our Lord.

One challenge is to have teachers who have a spiritual appetite that hungers for that idea.


The greatest poverty is the poverty of hope and our schools have to offer that above all –

a sense of hope in a more secure, just and compassionate world.


“Justice has two beautiful daughters – anger and courage. Anger at what injustices there are, and the courage to make sure they do not remain.” (St Augustine)

We live in a society of great injustice. There are greater gaps than ever between the “haves ” and the “have nots.”

Are all our classrooms places of justice?


We wish to form a society where people will act

  • Through love, care and compassion;
  • With a care for beauty and wonder;
  • With a sense of hope;
  • By serving the world by her/his gifts.