The Mission of Catholic Schools and the Role of the Teacher – Study Questions

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Segment One: The Essential Marks of the Catholic School

Video Length: 9:25

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI says the Catholic school is “. . . a place to encounter the living God Who in Jesus Christ reveals His transforming love and truth.” Discuss your initial reaction to this statement and if you feel that your current Catholic school setting is one in which people (students, teachers, parents, staff, etc.) would say they “encounter the living God?”

According to Dr. Roberts, what is meant by the term “Catholic Identity”?

How would you describe your current level of familiarity with the Church’s vision for Catholic schools?

The Five Essential Marks of the Catholic School identified by Archbishop J. Michael Miller are:

  1. Inspired by a Supernatural Vision
  2. Founded on a Christian Anthropology
  3. Animated by Communion & Community
  4. Imbued with a Catholic Worldview throughout its Curriculum
  5. Sustained by Gospel Witness

What opportunities do you see for improvement in fulfilling this vision in your school?

Segment Two: Inspired by a Supernatural Vision

Video Length: 8:08

Frank Sheed, in his short book Christ in the Classroom, summarizes this supernatural vision well: “The special object of religious education is to prepare the pupils for life in Christ. For the teacher, the test is how they are responding to Christ — not only are they growing in their knowledge of Him, but also what in fact does He mean to them and how intensely does He mean it?”

Discuss how the first mark “Inspired by a Supernatural Vision” is already recognizable in your school and how your school can be further inspired by a supernatural vision. Reflect on the bullet points below as guides for your discussion:

  • The availability of a chapel on campus or nearby, with regular Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.
  • Whether prayer is incorporated into the daily schedules of students, especially in a manner that is reflective to some degree, rather than hurried.
  • Whether, and how frequently, the students, staff, and faculty at your school are able to attend Mass.
  • The frequency with which the Sacrament of Reconciliation is made available to students, and then freely chosen rather than required or “guilted” into it.
  • How acts of love for the poor, mercy toward our brethren, and service for others are encouraged, and whether the students are taught about how these acts are related to the Father’s own love, mercy, and generosity.
  • Whether virtuous behavior is encouraged in the classroom, the halls, the lunchroom, the playground, etc., and if so, the ways in which it is encouraged (more by positive witness than simply by punishment).

Segment Three: Founded on a Christian Anthropology

Video Length: 5:27

Read Catechism paragraphs 1700–1709. With your own students in mind, find one sentence that inspires you. How would you like to reflect this ideal more concretely with your students? Discuss this with the group.

As you seek to foster the Church’s vision for Catholic schools in your own school, think about how you might be able to more deeply see your students as having been created in the image of God and treat them with the dignity they possess as human persons.

  • Are there ways you can more fully respect their free will, their ability to make choices and act on them?
  • Are there ways you can help them orient their free will to conform to the will of the Father?
  • Are there ways in which you can better acknowledge their communal nature, their need to be in relationship with other persons?
  • Are there ways you can show them how much you truly value them?

Segment Four: Animated by Communion & Community: The Role of Parents & Family

Video Length: 12:11

Dr. Roberts provided some suggestions for how we might cultivate these crucial relationships between the school and parents and respect the parents as the first educators in the lives of their children:

  • Give presentations that will be made to the student body to the parents first, so that they know what their children will be hearing and can discuss the material with their children.
  • Keep open and regular communication between the school and parents regarding the children’s progress in class.
  • Post homework assignments online, so that parents can view their children’s assignments, as this helps hold students accountable and inspires conversation between parents and children.
  • Inspire enthusiasm in the students, so that they, then, want to go home and share what they’re learning with their parents.

Reflect on whether there are areas in your school where the parents’ role as primary educators can be more fully acknowledged, honored, supported, or cultivated.

How do you see your school cultivating this essential mark of the Catholic school — communion and community — with parents in particular?

Identify the key ways in which your school fosters good relationships with the parents, including assisting parents in their roles as primary educators. Then, brainstorm at least one additional way in which your school might be able to become more intentional about fostering this type of community

Segment Five: Animated by Communion & Community: Special Considerations about Including Non-Catholics

Video Length: 7:48

Discuss the challenges your school faces in facilitating communion between Catholics and non-Catholics in the school. Which are felt the most?

Are there instances where the presence of non-Catholics in the school enriches insights or discussions in the classroom? Share examples.

Do the majority of students identify as Catholic or non-Catholic? Do those who identify as Catholic seem to be practicing Catholics, making the faith a part of the home life of the students?

In his Encyclical Letter, Redemptoris Missio, St. John Paul II says, “The Church proposes; she imposes nothing.” The human person is created with free will. As such, we cannot seek to coerce students into believing the teachings of the Church or into following faith practices that do not align with their beliefs. As you seek to implement the mission of the Catholic school, it’s good to keep this question in mind: Is the Gospel message at my school being proposed or imposed? Discuss this with your group.

Segment Six: A Catholic Worldview Permeates the Curriculum

Video Length: 10:39

Do you see the subject(s) you teach, or the job you perform, in light of God’s goodness, beauty, and truth? Every action, no matter how small, can be done for the glory of God. In your particular role, how can you, or how do you, teach, speak and act so as to allow God to penetrate your work and, in turn, give glory to Him through it? Discuss with the group.

How can you bring God into the subject(s) you teach or the role you play to communicate God’s truth, beauty, and goodness and help students encounter God in everything they learn.

See if you can come up with some particular examples or assignments that would convey God’s truth, beauty, or goodness to the students you serve.

Segment Seven: Sustained by Gospel Witness: The Importance of Witnessing

Video Length: 9:32

Recall Dr. Robert’s quote from Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Evangelii Nunciandi 41, “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.”

A witness is someone who makes us want to grow in intimacy with Christ or learn more about the Catholic faith simply by the way they live. Think about someone in your life who has acted as a witness for you. Perhaps it was his or her compassion toward others, a joyful or peaceful demeanor, or their humility that made Christ more evident to you?

How did this witness inspire you to become more Christ-like yourself, or to research or contemplate some aspect of the faith more? Describe this person and the impact his or her Gospel witness had on you to the group.

Segment Eight: Sustained by Gospel Witness: The Teacher as a Natural Witness

Video Length: 10:25

Dr. Roberts provided several powerful examples of how St. John Bosco witnessed to his students, as well as a few other practical examples, such as excelling in our professional responsibilities, by demonstrating God’s truth, beauty, and goodness in all that we teach, by our outward attitudes of peace, joy, and love even amidst trying circumstances, and by making our lifestyle and character consistent with Catholic teaching.

Think about how you could more intentionally serve as a Gospel witness at your school. Discuss at least two things you would like to implement in your life to make this happen. They don’t have to be drastic changes, but rather small goals/resolutions that you can add to over time. They also don’t have to be choices or actions visible to others if they lead to other fruits of the Holy Spirit that would be visible.