Archbishop Prendergast’s vision for Catholic education

By squeaker

Archbishop Terrence Prendergast of Ottawa was recently at Wayside Academy to for their annual gala dinner.  He gave a brief address at the event, which is available here.

There are several great quotes from his address that outline his vision of Catholic education and the primordial role of parents.

The Church teaches that Catholic education is “an extension of parental education; it is extended and cooperative home schooling.” Parents, not schools, not the State, and not the Church, have the primary moral responsibility of educating children to adulthood.

If, as the Church believes, parents are the primary educators of their children, then the fact that your school was founded by parents, and remains largely directed by parents is a sign of the seriousness with which you take the task that has been entrusted to you. (Source)

Two important points here. First, the fact that he speaks so highly of parents’ active involvement in Wayside Academy suggests that he has a positive view of recent efforts by all Ottawa parents to restore some catholicity to their school board. This is a very encouraging sign for Ottawa parents. Your struggles have not gone unnoticed.

Second,  I see an allusion to  the excellent work done by Parents as First Educators (PAFE) in the excerpt I highlighted in red. He basically cites PAFE by name. Wink, wink. I think the Archbishop wants PAFE to know that he recognizes and very much appreciates its efforts.

This is the great call for all of us in the 21st century, both as individual Christians and as a school: to become authentic witnesses of the message and person of Christ. The authenticity of any school will “shine forth” from its teachers and families, by the way they are living the Gospel. (Source)

We all know that the Catholic school board is composed of many people who openly reject the Church’s teaching on several important matters. Archbishop Prendergast is clearly cognizant that the behaviour of teachers and parents is detrimental to the quality of Catholic education. But he goes even further:

Fourth, Catholic schools should be imbued with a Catholic worldview. As Archbishop Miller said, “we might be tempted to think that the identity and distinctiveness of Catholic education lies in the quality of its religious instruction, catechesis and pastoral activities,” but it is not so. Rather, a Catholic education is Catholic “because it provides an education in the intellectual and moral virtues, because it prepares for a fully human life at the service of others and for the life of the world to come.”[7] In other words, a particularly Catholic “take” on reality should permeate the whole life of a school, every subject, every activity, and every interaction. Be inspired by a supernatural vision. Be founded on a Christian anthropology. Be animated by communion and community. Be imbued with a Catholic worldview. Keep up a constant search for wisdom and truth. (Source)

Very well put.

Look, the Archbishop is an intelligent man. He’s not oblivious to the fact that this vision is not currently being implemented in the Ottawa Catholic School Board. And he’s certainly not indifferent to this deficiency. We know that he intervened in recent weeks to insert some language into the Board’s new policy on partners. When he mentioned “every activity” in the paragraph above, he probably had activities with external partners partially in mind. I really think he’s trying hard behind the scenes to fix the schools.  Just because we don’t see more on his part doesn’t mean stuff isn’t happening.

That being said, many parents aren’t happy with the speed at which change is happening. They can’t wait 10-20 years because their kids will be out of school by then, with who knows what scars on their soul. By the time their child leaves the school system, they may have lost their faith and may never recover. Those are very good points. The speed and approach are legitimate subjects of debate and parents should continue to voice their concerns as they have done. There are indeed grave risks to the slow-and-steady approach.

However, parents need to be smart about reforming the school system. Following the release of the new school board policy, some parents spoke to secular newspapers about the changes. I don’t think this was a good move because it just drew attention to our resolve and stirred the secularists to call for increased dilution of the Catholic schools. It would be best if we operate under the radar, especially knowing that the Board is very sensitive to media attention. I don’t know why parents would talk to the secular media on this. I don’t see the upside. Somebody will have to explain it to me.

Let’s keep up the pressure on the Board. We have some momentum and we’re gaining traction with the trustees. The pendulum is starting to swing back.  But let’s also be discreet about it with respect to the secular world.


2 thoughts on “Archbishop Prendergast’s vision for Catholic education

  1. Who takes Caesar’s coin must sing Caesar’s tune. That has been an age old problem since the British
    North America Act’s provision for separate schools.

  2. In using the terms “parents as primary educators”, Abp Prendergast is quoting Vatican II’s GRAVISSIMUM EDUCATIONIS para. 3: “Since parents have given children their life, they are bound by the most serious obligation to educate their offspring and therefore must be recognized as the primary and principal educators.” The same document goes on to say in paragraph 8: “The Council also reminds Catholic parents of the duty of entrusting their children to Catholic schools wherever and whenever it is possible and of supporting these schools to the best of their ability and of cooperating with them for the education of their children.”

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