Catholic Education for the believer, can be viewed as the opening of the heart and mind to perceive God and his goodness in the created world. All forms of learning ultimately reveal the beauty of God’s design, which Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta is on the cutting edge of imparting to students, with the latest in educational strategies.
Theology was known as ‘Queen of the Sciences’ in times past. How could this be so? The Latin word for knowledge is scientia, and the physical sciences are far from being the only form of knowledge. As ‘Queen of the Sciences’, religious education (sometimes called Theology) is still the highest form of knowledge, providing the deepest answers about our identity and universe. It speaks to us of who we are, and to whom we belong. We are made in the image and likeness of Love (God) and we belong to God (Love) through each other.
Catholic Education is not limited to our systemic schools but also occurs in non-systemic Catholic schools run by religious congregations and others that specialise in education. State schools too offer Catholic religious education classes through the good works of ‘Special Religious Educators’ in parishes trained by the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine. Men and women also study in seminaries and houses of formation, focussing on formation in prayer, virtue and the divine truths necessary to become priests and religious leaders. Adults have the opportunity to engage in dozens of initiatives for ongoing education and formation at the Institute for Mission, Blacktown.
Students, teachers, young and old are bombarded with practical and philosophical questionings. Through Catholic Education, all members and friends of the Diocese of Parramatta can engage with exploring these questions in a spirit of honesty and faith as revealed in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. That is the God of the eternal now – the God who is always with us. The Feast of Christmas is about the coming of Emmanuel – God with us – not in the future, not a few steps behind in the past; but in the now.
Theologian Karl Rahner said famously, “We don’t live in an idealised future or a romantic past, we live in the now.” Now the great task of all in education and formation is building saints and encouraging saints. Saints who live in the real world constantly trying to live the message of Jesus the divine Son of God. A message of Love, Faith and Hope. In trying to live this message we spread the message. In spreading the message we help bring about that Kingdom of God which Christ came to establish and which we pray for each time we pray the Lord’s Prayer.
Saints for students and teachers include St Thomas Aquinas, St Augustine of Hippo, St Mary of the Cross, St Marcellin Champagnat, St John Baptiste de la Salle. Lesser-known Bl Herman (1013-54AD) is a particular patron for students with disabilities. Regardless of his paralysis, Bl Herman’s brilliant scholarship and music, such as the chanted Salve Regina, endures to today. St Edith Stein is a particular patron for women scholars; an inspiring Carmelite nun and academic anthropologist tragically killed by the Nazis.
Indeed, the first universities were founded by religious orders doing just what all in Catholic Education strive for today – to elevate the minds of students and be a leaven to the world. This same spirit motivated the religious orders who founded many of the schools in the Diocese. That spirit continues to sing in the hearts and minds of the many good and hard-working educators in our Diocese.
This Christmas we meditate on the profound humility of Christ. Though omnipotent, He lay vulnerable and homeless in a manger. Let His spirit of humility shine in our souls, as a foundation of learning, the pursuit of wisdom and salvation.
By Fr Chris de Souza VG EV PP, Episcopal Vicar for Education and Formation
This article first appeared in the December 2017 print edition of Catholic Outlook.
At the request of Most Rev Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, Catholic Outlook was printed in December 2017 to connect the Diocese and showcase the good works across the Diocese’s many agencies and ministries.