What is the role of a pastor in a Catholic school in 2017?
This was the question discussed by more than 220 principals, religious education coordinators and clergy at the Priests, Principals, RECs Forum hosted by the Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta (CEDP) on 8 June, 2017.
CEDP Executive Director Greg Whitby said the discussion was not designed to develop a formal paper or position, but to start an important conversation and develop a shared understanding.
“Pastors and principals exercise their distinctive responsibilities as leaders who have a mission to create schools which are both centres of learning and centres of evangelisation,” he said. “This is a mission of bringing faith and culture into harmony.
“Although these roles are distinct, they are complementary and are built on a mutual commitment to the mission of the Church in Catholic education, Catholic values and good will.”
Bishop Vincent Long Van Nguyen OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, told the group that the work we do in schools exemplifies the kind of church we want to be. It is an integral part of the Church’s mission.
“We need to take a journey with people, to accompany people, especially the needy, the vulnerable, the marginalised. That is the distinguishing mark of the Church’s mission and of that of Catholic education.
“The discussion on equity and government funding is secondary to that of being with being with the poor and the marginalised.
“We need to be a source of nourishment for the people – being strength for healing.
“The traditional structures of the Church are dying – I’m not saying we don’t need priests and bishops any more – what I am saying is that we are all disciples of Jesus first and foremost.
“I see a sign of new life springing forth. A new rising of Christ – the pastoral reason unfolding before us.”
Attendees gathered in groups to discuss the issues and many expressed the view that “as Catholics, as Christians, and as Australians we need to re-think the relationship between Church and our schools’ view of the Christ”.
With thanks to CEDP.