The Roman Catholic Church in The Bahamas is part of the worldwide Roman Catholic Church, under the spiritual leadership of the Pope. The diocese was elevated to a full diocese, as the diocese of Nassau in June 1960. On June 22nd, 1999, the diocese was again elevated as the new Archdiocese of Nassau.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Are our Catholic schools loosing its IDENTITY?

For as long as Catholic schools have been in existence in The Bahamas, can it ever loose its Catholic identity? As a former student of the Catholic school system and the father of two children who currently attend Catholic schools I would have to say, unequivocally, "Yes".
The majority of Catholic families lean more towards sending their children to Catholic Primary schools rather than the Public school system or other Private schools (this is true also for non-Catholics as well). It is when the time comes for high school that the parents decide that they want their children to attend other so-called "popular" schools or the children dictate where they want to go. Should we as parents be giving our children options today? Are we Catholic through and through or only when it suits us, as I have discussed previously in another article called "Are you a Cafeteria Catholic".
It saddens me when practicing Catholics prefer to send their children to other denomination High Schools without considering the Catholic High Schools here in New Providence. This makes it ver
 y easy for them to walk away from the faith when they leave to pursue a College education if they are not devout in their faith.

What really makes a Catholic school "Catholic"? In earlier decades Catholic schools were Catholic by virtue that nuns and priests ran the schools. It was a very visible form of being Catholic. Gone are those days, so it’s more along the lines of what we are teaching and how we are teaching today that makes us Catholic.

During Pope Benedict's Papal Visit to the United States in 2008, Pope Benedict urges educators to lead students to deeper faith.
"Catholic identity is not simply a question of the number of Catholic students," he said. It also is not "dependent upon statistics" nor can it be "equated simply with orthodoxy of course content."

Instead, he stressed that the Catholic identity of a school or religious education program "demands and inspires much more: namely that each and every aspect of your learning communities reverberates within the ecclesial life of faith."

He stressed that teachers and administrators in universities and schools have a "duty and privilege to ensure that students receive instruction in Catholic doctrine and practice." To not do this, he said, would weaken Catholic identity and cause "moral, intellectual or spiritual" confusion.
In contrast to days gone by when there were many nuns and priests as educators, there seems to be a drastic decline in the visible presence of our religious brothers and sisters at our Catholic Schools who would serve as role models and recruiters of young people into religious vocations. Schools are, therefore, required to hire more lay people to fill the roles as teachers, even those of non-Catholic faith beliefs. Educators of non-Catholic beliefs are made known the fact that the belief and practices of the Church are to be respected when accepting a position at our Catholic schools. Could this pose as a problem for Catholic religious education and formation? This question will have to be addressed in another discussion?

Religious education should not be left solely up to the teacher of Religious Education, but should be expected by all faculty, who can share their faith experience with the students. This can be a dangerous tactic if the teachers are of other denominations. Personally, with the ratio of Catholic students to non-Catholics (the latter being greater), it is important that the children are grounded in their faith from home so that they are confident in their beliefs and not intimidated to express and share their faith with peers.

Nuns and priests should be encouraged to take the time to visit the schools as often as possible, to speak with the students willing to seek spiritual guidance. Just as it is necessary to pray often, in order to keep in communion with Christ, it becomes necessary for many to be able to identify with symbols that remind us of our faith and what we believe.

A U.S. Catholic School displays
its physical identitity with a cross,
statue of the Virgin Mary and the
word "Catholic" in the school's name.

The Virgin Mary statue at
a Catholic school
As a Catholic school there are many ways to identify it physically. They include, the word "Catholic" in the name of the school, a cross on the school grounds, statues of the Saint of the school, including images depicting the Holy Family. For me an important aspect for high school students would be the need to have on campus a chapel where students can find time to pray and form their faith. Along with Mass at the school, reconciliation should also be made available. For many students, Catholics and non-Catholics, this is the only time that they attend Mass.

In order to improve and reach towards the ideal of what Catholic education could and should be, we must face the fact that Catholic schools can and must be greatly improved in fulfilling their responsibility of effective faith formation. Catholic schools are, and should remain, the most potent means of faith formation in the Catholic Church.

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