By Sarah Mac Donald - 20 November, 2014
"Schools have to look to the education of the whole person, without ignoring the essential needs of the economy."
Bishop Kevin Doran of Elphin has said it is important that schools commit to a vision of education which recognises that children are not just for the economy, rather the economy is for our children.
He made his comments on Wednesday as he published his first pastoral letter, ‘A Future Full of Hope’ which focuses on education.
The pastoral letter looks at the shared contribution of parents, teachers, schools and parishes in the education of children including their education in faith.
The title of the pastoral letter is taken from the prophet Jeremiah and refers to the time of great social and political unrest, when Jeremiah, speaking in the name of God, says “I know the plans I have in mind for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare, not for disaster! Plans to give you a future full of hope.”
In the pastoral letter, Dr Doran writes that like most institutions, schools are under pressure from every direction these days. More is expected of them than ever before.
“Education serves the economy and our economy has become more complex and more global. There is an expectation that the education system should respond accordingly.”
“Politicians and social researchers often suggest that we need more maths, more science, more languages, in order to respond to the needs of the economy. Sometimes they are right. It is important to remember, however, that our children are not for the economy. Rather, the economy is for our children.”
Bishop Doran underlines that this means that our schools have to look to the education of the whole person, without ignoring the essential needs of the economy, which impacts on the life of every individual.
“Our children need to be formed to think rationally, to form mature relationships, to engage in constructive dialogue and to use their many and varied gifts in the service of others (which most of them do willingly with a little encouragement).”
Speaking to a gathering of parents, teachers and children at Scoil na n-Aingeal Naofa in Boyle, Bishop Doran said, “As Christians, we believe in a God who is good and who, by inviting us into relationship with Him, not only promises us happiness in the next life, but gives a purpose to our existence here and now, which can transform the way we live our lives and the way we participate with one another in society”.
Commenting on the launch of ‘A Future Full of Hope’, parish priest of Boyle, Fr Gerry Hanly said, “In recent times we have come to a renewed appreciation of the gift of our Catholic schools. Our schools are an expression of the overall mission of the parish to communicate God’s love in ways that are relevant in today’s world.”
In encouraging Catholic schools to be Catholic in the best and fullest sense of the word, Bishop Doran acknowledged the great blessing that the diocese has in so many teachers who love their subject and who are really committed to the well-being of the children in their care.
As Catholics, Bishop Doran commented, “We have always regarded education in faith as an essential part of the overall project of education. Education in faith helps our children to come to an understanding of themselves as the sons and daughters of God who loves them, to live their lives here on earth according to the example of Christ, and to be sustained throughout their lives with the hope of eternal happiness”.
Bishop Doran also referred to the blessing of parents during the ceremony of Baptism, which describes them as “the first teachers of their children in the ways of faith”.
He recalled a series of conversations with children preparing for Confirmation, when he had asked the children what they would like their parents to do to help them prepare.
“The answers were very interesting. There were three things that kept coming up again and again. My parents could help me by ‘teaching me my prayers’, by ‘bringing me to Mass’ and by ‘telling me about their own Confirmation’. It seems so little,” Bishop Kevin said, “and yet it would mean so much”.
“The third leg of the stool” as Bishop Kevin called it, is the parish community.
“We need to work hard”, he said “to make sure that our parish communities are alive and that the invitation to grow in faith is always “on the table” because, in the final analysis, faith is best learnt through being lived and celebrated.
He encouraged parents to participate actively in parish programmes of Sacramental preparation, which support the work being done in the schools and which, he said, “can often be the doorway to a more active and fulfilling involvement in the parish as well as a moment to reflect on their own faith journey.”
The full text of A Future Full of Hope is available on http://www.catholicbishops.ie/2014/11/19/future-full-hope-pastoral-letter-bishop-kevin-doran/