Strengthening Catholic Identity in Catholic Schools

Strengthening Catholic Identity in Catholic Schools

Articles, Come, And You Will See, Local Columns

St. Mary Catholic School, Joplin by Dean Curtis

Come, And You Will See Column written by Bishop Edward M. Rice

On Mon., Sept. 5, we celebrate the civil holiday of Labor Day, the traditional ending of the summer season. Those with children will be back to following the school calendar and getting into the daily routine of study and homework. With that in mind, I recently had the opportunity to speak to the pastors and principals of our diocesan Catholic schools, and then to all of the teachers in the Springfield Catholic Schools System. I would like to share with you some of my thoughts.

On Jan. 25, 2022, the Congregation for Catholic Education issued a 20- page document discussing the identity of Catholic schools, “The Identity of Catholic Schools for a Culture of Dialogue.” No doubt, every bishop is concerned that the schools under his jurisdiction be authentically Catholic, and the document gives some good guiding principles to achieve that goal. There should always be “a clear awareness and consistency of the Catholic identity of the Church’s educational institutions.” Without a clear identity, we cannot have a clear discussion.

Just as a mother gives life, teaches and guides, so, too, does “Holy Mother Church.” A Catholic school should reflect the family dynamic, and like any mother, moms are concerned about the lives of their children in all the details. Therefore, a Catholic education should offer a holistic approach, offering faith formation, values, and knowledge. True education has the goal of the formation of the human person, collaborating with the parents. It is not just about the transmission of information. Catholic formation within the school should address the whole of life that can be imbued with the spirit of Christ.

Paragraph 18 says “a Catholic school lives in the flow of human history.” In other words, we are not immune to the issues in our culture. We do not live in a bubble. And therefore, we must “adopt new teaching methods while remaining faithful to our own identity.” For example, that principle is behind our “Theology of the Body, [TOB]” curriculum—TOB addresses the issues of science and faith and sex. That principle is the lens through which we prepare for the sacraments, utilize technology and other social issues. Our rich faith has something beautiful to say to these rather “new” issues in our culture.

Paragraph 23 in the document states, “In the Catholic school… There is no separation between time for learning and time for formation, between acquiring knowledge and growing in wisdom.” Everything in the school setting is about formation. The teachers in our Catholic schools should be “teachers of learning and of life, to be a reflection, although imperfect, of the one Teacher,” Jesus Christ.

The document goes on to remind us that “the whole school community is responsible for implementing the school’s Catholic identity: students, parents, teachers, nonteaching personnel, and the school administration.” All of them form the educational community and become responsible for evangelization— it must be at the heart of all that they do. Paragraph 47 makes a powerful statement, “Teachers must be outstanding in correct doctrine and integrity of life.” So, if a teacher does not accept the call to holiness and is not on their own journey of faith, the principal or administration must have a conversation to see if it’s actually a good fit for them to be instructing in the Catholic school. Teachers in our Catholic schools are not employees, or even professionals, but rather living out their personal vocation within the Catholic school community.

I thank our administrators, principals, staff, and teachers. Each one of you is an extension of my work. You collaborate with me; you represent me in the classroom and in the administration of our 23 elementary and three high schools. I cannot do the work without you. Let’s make this our best year ever.


On Sat., Sept. 17, at Notre Dame Regional High School, Cape Girardeau, and on Sat., Nov. 5, at Holy Trinity Parish, Springfield, the diocesan Office of Worship will offer a “Diocesan Liturgical Conference” on Sacred Music and Ministries for the Mass. The keynote address will focus on music and the Sacred Liturgy, including selecting music for Mass, weddings, funerals, etc. This workshop is open for all music leaders, choir members, musicians, readers, server trainers, liturgical coordinators, sacristans, and extraordinary ministers. This is the first time such a conference has been offered since I have been in the diocese—and I think it is a great opportunity for us during this three-year Eucharistic Revival—to learn more about what is at the very heart of the Church, the Eucharist. I thank Fr. David Dohogne, Director of the Office of Worship along with Katie Newton, for organizing this event. Please plan to attend.


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