One of the core features of the Prince Albert Catholic School Division is our foundational acceptance of the social teachings of the Catholic Church. Jesus asks us to live our faith not in private, but in our communities. Every interaction and every event is guided by the seven themes of Catholic social teaching within our division. One of our school division goals is to track the ways that we embrace our faith through social actions. During the month of September, our nine schools reported 232 social justice actions. By embracing Catholic social teachings, we are reminded of our school division’s guiding scriptural passage for this school year: Jesus said “. . . love one another as I have loved you” (Jn 13:34).
In this article, we wish to give a brief overview of each of the seven themes of Catholic social teaching and provide examples of what is happening in our schools. As a division we embrace social justice projects not only because it is good citizenship, but because it is a core element of our faith.
The first social justice teaching we embrace is “respect for life and dignity of the human person.” This teaching is based on Jesus’ command to love our neighbour (Mark 12:31). One example this year was inviting a Holocaust survivor to St. Mary High School to share his message of love and peace with students and staff.
The second social justice teaching is the “call to family and community participation.” In this social teaching, Jesus calls his followers to show the faith through our actions. In Matthew 5:16 we are asked to “let your light shine before others in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” An example is École St. Anne School’s community efforts to raise money for a new playground that is wheelchair accessible so all can enjoy play.
The third social justice teaching is “respecting the rights and responsibilities of individuals.” In this teaching the church calls us to work for the basic human rights of all individuals. We are told in Genesis 1:26 that all humans are created in the image and likeness of God. As a result, we should work so all humans have basic rights as children of God. An example is St. Michael Community School participating in the “give a little life day,” which supports the purchase of equipment for children at the Victoria Hospital.
The fourth social justice teaching is “option for the poor and vulnerable.” In Jesus’ first teaching, the Sermon on the Mount, he gave us the Beatitudes, a way to live our lives. The first line of this guide for life is “blessed are the poor” (Lk 6:20). The poor and vulnerable lack a voice and the church asks us to speak for them. An example of this teaching is from Turgeon Catholic Community School, which is collecting money and goods for the St. Vincent de Paul Society, a group that works with the poorest of the poor.
The fifth social teaching is “the dignity of work and the rights of workers.” God is everywhere and therefore is also present in our everyday work environments. As Catholics, we do not disconnect faith and work. Faith is an integral part of work. An example of this social teaching is St. Michael Community School sending thank-you notes to community organizations which include the city police, the fire hall and the hospital for the work they do serving our community.
The sixth social teaching is “solidarity.” This teaching calls us to extend our love and compassion to all persons. This calling is found in the parable Jesus told of the Good Samaritan, which asks “Who is my neighbour?” (Luke 10:29). Jesus tells us that anyone in need is our neighbour. An example of this social teaching is École St. Anne School writing letters to extended family encouraging them to attend mass with the students.
The final teaching is “care for God’s creation.” In Genesis 1:28 we are told that God gave humans “. . . dominion over every living thing.” This is not a statement to give us license to pillage and plunge, rather to be stewards of what is given to us. An example of this teaching is St. John Community School’s Walk to School Day. As a way to encourage students to reduce pollution and to increase physical fitness, more than 120 students, as well as community leaders from the police, city council, and the health region, walked to school on that particular day.
In conclusion, we are proud of the great work that occurs in our Prince Albert Catholic schools as we embrace the Catholic social teachings of the church. We strive to model Christ to the students entrusted into our care. We try to live out our faith in every interaction and keep in mind Matthew 25:34, “whatever you do to the least, you do to me.”
Salahub is the religious education co-ordinator for the Prince Albert Catholic School Division.