REGINA — A changing church and a changing society requires that Catholic schools and Catholic parishes work together to preserve and grow Catholic education. That was the premise of a Jan. 28 presentation by Rev. James T. Mulligan, a Holy Cross priest from Welland, Ont., and author of several books on Catholic education. It was a morning exercise with the cafeteria at Miller High School offering a variety of fruits, muffins, coffee and tea for breakfast.
Declining attendance in church, fewer church marriages, funerals, baptisms and confirmations, young people not contributing to church coffers, children with parents in different relationships, were all cited by Mulligan as making it difficult for teachers “to connect with their baptism and baptismal priesthood.” The number of “imported” priests who have language difficulties and who may not understand the culture also makes things difficult. Society, too, is changing, with new and often addictive technology. “Distractions that are way too much for our story to be told,” said Muilligan. “The picture should disturb us.” But, he said, “Pope Francis’ the Joy of the Gospel is the road map for Catholic education.”
He quoted Francis: “We are called to be in the middle of things as they are and not as we would like them to be.” People are not coming to us, Mulligan continued, “we must go to them and school is where it comes together.”
He outlined his own experience with schools in Welland and his home parish of St. Kevin. He also referred to several passages in his most recent book A Pastor’s Journal: Catholic Parishes and Schools Working Together, which attendees had received as part of the presentation. It chronicles a year of activities in which school and church worked together celebrating Catholic holy days with special services and ceremonies.
They produced what he called the Green Binder to which everyone refers when planning for an activity, ceremony, or service. “School is the point of contact for home and parish. School and parish have to work together,” said Mulligan. Parishes need to encourage teachers, he said. “Teaching is increasingly difficult. Remind teachers their teaching is an extension of their baptismal vocation.”
Catholic schools, said Mulligan, are marked by hospitality and compassion. The parish is a resource for teachers for theological and catechetical information. “The parish is the centre of the church because of the eucharist,” said Mulligan. “Sunday eucharist is necessary for teachers,” and they need to visible in church ministries, he said.
Following his presentation, participants engaged in table discussions prior to a question period. There were no questions asked but several priests spoke briefly about how they and their parishes interacted with their associated schools, teachers and students.