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Challenging moment for Catholic education

By Frank Flegel


REGINA — This is a challenging moment for Catholic education, but it is also a promising time. Catholic education is of great importance in our time for all of society, said Msgr. James P. Shea in a March 10 public lecture in Campion College’s Riffel Auditorium.

Shea, president of the Bismark, North Dakota, Catholic University of Mary, told the almost sold-out crowd that society has changed. A society based largely on Christian principles and Gospel values is no longer the norm.

“This is a radical change in society and this presents us as Catholic educators with great challenges. We need to pay attention to the signs of the times and respond accordingly.”

He then went on to speak about Catholic education in terms of a wounded society and the “salves Catholic education offers for those wounds.” Shea spoke with the Prairie Messenger a few days after his lecture.

“As Catholic educators we have a tremendous amount we can contribute to the common good by being who we are, and by doing Catholic education in an authentic and uncompromising way,” he told his audience. “The message that we carry to the world and that we give as a sacred trust to our students is communicated to them through education,” he said. “That’s really world-altering and life-changing stuff.”

He listed six “wounds” in today’s society and offered seven “salves” to heal those wounds. The first wound he described was: religion, or faith, has become a matter of opinion and feeling rather than truth and knowledge. The second wound was the loss of the sacramental version of the created world — no designer, no design. Third was a return to the subject as the source of truth. His fourth wound described the loss of unity of life; fifth, selective moral relativity; and the sixth was what he called increasing social fragmentation which arises partly out of an increasingly technologized society.

The first salve to address these wounds is a duty for Catholic education to form responsible citizens, but the second and most important is to get people ready for heaven, preparing them for eternal life with God.

Archbishop Donald Bolen thanked Shea for his address and focused his remarks on Shea’s presentation of the third salve. The third salve is a sacramental version of the world, that life is an adventure, the world is an enchanted place, and God is present.

The fourth salve is an encounter with God and the realization that faith and reason are the way to truth, the education of the whole person. Fifth is intellectual charity. He said, “Our work as Catholic educators is to ensure our schools are places of love, and that we are training our students to love because at the end of our lives we will be asked, ‘How did you love with what you have been given?’ ”

The sixth salve offered was initiation into the life of the church and, lastly, the promotion of the common good.

“Catholic education in a very particular way, a way that is unique, is able to carry a more adequate, more satisfying, more holistic vision of the human person through its work of education. Because, more than anything, education is a search for truth.”

Shea’s visit to Regina was initiated by archdiocesan theologian Dr. Brett Salkeld, who asked Shea to address his weekend class of diaconate candidates on “A Church of Encounter.” The public lecture was added to the invitation and was supported by the Regina archdiocese, the Regina Catholic School Board, and by the Jesuits of Campion College.

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