Western Australia's bishops have approved a new 27-page Mandate and Terms of Reference document for the future directions of Catholic education in that State until 2007. The document, which was released in March 2001, has a strong focus on the need for Catholic schools to be inspired by the spirit of John Paul II's new evangelisation and supersedes the 1993 Mandate and Terms of Reference.
This was necessary since, as the new Mandate acknowledges, there are considerable difficulties in catechising children through families and parishes, given the declining participation rate in parish life and widespread family breakdown. In addition, students are surrounded by attitudes and values hostile to the Gospel.
To meet students' needs catechesis had to base itself on the Creed, the Sacraments, Life in Christ and the Lord's Prayer - the four sections of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, with focus on celebrating "Mary as the model Christian disciple" and on learning about the lives of the martyrs and saints. Respect for the Eucharist also should be encouraged.
The document states that the mission of a Catholic school should be that "spelt out in official Catholic teaching" and Jesus' Gospel "as transmitted by the Catholic Church, will be the basis for the school's shared outlook on life." All members of the school community, it adds, should avoid "deliberate behaviour that conflicts with the Commandments" while remembering their school's need "to remain faithful to its role within the Church's mission, remaining in union with the Holy Father, attentive to the Magisterium and reflecting the love and fidelity to the Church in whose name it serves."
The Mandate stresses the need for students to be taught to integrate their Faith into daily life and "to learn how to make a total commitment to Christ, and learn God's answers to the deeper questionings in their hearts, particularly those related to the purpose and direction of their lives." Effective religious education, it says, should reflect the same systematic demands and rigour as other subjects such as science, history and literature, and teachers of RE should "present, explain and justify the Christian message as it is transmitted by the Catholic Church."
Abridged from 'The Record' (Perth).