11-December-2012 -- EWTNews Feature |

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Year of Faith is chance for return to Catholic education basics

Father Luiz Ruscillo spoke to a gathering of fellow priests recently, telling them that Catholic schools must make the Year of Faith an opportunity to re-focus on living the Christian faith.

"He says the only reason we're involved in Catholic education is that it's to support the faith, to give people an environment in which they can learn the truths of faith, and live out their faith in a conducive place," Father Marcus Holden said, explaining the talk to EWTN News on Dec. 5.

Fr. Ruscillo, who is director of education for the Lancaster diocese in the north of England, focuses his efforts on Catholic primary and secondary schools.

He gave a talk to the London district of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy on Dec. 5 at St. Patrick's, Soho Square in the city. He reflected on the importance of Catholic education during the Year of Faith.

The confraternity was founded in Oct. 2010 to be a fellowship for priests that provides opportunities for mutual sanctification and support.

Fr. Holden is a founding member of the British province of the confraternity and said the talk addressed "the core issues involved in Catholic education, and then the need to re-focus on what we're trying to achieve by Catholic education, and how to renew it."

Fr. Ruscillo, he said, is "very much against the idea that you can separate catechesis from religious education." The separation between those two "has been fatal." Catholic education is meant to include faith, evangelization, and "the personal call of the Gospel," Fr. Holden said.

Fr. Holden discussed a need to find a middle way between excesses of the 1950s and the experience of the 1970s through 90s.

Earlier, he said, the content of the faith was taught but it lacked a "personal dimension." And later, "there was almost a complete shift away from content, and it was totally focused on the person, and his or her experiences, and religious education was deemed to be based purely upon reflection upon those experiences, to the detriment of content."

He said that there must now be a "re-balancing act ... we're trying to shift that balance really towards measuring and assessing content again."

Fr. Holden explained that Catholic schools in England and Wales are "very successful in terms of full academic standards" and are "very sought-after," but they have also suffered a "noticeable weakening of faith."

In response, the priests of the confraternity who have schools at their parishes are working to encourage content-focused religious instruction and the involvement of practicing Catholics throughout schools.

But of course, the concern is not only content. "The doctrines of the faith only make sense within that personal encounter with Christ."

"It's also a matter of trying to support the environment in those schools, to make them an environment of evangelization so that they're prayerful environments, environments where teachers are showing the way, giving the good example."

Fr. Ruscillo also addressed the need for apologetics in Catholic schools. "Religion is often taught as just a list of things we believe," said Fr. Holden.

"It could be any mythology or any set of beliefs, and he was really calling on the renewal of Catholic education, that we show why we believe what we believe, that it's credible, that it's believable."

Apologetics is necessary, he said, because young people "do face an onslaught of a very secularized culture, with lots of pressure to be unbelieving, to be materialistic."

"These are the kinds of messages they pick up from everything around them. It's quite hard for faith to in-break into that environment, so Catholic schools have an important part to play in this, and this is what we would hope to renew."

Fr. Holden also discussed the role of Catholic education in supporting parents as the first educators of their children.

"We see the supporting of the parents, of marriage and family, as key to any renewal in education."

"The priests in the Confraternity would be particularly focused on supporting families and helping them to live out the faith ... and that's really where the beginning of any renewal will take place."

He expressed concern and "acute awareness" among British priests that the future of Catholic education is threatened by the government's consideration of legislation that would legalize "same-sex marriage."

Catholic schools in the U.K. currently receive taxpayer money, so Catholic education "could be in jeopardy."

As the Church worldwide celebrates the Year of Faith, some members of the confraternity are launching individual projects in their parishes.

"The Confraternity wrote a letter to the Holy Father at our Colloquium; we passed a motion of support for the Year of Faith and that we would pledge ourselves, as a body of priests in this country, to promote faith and the renewal of the understanding of the doctrine of the faith."

"The priests of the Confraternity would really see the Year of Faith as a moment to re-engage with the doctrines of the faith, to understand them better, so that we can love them better. It's a moment of renewal, of return to the essentials of faith."

Read more: http://www.ewtnnews.com/catholic-news/World.php?id=6701#ixzz2EkoEfSAl

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