Principals join Archbishop and priests for summit

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While we were always taught education was about the three R’s, today that’s become the three P’s.

Priests, principals and parents are the three cornerstones of Catholic education into the future according to Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP.

Speaking to about 250 principals and parish priests from the archdiocese on Tuesday, the Archbishop revealed how now more than ever there is a need for an intersection of the Church, the family and educators. He said both the principals and parish priests were today’s preaching team sent by Pope Francis to re-evangelise Australia.

He also took the opportunity to launch a new document, Catholic Parishes and Schools: A Framework for Shared Mission, which has been compiled over the past 12 months in consultation with senior Church personnel.

The 64-page document contains guidelines for future relationships in six key areas including school governance; spiritual formation of children and families; pastoral care; personnel; facilities and the Sydney Catholic Schools office.

Archbishop Anthony hopes the document will provide direction at a time when the Church faces a social climate often marked by indifference due to a number of factors including failures exposed by the Royal Commission.

He said he hopes it will result in pastors and principals, staff, parish and school communities to “more deeply appreciate their distinct but complementary roles as part of the Church’s shared mission today”.

“Notwithstanding their long and proud history, and their many fine achievements, Catholic schools must never be viewed as or operate from the perspective of solely being educational entities,” he said.

“Nor should they be considered de-facto parishes.

“Rather, their vision and mission is informed by, and should reflect, their distinctly ecclesial context, as they support and collaborate in the work of the Church.

Anthony Cleary

“And for this to succeed in its mission, all these groups must work together in a spirit of harmony and co-operation, respect each other’s roles, gifts and experiences and share the same goals.”

Director of Religious Education and Evangelisation Anthony Cleary said he hopes the new framework quite simply “starts a conversation around the cornerstone of our work”.

“The Church exists to evangelise, that’s our mission and to be fully effective we need to integrate schools and parishes to work together with families,” he said.

“And to do this we need to start a conversation about the cornerstone of our mission which is Jesus. The document hopefully will help people to think differently about the challenges we face both at school and in our daily lives.”

The Archbishop also outlined to the audience the key issues effecting today’s youth revealed from conversations and surveys with young people over the past six months.

He will present the findings at the Synod on Youth in Rome in October.

The leading issues effecting young people in order include:

  1. Mental health issues (including anxiety and depression)
  2. Sexual, ethnic and spiritual identity
  3. Educational, employment and housing future
  4. Forming and sustaining good relationships, avoiding loneliness and finding a community of real support
  5. The direction of our politics, culture and Church on issues of life and love, justice and mercy
  6. Being a person of faith in an increasingly secular environment.

He said we as a community must be prepared “to meet our young people where they are, and not expect them always to come to us”.

“We long for their presence and energy in our parishes, our worship, our service to the world, and so we must hear why they are too often absent,” he said.

“We must let the Holy Spirit challenge us through them. We need their help to make ours the best Church it can be, for their generation and beyond.

“In the face of an increasingly secularising tide; and even in the face of our own disappointments with the Church we might be tempted to give up on evangelisation, catechesis, formation and vocations promotion.

“Never I say, never give up on God or our young people. They are just too important.”