The Center for Catholic Education: A Critical Need at a Critical Time in the Church

January 06, 2015
  • 2000 years ago, the Church received the commission from the Lord to proclaim the Gospel!
  • 800 years ago, St. Dominic founded his Order “to praise, to bless, to preach.”
  • 154 years ago, The Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia Congregation began their work of Christian education.
  • 53 years ago, Aquinas College undertook its mission of Veritas et Caritas.
  • 20 years ago, Aquinas inaugurated its Educator Preparation Program.
  • 2 years ago, the first Masters Degree programs in education were offered at Aquinas.
  • Last year, Aquinas College launched its most recent educational initiative: the Center for Catholic Education.

This timeline illustrates how very new the Center for Catholic Education is, and demonstrates the rich heritage that comprises the Center’s legacy. In fact, the Aquinas College Center for Catholic Education provides a way to share the fruits of this legacy with others who are involved in the great vocation of Catholic education.

The primary purpose of the Center for Catholic Education is twofold: to serve as a resource for educators in Catholic schools on the elementary and secondary levels and to become a means of cooperation among those educators. In collaboration with the School of Education, the Center provides professional development sessions and retreat conferences for faculties of individual schools or on the diocesan level.

Central to the focus of the Center for Catholic Education is the nature, mission and identity of the Catholic school as it is defined in the documents of the Church. 2015 marks the 50th anniversary of The Declaration on Christian Education issued by Vatican Council II. This document is the seminal one for Catholic schools in this time as it serves as the basis for subsequent documents and sets forth principles which underlie the mission and identity of the Catholic school. Guides for the study and consideration of those documents will be made available through the Center.

The Center for Catholic Education takes its impetus both from the Church’s efforts in the New Evangelization and from Ex Corde Ecclesiae, the apostolic constitution concerning Catholic universities, issued by St. John Paul II in 1990. The distinguishing characteristics of Catholic institutions of higher education cited in this document include reflecting on knowledge in the light of faith, faithfulness to the Christian message as it is handed down through the Church, and service to the broader community, all of which the Center for Catholic Education encompasses in its mission.

The cultural and educational climates of today make the mission of the Center for Catholic Education timely and crucial. It is imperative that those who are engaged in Catholic education — and those who choose it for their children — clearly understand the nature and purpose of the Catholic school. The Church does not educate for exactly the same reason or in exactly the same way the “world” educates.

At the heart of the Church’s educational endeavors lies the dignity of the human person, made in God’s own image, given a purpose on this earth, and called to holiness so that all eternity may be spent in the Presence of God. This effort goes far beyond any utilitarian, economic or political motivation. Rather, the end of Catholic education is a virtuous life which serves the person’s ultimate end as well as the good of the society of which the person is a part. A large part of contemporary culture is toxic to this stance. The absolutes of Truth, Beauty and Goodness are considered only as relative and negotiable in the secularized world view.

The documents of the Church on education anchor the identity and mission of the Catholic school in the mission and identity of the Church itself. They constitute the chief means by which the Church makes available to us the hopes and expectations for Catholic education. They provide not only guidance, but stability in the rapidly shifting landscape of Catholic education.

When The Declaration on Christian Education was promulgated in 1965, the system of Catholic schools in this country had reached a peak. There were 5.6 million student enrolled in over 13,000 schools. Clergy and religious serving in those schools numbered over 112,000. In 2013, the number of students in Catholic schools was 1.9 million, the lowest enrollment since the 1920s. There were 6,594 Catholic elementary and secondary schools. The faculty was 96.8% lay with only 3,221 sisters, 800 brothers and 804 priests and deacons (McDonald & Schultz, 2014, pp. 8-9).

Educating Together in Catholic Schools: A Shared Mission between Consecrated Persons and the Lay Faithful, which came out in 2007, observes that mutual “cooperation and exchange of gifts, in order to participate more effectively in the Church’s mission…helps to give a clearer and more complete picture of the Church herself, while rendering more effective the response to the great challenges of our time” (# 15). It is the intent of the Center for Catholic Education to facilitate this sharing of mission and gifts.

To contact the Center for Catholic Education at Aquinas College, you may call 615-297-7545, extension 471; or email ccedu@aquinascollege.edu.

Visit the Center for Catholic Education online at www.centerforcatholiceducation.org.

What the Church Documents Say About Education

Parents

“Since parents have given children their life, they are bound by the most serious obligation to educate their offspring and therefore must be recognized as the primary and principal educators. “
Declaration on Christian Education, #3

Teachers

“By their witness and their behavior teachers are of the first importance to impart a distinctive character to Catholic schools.”
The Catholic School, #78

Teaching

“Teaching has an extraordinary moral depth and is one of man’s most excellent and creative activities, for the teacher does not write on inanimate material, but on the very spirits of human beings.”
The Catholic School on the Threshold of the Third Millennium, #19

The School

“Among all educational instruments the school has a special importance.(19) It is designed not only to develop with special care the intellectual faculties but also to form the ability to judge rightly, to hand on the cultural legacy of previous generations, to foster a sense of values, to prepare for professional life.”
Declaration on Christian Education, #5

Curriculum and Values

“It has been said that we live in a knowledge-based society. However, Catholic schools are encouraged to promote a wisdom-based society, to go beyond knowledge and educate people to think, evaluating facts in the light of values. They educate people to take on responsibility and duties, and exercise active citizenship.”
Educating to Intercultural Dialogue in Catholic Schools: Living in Harmony for a Civilization of Love, #66