EUREKA ! CATHOLIC EDUCATION AND HOW!
All too often I have had to write here about things that are wrong or at least not going right. And in fact it is in that framework that I have been keen to begin to write about Catholic Education here in Australia.
Generally speaking, it is a disaster area as far as “Catholicism” is concerned. Oh! Yes I can see you sticking up your hand and with righteous anger wanting to say “What an arrogant assertion! Our Catholic School is a very nice one.” “Where is your evidence?” You ask me. Well, I shall ask you to look about you at Mass on Sunday: how many Secondary students do you see? How many of those know to genuflect and towards what? And as the children stream into your “nice” school each morning, how many drop into the Church to pay a visit to the Blessed Sacrament – Oh! – None? Hmmm. I could go on, but I think you are getting the picture.
If the standards of Public Administration or of Commerce were used to judge the activity of CATHOLIC Schools we would have to judge them, in the words of an English Bishop (where the problems are the same) as NOT “Fit for Mission”. Imagine what would happen if 90% of the cars that rolled off the Holden assembly lines would not go! How long would it take to clean the place out – replace key workers and executives? It would be the same in Public Administration (though slower and less reliable.)
But that is exactly what we face! The children coming out of our heavily resourced Catholic Education systems are NOT GOING to Mass, the Sacraments, being involved in the life of the Church, and are far from having a healthy relationship with God, obviously. This is the cancer eating the heart out of the Church of the future. And I want to begin examining what is wrong. But it isn’t so easy. A lot of people have a vested interest in keeping things just as they are. And if that is not exactly Catholic, well…. the Church can pick up the pieces.
Redfield College - buildings are modern, moderate profile and pleasant,
set in 23 acres of beautiful land.
There is in the area of Sydney, New South Wales a smallish Privately Owned group of Schools of strong Catholic ethos run by PARED SCHOOLS. PARED stands for Parents for Education and the fundamental approach of these schools is based on the idea that they are helping the parents to educate their children, as opposed to educating the children in place of, and for, the parents. The schools are privately owned – they are not institutionally “ Catholic” But they are more CATHOLIC than the Catholic Schools.
Now it should be said up- front, that these schools and PARED, are assisted by the services of a Chaplain who is a Priest of the Personal Prelature of Opus Dei. In addition, several of the founding shareholders and Directors are members of Opus Dei. The schools take students who are Catholics as well as students who are not. There is no question of any compulsion to be involved in Catholic religious life.
To begin my research, I attended with two friends, the Open Day held by Redfield College in the charming semi-rural area of Dural North West of Sydney. Redfield is a Boys School and is situated on 23 Acres of gently undulating land along what is known as the Old Northern Road which has its origins back in the convict days at the beginning of the then Colony.
The premises are all modern, of moderate profile and very pleasant to see. The College has 124 Primary Students and about 260 Secondary Students. It began far more modestly in the very early 1990s and has steadily grown. It is the present intention to cap the growth in numbers at the present level.
Each Primary Student has the opportunity to attend a class Mass once a week. Each Secondary Student has the opportunity to attend Mass daily. Confessions are regularly available and encouraged. The School Chapel is of moderate size and low-key design.
The Religious Education Texts used in the School are the Faith and Life Series published by Ignatius Press and cross-referenced throughout to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It was a joy to me to find that these texts were in use here because for about 10years I had been responsible for distributing them in Australia.
Every Catholic student is taught how to serve at Holy Mass in Years 7 and 8.
We were escorted around the College by two young gentlemen from 6th Grade and we were mightily impressed with them for their bearing, manners, command of the matters they had been trained to bring to our notice and their nice sense of humour. They were two well-rounded young personalities.
We were very pleasantly impressed by the School’s approach to student care. Each student has Tutor who regularly meets with him in one of the several very well designed Tutor rooms which are quiet but open to view through large windows. Further there are special remedial teaching rooms for those students needing extra teaching attention. Throughout the School we found very substantial computer resources in very well set-up rooms and large trolleys laden with iPads which brought a special gleam to our escorts’ eyes.
There are well-resourced Primary and Secondary Libraries in a very modern building and off from the reading areas there are more Computer Resource Rooms and off that again quiet Study areas, bringing a University type atmosphere to facilitate the Senior student’s efforts.
In addition the School has all the normal Science Rooms etc.
The languages taught in the School are Spanish and Latin. The boys were obviously keen on both for a variety of reasons. They certainly seemed enthused with Spanish culture.
True to its objective of helping the Parents to educate their children, the School sets up special activities, and seeks to get the parents involved in their son’s School life. Father and Son weekends away are only part of this effort. The School’s commitment to Parents and children, means that it does not adopt a selective approach. Within the one family there can be , as we know, academically inclined and even trades inclined children. Redfield caters for both – thus giving parents what they need and helping to preserve the unity of the family.
Academically the results of Redfield College are impressive with 90% of its graduates gaining University Admission. In matters Spiritual the College has 4 ex students who are Seminarians. And in civic life, in its brief history Redfield College has an ex-Student who is a Member of State Parliament.
I came away from Redfield College cheering within my heart! Hurrah! It can be done and here are people doing it running an authentic Catholic School. Here a full Sacramental life is developed, with intelligent understanding of the Church’s Teachings.
Here too the boys and young men are taught to live out the Christian Virtues.
Here at least, it is being done.