NZ Bishops say young people are not encountering Jesus in Catholic schools

WELLINGTON — Most Catholic-educated young people in New Zealand are not encountering Jesus Christ through their schooling, New Zealand’s Catholic bishops say.
The bishops have published a document,The Catholic Education of School Age Children, that discusses a number of problems with faith education and the likely solutions. The document is
based in large part on doctoral thesis research by Chris Duthie-Jung of Wellington, Faith Amid Secularity.
The document says that although Catholic schools deliver a sound education, that is not why they exist — that end can be met by state schools. Catholic schools are where the living God
should be encountered.
The bishops write that young, adult pakeha Catholics (between 18 and 28) see themselves as Catholic, sense the presence of God, believe in basic goodness, but also display a disconnect at
the level of faith acting in ordinary life.
For most of them, being Catholic is cultural rather than a commitment. In fact, there seems to be little diff erence
between young Catholics, and young non-religious adults of good will.
The vocations director of Christchurch diocese, Fr Chris Orr, told NZ Catholic that, having read the document, he
thinks its ideas could help vocations.
“It talks about young people encountering Christ and having that hunger for knowledge and coming to know him and having that relationship and having an authentic witness,” he said.
The bishops describe Catholic educators as being at the heart of Catholic character. The document expects them to model the lived faith. Then, even if a teacher in a Catholic school teaches
a secular subject, that will be done in a way that helps the human and faith formation of students.
Fr Orr said that in a similar way young people need to have the experience of seeing religious and priests living the faith in a meaningful way.
The document highlights a lack of a process for claiming adult faith. The bishops comment that cultural understanding
of faith is not enough — students of the theological content of their faith.
They also point out the danger of emphasising values. Values must be founded on the Gospels; “it is not appropriate to start with the values in the New Zealand Curriculum and attempt to
link them with the Gospels”. Such an inversion leads to generic values derived from secular humanism and separated
from the Faith.
Schools should emphasise virtues ahead of values. “Values are internalised sets of beliefs or principles of behaviour.
Not all values are consonant with moral or ethical behaviour.. ..”
The bishops say that fewer than a quarter of the respondents showed “a profound personal response to God’s self-communication”, but they are a source of hope.
“Their personal journeys may well indicate what needs to be encouraged in order to facilitate others taking the
same path.”
The 11,000 word document covers such things as non-participation in parish life, the courage needed to be truly Catholic, attendance dues, young Catholics at state schools, barriers to
Catholic education, CCD, the role of the NZ Catholic Education Office.

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Michael Otto

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