Details of Thesis

TitleCatholic Schools Seeking Authenticity in a Secular and Pluralist Society
Author Frijo, Fulvio
Institution Australian Catholic University
Date 2009
Abstract This thesis reports on a case study of three Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Melbourne, Australia. It also provides an exploration of the contemporary Catholic school as it seeks to participate in the educational mission of the Church. Catholic schools are no longer institutions for the converted. Today their purposes are challenged by a contemporary demographic which finds little formal relationship with the institutional Church. Yet these schools still hold a strong enough attraction for parents to select them as their school of choice for their children. At a time when enrolments have never been higher, identification with the institutional Church in its various forms has never been lower, a reality which is equally true of teachers in Catholic schools. This situation seems to pose a challenge to the authenticity of the Catholic school, in terms of the consonance or otherwise between purpose and action, between the school mission statement and the ways in which the Catholic school lives this out. Through questionnaires and interviews the research sought to give voice to parents, students and teachers in three Catholic schools as they reflected on their experiences and choices as well as their understanding of the purposes of the Catholic school. The three schools chosen were from different parts of the archdiocese of Melbourne, a Primary school, a Preparatory to Year 12 School and a special school for children who have struggled with mainstream education. The experiences of these three Catholic schools are regarded against the background of the historical development of Catholic schools in Australia in general and Victoria in particular. The review of literature examines the purposes of the Catholic school as these are described in the Church’s official literature as well as through its educational agencies. It also analyses and comments on the writings of contemporary researchers in the field. In comparing the official literature and examining the contemporary experiences of those in Catholic education, it became obvious that there was a gap between traditional statements of purposes and how schools perceive these purposes through their teachers, students and parents. These gaps became even more obvious in the data gathered for the research. Beyond these, moreover, the data also suggested other gaps and dissonances. These included the gap between the parents’ expectations and the schools’ expectations about what constitutes Catholic education, and the structural dissonances between schools and the local Churches. The separation or lack of conversation between Catholic school and local Church identified in the research goes to the heart of the authenticity of the educational mission of the Church itself. The research identified that on their own Catholic schools can neither be substitute parishes nor manage the Church’s educational mission. More than this, the question of the authenticity of the Catholic school is also an ecclesiological question. This means that the Catholic school’s strategies and actions can only be seen as part of a larger strategy of the Church itself to educate Catholics. Like the Church, Catholic schools involve the participation of staff and families whose loyalties, values, life experiences and decision-making are directly affected by the secular and pluralist nature of the society to which they belong. Yet this has not meant that people are any less spiritual or seeking of a deeper meaning to their lives. People in general, and parents in particular, are not necessarily looking to fulfil this spiritual need in their local Church, and neither is this fulfilled by sending their children to Catholic schools. The thesis explores this phenomenon and proposes that only in partnership between school and local Church can authentic Catholic schools develop and grow.
Thesis 01front.pdf  64KB
02whole.pdf 806KB

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