Sunday, August 24, 2014

Catholic Identity

“Since, therefore, the Catholic school can be such an aid to the fulfillment of the mission of the people of God and to the fostering of the dialogue between the Church and mankind, to the benefit of both, it retains even in our present circumstances the utmost importance.” — Gravissimum Educationis (Declaration on Christian Education, 1965)

While much attention has been given to the issue of Catholic identity at colleges and universities over the last several decades, many of these institutions educating elementary-, middle- and high-school students are also assessing their priorities in transmitting the faith.

Witness to the Gospel

Kevin Kiefer, 37, just completed his third year as principal of Las Vegas’ Bishop Gorman Catholic High School, home to more than 1,300 students. Since he started working at Bishop Gorman, one of his primary focuses has been on increasing Catholic identity in the school. “Without a clear focus on Jesus Christ, Church teaching and a Christian, anthropological operating philosophy, Catholic schools run the risk of becoming elitist private schools,” Kiefer believes.

In keeping with the U.S. bishops’ recommendation to Catholic school principals to “recruit teachers … who can contribute to the achievement of the school’s Catholic identity and apostolic goals” (National Directory for Catechesis, 2005), Kiefer and his administrative team take the hiring and training of educators seriously.

“It is important that those who work in a Catholic school are committed to the mission of the Church and are living witnesses to the truth we profess,” Kiefer explained. This idea of Catholic educators giving authentic witness to the faith was encouraged by Pope Benedict XVI, who said, “The central figure in the work of educating, and especially in education in the faith, which is the summit of the person’s formation … is specifically the form of witness” (“Address to the Participants in the Ecclesial Diocesan Convention of Rome,” 2005).

“The other critically important piece to make Catholic identity a priority is to ensure that the faculty and staff are well formed,” Kiefer elaborated. To do this, he and his staff are taking steps to ensure that their annual retreat day focuses on prioritizing Catholic identity, as well as working on best practices for ongoing spiritual and catechetical formation for the adults on campus.

Prioritizing Catholic Identity in Education
What Schools Are Doing Right

by Katie Warner