At the threshold of the new school year 2010/11
Fr. IRENEUSZ SKUBIŚ
Another school year has begun. It brings extremely many old problems, which almost every Polish family struggles with. These include buying school textbooks and accessories as well as clothes. The novelty is that schools are open to receive as many six-year old children as possible. Will the direction of the Ministry of Education prove useful? It is true that contemporary children are completely different; they are familiar with computers; they are courageous and reflective but they are small children whose growth and… quicker professional start are being accelerated (one reason being our retirement allowances). Besides have our schools been prepared to receive ‘toddlers’? Have they been prepared to teach them? Have they proper equipment and are they safe?
There are also pastoral problems, connected with the new school year. The thing is that participation in religious instruction at school should be connected with children’s participation in Sunday Mass and their participation in parish life, which could influence their daily lives. The new catechetical year is also a big challenge for teachers of religion. We should reflect again what catechisation should look like today and what its aims are. The formation of faith is the fundamental task of the Church. Its history knows great catechetical schools, for example in Alexandria, Antioch, which testify how theological reflection was matured, deepened and how those ancient ‘catechists’ could explain God’s revelation.
Lord Jesus said, ‘Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations’ (cf. Mt 28: 19). His words also concern contemporary catechisation in Polish schools, which is the fulfilment of Christ’s command. That’s why we do not look at all issues related to catechisation only from the technical aspect connected with the ways of transmission of religious knowledge. Teaching religious instruction in schools is also a mission. The teacher of religion, whether a consecrated person or a layperson, is sent in the name of the Holy Trinity to proclaim the word of God. The ultimate aim of religious instruction is testimony. Therefore, the problem is to accept religious knowledge in the forum of conscience, which means experiencing and applying religion in life. Chemical patterns or knowledge about a given geographical region or climate are accepted differently and the knowledge about God: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit to whom we pray, with whom we live, fulfilling his commandments, whom we trust, requires a different treatment. Catechesis is to introduce us into the world that is God’s. It is to show the great sense of creation and to show man as its host and to show Lord God who is above all things.
It happens that teachers of religion do not fulfil their roles perfectly and they do not always have a gift to transmit this teaching of God. Here we deal with the action of the Grace, which also depends on the way people receive God’s inspiration and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Well, nobody is excused from working on his/her character, spirituality, and certainly prayer is an effective help.
As I have already mentioned there is a problem concerning the relationship between school with religious instruction and parish with its parish church. There is some lack: a large percentage of pupils attend religious instruction lessons but it is not translated into their presence at church. There are too few young people who get involved in parish life and it is a certain testimony of faith. It is a big challenge for priests and they should face it. It seems that families should help them. Families, being aware of the value of religion in man’s life, should give their children the change of religious experience, which could be more valuable because it will occur among those who are dearest to them. I think that all people should care for good education of young people.
I wish schools, teachers, children and parents see the big gift of the Church’s presence in our social life and the gift of catechesis. Since it is not only an important completion of general education of young people but altogether the most important school subject, giving a huge chance of a wonderful inner growth.