CATHOLIC SCHOOLS TAKE CARE OF INTEGRAL DEVELOPMENT OF CHILDREN AND THE YOUTH
In Central-Eastern Europe, including Poland, catholic education was liquidated after the Second World War for ideological-political reasons – only 9 Catholic schools in Poland survived the liquidation. Now the catholic education is slowly being reborn, therefore, we cannot compare catholic schools in the countries of Old Europe with the schools in the countries of Central-Eastern Europe in numbers and percents.
Catholic education in Poland has been getting rebuilt for nearly over 20 years. It seems that it is being reborn to the measure of social expectations, as well as families identifying themselves with faith and the Church, however, trusting these schools. It is getting rebuilt through new educational institutions, based on the fundament of faith and Catholic morality, Christian culture and family and national values.
How many catholic schools are there in Poland?
This year, 2014, there are 598 schools for children and the youth, including: 196 primary schools, 203 junior high schools, 135 secondary schools, 50 schools of various types: vocational, technical, schools for the youth needing special methods of work and 14 special schools – for students with developmental dysfunctions. In the scale of the whole education for children and the youth (primary schools, junior high schools and secondary schools) Catholic schools are only 2.5 per cent; but primary schools – 1.54 per cent of all schools, junior high schools: 3.08 per cent and secondary schools – 6.3 per cent.
In general, over 60 thousand children and the youth attend Catholic schools.
The power of the Catholic education is spiritual and intellectual formation, including challenges brought by liberalism and relativism. The Catholic school wants to educate the man for full development which was planned for him by the Creator.
In November headteachers and teachers of catholic schools from whole Poland arrived in Jasna Góra. They have been participants of the Forum of Catholic Schools for 25 years. They are always accompanied by bishops – this year these have been: archbishop Stanisław Gądecki – the Chair of the Polish Episcopal Conference and the Synodal father at the recently finished synod on the family, bishop Stanisław Napierała – a long-term assistant of the Catholic Schools Council and bishop Marek Mendyk – the current assistant of the Council.
Teachers meet together in order to get richer spiritually during 3 days, listen to interesting lectures of specialists from various spheres, exchange their experiences. It was so this time as well. The leading thought of the Forum, held on 6-8 November 2014, were the words of St. John Paul I: ‘The man is himself only through the truth and becomes more himself through fuller getting to know the truth’. The choice of the topics suggested, in our opinion, the spheres to which a teacher should pay attention, including phenomena which influence the behavior and education of children and the youth in various ways.
What should the Catholic school be like?
We asked bishop Marek Mendyk, an assistant of the Catholic Schools Council on behalf of the Polish Episcopal Conference, about the state of the Catholic school. – I have had an occasion for some time, to observe our schools and I am cheered up by how they are developing and are overcoming difficulties. There is much hope and optimism in them. Please, note that even with the demographic decline, interest in Catholic schools is not decreasing, which proves how much they are needed. And it is worth asking why Polish families appreciate Catholic schools so much. The answer seems obvious: because they know that the school build everything on values, that they do not mean only the comfort of safety for children, but also forming their characters on a strong fundament – on the truth. Teachers who meet together at Jasna Góra, pray a lot here. Discussions, exchange of experiences are, certainly, extremely important, but the most important power creating our surrounding and our inside is the prayer – said bishop Mendyk.
Archbishop Gądecki reminded that the Catholic school, which is subject to influences of secular trends, does not fulfill its mission: the Catholic school must be faithful to its Christian identity.
A Catholic teacher, what does it mean?
Does a specifics in being a Catholic teacher exist? An answer seems obvious, but during the Forum, this thought was discussed many times.
– The Forum is a big stimulus of intellectual contents which allow for developing all the time. Teachers must work on themselves all the time; not only have such an awareness that they give knowledge and educate but, in order to do it, they must form their hearts, conscience and mind all the time. Conferences which are held here, give an opportunity to participate in this intellectual and spiritual feast – said Robert Jaczyński, a vice-head-teacher of the Częstochowa Catholic Secondary School and Junior High School named Our Lady of Jasna Góra.
Family and school
During the meeting of the Forum of people dealing with education of the young generation, it was unavoidable to refer to the issue of the state of the Polish family. For, it is the family which gives the beginning to everything, so it should naturally cooperate with the school in the work of educating a young man. Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, when asked about the state of the family, expressed his request not to be subject to pessimism. – There are still much more good than bad families – he said. – And these good ones, especially the ones with many children should be shown, promoted and spoken about. Whereas if we deal with a dysfunctional family, which does not cope with anything, the duty of various Catholic communities, strong families, schools is to provide such a family with help, instead of complaining. On this occasion it is worth remembering that, working in a Catholic school, we influence the shape of the Polish family in the future – he added.
Participants of the Forum considered the lecture of Fr. Prof. franciszek Longschamps de Berier as extremely interesting and encouraging for reflection. He presented an extremely difficult problem in a clear way: bioethics in three dimensions – legal, ethical and political. This knowledge, according to many participants, will be very useful for them, because they must explain more and more often why the Church says ‘no’ against: in vitro, abortion, euthanasia.
During the XXV Forum of Catholic Schools, the Catholic Schools Council rewarded people meritorious in the sphere of education and supporting the activity of Catholic education. The title ‘A friend to Catholic Schools’ was awarded to among the others: Joanna Szymańska, Teresa Król, Maria Panz and Fr. Marek Studenski.
The meetings of headteachers and teachers of Catholic schools organized in such a way, so that blocks of lectures and discussions would be matched with time for prayer, also the personal one. In order to find time for meetings and exchanging experiences. The final accent was the Entrustment Act of the catholic education to Our Lady of Jasna Góra the Queen of Poland.