Short window to save Catholic education stark report warns

Short window to save Catholic education stark report warns Catholic students attend Mass at St Eugene's Cathedral, Derry. Prof. Eugene Duff y said that the Church isn't good at talking about how diverse Catholic education is.

The “window is narrowing” to save Catholic education, and the Church must act now to increase investment and streamline resources by divesting schools to the State according to an in-depth report on Catholic schools in Ireland has warned.

Catholic ethos will become “invisible” in schools if the Church doesn’t respond to the “trajectory of decline” in levels of commitment to the Faith among teachers and school personnel, authors of the Grace reports released on Tuesday told The Irish Catholic.

The six reports, based on surveys conducted with thousands of school personnel, show that teachers in the age category 18-29 are becoming “more and more removed from the Catholic faith”, co-author Prof. Eamonn Conway said.

“Three out of 10 under 29 years teaching at second level make it very clear they don’t witness to or support the Catholic ethos,” he added.

For principals over 50, almost 90% say they are committed to the Faith, but it drops to 56% for under 50s, the Grace reports show, while almost half of teachers at second level don’t believe that the purpose of Catholic education is to encourage students to develop a personal relationship with Jesus.

The surveys show a “pattern of neglect” for formation around ethos and religious education that needs to be remedied urgently, said Prof. Conway of Notre Dame Australia.

The reports highlight a large cohort of school personnel who are open to the Faith, “but really do need to be engaged with, to be supported, to be cared for” in terms of personal formation and in terms of role formation.

The Church needs to “seriously engage with the divestment issue”, according to MIC Prof. Eugene Duffy, one of the reports’ co-authors.

“If we don’t act now, we’re going to be pushed by demographic change,” he told The Irish Catholic, citing the declining commitment to Catholicism across the age brackets.

The bishops must work together with a “coherent plan” rather than piecemeal to get “good returns” for divestment, Prof. Duffy added, saying “for schools we retain that means greater control over the curriculum and ethos and attention to religious education”.

According to the reports’ lead investigator, Dr Daniel O’Connell, if action isn’t taken now in terms of divestment and resourcing, ethos will become “invisible”.

“Whatever it’s like now, whatever capacity for articulating and acting on Catholic ethos there is, that is going to diminish and shrink in leadership of schools. It’s going to need intervention from the trusts,” he added.

Read Ruadhán Jones’ feature piece on this – Investment, divestment needed urgently to safeguard Catholic education – report

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