Fr Christopher Jamison OSB led an engaging dialogue with 85 representatives from Catholic independent schools on September 22 at the Oratory School.
The event was organised by the Catholic Independent Schools Conference.
The day was in four parts. First, Fr Jamison asked the groups of six to identify what they currently do that makes their school Catholic. Second, he then asked them to explain why they do these things. Third, he then articulated his own vision of how schools could go forward and, fourth, he asked groups the question: “How has this changed my understanding of what Catholic education is about?”
Our school prospectuses typically describe our schools as having a “special ethos” that permeates the whole life of the school. They sometimes add: “Community is especially important to us and lies at the heart of this ethos. You feel it everywhere in the school but it’s very hard to describe.”
Fr Jamison turned this on its head, saying that the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education has been articulating the Catholic school ethos with great clarity for the last 40 years; the hard part was creating it and living it out.
Fr Jamison said that the word “community” is so over-used, especially by politicians, that its meaning has been diluted.
He said that a Catholic school is a school of communion, a living relationship inspired by the Holy Spirit, and that the differences between a school community and a school of communion are enormous.
“What kind of person do you really want to be?” was the question Pope Benedict asked of young people at Twickenham during his papal visit in 2010. Noting that “human” and “divine” can be considered two sides of the same coin, Fr Christopher offered the question as the “human” version of the “divine” equivalent: “What is God calling you to be?” The day helped participants to renew their commitment to their own vocations and to making the concept of vocation real to others, particularly the young people in their care.
Fittingly, it was the boys of the Oratory who with confidence and solemnity led a congregation of faltering adults through sung Benediction, before those who attended the day dispersed into the countryside.