I recently spoke to a group of Catholic school teachers at a conference on Faith Formation. “How’d it go?” a priest friend of mine asked. “Pretty well,” I said—“or at least I hope so.”
“What was your topic?” he asked. I shared the title of my talk: “Faith, the Humanities, and the Social Sciences: Incorporating the Catholic Faith into Your Teaching.”
“You’re kidding me,” the priest replied. “You mean to tell me that you need to give a talk on incorporating the Catholic faith to teachers at a Catholic school?”
I proceeded to explain the problems.
For one, many of the teachers in our modern Catholic schools are either not faithful Catholics or even Catholic at all, even if agreeing to respect the school’s Catholic mission. The schools aren’t run by the sisters anymore. The teachers come from your typical education departments at your typical secular universities, the apostolic successors to John Dewey. They are versed in the latest fads and fashions in education—many of which are destructive—and most certainly not in the timeless teachings of the Magisterium. Ask the director of education for your local diocese to give you data on the number of professing Catholics among the teachers in the diocese. You will likely get a puzzled or frustrated look.
Making matters worse, teachers at these schools are using the same sorry secular textbooks used by non-Catholic schools. Needless to say, Catholic students will learn literally nothing about the Catholic faith from these texts.
I’ve encountered teachers at these Catholic schools who themselves are bothered by this. I’ve met conscientious teachers—some of them non-Catholic—who feel a responsibility to better teach the faith. They’re not sure how to do so. They’ve arrived with no blueprint or even handy tips or lessons from their predecessor or colleagues. When I share suggestions on Catholic texts or other reading materials, they scribble notes fast and furiously.
Our Catholic schools need to be Catholic. What can we do? How can we turn this ship around and better teach the faith to the next generation? And is this a problem at your Catholic school?
For Catholic Exchange.com and Ave Maria Radio, I’m Paul Kengor.