Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 5, 2004
Schools mistakenly become surrogate parishes
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Parents of students in Catholic schools tend to see those schools as surrogate parishes and schools are often acting as parishes too, says an auxiliary bishop of Toronto.
Bishop Richard Grecco said the school needs to see the parish as a source of Church spirituality. "Schools need to see their parish as the place for liturgy. Our schools need to see their partner - the parish - as a provider of devotional experience."
Grecco, who is chair of the Canadian bishops' episcopal commission for Christian education and a former professor at St. Joseph's College of the University of Alberta, spoke at the 2004 Catholic Conference at Shaw Conference Centre.
He told the story of an Ontario school trustee who had eight children. He sent four to public high school and four to Catholic high school. The trustee and his wife encouraged the ones attending the public schools to attend Mass in the parish church regularly and to participate in parish activities.
Today the children are adults. "The ones who went to public high school today continue to attend Sunday Mass and look to their parish as source (of community)," Grecco noted. "The four who attended Catholic high school no longer attend Sunday Mass."
Why? "Because the ones attending Catholic schools did everything in their schools," Grecco said. "The Catholic high school had become their parish and when they graduated, they graduated out of the only Church they knew."
Grecco used the story to illustrate the point that in some cases the school is going beyond the partnership agreement with the parish.
"The school is not the parish church," he said. "There are no sacraments of initiation in the schools. There are no sacraments of lifetime commitment in the schools. Clearly the school is a faith community, but not a parish church community."
The problem has affected the home front too. "Too many families see enrollment in a Catholic school as enrollment in the Church," the bishop lamented. "In Ontario we have fought for a school system, which we have gradually elevated to a position where it makes the parish redundant. Families, home, need to understand the school is not designed to be a surrogate parish."
Today in Ontario between 20 and 30 per cent of Catholics attend Sunday Mass regularly. The 80 per cent of Catholics who do not go to Sunday Mass "have enough faith to choose Catholic schools" and the role of parish is to reach out to them through the schools with hospitality and care, Grecco said. "This is the challenge of the new evangelization."
He said the forum to present the Church's teaching is the classroom. "Of course the secondary students will question the teachers. But the teachers should respond with clarity and personal conviction and not with the opinion of a theologian about the teaching."
The teaching of religion in schools is for adult faith formation, stressed the bishop. "The parish is where the children are introduced to the adult worshipping community. Catechesis is primarily about adult faith formation."
Schools need to have their own celebrations, but they should also expose children to the parish community, Grecco said.
Attending Mass in a parish church will provide them with the experience of the adult worshipping community. . . . If our children are exposed exclusively to the faith community of a Catholic school, when they graduate, they'll graduate from the only parish they know."
Letter to the Editor - 04/12/04
Letter to the Editor - 04/26/04