The Graces and Challenges of Catholic Education

The Graces and Challenges of Catholic Education

Nelle Carty Dalton, Chaplain at Farnborough Hill writes:

In June, teachers from Farnborough Hill, Salesian College, St Patrick’s Catholic Primary School, St Bernadette’s Catholic Primary School and Rydes Hill Preparatory School came together in the Chapel at Farnborough Hill to hear the gifted and renowned speaker, David Wells.

Catholic theologian David Wells travels the world delivering inspirational talks; he aims to share ‘accessible theology for the busy, burnt-out and bewildered’ and has written several best-selling books on the subject of faith. His audiences range in size from small groups in the local village hall, to tens-of-thousands strong at prestigious events such as the Religious Education Congress in Anaheim, California. He is a former Deputy Headteacher and has guest-lectured at three English universities, as well as serving on several working parties for the Bishop’s Conference of England and Wales.

Like the prophets who came unexpectedly bringing much needed messages of Truth, Joy and Love, David used humour to win over the hearts and minds of the teachers who came along on a summer afternoon following a full day of teaching. The talk was entitled, “The Graces and Challenges of Catholic Education.” David recounted personal tales and experiences to explore modern challenges. The primary threat that we face today is “losing one’s virtue,” and ultimately one’s joy by giving into the demands of a busy and demanding world.  When people are consumed by the endless tasks on ‘To Do’ lists, they begin to live in the “how” of life and lose the purpose or “why” for which they are living.  This can happen in regards to one’s vocation as an educator, but also in one’s personal life and relationships with loved ones. David described this threat as the ‘erosion of the meta-narrative,’ where cynicism replaces joy. He challenged the audience to go after our joy, to rediscover the reasons why we became teachers, because “Education…is not and must never be considered utilitarian,” (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at St Mary’s University Twickenham, September 2010).

David Wells reminded teachers from our local Roman Catholic Schools to be holy and to help our students to work towards this goal of holiness. He defined holiness as being our best and most authentic self. David touched on Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation, Gaudete et Exsultate: On the Call to Holiness in Today’s World, where Pope Francis challenges young people not to be afraid of holiness. Holiness does not inhibit, rather it liberates us and helps us to be more fully alive and joyful. David emphasised that, “The Glory of God is the person fully alive” (St Irenaeus). Our role as educators is to help each one of our pupils to flourish, growing into the person whom God created them to be. David reminded us of the importance of humour and simply smiling at our students.

Finally, David extended a heartfelt ‘thank you’ to all of the teachers for their work in Catholic schools, and the time and energy they dedicate to helping young people flourish and realise their value and potential.  Most attendees would agree that the 75 minute talk went by in the blink of an eye and left everyone feeling inspired and joy-filled.