The current sociological context has been described by Giddens in Hughes  as Post-Traditional which describes ‘individuals constantly engaging their world, thinking through the options in an autonomous way and making choices about how they will live.’

Contemporary research suggests that within this post-traditional context:

  • religions become sets of resources from which to pick and choose
  • religion is tied to organisations
  • ‘no religion’ does not mean the rejection of religion and religious ideas
  • many prefer to talk about spirituality rather than religion
  • spirituality is personal and individual. 

A rich history precedes our current context and we carry on our mission mindful of the legacy of previous generations. Many of their successes and challenges echo our current realities.

Find our more about the historical context.

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Connecting life and faith, faith and culture

Religious Education then has a significant role in preparing children to make wise and informed choices; exploring the reasons for, and consequences of, certain decisions.

To do this with confidence students need information; access to all dimensions of the Tradition; and skills in decision-making and discernment.

Religious Education is a ‘process of searching which engages the whole person, giving meaning to and purpose for our human existence’ . It invites students and teachers to ‘meet, experience and develop a relationship with a loving God in the journey of life’. 

Religious Education links the Catholic story to our personal story, connecting life and faith, faith and culture. 

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Appreciating the Kingdom of God

The current pastoral thrust of the Catholic Church in Australia is New Evangelization  which sees Catholic schools engage with a broad range of students and families. Holohan  describes four distinct profiles:

  • Believers
  • Searchers
  • Doubters
  • Non-believers.

To meet the needs of all its students the Catholic school aims to raise their religious awareness by developing their appreciation for the Kingdom of God and what this promises their hearts, minds and spirits.

Schools actively focus on deepening students’ understanding of the nucleus of Christian experience; the most fundamental certainties of faith; the most essential evangelical values and how these understandings relate to students’ aspirations and questions.

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Called to the edge of our experience

The notion of Catholic Identity in the post traditional society is complex, because we are called to the edge of our experience – as people, as schools and as Church - as we respond compassionately and skilfully to the needs of students, staff and their families.

At the same time, Catholic schools are anchored to a more traditional set of relationships around authority and accountability. These realities can at times appear to compete with one another.

If schools are to do justice to their mission they need to be mature, healthy organisations with leadership, relationships and decision-making all at the service of Catholic education.

The complexity of the modern world makes it all the more necessary to increase awareness of the ecclesial identity of the Catholic school. It is from its Catholic identity that the school derives its original characteristics and its ‘structure’ as a genuine instrument of the Church, a place of real and specific pastoral ministry’ .

The enhancement of the Catholic identity of schools is important and ongoing work for individuals, schools, systems and the Catholic community.

The motivation for increased examination, research and dialogue is articulated by Rolheiser, who

‘speaks of the need for a ‘paschal imagination’ that allows us to move on from tired and inadequate images of faith and Church, to let these die so that other images may be born and may thrive, bringing life to weary and worn-out structures … we must ‘let ourselves be led by God through changing times’ – this requires great imagination!’ 

Bishop Saunders expanded on this idea and in his Pastoral Letter  to the Diocese of Broome he wrote of

‘the need for an ‘imagination’ in pastoral practices … now more than ever before, a pressing urgency to reflect carefully on the gospel metaphor of ‘new wine’ being unsuitably contained in ‘old wineskins’.

This ‘paschal imagination’ will only be facilitated through ongoing dialogue at diocesan, state and national levels so that all God’s people can work together in building a united community.

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Dialogue between faith and life

The interaction of school, Church and the individual presents significant opportunities and challenges for our Catholic schools as they become places of meaningful and dynamic dialogue between faith and life.

Traditionally our schools have been confessional in nature, passing on a body of uncontested ‘truth.’

Boeve  reminds us that we have a serious responsibility now to choose the way forward.

He outline five possible options for Catholic school identity as Christianity reconceptualizes itself :

  • Institutional secularisation in which Catholic school identity is renounced.
  • Institutional reconfessionalisation which actively promotes a traditional Catholic school identity.
  • Values education in a Christian perspective in which the Catholic school identity is mediated by Christian values and norms.
  • Identity formation in a plural context which involves searching for Catholic school identity in the midst of plurality.
  • The confessional school which reverts to the ‘traditional’ Catholic institution.

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Expressing and nourishing identity

As we consider the Catholic Identity of our schools it is essential to remember that every school already has an identity and that neutrality is impossible.

Features of identity are both implicit and explicit and they are more a matter of quality (how) than quantity (how many).

While we are more aware than ever of how we express our Catholic identity in Sandhurst we are motivated to shape and describe the possibilities.

The work we are doing across the Diocese is echoed in every school and we have a strong theoretical basis for reflection; a powerful platform for discussion and conversation; and a driver for Catholic school improvement.

A significant element of Catholic identity concerns the growth and development of the individual through engagement with the school community. Rossiter  proposes that:

‘If personal identity is considered as a process of interaction between internal (personal) and external (cultural) resources through which the individual seeks self-understanding and self-expression, then a healthy identity could be regarded as one that is primarily rooted in internal resources (values, beliefs, commitments, positive self-image) with not too great a dependence on external resources. Like an organism, identity needs constant nourishment, particularly in the form of identity affirmation’.

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Sources of nourishment

The sources of nourishment for students around Catholic identity in Sandhurst are outlined in the Source of Life Religious Education Curriculum Core Document which presents an overview of the sociological context, the world of the students, the theological content which guides the curriculum and an approach which incorporates a critical interpretation of Shared Christian Praxis and the best of current pedagogy.

The doctrinal concepts are articulated clearly for each level of schooling across eight content strands.

Religious Education texts that enrich each of the topics are included within the structure of the Unit Outlines and references guide both teachers and students in engaging with the content of the Catholic faith tradition as well as the process of discernment in making meaning for their lives.

For staff the sources of nourishment for students around Catholic identity in Sandhurst are experienced in a shared sense of vocation, in supportive and collegial relationships, in staff prayer and reflection, in the shared commitment and sacrifice that the work requires, and in the realization of personal and spiritual growth.

Families experience nourishment about Catholic identity when they encounter and engage with a community inspired by the love of God, when they experience Gospel values, when they watch the growth of their children as spiritual beings and when they participate in prayer, rituals and liturgies that affirm and celebrate life.

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