Vision Statement for Catholic Schools

On January 26, 1999 Pope John Paul II addressed young people gathered in the Kiel Centre in St. Louis as follows:

    “We are here in the Kiel Centre where many people train long and hard in order to compete in different sports. Today, this impressive stadium has become another kind of training ground … training that will help you to live your faith in Jesus more decisively.”

Definition of a school:

To understand fully the specific mission of the Catholic school it is essential to name clearly the basic nature of a school. A school is a place that empowers students to:

  • Engage in a living encounter with a cultural inheritance
  • Consider absolute values in a life-context and seek to insert them into a life-framework
  • Exercise their intelligence through the dynamics of understanding to attain clarity and inventiveness
  • Discover the meaning of their experiences and their truths

This critical assimilation of culture ensures a formation of students which is systematic and integral. It follows, therefore, that the school must:

  • Provide an educational program intentionally directed to the growth of the whole person
  • Instill within its students the motivation to attain their fullest potential
  • Develop inter-disciplinary strategies that promote a critical assimilation of culture
  • Prepare its entire program of formation, both its content and the methods used, to achieve academic excellence
  • Form a community whose values are communicated through the interpersonal and sincere relationships of all its members
  • Ensure individual and corporate adherence to the outlook on life that permeates the school

Qualities of a Catholic school:

Based upon an understanding of the nature of a school, the qualities of a Catholic school can be examined.

Jesus Christ is the foundation of the whole educational enterprise in a Catholic school. His revelation gives new meaning to life and helps persons direct their thoughts, actions and wills according to the gospel, making the beatitudes their norm of life. The principles of the gospel become the educational norms, the internal motivation and the final goal of Catholic education.

The cooperation required for the realization of this aim is the duty in conscience of all members of the community – teachers, parents, students and administrative personnel. Each has his or her own part to play. The fact that all members of the school community, especially the staff, share this Christian vision makes the school “Catholic”.

It is primarily for education in faith that the Catholic school forms part of the saving mission of the church. This mission places demands on the entire school community:

  • To provide an atmosphere in which the gospel can be preached, heard, known, celebrated and lived out in service
  • To foster a sense of community through shared prayer, liturgy and through the search for justice, love and peace
  • To integrate Catholic Christian values into the totality of the school – courses of study and operating practices
  • To construct the life and activities of the school around liturgical moments, religious themes and spiritual projects
  • To form students to a lived realization of a personal mission in the world
  • To witness to the faith professed through lives of faithful, committed and responsible discipleship and service
  • To provide training to live the faith in Jesus more decisively

Responsibilities of those in charge:

At the same time, this mission of education in faith places equally serious demands upon those directly charged with religious instruction. It is their responsibility:

  • To be as well qualified and professionally prepared as possible
  • To approach religious instruction as a scholastic discipline with the same systematic demands and the same rigor as other disciplines
  • To present the Christian message and the Christian event with the same seriousness and the same depth with which other disciplines present their knowledge
  • To engage in a necessary inter-disciplinary dialogue at that level at which every discipline forms the personality of students

In such a way, religious instruction will underpin, activate, develop and complete the educational activity of the school.

Cooperation of all in the enterprise of Catholic education – teachers, parents, students and administrative personnel – given in the spirit of the gospel, is by its very nature a witness not only to Christ as the cornerstone of the community, but also as the light which shines far beyond it.

Role of the Catholic community:

For over 40 years Catholic schools in Prince George have been called to bear witness. Their future role will be determined by the support shown by the Catholic community. The practical signs of this support are:

  • Demanding the highest standards of excellence in all aspects of the school program
  • Providing the leadership and financial support to achieve this goal
  • Enrolling students in the Catholic system
  • Receiving the support of a broad cross section of the Catholic community, indicating that the support of the schools are the responsibility of the whole, not just the part

The vision for our Catholic schools is to fulfil the promise of Pope John Paul II to the young people gathered in the Kiel Centre in St. Louis:

    ” … training that will help you live your faith in Jesus more decisively …”

We need the wisdom, insight and guidance of the entire Catholic community on this important matter.

The Social Teaching of The Church

To begin it must be noted that the church’s social teaching is a central and essential element of our faith. This is rooted in the preaching of the Hebrew prophets and in the teaching of Jesus himself (Luke 4:18; Matthew 25:45).

So much so is this true that the church’s proclamation of the gospel is incomplete without it. If our Catholic education and formation does not hand on the church’s social teaching it is not fully Catholic.

In the Apostolic Letter on the Coming Jubilee, Pope John Paul II affirms: “A commitment to justice and peace in a world like ours, marked by so many conflicts and intolerable social and economic inequalities, is a necessary condition for the preparation and celebration of the Jubilee.”

Catholic social teaching must not be treated as something optional. Without it, schools, catechetical programs and other formation programs would be offering an incomplete presentation of our Catholic tradition. What something as basic as this does is reflect on all of us as Catholic educators, on all levels, the responsibility of incorporating more fully and explicitly Catholic social teaching in all of our efforts.

I believe it is true to say, and this in true charity, that the social teaching of the church is not known by many of us; that it is not shared or taught in a consistent and comprehensive way in many of our schools, religious education programs, colleges and universities. Perhaps many of us are not aware of nor familiar with the basic content of the church’s social teaching, nor do we see it as an essential part of our Catholic faith. As a result of this our very capacity to be a church that is true to the demands of the gospel is weakened.

Central to our identity as Catholics is that we are called to be a leaven for transforming the world; we are to be agents for bringing about a kingdom of love and justice. When we pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”, we are praying for God’s kingdom of justice and peace, and committing ourselves to break down the barriers which obstruct God’’ kingdom of justice and peace and to work to bring about a world more respectful of human life and dignity. “Catholic social teaching proclaims that we are our ‘sisters’ and brothers’ keepers’ wherever they may live.”

Clearly the church must practice what it preaches and teaches about social justice and human rights. A church that ventures to speak to people about justice must first be just in the eyes of people. Within the church rights must be preserved. No one should be deprived of their ordinary rights because they are associated with the church in one way or another.

The theological basis for this teaching is the principle of sacramentality. The church is a sign as well as an instrument of the presence of God in Christ. As such, it must embody in its own internal life and practice the values it proclaims to the other institutions of society.

Looking to Jesus and his teaching in this regard we are led to the Lord’s description of the last judgement.

    1. Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ and the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25:37-40 NRSV)

In this parable the righteous were surprised at the king’s reply. The surprise was not in hearing that they would be judged by their acts of love, mercy and justice. Rather, they were surprised at where these acts of mercy and justice were to be done: among those who were hungry, thirsty and in need of clothing, among strangers, prisoners and the sick; among those who lacked the basic necessities of life; among those who were least able to return the kindness.

In John’s Gospel we read of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples (John 13:1-11). Jesus then tells them that they should do to one another as he has to them (v.15). A little later (v.34) Jesus tells his disciples: “I give you a new commandment that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”

The gospel could not be clearer. To be followers of Jesus Christ – to be Christians – means above all that we love one another precisely because God has loved us. To love as Jesus loves calls us to serve any one in need, without questioning, without judging, without expecting a reward. “Do to one another as I have done to you.”

Jesus proclaimed the good news to the poor, release to the captives, sight to the blind and freedom to the oppressed (Luke 4:18-19). Throughout his ministry Jesus addressed the daily physical needs of people, especially those who were poor, those who were struggling in any way, those who were vulnerable.

The church that Jesus founded also reaches out, as part of its central mission, to people as part of its central mission, to people with these same needs. Particularly for the past 100 years the church has been developing its teaching on social, economic and political issues. What the church is attempting is to take the gospel and weave it into the daily living of people. This teaching offers fundamental principles about the human person and about society. I will attempt to summarize these main principles.

Every human being is created by God, redeemed by Jesus Christ and called to communion with God. For this reason every person has a sacred dignity; each of us has a special place within God’s creation. Each of us is so loved by God that the only possible response we can offer is to love God in return, and to love and respect all that God has created.

  1. In this sacred dignity all humans are equal. Respect for the dignity of others allows for no distinctions or discriminations based on gender, race, language, religion or social conditions. Respect for the dignity of others does not allow oppressive economic and social differences within God’s human family.
  2. The dignity of the human person means that all life is sacred. Christians respect the lives of all humans and extend this respect to all creation. Life is a loving gift of the Creator. Our response – always and everywhere – must be to show loving respect for such a gift. The dignity of the human person is the foundation of the church’s teaching about people and how we organize our society.
  3. We hear very much today about individual rights. Many of us are quick to claim personal rights against the claims of others – sometimes even against the good of the community. Catholic social teaching offers a balanced view of individual rights. Human rights flow from our God-given dignity, belonging to us precisely as humans and so belonging to all people. Rights are not optional. They are not granted by human laws or by individual accomplishments. They are part of what it means to be a human person, and so human rights surround and protect the dignity of each person.
  4. Among the most fundamental rights one can have is the right to life. From conception to natural death, people have the right to live their lives as fully as they can. Catholic teaching condemns abortion, euthanasia and assisted suicide as grave sins against the Creator of all life.
  5. Flowing from the right to life is another fundamental human right, namely the right to means enabling one to live life with dignity. The right to life means that every person on this planet has the right to a share of earthly goods sufficient for oneself and one’s family. Every person has the right to adequate food, clothing, housing, health care, education, employment and a safe environment. One cannot speak of the right to life without acknowledging the right to live that life in a manner that reflects the dignity of creatures made in God’s image.
  6. When discussing individual rights one must necessarily discuss the responsibilities that come with these rights. Rights and responsibilities always go together. It is especially necessary to balance individual human rights with community responsibilities. Every time we claim an individual right, we must consider the impact of that claim on the larger society. For example, ownership of private property must never be regarded as an absolute right. The right to own carries with it a responsibility to sue one’s property in a manner that respects the neighbor and contributes to the common good.Christians understand that responsibilities have as their source love of neighbor. We have responsibilities to one another, to our families, to our communities, to the larger society. Our response to God’s love for us must itself be a loving concern for people around us and for the community and societies we build. “The one who loves the parent loves the child.” As Christians we must never focus only on our own needs, on claiming our own rights, without asking how our actions affect the larger community.
  7. Humans are social beings. We realize our dignity, exercise our rights and live out our responsibilities in relationships with others. Our full human development, our movement toward God, take place in a social context – in our families, among friends, in the work place, in our communities.Families are especially important settings for us to realize our dependence upon others. Families are where we first experience how much we are loved and how we are to love in return. It is in families that we learn moral principles and how to contribute to the building of community.

    Communities also shape and individual’s growth as a responsible and loving human person. Cultural norms and expectations, laws and public policies can influence that development. When people live in poverty or have to struggle for basic rights, it is difficult for them to realize their dignity, to grow as loving and responsible persons, and even to contribute to their community.

  8. People in any kind of need deserve our help. We know that as Christians we are obligated to practice the corporal works of mercy. Acts of charity, helping people meet their immediate needs, are a necessary way of living out our faith. They are tasks of our faith but they are not enough. While charity is essential, it is not a sufficient response to the poor and the needy within our diocese or anywhere else.Beyond charity, our faith calls us to work for justice. We are to serve those in need, to pursue peace, and to defend the life, dignity and rights of all our sisters and brothers. But more than this we are called to work for structural changes – changes in economic and social institutions that will make it easier for everyone to care for themselves and contribute to society. It was said, “Give people fish to eat”. Then it was affirmed, “Giving someone a fish enables them to live for a day. Teach them to fish and they can live for life”. Now we need to say, “Stand up for changes to stop the water pollution that is killing the fish”.
  9. The Catholic Church has always shown a special concern for persons who are poor and vulnerable. The Hebrew prophets remind us that fidelity to God is tested by our attitude toward the weaker members of society. (Isaiah 1:11-20; 58:1-12; Jeremiah 7:1-7). Jesus’ parable of the Last Judgement teaches us that Christian discipleship requires caring for those in need, especially those in economic poverty. Over the past century papal and episcopal documents have named this obligation the “preferential option for the poor”.This option for the poor does not mean that the church should neglect the many needs of those who are not poor, but calls us to give particular attention to the needs of the economically poor.

    This preferential option means that as individuals, parishes, diocese, we address these needs in our communities and beyond. It means that we strengthen already existing programs like food shelves, meals for the needy, shelters for the homeless. It means that when we contribute to programs or to individual needy persons, we do so out of our substance rather than from the spare change in our pockets.

    Again this preferential option for the poor means that we not only respond in charity to the needs of the poor through our contributions of money, time or through programs we initiate. It also requires that we bring about changes in our society that will make it easier for people who are poor to move out of their poverty. It means supporting legislation, programs, public policy changes that are of particular benefit to those who are most in need, even when these changes might not benefit ourselves. This is a serious test of our Christian faith and love: “As long as you did it to one of these, the least of my sisters and brothers, you did it to me.”

Poverty has many faces and touches all of us. Presently I am told, Prince George has an unemployment rate of 17 per cent. That is almost double the national average. One in five children in Canada lives in poverty. Likely the fastest-growing segment of the poverty population is single-parent families headed by women. We have much spouse abuse, physical and sexual abuse of children.

People find themselves in poverty for many reasons. Lack of work or adequate income from one’s job, a health crisis, a major financial setback, divorce, lack of education – and the list continues.

Poverty has many other forms and people have many other needs. Some of these we find particularly difficult to acknowledge and to receive into our communities – persons with mental illness or chemical dependencies, individuals or families who are homeless, former prison inmates now on parole – on and on goes the list.

Having outlined the general principles of the church’s social teaching, I have tried to help us reflect on the application of these principles on the local scene. As Catholics we belong to a universal church. In that same way we must see our connectedness to all members of the human community. We are one family, regardless of our national, racial, ethnic, economic and ideological differences. Whether it is our neighbor next door or our neighbor across the globe – we all share the same Creator; all of us are redeemed in Jesus Christ; all of us are called to communion with God. We all possess the same dignity as God’s children and the same rights and responsibilities that protect this dignity.

Pope John Paul II asks us to be in solidarity with all people and to work for a just social order, where goods are fairly distributed and the dignity of all is respected. This solidarity crosses national and regional boundaries. It recognizes that the denial of dignity and rights to people anywhere on the globe diminishes each of us.

This call to solidarity is strongly emphasized in the preparation for the Great Jubilee and received particular focus in the Synod For America.

One way of attempting to respond to this is by committing ourselves and our communities to prepare for the Great Jubilee by reclaiming the Three R’s (not reading and riting and rithmatic), the three biblical themes of release from bondage, redistribution of wealth and renewal of creation.

  1. Release from Bondage
    A theme flowing throughout Leviticus 25 is the remission of debt. In most countries of the world, including Canada, the control of the national debt by faceless and publicly unaccountable international financiers, leaves people with less control over social and economic policies.Especially in the poorer countries of the South, debt repayments demanded by various financial institutions are many times higher than spending on health care. Southern countries now pay the rich West and North three times more in debt repayment than they receive in aid. Large populations are forced into poverty each year because we have refused to change this unjust situation.

    Several religious organizations, including the Vatican, have already called on financial institutions and the wealthy countries of the world to declare 2000 a Jubilee Year of release from debt, especially for severely indebted low income countries.

    We need to commit ourselves to the efforts of others to have the backlog of unpayable debts owed by the world’s poorest countries, and to work to make effective international reforms that can help avoid this structural injustice from reoccurring. What is essential in the cancellation of debt is that it must affect the poor.

    Another important Leviticus theme was release from slavery. To proclaim liberty for captives today requires us join the campaigns of the international labor and human rights movements to end child labor practices and the inhuman working conditions of women workers. Part of this is the task of pressuring transnational corporations to adopt codes of conduct with respect to their labor practices – NIKE, LEVI-STRAUSE.

  2. Redistribution of wealth
    Deuteronomy affirms, “There must then be no poor among you” (15:4). Still as we draw near the celebration of Jubilee we experience a world with rapidly-growing disparities between rich and poor.The share of the poorest 20 per cent of the world’s people in global income is decreasing. Some 1.3 billion human beings survive on less than the equivalent of $1 US a day. Nearly a billion people are illiterate. Well over a billion lack access to safe water. Some 840 million go hungry or face food insecurity. Nearly a third of the people in the least developed countries are not expected to survive the age of 40.

    What can I do for so many? (Little boy and the star fish along the sea shore). What can be done to make the Great Jubilee a true celebration for all, especially the impoverished, the outcasts, the slaves and the disinherited of the 20th Century?

    Any celebration of the year 2000 which would not attempt to redress yesterday’s wrongs, seek new approaches to overcome today’s problems, and celebrate our faith as a commitment to social justice and renewal, could be little more than simply a gong booming or a cymbal clashing (1 Corinthians 13:2).

    That those who have give a little (like: equitable food distribution, end wasteful spending on military hardware, declare a moratorium on nuclear weapons) – in order that other may have a little.

    In Canada, where one child in five lives in poverty, and where the major political parties have pledged to eliminate child poverty before the great Jubilee, we can do no less than actively support Campaign 2000, the initiative that pressures our lawmakers to keep this pledge. What a joy it would be to celebrate that “they and their children with them shall go free” (Leviticus 25:4).

  3. Renewal of Creation
    In the covenant with Noah (Genesis 6:9-11) we remember that human beings are relationally interdependent with all of creation. In Leviticus, the land was to lie fallow every Sabbath year, and was seen as a sacred gift that could not be sold in perpetuity (25:23). In fact the way to keep the covenant with God and benefit from the goodness of creation that was intended for all, was to practice Jubilee.Today, as the degradations of environmental destruction surround us and threaten our very survival, a new covenant of caring for the earth and sharing its bounty is sorely needed.

    At other Jubilee periods throughout history, a pilgrimage was a means of travelling respectfully and prayerfully over another person’s land in a quest for spiritual growth. Today we commit ourselves to a Jubilee pilgrimage that means travelling light without all the consumer items that unnecessarily burden us and prevent care for each other, other forms of life and the earth. (How we abuse Mother Earth! Imagine if Mother Earth stopped conserving!).

    The description of Jubilee in the Bible made pointed demands not only to care for the land, but also its return to its original owners whenever they had been dispossessed of it. The call for land reform today is not just relevant in countries of the South, where peasants have been displaced from the best lands by huge land owners and huge projects designed to produce for export. In Canada today, recognizing the original owners of the land and their need for redress of their rights would mean much more serious efforts to settle Aboriginal land claims in a just manner. Many prairie farm families have lost their farms. Governments and the public need to consider and act upon the serious recommendations for deep-rooted change enunciated in the report of the Royal Commission for Aboriginal Peoples.

    The approaching Jubilee Year claims the need for people of good faith to begin the Jubilee journey by renewing our spirituality in these very relevant and necessary manners, and to begin now.

    To be a Christian means that we love our neighbor both near and far. Love of neighbor includes doing what we can to ease one’s suffering. It means giving what we can to meet someone’s immediate needs. It also means trying to understand why people today have such serious unmet needs. It means acknowledging our own contribution – as individuals and as a nation – to the suffering of others. It means, finally, acting to change whatever causes people to be dependent upon another’s charity. This love and this action must be shown to people in need here in our own diocese and throughout the world. For this is what it means to be Christian, to be the church, to be a parish.

Exposition of The Blessed Sacrament and Benediction

Questions have arisen surrounding these devotional practices and hence some clarification is called for.

Clarification and directives that we are to follow have been given to us in the following official teaching documents of the church: The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (1963), Instruction on Worship of the Eucharistic Mystery (1967), On Holy Communion and the Worship of the Eucharistic Mystery Outside of Mass (1973), and the Ceremonial of Bishops (1984).

A general statement that should preface every consideration of devotion to the reserved Eucharist is that because the Eucharist is so central to the life of the church, anything pertaining to celebrating the Eucharist or to devotion toward the reserved sacrament should be done with utmost care and in the context of the entire liturgical reform since Vatican II, which focuses on the celebration of the Mass.

Current norms regarding the reserved Eucharist place any devotions in a historical context and emphasize that any such devotion must be related to the celebration of the Mass.

    “The original and primary reason for the reservation of the Eucharist outside Mass is the administration of Viaticum: the distribution of Holy Communion and the adoration of our Lord Jesus Christ present in the Blessed Sacrament are derivative. For in fact the reservation of the sacred species for the benefit of the sick led to the admirable practice of adoring this heavenly food reserved in our churches. This practice of adoration is essentially proper and rational because faith in the real presence of our Lord spontaneously evokes a public and external manifestation of that faith” (HCWEOM #5).

While reverence and devotion to Christ present in the reserved sacrament are to be encouraged, particular attention needs to be given with respect to exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.

The directive of the church affirms:

    “Care must be taken that in exposition the worship of the Blessed Sacrament should clearly express its relation to the Mass. In the arrangements of the exposition everything should be carefully excluded which might in any way obscure the intention of Christ, who instituted the Eucharist primarily in order to make himself available to us as food, as healing and as consolation” (HCWEOM #82).

The official documents of the church speak of two types of exposition: Lengthy Exposition and Brief Period of Exposition. When speaking of the latter it affirms:

    “Shorter expositions of the Eucharist are to be arranged in such a way that the blessing with Eucharist is preceded by a reasonable time for readings of the Word of God, songs, prayers, and a period for silent prayer” (HCWEOM #89).

It teaches further:

    “During the exposition there should be prayers, songs and readings to direct attention of the faithful to the worship of Christ the Lord. To encourage a prayerful spirit, there should be readings from scripture with a homily or brief exhortation to develop a better understanding of the Eucharistic mystery” (HCWEOM #95).

Devotion to the reserved sacrament is to be encouraged. Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament is clearly a particular devotion and thus calls for particular attention. In attempting to summarize and clarify, the following guidelines are given:

  • The primary and original reason for reservation of the Eucharist outside Mass is the administration of Viaticum.
  • “Celebration” of the Eucharist is the centre of the entire Christian life
  • Exposition should carefully avoid anything which might somehow obscure the principal desire of Christ in instituting the Eucharist, namely, to be with us as food, as healing and as consolation
  • The “celebration” of the Eucharistic mystery includes in a more perfect way the internal communion to which Exposition seeks to lead the faithful.
  • No liturgy or devotional rite should be celebrated unless the “spiritual good of the faithful” ultimately requires it, not merely a personal devotion or that of a parish group
  • While a service that includes Exposition and Benediction can help foster devotion both to Christ’s presence in the scriptures as well as in the sacrament on the altar, a parish’s first priority is well-planned and well-celebrated Masses.
  • Genuflection in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament, whether reserved in the tabernacle or exposed for public adoration, is on one knee.

From the general guidelines of the church, Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament is to be exercised with reserve and in keeping with the mind of the church. All Eucharistic devotion is to lead to a better understanding of a participation in the full Eucharistic celebration.

    “The liturgy is the summit toward which the activity of the church is directed; at the same time it is the fountain from which all her power flows. For the good of apostolic work is that all who are made children of God by faith and baptism should come together to praise God in the midst of his church, to take part in her sacrifice and to eat the Lord’s supper” (S.C. #10).

Some Practical Guidelines:

  • The ordinary ministry for Exposition of the Eucharist is a priest or deacon. In the absence of a priest or deacon or, if they are lawfully impeded, an acolyte, another extraordinary minister of communion, or another person appointed by the local Ordinary may publicly expose and later repose the holy Eucharist for the adoration of the faithful
  • During the Exposition there should be prayers, songs and readings to direct the attention of the faithful to the worship of Christ the Lord. To encourage a prayerful spirit, there should be readings from Scripture with a homily or brief exhortations to develop a better understanding of the Eucharistic mystery. It is also desirable for people to respond to the Word of God by singing and to spend some periods of time in religious silence.
  • Pastors should see that churches and public oratories where … the holy Eucharist is reserved, are open every day at least for some hours, at a convenient time, so that the faithful may easily pray in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament
  • Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament is clearly one form of adoration and is judged by the church as a solemn form.
  • Public and private devotion to the reserved Eucharist outside Mass is also highly recommended. The presence of Christ, who is adored by the faithful in the Sacrament, devises from the sacrifice and is directed toward sacramental and spiritual communion.

Practicing Catholic

A question frequently asked today is, “What is a practicing Catholic?” The Code of Canon Law, when speaking of a sponsor (godparent) at baptism, affirms:

    “In so far as possible, a person being baptized is to be assigned a sponsor. In the case of an adult baptism, the sponsor’s role is to assist the person in Christian initiation. In the case of an infant baptism, the role is together with the parents to present the child for baptism and to help it to live a Christian life befitting the baptized and faithfully to fulfill the duties inherent in baptism.One sponsor, male or female, is sufficient; but there may be two, one of each sex.To be admitted to undertake the office of sponsor, a person must:

  1. Be appointed by the candidate to baptism, or by the parents or whoever stands in their place, or failing these, by the parish priest or the minister; to be appointed the person must be suitable for this role and have the intention of fulfilling it;
  2. Be not less than sixteen years of age, unless a different age has been stipulated by the diocesan Bishop, or unless the parish priest or the minister considers that there is a just reason for an exception to be made;
  3. Be a Catholic who has been confirmed and has received the blessed Eucharist, and who lives a life of faith which befits the role to be undertaken;
  4. Not labor under a canonical penalty, whether imposed or declared;
  5. Not be either the father or the mother of the person to be baptized.A baptized person who belongs to a non-Catholic ecclesial community may be admitted only in company with a Catholic sponsor, and then simply as a witness to the baptism.” (872, 873, 874)

The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults underlines the role of godparent saying:

    “Their godparents (for each a godmother or godfather, or both) accompany the candidates on the day of election, at the celebration of the sacraments of initiation, and during the period of mystagogy. Godparents are persons chosen by the candidates on the basis of example, good qualities and friendship, delegated by the local Christian community, and approved by the priest. It is the responsibility of godparents to show the candidates how to practice the Gospel in personal and social life, to sustain the candidates in moments of hesitancy and anxiety, to bear witness, and to guide the candidates’ progress in the baptismal life. Chosen before the candidates election, godparents fulfill this office publicly from the day of the rite of election, when they give testimony to the community about the candidates. They continue to be important during the time after reception of the sacraments when the neophytes need to be assisted so that they remain true to their baptismal promises.”

Teachers in Catholic Schools sign a contract, which frequently states:
“The Teacher acknowledges that:
If during the term hereof he/she is a Catholic:

  1. it is an essential condition of the continuation of this Agreement that the Teacher exhibit at all times conduct and a way of life that are consistent with Catholic standards;
  2. the determination of what are Catholic standards shall be the right and prerogative of the Employer; and
  3. a breach of this paragraph shall constitute just cause for dismissal.”

The Knights of Columbus recruit new members who are to be “practicing Catholics”. It is presupposed that if one is to exercise a leadership role in the Catholic community as, for example, a member of Parish Pastoral Council or School Council, teacher, that one be a practicing Catholic.

Who, then, is a practicing Catholic?

In attempting a response to this query one often receives the impression that Catholics are people who, more than anything else, have additional rules to keep. Somewhat akin to this is the opinion that being a Catholic is a matter of membership in an institution with various rights and duties attached.

While it is clear that a pattern of behavior flows from the gospel, it cannot be reduced to a moral code. At the heart of the gospel lies a call that is far more important than that. St. John’s Gospel speaks of it this way: “To all who did accept him, he gave power to become children of God” (1:12). The invitation of the gospel, then, is not just to a particular way of life but a radically new life itself. It is a call to life on a different level. The call of the gospel takes us beyond ourselves into a communion of life with God. For St. Paul it is “in the Lord”.

What, then, does constitute a practicing Catholic?

The question is not a simple one. First of all, it must be admitted that no one, save God, is a fully practicing Catholic. All of us fail in some aspects to live the faith; everyone has gaps in their faith practice. Strictly speaking none of us can ever claim fully to be practicing our faith. However, beyond this necessary and important confusion of ambiguity, not all is vague. There are some essential components to Roman Catholicism that can and must be named.

Thus, at some point, one can define what constitutes the practice of that faith.

  • Full initiation into the community (baptism, confirmation, Eucharist)
  • Communion with the church through compliance with legitimate authority
  • Regular participation in the Eucharist within the local community, including within that a sensitivity to the liturgical rhythm of the church’s life. (This component is so emphasized because, as Roman Catholics, that which essentially defines us is that we are a Eucharistic community).
  • A life of prayer and private morality
  • A commitment to the social teachings of the church
  • A sense of responsibility for ministry and leadership within the church, including financial
  • A concern for the universal church, its unity, its spread and its maintenance
  • A concern and respect for the public forum with the community; that is in the public forum not being at variance with respect to major doctrinal or moral teachings of the church

In the final analysis, allowing for the fact that only God practices the faith perfectly, to do public ministry within the church, be it teaching or serving on a board, one should, as a minimum, meet these criteria. In Jesus’ own community some found the “package” of following him to be tough and so they stopped going with him. Hurt by this Jesus said to the twelve: “And what about you, do you want to go away too?” Jesus continues to ask the question, and continues to look for an accepting, positive response.

Proposed Procedure for Conflict Management

For Persons Ministering with the Diocese of Prince George


As members of parish and/or diocesan staffs, we are people who are baptized in Jesus Christ and bound together in faith. We are also people who struggle with our roles, our expectations and communication styles. The differences that we experience in our relationships need to be looked at with Christ as our centre and the meaning of all that we do.

The purpose of conflict management is to help clear up simple misunderstandings before they become grave. As part of Jesus’ discourse on the church he said:

    “If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector” (Matthew 18:15-17).

Taking this into account it would follow that the Christians should try to resolve issues prayerfully and charitable in this manner:

  1. For the individuals to work things out themselvesThe first step is informal consultation between/among those directly affected, or with the immediate supervisor as appropriate. It is helpful before the meeting begins to:
    1. Begin with a prayer
    2. Identify the issue
    3. Establish boundaries
    4. Structure the process
    5. Search together for common goals

    The objective is to “work through” conflicts, so a neutral and supportive environment is created to help both parties clarify the issues and understand what is important to each other. It is not to decide who is right or wrong but to explore possible solutions and come to an agreement that is acceptable to the parties involved. Hopefully, at this level, the parties concerned will have come to a better understanding of each other and have discovered ways to work together more effectively. It may be helpful to provide a written summary of any decision reached.

  2. This failing, that the individuals concerned involve others in the discussions The second step would be written communication and the establishment of a review committee. At this first formal level of conflict management, written statements by both sides can help to clarify the issues and lead to resolution. A Review Committee at the parish or organization level would be formed. The Parish Pastoral Council or other appropriate body could serve as a source of members. Each side would choose one member and a third would be chosen by the two already chosen committee members. The committee’s role would be to hear statements and question each side, attempt mediation and recommend resolution. As in step one, a neutral and supportive environment should be created to help both parties clarify the issues and come to an agreement that is acceptable to the parties. If a mutual resolution is not achieved at the meeting, the Committee will have a mandate to form a decision. Within five days after the formal meeting, the Committee will inform both parties of their decision in writing.
  3. If the decision of the Review Committee is not deemed acceptable by either party, a further appeal will be that of the community This will take the form of an Appeal Committee appointed by the Bishop and composed of a priest, a female religious, a female counselor and a male counselor. These members should not be immediately connected with the situation. The grievance must be presented in writing to the Bishop with copies being sent to the parties involved in the dispute. The Bishop will forward the written grievance to the Appeal Committee who, within 10 working days of receiving the grievance, will set a date for a formal meeting with the persons involved. The committee will have five working days after the formal meeting to inform both parties of their recommendation to the Bishop. The Bishop’s decision will be final.

Catholic Education

The following is the address given by Bishop Gerald Wiesner at Sacred Heart School in Prince George on February 6, 1997, as part of Catholic Education Week.

I think it is a beautiful grace, a gift, that we as a faith community can gather during this week dedicated to Catholic Education and together reflect on the nature of Catholic education, how we go about implementing Catholic education, the role, duty and responsibility of parents, school, church community in the realization of Catholic education.

Thanks to those responsible for organizing this gathering, all of you for coming, and a especially thanks to those more directly serving Catholic education in our diocese.

By way of introduction I want to make three observations. To begin, the reflection that I will offer are all based on the official teaching of the church, the teachings of the Second Vatican Council together with official church documents following the Council.

Secondly, I admit that of which I will speak are ideals. Ideals are often a bit beyond what we are able to realize fully. Nevertheless ideals are necessary, absolutely necessary. They provide directions, guidelines, goals, Ideals are like the North Star giving orientation and direction. Without ideals we flounder about and never achieve any goals. Without ideals we are like a shop on heavy seas without a rudder.

If, with respect to some particular issues, I speak with greater emphasis and conviction, it is not because I want to judge or blame anyone. It is only because I believe firmly, because the matter is serious, and because I want to help all of us – myself included – to see more clearly the duty and responsibility that is ours in this matter of Catholic education.

When addressing the question of the nature of Catholic education we need to begin with the person of every Christian. Since every Christian has become a new creature by water and the Holy Spirit they are entitled and have a right to a Christian education. Having the dignity of a human person, they have the inalienable right to an education that corresponds to their proper destiny and that responds to their particular needs.

This education should pave the way to a smooth association with other peoples, and so promote genuine unity and peace on earth. While this education has as its purpose the formation of each person with respect to their ultimate goal, it should also form the person with respect to the good of those societies and communities in which the person will share as an adult. This education should promote the harmonious development of the person’s physical, moral and intellectual gifts.

As persons advance in years they should be helped to acquire, gradually, a more mature sense of responsibility toward perfecting and enabling their own lives (self-esteem, self-pride, self-love), developing a mature and responsible attitude toward human sexuality, and their role in social life and various aspects of society and the common good. Likewise, children and young people have a right to weigh moral values, embrace these values with a personal choice, and to know and love God more adequately.

Now, including all of the above and moving beyond it, Catholic education has as its aim to see to it that the baptized person is gradually introduced into the mystery of salvation, the mystery of how God deals with us, God’s people. This involves the whole curriculum of catechetics. Catholic Education is to help the baptized person become aware of the gift of faith they have received and to help them to worship God the Father as God asks to be worshipped through prayer, the liturgy and, especially the Eucharist.

This education is to help the baptized live their personal life in a proper manner, in holiness and truth. St. Paul sums this up in saying: “You must give up your old way of life; you must put aside your old self, which gets corrupted by the following illusory desires. Your mind must be renewed by a spiritual revolution so that you can put on the new self that has been created in God’s way, in the goodness and holiness of truth.” (Ephesians 4:22-24).

Catholic Education is to help the person grow into adulthood according to the measure of Christ. Beyond this it is to lead the person to the responsibility of building up the Body of Christ. We are taught that no member of the Body is merely passive. Each has a share in the life and function of the Body. In fact the parts are so intimately linked that the member failing to make their proper contribution to the building up of the Body is useful neither to the Body nor to themselves. Catholic Education is to lead to the responsibility of giving witness to others and promoting the transformation of the world.

“Each person must be a witness before the world to the resurrection and life of the Lord Jesus, and a sign of the living God” (Constitution on The Church #38). This is simply another way of saying what Jesus said to us: “you are the salt of the earth … the light of the world” (Matthew 5:13,14).

In summary I believe one can say that this is the task and mission of Catholic Education.

The key question that remains is: How is this to be realized? How is this to be carried out?

It is quite clear that this is the responsibility, task and ministry of a trinity: parents, school and parish community.

I begin by underlining the role of parents because in all of the documents we have it is alarmingly clear that the first and primary responsibility is that of the parents. We read such things as this: “Since parents have conferred life on their children, they have the most solemn obligation to educate their offspring. Hence parents must be acknowledged as the first and foremost educators of their children. Their role as educators is so decisive that scarcely anything can compensate for their failure in it” (Declaration on Christian Education #3). One needs to take note of the force of this statement: “most solemn obligation”, “first and foremost”, “scarcely anything can compensate for their failure”.

As parents we can get others to help; in fact we must. However as parents we cannot hand over our responsibility. Before anyone else the responsibility is ours as parents. Christian spouses, as cooperators with God, are the first to give faith to their children and to educate them. By their word and example they train their children for the Christian way of life. It is especially by their example and family prayer that parents lead their children to human maturity, holiness and salvation. Again, it is by word and example that parents train their children with respect to obligations they have of reaching out to others, recognizing God’s love for all people, and how they need to be concerned about the material and spiritual needs of others.

While there is great emphasis placed on parents in this undertaking of Catholic Education, the family is singled out as a major factor in the fostering of Catholic Education. As the foundation of society, the family plays an extremely important role in the mission of Catholic Education. Because of this, it is the responsibility of all, to promote the well-being of marriage and family life.

It remains the duty of each person to presume a wholesome view of the entire person, a view in which the values of intellect, will, conscience, and neighborliness are pre-eminent. These values are all rooted in God the Creator, and have been wonderfully restored and devoted in Christ. The family is the mother and nurse of these values, and the furtherance of them are the responsibility primarily of the family. It is in the family, in an atmosphere of love, safety and peace that children more easily learn and live the God-given values of life.

The family is the domestic church, the little church. This means that everything that happens in the church should happen in the family. It is the place where the gospel, the message of Jesus is taught. “Virtue is learned at mother’s knee, vice at some other joint”. The gospel can be taught in so many other places: church, school, youth gatherings, but if it is not taught at home it is almost sure to fail.

The family is the place of prayer. It is a statistical fact that where parents and children pray together, family life is much more wholesome. The prayer that takes place in church on Sunday is naturally ordained to continue at home throughout the week.

The family is the place where Jesus is present. If we are looking for the presence, teaching, example and virtues of Jesus, we should be able to find all of this in the family.

The family is the place where love lives. When all is said and done, and we know that often more is said than done, what really matters is love. We know that love is patient, kind, never rude, jealous or prone to anger, it does not rejoice over the pain of others, is always forgiving. It is in the family that we should be able to find this love.

Clearly, all of this is at the heart of Catholic Education.

The second key agent in Catholic Education is the Catholic School. Catholic Schools form part of the saving mission of the Church. The great missionary command that Jesus gave to his apostles, “Go make disciples of all the nations … teach them to carry out everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19ff), “As the Father has sent me, so am I sending you” (John 20:21), beyond a doubt these words are spoken directly to every Catholic school. All of us who are in any way involved in Catholic schools, must take this as our own personal vocation and mandate.

As we look more closely at this it becomes clear that Jesus is the foundation of the whole educational enterprise in a Catholic school. It is Jesus and his message that give meaning, life and direction to the Catholic school. The fact that in their own individual ways all members of the school community share this Christian vision, makes the school Catholic.

Mindful of the fact that all have been redeemed by Christ, the Catholic school aims at forming in the Christian those particular virtues which will enable them to live a new life in Christ and help them to faithfully play an important part in building up the reign of God.

The Catholic school is to form that atmosphere wherein young people learn to integrate faith and life and where they learn to share their lives with God. It is in and through the Catholic school that persons are drawn to commit themselves to serve God, their sisters and brothers and to make the world a better place for all people to live. It is the atmosphere of the Catholic school that enables persons to learn that they are to be living witnesses to God’s love for all people by the way they live.

Evidently this atmosphere in a Catholic school is important and needs to be constantly fostered. What is eminently more important is the importance and need for catechetical instruction. As in all of the areas of education and development it is of paramount importance, essential, that we have a logically developed, carefully planned, and fully inclusive curriculum of matter, so also in the area of faith. It is essential that we be teaching the core, substance and heart of our faith, and this in a systematic manner.

In order to help the church fulfill its catechetical mission the school must do everything in its power to have the best qualified teachers of religion. Clearly teachers are of the essence here. It is within the mission of the Catholic school that teachers are in an excellent position to guide pupils to a deepening of faith, and to enrich and enlighten their human knowledge with the data of faith. Teachers can form the mind and heart of pupils and guide them to develop a total commitment to Christ.

The witness and conduct of teachers are of primary importance in giving a distinctive character to Catholic schools. It is quite indispensable to ensure the continued formation of teachers through some form of suitable pastoral training. It was Pope Paul VI who affirmed that people respond to witnessing than to teaching, and if they respond to teaching it is because the teachers also witness.

To commit oneself to working in accordance with the aims of a Catholic school is to make a great act of faith in the necessity and influence of this ministry. It is only a person who has this conviction, accepts Christ’s message, has love for and understanding of today’s young people together with an appreciation of the real problems and difficulties of people that will give themselves with courage and even audacity to this apostolate.

In the name of Jesus who invites and calls, and in the name of the church who asks, I publicly, sincerely and prayerfully thank you teachers who generously exercise this essential ministry in the church. I support, encourage and gently challenge you to grow in this ministry.

The third agent in this important ministry of Catholic Education is clearly the church, the larger Christian community. It is the church that has the responsibility of announcing the way of salvation to all people and of communicating the life of Christ to all who believe. It is the church’s mission of assisting them with constant concern so that they may grow into the fullness of that life.

As a mother the church h is bound to give these children of hers the kind of education through which their entire lives can be penetrated with the spirit of Christ.

While we can look back to parents and say that they have the primary and irreplaceable role in Catholic Education, while we can look to the Catholic school and its teachers to speak of the indispensable role they play, we need to look at all of us as church renewing our awareness of and accepting our responsibility for the carrying out of the mission of Catholic Education.

Pope John Paul II affirmed, “The way a community takes care of its children is a measure of its faithfulness to the Lord.”

Policy Regarding The Placement of Priests

Within The Diocese of Prince George

General Principles:

The placement of pastoral personnel should always be, as much as possible, for the furthering of the Lord’s mission in every locale.

Placing and moving personnel requires taking into account the pastoral needs of the diocesan community, the needs of an individual faith community, the needs and well being of the individuals concerned.

The experience of the Church over the years has revealed that for pastoral and spiritual reasons it is advisable that pastors, pastoral administration be moved periodically.

In order that this action be carried out wisely and prudently, with the understanding of all and with sensitivity to all concerned, a number of principles and guidelines need to be noted and followed:

  1. That all, faithful and ministers, be mindful of the need for this kind of pastoral action.
  2. That ministers be given a term of office which provides pastoral stability (generally five or six years).
  3. The pastoral needs of the diocese will be reviewed by the Council of Priests, with input from other bodies in the diocese. The final decision of obediences will be entrusted to the Diocesan Consultors and the Bishop.
  4. The procedure to be observed will include:
    • Consultation and dialogue with the person concerned
    • Official announcement be made to the individual concerned, followed by announcement to the community
    • Ample time be given for closure and farewell, and for preparation and welcome of new person
    • As much as possible there be a unified date for transfer
    • A celebration of installation, led by the Bishop or delegate, follow imminently upon the transfer.
  5. The above principles may apply to Religious personnel unless other arrangements have been made in writing with the Bishop of the diocese.

These placements are to normally take place for the first weekend in August.

A Vision For The Diocese of Prince George

Presented to the Council of Priests in 1994
by Bishop Gerald Wiesner, O.M.I.

Basic Vision is Based on Four Realities:

  • Proclamation of the Word (teaching)
  • Formation of Community
  • Celebration of the Community (liturgy)
  • Service (to the community and reaching out beyond)

To achieve and advance these realities the involvement of everyone is necessary; the involvement of the ordained is essential.

    • The first task that needs to be done, and constantly improved and intensified, is the ministry of teaching – and this in all of its dimensions
    • Before we are able to accomplish the formation of community, celebrate good and meaningful liturgy and exercise service in the right manner and for the proper motives, the Gospel must be proclaimed.
      Without wanting to beat this to death it is my conviction that our primary need is for adult faith education.
    • Clearly to achieve this, priests need to be constantly working to improve themselves as teachers. More than this, the entire community needs to be engaged in different ways.
      In order that the community members be able to exercise the ministry that is proper to them they need to be (and have the RIGHT to be) properly educated.

    Some Concrete Applications:

    • Homilies
    • Catholic schools and religious education
    • Adult faith education
    • Good sacramental preparation programs
    • The quality of community that we have to strive for is that which is described in the Acts of the Apostles and the letters of St. Paul.
    • Leaders of community have as their number one task the formation of alive, faith communities.
    • To bring this about it is once again important, and in some ways essential, that we call forth the members of the community to exercise their rightful and responsible place. Experience indicates that often it would be simpler and perhaps more expeditious for priests to do things by themselves, but this is not community.

    Some Concrete Applications:

    • The Christian family
    • The parish community (effective Pastoral Councils)
    • The school community (effective School Councils)
    • The Catholic Independent Schools of the Diocese
    • Teachers
    • Religious
    • Priests
    • The Diocesan Family (Diocesan/Regional celebrations, pilgrimages, Chrism Mass, Diocesan Assembly, Pastoral Study Days, Northern Catholic News, etc.)
    • A Diocesan Pastoral Council
    • Liturgy is the culmination of the previous two ministries. It is only when the Word has been adequately proclaimed and a community formed around this Word that we can have proper celebration of liturgy.
    • Liturgy is the most accurate gage of the quality of faith life in a given community.
    • By its very nature liturgy is the celebration of the community and by the community. Hence the key to good liturgy is preparation and participation.
    • Universal experience has borne out that there exist three important (essential) elements for good liturgy: the presider, the homily and the music.

    Some Concrete Applications:

    • Constant effort to improve our celebrations
    • Education workshops for laity
    • Establishing a Diocesan Liturgy Committee
    • Good service must begin within the community itself, however, the service must extend beyond the community. As church we exist for others, and we need to be eaten up by others.

    Some Concrete Applications:

    • The central point to be kept in mind is that the church is to be the Sacrament of Christ in the world. For this to be more of a reality it calls for the holiness of its members and all that is implied in its members

Further considerations:

    • Establishing a Native Pastoral Council to work with us in order that we might:
      • better respond to their needs
      • involve them more in the ministry
      • prepare them for this involvement
    • Sensitizing our Catholic people to the need of having ecumenism as a key concern
    • Reaching out in a positive and active manner to other Christian groups and making a special effort to relate to the more fundamentalist groups
    • Greater emphasis on prayer
    • Spiritual direction and guidance
    • Sensitizing the diocese to this need
    • Setting up a Vocation Committee