The Plenary 2020 listening and dialogue sessions have been an opportunity to come together for reflection, to participate in conversation about what it means to be a Catholic in modern times. What is it that we, as Catholic school parents, are being called to do? Our first and most important role is in being leaders in our homes, to show our children the way and demonstrate what sort of people we want to be as families who follow the example of Jesus.
It’s not often as busy families we have the opportunity to stop, reflect, think and wonder what our thoughts are and what the future holds, particularly during this time of change, of rebirth and of reformation in the Church. During this time of change in the Church, we may wonder, who will be the future leaders of our community?
Archbishop Comensoli stated in a Pentecostal letter written during 2018, “We want to find hope, but struggle to see it before us. We call for reform, but do not seek conversion. We desire change, so long as others are doing the changing. Are these not the fears and wounds that are holding us back in our upper rooms? Are they not what makes us – and our life in the Church – old and tired, angry or indifferent?"
It may be an instant reaction to feel anger and frustration when we hear of the failures of many leaders in our world and more recently of those in the Church. Leaders who, as children ourselves were encouraged to trust, to listen to and to admire. But our judgement or anger in others can also be a reflection on how we place value on these emotions during these times instead of what we can learn from these experiences. Anger is not encouraging hope in our youth that there are still leaders to admire and that they too can aspire to become future leaders.
In a recent article by John Warhurst in Eureka online news discussing the reaction of Catholics to the recent conviction of Cardinal George Pell, he states "The reaction of regular church-going Catholics and the broader Catholic community is harder to capture. Anger and outrage at betrayal, even grief and trauma, was frequent. What they seemed to have in common was devastation for the church and guilt by association by being branded a Catholic in a hurtful way. This association may be extended to the tens of thousands of non-Catholic parents and students in Catholic schools and the many thousands of non-Catholic staff of Catholic agencies, including hospitals, welfare services, aged care and international aid and development."
As parents of children in Catholic schools, no matter what our beliefs, we may recognise ourselves in this statement. A sense of shame, of questioning our belief in the Church and in the educational institutions in which we choose to educate our children when so many children have been betrayed. How we discuss these most recent events and revelations with our children is deeply personal. But as leaders in our homes and communities, we are challenged to recognise what is most important in our understanding of faith and what it means for our every day lives.
As a Catholic there is a deep sense that an education in faith is hugely beneficial for our children in their growth as people who are encouraged to serve others less fortunate than themselves. There is a knowing and an understanding that the majority of people who are educated and live as Christians are genuinely good people with good intentions.
Faith gives us a sense of optimism that things will be better, that the dark times will fade and that there is hope. These words we hear often can be translated to provide us and our children with the strength to continue as proud Catholics or in being educated in a Catholic school.
As parents of children in Catholic schools we are very capable of leading positive change in the Church and in our communities, but most of all within our families. Parents are the first leaders in the education of their children. Pope Francis continues to emphasise the importance of families in setting an example. He states, “Truly Christian families are known by their fidelity, their patience, their openness to life, and their respect for the elderly…..the secret to this is the presence of Jesus in the family.”
Our leadership begins in the home where we have every opportunity to be the examples to our children of what it means to be ‘growing young in Christ’.
As one famous leader Nelson Mandela stated, “a leader is a shepherd. He stays behind the flock letting the most nimble go ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind.”
It is with this realization that we are called as leaders, alongside educators, to guide our children on their road ahead. Many children are beginning their learning journey as first-time students, others are starting a new year level with new classmates and some are completing their final year of school. Taking the time to pause and share in conversation as a family about how this new journey is unfolding for each of us, provides the opportunity for reflection. Every day we are called to be leaders in our homes, in our schools and in our broader communities to lead the next generation to ‘grow young in Christ.’