Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Catholic Teachers

If I attend Mass in the Archdiocese of Birmingham, I am confronted by a large poster the church porches asking, imploring Catholic school teachers to put themselves forward for roles in senior management and headship. I have no doubt that there is an ageing of the leadership in Catholic schools and we are heading for a crisis in recruitment of suitably qualified teachers to fit the bill. A crisis not unlike the crisis of the shortage of Physics teachers, a near catastrophic number are due to retire in the next five years and their replacements do not stay in the profession. As both a Catholic and a Physicist I'm probably very well placed in the "job security" stakes.

However, if I were well enough, would I answer the call to leadership in a School?

This is a question I do keep asking myself. Every time I ask it however, the answer in no. This is partly because I do not feel I have any skills in leadership, but as I have never tried to go for even a single promotion, I cannot be certain of this.

The main reason is due to the nature of our Catholic schools themselves. To me (and this is a personal view) they reflect the wider ignorance of the faith amongst the baptized faithful in general. Any Catholic school will have three different "types" of believer as well as assorted unbelievers and antagonists. The types are:
  • The Sadducee: a career Catholic for whom the faith is little more than a stepping stone. They believe the Church is out of step with current thinking, they want a lot of things to change. They are often not regular Mass goers but usually end up being on charge of "Catholicity" within the school as they are seen as an approachable face of Catholicism to the unbelievers and antagonists. Incidentally each board of governors seems to have an antagonist/atheist with an axe to grind.....;
  • The Pharisee: this person will never be promoted or consulted on any policy regarding the Catholic future of the school. They are feared because they know their stuff and make the Sadducee's very uncomfortable. What really annoys the Sadducee is they often have the respect of the children...."go figure" as our friends in the US might say.
  • The "haven't got much of a clue": these are nice, nice people and regular Mass goers. They tend to go along with whatever is being offered, they are a great help at School Masses, where the Pharisees are often inwardly cringing and hiding somewhere and pretending not to know the words to "Shine Jesus Shine", at least the "haven't got much of a clue" teachers make sure mobile phones are confiscated and the children genuflect etc.
School chaplains can fall into any of these categories, though mention needs to be made a a very special form of female school chaplain. She is usually a cat lover, has dangly earrings and seems to be a priestess in some bizarre cultic candle worship. Perhaps the category "lost the plot" would be appropriate here.

This explosive brew is simply not a good recipe for a solid Catholic educational establishment. I may write later on what I think a good Catholic school would be like. In the mean time I think such a vast evangelisation of parents and pupils needs to take place within parish communities that I will probably devote my energies there rather than within the Catholic education system.

A typical school chapel somewere in England


Robert said...

What are the red and lime-green things at the base of the altar? That is an altar...

Rita said...


Hmm, I wouldn't like to say.

I know the school, but have never worked there. I suppose we should be grateful there doesn't seem to be any reservation of the Blessed Sacrament....unless that is what the chest of drawers if for.....

Patricius said...

In the Catholic school where I taught it was said that in order to "get on" you had to play the guitar.
I didn't play the guitar. I suppose I must have been one of you Pharisees.

Part-time Pilgrim said...

Isn't it fitting that our Catholic schools "....reflect the wider ignorance of the faith amongst the baptized faithful in general"? After all they are made up of the baptized faithful!
It's presumptious of me to say so, but (in my view) should think again about leadership. I presume you are a good teacher (or you would have used your degree for something else) and this means you have considerable leadership skills. If your characterizations are correct, what Catholic schools need is more “Pharisees” as leaders (provided they have enough humility and charity to avoid being like the Gospel Pharisees).

Rita said...


I will now have to write that post on why I feel Catholic schools are too far from where they ought to be for any lasting good to come from them as they stand.

berenike said...

Your classification is very funnily accurate :)