The mission of the Church is to evangelize, to proclaim the Good News of Salvation, leading to baptism and living the life of Christ in faith, hope and charity. Accordingly, the vision and mission of the Archdiocese is to build a vibrant, evangelizing and missionary Church. This is particularly urgent in the face of secularization, the absence of the Sacred in public life, the loss of contact with the presence of God, leading to a loss of faith and despair about the meaning of life and the future of humanity. The consequence is that our young people are imbibing the relativistic, individualistic and materialistic values of the world, taking their directions and values in life from social media and the internet rather than from the gospel which speaks of integrity, truth, charity, selfless service and a clear hope for eternal life with God.
Therefore, it is critical that parents ensure that their children are given a proper foundation in Catholic Education. This is because the whole purpose of education is more than just gaining academic knowledge or success or the acquiring of skills in science and technology. Education must be holistic, which means that our young people must be formed in various aspects of human relationship, moral values and spiritual life. Catholic Education seeks to form holistic persons who can live out the fullness of life by discovering their vocation in life, with the ultimate goal of becoming the children of God. It is this realization that should drive every young person to excel in their intellectual, human, moral and spiritual formation so that they can find meaning and purpose in life, especially by giving themselves to the service of society. An education that is only focused on academic excellence may enable a young person to achieve material success in life just for himself, but he will not find true happiness. He will lack an ultimate meaning and purpose to live for. In order to find happiness, a person must live in a transcendent manner.
This is why Catholic schools and institutions play an important role in educating our students. To enable them to do this better, the Archdiocese is bringing all Catholic schools and institutions together through the Archdiocesan Commission for Catholic Schools (ACCS); and the sub-bodies, such as the Council of Catholic Schools’ Principals (CCSP), to strengthen their Catholic ethos and identity. We want to ensure that the pursuit of truth and love, meaning and charity in education will be properly guided by the Spirit of the gospel. To be truly Catholic, our schools must be Catholic not just in identity but in their self-understanding. This means that Catholic Education must be inspired by the gospel, faith in God, and our dignity as God’s children are called to share in the life of God eternally. Promoting human dignity is the first principle underpinning a Catholic Education. This is how Catholic Education contributes to an evangelizing Church by announcing the good news that we are God’s children; which is our true identity and our heavenly calling.
Sense of social mission
Strengthening our Catholic ethos does not mean making our students exclusive and inward-looking. Rather, we want them to be formed in a Catholic community and environment so that they may become evangelizers of love and peace, living in mutual respect with people of other faiths and philosophy in life. As Catholics, we are called to be the sign of love and unity in the world through our service and contribution for the good of society. By providing our children with a Catholic worldview, they may see life holistically and be able to integrate their faith with culture. Underpinning a Catholic Education is the nurturing of our students to have a strong sense of social mission for the common good. By so doing, Catholic Education seeks to make our students to be missionary for the gospel, building a gracious people of passion, compassion and service to all, especially the weak, the vulnerable and the marginalized. Thus, the overarching vision of Catholic Education is to nurture our students with the capacity to love, dignify, serve and lead.
In the final analysis, a Catholic Education seeks to enable every young person to live a vibrant life and be the glory of God. By recognizing themselves as unique individuals, passionate in pursuing truth, goodness, love and beauty, they will grow to be the beacon and light for others, serving God and humanity, inspiring hope and excellence in living a life that is purposeful, meaningful and fruitful. When we succeed in nurturing students to live their vocation to love, dignify, serve and lead, the future Church in our Archdiocese will indeed be the vibrant, evangelizing and missionary Church that she envisions herself to be.
Alignment in Vision and Collaboration in a Common Mission
To this end, all Catholic schools, whether under the direction of Religious Congregations or the Archdiocese, must be aligned in our vision and mission, notwithstanding their particular tradition and charisms. This is all the more urgent as many of our Catholic schools are seeing a dwindling of religious sisters and brothers to carry on the work of Catholic Education. Their roles are gradually being handed over to the lay people who will need the support of the Archdiocese to continue the Catholic tradition so that they in turn can pass this on to the future generations of lay leaders. Thus, we must work together for the good of all and the continuity of Catholic Education, serving the one mission of the Church and the gospel.
As the Head of the Catholic Church in Singapore, I wish to lead the way forward by asking ACCS to bring together the entire family of Catholic schools so that all can be aligned with the vision of Catholic Education in our Church. A Catholic school is first and foremost Catholic, which it then expresses in a specific way through the charism of a particular founder. Having a common vision and values for Catholic Education will bring our schools together. All schools can share in the one mission of Catholic Education to love, dignify, serve and lead even as each school celebrates the richness of its own charism.
Hence, through open, sincere and regular dialogue and shared discernment with Sponsoring Authorities (SA), School Management Committees (SMC) and educators, we will seek ways to protect and promote the Catholic ethos of our schools. It is our hope that more strategic planning can be drawn up by ACCS together with the new sub-committees formed from the groups of school key personnel, SA and SMC members, possibly even parents and concerned lay persons with the right expertise. The sub-committees can include Ethos, Governance, Communication and External Relations; Manpower and Enrollment.
So, my dear parents, young people, Catholic educators, and benefactors, please help us to make our Catholic Schools truly Catholic in identity, community and in ethos and values. There are always places available in Catholic schools for our Catholic students, provided we are not choosy in wanting to send our children only to the top and prestigious schools. Catholic teachers, wherever you are, we need you to join us in our Catholic schools so that good and right values can be passed on. Catholics and alumni students who have a passion and calling to volunteer themselves in Catholic schools are most welcome. Finally, we need benefactors as well to finance the activities of ACCS, sub-committees and our Catholic schools. The often-heard feedback I receive from Catholic parents is that our Catholic schools are not “Catholic” enough. However, it is our shared responsibility to make this happen. Just lamenting and complaining will not change the situation. So, let us together recover our Catholic identity for our Catholic schools and ensure that our young people will be educated in the Catholic faith. Let us do this to strengthen the Catholic ethos of our schools so that our students’ future will be bright and happy as they contribute to the Church, country and humanity.
Most Rev. William Goh
Archbishop of Singapore
15 Sep 2019