The spiritual revolution: Re-forming the nature and purpose of the Catholic school


Coughlan, Pat. (1998). The spiritual revolution: Re-forming the nature and purpose of the Catholic school [Thesis].
AuthorsCoughlan, Pat
Qualification nameMaster of Educational Leadership (MEdLeadership)

Catholic schools are not the places they used to be! This research paper attempts to bring some understanding as to why this assertion is valid by pursuing, firstly, a clearer definition of the contemporary nature and purpose of the Catholic school and, secondly, the consequent challenges to Catholic school leaders to respond to the challenges with some sense of purpose rather than hope. The notion of a "Spiritual Revolution" is advanced to express many of the features of an upheaval in spirituality so diverse and powerful that it is challenging many of our traditional understandings and assumptions about the real purpose of the Catholic school. The role of Catholic school leaders in having a vision for the future which will speak cogently to the issues and questions of our times is also explored. The challenge presented to school leaders is to "seize the moment" so that we provide for our communities schools which are genuinely Christian bearing faithful witness to our mission. This research paper aims to inform all groups involved in the planning for and establishment of Catholic schools of the future. Data about the perceived nature and purpose of Catholic schools was collected from eight principals of the Mackay region. This was done via an initial interview of all Principals which was then followed up with a questionnaire, focussing on three areas: a) The purpose of the Catholic school; b) The changing nature of the Catholic school; c) Challenges to the role of the Principal. The data collected from these questionnaires was analysed and presented under key themes which emerged. The study concluded that: 1. Catholic schools, on a continuum between two often conflicting paradigms, have moved away from the "traditional" role paradigms of catechesis, institution, dependency (parish school) and representative democracy to the more relevant paradigms of evangelization, community, co-existence (small Christian community) and participative democracy. 2. The Catholic school is experiencing a degree of acceptance and appeal within the community because it has taken the lead in this area, whilst some other areas of the Church are experiencing a diminishing role because they are still operating out of the "traditional" paradigms. 3. The key to what is currently happening in Catholic schools seems to be based on the fact that Catholic schools are now more accountability, thoughtful and reflective in their approach. Supporting this approach is the fact that school communities have embraced so fully the principles and process of Renewal. Catholic schools are seen to be very aware of the need to re-form the way in which the substance of catholic beliefs is presented in the light of a new, emerging "group mentality" (Thornhill, 1997). 4. Leaders of the Catholic school have a keen sense of their own spirituality and value people-centred practices. 5. Leaders of the Catholic school have the ability to live with the mystery of life, "dance with confusion" (Duignan, 1996), and embrace chaos.

PublisherAustralian Catholic University
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Research GroupSchool of Educational Leadership
Final version
Publication dates01 Nov 1998
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