Pax Christi education resources
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
At this stage in the calendar, when we draw close to the summit of the Liturgical Year - the Sacred Paschal Triduum, we celebrate with reverence the passion and death of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and we look forward with joy to celebrating at the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday night and on Easter Sunday morning his resurrection from the dead.
As we come to the end of this term, it is also a time for many students in our schools which coincides with an intense period of study in preparation for examinations in the summer. For young people, it is a time of hope but it can be a time of anxiety also. What is most important though, is that their time in school is a time when they can flourish: in mind, body and spirit. Christ came that we might have life and have it to the full. The flourishing of young lives through Catholic education is indebted to the years of dedication and commitment given by school leaders, teachers, learning assistants, chaplains and by all the staff and governors of our schools.
On the threshold of Holy Week, we catch sight of the new life in Christ which his death and resurrection holds out to us and to the world. It is a vision which we glimpse in the prayers and liturgy taking place in schools and churches up and down the land.
I give thanks to Almighty God for the noble vocation of all of you who work and serve in our schools. I pray that you, your families and your loved ones will receive many blessings from the Lord during this great Solemn Feast of Easter, and that it will be a time of joy and thanksgiving for you all.
With the assurance of my prayers, I remain,
Your servant in our Lord Jesus Christ,
Rt Rev Marcus Stock
Chair of the Catholic Education Service
Bishop of Leeds
Rehumanising a world of post-pandemic volatility is a theme running through a new, free online lecture series from a Catholic university.
Beyond The Dark Clouds, hosted by Leeds Trinity University from April to November, sees 12 lectures from UK and international contributors including a former government minister, centred around justice in contested issues such as the police, law enforcement, business ethics, spirituality, the arts and more.
The title is drawn from ‘dark clouds over a closed world’, a phrase used by Pope Francis in his 2020 encyclical Fratelli Tutti. In this the Pope refers to the ‘desensitised human conscience’ as among the chief causes of global crises, that “local conflicts and disregard for the common good are exploited by the global economy in order to impose a single cultural model...the advance of this kind of globalism strengthens the identity of the more powerful.”
Positioning Catholic higher education as a platform to return religious tradition and thought to public debate, the series features talks on policing, from the internationally renowned Dr Tobias Winright, Professor of Moral Theology at St Patrick’s Pontifical University, Ireland, and from former Chief Superintendent Tony Blockley, now Head of Criminology and Policing at Leeds Trinity University.
Economics, justice and Catholic social teaching are addressed by Philip Booth, Professor of Public Policy at St Mary’s University; and former Labour government Trade and Industry, and Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs minister, Sir John Battle, discusses the Church in the wider, secular, world.
Professor Charles Egbu, Vice Chancellor of Leeds Trinity University, said: “We are pleased to have the participation of such a prestigious line-up of speakers for our lecture series, and look forward to discussing some key social issues affecting communities today and how the Catholic university can be a vehicle for change and progress.”
Dr Ann Marie Mealy, Director of Catholic Mission at Leeds Trinity University, said: “Much of the suffering and alienation that people felt during lockdown has not yet been acknowledged fully or discussed openly, and we should acknowledge the need for healing more.
“Many of us at Leeds Trinity share the Church’s desire to get involved in public discussions about how to humanise our world, and to bring about the conditions that enable the flourishing of all individuals and groups – please join us.”
Catholic schools’ GCSE Religious Education (RE) exam results are the best in the country, according to the latest data.
Analysis by the Catholic Education Service (CES) of GCSE RE attainment for 2022 has shown that results from Catholic schools have overtaken the national average for the exams.
Last year 75.2% of Catholic school RE GCSE candidates scored a C+ or grade 4, compared to 68.3% nationally.
The results at A Level were more comparable, however, with 66.9% achieving A* or B in Catholic schools, compared to 67.7% in all schools.
Just over a quarter (25.6%) of all pupils who sat GCSE RE exams last year were from Catholic schools, while the proportion was 9.8% at A Level.
Across England and Wales there are 2,175 Catholic schools, colleges and academies, which educate more than 849,000 pupils.
This represents 9% of the state sector in England and 6% in Wales.
Philip Robinson, CES RE Adviser, said: “This is good news, and testament to the hard work of RE teachers and students in Catholic education.
In a society both increasingly secular and religiously pluralistic, RE has an essential role in enabling respectful dialogue on contentious issues like faith and science; refugees and asylum seekers; war and peace.”
The CES has recently launched a new RE Directory, for introduction from 2025 – find out more.
A new Religious Education (RE) Directory for Catholic schools, colleges and academies in England and Wales has been launched at an event in Westminster.
The directory was introduced at Cathedral View on 25 January by speakers including Dr Margaret Carswell, Senior Lecturer at the Australian Catholic University; Baroness Barran MBE, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Education; the Rt Rev Marcus Stock, Bishop of Leeds and Chairman of the Catholic Education Service (CES); and Paul Barber, CES Director.
Titled To Know You More Clearly the directory sets out the purpose of RE from Early Years Foundation Stage to Year 9 and features a programme of study with a model curriculum, corresponding to the six half-terms of the school year.
The new directory replaces previous editions published in 1996 and 2012, and states that RE is to be taught for at least 10% of curriculum time up to age 16 in Catholic schools and academies, and 5% in sixth forms.
It was drafted by experts including the late Professor Anthony Towey, Head of Theology, Philosophy and History at St Mary’s University; CES Religious Education Adviser Philip Robinson; Senior Policy and Education Adviser Dr Nancy Walbank; and representatives of the Association of Teachers of Catholic Religious Education and the National Board of Religious Inspectors and Advisers.
Based on the constitutions of the Second Vatican Council and rooted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the objective of the curriculum is religiously literate and engaged young people, with the knowledge, understanding and skills to reflect spiritually, think ethically and theologically, and recognise the demands of religious commitment in everyday life.
In his preface, Bishop Marcus writes: “As well as seeking to assist parents with the education and religious formation of their children, Catholic schools strive also to be of service to society. Religious education plays its part in this endeavour by enabling all pupils to be confident and secure in their religious faith and knowledgeable and respectful of other religions, and so play a crucial role in building a cohesive society.
“This new edition of the Religious Education Directory strives to embody these inspiring objectives.”
Baroness Barran thanked those present and highlighted “the important role Catholic schools, and schools with a religious character more generally, play in giving children a moral compass, guiding them with values that will be integral not only through their school journey, but beyond that into adulthood, into the workforce and into society.”
Other attendees at the launch included Schools Commissioners from the Catholic dioceses; and representatives from the Church of England Education Office; Board of Deputies of British Jews; Religious Education Council; National Association of Standing Advisory Councils of Religious Education; Culham St Gabriels; Catholic Union; and from the London Jesuit Centre.
While nurturing the faith of Catholic pupils, the curriculum prepares all pupils to play their part as critical citizens in a plural and diverse culture. It develops in them a dialogical attitude, through the content that is presented and through the modelling of respectful dialogue in class, a particularly powerful witness in a context where social media has had such a detrimental impact on the civility of public discourse.
Topics covered include the relationship between faith and science; the problem of evil; nature of human freedom; rights of the unborn; plight of refugees and asylum seekers; war and peace.
There is also a focus on the beauty of Catholicism and its influence on culture through art, music, literature, science, and architecture, equipping young people to engage with the Church beyond intellectual remits, and approach the transcendent.
A series of training workshops on the directory and model curriculum for dioceses are also being planned to take place throughout the year.
Pupils in Catholic schools and academies are significantly more diverse than the England average, according to the latest data.
Overall, 44% of pupils at Catholic state-funded primaries and secondaries are from an ethnic minority background, compared to 36% nationally.
A total of 11.4% of the 820,994 pupils in England’s 2,090 Catholic schools and academies are either Black or Black British, compared to 5.8% nationally. The percentage of black teachers is also slightly higher, at 2.6%, above a national average of 2.4%.
There are more than three times the proportion of White Irish pupils (1%) than in other state-funded schools and academies (0.3%).
Sixty per cent of pupils in Catholic schools and academies are Catholic, as are just under half of the 47,662 teachers employed. Of the 316,070 non-Catholic pupils, just under half are from other Christian denominations. The largest non-Christian religion represented is Islam, with more than 34,000 Muslim pupils.
Only 0.03% of all pupils, or just 277 of them, in Catholic schools across England are withdrawn from acts of collective worship such as Mass and prayers in assemblies.
The figures come from the annual census of Catholic schools and academies conducted by the Catholic Education Service (CES), which acts on behalf of the Catholic Bishops' Conference and has supported Catholic education since 1847.
Paul Barber, CES Director, said: “Catholic schools have led the way on diversity since the nineteenth century, when many were established to meet the needs of immigrants from Ireland.
“Today they outperform national GCSE averages for English and Maths by five percentage points, with more pupils from the most deprived areas, and from ethnic minorities. Parents and pupils of other faiths and none rightly value this success and the distinctive, all-inclusive ethos of Catholic education.”
Due to a 50% admissions cap for new religious schools, only two new Catholic ones have been built in England since 2010. The cap means a new Catholic school could be put in the position of turning away a pupil for being a Catholic, which is against canon law.
Catholic schools continue to convert into becoming Catholic academies, with a 17% increase in the past year. There are now 814 Catholic academies in England, run by 77 multi-academy trusts.
Altogether, Catholic schools and academies make up 9% of the national total of the state-funded sector, making the Catholic Church the biggest provider of secondary education and the second-largest provider of primary education overall.
Pupils in Welsh Catholic schools are significantly more diverse than the national average, according to the latest data.
More than 30% of pupils in Wales’s 82 Catholic state-funded primaries and secondaries are from an ethnic minority background, compared to 12.5% in all other schools.
Catholic schools in Wales also have more than four times as many black pupils, with 4.5% of the 28,176 pupils being Black or Black British, compared to 1.1% in all Welsh schools.
There is also more than twice the proportion of pupils from an Asian or Asian British background (6%), compared to 2.6% in other schools.
Just over half (50.3%) of pupils in the sector are Catholic, as are 43.6% of the 1,644 teachers employed.
A total of 73.4% of pupils in Welsh Catholic schools are Christians, and 80% are from a faith background. Of the 13,992 non-Catholic pupils, 46% of these are from other Christian denominations, 36.8% have no religion, and 5.7% are Muslims.
The figures come from the annual census of Catholic schools conducted by the Catholic Education Service (CES), which acts on behalf of the Catholic Bishops' Conference and has supported Catholic education since 1847.
Angela Keller, CES Wales Adviser, said: “Catholic schools are leading the way on diversity in Wales, with parents and pupils of other faiths and none valuing this as well as our distinctive ethos.
“The Welsh government has made closing the disadvantage gap within education a priority - this too has always been our mission.”
Catholic schools make up 6% of the national total of maintained schools across Wales.
Only five weeks remain for submissions to the 2023 Schools Competition of the Columban Missionaries in Britain – this year’s contest is titled Building Peaceful Futures, with the deadline for entries being 10 February.
The competition, which launched last September, is aimed at students aged 13-18 years old, who are invited to demonstrate an awareness of conflict and peacemaking in the world through either a written article or an original image. Students are being asked to research and spotlight people, communities and / or organisations trying to make the world a better place.
On 5 December Pope Francis tweeted: “The Word of God plunges us into daily life and calls us to listen to the cry of the poor and to heed the violence and injustice that wound our world. It challenges Christians not to be indifferent, but to be active, creative and prophetic.”
One of the competition judges is Columban Justice and Peace Education Worker in Britain, James Trewby, who visits young people in schools and sixth forms and runs workshops, retreats and assemblies to promote justice, peace and the integrity of creation.
He said: “There is much conflict in the world at the moment, but we mustn’t lose sight of the fact there are also many initiatives designed to build bridges and promote peace too! The Columbans are keen to nurture the student voice and provide an opportunity for young people to explore these areas and determine their own thoughts on conflict and whether it is inevitable. Besides this we want to ascertain young people’s understanding of peacebuilding, how and where it’s taking place and how faith can play a part.”
The competition winners will receive cash prizes worth up to £300, with other judges including journalists such as Ruth Gledhill of The Tablet and Josephine Siedlecka of Independent Catholic News. Winning entries will be published in the Columbans’ Far East magazine, Vocation for Justice newsletter, Columban websites and social media and in other Catholic media.
A core aspect of Columban mission is justice, peace and ecology. Besides being members of Pax Christi International, the Catholic Church’s peace organisation, Columbans also support the National Justice and Peace Network of England and Wales. Irish Columban Fr Pat Cunningham, who works in South Korea and is also a judge, is active with the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative and a campaign in Korea to protest the militarisation of the beautiful Korean island of Jeju.
Another judge, Fr Kurt Zion Pala, is a Filipino Columban priest working in Myanmar, a country ruled by a military dictatorship. He particularly mentors young people in environmental education and action.
Teachers and students will find the Columban Competition website a useful resource. It includes information on the theme, an introductory video, examples of Columbans and others dedicated to building peace throughout the world, as well as Catholic Social Teaching on the theme of peace. There are also details on submission of entries and a helpful FAQ page. The website provides material suitable for students, teachers and parents.
This is the sixth annual such schools competition from the Columban Missionaries in Britain, with previous themes including migrants, climate change, racism, throwaway culture and 21st century changemakers.
Cardinal Vincent Nichols, speaking shortly after the Requiem Mass in St Peter’s Square for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, described the funeral as in one way “a straightforward celebration of a Funeral Mass,” in another way, a uniquely historical event “of great emotional depth and stature.”
The Requiem Mass, presided over by Benedict’s successor Pope Francis, took place on Thursday morning, 5 January, after almost 200,000 pilgrims had paid their final respects to the Pope Emeritus during a period of his lying in state for the previous three days.
Cardinal Nichols said he was collecting his memories of Pope Benedict during the Mass and considered his last homily before retiring as pope.
In it, Benedict used the image of Jesus asleep in the back of the boat when the storm came on the Sea of Galilee and the disciples were frightened.
The Cardinal repeated Archbishop Georg Gänswein’s recollections:
“He said, Benedict used to say, ‘but now Jesus never sleeps and he’s always with us.’ So during the Mass I was thinking about those things and, quite simply, how lovable Benedict was and therefore thanking God for the gifts that He gave us through him.”
The Bishops' Conference of England and Wales website has further details on the life of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, including of his Papal Visit to the UK in 2010, as well as reflections on his funeral, Pope Francis' homily, and prayers prepared by the Liturgy Office.