As we approach Catholic Schools Week 2022 in the midst of increasing social and cultural challenges, it seems a fitting time to raise awareness about our recently released “Catholic Social Responsibility Guidebook for Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.” It can be seen at https://www.archmil.org/Education/Catholic-Social-Responsibility.htm.
Catholic school educators have always been called to respond to contemporary social challenges as disciples of Jesus Christ, loving one another in deed and in truth. (1 John 3:18) This “Catholic Social Responsibility Guidebook,” grounded in Catholic Social Teachings, Scripture, official Church documents, and the National Standards and Benchmarks for Effective Catholic Schools, was developed by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee Office for Schools and a task force of archdiocesan Catholic school leaders during the summer of 2021 to meet the evolving needs of our times. It is intended to serve as a positive, non-ideological and foundational Catholic framework for all educators in our Catholic schools engaged in the important work of forming students to integrate faith, culture and life.
Specifically, the Guidebook focuses on four main contemporary challenges in light of their relevance for Catholic schools today: culture, racism, civic participation for the common good and economics. It provides educators with clearly identified guiding principles for Catholic Social Responsibility, Catholic theological resources corresponding to each of the contemporary challenges, and demonstrated alignment of Catholic Social Teachings to current Archdiocesan curriculum, policies and accreditation standards.
The work also contains carefully researched resources for prayer, professional development, curriculum and instruction. In addition to disseminating the Guidebook to all elementary and secondary schools in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, we have shared it with state and national Catholic educational leaders. It is our expectation that every Catholic school principal and teacher in the archdiocese will use this framework to plan instruction and implement programming in keeping with the rich Catholic Social Responsibility tradition of the Church.
The following Guiding Principles form the basis for the Guidebook and for all efforts to teach students in our Catholic schools to understand their responsibility to act as disciples of Jesus Christ, especially within the context of contemporary social challenges.
Guiding Principle 1
- Catholic Social Teachings provide the foundation for the instruction and formation of our Catholic school communities regarding all social issues.
Application: Catholic Social Teachings, central to our identity as Catholic educators and reflective of Gospel values, will be taught at every grade level in our Catholic schools in developmentally appropriate ways.
Life and Dignity of the Human Person
The Catholic Church proclaims that all human life is sacred and that the dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society.
Call to Family, Community and Participation
Persons are sacred but also social. Marriage and the family are the central social institutions that must be supported and strengthened.
Rights and Responsibilities
Every person has a fundamental right to life and to those things required for human dignity. Corresponding to these rights are duties and responsibilities to one another, to our families and to society at large.
Option for the Poor and Vulnerable
Catholic tradition recalls the story of the Last Judgment (Matthew 25:31-46) and instructs us to put the needs of the poor and vulnerable first.
The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers
Work is a form of continuing participation in God’s creation. If the dignity of work is to be protected, the basic rights of workers must be respected.
We are one human family, brothers and sisters created in the image of God, whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic and ideological differences may be. The Gospel calls us to be people of love and peace.
Care for God’s Creation
We show our respect for the Creator by our stewardship of creation in all its forms.
Guiding Principle 2
- Catholic schools participate directly in the evangelizing mission of the
Church and, as such, are called to “make disciples of all nations.” (Matthew 28:19)
Application: Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee will welcome and be accessible to students of all backgrounds, abilities and academic goals.
Guiding Principle 3
- As central to their mission, Catholic schools will educate the whole student by effectively integrating faith, culture and life.
Application: Students will be formed as authentic disciples of Jesus Christ, known by the ways in which they put their faith into action. With a Catholic worldview developed in all areas of school programming, they will be given the tools to make good decisions which will benefit themselves and others in this world, with eyes also fixed on the world to come. They will learn to not simply accept culture as it is, or reject it out of hand, but rather to transform it with faith-filled attitudes and actions.
Guiding Principle 4
- Catholic schools will teach and model the essence of Catholic social action: love for God and neighbor. (Matthew 22:34-40)
Application: Catholic schools are communities based on cooperation between educators and families, bishops and the larger Church. It is always within community that we grow. At the heart of the Catholic school community are the profound interactions between educators and their students which teach them, by word and example, to be effective communicators, compassionate problem-solvers, responsible citizens, reflective moral decision-makers, and disciples known by their ability to sacrifice, forgive and serve. All instruction and formation toward these goals will be supported by the Gospel, the teachings of the Church, and active participation in the sacraments and other opportunities for prayer.
Guiding Principle 5
- Respect for all people will be a fundamental expectation for every member of our Catholic school communities.
Application: Catholic school students, teachers, leaders, staff and parents will be committed to the belief that every human being, from conception until natural death, is created in the image of God, redeemed by Jesus Christ and intrinsically worthy of respect. All words, actions, teachings and decisions in our Catholic school communities will be consistent with this fundamental expectation of respect.
“The Catholic Social Responsibility Guidebook for Catholic Schools in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee” is a living document which can be expanded as needs arise. At its core is the goal of forming students in our Catholic schools to respond to contemporary social issues from a Catholic perspective in all areas of their lives — academic, social and spiritual — in communities that model the essence of Catholic social action: love for God and neighbor. (Matthew 22: 34 – 40)