The Catholic school at the heart of the Church
The complexity of the modern world makes it all the more necessary to increase awareness of the ecclesial identity of the Catholic school. It is from its Catholic identity that the school derives its original characteristics and its “structure” as a genuine instrument of the Church, a place of real and specific pastoral ministry. The Catholic school participates in the evangelizing mission of the Church and is the privileged environment in which Christian education is carried out. In this way “Catholic schools are at once places of evangelization, of complete formation, of inculturation, of apprenticeship in a lively dialogue between young people of different religions and social backgrounds” (John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Africa, n. 102). The ecclesial nature of the Catholic school, therefore, is written in the very heart of its identity as a teaching institution. It is a true and proper ecclesial entity by reason of its educational activity, “in which faith, culture and life are brought into harmony” (Congregation for Catholic Education, Religious Dimension of Education in a Catholic school, n. 34.). Thus it must be strongly emphasized that this ecclesial dimension is not a mere adjunct, but is a proper and specific attribute, a distinctive characteristic which penetrates and informs every moment of its educational activity, a fundamental part of its very identity and the focus of its mission (cf. Congregation for Catholic Education, Religious Dimension of Education in a Catholic school, n. 33). The fostering of this dimension should be the aim of all those who make up the educating community.
From: The Catholic school On the threshold of the third millennium, 28 December 1997, Congregation for Catholic Education (for Seminaries and Educational Institutions)