Fundamental to Integration is the Special Character of the school. This is defined in the Integration Agreement as follows:
“The school is a Roman Catholic school in which the whole school community, through the general school programme and in its Religious Instructions and observances exercises the right to live and teach the values of Jesus Christ. These values are expressed in the Scriptures and in the practices, worship and doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church, as determined from time to time by the Roman Catholic Bishop of the diocese.”
In a Catholic school the Special Character is also known as the Catholic character. This is not something simply “added on” to what would otherwise be a secular State school. Nor does it merely refer to Religious Education, ceremonies and observances. The Catholic Character actually provides the framework within which the whole school curriculum is delivered; it is, in fact, integral to everything that takes place in the school, or on behalf of the school, and its community. Properly observed and practised it also provides a climate of hope, inspiration and service for all members of the school community.
This is this Special Character:
- which must not be jeopardised;
- which must be maintained and preserved;
- whose maintenance and preservation the Proprietor continues to have the right to supervise;
- which must be reflected in the school’s teaching and operation;
- in accordance with which the Board must exercise its powers.
All Trustees need to be familiar with the content and meaning of the definition of Special Character in Part 3 of the Handbook for Boards of Trustees of New Zealand Catholic Integrated Schools. The following phrases in the above statement are significant:
Roman Catholic - In stating that the school is Roman Catholic, the definition asserts that the fundamental motive which drives the school is religious and Catholic.
The School Community - The school community referred to includes the pupils/students; their parents, who are the foremost educators of their children; the teaching and non-teaching staff; the Board itself. The Proprietor is pre-eminently a member of the school community. Furthermore, because the school is an integral component of the pastoral ministry of the Church, its community comprises the local church led by the Bishop of the diocese, In the case of a parish school the local church is actualised in the parish.
The General School Programme - By referring to “the general school programme” as well as the “Religious Education and observances”, the definition stresses that the religious goals of the school are not to be separated from the other educational goals. Each is embedded in the other; in each the right to live and teach the values of Jesus Christ is exercised.
The Values - These “values of Jesus Christ” are expressed in Scripture and in living Catholic Tradition. They are normally identified in each School Plan and they are unabashedly Christian values. The precept, “to love God above all things and one’s neighbour as oneself”, succinctly summarises the values of Jesus Christ.
Values education in a Catholic school is fundamental to the life of the school.
All staff in a Catholic school are expected to model these values in their behaviour and to teach and proclaim them to their students.
The Bishop’s Determination - Finally, the Statement says that it is the Bishop of the diocese who has the ultimate responsibility to determine whether the practices, worship and teachings in a school are indeed Catholic. The Bishop of the diocese (in union with the Pope and all other Catholic Bishops) exercises the Church’s teaching authority.