The Catholic School and Missionary Discipleship


The Bishops of Western Australia define the purpose of the Catholic school in the following way in their Mandate Letter to the Catholic Education Commission of Western Australia (2009-2015):

Catholic schools are … privileged places of evangelisation where the young learn ‘the good news of salvation’ – and what it means to live as ‘new creatures in Christ through Baptism’ and ‘knowingly as children of God’ (1).

Those who make a commitment to Catholic education know that the Bishops were expressing the ideal. The reality is quite different, however, there will be signs in all Catholic schools that point to the presence of God in the school community. Recognising the “signs of the times” in a Catholic school is a part of missionary discipleship. 

Privileged places of evangelisation

The word “privilege” has baggage that the writers of The Catholic School (1977) either were ignorant of, or they chose to ignore the connotations related to colonialist We have to be very careful with the word “privilege” because it is caught up in the fight against racism and war against the politics of the right. In Australian society, those who are privileged are those who are the invaders, the colonisers. Those who continue to use the mantra “terra nullius”  (3) 

The word “privilege” has a long history. Originally, a Roman word it came to mean being exempted from a law. In the thirteenth century, the word came to mean “power or prerogative associated with a certain social or religious position.” By the mid-fourteenth century, it came to mean “advantage granted, special right or favor granted to a person or group, a right, immunity, benefit, or advantage enjoyed by a person or body of persons beyond the common advantages of other individuals.“ (2) It is this meaning that I contend the word means when the Church uses it to describe the Catholic school as a place of evangelisation. 

So what is the advantage claimed by a Catholic school? The Catholic school exists to evangelise all who are connected with the school, not only the students, but also their families, the staff and their families and all who are associated with the school, including those who visit the school for whatever reason. Every moment in the life of the school is oriented towards the purpose of evangelisation. 


(1) Mandate Letter (ML), #6 


(3) Hunt, Timothy (2022) Dismantling White Supremacy from Within.

Richard Patrick Branson