Archbishop Goh urges Catholic educators to offer students ‘truth’
If Catholic schools concentrate only on grades, they have lost their objective, which is to mould students’ characters to help them to become truly loving people.
“There is no use in educating people who then become ‘successful’ in life but do not contribute to humanity. These people will not be fully alive or happy.”
Archbishop William Goh made these remarks during the Teachers’ Day Mass on Sept 13, the first day of the Catholic Education Conference.
More than 300 people attended the Mass, held at Catholic Junior College.
“The task of education is to challenge people to the pursuit of the ultimate truth,” said Archbishop Goh in his homily.
“But where is truth to be found? We Catholics confidently proclaim that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life,” said the archbishop. “If we want to refer someone to the truth, without doubt, that is to be found in the Gospel,” he added.
“Catholic education requires that we offer this truth to all men and women. Whatever we do in our schools must be permeated by this,” he said.
“A school is not Catholic just because it holds catechism sessions before school or because pupils recite the Our Father and the Hail Mary at morning assembly,” said the archbishop.
“Catholic education is not one subject added to others. It is a vision of life and God that permeates everything that happens in the school.”
The hope is that “eventually all our students will have a deep, personal encounter with our Lord Jesus Christ,” said Archbishop Goh. “There is nothing that we can offer to our students that is more precious than the gift of Jesus.”
He noted that Catholic schools “are one of the most important means through which the Catholic Church evangelises the world”.
“The importance of Catholic schools and the mission of the teachers cannot be under-estimated because the seeds of the Gospel must be sown when children are young,” he said.
“Even if they do not come to profess Christ at the end of their studies, we can be certain that our students will have imbibed the Gospel values, which are based on universal truths.”
In order to accomplish this, Catholic teachers must first experience a real encounter with Jesus, said Archbishop Goh.
“The real problem of Catholic schools is that many of our Catholic teachers are not yet evangelised. They just happen to be Catholic but are not convinced of Jesus as the Messiah and Saviour.”
Archbishop Goh stressed that “teachers should be able to give reasons for the things they believe”.
“It is not Catholic education when teachers are just teaching secular subjects but happen to be Catholic. The real challenge of Catholic education is that teachers should recognise their need for faith formation and want to grow in faith.”
Archbishop Goh admitted that even after teaching theology in the seminary for more than 20 years, he still feels the need to study.
He also noted that “young people are not moved and excited by words but by witnessing”.
“Teachers who are kind, compassionate, generous, understanding, patient, able to see the good in others will be remembered for life,” he said.
Apart from Archbishop Goh, the other Mass celebrants were Fr Edward Seah, Fr Ignatius Yeo, Fr Alphonsus Dominic, Franciscan Friar Michael D’Cruz, and Jesuit Frs Leslie Raj and Colin Tan.
By Stefania Hartley