Guidelines on the Inclusion of Students of the Other Faiths in Catholic Secondary Schools.

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Reflection on work by Aiveen Mullally (Joint Managerial Body/Association of Management of Catholic Secondary Schools

Ireland has become a more religious, multicultural and diverse society since the 1990s, Catholic Secondary schools have been called to serve the needs of this religiously plural society. The teachings of Vatican II encouraged Catholics to ‘acknowledge, preserve and promote’ the spiritual and moral goods found among the followers of other religions and the values in their society and culture.[1]

This document was compiled in answer to the rapidly changing face of the education population in Ireland. It seeks to address some of the challenges facing Catholic Secondary Schools in a diverse twenty-first Ireland. One of the questions addressed in the document is how can Catholic schools educate and accommodate these diverse groups and at the same time maintain their Catholic identity and mission. The document offers both guidelines and support to schools in helping them to make students from other faiths feel welcomed and the school environment more inclusive.

The concept of providing a common prayer area or interfaith area open to all is one way in which the document suggests to bring students of other faiths into a more inclusive environment. Although it states that the prayer room should be predominantly Catholic the addition of prayer mats, cushions and chairs allows for students to pray in their own particular style. Providing an interfaith corner that contains images of the Buddha and the Qur’an for example could be placed on a table also including examples from different scriptures from other world religions. [2]

I was particular struck by the recommendation that parents should be informed on enrolment. Enrolment into a Catholic school especially for parents from different faith backgrounds should be acknowledged as a vital component when deciding to send your child to a particular school. It can clarify issues raised by parents such as uniform, subject withdrawal, physical education, religious education and more. [3]

One aspect of the document that I found significant was the section dedicated to music. As a music teacher it highlights religious dilemmas that I had never considered or thought about in terms of the curriculum. It states ‘The concern from Muslims is often about ‘modern’ pop music that may include obscene language, encourage or promote sexual or violent behaviour or the consumption of intoxicants and drugs’[4] Music by many is seen as a universal subject suitable for any student yet this document raises questions that are sometimes forgotten about or considered to be inoffensive. On a personal level it opened my mind to consider other areas of the school curriculum and policy that are at times over looked or believed to be harmless to students who are participating in a Catholic school from other faith backgrounds. [5]

In conclusion I believe that it is fundamental that a Catholic remain faithful to its religious beliefs and characteristics. Maintaining its Catholic traditions add to the spirit and unique atmosphere of a catholic school environment. In addition to these essential components promoting an inclusive and welcoming school to those of other faiths and of no faith is also necessary. It promotes aspects of the Catholic faith such as love and kindness and places it right at the centre of our children’s education.


[1] Declaration on the Relation of the Church to non-christian religions, Nostra Aetate, par 2, http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_decl_19651028_nostra-aetate_en.html accessed 19th April 2013

[2] Aine Mulally, Guidelines on the Inclusion of Students of Other Faiths in Catholic Secondary Schools, (JMB/AMCSS Secretariat Emmet House, Milltown, Dublin) page 14.

[3] Aine Mulally, Guidelines on the Inclusion of Students of Other Faiths in Catholic Secondary Schools, (JMB/AMCSS Secretariat Emmet House, Milltown, Dublin) page 9.

[4] Aine Mulally, Guidelines on the Inclusion of Students of Other Faiths in Catholic Secondary Schools, (JMB/AMCSS Secretariat Emmet House, Milltown, Dublin) page 17.

[5] Aine Mulally, Guidelines on the Inclusion of Students of Other Faiths in Catholic Secondary Schools, (JMB/AMCSS Secretariat Emmet House, Milltown, Dublin) page page 17.

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