Study Materials for Religious Education

Section C10: Perspective on the Catholic identity of Catholic schools and on educating young people in personal identity development
There has been much greater prominence given to the construct the Catholic identity of Catholic schools in recent years. Considerable research has been done on Catholic school identity in Australia, especially in Victoria, by the Leuven researcher Didier Pollefeyt. This section tries to develop a critical perspective on the use of the construct Catholic school identity.

St Ignatius College Riverview, Sydney -- the premier Jesuit boys school in Australia

As for all sections, view the introductory video. Then listen to the content lecture audio while attending to the main text file on this page. Arrange to have the audio file and the text page open together so you can work your way through both in an integrated fashion.

Introductory video to this section

1. Introductory video giving an introduction to the content covered in this section. Click the icon or below to view or download the introductory video

Click for mp4 file format

Brief overview of content of this section

This section begins by outlining the lecturer's preferred understanding of the meaning and best usage of the construct Catholic identity of Catholic schools – in the light of research and Catholic school educational experience. This can be used as one particular starting viewpoint for trying to develop a critical perspective on this question.

The nature and function of the construct Catholic identity is then explored. The relevant literature is summarised. And a number of critical issues for the constructive use and the problematic misuse of 'Catholic identity' are considered. Participants should be able to develop their own critical perspective on the use of the term.

Special attention is given to information about the Enhancing Catholic Schools Identity Project. this includes original articles and presentations by Didier Pollefeyt, the researcher from the Catholic University of Leuven, who conducted a substantial research project on Catholic school identity particularly in Victorian Catholic schools, but more recently in other parts of Australia. Attention is also given to the theology of interruption and reconstruction by the Belgian theologian Lieven Boeve, because this theology underpins all of the research.

This section contains more material than many participants will have time to look into -- and more than they would need to cover to address adequately the assessment task for this section. But at the same time it provides a substantial resources that might be of use in later follow up study of this topic.

Audio mp3 file lecture of this section
2. The audio file lecture presents the content for this section. This is the main presentation and principal source of information on the topic. The audio lecture ( 73 minutes) will refer every now and again to particular parts of the accompanying text below that will easily be identified -- here you will need to pause the audio and look at the pertinent parts of the text. At times you will also need to pause the audio to look at particular sub-presentations such as video clips and powerpoint presentations. The audio lecture and the text go together. Click here or the icon to hear or download the mp3 audio lecture.

The written text for this section (Study the text in conjunction with the audio lecture of 73 minutes duration)

One preferred view for understanding the use of the construct Catholic identity of schools
Comments about the new leadership roles in Catholic schools to do with Catholic identity, mission and evangelisation
Discussion of issues related to the Catholic identity of schools in two articles
Links to materials by Pollefeyt and Boeve related to the Enhancing Catholic Schools Identity Project in Australia

One preferred view for understanding the construct the Catholic identity of Catholic schools

This is discussed in the lecture under the following headings:-

The Catholic's school as a civic Australian educational institution

The ownership identity of the Catholic school

The functioning shared partnership identity of the Catholic school: State, Church and citizens.

Perspective from the point of view of the Australian community and state

Perspective from the Catholic church point of view

Looking into the contribution to the mission of the Catholic church

The role of teachers in Catholic schools from the perspective of church ministry

Looking into the components of the religious identity of any church school: Each aspect is open to evaluation.

Civic educational function
The intentional or proposed moral identity
The actual moral identity -- implied in the way people are treated within the school
Architectural and aesthetic identity
Academic identity
Religious identity of the curriculum
Religious identity in religious education (Theological identity)
Liturgical identity
Prayer/reflection identity
Pastoral care identity
Community engagement identity
Identity from the student perspective (Catholics both 'practicing' and 'non-practicing' and non-Catholics)

Background information about students in Catholic schools

Change in Catholic and non-Catholic students, Australia, 2006-2012

(  2012 Report.

Consider if only 10% of Catholic children are regular mass going, as a conservative estimate, (as noted in the 2006 Church life survey) then the following is the student population in 1706 schools in 2012:-

Total Students Catholic schools 2012 Total Catholics Likely Practising Catholics Likely Non-practising Catholics Non Catholics 212,000 Total Non regular mass goings students


71% of total


7% of total


64% of total


29% of total



Total increase in numbers of Catholic students 2006-2012 was 1,200

Total increase in numbers of non Catholic students 2006-2012 was 46,500

Note the 2006 National Church Life Survey indicated that there were only less than 10% of the 15-19 year olds were regular attenders at Sunday Mass.

Figure showing mass attendance rates of different age groups of Catholics in 2006

What is not known and might be helpful to know would be the following: –

What proportion of Australian Catholic children are in Catholic schools?
Are the mass attendance rates for Catholic children in Catholic schools higher than for those who are not?

Can you see how the cartoon below has more of the identity anxiety thinking about it

New leadership roles in Catholic schools in relation to Catholic identity, mission and evangelisation

A number of new leadership roles such as the following have become more prominent in association with the special emphasis on Catholic identity. terms like: Director of evangelisation and ministry, Dean of Catholic Mission, Director of Catholic identity, Director of Catholic Identity and Mission.

These positions differ in name from the more traditional original term Religious Education Coordinator. Have these terms and roles made a significant impact on what actually happens in Catholic schools?

Can Catholic Identity be required or imposed on a Catholic school?

Click here for a short account of the story of the use of the Angelus to affirm and reinforce the Catholic identity of the school -- 'Catholic identity and the Angelus Gestapo'

Discussion of issues related to the Catholic identity of schools in two articles about perspective on this topic

The material here in two parts, seeks to put the contemporary interest in Catholic school identity into perspective, working from a particular view of what constitutes institutional identity, how it might be developed, enhanced and communicated, and how it relates to the process of individual personal identity development.  It includes ideas in summary fashion of what was considered in section 7 which proposed elements that could be given more attention in the discourse on the Catholic identity of schools, especially the idea of an ‘education in identity' in which Catholic schools are engaged in resourcing the personal identity and spirituality of young people.  The perspective and follow up proposals may help with discernment of the wisest and most productive ways of using the construct identity in Catholic schooling and religious education.

Open the two articles in succession and the continuing audio lecture will walk you through some of the key issues in both.

The material in these two parts is also written up in chapter 11 of Life to the full which can be downloaded from this site.

Click here for Rossiter-PerspectiveOnUseOfCatholicIdentityConstruct-PartA-25-06-13-Original.docx  

Click here for Rossiter-PerspectiveOnUseOfCatholicIdentityConstruct-PartB-25-06-13-Original.docx


Links to original materials by Didier Pollefeyt and Lieven Boeve related to the Enhancing Catholic Schools Identity Project in Australia

Click either the icon or here for the audio file lecture presentation by Prof Didier Pollefeyt about the enhancing Catholic schools identity Project research. The lecture was presented at the National Catholic education commission conference in Adelaide in 2011.
Click either the icon or here for the PDF file with all of the graphics to go with Prof Pollefeyt's audio presentation above.
Click for a powerpoint presentation on the Enhancing Catholic Schools Identity Project prepared for school principals by the Broken Bay Catholic Schools Office.
Click here or the icon for the article on the Catholic schools identity Project research by Pollefeyt and Bouwens.

The chapter on re-contextualisation theology and the communication of faith. This gives an account of the thinking of Lieven Boeve about about the theology underpinning the Enhancing Catholic Schools identity Project.
Part A of the chapter

Part B of the chapter

Click here for the short article showing how Boeve's theology of interruption and re-contextualisation tries to address the contemporary problem of secularisation.


Additional resource and reference
These 2 files were already noted and linked in above.

click here to download the follow-up resource texts:
Perspective on the use of the construct Catholic school identity: Part A
Perspective on the use of the constructed ethics school identity: Part B Articles from the Journal of Religious Education, 2013.

See also the links to the publications and presentations by Pollefeyt and Boeve linked in earlier in the text. And note the range of other publications in the bibliographies in the two articles above.