The day began at 6:45am with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. (Lest you think this was a grand weekend vacation, it was late to bed and early to rise.)
The lively topic of "Diocesan Guidelines for Home Schoolers" was the order of the morning. Recent diocesan guidelines, historically, are the policy child of the 1996 National Catholic Education Association (N.C.E.A.) workshop on the "alarming increase of Catholic home schoolers and what to do about them."
At that 1996 NCEA meeting, it was reported that after much discussion and debate, a man (presumably a priest) stood up and commented that "...they (Catholic homeschoolers) still have to come to us for the Sacraments."
It was noted that, in truth, there have always been diocesan guidelines for the administration of the Sacraments. However, they were written to include two primary groups, those children educated in the parish Catholic school and those educated by the parish CCD program. Catholic homeschoolers are, in truth, a third category unique unto themselves and need to be given that consideration. They are not out of the "mainstream" Catholic Church as may be implied by the bureaucracies in many a diocese. Often Catholic homeschool parents have had to subject themselves and their children to undue rigor and hardship, just to procure the Sacraments of First Penance, First Holy Communion, and Confirmation.
Further discussion of parental primacy in the education of their children ensued. The booklet "Responsibilities and Rights of Parents in Religious Education," produced and available for $10.00 from Catholic Home School Network of America (C.H.S.N.A.), P.O. Box 6343; River Forest, IL 60405-6343; FAX (708) 386-3380; Website: www.home.att.net/~harryl was presented. This fifty-four page booklet was sent out to every bishop in the United States by C.H.S.N.A.
Fr. James O'Connor, canon lawyer, from the St. Joseph Foundation, gave some background relating to the topic of the booklet. He maintained that home education is not a new phenomenon in the Church. Up until the early 1800's, parish priests catechized the faithful from the pulpit. The churches were ripe with Catholic images in stained glass, statuary and paintings. Frequent and varied devotional practices, in addition to the regularly scheduled Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, were also used to educate Catholic families.
Homeschooling for the majority was the norm. Formal education was a privilege reserved for the nobility. He continued that our obedience to our bishops is required only to the degree that they are faithful to the Magisterial teachings of the Church and the Holy Father.
In the Church, canon law is clear as to its requirements. However convenient guidelines may be as documentation, in and of themselves they cannot be interpreted as law. Father O'Connor reminded us that the mission of the Church was to dispense liberally the Sacraments instituted by Jesus Christ and the many graces that accompany those Sacraments. It is inappropriate and often cruel for bishops to withhold these Sacraments when children are properly presented for them.
The issue of controlling home schoolers via the withholding of Sacraments or making the procurement thereof difficult and the various examples from across the country illustrating them was brought forth. At the conclusion of the morning session, attendees resolved to help individual families with these problems on a one on one basis recognizing that locally creative solutions can be found to obtain the Sacraments for our families.
Encouragement is to be given to families to make formal appeals within the hierarchical structure to help change the status quo. The St. Joseph Foundation in Austin, TX could be utilized as a resource for these endeavors. Long term solutions to educate homeschooling families as to their rights and responsibilities must also be undertaken. The booklet"Responsibilities and Rights ..." produced by C.H.S.N.A., could be used as a valuable tool in that regard.
The noon Angelus was then prayed prior to breaking for lunch.
End of Saturday morning report
Rita Thomas +JMJ+
+Do All For the Greater Honor and Glory of God+