“The mission of the Belvedere Community – Jesuits, Board, Staff, Parents, present students and past pupils – is to ensure that graduates of the College by their relationship with Jesus Christ and through living Gospel values, shall be persons for others in leadership and example in the pursuit of a just world” (Mission Statement).
1. Statement of Core Values
This vision of Belvedere College S.J. for its graduates is given practical expression in its mission statement and requires a coherent, structured pastoral approach if it is to become a reality.
Belvedere College S.J., as part of the network of Jesuit schools worldwide, is animated by the Characteristics of Jesuit Education. These characteristics prioritise the following;
‘…the total formation of each individual’
‘…a religious dimension that permeates the entire education.’
‘…dialogue between faith and culture.’
‘…individual care and concern for each person.’
‘…a realistic knowledge, love and acceptance of self …and of the world in which we live.’
‘…Christ as the model of human life.’ and ‘…faith that does justice.’
‘…adequate pastoral care’ and the celebration of ‘…faith in personal and community prayer, worship and service.’
‘…education as an ‘apostolic instrument…preparing students for active participation in the church and local community, for the service of others.’
2. Pastoral Approach in Belvedere College SJ
A pastoral framework of education and discipline is necessary if schools are to carry out the functions outlined in the 1998 Education Act (Section 9). Due weight must be given to the multifarious influences and pressures that affect the lives of students if they are to be cared for properly and are to achieve their best in their educational endeavours. With all the pressures, we must not lose sight of the fact that, in essence, the school is about life-enhancement, developing the potential of all the individuals through a spectrum of educational experiences which affect pupils’ spiritual, moral, cognitive, emotional, imaginative, aesthetic, social and physical development. A sensitive pastoral structure is required to meet the complex needs of adolescents in this period of profound economic, social, cultural and religious change.
School Pastoral Care implies caring for the quality of relationships between the partners in the school community. It involves the engagement of all the school policies, processes and programmes in the development of the appropriate systemic structures, roles and resources to support the development of the emerging adult (Monahan, 1996, p. 5). The term ‘pastoral’ is rooted in biblical imagery where the metaphor of Christ as the Good Shepherd (Jn 10: 1-2, Luke 15: 1-8) draws on the Old Testament image of God as the pastor for his flock (Isaiah 49:11, Ezek 34:16). For Christians this care is centered on Christ, present in the Christian community. Students encounter the person of Christ as friend and guide; they come to know him through Scripture, sacraments, personal and communal prayer, in play and work, in other persons; they are led to the service of others in imitation of Christ the Man for others (Characteristics of Jesuit Education, no. 63).
Cura Personalis, personalised care and concern, lies at the core of the mission of Belvedere College S.J. This means that every teacher is deeply involved in developing the intellectual, social and spiritual growth of each student. However, the Characteristics of Jesuit Education goes further in stating that cura personalis “is not limited to the relationship between teacher and student; it affects the curriculum and the entire life of the institution.” The core values of Belvedere College S.J. outlined in the mission statement permeate its structures and polices and the entire school community realises its responsibility in ensuring that these pastoral values are upheld in the daily life of the school.
Pastoral care is a dimension of Cura Personalis that enables the seeds of religious faith and religious commit¬ment to grow in each individual by enabling each one to recognize and respond to the message of divine love: seeing God at work in his or her life, in the lives of others, and in all of creation; then responding to this discovery through a commitment to service within the community.
We understand Pastoral Care ‘as an approach to education which endeavors to value and develop each member of the school community. It is within this context that our Pastoral Care approach is shaped and implemented. Each member of the school community has a significant role to play in creating and protecting the pastoral ethos of the school and as an individual has access to the pastoral structures and procedures in place. We strive to place mutual respect, understanding and care of the individual at the heart of all that we do in Belvedere as the strength of relationships within the school community is the core resource that supports our pastoral approach. Chaplaincy is a vital part of the support structures in place for our students in terms of their personal, social and spiritual development during their time in Belvedere.
The Role Description of the Chaplain
In a school community, which embraces a holistic vision of education, chaplaincy plays a pivotal role. The Education Act 1998 Section 9(d) notes the obligation placed on schools to “promote the moral, spiritual and personal development of students in consultation with parents having regard to the charismatic spirit of the school”. While the chaplaincy is primarily concerned with moral and spiritual development of students it also plays an important role in integrating these with other dimensions of education, social, personal, academic and physical.
‘The chaplain, as a faith presence, committed to the values of Christ, accompanies each person on the journey through life.’ (‘The Chaplain: A Faith Presence in the School Community’, Monahan and Renehan, 1998)
The most relevant analogy of the role of Chaplain is that of the Road to Emmaus story, the accompaniment story for all Christians. Like Jesus, the Chaplain meets people in their present situation, walks with them, acknowledges their fears/needs/hopes and supports them in their spiritual development. The Chaplain is in the privileged position of facilitating a student’s personal reflection on their lives and their relationship with God, in a context of respect, understanding and friendship.
Time is given to the individual to support them in articulating who they are and what is going on in their lives at present. They engage in a conversation with themselves in the presence of someone else and in the process become more self-aware. Students are challenged to think about their own self-image, how they relate with others and most importantly they are listened to as they reflect upon their present realities and the challenges they are facing in life. The student’s development of a positive self-image is a key aim for the Chaplain in their individual meeting with them.