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Ethics in a Catholic schools context

Peter McVerry SJ and Pat Coyle of Jesuit Communications took part in a forum for transition year students as part of Catholic Schools Week. Students from all over Dublin gathered in Gonzaga College  on Tuesday 3 February. Peter (pictured here) spoke to them about the huge rise in homelessness and outlined the response of the Peter McVerry Trust and other agencies to the crisis.

The students were particularly taken with Peter McVerry’s stories about individuals in the same age-group as themselves who were homeless and on the streets. His analysis of the state response drew a reflective silence from those present.

Pat Coyle spoke about ethics in traditional and social media in her twenty minute input entitled ‘When Should You not ‘Like’ Something?’ Offering some examples from her past experience as a journalist in print media and radio, Pat encouraged critical analysis of sensational articles or interviews, which promote paper sales or audiences at the expense of truth of good taste.

She told them about a time when she encouraged a journalist friend not to publish a high profile breaking story because of its dubious and offensive content. They were both relieved when the story turned out to be false and those media outlets that did publish were faced with massive libel bills.

She asked the students present if they would have shared the story had they read it on their social media platforms? Did they ever think about when they would and wouldn’t share a link on Facebook? What moral principles would they engage in their decision making? Would they be aware of when a bit of ‘harmless fun’ might actually be turn into a bullying tactic? The students took these questions on board and a really good discussion followed, with one student challenging Pat on whether she was too fond of censorship!

Catholic Schools Week (CSW) is an initiative of the Bishops Conference and an opportunity for schools to address the question of what makes a school ‘Catholic’. The theme of this year’s conference was ‘Called to Serve’ – an invitation to examine how service pays a central role in the ethos of Catholic education and how service is integrated into their way of proceeding on a practical level.

The Irish Jesuit Mission Office was involved in supporting the roll-out of Catholic Schools Week nationally through their development education desk. Bríd Dunne (Development Education Coordinator) represents the IJMO on the steering committee of CSW and coordinated the post-primary resources. These resources are rolled out nationally to every post-primary school on the island and navigate student-centred learning on a class-by-class basis. A youth-focused Examen (an Ignatian technique of prayerful reflection on the events of the day to detect God’s presence in our lives) featured in the resource, providing a special focus on Ignatian spirituality.