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Introduction

The New Evangelisation (NE) is a long term project. There is no obvious short term ‘fix’ to the many and profound challenges facing the Catholic communities in the ‘old’ Christian lands. 

To be effective, the energy of the NE must inform all aspects of the life of the Church. It cannot be another ‘project’ laid on top of, or alongside, the range of initiatives already in place. In light of this, we affirm in the present book that it is the family, as the primary cell of the Church (and of society), which must be at the centre of the NE. Alongside the family, the parish as community (confederation) of families, is called to form those who are attached, however loosely, to it. 

Catholic education consists of both formal and informal processes. The formal aspect is found in the worldwide network of Catholic schools, colleges and universities which, in different and often challenging cultural contexts, offer education to people of all religious traditions and none. Informal education is not a second-rate set of educational processes but consists of countless initiatives in parishes and families designed to form people in virtue and religious knowledge. 

Formal Catholic education, as described in the present book, is centre of the NE, not the centre for the reason highlighted above. The Catholic school, for example, cannot, and should not, attempt to replace the family and parish as the principal nuclei of the life of the Church. The role of the Catholic school, in broad terms, is to live as an ecclesial body at the heart of the world. It is thus a uniquely privileged space, open to all but offering a vision which is distinctive. It therefore seems fitting to see the Catholic school, and by extension, the Catholic college and university, as a place where the NE can be explored and promoted. 

The present volume brings together contributions from a range of people involved in the mission of Catholic education. It aims to offer food for thought on a conceptual level along with some more practical ideas regarding actual practice. The book is in two parts. In Part 1, we set out some of the big issues in the life of Catholic education. In Part 2, we present a series of personal (and often practical) reflections from key figures in the landscape of Catholic education. Taken together, we hope that both parts of the book offer a cohesive and accessible diet for prayer, reflection and study. 

In Part 1 we explore some of the principal theoretical issues arising from the relationship between the New Evangelisation and Catholic Education. We are in the early years of the New Evangelisation and, as such, still developing our understanding of what it means for particular areas of the life of the Church. Education is one such area. The five essays in this section serve as markers for future debates on how to integrate thinking rooted in the mindset of the New Evangelisation into policy on Catholic education. 

In Part 2 we offer some personal and practical insights on how the success of the New Evangelisation depends on the personal commitment and initiative of those who hold important offices in the Church’s educational institutions. The roles highlighted in this section, while not exhaustive, offer focussed advice from people with experience in the front line, so to speak, of Catholic education. They speak from a personal perspective, thus putting in print that important ‘craft wisdom’ which is often needlessly diminished by those attached to overly theoretical understandings of education. The views expressed in the chapters are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of the editors.