Friday, March 18, 2016

A New Catholic School Seeks to Incorporate the Wayof Beauty into its Education

I was delighted to hear recently about the founding of the Sanctuary Academy, which will offer a radically new form of education, initially for students ages 6-11 years, reaching back to the classical tradition in a way not seen in modern times. The goal is to offer a formation in beauty, and instill both an ethos of creativity, and the motivation to contribute to society in pursuit of their personal vocation.

Michael and Kelly Sullivan, the creators of The Sanctuary Academy, contacted me recently to ask for advice in incorporating the principles of education described in the book The Way of Beauty into their school. They are also inspired by another book, published last year by Angelico Press, written by Dr Ryan Topping, called The Case for a Catholic Education. It is a coincidence that Dr Topping is on the faculty of Thomas More College and so I know him well.

As Ryan has pointed out, we are in a crisis of Catholic education. The structure of our educational establishments (with a few notable exceptions) has aped the public school model of education, with only marginal better testing outcomes, and disastrous results when it comes to faith engagement. The Church is losing 70% of its young people to apostasy, and the remaining 30% are only nominally Catholic, according to a recent study.

The Sanctuary Academy is a new model of Catholic education that is combining the methods of The Acton Academy model, from Austin, TX with the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd and the Way of Beauty. The Acton Academy model has come out the Acton Institute, and is a model that aims at promoting the values that will form the children so that they are able to contribute to society creatively. The Sanctuary Academy is working within the Acton model, but is adding an additional and distinctly Catholic element that seeks to direct the students to the end of all Catholic education - supernatural transformation in Christ through a liturgically centered piety. The Big Idea is that when children are free to pursue their own interests they will learn faster, and become lifelong learners in pursuit of the work God has called them to fulfill. Then they will be driven to engage with society in a way that is virtuous and chivalrous.

These are aims shared to some degree by all genuine Catholic educational institutions. Of course, we wish success to all who try. What makes this project different from the others that I have heard about is the combination of Michael and Kelly’s express intention of instilling in the students a liturgical piety, the end of which is supernatural transformation, a traditional general education which includes a formation in beauty, and the engendering in the students of a humble self-confidence that will create an entrepreneurial spirit directed towards the common good.

This is at pilot stage right now, but I plan to watch closely how it develops. For more information, or to contact Michael and Kelly, go here.

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