Ethos and Charism

The ethos and charism of the school express the assumptions, beliefs and values that the Catholic Christian community shares. They are reflected in what is done, how it is done and who is doing it. A school communicates its distinctive identity through its ethos and charism, which find expression in its religious values, culture, rituals and practices.

Christ is the foundation of the whole educational enterprise in a Catholic or ecumenical school. The fact that in their own individual ways all members of the school community share this Christian vision, makes the school “Catholic”; principles of the Gospel in this manner become the educational norms since the school then has them as its internal motivation and final goal (The Catholic School, 1977, n.34).​

In a Catholic Christian educational context, ethos refers to the gospel values and Church traditions embedded in the everyday life and culture of the school. The school’s ethos is given voice through the educational and faith formation of its students, the quality of personal relationships fostered and Christian attitudes and responsibilities modelled and explicitly taught.

The embedding of this ethos needs to take into account a range of factors: the ecclesial, political, economic, social and historical contexts; the nature of the local community; the parents, teachers and students of the school community; and the interrelationships between these different factors. A significant challenge for the contemporary Catholic and ecumenical school is how to communicate a Catholic Christian ethos and charism to community members who may have little connection with Church traditions.

The word charism, in the tradition of the Church, refers to spiritual gifts used for the service of the whole community. These gifts or graces of the Holy Spirit are given to individuals and groups for the sake of others. In letters to the early Christian communities, St Paul lists gifts or charisms of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:4-11, 1 Corinthians 12:27-30, Romans 12:6-8, Ephesians 4:11, Galatians 5:22- 23). Paul also insists that the virtue of charity is above all other charisms (1 Corinthians 13:13).

A Catholic Christian school draws upon this rich heritage of spiritual gifts to formulate its own unique way of being and giving service to all. The central influence on the charism of any school is the person of Jesus Christ. All charisms seek to provide a pathway through which a school community might interpret and give voice to the centrality of Jesus Christ. Schools draw inspiration and direction from the stories of how their founding religious congregation, patron saint or significant people in the school’s history exemplified particular gifts of the Spirit in living out the gospel of Jesus Christ. Therefore, in a Catholic Christian educational context, charism can be viewed as a spiritual energy that permeates a particular school based on significant people, values and stories.

Ethos and Charism Document Library​