Fr Stephen Reilly & Mary Lappin


Twenty years on from the merger of Scotland’s Catholic teacher training college with the University of Glasgow, this paper examines the formation of Catholic teachers in Scotland in light of the Holy See’s vision. It concludes that the academic formation and opportunities for dialogue allow such a vision to be fulfilled to a large degree. What remains is to present students with a compelling vision of Catholic educational philosophy and an experiential “formation of the heart”.  After examining the rich idea of the heart in biblical thought, it analyses empirical research among Catholic students and beginning teachers in Australia and Scotland and the potential of liturgical formation.  Drawing on the biblical and liturgical concept of memorial, it explores liturgy’s ability to form the memory of an individual and a community, putting this concept in dialogue with the theory of the ‘reminiscence bump’, a period of strong identity formation in young adults. It concludes by suggesting ways in which liturgy – in parish, at university, and on pilgrimage – can help to form the memory, the identity, and the heart of Catholic education students.
Keywords: Catholic higher education, Catholic education, Catholic schools, Community, Intercultural dialogue.


1. Introduction

In September 2019, we at the School of Education at the University of Glasgow celebrated twenty years of the merger between St Andrew’s Teacher Training College and the University, with a social event mixing nostalgia and storytelling, photographs and camaraderie.  There was much to celebrate and much to ponder, especially for a School which inherited a very specific mission: to be the sole provider of teachers qualified to teach religious education in the large state Catholic school sector in Scotland, including all teachers in the primary school sector.

The twenty-year anniversary has provided an opportunity to evaluate and appraise the merger, above all in terms of the Catholic mission and its impact upon the formation of prospective Catholic teachers, in light of the Second Vatican Council’s teaching that, “to the greatest possible extent, they determine whether the Catholic school can bring its goals and undertakings to fruition” (Gravissimum Educationis, 1965, para 8).  Such an appraisal can also initiate a dialogue with the many Catholic teacher training colleges which merged with secular and Catholic universities in the UK and Ireland in the same period, and similar institutions globally.

The vision of the newly-created Scottish Parliament and the wider educational polity in the late 1990s rested on a desire to bring all teacher training colleges into the fold of wider academia, and to locate education as an academic discipline within the Social Sciences.  Several educational advantages have emerged from such a vision for the students at Glasgow.  Students can study a wider range of subjects from across the university, partly as a result of the Donaldson reforms which encouraged programme architects to allow a wide scope in the first two years of study (Donaldson, 2010). Students have access to world-class library and research facilities in a Russell Group university and a vibrant international campus life.  They now also have the opportunity to study an integrated Masters within their Initial Teacher Education programme, allowing them to take their place in what is now conceptualised in policy as a Masters-level profession (Donaldson, 2010).

Nonetheless, the loss of a tightly-knit, largely residential Catholic community as a setting for Catholic teacher formation, brings its obvious drawbacks.  As noted by John Lydon (2009) and Gerald Grace (2010), the loss of the charism of the Notre Dame and Sacred Heart congregations may have weakened a sense of vocation and spiritual capital. Examples of practical implications of the merger may include a weakened institutional Catholic ethos, a lessening of community and consequently Catholic teacher identity, and less frequent opportunity for liturgical celebration.  More contested is whether a distinctive vision of Catholic education is no longer the dominant paradigm in the now largely secular study programme.  The Catholic vision asserts a holistic conception of the human person – including the spiritual dimension – and the eternal destiny of each pupil is honoured. The possibility of seeking the objective truth is promoted, and in which the wisdom and authority of past ages is studied while being subjected to critical scrutiny.  Such a vision may be obscured within their programme of study by a dominant secular ideology employing a methodological marginalisation of spiritual perspectives, and wedded to an uncritical acceptance social constructivism.  Catholic educational researchers Rymarz and Franchi sum up a scepticism of the dominant contemporary educational philosophy as follows:

“the good teacher will teach students to use the skills of reflection and critical enquiry to develop an ethical and ‘wisdom-driven’ response to inherited knowledge.  This way of acting is far removed from an unsophisticated attachment to ‘constructivism’ which often underpins self-proclaimed ‘modern’ educational practice.” (2019, p. 3)

In light of the contemporary shape of Initial Teacher Education described above, it seems wise to study of the documents of the Holy See to help us to discern the place of Catholic teacher formation within the secular university, in order to recognising its positive aspects while directing the energies of Catholic teacher formators towards areas for growth.


2. The holy see and catholic teacher formation

Despite the wide body of documents from the Holy See expressing a vision of Catholic education, the scope of the material detailing Catholic teacher preparation is fairly restricted.  Nonetheless several strands evolve progressively as the shape of education changes in the post-Conciliar era.

Professional standards

In Gravissimum Educationis and in the post-Conciliar documents of the Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education, it is assumed that Catholic education students and teachers work and study within a supportive Catholic environment. The documents envisage a strong presence and influence of professed religious in teaching and leadership roles, and a clear majority of pupils in Catholic schools to be Catholic.  In this landscape, the emphasis is on professionalism and a high quality of academic and human formation.  At the Council, GE exhorts that Catholic teachers, “should therefore be very carefully prepared so that both in secular and religious knowledge they are equipped with suitable qualifications and also with a pedagogical skill that is in keeping with the findings of the contemporary world.” (1965, para 8).

The 1982 document Lay Catholics in Schools concurs:

The first requirement, then, for a lay educator who wishes to live out his or her ecclesial vocation, is the acquisition of a solid professional formation. In the case of an educator, this includes competency in a wide range of cultural, psychological, and pedagogical areas. (CCE, 1982, para 27)

Similar examples recur in subsequent decades (see e.g. CCE, 1988, para 96; CCE, 2007, para 21 and 22; CCE, 2014, para 7).

The official Church’s call for high professional and academic standards can permit a favourable view of the integration of Catholic teacher education into the mainstream of one of Scotland’s ancient universities. The fact that formation occurs in a School of Education which is regularly listed among the top Schools of Education in the UK (#1 Complete University Guide 2019 and 2020; #1 Times Good University Guide 2019), and with integrated opportunities for Masters level study, is a further cause for optimism.  Indeed, it is regularly observed that having a majority of Catholic beginning teachers as graduates of Glasgow should enhance the health of Catholic schools in Scotland. Nonetheless, the issue of diminishing Catholic community among the student body and a replacement of a Catholic educational worldview in the secular university remains.


The contested nature of education

From the late 1980s onwards, the Vatican documents recognise the contested nature of education and the difficulties of Catholic teaching.  In The Religious Dimension of Education in a Catholic School, the CCE notes that the science of education is becoming confused and fragmented, capable of causing bewilderment to the student teacher.  The document cautions that, in such a situation, educators should help students to employ discernment, “to reflect, judge and choose” what is true and useful in educational thought (CCE 1988, para 62).  Similarly, Educating Together in Catholic Schools speaks of the educational challenges in, “a constantly and rapidly changing world in which it is increasingly difficult to educate,” (CCE, 2007, para 20), while Pope Benedict famously spoke of an ‘educational emergency’ occasioning serious difficulties in collaboration and the discovery of meaning in life (2008).   Two strands emerge in the documents as responses to the increasingly challenging landscape: dialogue and faith witness.



In the 2013 document on Intercultural Dialogue and the 2017’s Educating to Fraternal Humanism, the CCE affirms that the Catholic educational vision can be of service to society and wider educational thought, and presents an optimistic view of Catholic schools as sites of dialogue.  An important principle emerges: dialogue begins with awareness of one’s own faith identity, so that in dialogue we become clearer about our own beliefs because we have to examine them, explain them and sometimes defend them, while being enriched by the insights of others.  (CCE, 2013, para 13-18).  Once again this bodes well for Catholic students in a secular university and a diverse School of Education, where upwards of 50% of ITE students are not Catholic. This means that Catholic students’ own beliefs may be challenged, honed and deepened in dialogue and sometimes disputation with their peers. Coll’s (2007a and 2007b) research among Catholic education students in Scotland demonstrated that many of them chose to teach in the Catholic school somewhat unreflectively, due to their family culture and upbringing, at a time when almost 100% of their peers on the course were fellow Catholics. This was in contrast to the more intentional choice of students in New South Wales to teach in the Catholic sector, although the latter evinced much less commitment to the religious mission of the school (Coll 2007b). Now that the student cohort is much more diverse, it is likely that dialogue with non-Catholic peers about Catholic schooling and its educational vision, as well as around Catholic teachings, may help to sharpen Catholic students’ own beliefs and allow them to become more intentional in choosing to teach in the sector. Perhaps the challenge for Catholic faculty members is to help them to develop the vocabulary to express their deeply-held but sometimes inchoate beliefs in such dialogue.


Faith witness

The need for personal faith witness within a contested and secularised space also comes to the fore more clearly in the CCE documents from 1988’s The Religious Dimension of Education in a Catholic School onwards.  By this time, the trend noted in 1982’s Lay Catholics in Schools has progressed, whereby the numbers of professed religious who are teaching and leading in Catholic schools has declined sharply.  The effectiveness of lay Catholic teachers is tied to the personal witness of their human and supernatural gifts (CCE, 1988, para 96).  To foster such gifts, lay Catholic teachers, “should have the opportunity of receiving the specific experiential knowledge of the mystery of Christ and of the Church that priests and Religious automatically acquire in the course of their formation” (CCE, 1998, para 97).  Educating in Catholic Schools takes up the theme, quoting Pope Benedict’s Deus Caritas Est and calling for “’a formation of the heart’”, an encounter with God in Christ which allows Catholic teachers’ vocational commitment to be derived from their faith, becoming active through love (CCE, 2007, para 25).

Reflecting on the official teaching of the Holy See around dialogue and faith witness, it is clear that academic courses have a crucial role to play in introducing Catholic ITE students to a vision of Catholic education, alongside sound and up-to-date pedagogies of religious education, and the theological language needed for mature faith and dialogue (see Franchi & Rymarz, 2017). In the School of Education at Glasgow, there is a growing portfolio of courses, both mandatory and elective, offered to Catholic students, including Theology in Education, Catholic Teacher Formation, Education in Practice (Catholic Religious Education), Applied Catholic Theology, and Contemporary Issues in Catholic Schools. These courses aim to equip ITE students with the knowledge, skills and pedagogy to teach religious education and to inculcate a Catholic vision of education, and they should be under constant review to ensure that they are achieving their aims.

What is more difficult to both quantify and effect is the formation of the heart, born of an encounter with God and the mystery of Christ, giving birth to experiential knowledge.  Of course, such an endeavour goes beyond the campus, encompassing the student’s own prayer life, family, peer witness, university chaplaincy, school practicum and parish involvement.  Nonetheless, the School, through the St Andrew’s Foundation for Catholic Teacher Education, embraces its formational role. If the School is to undertake ‘formation of the heart’, it is worth examining the meaning of heart in the biblical record.


3. Formation of the heart

The biblical notion of the heart lies deep within the spirituality of the Judeo-Christian tradition.  In the Old Testament, the heart is the place of deliberation and decision, the organ of thought which represents the self. It is a place of dialogue and of memory, known to God who “looks at the heart” (1 Sam 16: 7).  In Jeremiah, the heart is compared to a writing tablet where God will inscribe the commandments and establish a new covenant (Jer 31: 33), echoing the great shema prayer of Israel (Deut 6: 6), a passage which is worn on the forehead and upper arm by Orthodox Jews as a tefillin, as a reminder of God’s deeds.  Proverbs 3: 1-3 echoes the commandment theme and emphasises the heart as the place of memory, since “God’s loyalty and faithfulness are to be kept in heart and mind at all times to the point of ‘binding them around your neck’” (Plantinga-Pauw, 30).

The heart is not only individual, but also the heart of a people.  In Ezekiel, Israel will be given a new heart and a new spirit (Ez 36:26), “empowering the people to live a new kind of life; a life of obedience to the precepts of God” (Maré, p.564). Israel will be led the by the Lord to the wilderness to speak to her heart, recalling her to the faithfulness of her youth (Hos 2: 14-15).  So the heart is the place of vocation – individual and communal – of being called by God and responding in faithfulness.  As the Catechism reminds us, the heart is the source of prayer, it is, “the place ‘to which I withdraw’. The heart is our hidden centre…It is the place of encounter, because as image of God we live in relation: it is the place of covenant.” (CCC, 2563).

In a recent leadership seminar, Raymond Friel (2021) exegetes the Road to Emmaus as formation of the heart, describing Jesus as, “the arsonist of the heart. The [disciples’] hearts, their spiritual centres, are on fire, no longer dimmed and slow.”  John Cassian’s quote, enjoining a “daily and hourly turning up the ground of our heart with the gospel plough” leads Friel to note that, “Our hearts need to be ‘turned over’ by the Gospel, made open and receptive and vulnerable.”  Similarly, John Sullivan echoes the biblical notions of interiority, writes of Catholic teachers, “it is vital that they have internalised [the Tradition] and embraced it as far as they can” (p.16). How might the heart be set on fire, formed, and turned over by the Gospel? How might it be internalised and embraced?

Educating in Catholic Schools specifies its definition of formation of the heart, rooted in being “led to that encounter with God in Christ which awakens their love and opens their spirits to others” (CCE, 2007, para 25).  In its section on Dei Verbum, the Bishops Conference of England and Wales’ document The Priority of Adult Formation, suggests where the encounter can take place, so that the call is heard and discerned: “In scripture, liturgy, life and prayer, the Church encounters God.” (2000, p. 2). Renowned theorist Thomas Groome concurs:

“I have learned the hard way that I do far better religious education when I am active in a vibrant Christian community, take time for good personal prayer and communal worship, see a wise spiritual companion regularly, engage in works of compassion and justice, have regular retreats, and take the kind of amusement time that prompts me to glimpse again God’s presence and abiding love.” (2007, p.362-3)

These core elements of the Christian life can guide a formational strategy, but they are not without their challenges for young Catholic students today.


4. Challenges to formation of the heart, and liturgical promise

If formation of the heart is understood as an experiential encounter with God, and the embrace of a faith-rooted educational vocation growing from scripture, liturgy, life and prayer, then the difficulties for Catholic student teachers comes sharply into focus.  Having grown up in the secularised West and deeply formed by its values, Catholic students’ own faith life and its liturgical expression is likely be lived to varying degrees, potentially lessening the sources of spiritual nourishment in Word, sacrament, liturgy and community life.  This is likely to lead to an impoverishment of the spiritual capital which Grace (2002) individuates as crucial to the continuation of the Catholic educational mission.

In the US, traditionally considered more religious that Western Europe, Smith et al paint a mixed picture of faith and its practice among young Catholic Americans, as reflected in the subtitle In, Out of and Gone from the Church (2014). Their qualitative interviews of 41 self-declared young adult Catholics found 12 who fell into the ‘active’ faith category and none who they classified as devout.  Nonetheless, the young people generally showed a lack of hostility towards the Catholic Church and to faith, and many were open to re-engagement or had already re-engaged (2014, pp. 89-125).

This realistic but optimistic tone is corroborated by research into young Catholic students and teachers in Australia and Scotland.  Building on their conceptual 2017 study of formation of teachers for Catholic schools in light of a decline of a cultural religious paradigm, Franchi and Rymarz’ recent empirical study of young Catholic teachers in Australia found that for the majority, religion is not the dominant factor in personal identity or decision making (2019, pp. 113-116). Almost all students in the study declared a personal faith, but participation in the liturgy was much more likely to occur at school than in the parish, and very few read or prayed with scripture out with school.  Most of them expressed a view that it was not through sacramental participation that they expressed their faith, but rather by the way they live. Nonetheless, working in a Catholic school was viewed with enthusiasm, and had often occasioned a re-engagement with their faith and the formation of a supportive faith community, something which they lacked among their peers outside of school. Students spoke positively of liturgy in a school setting, and although the authors show some scorn over the teachers’ desire to ‘get something’ out of Mass, they were reported to have responded positively to, “school liturgies, which were more vibrant [than parish] with accomplished music, great participation, and more focussed preaching.” (2019, p. 120).

These findings are similar to those of Coll, in a study comparing the religious lives of recently qualified Catholic teachers and student teachers in Australia (New South Wales) and Scotland (2007b).  A majority in NSW did report attending Mass regularly (61%), but held a perception that a lack of active participation in liturgy and parish would not diminish they/their peers’ ability to be a competent and committed Catholic teacher.  Catholic teaching was conceptualised largely as passing on Catholic values.  In the Scottish sample, by contrast, there was a much greater awareness of participation at Sunday Mass as a requirement for a Catholic teacher, even in cases where they were not currently practising regularly.  They also moved beyond their NSW peers in conceptualising their role as to pass on Catholic teachings as well as values to the pupils.  Many spoke of the re-engagement with their faith and practice which had occurred during their studies at the University of Glasgow, in part due to the well-received Catholic formation programme. In both jurisdictions, the enthusiasm surrounding teaching in the Catholic sector, and the presence of a supportive faith community and regular prayer was in evidence.

In Coll’s (2009b) study of the influence of leadership in Catholic schools on beginning teachers’ faith lives, liturgy appeared as the key factor in presenting and maintaining the school’s ethos and as an expression of the priorities of the school’s faith leadership. The interviewees frequently spoke of a variety of liturgical events and practices as being emblematic of the Catholic ethos and leadership: Mass for Lent, First Friday and Holydays of Obligation, discussion of the Sunday Gospel at Monday morning assembly, staff retreats, prayers before exams, Sacrament of Reconciliation, and the creation of a school oratory.  These observations accord with Franchi and Rymarz’s inclusion of, “The importance of ritual as a binding force” as one of the three crucial characteristics of Catholic education (2019, p. 14).


5. Towards a formation strategy

The vision represented by the formation of the heart, and the challenging but promising picture emerging from the US, Australia and Scotland, can allow us to trace the outlines of a formational strategy among Catholic student teachers. Such a strategy should embrace a personal experiential encounter with God, fostered by prayer, and lead to the formation of a supportive community.  It should help to form their personal and professional identity as Catholic teachers. It should lead to a vocational decision to respond to the call of God, allowing young Catholic teachers to be witnesses to their pupils.

The above findings on the spirituality of young teachers show their openness to quality liturgy as the soul of the Catholic ethos.  The relevant Church documents and biblical insights also see encounter in a liturgical key:  Friel situates formation within the events on the road to Emmaus, so clearly modelled by Luke on the Eucharist, while Dei Verbum and the Bishops of England and Wales locate the encounter with God in scripture, liturgy, life and prayer.

The liturgical focus may appear unfortunate, as strong liturgical community among the student body is one formational opportunity which was weakened in the merging of the Catholic teacher training colleges with secular universities. The struggle to fully engage with the sacramental life is apparent among students and their young Catholic peers in the Anglophone world.  Liturgy does however retain its promise, not least as formation of the heart requires the creation of community, an encounter with God and the transformation of the memory and will which are functions of the heart in OT thought. Indeed, sacramental theology reveals to us that community, encounter and memory are the very work of liturgy.


6. Liturgy, memory and identity

The heart of the Eucharistic liturgy is memory.  At the Last Supper, Jesus instituted the Eucharist with the exhortation to do this in memory of him.  Immediately after the Consecration, the Eucharistic prayer reveals the intention of the whole Mass: to recall the death and Resurrection of Jesus – God’s greatest gift and the centre of salvation history – and to offer it to God in thanksgiving.

This is memorial, the English translation of the Greek word anamnesis. Rooted in the corresponding Hebrew term zikkaron, it carries a specific biblical and liturgical meaning.  In a section entitled ‘The Church’s most intensive moment is remembering’, theologian Gerhard Lohfink explains the concept of zikkaron by reference to a speech given by Israeli president Ezer Weizmann at the German parliament in 1996 (1999, pp. 236-241).  To the astonishment of the parliamentarians, Weizmann recounted the history of Israel and Judaism, from Abraham to the holocaust, as his own personal history, with the refrain “I was there”.  He was employing the logic of zikkaron, speaking as one who remembers.  When the salvific deeds of God are recounted and recalled liturgically by the gathered people, those celebrating liturgically become contemporary with those who first witnessed it. The events and their salvific power also come alive in our midst, renewing the covenant.  Lohfink notes that the Pentateuch itself follows this logic, when in Deuteronomy uses the word ‘today’ 70 times to refer to the past events of the covenant at Sinai: God’s renews the covenant today (1999, p. 239).  Such remembering founds and sustains a people.  By remembering, the people as a whole and each member of it are given a powerful vocation and a mission. Indeed the true newness of biblical Israel is that its foundation lies not in a mythical past in the realms of the gods, but in real events which introduce a dynamism into history, establishing linear rather than cyclical time.

The central OT liturgy is Passover, where the founding event of Israel’s history – the liberation and exodus from Egypt – is recounted in word and gesture, in questioning and clothing, food and drink. It is a powerful annual renewal of the covenant.  Christian worship is rooted in OT patterns of worship, not least as Jesus chose the Passover meal to establish the new covenant in his blood.  In the Eucharist, the Paschal Mystery is recounted by the Church – the new Israel – rendering its “salvific density” present in the midst of the assembly by the power of the Holy Spirit (de Sousa Silva, p. 273). In Driscoll’s striking phrase, we are “spliced into” the Paschal Mystery, inserted into this primordial and originating event (2003, pp. 163-4).

St John Paul II summarises the logic of memorial in Ecclesia de Eucharistia:

When the Church celebrates the Eucharist, the memorial of her Lord’s death and resurrection, this central event of salvation becomes really present and “the work of our redemption is carried out”.  This sacrifice is so decisive for the salvation of the human race that Jesus Christ offered it and returned to the Father only after he had left us a means of sharing it as if we had been present there. (2003, para 11)

Therefore, the Eucharistic liturgy is the experiential encounter par excellence with the living God and with the Risen Christ. We are reminded of our true identity as a people, and each of us recognises the self as a beloved child of a loving Father and – as Pope Francis’ describes himself – a sinner on whom God has had mercy.  We are also given a vocation, a task and a direction, projected dynamically towards the eschaton and the eternal covenant of God’s fully realised Kingdom.  As the Eucharistic Prayers often repeat, we also call on God to remember, and to enter once more into history to save his people (de Sousa Silva, 2015).

And so we are a people who remember liturgically and receive our true identity there, which may begin to explain why participation at the Eucharist has been a touchstone of Christian identity from the beginning, as attested in the scriptures and Church Fathers. Liturgy can and should be the very basis our individual and communal identity as disciples.

In the wake of his speech at the Bundestag, Weizmann predictably was met by much puzzlement and even barely-concealed scorn, although many remained impressed.  Given the strangeness of memorial logic to the modern secular mind and the absence of regular worship among a majority of young people, including many Catholic students and teachers, the question remains of how such a vision of a remembering community can become a formational reality.


7. Memory and identity formation among young adults

Social Science provides much research on adolescence and emerging identity, enhancing the disciplines of psychology, sociology and education. There is much less work on the development of religious identity and practice amongst and within young adults. King (2003) argues that religion and religious experiences can potentially offer a spiritually rich context for the formation of identity in young adults. Whilst a theology programme at university provides the academic knowledge base for faith formation and understanding required of a Catholic teacher, psychology can assist in providing a framework for understanding the process of development, the emerging self-identity and belonging to and within a community of Catholic students and educators. This paper is more nuanced though and stresses the importance of experiential knowledge of the mystery of their faith alongside the cognitive focus during lectures and seminars.  Indeed, the opportunity to not only come to know about Christ but also, to come to know him is a feature of the pedagogy and teacher formation embedded in the initial teacher education programmes. For this reason, students are given opportunities to participate in and witness to sacramental and liturgical life of the faithful and as catechists pass on the mystery of Christ and his Church. This clearly points to some form of identification with and belonging to the life of the Church if we want to seriously equip our student teachers with a sense of their vocation.

Fostering of identity and belonging as Catholic teachers is a core component of the initial teacher education programmes at the University of Glasgow, yet this identity is not intended as a phenomenon of student life then to be forgotten in the mist of time post-graduation. Autobiographical memory research (Koppel & Bernsten, 2015; Khadeeja, Kuhn & Haque, 2018) informs that ‘emerging adults’ (Smith & Snell, 2009) often remember a substantial number of events experienced during adolescence compared to the life stages before and thereafter. Memories of adolescence and early adulthood are often particularly strong within an individual’s autobiographical recall perhaps because significant events generally occur (such as first job, graduation, birth of child) whereby the integration of experiences and events help form a sense of self and a self-history. Important life events though are not unique to adolescence, yet early adulthood recalls a disproportionate number of memories in comparison to other life stages. The phenomenon is known as the reminiscence bump. If we link this to theories on human development, early adulthood is often associated with the development of personal identity.

Research informs that memories are accessible from the reminiscence bump because they are linked to self-identity and furthermore contribute to life goals and ambitions, attitudes and beliefs (Conway, Wang, Hanyu & Haque, 2005). Although the precise age range of the reminiscence bump is disputed, it is generally located in the emerging adult formative period of life shared by the vast majority of our students (Khadeeja, Kuhn & Haque, 2018). Insights from the reminiscence bump do remind us of the significant role Catholic initial teacher educators can play in the formative years of the lives of our students.  What is more, as the action by which God’s people remembers, powerful experiences of liturgy among Catholic student teachers can also play a central role in their significant identity-forming memories, being reflected in the ‘remebering self’ which is the core of identity (Kahneman and Riis, 2005; Kahneman, 2011, pp. 376-90).


8. Conclusion: towards a liturgical formation of the heart

While this paper has explored academic courses and inter-religious dialogue in the Catholic ITE experience, it has given most weight to formation of the heart, which has been conceptualised in a liturgical vein understood as the formation and nurturing of memory.  We conclude with some practical considerations regarding the application of a liturgically-focussed formation.


Parish liturgy

The first consideration is that the School of Education is only one part of the overall formational experience, considered both chronologically and holistically.  Catholic education students are part of Catholic families and the vast majority will have attended Catholic schools.  They will also be part of Catholic schools in future, and may embrace the vocation of parenthood, marriage or the single life as their way to holiness.  Within this flow, their time at university is a snapshot.  Indeed, educational thought and policy increasingly underlines the importance of life-long professional learning.  Even during their time as students their main liturgical belonging remains to their parishes. As we have seen, Catholic beginning teachers see Sunday Mass attendance as the clear expectation of them, one which they generally embrace as the ideal behoving a Catholic teacher.  Many also frequent the university Catholic chaplaincy and find a supportive community of peers of their own age.

Parishes therefore should be heartened and challenged by the formational impact of powerful liturgy, above all on young people re-engaging with their faith, and those living through the ‘reminiscence bump’ period of life so crucial to identity formation. Fr James Mallon argues strongly for a greater focus of time and energy to be placed on Sunday Mass within parish priorities, giving many practical examples of how it can achieved (Mallon, 2015, pp. 95-148).  Although public worship is severely curtailed in the current time of pandemic, with unknown longer-term consequences, the expansion of livestreamed Mases can help to increase choice, raise expectations of quality liturgy, and encourage the spread of good practice which can bear fruit when public worship is possible again.


University liturgy

Although the School of Education is only one part of the formational picture, the insights of the ‘reminiscence bump’ and the ‘remembering self’ embolden us to play a substantial role in the formative years of our students’ lives.  We should encourage high-quality, meaningful liturgy:  current examples at Glasgow include a welcome Mass for post-graduate (PGDE) education students featuring music by a group made up of education students themselves; a PGDE awards day Mass for students and their families in the graduation hall; and a retreat and Mass for graduating undergraduate students.  There are also smaller events of a liturgical and social nature for feast days throughout the year such as All Saints Day and Ash Wednesday, and a weekly Mass for staff and students.  The findings of this paper serve as an opportunity to revise and renew this schedule and its ability to truly impact the faith lives of future Catholic teachers.



To complement the campus- based liturgical life of the School, a programme of pilgrimages, both local and national, has developed as a central plank of our formational strategy.  Pilgrimage is one of the features of Catholic Christian life that provides an opportunity for spiritual growth, community belonging and enhanced identity. Pilgrimage by its very nature involves a temporary leaving of our daily routines to spend time in prayer with others in a holy and significant place/site. Travel is involved and an encounter with others in community is offered, indeed it contains a unique ability to form communitas, a temporary liminoid experience of community among pilgrims leading to a sharing of stories and fellowship among equals, as first noted by pioneering sociologists of pilgrimage Edith and Victor Turner (1978).  On participating in the planned pilgrimages our students experience time away from timetables and everyday life of university lectures and seminars to enter experiences that have the potential for being lodged in memory and recall, particularly if they have an emotional or life changing dimension. Notwithstanding, any event or story that has a strong emotional charge will be more memorable, for the greater the emotional charge the stronger the emotional memory (Lappin, 2011). Yet the pilgrimage, and indeed this paper, is not concerned with emotional memory per se as a reminder of past experiences, even though experientially based knowledge is an important aspect of personal integration. The nuanced and sharper focus is on memory and identity within an experience of pilgrimage.

Over the past five years, 126 students have travelled on the St Andrew’s Foundation (SAF) pilgrimages, to the Holy Land, Lourdes, Rome and Salamanca/Avila, as well as 35 on Scottish day-pilgrimages.  Another 54 were due to travel on pilgrimage to Northern Italy or Spain in summer 2020 before the trips were postponed.    Although the programme has been much curtailed in a time of Covid, in November 2020 the students undertook a ‘virtual pilgrimage’ to the Vatican: 110 students took part during one week, walking 3,975km individually around their local streets and updating their progress via social media.

The pilgrimage programme recognises the limits on our ability as a pastoral team to spend quality time with the students during term time due to their other commitments, and supplements this with intensive formational experiences.

De Sousa Silva points out that for God’s people, the zikkaron/ liturgical memorial of the Lord’s deeds took place in the setting of pilgrimage, at one of the three annual pilgrimages required of all males at the time of Jesus: Purim, Pentecost, and above all Passover (de Sousa Silva, p. 271). The SAF pilgrimages have featured powerful experiences of Eucharistic liturgy and para-liturgy: our 2019 study of our students who travelled to Rome and Lourdes discovered the deep impression made on them by such events as the Papal Audience and the Torchlight Procession, as well as intimate group Masses and times of prayer (Reilly, Crichton and Lappin, 2019).  Our own experience as leaders of the student pilgrimage to the Holy Land leads to us believe that moments such as renewal of baptismal promises in the Jordan, Mass in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and prayer by the Sea of Galilee also contain such transformative power.  In fact the entire pilgrimage can be seen as a specific form of liturgy with its sacred spaces, rituals, and narratives. As Scott notes of Holy Land pilgrimages, “Sacramental pilgrimage invokes a liturgical memory to participate in the Eucharist at the place where the body dwelt: the resurrected body of Christ…crucified at Jerusalem.” (2003, p.164).  Following the logic of memorial, we believe that the salvific events of the Paschal Mystery, and the Risen Lord himself, become present in power during the experience of pilgrimage, its daily Mass and its many times of prayer and para-liturgy, to a degree capable of forming the memory and identity of young pilgrims to a significant degree.



This paper has evaluated the current Catholic teacher education provision at the University of Glasgow in light of the teaching of the Holy See.  While positive about the opportunities presented by the university setting to accord with the Holy See’s vision, it recommends ongoing evaluation of the Catholic teacher formation courses to ensure that they are presenting a vibrant vision of Catholic education.

The paper has, further, explored the biblical and theological roots of a formation of the heart, conceived in a largely liturgically-focussed key.  As such it provides a theory of formational which will allow comparative study and dialogue and with the formation programmes and strategies of our peer institutions.  It can also serve as an theoretical basis for empirical research to ascertain the impact of academic courses, liturgy and pilgrimage on the faith and professional formation of Catholic ITE students both at the University of Glasgow and at other Catholic ITE institutions.

We hope that such further study, dialogue and sharing can help to foster a formation of hearts ready to embrace the challenging and privileged vocation of Catholic teaching.



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