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Role of parenting for ‘graduation season’

By Fr Stephan Alexander

General Manager, CCSJ and AMMR


Many families experienced joyful moments over the last few weeks as their children graduated from primary and secondary school. For many, ‘graduation season’ is a time of pride, accomplishment and transition as parents celebrate the successes of their children and usher them into a new stage of their academic and holistic development.

Others struggle with failure, disappointment and the tragedy of unmet expectations. Some are unbothered by academic results while others are completely dispirited because of the future reality that awaits their children. For many families, graduation is a privilege that their children will never experience.

Firstly, let’s be mindful of those children and parents who are not celebrating at this time. They deserve our concern and consideration. Their worth extends beyond any academic or social accomplishment.

Additionally, our Christian vocation inspires us to exercise compassion and solidarity in our relationship with them. Here, St Paul’s counsel proves vital in reminding us that we are all parts of one body and must be equally concerned for each other (1 Cor 12:12–25).

He reminds us that “more dignity is given to the parts that are without it …” (1 Cor 12:24), namely, the parts that are hidden and out of sight. We are also encouraged to celebrate and mourn with each other because, “if one part is hurt, all parts are hurt with it. If one part is given special honour, all parts enjoy it.” (1 Cor 12:26)

Secondly, having recently attended graduation ceremonies in Catholic schools, I’ve been mindful of the successes that are being celebrated. It is wonderful to celebrate academic achievement. However, is that the only thing worthy of celebrating?

Are there other things that we can focus on in celebrating the transition of our children along their journey to adolescence and adulthood? What are we identifying as most important when we prioritise, elevate and celebrate one accomplishment and ignore others?

Let me ask a different question: can we institute an award at graduation ceremonies to honour and encourage parents, especially those who have struggled through adversity to raise well-rounded students? What about an award for the child whose life best reflects the hope that he/she has in Christ (1 Pt 3:15)?

At the graduation ceremonies I attended, the role of parenting was highlighted by valedictorians and feature speakers. Their parents’ sacrifice, drive, support and other valuable inputs were celebrated by each speaker.

At one school, the parents of each graduate were invited to present their child with the diploma. This gesture was a wonderful way of cerebrating parent and child and the genuine moments of joy, love and support that flowed suggested that these parents were doing their best to take seriously their “mission of transmitting human life and educating those to whom it has been transmitted” (Gaudium et Spes, #50). It also demonstrated the children’s understanding of their parents’ efforts.

Education here isn’t merely an academic reference. It is the task or duty of parents who “realise that they are … cooperators with the love of God the Creator, and are, so to speak, the interpreters of that love” (Gaudium et Spes, #50).

Education, in this context, is the transmission of a love that is transformative. The rite of Baptism interprets this as the responsibility of training children in the practice of faith to keep the commandments by loving God and neighbour.

The rite of marriage terms it, bringing children up according to the law of Christ and His Church. These ‘definitions’ suggest an emphasis on the holistic development of children, grounded in faith, and exercised in loving service to God and humanity.

It must therefore be considered that “the right and duty of parents to give education is essential, since it is connected with the transmission of human life; it is original and primary with regard to the educational role of others, on account of the uniqueness of the loving relationship between parents and children; and it is irreplaceable and inalienable, and therefore incapable of being entirely delegated to others or usurped by others” (Familiaris Consortio, #36).

Accordingly, the way we educate and raise our children profoundly impacts society, shaping the future through the individuals who will carry it forward. Parenting, therefore, is not just a private endeavour but a critical social justice issue. The environment in which children grow up influences their opportunities, values, and overall quality of life.

More importantly, it influences who they will become and who or what they will prioritise as they co-exist with others in society. The Catholic priority of education acknowledges and underscores the reality that how we raise our children is a vital component of human development and societal contribution and thus a social justice issue.

It is not just about providing the best opportunities for academic and cultural excellence. It is the blessing of parental love, which is “the animating principle and therefore the norm inspiring and guiding all concrete educational activity, enriching it with the values of kindness, constancy, goodness, service, disinterestedness and self-sacrifice that are the most precious fruit of love” (Familiaris Consortio, #36).


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Photo by Andre Hunter on Unsplash