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Catholic Teachers Urged To Address Nuclear-War Issues

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Washington--Joseph Cardinal Bernardin of Chicago, speaking at last week's meeting of the National Catholic Educational Association (ncea), asked educators to help develop through their teaching "the living message" of a pastoral letter on nuclear-war issues being drafted by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Cardinal Bernardin, who is chairman of the committee of the national conference that is working on the letter, was a principal speaker at the four-day meeting attended by several thousand Catholic educators from across the country.

The third draft of the letter was released last week. Cardinal Bernardin said after his speech that the letter was made more "flexible" in accordance with the views of some conservative clergymen and the Reagan Administration.

For example, the bishops now call for a "curb" on development and production of new weapons systems instead of the "halt" called for in earlier drafts.

However, the 150-page letter still opposes the initiation of nuclear war and nuclear strikes against civilian populations.

In his address--"The Challenge of Peace: God's Promise and Our Response"--Cardinal Bernardin said that he hopes "the pastoral letter will not end up as a document gathering dust on the shelf ... I hope also that this [letter] is not experienced as something imposed from above as the final word on the subject, but as an invitation to enter into a continuing process of sharing and learning."

The new draft, which will be completed early next month in Chicago, contains this message for educators: "We have outlined in this letter Catholic teaching on war and peace, but this framework will become a living message only through your work in the Catholic community.

"To teach the ways of peace is not to 'weaken the nation's will' but to be concerned for the nation's soul."

The participants also heard from the President, who did not address the nuclear-war issue, speaking instead on a subject the ncea wholeheartedly endorses--tuition tax credits.

"Like Teddy Roosevelt at San Juan Hill, I will charge up that hill again and again until we get it [approved]," Mr. Reagan said, in a reference to Capitol Hill, where his proposal has stalled in the Congress. He also asked the group to support his Administration's voucher scheme.

The dozens of sessions held during the convention also included some of more immediate practical use to Catholic educators.

For example, Sister Rosemary Hocevar, coordinator for secondary education in the diocesan education office of Cleveland, held a session on techniques of interviewing and hiring teachers for Catholic schools.

The topic is important because most Catholic school districts now have more lay than religious teachers. In her own district, Sister Hocevar said, lay teachers constitute 75 percent of the instructional staff; approximately 10 percent of the lay teachers are not Catholic.

"It becomes important to find out their knowledge of Catholic education, their commitment in terms of years of service," she said. "They need to know the philosophy of the school."

In the final general session of the convention, the Rev. Alfred McBride of St. Norbert Abbey in DePere, Wis., outlined a series of "challenges" for Catholic educators in the decade ahead. Among them:

To make Catholic schools "identifiably Catholic" in philosophy, teacher selection, curriculum choice, and spirit;

To aim for academic excellence, and to prepare students for the "hi-tech" world;

To make every Catholic school financially self-reliant; "to seek some form of government aid, but not to count on this to be the salvation of Catholic education"; and to "doubly strengthen" local control of Catholic education.--ah

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