In this module, we explore the importance of subsidiarity and what this means for your school board.

Module Introduction

Subsidiarity recognises that we are social beings, and emphasises the importance of small and intermediate-sized communities or institutions, like the family. Subsidiarity affirms the right of individuals and social groups to make their own decisions and accomplish what they can by their own initiative and agency. Honouring subsidiarity means that nothing should be done by a larger and more complex organisation which can be done as well by a smaller and simpler organisation or group.

The family is the basic unit of society and the is responsible the formation and education of children. So, important is the Church’s belief that parents are the first educators of their children that it enshrines this in the Law of the Church. (Canon 796, n. 2).[1]

However, families do not have all the necessary resources to provide for all the educational needs of their children and Catholic schools have been established to assist in parents in the education to ensure that all children are formed intellectually, physically, socially and spiritually.


How do we ensure that we are at the service of families rather than families being at the service of the school?

Doing Theology

See (recognising the reality of a situation)

How well do we really know the families we serve?
Who are the ‘hidden’ families, especially those who might feel excluded?

Judge (reflecting in light of our faith)

“Be hospitable to one another without complaining.  As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” (1 Peter 4:10-11[2])

What might this mean for the school board members in the context of subsidiarity?

Act (discerning a response)

How might we include families that are ‘hidden’ from the mainstream?

How do we ensure we adhering to the principle of subsidiarity by ensuring all stakeholders, especially families, have their agency respected in the boards decision-making, and that “this agency is reflected in [our] policies, procedures and programs”[3]


Download this Powerpoint presentation (six slides) to assist your board understand the principle of subsidiarity.

Download Principle - Subsidiarity


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