Schoolchildren in Cambodia. Photo: Chanthea Nou/Caritas Australia.

The Common Good


Teacher introduction

By the end of this unit, students will have explored the Scriptural understanding of the Common Good through the lens of the Greatest Commandment - loving our neighbour, including our global neighbours. Students will be able to differentiate between the ‘greatest good for the greatest number’ and the common good. With a focus on the Caritas case study on discrimination and social exclusion, students will investigate how they can build true community through an understanding of social and political action for the common good.  

Teachers, before you start:

  1. Watch the CST ‘Common Good’ film and familiarise yourself with the pause point and other stopping points listed in this lesson suggestion.
  2. Download the various resources referenced at the bottom of this page (worksheets, slides, etc.) and have them ready to go on your computer/interactive whiteboard.
  3. Familiarise and decide on the use of online or app technologies.

Learn - Focus

Defining the Common Good.

ALL Years

Watch Caritas Australia’s ‘Common Good’ film from 00:00-00:22.

Years 7-8

At the pause point, stop the film and ask students to:

  • Use the ‘Connect, Extend, Challenge’ thinking routine (see below) to reflect on the definition  given of the Common Good;
  • respond to the pause point question by choosing one of the below answers and explaining your choice:
    • Not at all important – I am happy on my own and don’t need family, friends or to be a part of a community
    • Slightly important – Being a part of a strong family, friends and community network is important to me, but not as important as other things
    • Important – Family, friends and community are an important part of my life
    • Fairly important – I love spending time with my family and friends and would feel isolated if I couldn’t do that
    • Very important – My family, friends and community mean everything to me

Teacher’s notes:

CONNECT: How are the ideas and information presented CONNECTED to what you already knew?

EXTEND: What new ideas did you get that EXTENDED or pushed your thinking in new directions?

CHALLENGE: What is still CHALLENGING or confusing for you to get your mind around? What questions, wonderings or puzzles do you now have?

Years  9-10

Using the ‘think, pair, share’ routine, students write in their own words how they would summarize the principle of the Common Good, and then share it with their partner. Is their summary similar, or have they focused on a different element? Why?

The principle of the Common Good states that the good of each human person is intimately related to the good of the whole community. Display slides 2-6: each slide has one point from the 10 second Summary: What does the Church say about the Common Good?

Students identify the link between the image and the summary.  As a class, discuss how this summary is similar or different from the summaries students wrote.

Teacher’s notes: A description of the image can be located in the notes section of each slide. Common Good definition – it is important to note that the Common Good differs from the ‘greatest good of the greatest number’ in that it is more inclusive of those on the margins, and we define the common good in the Vatican Council’s Church in the Modern World (#26) as “the sum of those conditions of social life which allow social groups and individual members relatively thorough and ready access to their own fulfilment”.

Display slide 7 and read this quote from  C. Longley (Jesuit Social Services) to the class:

“The concept of the common good dissolves the tension between selfishness and unselfishness, as it is in everyone’s interest to build up the common good by each person contributing to it. Those who serve others in this way automatically serve themselves.”

In pairs, students discuss the film’s pause point question with reference to the above quote. Can you describe a time when you made a decision that was for the good of others and not just yourself? What impact did it have on others? On you? What did you learn?

Extension activity: Students cut out the Caritas ‘Common Good Statements’ cards from the worksheet and either:

  1. Place them in the table on page 2 of the worksheet – each statement is either true, false, or if they are unsure can be placed in the ‘undecided’ column. Pair up with another student to compare and discuss as a class any cards which they have placed in different columns.
  2. Stand on a ‘value line’ according to their response: in the room, indicate that one corner is ‘Strongly Agree’ and the diagonally opposite corner is ‘Strongly Disagree’. When a statement card is read out, students physically position themselves along the continuum. (e.g. The Common Good … means community needs come before my own needs). Once positioned, students discuss why their positions and reasons for where they are standing. The students’ positions may be revisited later in the inquiry to see if their positions have changed.

Teacher’s Note: If there is time and space, the ‘value line’ activity could be conducted first, and then students complete the worksheet to consolidate their knowledge.

ALL years
Introduce the inquiry: As a class we are going to explore the CST principle of the Common Good through the lens of the big question for this inquiry – ‘what is true community’?


Display the poster in the classroom so that it is visible throughout the module. You could use the quotes on the poster as extra stimulus material when introducing the inquiry and ‘big question’.

Learn - Explore

Common Good in Scripture: Loving your neighbour and working as one.

Watch Caritas Australia’s ‘Common Good’ film from 00:22-00:44.

Introduction: Explain that the idea of the common good is enshrined in Jesus’ teachings, through numerous stories and parables and particularly the Greatest Commandment – to love God and to love our neighbours.

Years 7-8:  Scripture hunt

Ask students which stories/parables they can think of that illustrate the Common Good and write them up on the board/a piece of paper. In groups, students conduct a Scripture hunt to add to this list: what other Scriptures teach us about the Common Good? Students can use online Bible tools to conduct the search.

Teachers’ note: The story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), the feeding of the five thousand (Matthew 14:13-21), the labourers in the vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16), the rich young man (Matthew 19:16-22), the parable of the great dinner (Luke 14:15-24), and the judgment of the nations (Matthew 25:31-46) are some examples.

Students complete the Caritas Scripture Hunt worksheet, to explain what Scriptures they have found and how they are related to the Common Good.

Extension activity:  In pairs or small groups, students pick one Scripture and work together to summarise its message in three sentences. Students illustrate these sentences by creating a three-window comic, either offline by drawing the comic themselves or online using the MakeBeliefsComix digital tool. 

Years 9-10

As a class, read the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:36-40) and Jesus’ mission (Luke 4:1-29). Explain that this is also Caritas Australia’s mission statement.

Students access the Caritas Australia website to research their vision, mission and values.

In groups, students discuss the following points:

  • How has Caritas Australia translated Jesus’ mission into their vision, mission and values and everyday work?
  • How might Caritas describe the ‘blind’ and the ‘oppressed’?
  • How is Luke ch. 4 and the Great Commandment an illustration of working towards the Common Good?
  • Do we see our neighbour as all people – what are the implications of responding to this?
  • Respect for the person includes respect for their culture, beliefs and views, whether we share those or not. How do we live this out?
  • Can you think of ways that our society works against the common good?
  • Are you aware of things you do to contribute to the common good each day? Is this a conscious choice?

 Extension activity: Students read the Vatican II document “Gaudiem et Spes” and highlight all sections that relate to the Church’s teaching on the Common Good.

Learn - Demonstrate

Social exclusion - discrimination.

Watch Caritas Australia’s ‘Common Good’ film from 00:44-01:00.

Have a class discussion on the following questions:

  • What challenges and threats to the common good have favela residents identified?
  • What challenges and threats to the common good would you identify as the most significant at this point in time – locally (in your school, in your community), nationally and globally?

OR: Which elements of Australian culture do you think provide the biggest obstacle to people working together cooperatively to seek and promote the common good? 

Years 7-8: Discrimination

Introduce the topic of discrimination through a discussion on its definition.

In pairs, students capture the essence of their understanding of discrimination by writing a one-sentence description. It might help them to think of it as a headline – e.g. If you were to write a headline on discrimination right now that captured its essence (the most important aspect), what would that headline be?

Students share their headline in pairs or small groups. 

Explain that there is a difference between prejudice and discrimination. Prejudice is the attitude of someone whose opinion is not based on reason or actual experience. Prejudice can be triggered by differences of religion, race, colour, sex, language, disability or age – it is often about misperceptions of the ‘other’ or the unknown. Prejudice is not illegal because an attitude cannot be illegal – but discrimination is illegal, since discrimination is prejudice in action. All forms of discrimination go against the first two Articles of the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, and against Church teachings of Dignity of the Human Person. Discrimination creates an unjust social structure of the powerful (those who discriminate) and the powerless (those who are discriminated against).

Teachers’ note:

Article 1 All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 2 Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

As a class, discuss which people in the Caritas video are the powerful and the powerless. What negative opinions and attitudes do people from outside the favelas have about favela residents? How is this working against the Common Good? You could watch the Caritas Australia Brazil feature film for more insight.

Christian attitudes towards prejudice and discrimination

The Catholic social teaching principle of Dignity of the Human Person teaches us that everyone is equal in the eyes of God. Therefore we must treat everyone with equal respect and fairness. Love and compassion are central to the Gospel message.

Split the class into three groups, and give each group one of the below Bible verses. Each group creates a short drama to enact their verse, which they then perform for the rest of the class.

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.
John 13:34

You shall love your neighbour as yourself.
Matthew 22:39

There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Galatians 3:28

Students complete the Caritas Discrimination worksheet – mix and match activity to consolidate their knowledge.

Years 9-10: The link between discrimination, prejudice and stereotypes

As a class, brainstorm the various types of discrimination (e.g. racism, sexism, etc.). It is unlikely that you will cover them all! Don’t forget to include the discrimination faced by favela residents.

Introduce the topic of prejudice and stereotypes by explaining that you are going to explore what is behind this discrimination.

Watch the Chimamanda Adichie TED talk: The Danger of a Single Story. This 20 minute talk explains how “the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete- a single story robs people of dignity and emphasises difference over similarity.”

Discuss with the class:

  • Where do they think stereotypes come from?
  • Have they ever felt ‘pigeon-holed’ into a stereotype? How did that feel? Why did it happen? (If this is too personal: you could open it out to ask whether students have ever noticed anyone else experiencing this).
  • Do they agree that there is a grain of truth in stereotypes? Does this mean it is right to discriminate on those grounds?
  • How does emphasising difference work against the Common Good? How can emphasising our shared humanity work towards building true community?
  • How does respect for others promote peaceful relationships?

Students research one example of discrimination, its causes and consequences, and then complete the Caritas Causes and Consequences worksheet. In the central ring they write their chosen example of discrimination (e.g. racism). In the rings to the left they write the causes of this discrimination – the prejudice, stereotypes, attitudes and opinions that lead to it. To the right of the central ring they write the consequences of this discrimination.

Students read 1 Corinthians 12 (St Paul’s teaching on how we are all part of one body, but each have different functions). Using the ‘Think, Pair, Share’ routine, students think about what this teaches us about similarities and differences, and then share their responses with their partner.

Extension activity: Using the Caritas editorial cartoon and Brazil case study as inspiration, students create an artwork or an interactive poster using an online tool such as Glogster, to illustrate verse 26, “If one part is hurt, all the parts share its pain. And if one part is honoured, all the parts share its joy.”


What can I do for the good of all – family – school – society
(social and political action)

Years 7-8

On the board, write key words or phrases that come to mind when students think of the word ‘technology’.

Use the Caritas 'Social Media for Social Justice’ presentation to explore how technology, and in particular social media, can be used for social change for the greater good. Use the slides notes (within the presentation) to guide your presentation.

Display slide 8Watch Caritas Australia’s ‘Common Good’ film from 01:00-end and have a discussion around the points written on the slide.

In his message for World Communications Day, Pope Francis said that the Internet is a 'gift from God'; that the digital world can be an environment rich in humanity; a network not of wires but of people. In small groups, students identify aspects of their own lives and modern culture, including global issues, that need to be transformed. Choosing one issue, students write a blog.

The blog post must include:

  • background information on the issue;
  • what needs to be transformed, why and how.

Students can refer to the Caritas blog, where they can filter by topic and country, for ideas on how to structure their writing.  

Years 9-10

Explain that a community shares a great deal. Its members may have a common history and a sense of a shared identity – for example, for favela residents this is their shared history in coming to the city and how they ended up building makeshift homes on land where no one else wanted to live. Community members are bound together by cultural, political and economic structures, and express their shared lives in professional, political and recreational associations and groups – for favela residents with whom MDF works, their shared lives are expressed through the program activities and groups, such as the Youth Empowerment Program and the Cultural Centre. These are spaces where favela members can gain knowledge and skills, learn how to challenge unjust political structures, and express their shared identity in a positive way.

Church teachings tell us that ‘this network of relationships strengthens the social fabric and constitutes the basis of a true community of persons’. (Compendium, paragraph 185) A Catholic understanding of community goes beyond these features, too, since it finds its fullest expression in communion – something that is willed by God and is, indeed, a gift from God.

Watch Caritas Australia’s ‘Common Good’ film from 01:00-end.

Students explain how they think the Youth Empowerment Program is working towards the Common Good through building true community.

Extension activity:  Students create a visual representation of their community network. Explain that every member of society has a duty to develop the Common Good and equally, every member has the right to enjoy the benefits brought about by the Common Good (Compendium, paragraph 167). Using their visual representation of their community, students identify three areas where they can increase their involvement in developing the Common Good.


Taking up God’s invitation to show his love to others – to love and care for myself and others.

Students complete pages 10-11 of the Caritas CST Reflection Journal.

Reflect on these quotes using the below discussion questions:

“Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty.” Mother Teresa

“Be the first to seek to bring good” Pope Francis, 2013

“Be "Men and Women for Others’" Pedro Arrupe, SJ

  • What have we learnt about discrimination?
  • How are we going to work towards building true community, locally and globally? 

 As a class, watch the lyrics video of Nickelback’s When we stand together. Afterwards, you could pray together this prayer of commitment to true community:

God of all, source and goal of all community,
whose will is that all your people enjoy fullness of life;
may we be builders of community,
caring for your good earth here and worldwide,
and, as partners with one another, signs of your ever-friendly love.
May we delight in diversity and choose solidarity,
for you are in community with us,
our God, for ever and ever,

 Source: Catholic Social Teaching UK