Vatican City (Agenzia Fides) - The purpose of the document “Educating together in Catholic Schools. Shared Mission of Consecrated Persons and Lay Faithful”, issued by the Congregation for Education, is to “offer points for reflection on the educating mission shared by consecrated persons and the lay faithful at Catholic Schools. The document, which follows what is already being done in this shared field of mission, wishes to propose and encourage the formation and the planning ability of the lay faithful and consecrated persons in the Catholic educational and scholastic field”. With these words Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education (seminaries and institutes of study), presented the document on 20 November, at the Holy See press office.
More than one billion children of school age, 58 million teachers in addition to non teaching staff, the Cardinal recalled. The Church's scholastic institutions run over 250,000 schools with about 42 million pupils. Thousands of Catholic teachers, many of them consecrated persons, carry out their mission to educate in state run schools.
“Besides the school's wide basin of service, also worth noting is increasing interest in public opinion and in the international community with regard to the theme of education” said Cardinal Grocholewski, mentioning common elements in the present day educational panorama: the phenomenon of globalisation not only economic but also political and educative; application of new technologies, widespread computer use, rapid communications; issues concerning the environment and bio-ethics.
However there are also concerning signals including serious uneasiness in the school context today. Besides “widespread fatigue on the part of the teachers, who feel de-motivated and frustrated in their task to educate”, the Cardinal mentioned increasing violence at school among adolescents and the difficulty of families to take an active part in the educating school community. “There is also a loss of the sense of education closely connected with the loss of values, especially those which sustain decisions in life: the family, work, moral decisions. So education suffers from the evils which afflict our society: spreading subjectivism, moral relativism and nihilism. Catholic pedagogic tradition firmly underlines the centrality of the human person in the work of education” the Cardinal said.
“Correct education of children and young people is an extremely important matter for the good of the Church and humanity, to build a better world” said Cardinal Grocholewski, urging religious and lay people to work together in harmony for the education of the new generations.
In his intervention, Mgr Angelo Vincenzo Zani, under-secretary of the same Congregation, said “Catholic Schools operate in all the different geographical areas, even those where there is no religious freedom, or which are socially and economically most disadvantaged, with an astonishing capacity to meet emergencies and formative needs, despite at times great difficulties”. He gave some examples. In Lebanon, the main objective of the Catholic School programme is to lead to young people to engage in dialogue and collaboration among Christians and Muslims. In some parts of the country the pupils at Catholics Schools 99% non Catholic. In Nepal, a Hindu majority country, in 2004 the King presented an award to two Catholic missionaries for their work in the field of education, for the contribution offered to the social, economic and cultural life and the progress of the people of Nepal. In Dakar, in Senegal, in 1949 the Marist Fathers opened Sainte Marie de Hann Catholic School, which in 1977 was affiliated with French High Schools outside of French national territory. The school, which has 3,500 pupils and 170 teachers, is attended by boys and girls from all over French-speaking west Africa, of different religious confessions and socio-economic status. When the Marist Fathers withdrew, the diocese took over and with the help of lay people preserves the original style and spirit of the school. Sainte Marie de Hann Catholic School is a UNESCO prize winner and educates to peace and to serve as a ‘foyer’, to help different cultures dialogue to build a world founded on brotherhood. Mgr. Zani also mentioned the presence of Catholic Schools in central and eastern Europe: “The fall of Communism ended a situation which had lasted for years, and people rediscovered the value of the person and importance of freedom in education and formation processes. Many countries undertook serious revision of school laws including recognition and economic support for Catholic Schools”.
Mgr Zani concluded by presenting a series of statistics on teachers in Catholic Schools: "today the majority of 3,500,000 teachers in Catholic Schools are lay people with a percentage which varies in different parts of the world. In recent years the decreasing number of consecrated teaching personnel has be compensated by a rise in lay teaching personnel. He remarked that this change, far from being an impoverishment, is a great potential for the Catholic School” the under-secretary affirmed.
Prof. Roberto Zappalà, rector of the Licei dell’Istituto Gonzaga in Milan, exposed the structure of the document which offers a contribution to reflection on three fundamental aspects concerning collaboration between the lay faithful and consecrated persons in Catholic Schools. The document dedicates three specific sections to these aspects: communion in the mission to educate; a path of formation to educate together; communion to open to others. (S.L.) (Agenzia Fides 21/11/2007; righe 67, parole 938)