Catholic schools must have Christ as their foundation, and Catholic teachers are the core of the educational and missionary action of the Church.
Their recruitment and training are also a challenge for the future of the young generations and the Church more than ever.
These were some of the conclusions to have come out of a meeting of bishops and Catholic leaders in education in Sarajevo last week.
Approximately 70 participants, including bishops and national directors of school ministry, teachers and managers, convened by the Council of the Bishops’ Conferences of Europe (CCEE) and the European Committee for Catholic Education (CEEC), met May 15-18.
The meeting was called to reflect and discuss the figure of the Catholic teacher in the European school. The Congress was jointly organized by the School section of the “Catechesis, School, and University” CCEE Commission, and by the European Committee for Catholic Education (CEEC), in collaboration with the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BK BiH).
The theme “Christian formation and spiritual guidance of Catholic teachers in school,” introduced by H. Ex. Mgr. Eric Aumonier, president of the ‘School section’ of the CCEE Commission, has been developed by experts with the help of numerous concrete experiences – witnesses.
Although the situation of Catholic teachers who work in Catholic schools and the one of those working in non-confessional schools is very different, a common element can be identified at European level : the teachers’ passion for their role as educators, despite the difficult situations they often deal with.
Among the challenges, anonymity has been mentioned. Very often, in fact, Catholic teachers who work in non-confessional schools are afraid to show their religious affiliation and their values of reference. This creates loneliness and marginalization, and it sometimes leads to a real disaffection for educational activities, which are reduced to a mere transmission of knowledge. The mainstream today tends to single out a ‘colourless’, ‘tasteless’, and ‘odourless’ teacher as a model to be pursued for the sake of respecting the diversity of pupils and avoiding any form of influence on them.
On the other hand, teachers are increasingly confronted with a growing process of secularization in society – which generates, in particular, a great lack of religious background. The consequence is the difficulty in helping young people to awaken in themselves the passion for knowledge, to find their own roots, and to build their own identity, in a dynamic relationship between memory and ‘search’.
Nevertheless, all the participants said that it is possible today to be a school community, if the latter is founded on Christ. The response of the Church is an invitation to formation-guidance of teachers and, in particular, school managers, who need special attention and the support of the entire Christian community (parish community, associations …). The Church as a whole, in fact, is to be an educational community. Only in this way can we ensure the cohesion and coherence between a school educational project and the project of the entire Christian community.
Among the many suggestions, we would emphasize the idea of a Christian educational project that is able to query the content of the various disciplines taught in the light of the Gospel message of Christ. It is about making available the ‘heritage of the Gospel’ (the contribution that the Gospel can give to knowledge and culture, if it is accepted) to enable it to animate the life of people, brighten their lives and making them participate, according to their ability, to the reign of Christ.
Special attention was also paid to the identity of the Catholic school. The local experiences show how the possibility of proposing moments of reflection on the content of faith and spirituality, addressing teachers primarily, but also students, are much participated and sought after.
The issue of the leadership of these schools has also been raised, in the awareness that principals and directors almost play the role of “pastors”. In this sense, experiences of close relationships between school managers on the one hand and bishops and priests on the other, have shown good results in terms of implementing the missionary dimension of the Catholic education in school.
In short, Catholic schools should have an added value. And we find this added value when teachers are accompanied by the local Church community in their journey of faith, and when the teaching staff is able to create an atmosphere where you can breathe a positive curiosity, love to everyone, seriousness in the educational project, authenticity, and credibility in their testimony of faith.
During the meeting, one of the presentations concerned the experience of the so-called “Schools for Europe” carried out in Bosnia and Herzegovina as a tool for reconciliation and peace. The educational project of the Church at national level aims to promote the education of the new generations in the spirit of co-existence through schools. The “Schools for Europe” have been desired and founded during the war as interethnic and interreligious for the promotion of peace and integration through education to peaceful coexistence.
The meeting was attended by the President of the CCEE Commission, H. Ex. Archbishop Marek Jedraszewski, the President of CEEC, Dr. Christine Mann, and Cardinal Vinko Puljic, Archbishop of Sarajevo.
The Congress ended on Sunday, May 18, with the celebration of a Holy Mass presided over by H. Ex. Mgr. Franjo Komarica, Bishop of Banja Luka and President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Bosnia-Herzegovina, during which the participants have expressed their closeness to the local population, put to the test by the recent flooding, which added up to the many trials that affected this land.
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