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Marist Bulletin - Number 36


Consecrated persons and their mission in schools

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Archbishop Pittau praises Marist Brothers

At a press conference at the Vatican on November 19th the Congregation for Catholic Education released a new document, “Consecrated persons and their mission in schools. Reflections and guidelines.” Among the men and women religious attending the conference was Brother Onorino Rota, Provincial of our Italian Marist Brothers y Vice President of the Italian Conference of Major Superiors (CISM). There were three presentations, followed by a question and answer session with journalists.

Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, Prefect of the Congregation, opened the conference by placing the document in its context, the school with all it demands. Worldwide, formal education involves more that a billion students and about 58 million teachers and support staff. Scholastic institutions of the Church number more than 250,000 schools with 42 million students. The Cardinal said that according to data gathered by UNESCO, there are 135 million children between the ages of 6 and 11 who do not go to school and more than 280 million children and young people who are illiterate or have had very little schooling. He emphasized that in the current scholastic world, especially in the West, teachers “feel unmotivated.” In addition he affirmed, “a very worrying sign is the increase in teen violence in schools and among adolescents, as well as the difficulties of families … in being an active part of the educational community.” Furthermore, he continued, the loss of the sense of education “is closely related to the loss of values.”
This document adds depth to the content of Vatican II’s Declaration Gravissimum educationis, and is part of a series that includes The Catholic school (1977), Lay Catholics, witnesses to the faith in schools (1982), Educational guidelines concerning human love (1983), The religious dimension of education in the Catholic school (1988), and The Catholic school on the threshold of the Third Millennium. (1997)

Italian Archbishop Giuseppe Pittau, SJ, Secretary of the Congregation, indicated that although there are no exact statistics on the numbers of religious brothers, sisters, and priests teaching in Catholic schools throughout the world, since Vatican II there has been a strong decline in their presence. By way of example, he pointed to the United States where, he said, in 1970, 51% of teachers in Catholic schools were priests and religious. That number fell to 30% in 1980, 15% in 1990, and 7.5% in 2000. This “is only one nation, but it is probably a typical description of the situation in a great part of Western countries, and also in many others.” The Archbishop underlined the importance of Catholic education in the work of evangelization, and took a look back at its history. Among religious orders of men, he listed the Barnabites, De La Salle Brothers, Jesuits, Marianists, Marists, and Salesians. Referring to St. Marcellin Champagnat, founder of the Marist Brothers, the Archbishop noted that he “sought to turn back the growing tide of secularism in the first half of the 19th Century.” (Editor’s note: Archbishop Pittau holds a Doctorate Honoris Causa from our Marist Pontifical University in Porto Alegre, Brazil.)

Sister Antonia Colombo, General Superior of the Daughters of Mary, Help of Christians (members of the Salesian religious family), who helped produce the Document, gave an overall view of its contents, commenting on its main themes. Here is the Document’s index, translated from the official Spanish version:

In the school of the Christ, the Master Teacher: 7-11
Radical response: 12-14
In the Church of communion: 15-21
Looking outward on the world: 22-28
Educators called to evangelize: 30
Facing up to present-day challenges: 31-34
An explicit anthropological vision: 35-40
Educators called to accompany on the way to the Other
The dynamism of reciprocity: 41-49
The path to the Other: 50-54
Life as vocation: 55-59
Educators called to train in the art of living together
In the measure of the human person: 60-64
An Intercultural perspective: 65-68
Acting together in solidarity with the poor: 69-76
The culture of peace: 77-80

“The presence of religious in the world of education can be seen as a prophetic choice.” (81) This is undoubtedly a document of special interest to our Institute. We will forward the complete text in English when it becomes available.

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