Newman Society Reports From Rome: Analysis of Education World Congress Day 3
Editor’s note: Dr. Guernsey, Mr. Laird and other representatives of The Cardinal Newman Society were in Rome for the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education’s “Educating Today and Tomorrow: A Renewing Passion” World Congress. Here they reflect on the third day of the Congress, reporting from Castel Gandolfo overlooking Lake Albano in Italy.
One of the things that stood out for me, one of our speakers Father Urbán from Budapest, and he was reflecting on the theme of teaching — training the teachers or thinking about teaching was the focus of the speeches.
When we reflect back on Gravissimum [Educationis], very clearly it states that the teachers are almost entirely responsible for the fulfillment of the mission of a Catholic school. They are ground zero. They are where the action happens, and so we need to make sure our teachers have special qualities of mind and heart. And Gravissimum goes on to encourage the teachers to let them know how important it is, and how important that they model, both with their lives and their actions, the Gospel.
Father’s comments reflected on that, and I like what he said when he said the teachers have to viscerally know what it means to be a Christian. It has to be in their bellies, in their hearts. And that the students will then pick up from that and will lead them by their example, by their humanity into the integral formation of the person, which we talked about a little bit earlier as one of the key parts of this Congress.
Also today reflecting on some of the speaking about teachers, a reminder that we need to go out into the deep. And as I look out on the lake I’m reminded of Jesus’ words about going out to the deep. One of my concerns about some of the presentations was that we talk about evangelizing and bonding with the students, but sometimes I long to see us finally land the punch, sometimes we tended to pull our punches a little bit.
I think we as Catholic educators need to be confident and proud in what we’re doing and remember we’re going out in the deep to fish and bring back the fruits for Christ. To bring back His plan. To gather home His people. And we’re not just going out on a boat ride. It doesn’t say go out into the deep just to have a look around, and we don’t cast our nets on the side just to cast our nets. There’s an end in mind.
Some of my reflections were that I would’ve liked to see a few more speakers bring home the finality of the mission. It’s not just about being well-liked and being with people but by bonding with them in that common love for Christ and our common destiny in Heaven.
The talks were very faithful about having Christ as the center of our schools and Christ as the model of our efforts, but our focus was a lot on this world, a lot on ecumenism a lot on evangelization, but not bringing it all the way home that our final home is in Heaven and salvation. And Gravissimum starts with that as the primary mission of a Catholic school is to lead students to salvation. That’s why we do what we do.
And interestingly enough with the background, thinking about the complete focus on the present, but again the Church is timeless and we have the doxology when we pray, “Glory be to God the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning is now and ever shall be world without end.” This conference, parts of it seem to focus too much on just the middle of the doxology: “as it is now.” And we don’t want to forget the whole picture: as it will be forever in the end, where our goal is, and as it was in the beginning. We have a great history, a great tradition, a great Church, and it’s wonderful to be here.
I was again with the university section of the Congress and we had a great experience today. We were asking the question and answering the question, “How do you form the formers?” or “How do you teach the teachers?” or “How do you teach the professors?” And we had two excellent presentations.
One of them was from Dr. Alfonso Sánchez-Tabernero, the rector of the University of Navarra in Madrid, Spain. And then we had another presentation which tied that with the Catholic identity of the university from Father Anthony Casamento, who is the director of identity and mission of the Australian Catholic University. Both of these presentations were excellent.
I want to take a moment and talk about Dr. Sánchez-Tabernero’s presentation. At the University of Navarra, they actually train the professors in the institutional development of their program. They train them in teaching, in educating and managing. Even though it’s a resource oriented research university, all of the professors have to be trained in the development of the human person.
Catechesis is not something that is checked off when they become a faculty member. Catechesis is an ongoing program, the formation is an ongoing program, throughout their tenure there. After all, they have to produce papers, they have to write books in order to keep their — to be competent in whatever their profession is. They also have to take on going courses in Catholic education in order to do the same.
It was really very refreshing for us to hear a very, very prominent university professor talking about training the trainers. And Father Anthony Casamento went on and talked about the Catholic identity mission of the university. He was talking about the responsibilities of education in that it’s integrated, it’s formed and it must be shared. And he talked about the sharing in terms of campus ministry being a very active component on it.
I use the expression often, it’s a quote from Pope Benedict he said at an ad limina to the American bishops, that a Catholic school is more than a crucifix in every classroom and a campus ministry. And Father Casamento went well beyond that talking about how the Catholic identity of the institution was integral to the institution. It was not the frosting on the cake, but it was wrapped continually through the batter of it.
Dr. Dan Guernsey is the director of K-12 education programs for The Cardinal Newman Society
Bob Laird is the vice president for program development and director of higher education programs at The Cardinal Newman Society
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