THE MISSION OF THE INSTITUTE
OF THE BROTHERS OF THE HOLY FAMILY TODAY
3. CONCERNING CHRISTIAN EDUCATION
3.1. In an educational establishment which is aware of its ecclesial identity.
56. The catholic school exists for evangelisation. That is its ultimate goal; which does not detract from its humanitarian role, but, on the contrary, reinforces it. Church documents express it as: the Christian school “is a privileged means of promoting the formation of the whole man”, which is “part of the saving mission of the Church, especially for education in the faith.” It is “a place of evangelization, of authentic apostolate and of pastoral action … but of its very nature: its work of educating the Christian person.” “The Catholic school finds its true justification in the mission of the Church,” “It draws its inspiration and its strength from the Gospel in which it is rooted.”
57. Vita Consecrata wishing to highlight the most important areas of the missionof religious in today’s world places education at the head of the list: “The Church has always recognized that education is an essential dimension of her mission. The Master of her inner life is the Holy Spirit … The whole Church is enlivened by the Holy Spirit and with him carries out her educational work. Within the Church, however, consecrated persons have a specific duty…”
58. The world in which we live is extremely complex and more and more pluralist; within the same territory exist very different world views; it is therefore essential for the Catholic school to accentuate its Christian character, faced as it is with other alternatives. Moreover, in countries traditionally Catholic, secularisation is increasing, and the Christian faith finds itself more or less marginalised, and will cease to be seen “as a reference point and a source of light for an effective and convincing interpretation of existence.” The socio-cultural context today threatens to obscure “the educational value of the Catholic school which is its fundamental reason for existing and the basis of its genuine apostolate.” We run the risk today of reducing education to its purely functional and technical aspects, silently overlooking the values – although we speak of them – under a cloak of ambiguities, of fragmenting education by a tendency to enclose the school in a form of neutrality which rebounds negatively on the formation of the young, and which often results in the disappearance of any real religious reference. The Catholic school has the duty to face all these challenges today and to provide valid answers, in the conviction that “that only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light.”
59. The schools of the Institute of the Brothers of the Holy Family joyfully share the evangelising mission of the Church and desire to be special places of Christian education, responding to today’s challenges with faith, love and creativity. This ecclesial dimension is not in juxtaposition: it is specifically its own, the distinctive character which enlivens every moment of its educational activity, the essential element of its identity and the very basis of its mission.
60. There is a great difference between a school which is impregnated with the Christian spirit and a school which merely lists Religion in the curriculum, like a supplement. It is not simply a question of teaching religion as culture, but of helping the young to be committed Christians; it is not a question of having a pastoral approach but of creating a “school with a pastoral character”, of making the school a real presence of Church, evangelising, a real Christian educator. Only if Christ is the foundation and the aim of the school can one describe it as a place of Christian education; otherwise, one may “speak of Christ, but not be Christian.”
61. A Holy Family school should go beyond such dualisms as academic aspects on the one hand, and religion classes, sacramental celebrations, various campaigns, pastoral work with youth, on the other. We must make sure that the educational programme is fully integrated education: the Christian element, the real heart of the school, must permeate it totally, and not be just an add-on, or marginal.
The following table indicates particular differences between the two models:
PASTORAL CARE IN AN EDUCATIONAL ESTABLISHMENT
PASTORAL WORK IN SCHOOLS
SCHOOL WITH A PASTORAL
CONDITIONS Evidence of school structure Evidence of Christian community
FUNCTIONING By means of extra- curricular Through continual and
activities and religion classes uninterrupted Christian
CONTENT Culture, religious concepts Proclamation of the Gospel
message, community faith
experience, liturgical celebration
EVALUATION By school work and exams Hearing the Word of God, Prayer,
brotherly love, service;
INTERRELATION WITH THE Forms part of the school process Processes which include but go
SCHOOL PPROCESS far beyond the school processes.
62. Education in accord with our charism, transforms a school understood solely as an academic entity. Its value comes from the faith; it prepares youth to live their Christian identity in the world, helping them to grow in humanity under the guidance of the Spirit. The educational community becomes an experience of communion and a place of grace; the pedagogical plan helps to unite in one harmonious whole, the divine and the human, the Gospel and culture, faith and life.
63. Making his own the wishes of the Synod of Bishops, John Paul II invited all the members of scholastic institutes to be faithful to their original charism and their traditions, being mindful that preferential love for the poor has many available means for freeing mankind from the serious destitution brought about by the lack of cultural and religious formation. Christian education has been the predominant, though not unique, activity of our Institute, from the time of our Founder. The school combines extremely well the two fundamental aspects of all evangelisation: human development and the proclamation of the Gospel.
64. Our Constitutionsask us, with regard to schools:
– to be simultaneously involved in education in faith and human formation;
– to create an atmosphere of Gospel freedom and charity;
– to orient cultural values towards the Gospel of salvation;
– to help students to wed culture to faith;
– to create possibilities for students to have a personal experience of Christ so as to develop as full human beings;
– to work towards their becoming committed apostles of the Gospel for the betterment of the world.
65. It is in acting in this way that we extend the profound inspiration given to Br. Gabriel by the Lord, for himself and for all those who, in time, would join him, directly or indirectly. Gabriel felt called by the Lord through the needs of those around him which he recognised from his earliest years. He opened a school for the children of the village in his paternal home. While still young he understood the great love of the Lord for all mankind, especially children: “and he had untiring zeal for saving souls so dear to God”.
We see him, master and educator, at St Claude where, abandoned by his companions, he remained alone to look after nearly three hundred children and take care of the cathedral. We see him at Jeurre where he had great success as master and catechist and restored the faithful to their legitimate pastor, the real reason for him being sent on this mission. Then, he accepted the gift of a monastery at Courtefontaine and opened a school there, although the very small number of students and the lack of means obliged him to return to the diocese of Belley. In the following years he undertook the services of teacher and catechist at Chatillon-en-Dombes, at Hauteville, and eventually at Belmont which, as home-school-novitiate, became the birthplace of the Institute.
Throughout these years and the many changes of places, there was one constant in his ministry which he wrote of with simplicity when referring to Belleydoux, and which he could apply to his whole life: I was chosen from sixteen years of age to fulfil in the parish of my birth, the roles of teacher, cantor and sacristan: they were very modest tasks, it is true, but they delighted me so much more than any sceptre or mitre could ever have done.”
66. Towards the end of his life he looked back and summed up his entire apostolate: “I had to continue to assume these roles, taking them up from one day to the next, which owe much more to my long experience rather than to my very mediocre ability.” Words which reveal Br Gabriel’s great humility as much as the rich experience of which he often spoke. Already as Founder, he was concerned that the novices should acquire the necessary preparation for their mission, that the Brothers should have the official diplomas and give themselves totally to their work. He reminds them frequently in circulars he sends them and assists them by visiting the schools as often as his duties permit.
67. In the New Guide, when he presents the apostolic activities which the Brothers undertake, he writes as title: “Concerning the principal functions undertaken in the Association, particularly that of teaching, and the particular duties of the teaching Brothers.” Speaking of the masters, he says: “To take charge of the formation of good citizens for society, and for God intelligences worthy of him, is, says a wise man, a sublime duty; whoever does it conscientiously is the greatest in the country, the noblest in the sight of God, of Religion, of humanity (…) There is no nobler mission than to act upon the human spirit in view of ennobling the person by bequeathing to him light, truth and virtue. We admire a great painter, a clever sculptor, but what is their art besides the excellence of one who works, not on canvas or marble, but on human intellects?”
68. Among the roles of the educator Br. Gabriel highlights those of “enlightening by his lessons, teaching the young to know eternal truths, educating hearts in virtue”, and true values, thus becoming a harbinger of joy. He concludes by affirming that “after the priesthood there is no vocation so beautiful as that of educating the young”. Referring to the Institute and generalising, he declares that “The mission that God has confided to religious teaching Congregations, is very great and very difficult and deserves a great reward, since Scripture says: ‘Blessed are those who teach the ignorant: they will shine in the heavens like stars’”.
It must be acknowledged that in the time of the Founder and throughout the entire history of the Institute, Christian education has been the most important activity. In many cases it has been and continues to be the base from which others spring. This is not said in detriment of other activities, as we will see below.
69. In conformity with Br. Gabriel’s ideal of making the school one big family, of which the teachers as much as the students and the parents are proud, our schools express their sense of shared mission in forming an educational community which unites Brothers, lay teachers, parents and auxiliary staff. We complement each other. We give preference to the relationships found in Nazareth and we live the Gospel values that we want to transmit in our education. We create a climate of mutual acceptance and reciprocal help, where the strong support the weak. We educate for solidarity. We want to develop sensitivity towards the material, cultural and spiritual needs of humanity. We encourage commitment for coming to the help of situations close to poverty. In our schools, wherever possible, we give special attention to the most needy, which we will develop further on.
3.2. About the indispensable agents of the educational community:
70. Our Constitutions require that “to fulfil their mission, the Brothers endeavour to form, with students, ex-students, teachers and all those who take part in education, a real educational community.” Let us look at each of these groups and see some of the most important commitments required for the times in which we are living:
3.2.1. The religious community, witness of the charism of the Institute and animator of the educational project.
71. John Paul II declared that we, consecrated persons, are able to be particularly efficacious by reinforcing the initiatives of the other educators, male and female. This, for the following reasons:
– our particular consecration,
– particular experience of the gifts of the Spirit,
– listening to the Word,
– the exercise of discernment,
– the rich patrimony of educational traditions acquired through time by the Institute,
– profound knowledge of the spiritual life.
We should try to assimilate these reasons more profoundly, so that putting them into practice helps us, in our schools, to incarnate Jesus who welcomed children and blessed them.
72. We shall be faithful to our mission in the Church and in the world to the extent that we are one with the Word that we proclaim and the life that we live. Our prophetic stance will then be much more credible. We will then be able to enrich the other members of the faculty with the charismatic gifts that we have received. On our side, we will be open to the challenges of those prophetic voices which come to us from other members of the Church.
73. In our time there are many difficulties which come, on the one hand, from the lack of vocations to the consecrated life, and on the other from the diffusion of serious misunderstandings which can lead to abandoning the mission of education. Faced with these facts, the Congregation for Catholic Education clearly affirms the fruitful intuition of holy Founders which denounces, more radically than any rationalising, the lack of any basis and the poverty of the affirmations of those who maintain that it is difficult to live religious life alongside the mission of education today. Our presence as consecrated people is indispensable in our educational communities because we are an example of ‘the giving of self’ freely and without reserve, to the service of others in the spirit of religious consecration. This argument impels us urgently to a strong commitment of generosity and devotion.
74. Our houses of education offer a wealth of different identities at work in the Christian community: “As an educational community whose ultimate aim is to educate in the faith, the catholic school will be all the more apt to fulfil its mission if it fully represents the richness of the ecclesial community. The simultaneous presence of priests, religious and laity gives the student a living example of this richness which helps him to assimilate the reality of the Church… The religious are especially witnesses of the renewing spirit of the Beatitudes, of the continual call to the Kingdom as unique and definitive reality, of the love of Christ, and of man in Christ, as an option for life.”
75. In each of our establishments, the religious community is a vital sign of the “being and doing” of the whole educational community. It carries out an irreplaceable duty: to be the reminder and the presence of the charism of Br. Gabriel, always living and actual. Each brother of the Holy Family is witness and prophet, not just purely a teaching professional.
76. Among the tasks of the local community, one cannot omit the following:
– To inspire and then animate the educational Project, assuring coherence in the service of total education. – To promote and integrate the various elements: transmission of knowledge, education in values, dialogue faith-culture-life and explicit catechesis, avoiding dichotomy between school and out-of-school, intellectual and pastoral.
– Guarantee lines of formative action, academic, evangelising and pastoral, at all levels: students, teachers, parents, ex-students. Work to assure that all assume their role in the shared mission.
– Create a family atmosphere which invites into communion and participation. Be a simple presence and friend to teachers and students, knowing that it does not suffice to love them all but that we must also let them know it, by demonstrating it in our daily actions.
– Promote participation of collaborators by offering posts of responsibility to those who sufficiently demonstrate qualities, preparation, and identification with the charism.
– Animate the journey of growth of the Christian community in the establishment.
– Be a model for the integration of prayer and work, by sharing prayer with the laity, especially the Eucharist.
– Serve as a bridge between the school, the Congregation and the local Church.
3.2.2. Educators conscious of exercising an ecclesial ministry:
77. A secular society tends to reduce the sense of vocation for the educator, and to eliminate its apostolic dimension. It creates a dualism: it separates the person from the work the person does, whereas the doing implies the being. The teacher is simply a teacher, imparting knowledge and nothing more. At the threshold of the third millennium the Catholic school recognises that today there is a growing problem in the current context: how to make compatible the person of the teacher with that of the educator: the school regrets this and tries to overcome it. In this situation one runs the following risk, more or less pronounced, that Christian aspects are confided to certain people, namely, the religious, catechists, and committed lay people. With regard to Christian values, others offer ambiguity, indifference or even opposition. Thus the faith-culture-life synthesis is broken in its axis: the educator. It is deprived of an essential aspect of its identity. It is important to stress the need to overcome this challenge: “The lay educator accomplishes a task which necessarily presupposes a professional competence but which cannot be reduced to that. It exists within his supernatural and Christian vocation.
78. Today, in an ecclesiology of communion and participation, the Church invites all the faithful to take responsibility for, and be active agents in evangelisation. There are few Catholics who are as well qualified as teachers for reaching the goal of evangelisation which is the incarnation of the Christian message in the life of man. Vatican II had already reminded teachers that the school depends to a large extent on us. And the Council declared that the duty of Christian teachers “is in the real sense of the word an apostolate most suited to and necessary for our times and at once a true service offered to society.”
79. It is both important and urgent that we, Christian educators, acquire and cultivate our ministerial conscience: “The Catholic lay teacher is a lay person who exercises his mission in the Church by living his secular vocation through faith, within the communal structure of the school”.It is not enough to have an intellectual and pedagogical formation, nor a theological one. It is necessary above all that educators be conscious of the vocation of the mission they have received.
80. In keeping with the ministerial identity, there is the function of Mediator that we should progressively cultivate, especially in its following aspects. As Christian educators we are:
– Mediators between the Christian message and the subjects. This mediation takes place by our witness and willingness to pray with our students. As guides and accompaniers of the students, we help them in their growth towards Christian and human maturity, by our close and stimulating presence.
– Mediators in the faith-culture dialogue. This requires permanent formation so as to read the culture of the day in a Christian way in close collaboration with our companions in other sectors and of the whole school.
– Mediators between the Christian community and the young. As educators we know that we are representatives of the Christian community in whose name we try to form them, and so we work by overcoming all individualism.
81. As Christian educators we live our identity in relationship with the Christian community: we joyfully accept that we are called by the Church, sent to make the Church grow, and that we live our ministry within the Church. We indicate concrete commitments such as:
– taking fully on board the Christian educational project of the school;
– carrying out the lay apostolate so as to help the students to synthesise faith, culture and life;
– showing a firm decision to serve the Church and society from a Christian base;
– contributing to the transformation of the educational community into a Christian community by our witness and personal involvement.
82. None of this is contrary to professionalism nor to the quality of the teaching; it is in fact a necessary and indispensable condition. Br. Gabriel noted that “the first duty of the educator is to give the children a good Christian education”. Love of work is an essential element of the home-workshop of Nazareth and of the life of Br. Gabriel. Speaking of intellectual education our Founder asks us to develop “the love of study” in the students, to maintain their attention with attractive lessons, to develop good judgement in them by observation of facts. Let us try to teach our students, in this as in other ways, by our exampleand our words.
83. This demands very clear goals from the educator:
– careful preparation of classes and activities;
– correction of homework and students’ exercises;
– evaluation of curriculum and work;
– particular help for students who are in difficulty.
84. Let us use a virile pedagogy. Let us work so as to help the young acquire strength of character and will, balance in moral matters and solid values as the basis for life. Let us encourage them to profit from time, to cultivate to the maximum the talents and qualities they have received, to renounce themselves in favour of cooperation with others, to consider their present work and future profession in a spirit of service to their neighbour.
85. As educators we consider on-going formation as necessary to keep up to date with the academic matter that we teach, and to use the means offered to us by learnings and educational techniques. Through on-going formation we deepen our sense of identity and all that is understood, hic et nunc, as being Christian educators in a “Holy Family School”.
3.2.3. The students, evangelised and evangelisers.
86. Traditionally, students were understood as being passive subjects of education. Today we must change the lens: stop regarding them as simple receivers and treat them as persons involved in their own formation. We think they can also exercise a positive influence on others. They are called to be evangelised, certainly; but even more, to be evangelisers in their families, among their companions and all those around them. John Paul II placed children among the “workers in the vineyard of the Lord”, showing that they too contribute to the building up of the Church and the humanising of society, to the sanctification of their parents and the construction of the domestic Church. There are enormous opportunities for us for action in these new times. Br. Gabriel had already understood this when he said that it was worth dedicating one’s entire life to the Christian education of children as a means of building up the Church and improving the world: “preparing good Christians and good citizens.”
87. The young are often called Hope of the Church. And it is true. We too consider them, children and youths, as actual builders of the Church, agents of their own growth and of their companions. John Paul II expressed it thus: “Youth must not simply be considered as an object of pastoral concern for the Church: in fact, young people are and ought to be encouraged to be active on behalf of the Church as leading characters in evangelization and participants in the renewal of society.”
88. In these changing times, the situation of young people is not easy; they are faced with many problems in many countries of the world. The Congregation for Catholic Education affirms: “The catholic school is thus confronted with children and young people who experience the difficulties of the present time. Pupils who shun effort, are incapable of self-sacrifice and perseverance, and who lack authentic models to guide them, often even in their own families. In an increasing number of instances they are not only indifferent and non-practising, but also totally lacking in religious or moral formation. To this we must add – on the part of numerous pupils and families – a profound apathy where ethical and religious formation is concerned, to the extent that what is in fact required of the Catholic school is a certificate of studies or, at the most, quality instruction and training for employment.” Fortunately all young people are not like this. Generally speaking, nearly everywhere there is a more or less important number who resonate with the message of Jesus Christ, who actively accept “to be evangelised”, and who are willing to be involved in the evangelisation of others. Let us adopt a new way of looking at the question: let us imagine that education is not only for youth, but also begins with them and is done with them. Let the young be evangelised by the young themselves.
89. To make sure that the new generations commit to the “civilisation of love”, it will be necessary to accompany them on a path marked by:
– “a seal of holiness”: without this, the word will not open the hearts of people today;
– prayer and contemplation: appreciation of silence and the desert as a way to personal encounter with Jesus Christ made flesh;
– joy and hope: the world believes in a joy which is serene and deep;
– an ecclesial communion where a missionary attitude lives: not to form isolated groups, but to help them to be the yeast which permeates the whole with an evangelising fervour.
90. We must also help the young to maintain this preferential option, knowing that this needs a certain kind of action with them: we want to realise evangelisation with them, encouraging mutual help by open dialogue between the young, evangelising adults and the educational community. Let us enable the older students, and ex-students, to take on the role of catechist. Let us trust them, accompanying them in their growth into maturity by our encouraging and formative words. Let us be convinced that we will only evangelise to the extent that we will have made true evangelisers of our students.
3.2.4. The family, actively engaged
91. The situation of the family today is very complex and even, at times, more so than at any other time in its thousand year history. A few significant indications: free unions, easiness of divorce, legalised abortion… The document The Catholic School on the Threshold of the Third Millennium, applauds the contribution of the Catholic school in the pastoral care of the family: “emphasizing in this respect their discreet insertion in the educational dynamics between parents and children and, very especially the unpretentious yet caring and sensitive help offered in those cases, more and more numerous above all in wealthy nations, of families which are ‘fragile’ or have broken up.”
92. We know that parents are responsible first and foremost for the education of their children and have the right to choose the education they prefer for them. They are the principal educators and the choice of a particular kind of school does not relieve them of their responsibility by delegating it to the school. The Christian home is the natural school of faith, “the domestic church”. In the family the parents are the first evangelisers.
93. Unfortunately, many parents tend to delegate their God-given duty as first formators of their children. We encourage them to assume their obligations and offer them the concrete help which will enable them to engage in the educational project of the school. In our establishments we will facilitate dialogue with other families through parent associations, and participation in the various organisations permitted in different countries, school for parents, conferences, round table…..We will also strengthen the Christian formation of parents, we collaborate in forming groups of Christian initiation and deepening of faith, we will open the doors of the Nazarene Fraternities for them, we will help them to participate actively in the shared mission, we will integrate them into the adult Christian community with the Brothers, the teachers and the former pupils.
94. The family is the natural place where the child begins to establish relationships with others, with himself, with nature and with God. More than a centre for learning, it is the womb which transmits by osmosis the style of life, behaviour, attitudes and values. This is why the education and evangelisation of the child needs attention given to the family. More and more widely it is becoming accepted that pastoral care of the family is not just one form of care among others, but must be the basis for all pastoral activity.
95. As with all educational action it is essential to start with the reality, not with the ideal situation. We welcome all families, not just those who are well integrated, and we pay special attention to those most in need. We wish to take up the following challenges:
– Extend the field of action beyond committed families or the profoundly Christian.
– Promote family pastoral care, seeing the family as a unit, not as separate individuals. Think up a programme for parents and children together, taking into account the social context.
– Prepare the young to see marriage from the point of view of the Faith.
– Propose the Holy Family as a model for imitation in the life of the family.
– Welcome with particular care those children who come from families in serious difficulty.
3.2.5. The ex-students, united beyond the classroom
96. Christian formation does not finish when the student leaves school. Our works have the means of prolonging evangelisation beyond the classroom, through a journey of maturing and growth in the faith which can last a lifetime, as the documents of our Congregation attest. Desiring to be at the service of the person and the Church, we do not consider our relations with youth to be over when they leave school; we continue to offer them the means which will allow them to continue their journey in growth. The basic Christian communities, the Nazarene Fraternities, incorporation into adult Christian communities, are all very appropriate ways of continuing to celebrate, to reflect and to live the faith with them.
97. It is beautiful to see how our former students carry out the ministry of catechist, “freely giving what they have freely received”, namely that which is an essential part of their life: the faith. We accept with joy the help which former students can offer in certain areas: as teachers, catechists, sports coaches, supervisors of free time, cultural assistants, mediators between the college and the world of university and work…. It is pleasing to see that they teach the children and the young who have succeeded them in the class room, what they themselves learnt there. Our schools are always open to them, as much when we can offer them some service as when we receive the collaboration they so generously offer. We also participate in those celebrations which mark in special ways the various occasions of the life of the school.
98. Let us invite the ex-students to radiate in their personal lives, in their families and work places, the formation they have received and let us offer them our accompaniment with joy.
3.3 The different levels of evangelisation
99. The pastoral activity in our schools takes place at different levels, taking into account the situation of the students, whether from the point of view of faith or their maturity. (See the outline given below) The different stages move progressively yet simultaneously. Only a small number of people are involved at level three because this stage requires a definite commitment to the faith, whereas the first is directed towards the masses and is covered by what is generally referred to as “ attention to others”; many of these have had no contact with the Gospel before coming to our schools.
3. Explicit catechesis
2. Faith-culture dialogue
3.3.1 First cycle: Appropriation
100. The goal of this first cycle is to help the individual to move from passivity to a positive attitude: face to face with the world the child develops his critical sense (he learns to read and write and to comprehend), and to act (he tries to live according to values). We present a Christian way of being and living in the world, which emphasises a spirit of family, in himself, in nature, in society and with God. This level is already meaningful in itself for the journey of evangelisation because it sets the human individual en route: it educates him in those areas which allow him to deepen his understanding of his own mystery as he arrives at the threshold of faith. The Christian educator who works at this level is already fulfilling his apostolic commitment, because he is opening up the faith for his student, whom he is helping to understand the value of his existence and his sublime human destiny.
101. The school provides the best foundation for achieving this aim. The Council indicates the first distinctive sign of a Christian school: “To create for the school community a special atmosphere animated by the Gospel spirit of freedom and charity.” Freedom: as an expression of the dignity of the human being and his capacity for openness to God; Charity: which sums up those values which allow for an experience of God. As for us, we see this atmosphere shining in the house of Nazareth, where respect for the other and mutual love blend so marvellously. We sum it up in the expression “family spirit”.We nourish this climate especially by our warm and friendly attitude as educators, in the various school and extra-curricular activities, and in the organisation of the school.
For a good internalisation we pay particular attention to two aspects:
184.108.40.206. Values education.
102. Before the young person can feel the need for Someone who will save him, he must discover in himself the need to be saved; he must discover his own dignity as a human being; he must recognise the ability to make choices and decisions which characterise him as a person… Our Catholic schools develop an educational philosophy that emphasizes the importance of teaching and a learning environment characterized by values such as respect, responsibility, creativity and internalisation, according to the Gospel inspiration of Christian love. Our schools give education principally in the following values: love, justice, freedom, joy, peace, equality, work.
103. Educating in values, the Holy Family school enables “… the development of man from within, freeing him from that conditioning which would prevent him from becoming a, fully integrated human being.” We keep in mind the words of our Constitutions, addressed specifically to the Brothers, but which apply also to lay teachers: “The Brothers direct their apostolic action in such a way as to cultivate those natural and supernatural values in man, of which Christ is the source and the perfect example.” Through the content and the programmed attitudes at each level and in each subject, through the occasional outings, throughout all the school, and out of school, activities, through interpersonal relationships, we facilitate the appropriation and the vitality of these values.
220.127.116.11. Education for utopia.
104. Human education must always be “utopic”, and especially Christian education. And never more so than when a specific date occurs such as a new millennium. We think the words of Vatican II are particularly addressed to us today when they say: “We can justly consider that the future of humanity lies in the hands of those who are strong enough to provide coming generations with reasons for living and hoping.” To educate “in hope” or to educate “for utopia”, is to prepare men and women who refuse to accept the current reality as the only option, and work to transform it; they dream of a better world and work enthusiastically and with tenacity to make it happen. We are preparing here, and now, “a new heaven and a new earth”.
105. Let us show in practice that it is unjust to accuse the Catholic school, as frequently happens, of simply reproducing the social model in which we live and of preparing children to perpetuate the system. We know “that men are not deterred by the Christian message from building up the world, or impelled to neglect the welfare of their fellows, but that they are rather more stringently bound to do these very things.” We hold strongly to the words of our Constitutions: “The Brothers take care to promote in the young Christian and human values in view of building a more just and fraternal world.”
106. Let us make the effort to insist upon education for justice and solidarity through programmes which are global and coherent which include highlights such as campaigns and days given to human situations of injustice and marginalisation, by planning experiences which put children in contact with reality, and by specific commitments which will lead them gradually to active involvement in voluntary social activities. Let us work through tutorials and departments, especially Social and Religion.
3.3.2. Second cycle: Dialogue Faith-Culture
Two very important tasks are required at this level:
18.104.22.168. Evangelisation of culture
107. The existence of any particular school is only justified by the transmission of culture. For our schools also, this is an essential obligation. We SF, as all Catholic schools, do this through a culture which is open to the transcendent dimension from Christian perspectives.
108. Culture is not the equivalent of a ‘collection of learnings’. Our schools acquire keys and discernment so that ‘knowledge’ united with ‘dexterity’ and ‘values’, acquires meaning and is thus transformed into culture which is capable of giving structure to the person’s thought. This is a delicate but necessary task. We will spell it out for each level of study so as to arrive at a reading of the world as reality open to God. Religion classes offer the Christian meaning of the world, of man and of history, and reveal the Christian key for interpreting the vital experiences of the student.
22.214.171.124. Inculturation of faith
109. To help the child to understand himself and also the world around him starting with God Incarnate, and to relate his life to the liberating message of the Gospel, we strive to make the Word of God accessible. We try to incarnate the faith in the culture of today, following God’s own way of acting: God is made man. The Word of God becomes human word so that man can hear it.
110. Inculturation of the Gospel is an imperative for each one of us in this era. It is a profound and global process and a slow journey. It is not simply an external adaptation designed to make the Christian message more attractive or superficially decorative. On the contrary, it means the penetration of the deepest strata of persons and peoples by the Gospel which touches them deeply, “going to the very centre and roots” of their cultures. It is not an easy task: it demands great sensitivity faced with the challenges which cultures throw at faith, and requires a disposition which does not run from the problems that our modern culture engenders in the areas of science, technology, civilisation…, a listening attitude towards the young so as to help them find, in Jesus the one who frees, the answers to their questions and preoccupations.
3.3.3. Third cycle: formal catechesis of initiation
126.96.36.199. Integral initiation into faith
111. We understand initiation as a process of conversion to Christ which culminates with full incorporation into the Christian community and is shown by a total commitment to the Kingdom of God. This is an integral aspect of education in faith which Catholic schools offer to the ecclesial community. In their educational and pastoral projects our schools include initiation into prayer and celebration of faith in the daily life of the school; they give care to the catechetical programme and the celebration of the sacraments especially of the Eucharist, Reconciliation and Confirmation, given their importance in the formation of the Christian identity.
112. The Religion class contributes to the three cycles below:
– it helps the student to ask questions about the purpose of the world, of its history and of his own life. It gives him a hierarchy of values stemming from the Gospel and urges him to contribute to the transformation of society.
– it explicitly announces Jesus and his message. To the non-baptised it facilitates entry into a group of Jesus’ disciples; and to Christians it obtains the means to live more consciously and more responsibly in the Church community.
– it can assume the role of pure catechesis if the atmosphere permits, encouraging students to live the Christian message, offering special moments of prayer and celebration, foreseeing days of reflection and Christian encounter. It gives birth to the desire to participate in groups for deepening faith outside of the school curriculum. All of this will be developed further.
188.8.131.52 Vocation culture
113. The vocational dimension belongs within the Christian faith and is part of every pastoral process. Our educational establishments take explicit responsibility for vocational orientation and its culture among the students. They offer personal accompaniment which helps the young to find the place that God wants for them in the Church and in the world. We give particular attention to those who envisage a special consecrated vocation, and most particularly to those who feel called to become Brothers of the Holy Family. In this way we contribute to the personal realisation of the goals of those who are discerning and find workers who will maintain fidelity to the mission of the Institute in the Church.
114. Let us act in such a way that the whole educational community will offer its collaboration in this area and, conscious of our responsibility let us accompany the young, with interest and delicacy, especially when they are discerning their orientation for the future and questions of commitment arise in them. Let the words of the Pope touch them: “If you hear the Lord’s call, do not reject it! Dare to become part of the great movements of holiness which renowned saints have launched in their following of Christ. Cultivate the ideals proper to your age, but readily accept God’s plan for you if he invites you to seek holiness in the consecrated life. Admire all God’s works in the world, but be ready to fix your eyes on the things destined never to pass away. The Third Millennium awaits the contribution of the faith and creativity of great numbers of young consecrated persons, that the world may be made more peaceful and able to welcome God and, in him, all his sons and daughters.”
3.4 Concerning the promotion and coordination of the pastoral sector
115. In all the establishments directed by the Brothers, education in faith constitutes the raison d’être, and consequently it is always given priority. This education is animated and coordinated particularly by the pastoral sector which has the following functions:
– it understands its role not as pastoral care within the school but as a school marked by its pastoral care.
– its goal is to create a Christian community in the educational community.
– it establishes the programme of pastoral activities( teaching of religion, faith celebrations, catechism, apostolic groups, meetings, campaigns, youth camps….). It communicates the programme to the whole staff and solicits its assistance.
It promotes, animates and coordinates this whole programme.
– It lends its support to the creation of Christian adult groups in the school, who are reference points and a witness for the students. It promotes the setting up of Nazareth fraternities and accompanies them in their development.
– it helps the development of Christian groups among the students and the ex-students and assists them in their growth in faith.
– it encourages extra-curricular Christian activity and the spread of the Gospel in the community which surrounds them.
– it facilitates integration among the Brothers, the priests and the laity and mediates criteria for action.
– it collaborates with corresponding organisations in the Church and the Congregation.
– it pays particular attention to vocational care which it considers to be a necessary and fundamental element in the process of the education in faith.
4. IN OTHER EDUCATIONAL CIRCLES
4.1 A two-fold creative fidelity: to the Founder and to the new millennium
116. John Paul II invites religious institutes to reproduce with courage the ‘inventiveness’ and the holiness of their founders in response to the signs of the times in our day. This invitation is a call to: “develop a dynamic fidelity to their mission, adapting forms, if need be, to new situations and different needs, in complete openness to God’s inspiration and to the Church’s discernment.” To do this we cannot be content to read the signs of the times but must also elaborate and “put(ting) into effect new initiatives of evangelization, for present-day situations”. This must be followed in two ways: by looking to the past, to Brother Gabriel our dear Founder; and by looking to the present with an eye to the future: the new reality which appeared at the start of the new millennium.
117. The apostolically great heart of Gabriel was not contained within the narrow walls of a rural school. This is why, when he presented the aims of the association to those who followed him, he wrote: “The Brothers of the Holy Family propose to themselves before all else the glory of God and their own sanctification. They can undertake, in holy obedience, all sorts of good works, for the love of God and the neighbour.” The decree of approbation of the Institute underlines the aspect of mission of the Brothers in their work in schools and also adds “that they are ready to assist the parish priests and to consecrate themselves, in the places to which they are called, to other works of religion and charity”.
118. Our present Constitutions urge us to be available, to welcome the new needs which appear, and which oblige us to creative and renewed fidelity to our mission: “In accord with the desire of the Founder, the Institute remains open to those apostolic works demanded by the needs of times and places.” The school has always been and continues to be today a special place in which the Brothers exercise their mission, as indicated in the preceding chapter. But this is not an obstacle, one which would make us think, in our changing society, that the school walls had come down. Today we speak of parallel schooling and we refer to the extraordinary influence of the means of social communication; and we refer also to new or even divergent parallel schools: the different models of family, the different types of associations, leisure groups…
119. We know the different social needs of today. At all times our presence must be a close and fraternal presence, which extends the welcoming gesture of Jesus for the poor and the needy, and particularly for children and youth, helping them to meet Christ the Saviour, the freeing force of their existence. Despite a possible diversity, our action must be characterised by a unity in mission which has as essential elements:
– facilitating the coming of the Gospel to the young people in touch with us;
– emphasising the educational role of families;
– acting in the family spirit;
– working as competent professionals who also live this aspect of their existence within a charism marked by a strong vocational identity;
– maintaining a serene equilibrium between the personal living of our Nazarene spirituality and generous devotedness to the saving mission, so that our personal encounter with Christ in prayer pushes us to be “a manifestation of God’s love in the world.”
120. Our model is the Holy Family which experienced what it was to have no home in which to receive the new member of the family who was God incarnate. Jesus, Mary and Joseph were political refugees persecuted by Herod, they lived as immigrants in a foreign land. Let us remember the words of our Constitutions: “The Brothers take their inspiration from the humble, simple and active style of life of the Holy Family of Nazareth. Like them, poor among the poor, they share their time, their talents, their energies, the gift itself of their vocation with simplicity and give particular attention to the most needy.”
Let us note other preferred educational areas for the Brothers:
4.2 Religious formation in state establishments
121. The Brothers do not only exercise their mission as Christian educators in establishments belonging to the Congregation, but they evangelise also in works belonging to other religious orders, to dioceses, and to other public or private bodies. For many of these schools what we have already indicated in a previous chapter holds good, with certain nuances.
122. Special mention must be made of the devotedness displayed by certain Brothers as teachers of religion in public schools. All children and young people, independent of the school they attend, have the right to learn their religion. Christians must therefore have the means to know more deeply the person of Christ and the whole of the saving message he proclaims. This right must not be ignoredby those who have the duty to make it possible. The Brothers give their assistance to the young, to their families and to the Church, by acting as teachers of religion in these establishments.
123. We are well aware of the milieu in which we carry out our mission:
– where the ‘provider’ imposes a common religious programme on all the students, independent of their personal beliefs, we put the stress on the most ecumenical aspects and on knowledge which is common to the different religions while favouring respect, tolerance and mutual understanding.
– where knowledge of different religions is seen as being culturally good, we insist on the intellectual aspect and religious culture, trying to make these classes a true preparation for receiving the Gospel.
– we take into account the life and faith experience of the students and help them to understand better the Christian message as answer to their problems and existential anxieties.
– where the students are non-believers religion classes may become a first missionary introduction of the Gospel.
4.3 Means of social communication
124. In the past, consecrated persons used all the means at their disposal for evangelisation. At the beginning of this millennium, among the most efficacious ways for presenting different messages, are the means of social communication. They have become so important that for many they are the principal way of imparting information and formation, of orientation and inspiration for individual, family and social behaviour.This is why John Paul II urged religious to use these means for spreading the witness of the Gospel.
125. The Brothers willingly make use of radio, televised programmes and the pages of the newspapers and magazines to speak of Christ to the people of today, to shed the light of God’s Word on their anxieties and joys: they work also to build up the new civilisation of love and fraternity. Faced with these same means they adopt an open attitude and use them with discretion, prudence and a critical sense. Confronted by so much persuasiveness, they safeguard the freedom of the children of God. Consecrated persons offer man today a witness to the relativity of earthly things and help him not to place his hope in things which are useless and fleeting but rather in the Christ of yesterday, today and tomorrow.
126. Lay religious, we try to help our students to recognise the underlying mechanisms of the mass media, helping them in this way to resist manipulation: we educate their critical faculties so that they can make ethical judgements of the different programmes from the perspective of Christian morality.
127. Among the teaching methods used in class and catechism audio-visual methods have their place: television, radio, discs, tapes, videos, audio… We also publish teaching texts and material for students and guidebooks for catechists and teachers, while remaining faithful to God and to those for whom they are destined.
128. We print magazines which provide communication between teachers, parents, students and former students within each college community and at provincial and Institute level. We encourage cooperation between the different houses of the Congregation and other Church organisations, in the production and distribution of audio-visual material which can help the spread of the Gospel and of our charism.
4.4. Educators for leisure time
129. We are not solely concerned with schooling the young in the classroom but we also try to be with them beyond the school walls. A distinctive characteristic of our times is:
– the shortening of the working hours which results in more free time given over to leisure;
– the great number of people out of work.
This leaves much more time for voluntary activities. This too is a challenge for us who are committed to a full education: it must also include free time so that through this time young people may be truly free.
130. We provide the kind of accommodation which can contribute to this education for free time so that they can be places for personal interaction in a relaxed family atmosphere: sports, recreational and cultural facilities… We open our centres and our facilities to the youth and adults of the area, either on our own initiative, or in collaboration with other organisations of the church, municipal or state bodies, or non-governmental organisations. Where there is need, we promote accommodation for students, libraries, theatrical groups, recreational centres….
131. We are present where young people congregate during their free time: recreational, artistic, cultural activities, camping, excursions, and contacts with nature. We help to organise these activities after school, during weekends and holidays. During free time, personally or in company with youth groups, we manage to help abandoned youth, the handicapped, disqualified, the sick….
132. Throughout these free times we promote the natural expansiveness of the young, their spontaneity and creativity in activities which are relaxing and attractive. We esteem and promote play times:
– for their great educational possibilities;
– for the importance of providing balance in the young;
– for the occasions they provide for coming to know their temperaments and thus being able to offer an education better adapted to their way of being.
133. Moreover these activities become a precious alternative of real freedom to the many forms of slavery which entice the young. We seek out times to live together at the weekends, during summer camps, work camps, and we promote opportunities for solidarity between the young of different social and cultural backgrounds, different styles of life and geographical regions….as ways of developing mutual understanding and reciprocal help, by breaking down the barriers which arise between different groups.
4.5. With particular attention to the most needy
134. In a particular page full of tenderness but also of challenge, Jean Paul II says to us: “In the washing of feet Jesus reveals the depth of God’s love for humanity: in Jesus, God places himself at the service of human beings! At the same time, he reveals the meaning of the Christian life and, even more, of the consecrated life, which is a life of self-giving love, of practical and generous service… in particular to the poorest and neediest.”
135.Our dear Father Founder urges us to ‘all sorts of good works’, to all kinds of attention to the neediest, wherever they may be. In saying this, and highlighting in particular the roles of teachers in the schools, as well as cantors and sacristans, he added: The Brothers dedicate themselves ‘to the direction of boarding schools for primary education and to places of refuge, workshops, and detention’. We are aware that already in the time of Brother Gabriel, the Brothers were giving concrete evidence of doing ‘all sorts of good works’ by their direction of various orphanages and schools for deaf-mutes. Our present Constitutions tell us that: ‘Like it (the Holy Family), they share their time, their energies, the gift itself of their vocation with simplicity, and have a special attention for the most needy.’
136. The basis for this last expression comes from a page in Evangelica Testificatio. Paul VI says there that the cry of the poor will resound in our lives if we accept to:
– forbid all compromise with any form of social injustice;
– awaken our conscience to the drama of human misery and to the demands of justice by the Gospel and the Church;
– commit some of our personnel to joining the poor in their state of life and sharing their piercing worries;
– convert certain works of the Institute in favour of the poor;
– make frugal use of our goods by limiting ourselves to what is needed for the accomplishment of the roles to which we are called;
– give in our daily life even external proofs of authentic poverty.
137. Our 1995 General Chapter expressly urged us to:
– seek out a simple style of life in contradiction to the consumer society;
– analyse cases of poverty which exist around each community and give help;
– commit ourselves in community to making a gesture of solidarity with regard to the poor each year;
– see young people and the poor as special places of encounter with God.
138. We support schools in poor areas. Through them we offer a worthwhile work of human and Christian advancement for young people who are particularly needful. We take care of children in difficulty or ‘at risk’ by offering them specialised service.
139. Outside of school, ‘informal education’ is a means which allows us to take care of the primary needs of children and young people: alphabetisation programmes, learning assistance classes, attention to those who are not well-adapted or are disqualified, crèches for children whose working mothers are in economic need, adolescents in crisis, programmes for community development, courses for health care, promotion of women, education of adults, professional formation… We take part in third world projects, in ‘campaigns against hunger’. We collaborate with NGOs, and support voluntary social work….
140. Brothers and laity, we also collaborate: in the management, where requested, of installations, in economic help, in personal contribution. In many cases, this help is impartially offered in educational centres and in the traditional works of the Institute which offer their space and personnel. In other cases the decision is taken in agreement with public or private entities. A huge domain is opening up in an as yet modest fashion. We are not satisfied with what we are doing, but fidelity to our mission at the start of this new millennium, along with new needs which are more and more poignant, demands that we be more courageous and decisive in our presence in the world of the needy. It also asks us to share our lives with the poor.
141. We wish to take on the hardest situations of our culture and of our times even as they are felt the most in the lives of many young marginalised people. We want to give hope with our close and attentive presence by accepting courageously the personal and institutional sacrifices that this implies. We want to be a light which gives meaning to their lives, helping them to live with dignity and guiding them towards Christ who is ‘the way, the truth and the life’.