Consecrated Persons and Their Mission in Schools: Reflections and Guidelines: Congregation for Catholic Education (for Seminaries and Educational Institutions)

Article excerpt


1. The celebration of the two thousandth anniversary of the incarnation of the Word was for many believers a time of conversion and of opening to God's plan for the human person created in his image. The grace of the Jubilee incited in the People of God an urgency to proclaim the mystery of Jesus Christ "yesterday, today and forever" with the testimony of their lives and, in Him, the truth about the human person. Young people, moreover, expressed a surprising interest with regard to the explicit announcement of Jesus. Consecrated persons, for their part, grasped the strong call to live in a state of conversion for accomplishing their specific mission in the Church: to be witnesses of Christ, epiphany of the love of God in the world, recognizable signs of reconciled humanity. (1)

2. The complex cultural situations of the beginning of the 21st century are a further appeal to a responsibility to live the present as kairos, a favorable time, so that the Gospel may effectively reach the men and women of today. Consecrated persons feel the importance of the prophetic task entrusted to them by the Church in these momentous but fascinating times, (2) "recalling and serving the divine plan for humanity, as it is announced in Scripture and as also emerges from the attentive reading of the signs of God's providential action in history." (3) This task requires the courage of testimony and the patience of dialogue; it is a duty before the cultural tendencies that threaten the dignity of human life, especially in the crucial moments of its beginning and its ending, the harmony of creation, and the existence of peoples and peace.

3. Within the context of the profound changes that assail the world of education and schools, the Congregation for Catholic Education wishes to share some reflections, offer some guidelines and incite some further investigations of the educational mission and the presence of consecrated persons in schools in general, not only Catholic schools. This document is mainly addressed to members of institutes of consecrated life and of societies of apostolic life, as well as to those who, involved in the educational mission of the Church, have assumed the evangelical counsels in other forms.

4. These considerations are within the lines of the Second Vatican Council, the Magisterium of the universal Church and the documents of the continental Synods regarding evangelization, the consecrated life and education, especially scholastic education. In recent years, this Congregation has offered guidelines on Catholic schools (4) and on lay people who bear witness to faith in schools. (5) As a continuation of the document on lay people, it now intends reflecting on the specific contribution of consecrated persons to the educational mission in schools in the light of the apostolic exhortation Vita Consecrata and of the more recent developments of pastoral care for culture. (6) This is a result of its conviction that: "a faith that does not become culture is a faith that has not been fully received, not entirely thought through, not loyally lived." (7)

5. The necessity for a cultural mediation of the faith is an invitation for consecrated persons to consider the meaning of their presence in schools. The altered circumstances in which they operate, in environments that are often laicized and in reduced numbers in educational communities, make it necessary to clearly express their specific contribution in cooperation with the other vocations present in schools. A time emerges in which to process answers to the fundamental questions of the young generations and to present a clear cultural proposal that clarifies the type of person and society to which it is desired to educate, and the reference to the anthropological vision inspired by the values of the gospel, in a respectful and constructive dialogue with the other concepts of life.

6. The challenges of modern life give new motivations to the mission of consecrated persons, called to live the evangelic councils and bring the humanism of the beatitudes to the field of education and schools. …