Magazine article Momentum

Of One Heart: Walking the Journey & Living the Mission

Magazine article Momentum

Of One Heart: Walking the Journey & Living the Mission

Article excerpt

What follows is both applicable to many Catholic schools and unique In itself. To be "of one heart," as the title reads, echoes the Rule of St. Augustine (composed in 400 C.E.) that emphasizes the main purpose of community to be "...intent upon God in oneness of mind and heart." The focus of this article is not to provide a summation of Augustine's writings as they pertain to schools but rather to underscore the challenge of articulating the Catholic tradition in a way that makes language a lived experience of mission.

Naming the Identity

Austin Preparatory School is a Catholic, independent coed school for grades 6-12 in Reading, Massachusetts, just outside of Boston. Originally founded by the Order of Saint Augustine in 1961 at the invitation of Cardinal Richard Cushing, it changed governance to a lay board of trustees in 1973 as a fully incorporated Catholic independent school. Its mission exemplifies the core Augustinian values of unitas, veritas and caritas (community, truth and love). Our mission statement recognizes that we are "in the Augustinian tradition," which begs the question: how does one articulate, affirm and sustain this? Every mission statement is itself a promulgation of an institution's core values-sine qua non marks of how individuals commit themselves to living out particular traits. Ours is no different insofar as it seeks to engage students in the craft of building relationships that are modeled within a vision of community, truth and love.

A generation ago, a school's mission was identified in part with the religious aesthetics of a school; a Roman collar or habit signaled the presence of a faith community. In the 21st century, schools face complex institutional forces of rising tuition fees and the need to provide competitive salaries and benefits alongside the familial demands faculty and staff face. It is a familiar truism that many of our schools have experienced declining religious vocations that have impacted the long-term sustainability of Catholic education. Today an overwhelming majority of Catholic teachers and administrators are lay men and women, many of whom actively work to grow both personally and professionally in what it means to be stewards of a religious order.

Many schools intentionally stress on the part of schools to stress the distinct call to serve the needs of young men and women. This has brought us to a renewed understanding of vocation that has called a new generation of leaders to assume the "Good News" of Catholic education. Given that a vast majority of schools in the United States (both public and parochial) offer a wide array of academic offerings, social experiences and athletic opportunities, schools that can consciously walk in the footsteps of their charism are able to distinguish themselves from other educational offerings. What distinguishes missionbased Catholic schools is their ability to walk the journey of education with the young men and women entrusted in their care while living the mission of faith, hope, and love in the spirit of Christ.

Walking the Journey

Navigating through the works of Augustine can be daunting, given the sheer volume of his writings-over 5 million words by one estimate- and the spectrum of topics ranging from Scriptural exegesis and the Trinity to original sin and morality presented in various sermons, letters and books. For our purposes, however, it is helpful to focus on the Retractationes (426-428 C.E.) that he wrote toward the end of his life as a history of his mind, a reconsideration of how he himself learned. One commentator has suggested that "reconsiderations" may be a more accurate translation of this collection since it serves as a reminder of how we are to learn and grow as a community: by reading the signs of the times as they relate to our guiding principles. In an attempt to provide one approach to his works alongside the challenges and opportunities of articulating mission, I would humbly offer three central insights from his writings. …

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