A school to grow up

CCEE-CEEC meeting on the role of Catholic teachers

There are over 35 thousand Catholic schools in Europe, a total of over 8 million pupils. In the world, there are as many as 210 thousand Catholic schools, with 45 million students. These are consistent figures, but which was not received with joy by participants in the congress on the formation and spiritual accompaniment of teachers in Europe, held in Sarajevo May 15-18. In the town where the First World War broke out 100 years ago, which twenty years ago witnessed a devastating, annihilating fratricidal war between ethnic and religious groups (Serbs, Croats, Muslims, Catholics, Orthodox, with thousands of deaths on all sides), the work of seventy bishops, national leaders for school pastoral care, experts in education and leaders of associations, has shown that today more than ever, Catholic teachers, both those working in the schools of the Christian community and those in state or lay schools are confronted with a social and cultural climate that seeks to undermine their role and attempts to marginalize the Christian vision of life. Catholic teachers today. In this age of rampant secularism, of “egalitarian” secularization, whereby even Nations with large numbers of Christian citizens decide to uphold positions of absolute neutrality towards every creed, participants (the event was promoted by CCEE, the Council of the European Bishops’ Conferences and CEEC, the European Committee for Catholic Education) have raised the question on the role of “Catholic teaching” today, what could be the content of educational and missionary action. It was agreed that the recruitment and training of teachers is a challenge for the future of the young generation and for the Church herself. Although the situation of Catholic teachers working in schools of the Christian community appeared to be very different from those in non-denominational or public schools, a common factor emerged: the passionate dedication of the teachers for their role as educators. But a disturbing situation was equally shared, which refers to a growing “anonymity” of Catholic teachers, typical among Catholic teachers who work in non-denominational schools. Is consists in hiding- if not disguising – the religious affiliation or framework of values. Colourless, tasteless, odourless teachers? It was claimed that pressure is exerted on teachers to adopt “neutral” set of values, which affects the most vital Christian benchmarks (themes such as life, love, affective relations, the family…). Such cultural pressure is marked by relativistic currents of thought, such as “gender” theories, aimed at imposing a monochord, aseptic vision, based on the unnatural claim of a supposed multifaceted nature of sexual identity, which accordinly, individuals should have the right to exert. There derives the idea of a “colourless, tasteless and odourless” teacher, a model to pursue under the banner of “pupils’ diversity” to prevent them from “being the object of external influence”. School principals attending the meeting in Sarajevo underlined surging loneliness and marginalization of teachers, which at times can reach the point of a veritable detachment from didactic activity, reduced to the mere transmission of notions, also in terms of religious culture. Restoring confidence, dignity and serenity. The European Churches represented in Sarajevo responded by stating that despite the ongoing situation, the human and spiritual climate among teachers remains positive on the whole and that it is possible to invest on formation and spiritual accompaniment aimed at restoring confidence, dignity and cultural capability, without indulging in pessimism. From this perspective the contribution of the entire Christian community is extremely important (parishes and associations alike) since the Church as a whole can be best described as an “educational community”. Only in this way is it possible to ensure cohesion and coherence between an “educational project” at school and that of the entire Christian community. In this process, Catholic schools can play a fundamental role across Europe: in their free educational proposal they continue forming the youth to the major values of the Gospel in contemporary culture and they can act as a thrust for cultural debate in non-denominational schools. Voices from Europe. Various contributions enriched the CCEE-CEEC meeting, ranging from those of Cardinal Vinco Puljic, bishop Pero Sudar of the hosting diocese, CEEC president Christine Mann, theologian Francois Moog, to those of Fr Joao Seabra, Etienne Verhack, to the bishops Marek Jedraszewski and Eric Aumonier from CCEE bodies. A variety of heartfelt positions have highlighted the pedagogical, didactic as well as theological and spiritual richness of the European Catholic educational landscape.

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