You have got to persuade the younger men to be moderate and in everything you do make yourself an example to them of working for good: when you are teaching, be an example to them in your sincerity and earnestness and in keeping all that you do so wholesome that nobody can make objections to it.
Recognizing the great importance of education, both for youth and adults, confreres will take up this work of teaching and educating where it is needed to achieve the purpose of the Congregation. This work should be carried out, however, not only in schools of various kinds, but also within the family circle, in places of work, and across the whole spectrum of society, wherever young people and adults spend their time. Schools, colleges and universities should, according to local circumstances, admit, and promote the development of the poor. All the students, however, should be imbued with a sensitivity for the poor, according to the spirit of our Founder, while the confreres affirm the value of Christian education and provide a Christian social formation.
The education of youth who are not candidates for the priesthood is a ministry that has joined the pastoral works of the Congregation of the Mission recently. In diverse circumstances, the Congregation has assumed the work of education and has established schools, colleges, and universities; we have educated missionaries for this ministry. Today, number 11 of our Statutes recognizes that the education and formation of young people can be a means of evangelizing the poor which conforms to the purposes of the Congregation of the Mission.
1. In Order to Be Conscious of the Gift of Faith
All education ought to be integrated. It should demonstrate values to young people; human, religious, cultural, social, etc. Education attempts to enable the young to grow and mature, to become capable of fulfilling their own inherent richness. Nevertheless, the Church desires, above all, that youth be aware of the gift of faith and of their christian education.
Christian education does not merely strive to foster in the human person the maturity already described. Rather, its principal aims are these: that as baptized persons are gradually introduced into a knowledge of the revelation of Redemption, they may daily grow more conscious of the gift of faith which they have received; that they may learn to adore God the Father in spirit and in truth (John 4:23), especially through liturgical worship; that they may be trained to conduct their personal lives in righteousness and in the sanctity of truth, according to the new standard of personhood (Ephesians 4:22-24). Thus, indeed, they may grow into adulthood, measured by the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:13), and devote themselves to building up the Mystical Body. Moreover, aware of their calling, they should grow accustomed to giving witness to the hope that is in them (1 Peter 3:15), and to promoting the Christian transformation of the world by which natural values, viewed in the full perspective of humanity as redeemed by Christ, may contribute to the good of society as a whole1.
2. The Importance of Education Centers
Education can be accomplished in many ways. Education centers (schools, colleges, universities, etc.) are suitable means for complete education and formation:
Among all the agencies of education, the school has a special importance. By virtue of its very purpose, while it cultivates the intellect with unremitting attention, school ripens the capacity for right judgment, provides an introduction into the cultural heritage won by past generations, promotes a sense of values, and readies for professional life. By creating friendly contact between students of diverse temperaments and backgrounds, a school fosters among them a willingness to understand one another. Moreover, school sets up a kind of center whose operation and progress deserve to engage the joint participation of families, teachers, various kinds of cultural, civic, and religious groups, civil society, and the entire human family. So the vocation of anyone who undertakes the role of school teacher is wonderful and truly special. This calling requires extraordinary qualities of mind and heart, extremely careful preparation, and a constant readiness to begin anew and to adapt2.
3. The Educator-missionary
The Vincentian missionary ought not to lose his own identity in the ministry he exercises. That’s why the educational centers of the Congregation of the Mission must fulfill the conditions indicated in paragraph 11 of our Statutes, which is a collection of the reflections of several General Assemblies on this theme:
Evangelization today calls for special attention to the Christian formation of youth, especially the sons and daughters of country and working-class people. Confreres should, therefore, have a share in promoting youth associations and be interested in methods of educating the young. In regions where education of young people, a truly urgent need of the Church, is carried on in Catholic schools, colleges and universities, the Assembly affirms both the Provinces and the individual confreres in this way of living their Vincentian vocation. We wish our schools, according to circumstances, to admit poor students for the betterment of their lives. We also wish our schools to inculcate awareness of the poor in their students by affirming the values of Christian education and by social formation3.
- If I work in the education of youth, do I strive to implement number 11 of our Statutes?
- If I work in an educational center, do I sincerely believe that I am living as a Vincentian Missionary?
Lord, you said of yourself: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life”, and “Whoever follows me does not walk in darkness.” Grant to all those you have called to be educators the grace to follow you, the true Teacher, to know how to share with their students a sincere love of your teaching, and a desire to bring this teaching to fruition. We ask this in your name Lord Jesus, who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.