“WHO DO YOU WANT TO BE?” – A LENTEN INITIATIVE FOR SCHOOLS. Invite your students to reflect on their relationship with God, with their neighbor, and with the Earth.

By Sunny Jacob SJ
Nov 14th, 2022

“Educating is always an act of hope that encourages co-participation and transformation. The time has come to sign a Global Compact on Education and with the younger generations, that involves, in the education of mature individuals, families, communities, schools and universities, institutions, religions, governments, all of humanity”. Pope Francis.

Pope Francis believes that Catholic Education must play a big role in shaping the world today. On the 13-15 October 2022 there was a Catholic Global education conclave organised by the USIG, on behalf of the Global Compact proposed by Pope Francis. This was the third such meeting on Global Compact, organised by the Catholic Education Commission. Representing the Global Network of Jesuit Education, Jose Mesa SJ, Fr. Luiz Fernando Klein SJ and I participated in this three-day conclave. There were 400 leaders of education from various congregations, from all regions of the world, attended the conference.

It was on 12 September 2019, Pope Francis launched an invitation to dialogue on how we are shaping the future of our planet and the need to employ the talents of all, since all change requires an educational process aimed at developing a new universal solidarity and a more welcoming society. To this end, he endorsed a Global Compact on Education to rekindle our dedication for and with young people, renewing our passion for a more open and inclusive education, including patient listening, constructive dialogue and better mutual understanding. “We must unite our efforts in a broad educational alliance, to form mature individuals, capable of overcoming division and antagonism, and to restore the fabric of relationships for the sake of a more fraternal humanity”, the Pope exhorted Catholic educators.

To this end, Pope Francis endorsed a global event, that took place on 14 May 2020 on the theme Reinventing the Global Compact on Education. The current meeting in October 2022 rekindled our dedication for and with young people, renewing our passion for a more open and inclusive education, including patient listening, constructive dialogue and better mutual understanding. “Never before has there been such need to unite our efforts in a broad educational alliance, to form mature individuals capable of overcoming division and antagonism, and to restore the fabric of relationships for the sake of a more fraternal humanity”; Pope said in his message to Catholic educators.

According to Pope Francis ‘every change call for an educational process that involves everyone. There is thus a need to create an “educational village”, in which all people, according to their respective roles, share the task of forming a network of open, human relationships.  According to an African proverb, “it takes a whole village to educate a child”. We must create such a village before we can educate all without discrimination and hatred.

We realise that today’s world is constantly changing and faces a variety of crises. We are experiencing an era of change: a transformation that is not only cultural but also anthropological, creating a new semantics while indiscriminately discarding traditional paradigms. Education clashes with what has been called a process of “rapidification” that traps our existence in a whirlwind of high-speed technology and computerization, continually altering our points of reference. As a result, our very identity loses its solidity and our psychological structure dissolves in the face of constant change that “contrasts with the naturally slow pace of biological evolution” (Laudato Si’, 18).

According to Cardinal Giuseppe Versaldi, a former Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, “There is an urgent need to humanise education, focusing on the centrality of the person and creating the necessary conditions for an integral development. Giving children and young people a proper autonomy and the necessary leadership will make it possible for each one to grow inwardly, as part of a living, interdependent, and fraternal community. In sharing a common destiny, the complexity of reality will be interpreted through a new pact on education, leading us to rediscover the beauty of humanism inspired by the Gospel”.

Through the Global Compact in education, Pope Francis calls for a new era of educational commitment involving all members of society. “Today we want to state that our religious traditions, which have always played a leading role in schooling, from teaching literacy to higher education, reaffirm their mission of integrally educating each individual: head, hands, heart and soul. To think about what we are feeling and doing. To feel what we are thinking and doing. To do what we are feeling and thinking. The beauty and harmony of what it is to be fully human”.

For this reason, he invites families, communities, schools, universities, institutions, religions, rulers, men and women of culture, science, sport, artists, media professionals, i.e. the whole of humanity to sign a compact on education by committing themselves personally to take up the following seven commitments:

1.      To make human persons the centre

To make human persons the centre of every educational programme, in order to foster their distinctiveness and their capacity for relationship with others against the spread of the throwaway culture.

2.      To listen to the voices of children and young people

To listen to the voices of children and young people in order to build together a future of justice, peace and a dignified life for every person.

3.      To advance the women

To encourage the full participation of girls and young women in education.

4.      To empower the family

To consider the family as the first and essential place of education.

5.      To welcome

To educate and be educated on the need for acceptance and in particular, openness to the most vulnerable and marginalized.

6.      To find new ways of understanding economy and politics

To be committed to finding new ways of understanding the economy, politics, growth, and progress that can truly stand at the service of the human person and the entire human family, within the context of an integral ecology.

7.      To safeguard our common home

To safeguard and cultivate our common home, protecting it from the exploitation of its resources and to adopt a more sober lifestyle marked by the use of renewable energy sources and respect for the natural and human environment.

These seven points are so important today. According to Daniel Ernesto Stigliano, coordinator of the programme Cátedras Scholas, “The family educates, the church educates, the sports club educates, the neighbours educate. Every person and every member of the community is potentially an educator and a learner. Community and school are not separate entities”. Therefore, educators must work on the proposals with urgency. The Three day’s conference of educators listened to the presentations of successful networking and implementation of crucial points by several religious networks from Latin America, Europe and North America. There are plenty of efforts in many parts of the world. We need to bring them all together and make Global Compact a reality in Catholic Education as a whole.

Pope Francis says that every change needs an educational journey, to rebuild the fabric of relationships, bring to maturity a new universal solidarity, and give life to a more welcoming society. To this end, it is necessary to form a new humanism to overcome the cultural and anthropological metamorphosis of today’s society. This makes it possible to give substance to each person’s identity, taking care of all its dimensions, consolidating its psychological structure, thus preventing it from fragmenting and disintegrating in the face of incessant and rapid change.

Today, there is need for a renewed commitment to an education that engages society at every level. Let us heed the plea of the young, which opens our eyes to both the urgent need and the exciting opportunity of a renewed kind of education that is not tempted to look the other way and thus favour grave social injustices, violations of rights, terrible forms of poverty and the waste of human lives.

What is called for is an integral process that responds to those situations of loneliness and uncertainty about the future that affect young people and generate depression, addiction, aggressiveness, verbal hatred and bullying. This entails a shared journey that is not indifferent to the scourge of violence, the abuse of minors, the phenomenon of child marriage and child soldiers, the tragedy of children sold into slavery. To say nothing of the “sufferings” endured by our planet as a result of a senseless and heartless exploitation that has led to a grave environmental and climatic crisis. (UAP 3 is accompanying the youth).

At certain moments in history, it is necessary to make radical decisions that can shape, not only our way of life, but above all our stance in the face of possible future scenarios. Amid the present pandemic health crisis – and the poverty and confusion it has caused – we believe that it is time to subscribe to a global pact on education for and with future generations. This calls for a commitment on the part of families, communities, schools, universities, institutions, religions, governments and the entire human family to the training of mature men and women.

This calls for a pluralistic and multifaceted process in which all of us can work to provide meaningful responses, in which diversity and methods are harmonized in the pursuit of the common good. The ability to create harmony: that is what is needed today. For these reasons the proposed seven areas in our education are a must.

These seven areas give us ample opportunities for each region to work out and commit ourselves courageously to developing an educational plan, investing our best energies, and introducing creative and transformative processes in cooperation with civil society.

The goal of this educational investment, grounded in a network of humane and open relationships, is to ensure that everyone has access to a quality education consonant with the dignity of the human person and our common vocation to fraternity. It is time to look to the future with courage and hope. May we be sustained by the conviction that education bears within itself a seed of hope: the hope of peace and justice; the hope of beauty and goodness; the hope of social harmony.

There are so much happening in Catholic education all over the world. What we need is to bring all these fantastic good practices on one platform.  “We need to start with facts, evidence that enlightens and convinces. I think it is very important to raise awareness about the results in education innovation that are being carried out in many countries, with satisfactory results” says Montserrat del Pozo Roselló, superior general of the Missionaries Daughters of the Holy Family of Nazareth.

According to Philippe Richard, secretary general of the International Office for Catholic Education “The Pope is asking us for something even more challenging … to come out of ourselves and our borders. … To bring together as many people and organisations as possible. … Working together we will discover how much unites us and we shall serve more and better. … Let us give the world the hope it needs!

It is good to learn about the work that is being done so far on the development of the COMPACT, with the presence of the main institutions that are promoting it. The three-day conclave shared significant experiences that are underway and that can inspire the options and commitments of our Congregations and regional bodies. Based on the proposals and directives of Pope Francis and the Catholic education, we can reflect together on the new steps we can take to continue promoting this exciting educational challenge. If we work together, we can make our education truly global and transformative.

I think, the Global Compact is an invitation for all educators. In the words of Angelo Vincenzo Zani, former secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education; “It is an invitation to discuss how we are building the future, to renew the passion for education … to train the actors of a more fraternal humanity. It may unleash the potential for specific projects and views … creating synergies and networks. We must face the new context responsibly and work together…”.

As Jesuits in education, on our Jesuit Global network of schools and through (Online Global Community Platform) www.educatemagis.org , one can find the global identifiers of Jesuit schools and Infographic on Jesuit education expressing the ideas of Global Compact. The 10 Global Identifiers are as follows:

Jesuits schools are committed to the following 10 vital global identifiers, and we can identify the 7 areas proposed by Pope Francis already find echoes in the identifiers. I place them in brackets for our easy reference.

These ten Identifiers include the 7 points Pope Francis asked us to implement.  To achieve all these important identifiers and the seven proposals of Pope Francis, we need to build better networks of educators. We cannot work alone anymore. There are several global and regional networks already working on the Global Compact. As Jesuit School Global Network, it is an invitation for us to network with other networks to enrich and enhance our Catholic and Jesuit education.

“We call on particularly men and women in culture, science and sports, artists, media professionals, in every part of the world, so they too sign this Compact and, with their own testimony and work, become ambassadors of the values of care, peace, justice, goodness, beauty, acceptance, and fraternity. We should not expect everything to come from those who govern us, that would be childish. We enjoy a space of shared accountability where we can initiate and generate new processes and transformations. Let us be an active part in the rehabilitation and aid of wounded societies”. (Pope Francis, “Global Compact on Education”). Yes, these words of Pope Francis give us the direction and necessary impetus to make us relevant global educators. Let us join the Global Compact and work as one body, as Catholic Educators.