1. Jesuit Schools are committed to being Catholic and to offer in-depth faith formation in dialogue with other religions and worldviews. [44]

  1. Though levels of religious adherence differ across the world, many students today are growing up in an increasingly “post-institutional” world, manifested in disaffiliation with the traditional religious organizations and a privatized life that limits their understanding of the common good.
  2. This is of particular concern when we talk about the school as an apostolic body in the Church. For many students and families, the intrinsic connection between the proclamation of the Gospel and the educational objectives of our schools are no longer self-evident.
  3. Most concerning is that a large percentage of our faculty identify more comfortably with the label “Jesuit” than they do with the term “Catholic.”
  4. Pope Francis’s example of joyful Christian living is breathing new life into this conversation. When meeting with Jesuit students from Italy and Albania the Holy Father underscored the importance of engaging questions surrounding faith, belief, and doubt as members of the pilgrim Church on earth. Journeying along the path of faith, Pope Francis reminded our students, “is precisely the art of looking to the horizon … walking in community, with friends, those who love us: this helps us … to arrive precisely at the destination we must arrive.” [45]
  5. The call to educate from the heart of the Church is especially relevant when thinking about the future structure of our schools. Much has been made about the question of “how will our schools be Jesuit when there aren’t Jesuits anymore?” A more difficult question is, “How will we ensure the Catholicity of our schools in our future?”
  6. A recent empirical study at the University of Leuven [46] provides a helpful framework to explore the Catholic identity of the contemporary Jesuit school. Four types of schools are identified in this schema:
  7. The Monologue School, which has a high Christian identity with minimal interaction with other worldviews;
  8. The Colorless School, which operates in a neutral sphere where people are free to choose their own philosophy of life in isolation from others. It has a ‘live and let live’ attitude with very little sense of community and communal support;
  9. The Colorful School, where there is strong support for plurality, but where the Catholic religion is replaced by a variety of worldviews and individual philosophies of which Christianity is but one;
  10. The Dialogue School, the preferred type of Catholic school for our present context, which explicitly chooses to be inspired by its Christian traditions while accepting the presence of other traditions. In this school there is a preferential option for the Christian tradition, which keeps re-evaluating what it means to be a Christian in the midst of a plurality of other options. It is this school that promotes a maturity in the students’ own faith through dialogue, formation and interaction. It is this model of school that should inspire Jesuit schools.
  11. Embracing the Dialogue School model, Jesuit schools are called to the frontiers, and this should include the frontiers of the Church, which, as the Holy Father suggested, is “bruised, hurting, and dirty because it has been out on the streets.” [47]
  12. Thus the sole objective of our schools, as Pope Francis reminded Jesuit school teachers, is to form “mature people who are simple, competent and honest, who know how to love with fidelity, who can live life as a response to God’s call, and their future profession as a service to society.” [48]
  13. This can be accomplished when our schools function as prophetic models of Christian communion within the Church—examples of genuinely shared power between lay and Jesuit partners; examples of deep commitment to the poor; examples of a world-affirming theology deeply rooted in the Incarnation; examples of inclusion and welcome to those on the frontiers, including those on the frontiers of the Church itself.
  14. Jesuit education must be committed to providing a solid faith formation and theological education to all members of its community and ensure a solid catechetical formation for Catholics. Not every person associated with a Jesuit school is or will be Catholic, but they are invited to understand the ecclesial identity of the school and participate in that identity to the extent that is appropriate for them. As educators in Jesuit schools face the future, they must learn to balance the particularism of their institutional roots with the pluralism of believers from many faith traditions as well as non-believers; they must be dialogue schools. In this sense, Jesuit schools are also committed to an inter-religious dialogue that prepares our students to understand, interact and embrace the religious diversity of our world.

Exercise 19. For discernment:

  1. How do you assess this challenge?
  2. What are the most significant obstacles?
  3. How can we adapt this challenge for all Jesuit schools so that it reflects the greater good?
  4. In this context, what has your educational apostolate done?
  5. What should your educational apostolate be doing?

Webinar #6: Faith and Dialogue: Identity of Jesuit Schools
Webinar Series on Jesuit Education: An Integrated (Holistic) Perspective)

Keynote document from Webinar #6: 

Faith and Dialogue: Identity of Jesuit Schools – Keynote Presentation by Fr. James Hanvey SJ