On 19 November, Archbishop Joseph Pittau, S.J., addressed the history
and impact of men and women religious on the formation of young people.
He gave a general view of the present situation in the world today. Very
interesting was the judgement of the Catholic Bishops of mission
countries in Asia. "The Bishops of Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Thailand
and other countries testify to the importance of the Catholic school for
evangelization. Many Bishops even say that 90% of the baptized had their
first contact with the faith through their Catholic schooling.
Consecrated persons, men and women, can introduce children to the spirit
of prayer and holiness partly by their teaching, but especially by the
life they live, consecrated to the Lord and full of joy".
Archbishop Pittau highlighted the work of enlightened Foundresses of
women's institutes in promoting the education of girls and women in the
last few centuries. Here is a translation of his presentation.
Brothers and Sisters,
With this presentation of the document "Consecrated Persons
and their Mission in Schools", I would first of
all like to say a few words on the situation of consecrated persons in
Catholic schools today. Although there are no statistics on the exact
number of religious who teach in schools, I think it is possible to
offer a general view, seen from various parts of the world.
Decline in the number of men and women religious in schools in the
First and foremost, as you know, in the years immediately following
the Second Vatican Council, the number of men and women religious
teachers fell sharply. As an example, I can mention the situation in the
United States of America. In 1970 more than half the 200,000 teachers in
Catholic schools were consecrated persons or priests (51%). In 10 years
the proportion had fallen to 30%; in another 10 years to 15% and after a
further 10 years, that is, in the year 2000, it had dropped to 7.5% with
a few more than 12,000 teachers (cf. Official Catholic Directory).
In the short period of 30 years, the presence of consecrated persons
has fallen drastically, radically changing the features of the Catholic
School, and making it much more difficult to preserve the Catholic
identity. While this example represents only one nation, it is likely to
be an example of what happened in the majority of countries in the
Some "news reports" on the world situation show us that in
the academic year 1999-2000, in the school sector in Spain, there were
11,000 consecrated persons out of a total of 79,000 teachers; that is,
14% of the teaching staff. These teachers belong to 240 women's
congregations and 53 men's institutes.
Zimbabwe: numbers of men and women religious
A glance at the Church of Zimbabwe in Africa, shows us that in 1997
there were 74 Catholic elementary schools and 56 secondary schools, with
23 priests, 18 religious brothers and 142 sisters, that is 7% of the
teaching staff, with 8% in secondary schools and the remaining 5% in the
elementary schools (cf. 1997, Annual Report of ZCBC Education
Commission, Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops' Conference).
South Korea has many men and women religious in schools
To take an example from Asia, we can look at South Korea, one of the
nations where vocations are the most numerous. In South Korea there are
300 Catholic schools with 500 priests and consecrated persons who
represent 11% of the teaching staff of 4,500 persons. On the other hand,
in nursery schools, which account for 75% of the Catholic schools in
South Korea, one teacher out of five is a consecrated person, and almost
all are women religious (cf. Statistics of the Catholic Church in
Korea: 2001, Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea).
In Asia, 90% of baptized Catholics come from Catholic schools
From my personal experience of 29 years in Japan with visits to other
Asian countries, I can testify to the vital importance of nursery
schools for evangelization in the Far East. Nursery school children are
still very open to the Christian values, and their parents, whose
contact with school diminishes in proportion to the children's age, are
often attracted to the faith or strengthened in the faith through their
children. The Bishops of Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and other
countries testify to the importance of the Catholic school for
evangelization. Many Bishops even say that 90% of the baptized had their
first contact with the faith through their Catholic schooling.
Consecrated persons, men and women, can introduce children to the
spirit of prayer and holiness partly by their teaching, but especially
by the life they live, consecrated to the Lord and full of joy.
Allow me to make a personal confession. My first experience as a
teacher was at a lower middle school that was run by the Jesuits. I
taught English and social ethics. I had 180 students. About 90 of these
were baptized during their school years or after they graduated.
Consecrated persons and the history of education
Since the Middle Ages, the Church, especially through religious
communities, has been in the forefront of the field of education. The
few educational institutions that existed were the schools of cathedrals
and monasteries, and the ecclesial universities. The European
educational system was truly born "ex corde Ecciesiae"
(from the heart of the Church). The beginning of the 16th century saw
the flourishing of many religious orders and congregations that were
dedicated to the educational apostolate, especially the education of the
children of the poor who could not receive a systematic education. In
many countries, consecrated persons led the way in establishing new
schools in the spirit of their founders and foundresses who saw
education as an effective means for the apostolate.
An essential element of the education imparted by consecrated persons
has always been an integral formation in a context of faith, which
offers children the opportunity to "develop harmoniously their
physical, moral and intellectual qualities ... to be stimulated to make
sound moral judgements based on a well-formed conscience and to
put them into practice with a sense of personal commitment, and to know
and love God more perfectly" (Gravissimum educationis, n.
1). For centuries, consecrated persons, brothers and priests, have
devoted their lives, often in oppressive financial, political or
religious conditions, to guiding children and adolescents in their
formation, communicating to them not only a sound intellectual
formation, but also a deep appreciation of the gift of faith.
Founders of orders for the formation of youth
This total dedication of men and women religious led to a
great revolution in the world of education. It suffices to mention only
a few founders and foundresses to understand the influence exercised by
consecrated persons in the field of the formation of youth.
St Jerome Emiliani founded the Congregation of the Somascan
Fathers for the education of orphans, with a programme that
included "Christian doctrine, reading, writing, the abacus, music
and playing in concerts" in such a way "that with the
training in the various arts and virtues, each one may follow his own
inclinations and honourably earn his living". The Somascans also
opened schools for the nobility.
St Anthony Mary Zaccaria founded the Barnabites (Clerks
Regular of St Paul), who built schools and colleges and educated
outstanding figures in the fields of research and the professions.
The Jesuits, founded by St Ignatius of Loyola,
exercised a great influence in the period of Renaissance humanism and
the Counter-Reformation. Their educational method was based on a double
tradition: that of the scholastics who exalted intellectual analysis and
learning as an end in itself, and that of humanists who attributed to
education an important role for the entire society. The Jesuits created
a synthesis of the two traditions. Both intellectual competence and the
preparation for and dedication to service constitute the aim of
education. Education had to enable the student to become both
good and well-instructed. Both pietas (holiness) and eruditio
(erudition) were necessary.
At the outset the Piarists, founded by St Joseph
Calasanz, worked almost exclusively with the children of the poor.
In Trastevere, Rome, they founded the first free school for the poor in
Europe. They attached great importance to teaching arithmetic, geometry,
drawing and architecture. They wanted to train boys to master the
necessary tools to equip them for an activity with which they could earn
an honest living.
St John de la Salle founded the Brothers of the
Christian Schools, a congregation dedicated exclusively to
education, consisting solely of teachers who were consecrated lay
St William Chaminade founded the Marianists who
desired to counter the de-Christianization of the French Revolution. The
Marists, founded by Marcellin-Joseph-Benôit Champagnat,
also sought to oppose the growing secularization in the first half
of the 19th century.
Don Bosco was an innovative educator who founded the Salesians,
and together with St Domenica Maria Mazzarello, also
the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians. They were
inspired by the principle of preventive education to form honest
citizens and good Christians. Don Bosco confronted the social
problem of youth; he was concerned with the "poor and
abandoned" young people, unruly as a group and being a danger to
the moral and social order. Religious and recreational activities,
reading and writing classes, professional schools and job training,
prevention in terms of assistance (food, clothing,
lodging, instruction) and preventive education, meaning that the
failings and deviations from the rules were not repressed or punished,
but prevented from happening. At the same time, he fostered all that
might contribute to the growth of the young people.
Foundresses of orders for the education of girls and women
So far, I have mentioned almost exclusively male religious
congregations, but the female congregations made a very great
contribution to the instruction and education of girls and young women,
and now also that of boys.
Since the Middle Ages, the education of women outside the family was
mainly connected with the education provided in convents to whom
families, especially the nobility, entrusted their daughters at an early
age for their human and Christian formation.
St Angela Merici founded the Society of St Ursula (Ursulines)
which then developed into various forms of consecrated life: communities
of virgins grouped into associations, living in their own family and
work place, colleges of virgins bound to God with private vows,
traditional monasteries and congregations that lived a community life.
All these experiences were based on Angela Merici's spiritual doctrine,
which had three essential dimensions: total consecration to God,
complete dedication to charitable works, including teaching and
education, the fulfilment of a bond of sacred charity in personal
relationships, inspired by a family style.
From this basic inspiration many religious congregations came into
being, who were dedicated to the educational apostolate.
Survey of religious congregations done by the Congregation
Three years ago, the Congregation for Catholic Education asked the
various religious communities involved in education to share their
recent documents, describing the principles, guidelines and features of
their educational activity. Hundreds of documents arrived from around
the world from which we have been able to draw a wealth of ideas and
experiences. It is important that this treasure of pedagogical
knowledge, prepared by consecrated persons who in humility and
generosity, in the various parts of the world, work in the educational
apostolate, not be dispersed but be available for reciprocal enrichment.
St Julie Billiart, Sisters of St Francis of Christ the King
I would like to mention here only two "pearls", chosen from
among the many treasures that we have received. St Julie Billiart,
foundress of the Sisters of Notre Dame, describes education
"first and foremost as a work of faith. Seen from the
perspective of faith, every job, even the most insignificant, becomes
great in God's eyes. Education is a work of hope, for hope
is always a source of new courage in order not to lose heart in the face
of sufferings and problems, but rather to find in our labours their
salvific value. Education is a work of love, the love of Christ
that impels us to love all our brothers and sisters and, in a
preferential way, the neediest, by offering our lives for their
salvation. It is a work of prayer. Only through prayer can our
work produce fruit in the heart of the students we wish to
The second "pearl" presents us an example of the capacity
of a charism, united with hundreds of other charisms, to express the
magnificent diversity of the Church in her members. "What
Franciscan schools contribute in the apostolate of education is the
integration of faith, culture and life, An effort is made to raise the
student to a completely human level open to divine grace. For us, the School
Sisters of St Francis of Christ the King, education is our way of
life. It is the fruit of a deep love inspired by the Gospel: a person
who is a brother and sister of all because he or she lives the universal
fatherhood of God. It is a human person, a builder of peace, a bearer of
peace, who fully develops the talents received from God for the benefit
of all" (Inspiration: The Educational Mission of the
School of Sisters of St Francis of Christ the King, p. 11).
Benefit of personal contact of teachers-students
A large part of my life, including 29 years spent in Japan, has been
dedicated to education. For two years (1954-56), perhaps the best years
of my life, as I have already mentioned, I taught English and social
ethics in a middle school in Japan. A month before the beginning of the
school year, the headmaster gave me the list of my 180 students. For
each one there were two pages of information: a photo of the student,
his family situation, his strong and weak points, his hobbies, etc.... I
had to study all this material, and be able, from the very first day of
school, to call each student by his own name and know something about
his personality. This preparation required an effort, but it was
necessary in order to influence deeply each student. It strengthened my
conviction that an effective educational relationship between teacher
and pupil passes through personal attention to each one. A consecrated
educator can dedicate himself to this work without sparing time or
energy with an undivided heart.
I would like to conclude my presentation with the words of the
Apostolic Exhortation Vita consecrata expressing the hope of the
"With respectful sensitivity and missionary boldness,
consecrated men and women should show that faith in Jesus Christ
enlightens the whole enterprise of education, never disparaging human
values, but rather confirming and elevating them. Thus do consecrated
persons become witnesses and instruments of the power of the Incarnation
and the vitality of the Spirit. This task of theirs is one of the most
significant manifestations of that motherhood which the Church, in the
image of Mary, exercises on behalf of all her children.... I warmly
invite members of institutes devoted to education to be faithful to
their founding charism and to their traditions, knowing that the
preferential love for the poor finds a special application in the choice
of means capable of freeing people from that grave form of poverty which
is the lack of cultural and religious training (Vita consecrata, n.