Through a solemn ceremony at the United Nations building in New York, the International Congress on Catholic Education organized by the OIEC, an organization that represents 62 million students and more than 200,000 Catholic schools around the world, was closed on June 8. The event lasted three days and brought together more than 500 educators to reflect and share experiences taking as a reference the Encyclical Laudato Siof Pope Francis that calls for “education in a humanistic solidarity to build the civilization of love.”

A small delegation represented the Pious Schools namely: Fr. Miguel de Cerro, Fr. Javier Alonso and Fr. Andrew Berinyuy. In addition, Calasanzian sister Carmen Gonzalves, who currently resides in Chile.

At the closing ceremony we had a Videoconference from Pope Francis. He invited us to put the person at the center of the educational process, to educate for justice, peace and solidarity, without forgetting the responsibility of caring for the nature. He reminded us that this mission is not possible without an effective agreement between the family, the school and the community.

He also pointed out two dangers that can destroy the Catholic identity of our schools: the obsession to seek tangible results neglecting the integral growth of people and letting themselves be carried away by the speed of information and market demands, nullifying the contemplative dimension of the person. Therefore, education must recover the value of silence that opens the contemplation of the beauty of Creation and the dignity of the human being.

Philippe Richard, Secretary General of OIEC read some commitments that could serve as guidelines to promote Catholic Education for the coming years:

  1. Reinforce the identity of Catholic school from evangelical roots.
  2. To develop an educational model at the service of peace and the defense of human rights and to have dialogue as an essential tool.
  3. To ensure that the school is inclusive and open to all.
  4. Train educators to seek creative proposals to combat social exclusion.
  5. Build quality educational projects inspired by the principles of the gospel.
  6. To have a greater presence as OIEC in international organizations to work for the right of all to quality integral education.
  7. Protect children against all types of abuse through good educators and prevention and action protocols.
  8. Develop methodologies that help to form more human and fraternal people.

Karin Bethi, the founder of the Movement “Design for Change” encouraged the organizations present to carry out change projects with the children that will culminate in a great meeting at the end of November in the Vatican City with the presence of the Holy Father.

It was a great event that culminated on the eve of the feast of the Pentecost when the apostless were filled with the Holy Spirit and lost the fear of announcing the good news to the whole Creation. This international event ignited in all, the desire to work in communion to make our world better.

We are the first religious Order that was born in the Church with the specific charism of education. Although we are a small part of the whole Catholic School, we can and must contribute our rich pedagogical tradition, enrich ourselves with the traditions of other institutions and work in a network. In our six-year plan, we set out to strengthen our active participation in institutions and forums dedicated to Education, Children and Youth, ensuring an active presence in the UNESCO Forum, in the Popular School Movement, OIEC and others. The presence of our Father General as head of the education commission of the USG and a consultant to the Holy Father is an example that we must participate in these networks from our possibilities. Isolation and self-referentiality should not be options.

P. Javier Alonso