This Congress was both a celebration of all that is good (and holy) about Catholic Education today but also a moment of pause and reflection on what we must do to improve, develop and – in some cases – survive.
Scotland was represented at a recent World Congress on Catholic Education in Rome by some Diocesan Religious Education Advisers, colleagues from the St Andrew’s Foundation at the University of Glasgow and SCES Director Michael McGrath. We were delighted to be there with thousands of others involved in Catholic schools and universities from across the globe – Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe North and South America.
The Congress had been organised by the Holy See’s Congregation for Catholic Education to mark important anniversaries of two important Church documents being published. Fifty years ago, emerging from Second Vatican Council, the Congregation for Catholic Education published Gravissimum Educationis which offered guidance on the educational principles to be followed by Catholic schools. Twenty five years later Pope John Paul II published Ex Corde Ecclesiae to offer guidance to Catholic Universities throughout the world.
However the idea of the Congress was born out of the focus of Pope Benedict XVI on the “educational crisis” which both he and Pope John Paul II had discerned as a modern phenomenon. During both Pontificates they had expressed concern about how effectively school and university education was conveying important values and principles to younger generations, how it was leading to their personal growth, helping them to find their way in life and to contribute to the common good.
The need for a World Congress on Catholic Education reflected the growing realisation that, at a time of significant challenge for Education generally, there was a particular need to review the purpose (or mission) of Catholic schools and universities and to encourage each country to re-focus on the identity of these institutions.