Today’s guest blogger is Kevin Donohue, the first-year principal of St. Joseph’s Catholic School in Hawthorne (Archdiocese of Los Angeles) and graduate of the Onward Leaders program, who blogs about my podcast conversation with Jack Peterson about the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education 2002 document Consecrated Persons and Their Mission in Schools. This podcast is part of a series of Church documents podcasts on Catholic School Matters.
First a confession, without this week’s podcast, I never would have heard of, much less, considered perusing the 2002 document, “Consecrated Persons and Their Mission In Schools.” Like, Dr. Tim Uhl and Jack Peterson, my first thought was – “Why do I (as a non-consecrated principal, father, and husband) need to read this?”
The answer lies in the themes that have carried throughout the Church’s documents on Catholic education since Vatican II. Especially in the field of education, where the laicization of the administrative and teaching has dramatically shifted in the last fifty years, we are all called to assume the mantle of pursuing our vocation to teach.
The density of the document was daunting, but the conversation from the podcast highlighted one of the keys of our mission (and one articulated in the other documents) that of “evangelical inclusion” or “When the preferential option for the poorest is at the centre [sic] of the educational programme [sic], the best resources and most qualified persons are initially placed at the service of the least, without in this way excluding those who have less difficulties and shortages” (70).
The document itself and the focus of the second half of the podcast make clear that this is both “counter-cultural” (53) and “distant from the logic of the world” (70). Of course, the consecrated attest to this in a different form and provide an example which is increasingly removed from the current cultural norm – but all of us are called to “give themselves fully to schools, in deep and true freedom” (27).
I believe that our system – due to the rising costs – is increasingly pressured to remove itself from that call to educate the poor in a way that uses the best resources and the most qualified persons. Our society sees no ill in this “you get what you pay for” mentality. But the document and the conversation Jack and Tim have remind us that we are called to reform the “deformed” and to do so with a “precise proposal” to answers the true “aspirations” of man (19).
The beauty of the Church and the thoughts bubbling up among those on the podcast is that our school leaders are increasingly aware of this. The challenge articulated amongst the documents offered by the Catholic Bishops and Vatican is being heard. We are called to move beyond the walls of our schools and see our schools as part not only of our parish and local communities but of the broader community of the Church.
How can the rich schools assist the poor? How can the poor schools assist the rich? We measure our wealth not only in dollars, cents, chromebooks, iPads, and the latest lab equipment; but in love, charity, moral virtue, and character. The beauty of inner-city school tradition can eclipse the wonders of a new science lab in the wealthy suburbs. The solidarity of a rural community can provide an example to those who have material but not spiritual wealth. That is the call to our schools – consecrated and laity, administrator and teacher, parent and child.